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The Church in the wilderness under Moses had two main problems that teach us today what NOT to do. These are the two "horns of the bull" that we must avoid in order to succeed where Israel failed.
The first problem occurred in Exodus 20:18-21, when the Israelites refused to hear God for themselves, sending Moses up the mount to hear God on their behalf. From then on the Scriptures lament, "Today if you will hear My voice, harden not your hearts as in the day of provocation." Israel was skewered on the first horn of the bull when they preferred to hear God through other men. Faith comes by hearing the word of God; persuasion comes by hearing a man tell us what God said.
This does not mean that we should shut our ears to other men's revelation. God does not tell any man everything. He has seen fit to distribute His gifts and revelation among the whole body, so that we learn to work together as a body in unity. Hence, we are interdependent and need each other as much as the hand needs the foot and the kidneys need the liver.
So this leads us to the second horn of the bull. It is found the story of the Korah rebellion. Numbers 16:3 says,
"They gathered together against Moses and Aaron and said to them, You take too much upon yourselves, for ALL of the congregation [church] is holy, every one of them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?"
In other words, they objected to the authority of Moses and Aaron on the grounds that "all of the congregation is holy." Their stated premise was correct, but their unstated premise was wrong. Korah had the desire to replace Moses and Aaron as ruler, so he fomented discontent among the people to achieve his ambition. This reminds me a lot of Communist revolutionaries, who fomented discontent with the monarchies on the grounds that all the people should be equal. The problem is that once they achieved their goal, the revolutionaries established dictatorships to replace the monarchies. Most of the people ended up worse off than under the monarchies.
In a more religious context, the same argument has been made countless times by men who desired to establish their own religious denominations. Too often their motive was ambition, and they merely desired to replace the Roman pope or some other denominational authority. They only succeeded in creating a rival monarchy in the house of Saul.
So the second "horn of the bull" is the rejection of all authority on the grounds that all men are equal.
The fact is that while the law treats all men with equal justice, it is equally true that God has established all authority in the earth (Rom. 13:1). Paul says "there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God."
This is based upon the statement from the beginning, where Gen. 1:26 says, "let them have dominion."
Leadership and authority are not incompatible with equality of justice, except when those leaders misuse their God-given authority. Those who do not understand this are susceptible to being misled by ambitious men who, like Korah, seek to usurp the lawful authorities, promising the people whatever it takes to gain followers.
When Korah rules, he does not really allow the people equal access to God, nor does he really give the people the right to hear God for themselves. Usurpers never do, because that would defeat the whole purpose of their political ambitions. Korahs want more servants, more members, more taxpayers or tithers.
The heart of Moses was revealed first in Exodus 20:20 when he urged the people to draw near to God and hear His voice for themselves. Moses did not want to usurp the people's right to hear God. Later, when two men were prophesying in the camp without a license, it alarmed Moses' elders and deacons; but Moses said in Num. 11:29,
"Are you zealous for my sake? Oh, that all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!"
Moses was not alarmed when the Spirit of God gave others a prophetic word. Whenever God genuinely gives any man a revelatory word, there is an equal measure of authority given to that person to deliver the word. With each true word comes a commissioning, and that commission is an authority to give the word.
Moses was not alarmed that God would speak to other men. He knew that God had every right to do so, and that in no way did this undermine Moses' legitimate authority. In fact, it was part of Moses' commission and authority to encourage the entire congregation to hear God for themselves.
I have found that one of the most important jobs of anyone in authority is to teach people to hear God for themselves. This is not an easy job, in view of the precedent set by Israel in Exodus 20, when they preferred an indirect relationship with God. This same problem has been compounded in the Church during the Pentecostal Age as well. Quite early the Church hierarchy removed from the people to right to hear God for themselves. They justified this on the grounds of maintaining "unity." They set up Church Councils to determine (by vote of bishops) which doctrines were correct and which were not. But there was never any real unity, unless enforced by the emperor. Unity by fear is effective only if one can maintain a sufficient level of fear.
Fear is not love. There is no fear in love, because perfect love casts out all fear (1 John 4:18). Conversely, perfect fear casts out all love. By fear, men establish religions and denominations. By love, the people are trained to know God. There is a difference. The first establishes organizations with a priesthood to represent other men to God; the second establishes a direct relationship with God that makes priests of every believer equally.
Because I believe these things, I have not attempted to establish a denomination or religion. Whatever authority I have is according to the revelation of the Word and its inherent commission to teach and convey to others what I have heard. I have no one other than Jesus Christ Himself as my High Priest; nor do I pretend to be a priest or high priest over others.
I do not expect anyone to hear me, but I hope that all will hear God through me. Certainly, I keep my ears open to hear God speak through others. I have found that God speaks through the oddest people and the strangest situations at times. He does this in order to sharpen our ability to hear in unexpected ways and often through the most unlikely people. I have even heard the most profound revelation come from an enemy as he hurls it with lethal force. But this is all part of the training, so that we become capable of hearing His voice through all circumstances.
So to summarize, the two horns of the bull are these: (1) we don't want to hear God for ourselves, preferring to hear men tell us what God said; and (2) we don't want to hear the word through other men at all, whether or not God has spoken to them, preferring to rely only on our own personal revelation.
If we can avoid those two horns of the bull, we will be able to receive all the revelation that comes our way, and we can grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.