Sinning Against Those Just Like Us
They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” Numbers 16:3NKJV
Question 132 of the Larger Catechism asks, “What are the sins of equals?” It gives the answer, “The sins of equals are, besides the neglect of the duties required, the undervaluing of the worth, envying the gifts, grieving at the advancement of prosperity one of another; and usurping pre-eminence one over another.” Last time, we examined how we are to love those who occupy the same level and station of society that we do. Today, we consider the ways in which we are tempted to sin against them.
The Scripture at the head of this article marks one of the saddest episodes in the forty year exodus of Israel. In remembrance of His promise to Abraham, God had graciously and supernaturally rescued His people from the cruel slavery of Egypt. In the four hundred year interim, He had greatly multiplied them, forming a family of seventy persons into a nation of millions. Throughout their sojourn in the wilderness, He had protected them and provided for their every need. Streams had literally burst forth in the desert. Human beings made, of the dust of the earth, ate the bread of heaven for their sustenance–the manna which He miraculously gave them every morning. God even commanded the form and terms of their government, divinely appointing their rulers in both the church and the state. You would think that, seeing how God had personally chosen who was to rule, no one would question or be upset with His choice. That was not the case.
The verse above relates how Korah and his followers disputed the roles that Moses and Aaron had been given by God Himself. The arrogance of this rebellion is all the more astonishing when we consider that Korah led a group of Levites in this challenge. Korah, Moses, and Aaron were fellow members of the tribe of Levi, and of the division of Kohath. The Levites had been singled out by God for the honor of handling the holy things of Israel’s faith. They alone were allowed to camp around the tabernacle, above which hovered the visibly manifested presence of God. They alone were allowed to touch the articles of worship of the people of God. Furthermore, the Kohathites were singled out from among the Levites as the only ones allowed to carry the most holy things. Thus, the Levites had been given a great honor in the sight of God and before all the holy people of God, and the Kohathites were honored above all the Levites. But it was not enough for Korah and his supporters. They wanted more. They also wanted the priesthood, which God had reserved exclusively for the family of Aaron. In fact, they went so far as to demand the high priesthood, which belonged singularly to Aaron, and the prophetic office, which had been uniquely given to Moses. To use the words of the Catechism, Korah and his supporters undervalued the worth, envied the gifts, grieved at the advancement of prosperity, and sought to usurp the preeminence that God had given to Moses and Aaron.
The same sinful envy appears in the New Testament when the disciples are found arguing over which of them was the greatest (Luke 22:24), or over which of them would sit at Christ’s right and left hands (Mark 10:37). What a sad state of affairs we repeatedly see among the leaders of God’s people! A truly obedient and gracious heart would have rejoiced with Moses and Aaron over the unique privilege that God had given to them. Sincerely humble disciples would have been arguing over who was the least among them. Yet, most often, we not only see ourselves as better than we are, we actually are grieved when someone else gets an award that we coveted for ourselves. May God grant that, rather than seeking to exalt ourselves, we would be a people seeking to humble ourselves, truly happy for others when they are exalted. In doing so, we would image our Lord, who, though equal with God, humbled Himself to the form of the lowest servant in order to glorify His Father in heaven and bless the people of God!