A Study by Jim Langford


Authoritarian teachers and leaders associated with the Robert Grove Ministries, Inc. have a history of twisting and distorting numerous Bible passages to justify their actions in putting out from their fellowship brethren who differ with them. In future posts on this message board we will investigate several of these passages which have been cruelly misapplied and restore them to their rightful context. In doing so it should be apparent to the reader the importance of checking up by searching the Scriptures (Acts 17:11), knowing what God’s word says and means (2 Timothy 2:15) and proving all things (1 Thessalonians 5:2). To fail to do this is to allow one’s self to fall prey to deceitful workmen who enslave you and cause destructive divisions in the body of Christ.

NUMBERS 16 (Part One)

On January 6, 1985, in San Luis Obispo, a message was given by Gordon Grant utilizing as his text Numbers 16. It was given with direct application to the small Tulare assembly. The theme was not original with him; he was merely parroting the latest innovative use of Scripture to enforce conformity. The following weekend meetings were to be held in Tulare for the specific purpose of "making an effort at resolving differences and avoiding the possibility of deeper division." The day before these meetings Mr. Grant phoned his two sons, Ric and Kevin, and applied the shocking specter of Numbers 16 to that situation, warning them of the consequences of being in the camp of Korah, Dathan and Abiram! At that moment their confidence in their father’s grasp of the situation faltered—and has yet to recover. As far as Numbers 16 being an "accurate application" to the problems they were experiencing, their new natures rejected that just like mine did. To them this was to be an opportunity to express their sincere convictions and honest opinions on some matters that had been accumulating for years. Those in leadership, however, were obviously girding up in an effort to squelch a rebellion against their authority.

Mr. Grant prefaced his message with words to this effect: "We need to be in prayer, deep prayer, for the coming weekend when we’re going to sit down with brethren and endeavor to hear whatever their concerns may be and evaluate them. Then they need to hear us. There must be interaction and dialogue. The Lord help us to be open, have godly judgments and be spiritually inclined." This, seemingly, was an appeal for brethren to meet together in an honest, prayerful, spiritual effort to resolve differences and bring unity to a troubled assembly. But there was a caveat attached to this proposal: a subtle warning inherent in the message itself, and the predisposed attitude of distrust and suspicion by those who supposed they were sitting in Moses’ seat. All was not what it appeared to be!

In his exposition of that context pointed comparisons and applications were made that left very little to our imaginations. The seed of suspicion was planted in our minds against certain ones in Tulare and anyone elsewhere intimately associated with them or expressing similar concerns. Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their followers typified who? Moses, Aaron and their faithful typified who? Those taking part in that meeting were already stereotyped. Only contrasts existed between the situation leadership was cleverly painting on the one hand, and the reality of the confrontation described in Numbers 16. There, rebellion against God was quickly identified and God’s wrath imposed immediately! No intercessory prayer for Korah, Dathan and Abiram! No invitation to hear their concerns! No thought of dialogue, discussion or evaluation! No admonishment to be open minded and spiritually inclined! No effort to resolve differences peaceably! There was only one solution to that situation: immediate and final judgment!

(Next installment: Robert Grove’s response and his evaluation of the text.)

NUMBERS 16 (Part Two)

At the meeting in Tulare on January 12, 1985, I made the statement that Mr. Grant’s message the previous Sunday was an "abuse of Scripture." A few weeks later in Atascadero I was summoned to a men’s meeting, called to examine my basis for making such a charge. So that the record would be unmistakably clear, I prepared a 6-page critique of that message and distributed copies to the twelve men present. (Oddly, I never heard a word again from them about the subject until the following November, when the remark was made that they agreed completely with Robert’s letter.)

About two months later (early May) Robert Grove paid me a personal visit to discuss my objections to his use of Matthew 10 (a subject I shall also introduce on this message board soon), and to, I must presume, administer to me the first admonition as a heretic. At that time I gave him a copy of the Numbers 16 paper (I was surprised that he had not as yet seen a copy!). Less than three weeks later, I was privileged to receive his 7-page response. It turned out to be a rather caustic denunciation of my attitude toward those in leadership, which, he said, "too closely resembles the attitude…of the men who withstood Moses in Numbers 16." It was not until late November, while attending a science conference in Chicago, that I started preparing a reply to Robert, using, incidentally, the library at Moody Bible Institute. Following are excerpts featuring his exposition of that event, interspersed with my answers:

RAG: you excerpt Gord’s Godly appeal and then state that this appeal only "contrasts" with the situation in Numbers 16, which you say was only to squelch rebellion…The fact is that the appeal Gord made harmonizes beautifully with Moses’ actions as depicted in Numbers 16…I am surprised you would evaluate the text this way.

JML: If he did not feel he was making a valiant effort to "squelch a rebellion," why, may I ask, did he use that particular event in Israel’s history to prepare our hearts and minds for a prearranged meeting among Christian brothers? Why did he call his sons and warn them not to identify with those men who were taking the position of Korah? For you to maintain that that was not his attitude stretches my credulity to the limit! It also puts you in the rather dubious position of denying that the event depicted there was a rebellion, something every commentary and study Bible is in agreement on.

RAG: Moses…sure didn’t act like an "overlord" when presented with this series of problems as recorded…Rather, in verse 4 he fell on his face, in verse 22, he fell on his face and prayed for mercy for the people and in verse 46, is again on his face pleading for the congregation...As to there being no effort to resolve the differences peaceably…I understand the dialogue in verses 8-14 to be an endeavor to that end. Moses reminded them of what God had provided for them in service (vers. 9&10), pointed out that the attack was against the Lord not himself, then Moses asked Dathan and Abiram to come up, which they REFUSED to do (Vers. 12).

We must remember that Scripture doesn't always give all the details in an account but the statements above indicate an effort to salvage them but they would not be salvaged. The final judgment of God came after they refused to come up to Moses. We face this many times in trying to help people in situations and in fact faced it in Tulare as some who had their say as Korah, Dathan and Abiram did wouldn’t come back the next day when an effort was made by ministering brethren to try and be a help to them. They didn’t say "we won’t come up" they just didn’t come back, and some of them haven’t been back yet.

NUMBERS 16 (Part Three)

Was Robert’s explanation of verses 1-14 merely an incorrect understanding of the passage or an example of specious reasoning? Speaking candidly, I am of the opinion that a little sophistry was involved also, a concerted effort to distort the meaning of the text in order that it might better serve their purposes. My response:

JML: Let’s examine the text again. Korah, Dathan and Abiram, with 250 followers, insolently rose up against Moses and Aaron, opposing them, saying, "You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly?" (verses1-3) When Moses heard this he fell face down (verse 4). We aren’t told what was racing through Moses’ mind while he lay prone on the ground. Should we suppose this was a moment of "deep prayer" on Moses’ part for a longsuffering attitude toward the dear brethren who were opposing him? Or can we assume that it was a demonstration of his anger and perturbation? We do know that with Moses God speaks face to face, clearly and not in riddles. Aaron and Miriam had learned what a fearful thing it was to speak against Moses (Numbers 12:8-9)! Now, these insolent rebels were about to find out also.

That God spoke decisively to Moses is evident from his immediate response to Korah and his followers: "IN THE MORNING the Lord WILL SHOW who belongs to Him and who is holy…YOU LEVITES HAVE GONE TOO FAR!" (verses 5-7) Was there any question in Moses’ mind how this issue would be decided? Was there any appeal here to resolve their differences through prayer, negotiation, dialogue and openness? ABSOLUTELY NOT! "Tomorrow morning," Moses in essence said, "God will make it clear who is in charge here!" I repeat, Robert, "rebellion…was quickly identified" and God’s certain judgment would be publicly carried out before the entire assembly the next morning! "Be here tomorrow morning," Moses declared, "and you WILL SEE who is holy and who is evil!"

Allow me to help you "understand the dialogue" in verses 8-14. And I won’t have to appeal to "details" not recorded in God’s word to develop my case. There is no "dialogue" in verses 4-11. We have here Moses’ condemnation of Korah’s action and direct ORDERS to him and his followers to appear the next morning. The refusal of Dathan and Abiram to obey Moses’ summons and their arrogant, rebellious spirit further angered Moses, and he called out to God not to accept their offering (verses 12-15). This was tantamount to saying their guilt is not to be forgiven and they must be cut off from the people (see Numbers 15:30-31).

Your feeble effort to soften Moses’ demeanor here is evident. Moses told Korah, "You are to do this" and "you are to appear." Furthermore, he didn’t "ask" Dathan and Abiram; he "summoned" them! And the "final judgment of God came" the following morning not because they "refused to come up" but because that was the time set in which God would demonstrate to the people "who belonged to Him" and "who was holy." In your effort to find parallels with the Tulare situation you do injustice to the text. Korah and his 250 followers showed up at the entrance to the meeting tent. They were nevertheless destroyed along with Dathan and Abiram.

Moses' intercessary prayers in verses 22 and 46 are not to be confused with the judgment on Korah, Dathan, Abiram and their 250 followers as discussed above. When the glory of the Lord appeared at the Tent of Meeting, the Lord threatened to put an end to the entire assembly also. Moses interceded for them, not for the rebels. The following day, after the catastrophic display of God's wrath, the whole Israelite community began to grumble and murmur again just as they did as recorded in chapter 14. Again the Lord threatened to destroy them all!

(My reply to Robert required nine pages. In the three letters much more material was covered than just Numbers 16. For anyone interested I will gladly mail you all three letters. They make some very poignant reading. In these letters Hebrews 13:17, a much maligned passage, was also examined. In fact, that will be our next topic as we continue our look at some "twisted Scriptures".