It was not but a few short days ago when we read of Aaron and Miriam trying to claim authority for themselves. Recall, Numbers 12:
Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married, for he had married a Cushite woman. And they said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us also?”
Remember that God put a stop this quickly and confirmed Moses as his spokesman. Miriam is punished with a scaly infection. However, the idea that your relationship with God makes you special AND entitles you to a position of authority is common. This is nothing more than the sin of pride, the first sin and the root of all sins. It is the most natural sin. We are in relationship with God and therefore we ARE SPECIAL but being special doesn’t convey authority. Despite the fact that God just got through dealing with this with Aaron and Miriam in today’s reading we see the leaders of Israel fall right back into that sin:
Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men. And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well- known men. They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”
Notice what the last sentence says. The basis for their rebellion is their relationship with God. “The Lord is among them” therefore “all the congregation is Holy, every one of them.” The MISINTERPRET what their relationship with God means. Yes, the Lord is with them. Yes, they are all holy. But God desires humility and service.
Who does God call to lead? Look at the pattern of humble and reluctant leadership. Abraham who reluctantly became the father of a nation. Moses, who begged God not to choose him so much that God drafted Aaron to assist him. David a simple shepherd. Mary a poor girl from a backwater town. Peter a not so bright fisherman. Look at Mother Theresa and our recent Popes, John Paul, Benedict and now Francis. And of course remember the example of the Lord Jesus, who washed the feet of his Apostles and whose prayer in Gethsemane before the passion began was, “Father, not my will but your will be done.”
The people who followed Korah are dealt with harshly by God, the earth literally opens up and swallows them. Why such a dramatic punishment? I think God is sending a message – this type of thinking will swallow you whole. God loves you. He wants a relationship with you but don’t think that because of that you are more special, that you are entitled, or that you aren’t subject to legitimate authority.