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Topic: Teachers (07/12/04)
TITLE: The Silent Teacher
By Melanie Kerr
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The classroom that the Israelites were faced with didn't have four walls. The wilderness stretched out in all directions with miles of sand and rock for as far as the eye could see. Just because you can't see the walls, doesn't mean to say they are not there.
The teacher that the Israelites were faced with, in this particular incident, was a sheet of metal. That has got to make you curious, right? I have no idea how big the sheet of metal was. I could dig out an encyclopaedia if I really wanted to know, but the size of the sheet is pretty much irrelevant. Where it was and how it got there is really something worth knowing.
The sheet of metal was laid on the altar in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle. Since only the priests and Levites had access into the Holy of Holies, our teacher, the sheet of metal, had a very elite class of students. That is not so say that it has nothing to teach us, after all we too are called to be royal priesthood.
The sheet of metal hadn't always been just a plain sheet of metal. It had been forged from two hundred and fifty censers, or bowls, for burning incense. The owners of the censers had come to a particularly unpleasant end.
Korah, Dathan and Abiram had tried to stage a take over bid. Unhappy with God's choice of a High Priest in Aaron, they thought the election was rigged and demanded a recount of the votes. Moses obliged, warning them that it was God who was doing the counting. They were instructed to turn up with their smoking censers and see what God had to say.
Dathan and Abriam recognised that they had their backs up against a totally invisible, but definitely immovable, wall with no way out. Going head to head with God in any battle was not a wise option. They refused to turn up but the recount went ahead anyway. It didn't go their way and God told Moses, Aaron and the rest of the Israelites to move aside as he dealt with the offenders. The ground split apart, the earth opened its mouth and swallowed Korah, Dathan and Abiram, their families and everything they owned, including their men and their possessions. Holy fire broke out and all their followers holding their censers were consumed.
The charred censers were collected and hammered into a sheet of metal and laid on the altar. There was a lesson to be learned and the metal sheet became the teacher. No one except someone hand picked by God had permission to come into his presence and burn incense.
As Christians, we are all hand picked by God. Were we not chosen before the foundation of the earth to be holy and blameless in his sight? So is the lesson taught by the metal sheet out of date and irrelevant?
I don't believe so. When Korah, Dathan and Abiram set themselves against the covenant keeping God, they were not the only ones who paid the price. Their wives and children, servants and slaves stood beside them as the earth swallowed them up. Their selfish ambition had resulted in innocent people being destroyed. I don't know why God didn't allow the families of these men to move to a safe place. What I know to be true is that when we do selfish and foolish things, people close to us, whose lives are touched by us, can often be injured in the fall out.
The metal sheet painted a picture, not using chalk on a blackboard that could be easily wiped away, but in people's memories, which are often impossible to erase. It was a picture of three families standing alone and being swallowed up because of three men's lust for power and recognition.
Ambition is to be applauded, but not when it sets itself against the will of God. The metal sheet on the altar in the Holy of Holies, the silent teacher, still passes on its sombre lesson to today's royal priesthood. Are we listening and learning?
(Numbers Chapter 16)