Bamidbar (Numbers) 16:1–18:32
Haftarah: I Samuel 11:14–12:22
In a recent conversation with some close friends, we spoke about the reality of life and the challenges we face. Whether it’s raising kids and the unique difficulties involved with that, other family issues, or work challenges, the reality is that life can be difficult. I then asked all of us a question which I believe is very important, “What are the positive things that we can be grateful for in our lives?” While our flesh naturally gravitates towards focusing on the negative, the good news is that we can choose to focus on being thankful for what we do have.
As I read this week’s Parashah and Haftarah, I noticed a common thread of dissatisfaction that may have resulted from pride, greed, or any other selfish ambition. Before I continue, I would like to give a word of encouragement; my goal in writing this is not to condemn or judge, but to exhort us to see the amazing good that God has given us, and to pay more attention to that, even amid dealing with very real challenges. Let’s not allow the difficulties to cause us to lose hope in the One who can do more than we can imagine or hope for!
In the Parashah, we read of Korach, who was the great grandson of Levi (and cousin of Moses and Aaron). As a descendant of Levi, Korach was part of the tribe chosen by God to perform the holy work in the Mishkan (Tabernacle – God’s dwelling place). I believe that his role to be set apart and do the work of the LORD was a great honor; yet it wasn’t enough for Korach and 250 other influential men from within the tribes of Israel. Theyquestioned the authority and position of Moses and Aaron, which led them into rebellion.
I believe that selfishness, pride, greed, and jealousy were the main causes of this rebellion. I also believe that, in questioning the authority and position of Moses and Aaron, Korach and his crew were questioning God’s authority; they questioned His right to put those whom He chose in the specific tasks that He desired. Basically, no one was satisfied with the roles that God had chosen! Moses recognized this rebellious spirit within the Levis and challenged it when he said Numbers 16:9:
…is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the service of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to minister to them.
In the Haftarah, we see a similar trend of dissatisfaction in the people of Israel. Despite the fact that they were called to be set apart as God’s holy people, they longed for something more. They wanted to be like the other peoples, and wanted a king. They demanded a king from Samuel, and God gave them Saul as their king:
So all the people went to Gilgal, and there they made Saul king before the LORD in Gilgal. There they also offered sacrifices of peace offerings before the LORD; and there Saul and all the men of Israel rejoiced greatly.
1 Samuel 11:15
The sad reality from both stories is that the lack of satisfaction led to judgment and ultimately to death. As Rav Sha’ul reminds us, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23): Korach and his crew were put to death; Saul and his men also suffered untimely and grisly deaths.
The reality is when we put ourselves at the center, only focusing on “me and me”, and therefore take our eyes off the Lord, we can become dissatisfied, which can lead to pride, greed, selfishness ambition, etc. The antidote to this is to die to self and start to be thankful for that which we do have. Easier said than done!
While gratitude is not an easy thing to practice, it is not impossible. One of the most effective ways to live a life of gratitude is given to us in Galatians 5:22-26:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Messiah Yeshua crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let’s follow the Spirit as well. Let’s not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.”
Let us focus to the abundance that God has given us, and live by His Spirit in our lives. This is our secret to deep satisfaction!
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