Numbers 16 tells one of the Bible’s most tragic stories. Two-hundred and fifty leaders of God’s people made a terrible mistake. In the end, this mistake cost them their lives and led to the deaths of 14,700 of their followers.
These leaders thought it best to challenge Moses’ role as God’s prophet and Aaron’s role as God’s high priest. These leaders claimed to be as holy as Moses and Aaron, and therefore equally entitled to speak on God’s behalf and intercede for God’s people.
It’s dangerous for anyone to pronounce anything holy that God hasn’t already made holy. Holiness is defined by God’s specifications. Only God can certify that those specifications are met.
In this case, those who declared themselves holy were consumed by fire. The earth opened up and swallowed the men who led the insurrection. Their families died with them.
God endures a lot of misrepresentation and slander, but in the end, it’s necessary for everyone to know the truth about who God is. In God’s reality, to declare something holy is to claim it represents God’s character.
God described Himself to Moses this way:
“The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”” (Exodus 34:6-7, ESV)
This is who God is. This is God’s description of what it is to be holy.
The leaders who challenged God’s appointment of Moses and Aaron to their roles mistook holiness as a mark of status, rather than what it is, a declaration of God’s character.
Holiness reveals who God is.
When God called the seventh day “holy” at the end of creation week, in the wilderness and at Mt. Sinai, He certified this day as a day designed to declare who He is. The Sabbath says more about who God is than the other six days of the week.
As the leaders who opposed Moses and Aaron claimed holiness and invited their own destruction, anyone who knowingly calls any day holy other than the day God has called holy faces a similar judgment.
God’s commandment to keep the Sabbath holy, then, is a call to remember that God is love and to declare His love by loving others—people and animals!
Sabbath is a day to rest in God’s love and to love others. Our most important attire for Sabbath and any other day is God’s holiness, displayed best by loving like Jesus.
The Sabbath is to those who keep it holy a sign that they are a holy people who keep all of God’s commandments as representatives of His character. They do this because they have put on Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:27).
“Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” (Colossians 3:12-15, NLT)