Numbers 16 is the record of yet another rebellion by the Israelites against Moses’ leadership and God’s authority.
This rebellion seemed to be a power struggle that was a more egregious challenge to God’s authority than any of the previous rebellions. This rebellion was led by certain Levites who had some of the most important duties related to the upkeep of the Tabernacle.
Essentially these rebels were trying to usurp Moses and Aaron’s priestly functions.
So, these religious leaders and the Israelites that followed them suffered deadly consequences as a result of their rebellion. In fact, in the final stages of the rebellion God even threatened to destroy the whole nation of Israel: “Moses and Aaron came and stood in front of the Tabernacle, and the Lord said to Moses, Get away from all these people so that I can instantly destroy them!” (vs. 43-45).
Moses and Aaron acted quickly to rescue the Israelites from God’s wrath and total destruction. In an unusual ceremony, Aaron carried an incense burner with burning coals among the people and stopped a plague that killed 14,700 Israelites.
Aaron stood between those who died or were dying from the plague and the living to make atonement for the people. Aaron’s act of atonement for the rebellious people of Israel served to stop God’s immediate wrath: “Then because the plague had stopped, Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the Tabernacle” (vs. 50).
When Jesus died for our sins, He hung on a cross between the living and the dead to make atonement for all of us.
And, just as Aaron interceded and made atonement for the rebellious Israelites to prevent God’s wrath from destroying them all, when you share the gospel with others, you are standing between the spiritually living and the spiritually dead, making intercession for lost and rebellious souls to join the ranks of the eternally living!
“He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. ” (1 John 2:2, NLT)