Unification Sermons and Talks

by Reverend Joy Pople

Wilderness Lesson 6 - Tradition

Numbers 16 - 36, Deuteronomy

After the Israelites turn back into the desert, they continued to challenge Moses' leadership. A man named Korah thought he was as great as Moses and Aaron. He became more and more jealous of them. Like Moses and Aaron, Korah belonged to the tribe of Levi. God had chosen the Levites to care for the temple, but only Moses, the high priest, and the priests were allowed to enter the tabernacle. Dathan and Abiram, two men from the tribe of Reuben, also challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron. These three people talked against Moses and Aaron among the Israelites and found 250 others who felt the same way. Together they went to Moses and Aaron and said: "Every person in this congregation is holy, and the Lord is with all the people. Why do you make yourselves leaders of God's people?"

When Moses heard this he fell on his face. He had not tried to be great, but he knew that God had chosen him to be the leader and that God had chosen Aaron to be the high priest. These men were not speaking against Moses and Aaron but against God.

Moses told them: "In the morning the Lord will show us who is holy. Each of you bring your censer and put incense in it and present it before the Lord."

When everyone was gathered at the entrance of the tabernacle with their censers, the glory of the Lord appeared and God said to Moses and Aaron: "Separate yourselves from this group so I can put an end to them."

But Moses and Aaron fell on their faces and prayed: "Oh God of the spirits of all mankind, will You be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?"

The Lord told Moses to have everyone move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. The ground under the three men split apart, and the earth opened and swallowed them and their possessions. Then fire consumed all 250 men who were offering incense.

When the fire was out, the Lord told Moses to have Aaron's son Eleazar take the 250 censers and hammer them into sheets and fasten them to the altar to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the Lord.

The next day the people came to Moses and Aaron to complain that they had caused the deaths of too many of the Lord's people. Suddenly a cloud covered the tabernacle and the Lord said to Moses: "Get away from the assembly so I can put an end to them."

Moses said to Aaron: "Take your censer and put incense in it and hurry to the people to make atonement for them." Aaron ran into the midst of the people. The plague had already started affecting people, but Aaron when offered the incense and stood between the living and the dead the plague stopped.

The Lord said to Moses: "Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each tribe. Write the name of each man on his staff. On the staff of Levi, write Aaron's name. Place the staffs in the tabernacle in front of the ark. The rod of the man I want to be My priest will blossom. This will stop the Israelites from constantly grumbling about your leadership."

Each leader gave Moses a staff from his tribe, and Moses placed the staffs before the Lord in the tabernacle.

The next day Moses entered the tabernacle and saw that Aaron's staff had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. Moses brought out all the staffs, and each man took his own. God told Moses to keep Aaron's staff in front of the ark as a sign that God had chosen him.

God taught Aaron how the priests should care for the altar and the furnishings of the tabernacle. The Levites were to help the priests but were not to go near the altar or the furnishings of the tabernacle.

Neither the priests nor the Levites would share in the inheritance of the land when the people entered Canaan. Instead, the people were to bring tithes to the tabernacle to support the Levites, and the Levites were to tithe one tenth of what they received to support the priests.

When the 40 years of wandering were almost over, the Israelites returned to Kadesh. There Moses' sister Miriam died and was buried.

There was no water, and the people again quarreled with Moses: "If only we had died when our brothers fell dead before the Lord! Why did you bring us out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, no grapevines or pomegranates. And besides, there is no water to drink."

Moses and Aaron went to the entrance of the tabernacle and fell face down. There the glory of the Lord appeared to them. The Lord said to Moses: "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron call the people together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and water will come out of it for the people and their animals to drink."

So Moses took the staff from the Lord's presence and gathered the people together in front of the rock. Moses said to them: "Listen, you rebels, must we bring you water out of this rock?" Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the people and their animals drank.

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron: "Because you did not trust in Me enough to honor Me in the sight of the Israelites, I will not allow either of you to lead these people into the land of Canaan."

The Israelites began having troubles with the people living around them. Moses planned to lead the people through the country of Edom to reach Canaan, but the Edomites would not let the Israelites pass through. The Israelites had to travel south and then east and north to get to Canaan.

While they were camping in the wilderness, God told Moses to take Aaron and his son Eleazar up the mountain. Aaron was an old, old man and about to die. God told Moses to take the priestly robes off Aaron and put them on his son. In this way God chose Eleazar to take his father's place. Here Aaron died. When Moses and Eleazar returned to camp, the people saw that Aaron was not with them. They saw Eleazar wearing his father's priestly robes, and they understood that God had chosen Eleazar to take Aaron's place. They mourned Aaron's death for 30 days.

Out in the wilderness, the people again complained against God and Moses. While they were complaining, snakes crawled into the camp and bit many people. The snakes looked like fire, and the poison from their bite felt like fire. Those who were bitten died. The people came to Moses and asked him to pray, and God told Moses to make a snake out of bronze and put it on a pole. Anybody who was bitten by a snake could look at the pole and be made well.

The people moved to another camping place. Again there was no water, but this time they did not complain. Instead, they trusted God. The Lord told Moses to gather the people and have the chief men of the tribes dig a well. While the men were digging, the people sang songs and believed that God would fill the well with good water. Their faith pleased God, and the people enjoyed drinking from the well.

The people of Moab refused to let the Israelites pass through their land on the way to Canaan. The king of Moab hired a prophet named Balaam to say bad things about the Israelites, but Balaam kept saying that God had blessed the Israelites and they would become a great kingdom. The king was not pleased, and he tried to get the prophet to tell him how to destroy the Israelites. Finally Balaam told the king that if he could get the Israelites to worship idols, God would not be with them.

That is what they decided to do. The Moabites and the Midianites made friends with the Israelites, and soon the young men of Israel married young women from Moab and Midian. Since the Moabites and the Midianites worshipped idols, the young women took their husbands to the feasts of their gods. God could not have His people worshipping idols, so at Moses' command all those who had sinned this way were killed.

Finally the Israelites fought the Moabites and the Midianites and won a victory. In the battle Balaam was killed because he caused the Israelites to sin.

The Israelites stayed in the land they had taken from their enemies. This land was good for cattle, and the tribes of Reuben and Gad liked the rich pasture lands east of the Jordan so well that they asked Moses to let them settle there instead of in Canaan. The men promised to go with the other tribes and help them conquer the land of Canaan. They said they would not return to their homes until Canaan was conquered. Moses gave the land east of the Jordan River to the tribes of Gad and Reuben and to half the tribe of Manasseh.

Moses was now an old, old man. He knew he was about to die, and he wanted to be sure that the people would have another leader. Moses asked the Lord: "Choose a man to lead the people so they will not be like sheep without a shepherd."

The Lord answered: "Take Joshua, a man who is filled with the Spirit, and lay your hands on him. Before all the people bring him to Eleazar. Tell Joshua and the people what to do, and give Joshua some of your honor so all the children of Israel will obey him."

Moses did as the Lord commanded, and the people understood that Joshua would soon take Moses' place.

Again Moses called all the people together. He told them many things they needed to know before they began their new life in Canaan. He wrote all these words into a book called Deuteronomy.

Finally, Moses said: "I am 120 years old. I am not able to lead you any longer. Remember that Joshua will lead you into Canaan and the Lord will be with you. Canaan will be yours. Be strong and go with good courage. Fear not, nor be afraid. The Lord your God goes with you. He will not fail you or forsake you."

As the people listened, they knew that Moses was about to leave them forever. He had led them faithfully through long and difficult years. He had loved them as a father loves his children.

When Moses finished his long farewell message to the people, he walked out of the camp. As he went the people watched him with tears in their eyes. When he reached Mount Nebo, he began to climb up and up. At last the people could see him no more.

On the top of the mountain Moses looked over into the land of Canaan. What a beautiful country it was! As Moses looked across its wooded hills and green valleys, he knew his people would soon be in the land God had promised them.

Here Moses died, and God buried him. For 30 days the Israelites mourned the death of Moses.

 Joy Pople (pople@servtech.com) wrote this Bible story from the standpoint of the Divine Principle.

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