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You Must Trust His Leaders to Know His Will
Scripture: Numbers 17:1
Track 3 of 8 in the Inside~Out: Discovering the Will of God series
Running time: 28 minutes, 55 seconds.

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Chuck Sackett Speaker: Chuck Sackett
Dr. G. Charles Sackett is minister of Madison Park Christian Church.

View all sermons by this speaker.

"You Must Trust His Leaders To Know His Will" October 14, 2007

It would have been a stick, a rod, not unlike this one that was the focal point of the day, selected to be taken into the tabernacle, into the presence of God, that God might affirm his leadership. But I'm ahead of myself. So let me back up just a little and put this into a little larger context. I need to go back to the beginning. Not all the way back to the beginning. You already know the beginning of the story, Adam and Eve and all that kind of stuff. You know about Noah and the boat.

So let's just back up far enough to catch the story of the ancestors, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. God spoke to a man, and he said, I want you to take your family. I want you to move them to another part of the world. I want you to go from the Tigris and Euphrates valley over to the Jordan River. I'm going to give you a land that's going to be yours, and I'm going to give you people. I'm going to give you lots and lots of people. And so he did. The ancestors did that.

Terah was the father, Abram, his wife Sarah, nephew Lot, a few family members, no children at this particular point in time. They make their way over to what we have come to call the promised land, the place where Israel was eventually to dwell. You know the story. They were there. They never really were there. They were nomads in the land. They lived in tents, and it took -- well, it took like it seemed forever before there was a son. It seemed almost impossible to talk about children the size of the stars in the heaven or the sands on the sea if there were no kids born. And Abraham was a hundred years old when his 90-year old wife Sarah finally conceived and gave birth to a son they called Isaac.

Isaac married a lady by the name of Rebekah, and after some time she bore a couple of children, Jacob and Esau. To Jacob through two wives and two servants were born 12 sons. One of those sons was Levi. He was the head of the priestly tribe. He is really the focal point of the story, the stick. Well, you know what happened. There was no land. There was just this ongoing sense of disentitlement. We didn't belong anyplace in particular. We ended up actually in Egypt in slavery. It all happened in kind of a strange sort of a way when we rebelled against the leadership of God, and we didn't do the kinds of things that we were supposed to do, and the next thing you know we have been down here for 430 years making bricks for Pharaoh.

It's an odd kind of an incident actually when you think about it. There was a child born to one of our families, came at a time when Pharaoh was killing all of the firstborn sons, and so the mother hid this little boy Moses in the bulrushes along the edge of the water. He was raised, literally raised in Pharaoh's court as an adopted child. He committed murder when he was about 40 years old trying to free one of our slaves. The story has it that he spent another 40 years out in the wilderness tending sheep before God sent him back.

He showed up one day, and he rekindled the hope that there would some day be a land. We are going to leave, he said. We are going to go to the place that God promised to our ancestors, and he began to stir up within us a great deal of hope. I'm not sure exactly why we were hopeful. I mean, after all, it was just Moses and brother Aaron.

They went to Pharaoh and they said, let the people go, and he wouldn't do it. Ten times they had this back and forth conversation, let my people go. Pharaoh said no. God acted. There was some kind of a plague. You remember those. You have read your stories. Lice and frogs and blood and ultimately the death of the firstborn. Every firstborn animal and child in the entire land of Egypt died that night except the children of Israel.

And Pharaoh finally said, leave, and so we did, a million and a half of us, they say. That's a bunch of folks to try to get through the desert, I'll tell you. But we left with more stuff than you can imagine. It was the oddest kind of experience, because Pharaoh loaded us down with gold and silver, and jewels and cloth. Get out. So we did. We headed. I didn't understand where we were going. Quite honestly it seemed like kind of an odd place to go because there was desert across, and there was a sea in front of us, but that's where Moses took us, and so that's where we went. And there we were, a mass at the edge of what is known as the Red Sea.

And suddenly we became aware of the fact that there was an army behind us. Pharaoh had changed his mind. Now what? Well, it was a rod kind of like this one. Moses did this strange thing. He just kind of stood there and held it out over the water, and the next thing you know the sea piled up into two big piles, and there was a channel there that looked like we could get across, and so we did. We made our way. We hurried. We didn't push and shove, but we hurried. It takes awhile, you know, to get a million and a half people and all of their animals through a place like that, but we managed.

Frightening thing was when we got to the other side Pharaoh was still coming. In fact, they were coming fast enough that they were now in the channel right behind us when we all began to wonder what was next. And God did what God always does. And Moses moved the stick and the sea came down and drowned the army. That was incredible rejoicing. You would have thought something rather incredible had happened, which it had.

We made our way to a mountain. Sinai they called it. It was really an incredible experience. You have, I'm sure, heard the story of how there was a cloud that came down over the top of the mountain, and there was lightning and thunder and there was a voice, but we weren't allowed anywhere near that mountain because that was a holy place, Moses said. It was where God was.

In fact, Moses disappeared for 40 days up on that mountain. He came down with ten words. That's our word for it at least. Ten commandments. And then he began over the next several days to explain what those commandments looked like, and he explained the law and how to live out those ten words in ways that were effective. And one day there came a time for us to say yes or no, and so we affirmed it. We said yes. Repeatedly we said yes, we'll do that, we'll do that, we will, we agree.

So we made our way from the mountain to the River Jordan. There we are camped right on the other side of a land that we have been hearing about for years, soon to be ours. Twelve spies went across the river to kind of check it out. They were gone for 40 days. They came back, and two of the guys wanted to go right now, and I don't know why. You wouldn't have thought so, because they brought back produce the kinds of things that you would not imagine how plentiful the land was. But ten, ten said, wow, that's a tough place. The folks over there are big. There is lots of them. We kind of look like grasshoppers in their sight.

I don't know if this was the first time that we were really rebellious against God, but it was certainly not the last time. But we didn't go. We listened to the ten, and we didn't go. God said, okay. So for every day that the spies were in the promised land you'll spend a year in the wilderness, and this entire generation will die. We were looking at 40 years meandering through the desert because we were rebellious people against the leadership of God, and we began to wander.

We picked up a really bad habit. We complained. We moaned and we groaned. I mean, after all, it was desert, and it was tents and -- not tense, but tents. You know, the things that you sleep in. It was amazing how every day we got up there was food for us to eat. There was water. I mean, that's a lot of food and water for a million and a half people, and God supplied it everyday. We just couldn't quit complaining. In fact, we griped and complained about the food we got, and so he sent quail. We wanted meat. He gave us meat. He gave us so much meet we got sick of it. Just one more occasion when we were rebellious.

Well, that's where the stick comes in. Well, almost where the stick comes in. There were some folks. Korah, he was a son, an ancestor, one of the sons of Levi, the priestly tribe. Aaron was also of that same tribe. Aaron was the high priest. Aaron was the one selected by God to represent God to us and us to God. He and his family were the ones who offered sacrifices and that kind of thing. The rest of the Levites served in the temple. They took care of the altar. They did the priestly things of service. They carried these little -- well, they called them incense burners. They were little brass pans. And they would take fire from the altar where the main sacrifices were offered and they would put fire on these incense burners and they would walk among the people. It was as if the fire from the altar and the value of the offerings of the people were taken out among the rest of the tribes. I mean, after all, you couldn't get a million and a half people up to the tabernacle at any one particular time. So this was like god arranged for a certain group of people to walk among us and show us the sacrifices and let us experience something of the atonement that was taking place.

And Korah had that privilege. Now, he had a couple of buddies, Dathan and Abiram, and I don't know what those guys were doing because they were not sons of Levi. They were sons of Reuben, one of Levi's brothers. They had no business being involved in temple service whatsoever, but here they were siding with Korah saying, it's not fair. We want to do important work, too. We want Aaron's job.

Oh, really. I mean, can you imagine a more important job than carrying the fire of God among the people? I don't know how they could have thought that that was an insignificant thing to do, but somehow they got it through their head that that wasn't real important, but Aaron was, and they wanted Aaron's job.

The most amazing thing happened. As soon as this rebellion began to stir, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram came to Moses and Aaron and brought out the challenge and accused them of trying to have all the leadership for themselves. Moses did the strangest thing before he did anything else. He want flat on his face before God as if he knew that this was not good and he better pray, and he fell flat on his face and prayed.

There was Korah, there was Dathan and Abiram, and 200 other key leaders that were in rebellion against the leadership of God. And so Moses issued a challenge. You bring your incense burners. We'll see which fire God honors. That was interesting, because we had already been down this road once. That happened once before.

Aaron's sons, Nadab and Abihu, they had the privilege of access to the altar fire, only they decided that it was too much trouble to get fire from the primary altar and they got some fire from someplace else. And they took their little incense burners and they put some unauthorized fire on the burners and they started to walk among the people, and God destroyed them on the spot.

And so here Moses says, okay, you boys bring your incense burners, and we'll see how it goes. You can just imagine they are not wanting to do that because they already know the kind of thing that happens when you are not the right person with the right fire. Korah showed up, and Dathan and Abiram they didn't bother. I can understand why. Moses said, tell you what. If Korah and Dathan and Abiram die natural deaths, then you'll know that Aaron and I are not the real leaders of Israel; but if something odd happens, like say the ground just opens up and swallows them, then you'll know -- well, you know what they'll know. I mean, he had not finished talking before guess what happened? The ground opened up underneath the tents of Korah and Dathan and Abiram and swallowed then and every one of their families. You talk about commotion in the camp. People are running hither and yon, everywhere. They are getting away from those boys as fast as they can, because those other 250 leaders were immediately destroyed by fire. It was as if God were saying, don't mess with my leaders.

Moses said, I want you to take all of those brass incense burners, and I want to you pound them out. I want you to flatten them. I want you to cover them at the altar because I want a reminder that you don't challenge my leadership. And, once again, Moses and Aaron are on their faces before God, and then the strangest thing happens. I mean, four hours passes and the strangest thing happens. Are you ready for this? You are not going to believe it. The people started complaining again.

I mean, it hasn't been 24 hours since the last time they started talking, and they get up the next morning and they are starting to complain, we don't think you are the right leaders. Huh. Boy, that's -- Moses and Aaron are on their faces again because they already know God is not going to like this one either. And before they can even get done praying Moses said to Aaron, you better get up and start offering sacrifices because bad things are about to happen.

Before he can get up off the ground people start dropping dead from a plague. And Aaron runs to the fire and he grabs fire from the altar and he puts on his incense burner and starts getting between the people. And God, because God has showed up in a cloud above the tabernacle, before he can get completely positioned in order to atone for the people 14,700 people dropped dead of the plague.

I'm back to my stick. See, it was like God said, you guys just don't get it. You just aren't getting it. Bring me 12 of these, 12 rods. By the way, in our language the word for stick is the same word that we use for tribe. One stick for each tribe. Write names on them, Reuben, Gad, Asher, Judah, and on Levi's rod write Aaron's name. So we did. 12 of them just like this. We took them in. We let one of the priests, because we are not allowed in the tabernacle, you know. One of the priests carried it in and laid it right in front, all 12 of them right in front of the holy of holies where the ark of the covenant was. That was the presence of God.

And we waited. We just waited 24 hours, couldn't wait for the next morning to come to find out what's God going to do today. They went in and got the rods. You are way ahead of me, aren't you? They went in, and they found 11 sticks that looked just about like this one, but they found one, not only did it begin to bud, it had blossoms. It not only had blossoms, it had fruit on it. It budded, it blossomed, and it bore fruit in less than 24 hours, an old stick from off of the ground laying in front of the altar. Guess which one it was? Aaron's.

And God said unequivocally, Aaron is my high priest. Listen to him. Follow him. You want to know what my will is for your life? Follow my leaders. Don't rebel against me. Don't gripe and complain. Follow the ones that I put in front of you. Let them be the leader that God has called them to be.

So he took Aaron's rod and put it right there in front of the altar permanently, so that we would never forget that God had affirmed his leaders, and then in the affirming of his leaders he had revealed to us that we ought to follow his leaders because following his leaders is just like following him and rebelling against his leaders is just like rebelling against him.

We've had a lot of time to think about that, you know. Forty years of wandering around out here in the desert because we were rebellious people, because we didn't listen to the leaders that God put in front of us. We had a lot of time to think about that. You know, you decided that you ought to not inappropriately complain too much about what God's doing in your midst. If you believe God is at work, you ought to just kind of go along with what God is up to, because for whatever reason -- I don't understand it. I just confess to you that I don't fully grasp all that is going on here, but when God affirms leaders in his people, he works through them, and my responsibility is to follow, to follow them.

That doesn't mean that there is never a time that we couldn't go to Moses and say, wait a minute, we don't like where we're going. That's okay as long as it was the right kind of confrontation. In fact, there were times when Moses listened to us and changed the way things were done because, well, frankly, it made sense, and it seemed that we had some insight that they ought to listen to. But never were we allowed to simply with inappropriate behavior confront the leaders of Israel without God coming down and saying, that's not how you do it. I put these people in place. I'm giving them direction. You follow them.

Well, why? I oftentimes think about that, too. I don't know how many people noticed it, but, boy, I'll tell you what, it didn't escape me. Every time something significant was about to happen there was only one place you could find Moses. On his face in the dirt before God. Whenever he sensed that God was up to something or whenever he sensed that the people of God might be in trouble, down he went. It's like he could never get off the ground. Israel was such a mess. He and Aaron side by side face in the ground calling out to God on behalf of the people.

If you didn't see that, if you didn't understand that, you missed the whole thing, because what it said so clearly to those of us who were paying attention is that God has chosen these men to lead us because they care deeply about us. There is nothing inherent in them. They weren't special. I mean, it was Moses and Aaron for crying out loud. He was born to a -- he was adopted. He was a murderer. But he cared. He cared enough to stand in the gap between us and God at the risk of his own life. I've learned that if you want to be a leader that's what it means. You stand in the gap no matter what it costs you.

I thought a lot about that day, the day that Korah and Dathan and Abiram said, we want to do important work. And Moses said, you are doing important work. No. We want to do somebody else's important work. You know, I learned that if what I offer to God was genuinely offered to God, it didn't matter how big it was. It didn't matter how visible it was. It didn't matter how seemingly important it was. The only thing that mattered was that it was offered to God. That's what made it count. And Aaron's offering wasn't more important than my offering. They all belong to God as an act of our worship and service before him.

And I learned a lot, but I think more than I learned anything else I learned that sin is costly, that when people rebelled against God it was never handled lightly. I mean, 14,000 people is a lot of folks to die. But just as seriously as God hates sin he takes atonement, and as soon as the fire from the altar came into play there was forgiveness. There was atonement.

And quite honestly I live in wonder that if somewhere out there God may one day have a sacrifice in mind that will end the daily, yearly sacrifices that we offer, that will provide us an atonement that lasts forever. I came away from watching what God did that day with a deep and driving passion to follow God, to line up behind his leaders and say, take me wherever you want me to go because I want nothing more than to follow you.

[Transcribed by GN12]