Adam and Eve’s fall

(Genesis 2:16, 17; 3:1-6; Romans 5:19)

This was the first account of rebellion against God. God had warned Adam not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However when he and Eve resolved to eat of the forbidden fruit, they rebelled against Him. What can we learn from this situation? To rebel against the representative authority of God is to rebel against God himself.

Everything we do should be in submission to God and under His direction. We should do nothing through our own initiative. The first lesson of a worker is submission to authority. Authority exists in all areas: in the family, in school, at work, in society etc. Many see submission as a punishment because God told Eve that she had to submit to Adam after the fall, but the relationship between authority and submission already existed before sin. When God created Adam, he was supposed to submit himself to the Lord; God commanded them not to eat of the fruit. Therefore submission is not punishment, it is blessing.

Rebellion of Ham

The second example of rebellion against God was that of Ham, one of Noah’s sons, that exposed his father’s nakedness (Genesis 9:20-27).

The leader’s failure is a test of submission for the followers. In God’s plan, the father is the authority in the family, but there is no perfect delegated authority. We can say that God established Noah as the authority in the family and his failure became a test for his sons.

Ham exposed his leader’s nakedness – to expose is to speak against, denigrate and spread bad news. This is a sign of rebellion: taking pleasure in sharing the weaknesses of the leader. The attitude of Shem and Japheth was to cover their father’s nakedness. Ham’s attitude was to expose it. Some people expose, others cover up.

Noah, even though he was wrong, zealously positioned himself in line with the principle of authority. Noah was wrong, but not to the point of losing his position. David never exposed Saul even though he recognized his weaknesses. Once a leader makes a mistake; he must confess and repent of it, but even if he doesn’t, this does not take away his authority. The sin of the leader does not justify the error of his followers.

The consequence of rebellion is a curse – even though he was wrong, Noah cursed his son and the curse was fulfilled because of the authority of his words. This occurred because he was the authority and Ham’s attitude was a sign of rebellion. The consequence of rebellion is always a curse. If there is rebellion, the leader should pray and cry for mercy to God over the person that has rebelled; after all, we now live in the age of grace.

Nadab and Abiram

Another case of rebellion against God occurred with the two sons of Aaron, the high priest when they offered strange fire to the Lord (Leviticus 10:1, 2). God does not accept strange fire, or in other words, that which has its origin in human presumption. As priests they could work within the tabernacle, even with fire on the altar; however, they decided to bring strange fire, which God had not commanded.

There are two types of sin related to submission: presumption and disobedience. Disobedience is when God commands us to do something that we fail to do; presumption is when God did not command us to do something and we do it anyway.

The work must be coordinated by authority – God had established Aaron as the high priest and his sons were under his leadership (Leviticus 8:9). When Aaron’s sons decided to offer sacrifices outside of their father’s direction, these became strange fire.

The work originates in God – the principle of strange fire is to do what God has not commanded. Jesus said, “Whatever is born of the flesh is flesh; whatever is born of the spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). In order to be born of the spirit, whatever is born of the flesh must die. The new birth comes by the Holy Spirit. It does not bring physical death, but it makes the death of the ego and human initiative possible.

Strange fire produces death – the immediate consequence of rebellion is death. Whoever serves God without discerning authority may be offering strange fire and be rejected by God. Cain and Abel gave their offerings, but God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected that of Cain (Genesis 4:1-8).

Aaron and Miriam

Aaron and Miriam were older than Moses who took an Ethiopian woman as his wife; this displeased his brother and sister (Numbers 12:1-15). In matters of family, Moses should have submitted to them, but in the work of God, he was the head. It would have been correct to deal with the matter in the realm of the family, but they erred when they touched God’s authority.

God gives authority to whomever He chooses. God chose Moses, and God himself defended him (verse 8).

Rebellion produces leprosy – immediately after questioning the spiritual authority of Moses, Miriam became leprous (verse 10). Leprosy produces isolation and loss of communion.

Rebellion stops the move of God – the pillar of cloud that hovered over the door of the tent did not move until the matter of rebellion was resolved (verse 10). “So Miriam was shut out of the camp seven days, and the people did not journey till Miriam was brought in again” (Verse 15).

Dathan, Korah and Abiram

Korah’s group was made up of Levites, men chosen by God to work in the service of the tabernacle (Numbers 16). Korah represents the religious. Dathan and Abiram’s group were from the tribe of Reuben the firstborn of Jacob and held positions of leadership. They represent leaders. Together with these 250 leaders rose up against Moses (verse 2). It is one thing for the people to rebel, it’s another thing when leaders rebel.

Rebellion against God comes from hell – “the ground split apart underneath them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly.” (Verses 31-33) In the original, the word that was translated as pit is hell, Hades. God had tolerated doubt and complaining, but would not tolerate rebellion. Moses did not defend himself since no one person needs to defend his position of authority. If in fact we receive authority from God, He himself will honour us. Jesus said that the gates of hell will not prevail against His church (Matthew 16:18).

Rebellion against God is contagious; in Numbers 16 we have two rebellions: that of the leaders (verses 1-40) and that of the people (verses 41-50). The spirit of rebellion is contagious. After they saw what God had done to Korah, Dathan and Abiram, they did not repent or change their attitude, but started another rebellion. Rebellion must be treated so that it doesn’t contaminate and spread among the congregation.