[Notes from Dr Don’s teaching on “The Root of Rebellion,” Level 3 IMPACT weekend, FreedomMinistry International.]
Rebellion is usually identified in Scripture with specific people because of the behavior of those people. Notably, the New Testament rehearses the rebellion of Cain and Korah. The Old Testament identifies King Saul very clearly with rebellion: “rebellion is like witchcraft.”
Early on, rebellion was functioning in the offspring of Adam. We are born with rebellion fully functional in our hearts. We must learn obedience; it does not come naturally. Cain was born in Adam’s image, and Cain was rebellious against God to the extent that his rebellion captured him and motivated him to kill his brother, Abel. Cain’s rebellion is the kernel of human religion because religion is man’s effort to give God what man wants God to have, more than giving God what He wants.
Beware the idea that God is happy to receive whatever you want to give Him. He has very specific demands in mind, and your substitutes are religious rebellion. The idea that we can just do “whatever” for God and He smiles because “we are doing it for Him” is foreign to Scripture. Certainly, in the beginning stages of our relationship with God, He puts up with a lot of missteps – He is great in mercy – but the truth remains that He knows what He wants, tells us what He wants, and works in our lives to get what He wants.
Beware the tendency to think that because you are redeemed, God delights in whatever you do or say. This is not a good picture of God’s fathering heart. It is true that He smiles when we love Him, worship Him, and talk with Him. It is also true that He talks back and tell us what to do, like any good Father who knows what’s best for us.
Beware the assumption that doing something for God will please God. This is the sense in which religion and rebellion will substitute doing what we want, even in His Name, for what God wants with a rebellious pretense that God will understand my heart. If you are obeying God, God understands your obedience. If you are not obeying God, God understands your rebellion just as clearly!
Principles of Korah’s Rebellion
Korah may have led the most fearful rebellion of the Old Testament. Jude denotes that Korah’s rebellion produces destruction. Jude says people in the ecclesia are “destroyed in the rebellion of Korah.” That is, the same rebellion occurs today that occurred against Moses.
Korah led a rebellion against Moses’ leadership, a direction contradiction of God’s orders and authority. He based his rebellion upon the reasoning that all of Israel was chosen, so why should Moses be positioned to tell anybody what to do? This rebellion destroyed Korah because his pretense was so great that he felt justified in opposing God. While Korah thought he was opposing Moses, he was really opposing God’s plan for leadership among His people.
“Korah and 250 leaders came as a group and confronted Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘You’ve overstepped yourself. This entire community is holy and God is in their midst. So why do you act like you’re running the whole show?’” Moses threw himself face down on the ground in terror because he recognized rebellion and understood its consequences. Moses said, God will show tomorrow whom He has chosen. God would confirm that God chose Moses to lead, not Korah, that Korah didn’t get to define leadership or substitute his own leadership plan for God’s people.
Moses said to Korah, “Bring your people before God tomorrow. Appear there with them and Aaron. Have each man bring his censer filled with incense and present it to God – all 250 censers. And you and Aaron do the same, bring your censers.” So they all did it. They brought their censers filled with fire and incense and stood at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. Moses and Aaron did the same. It was Korah and his gang against Moses and Aaron at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. The entire community could see the Glory of God.
God said to Moses and Aaron, “Separate yourselves from this congregation so that I can finish them off and be done with them.” They threw themselves on their faces and said, “O God, God of everything living, when one man sins are you going to take it out on the whole community?” God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the community. Tell them, Back off from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”
Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram. The leaders of Israel followed him. He then spoke to the community: “Back off from the tents of these bad men; don’t touch a thing that belongs to them lest you be carried off on the flood of their sins.” So they all backed away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram by now had come out and were standing at the entrance to their tents with their wives, children, and babies. Moses continued to address the community: “This is how you’ll know that it was God who sent me to do all these things and that it wasn’t anything I cooked up on my own. If these men die a natural death like all the rest of us, you’ll know that it wasn’t God who sent me. But if God does something unprecedented – if the ground opens up and swallows the lot of them and they are pitched alive into Sheol – then you’ll know that these men have been insolent with God.”
The words were hardly out of his mouth when the Earth split open. Earth opened its mouth and in one gulp swallowed them down, the men and their families, all the human beings connected with Korah, along with everything they owned. And that was the end of them, pitched alive into Sheol. The Earth closed up over them and that was the last the community heard of them.
Note that rebellion of one family tainted the whole of God’s people, so God said to separate from the rebellious unless you want in on the destruction rebellion produces. You should always reach out to wayward people, even when they are rebellious, but you can never associated with their rebellion and maintain a position of obedience with God because everything they do and say is contradictory behavior and spirit.
Beware the thinking that because you are right, you are in charge, that how holy or chosen you are gives you the right or authority to usurp God’s order of leadership. You will become holy – holy charcoal, sacred ashes. Being holy is what all the people of God enjoy; the word “saints” means “holy ones.” Where God’s authority flows through His chosen leadership strategy is not the same discussion as “who is holy?” Rebelling against His strategy gets you in trouble with God, not the leaders. Rebelling means that you do not wish to hear from God through someone else because God should be dealing with you straight on. Heard this before?
Beware the idea that because you are holy, every thought you have comes from God, and that your mind and will produce God’s mind and will on earth. You can be nearly perfect and have little or only a small portion of the strategy of God for His people, a portion consistent with your level of leadership with His people.
Beware the tendency to assume that what you want thrills God, what you are focused upon distracts God, or what you value catches God’s eye. God has already made up His mind about what He wants, whom He wants to lead, and what should be priority for His people.
Korah was of the Levites but he wanted to be a priest. He was attacking Aaron and working to get himself a bigger piece of the ministry pie. He saw that Moses was in the way of getting what he wanted for himself and his family. So, he rebelled against Moses, called Aaron’s leadership into question.
God opened up the earth and everyone standing with Korah dropped into Sheol. Those who stood with him in the rebellion were toasted by the lightning of God. Only those who purposefully stood back and disassociated themselves from rebellion were left standing.
Rebelling against parents and kingdom leaders is rebelling against God who gave them to you. Even if you have bad parents and leaders, you are not authorized to rebel against them. Having abusive leaders is something else altogether, but Korah was not abused or used! He simply wanted what he wanted more than he wanted what God wanted. Personal ambition built a justification for his rebellion.
Principles of Saul’s Rebellion
Saul was king of Israel. God gave him an assignment. Saul had already shown that he was less than thorough with God’s protocols for leadership when he offered up the sacrifice Samuel was supposed to offer. Saul’s pretense was the spawn of his witchcraft and idolatry.
Beware the tendency to be pretentious, assuming you can change the protocols of the kingdom to fit your style or prove your readiness. Whether or not you can do it better has nothing to do with assignment and authority. God doesn’t always assign the best singer or dancer or preacher or intercessor to do something; so do not justify pretense in your own mind because your assumption that you know better or can do it better is probably wrong and certainly rebellious.
Many leaders fail to see and understand their pretense as rebellion. They feel free to question, undermine, and second-guess leaders as if their opinions are worthy of such high consideration. I make myself accountable to people about my decisions in order to measure how well they are accomplishing God’s assignment on my life, but I never allow people’s opinion to be controlling factor in making decisions because that puts people above assignment. So, I have had people whom I still consider my friends pull a Korah rebellion or do a Saul pretense, amazed that they were unable to see that they had functioned in rebellion against what God was doing in the kingdom.
Pretense will birth rebellion because you presume you can do it better, and then rebellion will justify your behavior as Saul justified his presumption with Samuel. Then, Saul rebelled. After that, the witchcraft of rebellion was so advanced in Saul that he went looking for a witch among God’s people. God sent Samuel to give Saul a specific assignment about the Amalekites. “Kill’em all,” God said, “don’t leave any trace of them.” He didn’t. Saul was 99% obedient, and God said he was rebellious.
You say, “Give me a break!” Surely if you do 99% of what God said, with minor modifications to make it a bit more exciting and politically expedient, God should be happy you went at all. Right? Wrong!
Beware the concept that obedience is doing God a big favor! Beware the dangerous assumption that God gave you any assignment because you were the only one who could get the job done. After all, God could do it without you much better than He can do it with you in the sense of who can get the job done! God has quite a bit more going for Him in the weapons and wiping people out department than you do! Jesus was clear that we shouldn’t fear men but the One who can destroy body and soul in hell.
Saul’s pretense opened his life to the people’s pretense. He assumed that God would be OK with everybody just getting along and bringing everybody’s opinions into the mix to create teamwork. All that stuff might be great for a few minutes if we function without pretense, but the bottom line cannot move! Offering God something “close but not quite” is a substitute for obedience that God will not abide.
God was looking for someone to do what He called Israel to do, called Saul to do, to do what kingdom protocols demanded. So, God set up the kingdom and God determined how it would function.
Saul wasn’t just being lax. He was being pretentious and presumptuous. Pretense is a serious form of rebellion that will lead you into open conflict with God. It was rebellion root that produced pretense that bore the fruit of rebellion. “Rebellion is like witchcraft.”
The Principles of Cain’s Rebellion
One of the scariest verses in the Bible: “Many shall say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not done many great things in Your Name, but I will say, ‘Who are you and how’d you get in here?”
This is the rebellion of Cain, and it goes back to the very beginning of human rebellion. This is the root that produces the fruit! Cain wanted to bring God what he wanted God to have instead of sacrificing what God wanted. Cain wanted God to change instead of being changed. Cain allowed this open door of rebellion as an entrance for anger, hatred, murder, and despair. Cain’s rebellion produced destruction.
Rebellion can produce nothing but destruction because rebellion rejects what God wants for what we want. “There is a way that seems right to a man but the end leads to death,” the wise man says. Rebellion brings a strong delusion.
God told Cain that sin was like a panther crouching at the door, waiting to pounce upon him. He said Cain would need to overcome this or it would overcome him. Cain had the fruit of stubbornness, pouting, anger, and wrath that comes from the rebellion root. Cain had the audacity to question God and demand that God change eternal protocols to accommodate his personal whims and convenience. Cain was adamant: “I want what I want.”
Rebellion makes God your enemy, and the enemy of rebellion is a root in your soul that needs to be removed. Repentance means, “I change to be changed.” Repentance appropriates the power of the Cross to break the power of sin, cleanse it from our souls, and set us up for obedience and submission.