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Rebellion : Chiefly about Who Should be Chief  
[Numbers 10 – 13]


After the Israelites left Egypt, God spoke to them through Moses.  But at Mount Sinai, God spoke to them directly from the mountaintop. Hearing God’s voice, the Israelites trembled with fear, and told Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen.  But do not have God speak to us or we will die! [Exodus 20:19]”.  So, God continued to speak through Moses and the people looked up to Moses as their leader. 

But who was the real leader?  After the Tabernacle was set up, “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting….In all the travels of the Israelites, whenever the cloud lifted from above the Tabernacle, they could set out; but if the cloud did not lift, they did not set out” [Exodus 40:34 & 36].  Wasn’t God leading them directly?

Since God determined when they should travel, where to, and how long they should stay, the passage Numbers 10:29-33 is a mystery.  For here we see Moses pleading with his brother-in-law Hobab: “Please do not leave us.  You know where we should camp in the desert, and you can be our eyes.”  Wasn’t Moses asking Hobab to determine where the Israelites should camp?  Did Moses waver in his trust in God to lead them safely through the deserts of Sinai, Paran, Zin and the Negev?  Was Hobab for insurance, just in case ….?

Did Moses’ wavering infect the Israelite population?  For a few verses later, at the very start of the next chapter, we read that “the people complained about their hardships in the hearing of the Lord” [Num 11:1].  Then, “the rabble with them began to crave other food and again the Israelites started wailing and said, ‘If only we had meat!  We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost – also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.  But now …. we never see anything but this manna!’ ” [Num 11:4].

“Moses heard the people of every family wailing” [Num 11:10].  Surprisingly he took their wailing to be directed not towards God, but towards Moses the Leader!  He confronted God.  “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant [i.e. me]?  What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people?  Did I give them birth?  Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms like a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers?  Where can I get meat for all these people?  They keep wailing to me …. I cannot carry all these people by myself” [Num 11:11-14].  Every now and then, a Christian leader falls into this snare, of thinking that he or she is carrying the people and their burdens, when they should, instead, be carrying the burdens to God, the solver of all problems.

Notice Moses’ tone.  How dare Moses talk to God in such a tone?  Was God pleased?  No.  God reminded Moses he was not the only Israelite leader.  He ordered Moses: “Bring me 70 of Israel’s elders who are known to you as leaders and officials among the people …. And I will take of the Spirit on you and put the Spirit on them”.  Moses lost his unique status as the only leader anointed with the Holy Spirit, for 70 other leaders received the Holy Spirit and started prophesying, i.e. God spoke through them.  Worse, God took of the Spirit that He had put on Moses and spread it among the 70 leaders.  Then God answered Moses’ impertinent question, “Where can I get meat for all these people?” by supplying the Israelites with quail meat for an entire month.  God was the supplier of the Israelites’ needs, not Moses.  Moses was put in his place.  (Was it coincidence that the next chapter records that Moses was “more humble than anyone on the face of the earth” [Num 12:3]?  Wouldn’t you be very humble after being publicly chastised by God?)

Did God’s chastisement of Moses embolden Moses’ elder brother Aaron and his sister Miriam to talk against him [Num 12:1], ostensibly because of his Cushite wife” [Num 12:1]? But their real objective is revealed when they asked: “Has the Lord spoken only through Moses? Hasn’t he also spoken through us?”  They wanted to be leaders equal in status to Moses!  History teaches us that when there is general unhappiness with a leader, this opens the way for wannabe leaders to stir up the masses and project themselves as worthy successors.  We see here the beginnings of a rebellion.

God nipped this rebellion in the bud.  He sent a cloud which covered Moses, Aaron and Miriam.  When the cloud lifted, Miriam was white as snow: a leper.  Aaron saw her in this state and begged Moses, “[Please] my lord, do not hold against us the sin we have foolishly committed.”  Not “my brother” but “my lord”.  That day, Aaron and Miriam learnt an important lesson, that, unlike secular leaders, the leaders of God’s people are not chosen by the people, but by God.  So when we elect a pastor, elder or deacon, we should not choose and then pray: “O Lord God, please let so-and-so be elected a leader”.  Instead, we should ask: “O Lord God, whom have you chosen to be a leader?  Please guide me to vote for the right person.  Please let me see the good qualities that you see.”

Humans of course want to exercise their God-given intelligence and wisdom, especially when electing a leader.  However, it is worthwhile remembering that compared to God’s intelligence and his wisdom, human intelligence and wisdom are like rags.  If it was left solely to us, we would vote for the most articulate, self-confident, intelligent or qualified men and women into church leadership positions, instead of the ones God has already chosen.  Would we have voted for Moses, a murderer and a lowly shepherd?  Yet God chose him and continued to use him though he wavered.  So God can use us too, flawed as we are.


  1. Admissions.
    - April Sim is working toward the Master in Christian Studies at BGST. Her academic studies include mass communication and management. She is a member of Calvary Baptist Church and works in market research.
    - Yue Fah Yong completed his Diploma in Christian Studies and he is working toward the Master in Christian Studies. He has academic qualifications in engineering science and business administration. He is a member of the pastoral team at the Yio Chu Kang Chapel.
    - Bernard Chaing Boon Twee is a student in the Master in Christian Studies after completing the Diploma in Christian Studies. He has training in business administration and worships at the CNEC Neighbourhood Church.

  2. Library News. Opac on the Net (Part 2)
    - Weblinks whenever available will now be added as part of an item's bibliographical record to enable users to hyperlink to the internet for reviews, publisher's site, or even to Amazon.com to make purchases. This is especially useful for those serials with on-line full-text.
    - Staff, faculty, students and library members are now able to add comments of their favourite books @ the link :"Please click here to input your comments for this publication"  found at the bottom of each bibliographical record. For details, please contact the library at 6227 6815.


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A Blessed Birthday to ...


Mr Justin Lee  24/5
Mrs Tan Chiew Peng 24/5
Mrs Zhang Haidi 25/5 
Mr James Goon  26/5
Mr Peter Lim 26/5
Mr Danny Tan 27/5

Ms Cindy Tay 27/5

Dr Lawrence Chan 28/5
Ms Irene Tay  28/5 
Ms Jenny Foo  28/5
Mrs Joyce Moh  29/5
Mr Yoong Yuen Soo 29/5
Mr Kan Siew Ning 29/5  

Chapel speaker on 25 May was Senior Pastor Benjamin Lee of Hope Church (Singapore).

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