The One Year® Chronological Bible, NKJV (Tyndale, 2013), March 4 

UnknownSelfish ambition reveals its presence in the heart of man when a man craves what God has given to another. Unchecked, selfish ambition percolates into bitterness, and envious thoughts mature into destructive actions.

Korah, a distant cousin to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, envies Moses’ leadership position in Israel. He resents the elevation of his cousins over him, the Levites, and the entire congregation. Never mind that Korah and the Kohathites were graciously given the prestigious assignment of caring for the Most Holy Place and its furnishings. “Wounded” by this perceived slight, Korah focuses on the one thing he cannot have―the priesthood. He wants what God has given Moses, and he campaigns to acquire it. Korah’s “woundedness” leads to open rebellion.

This situation reveals a number of truths about selfish ambition:

  • Those who are selfishly ambitious embrace crass egalitarianism, where everyone is equal in authority, position, and responsibility—“All the congregation is holy, every one of them” (Num. 16:3). They believe in egalitarianism until they themselves are in a position of authority! They resent anyone who has authority over them.
  • Those who are selfishly ambitious distort truth and use religion to justify tearing down others—“. . . and the LORD is among them” (16:3).
  • Those who are selfishly ambitious interpret the motives of others through the filter of their own motives—“Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” (16:3).
  • Those who are selfishly ambitious have no problem convincing others to join their ranks. 250 men join the rebellion against Moses’ God-given authority (16:2).
  • Those who are selfishly ambitious blame others for their personal failures, “Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards” (16:14).

Moses responds by declaring that Korah’s battle isn’t with him but with the LORD, “Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the LORD” (16:11). The LORD opens up the ground and swallows up Korah and his men, while the fire consumes the band of 250 who offered incense. The following day the assembly grumbles against Moses, and 14,700 of them die in a plague. Wow! How many would die if God dealt with the selfishly ambitious in the pews of our churches today?

“But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there” (James 3:14-16).

Questions from today’s reading (Numbers 16:1-18:32):

What was the basis of Dathan and Abiram’s rebellion?

How does the LORD distinguish Moses and Aaron from their relatives (including the regulations given in chapter 18)?

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