Aaron did as Moses told him and ran out among the people. The plague indeed had already begun, but Aaron burned the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead until the plague was stopped. — Numbers 16:47-48
When President Reagan narrowly survived an assassination attempt on March 30, 1981, he was rushed to a Washington D.C. hospital, critically wounded. When his wife, Nancy, arrived, Reagan quipped, with rare humor, “Honey, I forgot to duck.” People who are fired upon at such short range usually don’t get a chance to duck. In fact, they rarely manage to dodge a bullet at all. If they are fortunate enough to do so, they take extra care in the future.
The children of Israel dodged a major bullet, figuratively, when Korah and his rebel followers challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron—or, more accurately, the Lord’s leadership. When Moses and Aaron realized the depth of the Lord’s anger against the people of Israel, they “fell face down on the ground. ‘O, God, the God and source of all life,’ they pleaded. ‘Must you be angry with all the people when only one man sins?’” (Numbers 16:22). The Lord responded to their intercession by warning the people to steer clear of Korah and his fellow conspirators. When the earth opened up and swallowed them, the people “dodged the bullet.”
Amazingly, however, “the very next morning the whole community began muttering again against Moses and Aaron, saying, ‘You two have killed the Lord’s people!’” (16:41). Some people never learn!
If Moses and Aaron at this point had thrown up their hands and resigned, it would have been perfectly understandable! They had been falsely accused of abusing their powers in the first place. They had responded by opening themselves up to public scrutiny in which they had been thoroughly vindicated. They had graciously intervened on behalf of the people and saved them from a terrible fate. And they had been instrumental in allowing the people to see that the Lord really was at work in their midst. In return, they were accused of killing the Lord’s people!
But they did not quit. Instead, “Moses said to Aaron, ‘Quick, take an incense burner and place burning coals on it from the altar. Lay incense on it and carry it quickly among the people to make atonement for them’” (16:46). With the plague already raging, Aaron “stood between the living and the dead until the plague was stopped” (16:48).
The leadership of Moses and Aaron was questioned by lesser men, but their behavior in the midst of disaster and their performance of a thankless task among unthankful people were exemplary. They literally stood between the living and the dead and didn’t duck—or even flinch! You don’t criticize such leadership—you follow it.
For further study: Numbers 16:16-50
Content taken from The One Year Book of Devotions for Men by Stuart Briscoe. Copyright ©2000. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers. All rights reserved.