George MacDonald’s character, Curdie, came to the king’s house because the princess had told him to report to her there. At the door he met the officious housekeeper (who seemed to swell and fill the door) who rebuked him for his comings and goings and the fact that he (as she saw it) made a mess of things while he was there. “Don’t you know this is my house?” she barked. Curdie politely replied that he didn’t know that because he thought it was the king’s house. She responded, he responded, she called him insolent and oozing pride she asked the poor ignoramus, “Don’t you see by my dress that I am in the king’s service?” Curdie, a young mine worker, wanted to know, “And am I not one of his miners?”
“Ah, that goes for nothing,” she snapped. “I am one of his household. You are an out-of-doors laborer. You are a nobody. You carry a pickaxe. I carry the keys at my waist. See!”
But Curdie checkmated her with, “But you must not call one ‘a nobody’ to whom the king has spoken.”
This is a hard lesson for us to learn. You understand that it isn’t that we’re all to function in the same place of authority with the same responsibilities. There are those that have been given authority over us and though often we don’t like that, there’s no community living without accepting the truth of it. Still, it’s a hard lesson to learn because we tend to be prideful (do we not?) and if we’ve haven’t been given the most sought after job, the one that attracts the attention and gets the big money, we’re inclined to whimper (and other things) a lot. Well, why not? We should be treated with respect and when we are stuck in a lower level position our “personhood” is scorned and many of us won’t stand for that, will we. (Is that not true—or am I mistaken?)
The sad thing is that some of us get the place we think we deserve and it doesn’t make us better. Like the officious housekeeper we balloon up and fill the doorways of life and are only content when we think we’ve surpassed the other “peasants” way below us. In that spirit it doesn’t matter to us, for example, that others would be better as rich people than we would be if we were made rich. It only matters that we are or get to be wealthy or prominent or acclaimed.
Apparently Curdie had no trouble with any of that. He had a pure heart and was perfectly content to be the king’s miner. He didn’t need to have the keys to buildings hanging at his belt, didn’t need to minister to vast congregations, nor did he need to drive a big fancy car or be the belle of anyone’s ball. He was more than at peace within himself. He rejoiced in the dignity of being one that the king had spoken to and needed nothing more.
(Sigh. What a lovely way that is. It makes me want to be a better man and while I can’t confess that I’m troubled much with jealousy, perhaps there’s more of it in me than I occasionally think there is. Of course I’m well aware that I’m greatly troubled with other things.)
You see the confrontation between Curdie and the housekeeper illustrated in reverse in Number 16 where the rebels weren’t as wise or as pure in heart as Curdie.
Korah, Dathan and Abiram attacked Moses and Aaron because those two exercised authority over the assembly at large and restricted the priesthood to Aaron’s family. The rebels said that these two took too much on themselves because all the people of God are holy and they wanted to exercise the priesthood (16:1-4, 10). Moses reminded them that this was God’s restriction but he goes on to remind these Levites that God had spoken to them and given them their own ministry (16:10). And that was where the problem was rooted. The leading rebels didn’t think their ministry was glorious enough—they wanted more. They thought they were being cheated, you see. They thought that having the priesthood keys at their belt would give them the dignity and recognition they deserved. Had they believed what Curdie knew, that no one to whom the King has spoken is “a nobody;” they would not have despised the privileged place God had already given to them. Though Curdie was a miner with a pickaxe in his hand he knew full well and with joyful contentment that he was one of the king’s servants and in this knowledge he glorified his ministry.
You understand it wasn’t simply that Korah and company were despising their position, they were exalting themselves (compare Romans 12:3-8) and thought they were being robbed. And they weren’t opposing Moses alone; they were opposing God (Numbers 16:11)!
It wasn’t a question about what God wanted. It was all about what these Levites wanted! It wasn’t an information problem; it was a heart problem. “I deserve and want more!”
Poor souls. They talked as though they were suffering like the colonies in their most awful moments suffered when France and Spain and Portugal and Britain were at their plundering worst. They talked as though they were African-Americans that were humiliated and robbed all those years under the worst face of White dominance in the USA or they were Irish during the centuries when England plundered and bullied them. Doesn’t it make you want to throw up sometimes when people (ourselves included?) blessed to the skies whine on and on about wanting more? Those, like Korah, Dathan and Abiram who take the lead in furthering a heart problem among the people of God have something to answer for as the entire Numbers 16 chapter shows.
I can easily imagine someone saying: “It occurs to me that this is a great chapter to use to defend the status quo. It’s a good chapter to use to keep people ‘in their place’.” Hmmm. That’d be another heart problem, wouldn’t it?].