We see in the book of Job how God gives the permission, but Satan is the one carrying out the “acts of God,” sending the fire and the wind that killed Job’s family and servants. We saw Miriam and Aaron come against Moses mumbling in a similar way to what we saw from the Israelites in Numbers 16. They weren’t killed. Miriam has to suffer as a sinner for a week and then is restored. Korah and his rebellion against Moses led to them all instantly dying. What’s the difference?
The wages of sin is death. We all deserve to die for our sin. Korah and the others were not being treated unfairly. They were getting what they deserved. Does that mean that God ran out of mercy? Of course not. So, why does He show mercy at times and not at others? It was His mercy that sent Miriam out of the camp to bear her shame for a week. She was being trained in righteousness. It was a wake-up call to Aaron as well. Before that we only see Moses on his face before the Lord pleading for Israel, and in Numbers 16, where we read about Korah, we see Aaron now too on his face pleading for mercy.
God would have been just to carry out a death sentence many times. It would have been within His rights and character to carry it out. However, we see God respond to His servants’ prayers. Moses prays for the congregation and the Lord relents. But Moses also prays and asks the Lord to not accept the offering from Korah and the others. He doesn’t ask for mercy. When the congregation again turns on Moses, also turning on God in doing so, God sends a plague. Moses and Aaron stop it by making atonement for them. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life. The atonement saved their lives.
Romans 1:18 gives us a little glimpse into why rebellious people need to be removed from the church, from Israel. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness.”
They suppress the truth. God loves His children. He wants to protect them. Sometimes that means killing off the cancerous cells growing inside. Sometimes that means removing the sickness of lies and gossip and complaining. It’s to protect the Body, the church, Israel, His children, those who are really His, set apart to be His alone. That, of course, doesn’t mean that anyone not dying of natural causes in old age is a cancerous sinner needing cut off.
Isaiah 57:1 tells us that “Good people pass away; the godly often die before their time. But no one seems to … wonder why. No one seems to understand that God is protecting them from the evil to come.” (NLT)
In these cases, the death of a godly person is a protection. God is always working good. He’s always working in love. His character never changes. God is good all the time.