Faithlife Sermons

God's Thoughts vs. Man's Thoughts

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Have you ever had to agree to disagree with somebody in order to get past some issue that you and another person cannot get on the same page about? In pre-marital counseling I bring this matter up to a couple because there are certain things that we will not all agree upon and so long as it isn’t an issue that is detrimental to the health of the relationship then the mature thing to do is to agree to disagree and then move on. Unfortunately, few can employ that practice because it does require a level of maturity that few attain. Most of the time we are so convinced that we are right about something that if another is not willing to change their opinion on the matter and join with us in our way of thinking then it is just a continual battle of the minds and wills until, in many cases, the relationship is damaged or destroyed altogether. When we cannot agree to disagree on matters that are not detrimental to our relationships then it is a sign, not of maturity, but of childishness.


Our passage today tells of an account when there was a disagreement of sorts and God’s thoughts and man’s thoughts didn’t agree or line up with one another. As we go into our passage let me say that while there are many times when the best and most healthy option, relationally, is to agree to disagree, when it comes to God and truth…agreeing to disagree with God never ends well.
Numbers 16:1–7 ESV
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?” When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the Lord will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him. Do this: take censers, Korah and all his company; put fire in them and put incense on them before the Lord tomorrow, and the man whom the Lord chooses shall be the holy one. You have gone too far, sons of Levi!”
Numbers 16:1-


As we continue reading, we find that the basis of this particular rebellion was that Korah and others did not agree with what God had to say regarding those who get to approach Him. Moses had the special privilege of meeting with God face-to-face as the leader of Israel. As God continued to reveal His plans among His people, Aaron, Moses’ right and man, was appointed to the position of High Priest and was granted the remarkable privilege of being able to actually meet with God in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle. This was not just about Aaron and God. This was about God and His people for when Aaron stood before God he represented all of Israel before Him. During this time the High Priest would offer up prayers and offerings to the Lord. This must have been a breath-taking experience. Korah and others did not think that it was fair that only Aaron got this unique privilege and began to rebel against Moses and Aaron claiming that it was unfair that Moses and Aaron had these experiences of meeting with God and that all were equally deserving of this privilege. In other words, Korah and the others, though they had been given the privilege of serving near to the Lord in the tabernacle, did not like God’s thoughts about how and who should approach Him did not match up with theirs and began to incite a rebellion because of it.

THE SHOWDOWN (16:15-38)

Moses knows, respects and reveres what the Lord has said regarding how He is to be approached and who He is to be approached by. Moses brings this matter before the Lord in prayer. He knows that it is not up to him to render a decision on this matter for the people were likely not to respect or believe any judgment that Moses may render in such a circumstance. Therefore, he seeks the Lord as to how to deal with the matter. The Lord prescribes an event that would serve to not only show Korah, Dathan, Abiram and the others they had persuaded to follow them but the whole Israelite community. The Lord prescribes that Aaron, Korah, Dathan, Abiram and all those who had joined in this insurrection were to bring offering places of incense before the Tabernacle (portable Temple of worship) and to present their offering before the Lord. It is important not to lose the fact that God prescribes and event that is relevant with Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their followers’ reason for rebellion. This offering was an offering that only the priest was allowed to offer before the Lord. It was offered on behalf of the people of Israel but the priest was the only one authorized to offer it. This is exactly what the insurrection was about. It was about who was authorized to come before the Lord in this matter.
It appears that Korah, Dathan and Abiram choose not to show up to the showdown. They send their followers but we get the idea that they did not show up. Maybe they were there and then returned to their homes when they assumed that this was a worthless waste of effort. Regardless of the reasons, we find that Korah, Dathan and Abiram return to their dwelling places while their followers remained at the tent of meeting with their offering pans present just as instructed. The Lord reveals to Moses His plan to show His power, might and authority to these men. It appears that Korah had been successful in luring more of the Israelite community to the insurrection for the Lord threatens to bring judgment upon the entire community. Moses intercedes on behalf of them and the Lord responds in kind. Korah, Dathan, Abiram and all they have are swallowed up by the ground and the followers that were at the Tabernacle with their offering plates were consumed by holy fire. All that remained of them were the offering plates they were holding.


After the smoke cleared, pun intended, one of the priests took the bronze offering plates and fashioned them to become plating that would cover the altar where offerings to the Lord were made. It was not that God needed, or even wanted a decorative covering for the altar. This was to be a sign to all of Israel that the Lord is Holy and is to be approached in this manner only by those whom He has authorized to do so. This altar covering would serve as a sign of remembrance for all of Israel of Korah’s rebellion and God’s holiness. This covering would serve as a sign of remembrance for all of Israel that when God’s thoughts and man’s thoughts do not agree, God is always right.


There may not seem to be a lot of relevance and application for our lives today but when we really think it through, we find that this event that took place thousands of years ago is as relevant today as it ever has been. There is no shortage of examples in the world where man’s thoughts/ideas/plans do not agree with God’s thoughts/ideas/plans. We could spend many hours discussing the matter but I want us to narrow our attention down to how, generally speaking, when it comes to salvation man’s thoughts and God’s thoughts are often at odds with one another.
SALVATION. There are many ideas that man has contrived in what it means to be “made right” with God. Whether that be through religious effort, moral living or just some self-conceived “deal” on has made with the “Big Guy upstairs.” Mankind, much like Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, has had no problems offering up their ideas regarding what it means to “be right” with God regardless of what God has said. Furthermore, the common thought of the day is that there is no “right way” to be made right with God and that all you have to do is be sincere in you pursuit of God and He will be obligated to honor your efforts regardless of what they may be. In all of this, however, God has spoken on this matter just as He had spoken on the matter that Korah and his followers did not agree with. There are many passages of Scripture that we could reference at this point but I will limit it to two:
John 14:6 ESV
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
Acts 4:12 ESV
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
God has spoken on this matter and does not negotiate on such things.
JUDGEMENT. Just as Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their followers were judged for the error of their ways, so is there coming a day when all mankind will be judged by God. This life is not all there is. There is a life to come. For some, it will be a life unto everlasting joy. For others, it will be a life unto everlasting regret. Those who have accepted God’s decision on the matter and responded in faith and trust in His provision for salvation—that is Jesus Christ—will receive the fullness of His gift in salvation. For those who have rejected God’s decision on this matter and have contrived their own way to be “made right” with Him they will face eternity separated from Him in a real hell regretting their rejection of God’s gift of salvation given to us in Jesus.
THE SIGN. I found it interesting that God provided a sign to Israel that would remind Him of His ways in the bronze plates covering the altar. Every time the altar was viewed, the people were reminded of God’s ways and the non-negotiable nature of His truth given to them. In the same way, we have been given a sign regarding God’s ways and the non-negotiable nature of His truth given to us. It is the cross. There are many ways in which God could have accomplished our salvation. There are even many ways in which Jesus could have died for our sins. However, God chose a cross. The most excruciating and torturous form of execution the world has ever known. Why the cross? Maybe God knew that cross would be the sign that nobody could forget and therefore would endure the test of time as a sign to the world of His provision for salvation and invitation to all to be saved.
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