"They came together against Moses and Aaron and told them, 'You have gone too far! Everyone in the entire community is holy, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the Lord's assembly?' " (Numbers 16:3 HCSB)
God has established authority. In eternity, before the earth was formed, all authority rested in Him, from the dawn of human history until its consummation, all authority resides with Him, and to eternity when the old creation gives rise to the new creation, all authority will remain by Him. Paul said it this way, "Then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign until He puts all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be abolished is death. For God has put everything under His feet. But when it says "everything" is put under Him, it is obvious that He who puts everything under Him is the exception. And when everything is subject to Christ, then the Son Himself will also be subject to the One who subjected everything to Him, so that God may be all in all." (1 Corinthians 15:24-28 HCSB)
God established authority, but man chose autonomy. When the serpent beguiled Eve, he seduced her with the desire to be like God--and she swallowed the appealing lie. Not only so, but she offered the forbidden fruit to Adam. He, rather than exercise his role as spiritual leader in the home, to lovingly correct his wife, became complicit with her. Adam chose to reject God's authority.
This desire for autonomy--this sinful rebellion against God-ordained authority--is woven into the fabric of Adam's race. Children do not have to be taught to defy authority. It comes naturally. This rebellion is the essence of sin. It is why our world is under a curse. Authority has been established for our protection and benefit--designed by the hands of One who has absolute wisdom and perfect love.
Yet, we never seem to learn.
One of the many manifestations of our stubborn, sinful hearts is how we react to our spiritual leaders. An example of this is found in Korah's rebellion detailed in Numbers Sixteen.
This was nothing new. It was just the latest outbreak of the contagion which was dormant in the hearts of the Israelites and if unchecked would become epidemic. Whenever a problem arose, God's people would turn on their leaders. He would be maligned, misrepresented and misunderstood. They couldn't attack God, so they assailed His representative. But, this is what makes this so evil--it is really an assault on God. The Lord reminded a sometimes downcast, sometimes infuriated, Moses not to take it personally, for they were really rebelling against Him. God takes that seriously.
Moses was not on an ego-trip. He was a humble servant of God. Moses wasn't after fortune. He rejected the luxury of being in Pharaoh's palace to wander with ex-slaves in the wilderness. Moses wasn't self-serving, but sought to serve God by serving God's people. He never sought the position, but God sought Him. Moses didn't campaign for a popular vote, but was called by a Sovereign voice.
This same God has set spiritual leaders in the church today. Even the best of them have their flaws. Moses certainly did. But, if a man is serving under God's authority, we had better be subject to that authority, lest we find ourselves in rebellion against God--and that is a dangerous thing. Do not think that God cannot deal with His servant who gets out of line. The leader himself is accountable to God's authority. All of us are under God's authority--even pastors. I need to remember that. You need to remember God has ordained pastors to lead the flock.
I understand that this teaching has been abused--used by pompous preachers who rule God's flock like tyrants. Arrogance which leads these shepherds to rebel against the spirit of the Great Shepherd is no less rebellion than when a congregation rejects a godly leader, as Israel did to Moses. But, there is a remedy for confronting and correcting elders prescribed in the New Testament.
Some spiritual leaders are wolves in sheep's clothing. The church needs to be vigilant against those. You will detect them by their fruit--and if there is doctrinal deviation or moral deviance then the other elders of the church cannot allow it.
Most pastors I have met are not that way. They seek to feed the flock, lead the flock and are willing to bleed for the flock. Some days they do it more effectively than others. Everybody--even a Moses--has a bad day! But, if their ministry is in alignment with God's Word, let us not be quick to criticize, be negative nit-pickers, and be a Korah in the congregation. That is a dangerous thing. It can be deadly.
I will answer to God for how I treat His sheep, bought with Christ's blood. You will answer to Him for how you treat His shepherds, called to church leadership.