While I was a seminary student, I rebelled in a very specific way against the Lord. I did something that I knew was sin, but I literally told him that if the opportunity came, I was going to do what I wanted to do. Just thinking about it still makes me shudder at my arrogance.
I was reminded of this rebellious act upon reading the account of Korah and those who opposed Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16). Moses and Aaron were the divinely appointed leaders of Israel. Yet, here were men who decided they didn’t like being under their authority and challenged them directly. Korah was the ringleader, along with Dathan, and Abiram, and they persuaded 250 other community leaders to join them in their rebellion. They all paid dearly for their recalcitrance. The earth literally split open and swallowed up the three leaders and their families, and fire from heaven consumed their 250 followers. The next day, the Israelites again dared to oppose Moses and Aaron, blaming them for the deaths of the rebels.
Think about that for a minute. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram had just attempted an overthrow of their divinely appointed leaders, and they paid with their very lives, along with their families and the 250 co-conspirators. Yet, less than 24 hours later, the Israelites were again rebelling against Moses and Aaron, blaming them for the deaths of these men and their families.
At first glance, it is easy to judge and condemn these men. But when we think of our own rebellious attitudes and actions toward the Lord, we will realize there is little difference between them and us. It was rebellion against God that brought about the Fall. It was rebellion against his authority that led the Israelites to wander in the desert forty years longer than was necessary before they entered the Promised Land. It was rebellion that led Israel to be divided into two kingdoms. It was rebellion that led to their exile to Babylon. And it was rebellion that led Jesus to the Cross.
Rebellion continues to be a theme among humans. It is an integral part of our DNA. The world seeks to convince us of our ultimate goodness, but our rebellion makes it appearance in each of us very early in our lives. It’s called the “terrible two’s.” Talk to any parent of a toddler and they will tell you many stories of rebellion—hearing the word, “no,” routinely; repeated tantrums; and a lack of sharing (“mine!”). And that rebellion continues through adolescence into adulthood. We want things to go our way, the way we want it. And when we’re told “no” by the Lord, often we ignore it and do what we want.
Even if we are fully committed to the Lord, we are still vulnerable to that rebellion lurking deep within us. David is a perfect example. Paul described him as a man after God’s own heart; yet, when he happened to see from his rooftop Bathsheba bathing, he lusted after her and wanted this married woman for himself. And then after getting what he wanted, he sought to cover up his sin, eventually resorting to having her husband murdered.
The only answer to this rebellion within our hearts is to submit it to the Lord. Only he can save us from ourselves. We can try, but we will fail. It is impossible to do anything apart from him, particularly to change our hearts.
When I reflect on my life, I see there were consequences to my acts of rebellion, some small and a few very large. Thankfully, when I acknowledged my rebellion to the Lord, he showed me great mercy, just as he did toward the Israelites once they confessed their sin. The Lord longs for us to submit to him in order that he might bless us. However, he is willing to let us go our own way and discipline us for our rebelliousness by the natural consequences of disobeying him, with the intent of turning us back toward him.
When we consider all the evil and terrible things happening in our world, most are the result of our race’s rebellion against God, if we dig deep enough. My wife is from South Africa and the whole continent has battled poverty for centuries. At the root of their problems is greed—greed for power and money. Their leaders and those with them in power are very often corrupt, taking governmental money for themselves and their families. Before them, European colonialists sought to extract from the land valuable resources for their own use and profit, while leaving the original inhabitants with very little.
Have you ever wondered why Heaven will be such a wonderful existence? Yes, we will be in the presence of our glorious Lord. But we will also be in a place where there is no sin, no rebellion against the authority of God. As a result, it will be the most wonderful existence, far beyond anything we can imagine.
This is the Lord’s desire for us, though in a fallen world, sinlessness is impossible. However, we can continue to submit our hearts to him in order to counteract the inherent rebellion within us. And when we falter, we can be confident he will be nearby to hear our confession and to forgive us. He loves us that much!
© Jim Musser 2020