Discontentment (Numbers 16)

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Discontentment is dangerous. The anthem of our age is self-determination. You can be whoever or whatever you determine!

The deep root of this is often nothing less than discontentment with the way God’s created you (sex, shape, temperament, etc.), gifted you and where God’s placed you.

But the story of Scripture is filled with God’s glorious and detailed design for people’s lives. Right from Adam and Eve, Moses, Aaron & Miriam, all those filled with a spirit of skill (Exodus 28:3) the different tribes of Israel with various assignments and roles and the family of Aaron the priests. We could go on through Scripture, finding the same pattern repeated.

However, it is hard to find anyone in Scripture who is on a personal journey of self-determination or self-discovery. But, Scripture records countless people discovering who they are in God and finding their purpose within His purposes for them.

In Numbers 16, God had chosen Moses & Aaron and given them leadership over His people (Exodus 3-4). God had also chosen Korah (part of the Levites set apart to minister in the tabernacle see Numbers 1:47-54) for a specific role.

But Korah was discontented. Possibly even jealous of Moses & Aaron’s role. His discontent festered to the point that he shared it, spread it and raised a rebellious rabble against Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:1-3).

Discontentment is hardly ever a private thing. Discontentment often fixates on one thing emphasising it at the expense of other things that are also true. Korah effectively said we are all equal; “all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them” (Numbers 16:3). And that was true, God’s people were all equally set-apart for God, and yet God had assigned specific roles to individuals, including Moses and Aaron.

Korah accused Moses and Aaron of appointing and exalting themselves as leaders over God’s people. But was Korah not present when God’s people similarly moaned at Moses in Numbers 14 and wanted to appoint their own leader to take them back to Egypt & God? When God then appeared and killed the ten spies? Was Korah not aware of when Aaron & Miriam had opposed Moses? And God had spoken to them saying; “Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?” (Numbers 12:8) and Miriam became leprous? Discontentment blinds us to what we know.

Discontentment robs us of joy and empties of us of thanks to God. Korah was part of the Levitical tribe appointed to serve in the ministry of the tabernacle – they had a significant role to play in helping the whole people of God to worship. But his discontentment had blinded him to this honoured special role and robbed his joy, making him ambitious and jealous.

And Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the Lord and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? Therefore it is against the Lord that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?” (Numbers 16:8-11)

Discontentment closes our ears to reason. Moses reminds Korah of the special place and role God had assigned to them and pointed out that their discontentment is actually directed at God, not Moses or Aaron!

But Korah would not relent and assembled his rabble against Moses the next day by the tent of meeting (vs19). And then…

What happened next is like a Sci-Fi movie which is hard to get one’s head around. God appears in His glory (vs19) and then warns others to step back from these rebellious ones (vs23-26). And then the earth opens up and swallows them all alive and fire comes down from heaven and consumes the 250 offering their incense (vs31-36)!

Discontentment is dangerous.

In what ways are you prone to being discontent? What do you grumble about regarding who you are, what you’re good at?

Psalm 139:14 declares that we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’ by God and Ephesians 2:10 says that we are God’s workmanship! God has perfectly formed us for an assigned purpose/role; “for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Note that it is God who made us, it is God who shaped us perfectly for His own God-assigned roles in life that are good. We do not self-determine according to Scripture.

So, may we learn the secret of contentment! Discontentment is dangerous, but godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Timothy 6:6).

Take to God any discontentment you have harboured and repent of it.

If you have imbibed the poisonous modern thoughts of self-determination then repent of those.

Ask God to help you accept how He has made you and the roles in life He has assigned to you. Ask God to help you find joy and contentment in these so that you will know great joy and God will be glorified.

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