“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, that he take up the censers out of the burning, and scatter thou the fire yonder; for they are hallowed. The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar: for they offered them before the LORD, therefore they are hallowed: and they shall be a sign unto the children of Israel.
And Eleazar the priest took the brazen censers, wherewith they that were burnt had offered; and they were made broad plates for a covering of the altar: To be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the LORD; that he be not as Korah, and as his company: as the LORD said to him by the hand of Moses.” (Numbers 16:36-40)
While the two hundred fifty followers of Korah had been in rebellion against God, they were offering the sacrifices to God. The sacrifices were an abomination to him as we see in Proverbs 21:27. “The sacrifice of the wicked is abomination: how much more, when he bringeth it with a wicked mind?” Never the less, the items had been dedicated to God and should not be used for other purposes. They were to be hammered out into flat plates to prevent being mistaken as acceptable implements of worship, and placed on the brazen altar as a reminder of the consequences of ignoring God’s plan and instructions.
“But on the morrow all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron, saying, Ye have killed the people of the LORD.” (Numbers 16:41)
The next morning, the people decided that the judgment had been too harsh. After all, they were God’s people who were killed. I am reminded of the lady who was upset that the church fired their pastor because he didn’t meet the standards of I Timothy 3 or Titus 1. After all, it wasn’t fair to hold him to such a high standard. Others have gotten upset when taught that persistent sexual sin or drunkenness required being excluded from the church.
“And it came to pass, when the congregation was gathered against Moses and against Aaron, that they looked toward the tabernacle of the congregation: and, behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared. And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of the congregation.
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Get you up from among this congregation, that I may consume them as in a moment. And they fell upon their faces.” (Numbers 16:42-46)
When God heard their accusations and complaints , the glory of God appeared on the Tabernacle and God commanded Moses to get away from the people because he was going to destroy the entire congregation. That a sinful people should accuse God of wickedness was too much. Who are we to judge the creator of the universe? Moses and Aaron fell on their faces praying for God to forgive the people.
“And Moses said unto Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire therein from off the altar, and put on incense, and go quickly unto the congregation, and make an atonement for them: for there is wrath gone out from the LORD; the plague is begun.
And Aaron took as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and, behold, the plague was begun among the people: and he put on incense, and made an atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; and the plague was stayed.” (Numbers 16:46-48)
While we can pray and ask God to overlook some sins, some are so serious that only repentance by the guilty can defer judgment. I John 5:16-17 says, “If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.” Setting ourselves as being better than God crosses the line. Only when sacrifice of prayer was made among the people was the judgment stopped.
“Now they that died in the plague were fourteen thousand and seven hundred, beside them that died about the matter of Korah. And Aaron returned unto Moses unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: and the plague was stayed.” (Numbers 16:49-50)
An additional fourteen thousand seven hundred died for claiming that God’s judgment was too harsh. Numerous times over the years, I have seen those who followed God’s standards accused of being too harsh. In the cases where God’s instructions were followed exactly, giving people the opportunity to repent and acting only if they refused, those who complained invariably paid a heavy price for their judgment.
On the other hand, there were cases where people were fired or excluded without following God’s guidelines, and the church or pastor suffered for their behavior. We are to follow God’s directions. Far too often modern Christians are busy telling God how it should be instead.