It has to be, for me, one of the most difficult portions of of the Bible.
After a devastating blow, in what appears to be a failure in leadership, the country is set back 40 years in political, social and economic advancement. Four cabinet members approach the Prime Minister with signed affidavits from 250 Provincial leaders, asking for a restructuring of government that would be less centralized. The response is the execution of the four cabinet members by being buried alive and the 250 provincial leaders are all burned to death. There is a public outcry. The government responds with indiscriminate genocide, killing over 47,000 people.
It's difficult to believe that I'm describing the events recorded in Numbers 16: the rebellion of Korah against Moses and Aaron. It's hard to understand that this is the method employed by the God of Righteousness who is slow to anger and abounding in love. It's worth asking the question, how can we as Christians truly place our faith in such a God?
The easy answer is to paint Korah and the people of Israel as blatant offenders and Moses's clear authority challenged. But, would the question be so easy if we were standing in the wilderness, surrounded by chaos, death and disappointment.
Was Korah really so bad? He never suggested that the leadership be taken from Moses and Aaron, only that they allow others to share the responsibility. After having come so close to victory to immediately turn away in defeat, it makes sense that the load was too heavy for them to bear. The 250 princes were only voicing their support for compromise, not by any means inciting a coup. Yet, the response from on High was swift, decisive and unyielding. There was no opportunity for defense. There was no discussion to reconsider. There was only judgment.
It is true that God knows the hearts of men and that He doesn't need to defend His judgments. We also don't know what might have gone on behind the scenes. It's easy to justify how He dealt with people 4000 years ago, forgetting that He is the same yesterday, today and forever.
There's little doubt in my mind that Korah thought that he was doing the right thing. With the backing of men in authority, he definitely must have felt he had a legitimate position. I feel that way sometimes. But among all the other profound lessons we find here. It may be worth considering that maybe a lot of the struggles and frustrations we're dealing with in life are not because God is absent from our life; but rather that He is very active and near.