"Fire came forth from
the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who
were offering the incense. Then the Lord spoke to Moses,
saying, ‘Say to Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest,
that he shall take up the censers out of the midst of
the blaze, for they are holy;" Numbers 16:35-37
Our text is taken from the story of Korah who led 250
men into rebellion against God. Korah was a Levite
priest who was well respected by the people and when the
Lord struck him and his companions they blamed Moses and
Aaron. Korah was not satisfied with merely being a
priest but wanted the High Priesthood which God had
reserved for Aaron and his sons. These men had convinced
themselves that they had as much right to the High
Priesthood as Aaron saying, -"You
have gone far enough, for all the congregation are holy,
. . .so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly
of the Lord?"
Perhaps we should define "holy" before we
continue - to
be holy means to be separated or set apart by God. Contrary
to popular belief it has nothing to do with being
righteous although holy people are called to holy
Things can be holy such as the censers mentioned in our
text and even places like the land of promise. The
children of Israel were holy to the Lord because God had
separated them from the other nations, but as a whole
they never walked in holy righteousness. But as there
are degrees of separation and ordination, there are
degrees of holiness.
All the Israelite tribes, being separated from the
nations were declared holy to the Lord, but the tribe of
Levi was separated from the other tribes as holy
priests, and then Aaron and his sons were even further
separated and anointed to the High Priesthood. Moses
understood this and replied, -"Hear,
now, you sons of Levi, is it not enough for you that the
God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the
congregation of Israel. . .And are you seeking for the
(High) priesthood also?. . .Do this; take censers for
yourselves, and lay incense upon them in the presence of
the Lord tomorrow; and the man whom the Lord chooses
shall be the one who is holy." Since
Korah and his mighty men of renown were holy Israelites
and holy Levitical priests, we can safely assume that
Moses is referring to who has been separated as holy for
the High Priesthood.
I am sadden every time I read this story. Here are holy
men standing with holy censers before a holy God, and it
results in God sending fire from heaven to consume them.
According to the book of Revelation, incense represents
the prayers of the faithful, so these men were standing
in prayerful expectation of being declared holy to the
Lord, yet they were burned to ashes as profane and only
their censers remained holy.
Because of human reasoning and human philosophy, these
men deceived themselves and stepped into rebellion. They
failed to acknowledge that Aaron was holy to the Lord.
They had convinced themselves that there was no
difference between them and Aaron, but they were dead
God has declared angels, people, things, places and
times as being holy to the Lord and no amount of human
reasoning or human philosophy can ever change that fact.
However, what does remain is who is going to acknowledge
what is holy to the Lord and who is not. Will you stand
with Korah or with Moses?