#4 (THE "DIFFICULTIES ON THE JOURNEY" SERIES)
"DIFFICULTIES WITH THE LEADERS"
TEXT: Numbers 16:1-17:13
INTRO: One of the missing needs today in our world is good leadership! What makes a good leader? Good leadership or its lack can make the difference between a strong country or a weak one, a strong family or a weak one, a strong organization or a weak one, a strong Church or a weak one ... etc.
ILLUS: HARRY TRUMAN ONCE COMMENTED ON THE IMPORTANCE OF POLLS TO LEADERSHIP, WITH THE FOLLOWING INSIGHTS: “I WONDER HOW FAR MOSES WOULD HAVE GONE IF HE'D TAKEN A POLL IN EGYPT? WHAT WOULD JESUS CHRIST HAVE PREACHED IF HE'D TAKEN A POLL IN ISRAEL? WHERE WOULD THE REFORMATION HAVE GONE IF MARTIN LUTHER HAD TAKEN A POLL? IT ISN'T THE POLLS OR PUBLIC OPINION OF THE MOMENT THAT COUNTS. IT IS RIGHT AND WRONG AND LEADERSHIP, MEN WITH FORTITUDE, HONESTY, AND A BELIEF IN THE RIGHT, THAT MAKES EPOCHS IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.” – Source Unknown
Any one who leads will face the reality that there will always be people that don't like your leadership, that some will always feel they can lead better than you. Leadership must be based on principles, not on popularity!
PROP. SENT: Godly leadership is more than abilities ... it is also attitude! Godly leadership sticks to the Word of God rather than trying to please people ... but with a heart toward people to encourage them to follow the Word! It does not give up easily on people though even when they are rebellious for it seeks their best!
I. PRIESTHOOD OR PRESTIGE? 16:1-40
A. Narcissistic Reaction 16:1-3
1. Korah was one of the highest leaders in Israel, just under the High Priest himself!
a. His family was in charge of the most sacred objects, like the Ark of the Covenant!
b. He had greater rank and privileges than almost all other Levites!
2. Korah however wasn't satisfied with the rank of service he had been entrusted, he wanted more prestige and honor!
a. His goal was not to be a better servant but to be more recognized in the body of God's people!
b. Notice the attack he uses on the present leaders over him, he accuses them of claiming they are the only spiritually astute leaders, though they had never made this claim!
3. It is an old attack ... “the whole community is holy, every one of them. Why do you set yourself above the Lord's assembly?”
a. Moses and Aaron had never done this or said this!
b. This was evidence of Korah's jealousy!
c. Korah's concern sounds very spiritual but in reality it revealed the hidden envy in his own heart, packaged in a very spiritual sounding concern!
4. With 250 other choice leaders Moses could not ignore this challenge to the leadership of Israel, it must be dealt with or chaos would rule!
a. Pride is a bad disease, and the worst type of pride is spiritual pride!
b. This is what proverbs call “the beginning of a fall!”
ILLUS: THERE'S AN OLD FABLE ABOUT TWO DUCKS AND A FROG THAT WERE GOOD FRIENDS, THE FROG TENDED TO BE QUITE A BRAGGART. THEY SPENT A GREAT DEAL OF TIME TOGETHER AS FRIENDS AT A POND, UNTIL ONE DAY THE POND WAS ABOUT TO DRY UP. THE DUCKS SHARED THAT THEY WOULD HAVE TO FLY AWAY FOR A NEW PLACE. NOT WANTING THEIR BRAGGING FRIEND TO DRY UP THEY CAME UP WITH AN IDEA TO TAKE HIM ALONG. THE TWO DUCKS WOULD HOLD A STICK BETWEEN THEM AND THE FROG WOULD WRAP HIS LONG TONGUE AROUND THE STICK IN THE MIDDLE OF THEM TO HOLD ONTO WHILE THE DUCKS FLEW THE 3 OF THEM TO ANOTHER POND. ALL WENT WELL UNTIL THEY WERE FLYING OVER THE FARMER, AS THE AMAZED FARMER SAW THEM HE EXCLAIMED, “HOW CLEVER! ... I WONDER WHO THOUGHT OF IT!” IMMEDIATELY THE ARROGANT FROG OPENED HIS MOUTH AND BRAGGED, “I DID!”... AND OF COURSE FELL TO HIS DEATH! – Source Unknown
c. Pride is a very destructive quality, not suited for leadership!
B. Necessary Response 16:4-17
1. Moses immediately falls on his face, a sign of humility; how unlike Korah he is!
2. Moses correctly understands that this challenge is not really against him, it is against God's plan. God had chosen Moses to lead, not Korah!
a. Moses therefore calls for a fair test, a test that would let God make the choice clear!
b. Moses tells them to make the attempt to be priests, to take the holy censers and take fire from the altar of God and act as priests ... IF God lets them be priests and approaches them with favor then fine!
c. If their ministry is accepted it will be clear in a very short time, the last time a couple of guys took fire in censers with the wrong attitude God struck them dead!! They were Aaron's two sons!
3. Moses attempts to appeal to their present call, to get them to accept the service God had first called them to already, to serve the tabernacle furnishings!
a. He asks them why they are not happy with what God had already asked of them to do.
b. If they can't serve in these smaller areas why should they be allowed to serve in bigger ways?
c. Their response indicates an unhappy heart! They weren't satisfied!
4. They try for crowd sympathy by claiming that Moses will attempt to hurt them!
a. They claim that Moses will attempt to gouge out their eyes if they come to him! 16:14b
b. They also accuse Moses of taking them from “a promise land” -- EGYPT! Since when was Egypt “a promise land?” … it was a land of slavery!
c. It was the common practice of the time that if you were the leader and others challenged you that you might round them up and gouge out their eyes to humiliate them and put them in their place ... this was the way secular leadership worked; and they attempt to use this fear tactic to get the people to question Moses' leadership! (Remember Samson had this done to him by the king who had captured him in order to humiliate him)
5. Moses would have to stand tall and not back down to this kind of challenge, but yet not resort to worldly methods of defending himself either, he would let God defend him! He just had to stand tall and be unmovable!
JACKSON FEARED GOD, AND NOTHING ELSE! WHEN THE CONFEDERATES WERE FALLING BACK
AT BULL RUN GENERAL LEE RALLIED HIS MEN BY CALLING OUT, “LOOK TO JACKSON! HE STANDS LIKE A STONE WALL!” THIS MADE
C. No Repentance! 16:18-40
1. Moses could honestly say he had not wronged these men ever, or taken advantage of them in any way! 16:15
a. They are given their way; they stand like priests at the entrance to the Tabernacle with Moses and Aaron ... like equals.
b. The glory of the Lord comes down and God speaks: “separate yourselves Moses and Aaron from these others so I can put an end to them at once!”
2. Any ungodly leader would have shouted “amen” at this, but Moses and Aaron fall down on their faces before God and plead for the Lord to only punish the guilty person, not all the others!
a. Moses then appeals to all Israel to separate themselves from these rebels, to stand clear. God's judgment will only fall on the unrepentant hearts!
b. Moses then states that if these men live a normal lifespan it would be proof they are right and he is wrong, God will judge!
3. Fortunately, most of Israel at this point backed away from their support of these jealous false leaders, and soon the ground opened up and swallowed the leaders and their family members alive!
a. It is interesting to note however, that there were some sons of Korah that are listed in 26:11 as serving Israel later, thus some of his own sons did not side with their own father and must have escaped being destroyed here!
b. The guilty are swallowed up alive!
4. There is still the issue of the 250 men who had the holy fire in holy censers that were Korah's followers and had been leaders in Israel. Now God deals with them also. Fire from God comes and destroys them where they stand!
a. Holy fire in the hands of unholy men is dangerous!
b. God's fire destroys these unrepentant proud men!
c. As a future reminder of the lessons of real leadership God instructs Moses to collect the bronze censers now in the hands of the charred remains of these false leaders and have the bronze beaten into sheets to overlay the altar of God!
d. The censers themselves were sacred objects and so must be put to sacred use still!
e. It would serve as a constant reminder of the price of ungodly leadership!
5. Only those chosen by God and not by popularity should serve! And, service must be with a clean heart!
II. PERSONAL OR PASTORAL 16:41-50
A. No Rest! 16:41-45
1. You would think the lessons of misguided leadership would have sunk in, yet the very next day with all the ungodly leadership gone the people began to grumble against Moses and Aaron again!
a. They blame Moses and Aaron for killing all the rebellious leaders!
b. They fail to see that the leaders got only what their own sins dictated!
2. This still happens today, the Pastor will preach on the consequences of sin, and yet when someone chooses to disobey God's Word they come back with, “nobody at the Church cared, or helped me...” with the implication that if the Church or pastor had only done something different they wouldn't have had to sin or they could have avoided the consequences.
a. We need an old fashion sense of accepting responsibility for our own actions!
b. Repentance is accepting the responsibility for sins committed, not blaming others!
3. Moses' leadership is again being tested!
a. However, Moses' heart is revealed; for as they grumble God instructs Moses to stand aside and He will destroy these wicked people like the wicked leaders … but Moses falls on his face before God to plead with the Lord to save these people!
b. This was the heart of a Pastor! If it was popularity he was after he would have cried out, “Fry them good God! We’ll show them who is in charge!”
c. But Moses wasn't seeking popularity or revenge, he was seeking to lead these people into a walk with God by faith!
d. Thus he would have to put aside his personal feelings for the moment and pray for them!
4. Godly leadership seeks to save, not destroy!
B. Nurturing Response 16:46-50
1. As the presence of a holy God came into the camp, a camp full of wickedness and rebellion, it was sure to elicit judgment from God; and sure enough a plague breaks out among the people!
a. Time was of the essence. While God may withhold judgment for a time, unrepentant sin will bring judgment at some point!
b. The penalty of sin is death, and so the people begin to perish!
2. Moses and Aaron's response is to quickly find a way to save the people, just as Jesus had done for us who were perishing in our sins!
a. Aaron is to grab a holy censer filled with God's fire and run into the midst of the camp.
b. The incense was both a sacrifice and the symbol of prayers arising to God!
c. They took the role of intercessor.
3. They respond with the true heart of shepherds, “he stood between the living and the dead...” and the plague began to stop!
a. This is the role of a true priest, to stand between the living and the dead!
b. Since we are in the age of the priesthood of all believers this is our call too!
c. Are we more concerned about our own comfort than we are those who are dieing in their sins, are we willing to stand in the gap between the living and the dead!?
4. While the leadership of Korah and his friends had brought disaster upon Israel, the leadership of Moses and Aaron had brought life and healing!
5. They may not have always appreciated the leadership of Moses and Aaron all the time but these were God's chosen vessels and their hearts were right before God!
a. The results of Korah's ministry were obvious!
b. The results of Moses' and Aaron's were too!
6. Korah sought to dominate God's people, Moses & Aaron sought to deliver Israel!
ILLUS: IN 1857 AT THE OUTBREAK OF THE SEPOY REBELLION IN INDIA, THE HINDUS ATTEMPTED TO SLAUGHTER AS MANY ENGLISHMEN AS THEY COULD, ESPECIALLY OFFICERS AND THEIR FAMILIES. ONE OFFICER AND HIS WIFE HAD GONE TO A NEIGHBORING TOWN NOT KNOWING ABOUT THIS DANGER AND HAD LEFT THEIR LITTLE DAUGHTER AT HOME IN THE CARE OF A NATIVE NURSE THAT SHE LOVED SO MUCH. THEIR DAUGHTER ELLEN WAS IN MORTAL DANGER HOWEVER AS THE RAIDS BEGAN. ONE OF THE FAMILY FRIENDS, A SOLDIER REALIZING THE DANGER RODE ON HORSEBACK TO THE HOUSE AND SNATCHED UP THE LITTLE GIRL FROM THE NATIVE NURSE SHE LOVED AND QUICKLY RODE OUT TO SAFETY. ELLEN WAS ANGRY FOR BEING TAKEN FROM THE NURSE SHE LOVED, NOT KNOWING OF THE DANGER. SHE KICKED HER RESCUER AND SCREAMED AS HE HELD ON TO HER AT FULL GALLOP. SHE DID NOT LIKE THE BUMPY RIDE AT ALL AS HE SQUEEZED SO HARD TO HANG ON TO HER. BY NOW, ANGRY MOBS FILLED THE STREETS HE WAS RIDING DOWN, AND AS THEY REALIZED HE WAS AN ENGLISHMEN WITH AN ENGLISH GIRL THEY MOBBED HIS HORSE TO KILL THEM BOTH! THE MAN DREW HIS SABER AND FOUGHT HARD TO SAVE HIMSELF AND THE GIRL. THIS MEANT SLINGING HER AROUND HIM TO KEEP THE ENEMY FROM ANY JABS AT HER WHILE AT THE SAME TINE FIGHTING WITH ONLY ONE HAND! THE LITTLE GIRL WAS FRIGHTENED AND STRUGGLED AGAINST HIM, BUT HE HELD ON AND FINALLY MADE IT TO SAFETY. THE PARENTS WERE SO GRATEFUL, HOWEVER THE LITTLE GIRL FELT DEEP RESENTMENT TOWARD HER RESCUER. HE HAD TREATED HER SO ROUGHLY, HE HAD SHAKEN HER SO MUCH AS THEY RODE, HE TOOK HER FROM THE NURSE SHE LOVED, HOW COULD SUCH A RUDE MAN BE CONSIDERED A FRIEND!? SHE COULD NOT BE COAXED INTO GIVING THE MAN A KISS OR A THANK YOU! AS SHE GREW UP SHE BEGAN TO REALIZE WHAT HAD HAPPENED, AND HOW UNGRATEFUL SHE HAD TREATED HIM. HOW EMBARRASSED SHE FELT LATER ON! – Source Unknown
III. POSITION OF PRIESTHOOD 17:1-13
A. Neutralizing Rebellion 17:1-5
1. God wished to stop the continued grumbling of the Israelites against His chosen leaders, so He designed a final test of leadership!
a. It is not easy to save those who constantly struggle against authority!!!
b. Sometimes the only way to save someone is when they stop struggling!
ILLUS: OFTEN WHEN SAVING SOMEONE FROM DROWNING THE RESCUER WILL NOT JUMP INTO THE WATER TO SAVE THE PERSON UNTIL THEY GO UNCONSCIOUS IN THEIR STRUGGLE! IF THEY JUMP IN WHILE THE PERSON IS THRASHING ABOUT WILDLY, BOTH THE VICTIM AND THE RESCUER COULD DROWN; S0 THEY WAIT UNTIL THE DROWNING VICTIM IS EXHAUSTED OR UNCONSCIOUS AND THEN RESCUE THEM WITHOUT THE STRUGGLE! THE SOONER WE QUIT STRUGGLING, THE SOONER WE CAN BE RESCUED TOO! – Source Unknown
2. Before another bout of grumbling starts up, the issue of leadership will be decided!
a. The test was simple and fair: each tribe was to bring a staff and one man’s name was to be inscribed on it from that tribe as a potential leader.
b. The 12 staffs would be put in the tabernacle that night by the Ark of God and the one staff that buds by morning will be God's choice for High Priest.
3. This was done; Aaron's name went on Levi's staff.
a. The next morning would end the question of leadership, who will God chose to lead them through the wilderness as High Priest?
b. This would not be Moses' choice, it would be God's!
4. This whole test was designed to bring some stability to the people of God as they encountered difficulties through their travels, someone has to lead and it needs to be the leader chosen by God!
B. Noticeable Recognition! 17:6-13
1. The next morning the staffs were checked and sure enough only one staff had results on it, it was Aaron's staff!
a. Not only had Aaron's staff budded, it had fresh leaves on it, blossoms, and even fully ripe fruit on it! Almonds!
b. Almonds were considered a rare and priceless treasure according to Gen. 43:11 … Almond blossoms were pure white, a symbol of purity.
c. Aaron had obvious fruit on his staff, all the others were barren!
2. A New Testament concept of leadership emerges here: Those who are called to lead must have obvious fruit visible, and it should be pure!!
a. Not only was there ripe fruit but there were blossoms too, fruit in the making – thus all stages of fruit making!
b. There were healthy signs like leaves that were fresh!
c. Leadership is a role reserved for those who have proven themselves fruitful, with mature fruit; and evidence of continual growth in their lives and a healthy life.
d. Even in the Assemblies of God you cannot be ordained as a Pastor until you have been licensed for at least 2 years, these 2 years are looked at to see if you have fruit in your life and ministry before you can be ordained.
e. This concept mirrors Paul's commands about leadership in the Church, being reserved for men who are not novices or new to the faith, mature, and with track records of fruitfulness … “reliable men.”
3. The point God made is simple and direct, the man with obvious fruit is called to lead! All the others whose staffs were barren were not ready for leadership of this nature; they needed to learn to serve in smaller ways first!
4. As a constant reminder that these qualities are timeless for leaders, Moses is instructed by God to put Aaron's staff in the Ark of the Covenant with the manna so that it would be a permanent reminder of God's expectations and choice of leaders!
a. The test ended, and since this was the time of the law the people become afraid of God. S0 many had died already in their stubbornness that they assume the worst is about to happen to them now!
b. They however would not die, unless they continued to rebel!
5. Now some semblance of order begins to take shape for the nation and they move on!
CONCLUSION: Godly leadership is more a function of attitude than it is ability! It is not for personal recognition, but personal responsibilities. The call of leadership is to serve; first by example and second by obedience to God's Word. The role of Godly leaders is to “stand between the living and the dead” (16:14), to serve the best interests of the people and not the interest of self! Good proven followers make good powerful leaders!