We’re in the midst of the BIG parashot in Numbers. It doesn’t get much more significant than last week. IF the spies had faith in God and what he was able to do (in this case, to do what he promised), THEN there wouldn’t be all this mess of 40 years wandering in the wilderness. (And that bad rap on Jews and camping, “Wasn’t 40 years enough already?!”). But our people didn’t have faith, and last week’s parsha closes with a series of laws, including tzitzit on garments, after the judgment of 40 years in the wilderness.
And so Numbers 16 opens. Korach and his bros – 250 of his bros – make a serious complaint before Moses and Aaron. They question God’s appointed leadership in Moses and Aaron. But they phrase it in a very compelling way: “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?” (Numbers 16:3 NIV)
Sounds pretty good, right? Aren’t we all holy and chosen by God? Why should you lord anything over us? Aren’t I just as capable and competent?
I am amazed at the humility of Moses and Aaron to respond to this accusation with such grace. They fall to their faces and defer to the Lord. Following Moses’ leading all the 250 accusers and Aaron bring a censor before the Lord. God’s glory appears and tells everyone to separate themselves from the 250 bros of Korach because they are going to be destroyed. Moses and Aaron fall facedown to intercede (the 2nd time in this chapter), but God’s judgment is firm. The ground opens up, swallows them and their households, and closes back up after.
But wait! There’s more.
Sadly it gets worse. The rest of the Jewish people cry out against the Lord. And a plague breaks out. Moses and Aaron get up off their faces (3rd time there this chapter). Moses, the quick thinker, tells Aaron, the quick responder, to get his censor, make atonement and literally stand in the middle of the people where the plague is passing through. Where Aaron stands, the plague stops. He is the diving line, the difference between life and death in the Israelite camp, but sadly, not before 14,700 people were killed.
After this, God directs Moses to show before the people that Aaron is in fact his chosen High Priest. I don’t know why these were the means, but the result is that Aaron’s staff budded and no one else’s did, clearly setting Aaron apart. The parsha concludes with various rules and blessings for the priesthood, describing again how they are set apart for the Lord’s service.
As much as the problem of this parsha is questioning God’s appointed leadership, it expresses the lack of trust that Korach and those who allied themselves with him, the lack of trust they had in God. They doubted the leadership of Moses and Aaron because they were acting as the voice of the Lord. They didn’t like the message, and so they wanted a new messenger.
What strikes me about this parsha are the groups of people who are able to make an impact on the lives, both in thinking and in action, in others. Who can make a difference? How many does it take to influence the outcome of an event or of a group?
Without making an exhaustive list of who influences who, you have Korach and his 3 allies, they gather and lead 250 others. You have both Moses and Aaron together. There’s also the entire assembly of Israel. And you also have Aaron, singly, standing in the midst of the people. These groups and individuals act in a way that affects the outcome for many more than just themselves as individuals.
I think this speaks to our ability, through the Lord’s leading, to impact the people around us – whether I stand as the only believer in Him, or whether I have support around me. What I see in this week’s parsha is that we can make a difference, even between life and death, both in a spiritual sense and a physical sense, but we need to act according to God’s leading.
I’ve been following some other camp blogs as we are approaching camp season and I’ve noticed something really interesting. Blogs from Jewish summer camps seem to be really focusing not exactly on getting kids ready for camp…but getting parents ready for camp. From our end, we send out info letters, what to bring lists, and directions: but what else can we be doing?
This summer, I am going to be doing what I can to be sending regular updates and prayer requests live from camp. But, I realize that the things I might find noteworthy in a day are not necessarily the things that you, the parents of our campers want to hear about. Please take a look at the poll and let us know what you’d most like updates on when we are “in camp”, and leave more suggestions in the comments if you’ve got them.
I am getting excited for this summer and I hope that you are as well. Please be praying for Twister, Scooter, and myself as we are preparing, but most of all please be praying for your child. Only God knows how He is going to use this summer in the faith life of your young person, but we’re excited to partner with Him!