Truth or Victory?
Torah Portion: Korach B’midbar/Numbers 16:1-18:32
Haftorah Reading: I Samuel 11:14-12:22
Today we are looking at a very important Torah portion. I realize I say that quite often but in this portion I believe we are looking at verses that speak directly to our times today.
Let me begin by looking at another verse that has Hebrew – English translation issues. In Numbers 16:1 we read in English, “Korah took men.” However in Hebrew the word men does not appear. It reads, “Korach took.” This leaves us with an interesting question, what did Korach take?
As we read the events that followed one answer might be Korach’s goal was to take authority, authority that was given by G-d to Moshe and Aaron. If we see it this way it is a worrying sign of what follows. In this power grab many of the leaders of Israel followed Korach. Korach and the men who followed him sought power. To bolster his argument he used verses like Exodus 19:6, “You will be for Me a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.” These words are from the mouth of G-d, given by God to Moshe for him to tell the people. Korach’s words were true so what moved him to rebel? Korach used the holy words of G-d to Moshe to press his point.
The problem here is Korach’s motives were not holy. He wanted the office of Aaron the high priest. So, as we read the verses of Numbers 16:3-4 keep in mind his motivation. It was not holy. Korach’s words moved men to follow him in his rebellion. There was much more to his words that were not so obvious.
Korach was not seeking a society where everyone was the same and everyone was a priest. He was mounting a leadership challenge. As Moshe’s later words indicate, he wanted to be the high priest. He claimed to want equality while in truth he wanted power. He was not interested in truth. His only interest was power.
Korach soon was encouraged by Dathan and Aviram from the tribe of Ruben. They also were angry because they and their tribe had seemingly been pushed to the side. Reuben, as the first born of Jacob, had been overlooked and the tribe of Levi had been chosen to take the place of the firstborn and were the ones chosen for the priesthood roles.
Dathan and Aviram were joined by 250 men of renown, leaders of the people who also had a problem with the choice of the tribe of Levi. 8.After the incident of the golden calf, when the Levi’s sided with Moshe, leadership was no longer chosen from the first born of each tribe but instead it was only the tribe of the Levites.
These complaints set the stage for Moshe to react against the words of Korach, Dathan and Aviram. Their words stung especially when they complained that life in Egypt had been so good, even comparing it to the promised land. They went so far as to say Egypt was a land flowing with milk and honey. Moshe’s reaction left no doubt as to who was at fault. In Numbers 16:16-30 G-d, in answer to Moshe’s prayer, caused the earth to split and all the followers of Korah, Dathan and Aviram were swallowed up alive.
All this brings me to my question. I asked you what is the difference in an argument for the sake of heaven and an argument for the sake of victory? Can you think of examples of each of these? When we come to the place of participating in an argument with someone it is important to know what outcome we are seeking? Are we arguing for the sake of heaven or is it an argument for power or victory? An argument for the sake of heaven is really an argument with the goal of finding truth. If we argue for any other reason it is an argument for power. I am right and you are wrong so the result is someone wins and someone loses. If the argument is for the sake of heaven or truth then it is possible for both sides to win. When truth is found the person in the argument who was incorrect wins by learning a truth he did not previously know. Truth is not personal but power is.
We see this play out over and over in scripture and in life around us. When Elijah met the priests of Ba’al on Mt. Carmel he stood on the truth of G-d and the priests of Ba’al were defeated. However, he was not able to hold on to that and the next day Elijah fled before Jezebel. He ran all the way to the desert to escape her wrath. Then he encountered G-d and his faith was restored. He saw again that G-d is a G-d of truth and power. His truth is what will sustain us.
In the Messianic scripture we see Yeshua being tried before the Sanhedrin. These men were only interested in keeping their power and authority and they felt Yeshua was eroding that power. Their answer was to have Him killed, end of the problem. However, they found that truth was stronger than death and even stronger than their power. We, in our faith, are proof of that.
In our world today we see this same battle being fought. Power is an addictive thing. Even today we see people who are not concerned with truth. They are just looking for a message that people will believe and follow, a message that will give them power. However, truth is stronger and will overcome. Our issue is to always make sure we are seeking truth not power. Power is intoxicating but temporary. Truth is everlasting. Bless each of you. David