Be Careful with Prayer
(13) They soon forgot his works. They did not wait for his counsel. (14) They lusted intensely in the wilderness and put God to the test in the desert. (15) He gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them. (16) When they grew envious of Moses in the camp and of Aaron, the one consecrated to Yahweh, (17) the earth opened and swallowed up Dathan, and buried the company of Abiram. (18) Fire blazed up in their company. A flame consumed the wicked.
We find only one repetition in these verses, “company” (vss. 17 & 18), referring to the large number of Israelites who joined in the rebellion against Moses and Aaron. The events described here are recounted in Numbers 16, the sad story of the insurrection led by Korah, Dathan, and Abiram which led to their deaths as well as the deaths of their family members. All those, 250 in all, who had fomented the rebellion and nearly 15,000 Israelites who had followed their lead perished during the plague which God sent to punish the nation for questioning the authority of Moses and Aaron.
I. A summary statement of Israel’s rebellion and God’s discipline (13-15)
II. A specific instance of Israel’s rebellion and God’s discipline (16-18)
Those who rebel against the authority of Yahweh and the leaders he has appointed will experience his wrath.
The following maxim, “Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it,” is a lesson we all need to learn. The television series, Davy Crockett, was all the rage when I entered second grade in the 1950’s. All my friends were sporting coonskin caps with tails, so, of course, I had to have one. I remember begging my parents to buy me one even though they had said, “It’s a useless purchase. You will never wear it more than once or twice.” However, my heart was set on having one, so I pestered them until they gave in and made it one of my Christmas presents. However, by holiday time, coonskin caps had gone out of style and no one was wearing them anymore. I never did wear that cap more than once or twice and missed out on receiving something much better and more useful for Christmas that year.
The same thing can happen with our prayer lives. We are constantly in danger of becoming so focused on obtaining something we are sure will make us happy, bring us fulfillment, and change our lives for the better, that we lose sight of everything else. In essence, we end up pestering God like a spoiled child until he gives in and lets us have what we want. In the process, we forget how Jesus prayed in Gethsemane: “Not my will, but yours be done” (Mt. 26:36). Our loving heavenly Father knows far better than we do what our needs are and what is best for us. If we insist on getting our own way, the way that looks preferable to us at the moment, we may miss out on something far better. We are often incapable of envisioning from our limited earthbound perspective what is good for us. Far better we entrust ourselves to our loving God “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we [can] ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (Eph. 3:20).