When I was in college, the men on my floor loved to sing “We’re Not Gonna Take It” by Twisted Sister. And yes, looking back at the band, they indeed looked twisted. Many of this heavy metal/glam rock band’s songs explored parent/child conflicts and criticisms of the educational system, which made it popular on college campuses.
If you attended college in the mid-1980s, you probably remember the chorus to their most popular song:
We’re Not Gonna Take It
No, We Ain’t Gonna Take It
Oh We’re Not Gonna Take It Anymore
Often by the end of the song, the men on my floor were ready to harass someone or destroy something.
Rebellion seems to be the American way…but is it God’s way?
Let’s take a closer look!
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Numbers 15:22-31. At the beginning of this section, God offers a means of forgiveness for sins that are committed unintentionally. God isn’t a “sin-hunter” looking for a chance to condemn us—but just because we don’t see our sin in the moment doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Our sin—whether intentional or unintentional—create a chasm between us and God. I find encouragement reading this knowing that God continually provides us with opportunities to remove any barriers between us and him. And when we commit ourselves to following Jesus, our sins are forever removed. But reading this reminds me that Jesus died not only to forgive the sins I commit intentionally, but also the sins I commit unintentionally.
The end of the section is very sobering. In the Israelite community, intentionally blaspheming God resulting in cutting off the person from the community. Jesus said in Matthew 12:31, “Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is intentional opposition to the work of God. At various times, people have confessed to me that they’re afraid they may have blasphemed God. I always respond, “If you’re worried that you blasphemed God, then you definitely haven’t done it.” People who blaspheme God don’t care whether or not they’ve rejected him.
Numbers 16. Moses just can’t seem to get any relief from dealing with insurrections. Living in the desert with little to do but consume God’s provision of manna and water gave the people ample opportunity to rebel.
In verses 8-11, Moses addressed his fellow Levites, some of whom were likely relatives. This insurrection, however, must have felt particularly painful to Moses because Korah, a member of his own Levite tribe, led the community leaders in their rebellion. In fact, Korah’s particular clan—the Kohathites—cared for the ark and the vessels in the sanctuary. Without a doubt, Korah worked closely with Aaron and Moses.
Most astonishing of all is Moses’ humility. When Korah and his men first confronted Moses, he fell to his knees (see verse 4). Then twice he interceded before God on the people’s behalf to prevent them from being destroyed (verses 22, 42-50). He defended the very people who threatened to kill him!
Mark 15:1-15. The irony of this section is that the people asked Pilate to release a political terrorist and legitimate threat to the Roman Empire —a known murderer!—in Jesus’ place. This, despite the fact that his accusers were grasping for any kind of a political charge to pin on Jesus.
Mark 15:21-47. Because of his brutal beating at the hands of the Roman soldiers, Jesus was too weak to carry his own cross. I can imagine carrying Jesus’ cross was a life-changing experience for Simon. Actually, it probably was. The names of Simon of Cyrene and his sons are included here because some of Mark’s readers probably knew one, if not all, of them. In fact, we read about a Rufus in Romans 16:13.
The New Bible Commentary offers this about the centurion’s confession of Christ in verse 39: “In a sense the gospel of Mark is built around the confession of Christ by Peter at Caesarea Philippi, and the confession by this centurion at the cross.”
Notice in verse 47 that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were eyewitnesses to the stone being rolled over the tomb—because they would be the first witnesses to the resurrection, which we’ll read tomorrow.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
The account of Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16 has followed me all day today. It was a pivotal moment in Israel’s history.
Notice Moses’ words in verse 11: “It is against the Lord that you and all your followers have banded together.” All rebellion against authority is rebellion against God because God places all authorities over us. Jesus told Pilate just before going to the cross, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above” (John 19:11). Even Pilate, whom we read about in today’s reading from Mark and who allowed Jesus to be crucified, was ultimately appointed by God. The apostle Paul, reinforcing Jesus’ words, wrote, “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established” (Romans 13:1).
In western society, rebellion is cool. Movies often depict the hero or heroine as the person who rebels against conventional standards. But despite the “hip” factor, it doesn’t appear very’t hip in God’s eyes.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What can you learn from Moses’ leadership in Numbers 16? What did Moses’ response to Korah (and the rest of Israel) share in common with Jesus’ response to God when he was nailed to the cross?
- Most democracies result from some sort of rebellion against tyrannical rule. In light of Numbers 16, when is it okay to rebel against your government?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.