Numbers 16:1-50 (Part 1) – $850 Billion…Now That I Have Your Attention!

Posted: September 14, 2016 in 04-Numbers

Numbers 16:1-50 (Part 1 of 3)

Korah, Dathan and Abiram

In America, we have a credit problem. Our economy is fueled by consumer credit. In 2013, America’s collective credit card and revolving account debt reached $850 Billion, not million, but billion. Compare that to only $1.4 Billion in 1967. Sure, there’s some inflation to be done there because $100.00 in 1967 had the same buying power as $715 now. In other words, you would have to multiply what something cost in 1967 by 7.15 times to measure apples to apples. So, $1.4 Billion times 7.15 equals $10 Billion. Even adjusting for the 715% inflation rate between then and now, you can see that credit was nowhere near the behemoth back in the pre-1970’s that is now. Credit card debt reflects our society’s desire to immediate gratification where the world that my parents and their parents before them lived placed an emphasis on living modestly and putting away money for savings. Americans in 1969 saved approximately 12% of their income compared to only 5% going to savings now. Again, 5% is the national average. There is a vast segment of Americans who do not save at all. Certain segments of the American population average spending 105% of earnings. And that’s not just the poor. It stretches into vast segments of the middle class. The average American in 2013 carried credit card debt of $5,965, and that’s just the average. Getting back to the credit card revolution that began in the 1970s, just think about it, credit card debt is 85 times higher than it was in 1967. 85 times higher! Even adjusting for population growth (350 Million in 2016 vs. 200 Million in 1967, a 57% increase), it is an unnatural growth. An inflation adjusted 850% growth in credit card debt vs. a 57% growth in the size of our nation’s population. Amazing! We leverage our lives away to fuel our desire for more goods more quickly.


Our expectations of more, more, more are amazing compared to previous generations. Just look at the difference in the average middle class home from the early 1970s compared to the average middle class homes now. There is no comparison. When I drive through certain neighborhoods of the suburban community in which I live you can see the contrast. Duncan was a small, small town in the 1970s but was like any community, it started becoming less and less a mill town and more of a suburb of Greenville and Spartanburg over the years. In the 70’s, you see those concentric layers of houses beginning. They are were small modest homes that probably averaged 1,000 to 1,200 square feet of living space. Now as you progress outward from those 1970’s subdivisions and move out beyond Interstate 85 southwestward, the homes progressively become larger as you see communities that have been built in the last decade (fueled by the phenomenal growth of Greenville over the past 15 years). Each subdivision has houses for middle class families that would have been considered mansions forty years ago. Amenities in the subdivisions would have been considered exclusive forty years ago. And the exclusive neighborhoods of the rich in the Duncan and other upstate South Carolina communities are simply amazing to me compared to the South Carolina that I knew as a child. Bigger, fancier, more square footage, opulence that simply astounds. And, I am sure that Upstate SC is no different than any place else in the USA. We all want more, more, more, and we want it now, now, now. Gone are the days that we live modestly, save, and put off or suppress our desires in favor of saving for the rainy and saving for retirement. We have credit cards and we can buy it now. We want it now. And we wonder why our kids think they should be living that way too when they leave home. Man just look at what we expect in our cars in 2016 vs. what we expected in our cars in 1967. I am not saying that all these “advances” are in and of themselves bad, but our desires for immediate gratification are the problem. And our ever mounting national credit card debts are just an indication of our self-centered desires of getting what we want when we want it.


It was that looming giant, that gorilla in the room, that is our national credit card debt and how it is in away fueling a false economy and how we no longer care to wait for things that I thought of when I read this rather extended passage, Numbers 16:1-50:

16 Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent 2 and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. 3 They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, “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?”


4 When Moses heard this, he fell facedown. 5 Then he said to Korah and all his followers: “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. 6 You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers 7 and tomorrow put burning coals and incense in them before the Lord. The man the Lord chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!”


8 Moses also said to Korah, “Now listen, you Levites! 9 Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? 10 He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. 11 It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?”


12 Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, “We will not come! 13 Isn’t it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness? And now you also want to lord it over us! 14 Moreover, you haven’t brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Do you want to treat these men like slaves? No, we will not come!”


15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.”


16 Moses said to Korah, “You and all your followers are to appear before the Lord tomorrow—you and they and Aaron. 17 Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it—250 censers in all—and present it before the Lord. You and Aaron are to present your censers also.” 18 So each of them took his censer, put burning coals and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 19 When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the glory of the Lord appeared to the entire assembly. 20 The Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 21 “Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.”


22 But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, “O God, the God who gives breath to all living things, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”


23 Then the Lord said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’”


25 Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” 27 So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.


28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the realm of the dead, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”


31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them and their households, and all those associated with Korah, together with their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the realm of the dead, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”


35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.


36 The Lord said to Moses, 37 “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to remove the censers from the charred remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy— 38 the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the Lord and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.”


39 So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned to death, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, 40 as the Lord directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the Lord, or he would become like Korah and his followers.


41 The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. “You have killed the Lord’s people,” they said.


42 But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the tent of meeting, suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the tent of meeting, 44 and the Lord said to Moses, 45 “Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.” And they fell facedown.


46 Then Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put incense in it, along with burning coals from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the Lord; the plague has started.” 47 So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. 48 He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. 49 But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. 50 Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the tent of meeting, for the plague had stopped.


Korah and his associates had seen the advantages of the priesthood of the false gods of Egypt. Egyptians priests had great wealth and political influence – something Korah wanted for himself. Korah may have assumed that Moses, Aaron and his sons were trying to make the Israelite priesthood the same kind of political machine as the Egyptian priesthood and he wanted his piece of the pie.


Today’s takeaway is this to me. We often let our desires overcome us. We want what we want and we want it now. We let those desires become our god. There are certainly those with large credit card debts that have things in proper perspective but many of us Americans have let our obsession with possessions become our god. To the point that we are blinded to God Himself. We no longer care about being obedient to God. We really care about clearing out those impediments that keep us from having all the possessions, power and wealth that we want. We no longer see God as the central focus of our lives. We see getting what we want as the most important thing. Getting what we want is more important that our ability to keep our word to our lenders. Getting what we want is more important to us than our spouses. Getting what we want is more important to us than our children. Just look at divorce rates out there and the broken families that result. We want newer models when we grow tired of marriage and its responsibilities just like selling your older house for a newer one or an older car for a newer. We want to satisfy our egos through our things. Our $850 Billion in credit card debt is simply an indication that we are not finding what we want in things but think that we can. We have let things become wooden idols in our lives, graven images.


When we will wake up and see God. How long will we be a nation that sells it soul for the next, newest thing to satisfy our desires. When will we see God. When will we realize that our materialism is just the newest way to worship a man-made god. When will we see God? Let us realize that they only thing that truly satisfies is having a real relationship with the Lord is what satisfies. Having the newest, finest, and chic-est never satisfies. Everything man-made decays and loses its appeal. Only God is enduring and eternal and submitting our will to His leads to a joy unknown in the rat race of materialism.


Amen and Amen.

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