Challenging Authority, Parts 2 and 3

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image of an earthquake fault

After the spies returned and reported to Moses that they didn’t think God’s people could take the land that God had given them, they began telling the people what they thought. The fears of just ten men began to spread like gangrene among God’s people. The people began to complain. They challenged God’s authority and God’s wisdom in appointing Moses and Aaron to lead the people. They wanted to appoint a new leader who could take them back to Egypt.

In today’s Bible reading*, we see Parts Two and Three of the story we began yesterday. As convenient as it is to be able to follow along in our Bible reading according to its chapter divisions, those chapter divisions (given to us about one thousand years ago) can break the flow of thought. And because I observed the chapter divisions, the flow of thought from yesterday’s reading to today’s was broken, If I had just turned the electronic page to Numbers 14, I could have teased it at the end of yesterday’s devotional.

Keith Green sings his song, “So You Want to Go Back to Egypt?”

Once again, God tells Moses to step aside; He’ll destroy the people and start over with him. (Exodus 32:10; Numbers 14:12) And once again, Moses intercedes for the people and reminds God that His reputation is on the line. What would the other nations say about a God Who rejects the people He delivered? (Exodus 32:11–14; Numbers 14:13-16) He asks God to show Himself to be the patient, gracious, merciful, loving God that He is. (Numbers 14:17-19)

Numbers 16 begins with the story of Korah and two hundred and fifty men who plot a rebellion against Moses. God causes an earthquake that swallows Korah, his people, their families, and their possessions. Fire falls from the sky and consumes the two hundred and fifty others as they are offering incense to God. As a reminder to the people, these men’s firepans were hammered into plating for the incense altar. It was a good visual that served as a reminder for the people to not question God’s authority.

But after witnessing all of this, the people rebelled against Moses and Aaron’s authority, complaining about all of God’s people who had died. And again, God tells Moses to step back so He could kill them all and start over with him. God strikes the people with a plague. And once again, Moses and Aaron intercede for the people. In all of the rejection of God’s authority, over fifteen thousand of God’s people died of plague, lightning, and earthquake.


It’s easy to look back and want to go back to where the grass looks greener. But anyone who’s had a septic system will tell you that the grass is always greener over the tank. There’s a reason for that! (ahem) “Organic matter” enriches the soil.

But if God’s leading us and took us out of the “organic matter”, why would we want to go back? While the people remembered the fine dining on leeks and onions, God has Moses craft a new plating for the incense altar made out of the rebels’ firepans … as a reminder.

In other words, it’s good to look back at our lives before we were walking with Jesus and realize how things have changed. As attractive as it may seem to remember life before we came to God, God reminds us of how things really were when we were … without God.

Spend a few minutes looking back at where God has taken you since you repented and turned to Jesus. Thank Him for all that He has done for you since then.

* Chapters covered in today’s reading:
– Numbers 14
– Numbers 15
– Numbers 16
– Psalms 95

This devotional was originally published on February 28, 2021.

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