(All Scripture is from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated)
Keep in mind what Balaam prophesied concerning Israel in Numbers 23:19 through 23:
God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good. Behold, I have received a command to bless; He has blessed, and I cannot reverse it. He has not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor has He seen wickedness in Israel. The Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a King is among them. God brings them out of Egypt; He has strength like a wild ox. For there is no sorcery against Jacob, nor any divination against Israel. It now must be said of Jacob and of Israel, “What hath God wrought?”
While the majority of our featured Scripture is quoted from the New King James Version, the last four words are from the KJV because of their historical significance – they were the first words sent over the newly installed telegraph line in 1844 between Washington DC and Baltimore! I figured What Hath God Wrought? was a great title for this Gem series!
But let’s get back to the record of the Israelites as they wandered 40 years in the wilderness of the Sinai desert. In the last Gem we looked at four incidences of unbelief and rebellion recorded in Numbers chapters 11 through 14.
- The next sinful event is in Numbers 16:1 through 40 – Korah’s Rebellion! Korah was from the tribe of Levi, and the Levites were especially chosen by God to serve Him at the tabernacle (later the temple) assisting the priests, the descendants of Aaron (see Numbers 3:6-10). Rendering Levitical service was a high privilege!
✡ But Korah wanted more! Joined by Dathan and Abiram of the tribe of Reuben, and “...two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation...” (Numbers 16:2), they confronted Moses and Aaron: You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why do you exalt yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? (Numbers 16:3).
Apparently they forgot that God called Moses and Aaron, as well as the Levites for specific areas of service unto Him!
✡ Moses in return challenged them! Do this: Take censers, Korah and all your company; put fire in them and put incense in them before the LORD tomorrow...you... as well as Aaron...and it shall be that the man whom the LORD chooses shall be the holy one. (Numbers 16:6, 7, 16). ✡ They did just that! And as the men presented the incense before God, “...fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.” (Numbers 16:35). ✡ Not only that, but the earth split open and swal- lowed all the families and possessions of those who had rebelled! (See Numbers 16:28-32). And “...the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the congregation.” (Numbers 16:33).
- There was even more rebellion the next day! “…the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘You have killed the people of the LORD.” (Numbers 16:41).
✡ God was so angry, He threatened to wipe out the whole of Israel, sending a plague to carry out His threat! (See Numbers 16:44-46). ✡ Had not Aaron made an incense offering of atonement, all the Israelites would have perished! (See Numbers 16:47, 48). As it was, “...those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident.” (Numbers 16:49).
- The Scripture record moves on decades ahead to “…the Wilderness of Zin…and Mariam [Moses’ sister] died there…” (Numbers 20:1). It was also there that…
...there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered...against Moses and Aaron...saying...“Why have you brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.” (Numbers 20:2-5).
The Israelite’s complaint resulted in Moses becoming so angry, he responded impulsively!
✡ Numbers 20:7, 8 – “Then the LORD spoke to Moses... ‘Take the rod; you and...Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to the rock...and it will yield its water....” ✡ Numbers 20:9-11 – “So Moses...and Aaron gathered the congregation together...and said to them, ‘Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?’ Then Moses...struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly....” ➩ The rock had already been smitten! (See Exodus 17:6). ➩ Now all Moses had to do was to speak to the rock!
This is a beautiful study of Jesus Christ who only needed to be smitten (crucified) once (see Hebrews 7:27; 9:12, 26). Now we are to come to Him speaking our concerns and needs (see Hebrews 4:14-16). He does not need to be smitten (crucified) again! But this is another study.
✡ Because of this hasty action, both Moses and Aaron were forbidden to enter the Promised Land! (See Numbers 20:12, 24).
- There is one more sinful rebellion of Israel that we will consider. If you want to look ahead, read Numbers 21:4 through 9.
In all there are eight iniquitous and wicked incidents concerning Israel which occured between Mount Sinai and the Plains of Moad! So much for Balaam’s prophecy of God having “…not observed iniquity in Jacob, nor…wickedness in Israel…” (Numbers 23:21)! Can that prophecy still be true?