Some lessons from Korah’s rebellion, in Numbers 16, will land us on prayer.
The short version of the story is that Korah cultivates 250 followers from Israel, and they rebel against Moses and Aaron. Their major claim is “You’ve gone too far!” (v. 3). They resent Moses and Aaron’s singular, special leadership. Some observations from the text:
- If there is anything that characterizes Moses’ life, it is substitutionary intercession, before God, for the people. No wonder, then, that the New Testament writers see him as a picture of Jesus, the head of the church. You can trace this understanding, starting in Deut. 18:15-18, and then John 1:45, Acts 3:22 and Acts 7:37. Thus Jude sees Korah’s rebellion repeated in the early church (Jude 11).
- This understanding of Moses, as a type of Christ, reminds us that no mere man is the head of the church. Jesus alone is our Head, High Priest, and Chief Shepherd. God has given him and him alone preeminence over all. This is a simple point, but worthy of constant remembrance. No wonder Moses’ first response to Korah is to literally “get low” (v. 4). Moses was humble, but he also knew the fear of the Lord. The Father brooks no rivals for his Son.
- Thus we (and Moses) are never more like Jesus, than when we engage in intercessionary prayer. To intercede means to stand in the place of, to request something of God, on behalf of another. This is the great privilege of being a member of His priesthood (v. 9) – to be able to go to Him freely in prayer, and be heard, whether in angry complaint (v. 15), or in simple requests. Prayer is the first step of love, and a royal privilege.
- And prayer is how we fight a pernicious enemy. It is a great affront to God, in times of pressure, to grumble, whether about government, or other Christians. Grumbling is a bigger problem than we realize, because it often hides under righteous axioms (v. 3), but it is driven by unbridled lust for power (v. 10). Yet if Christ is Lord, then this lust, and grumbling, is nothing less than the desire to unseat him (v. 11).
Grumbling is a noxious fume that expels prayer. The key to fighting grumbling, then, is pushing back, in aggressive prayer:
Get low (1 Peter 5:6a);
Remember Who is in charge (1 Peter 5:4, 11);
Remember His promises to us, to GIVE us life (1 Peter 5:6b, 10); and then
Pray, wrestling with God, with all our cares, because He still cares for us (1 Peter 5:7);
Seek God’s direction for right action (Numbers 16:4);
Leaving the decisive judgments to Him (Numbers 16:31-35).