Sunday, October 16, 2011

The rebellion and redemption of Korah

One of the things I love most about reading the Bible in 90 days and doing that multiple times each year, is making connections between different books of the Bible.  I have to confess to you that my first few times through the Bible my eyes glazed over reading the ubiquitous and often long geneology passages.  Not so, now.  I love lingering on the names and thinking about how God redeems individual people, yes, but He also works through families.  For instance, I remember wondering at one time why David put up with Joab, his bloodthirsty general that David admitted to being afraid of.  (For the record, I don't think Joab was all that bad.  He did counsel David against taking the census which so angered God, after all.  And Absalom was a traitor and leading a revolution against David when Joab killed him.  I also wonder if Abner was really sincere in switching his allegiance to David, and Abner had killed Joab's brother.)  David talked on several occasions as if he would have rid himself of Joab if he could have.  When you realize that Joab is David's nephew, son of his sister Zeruiah, it makes more sense.  Blood really is thicker than water!

Anyway, what I've been thinking about for the last few days is Korah.  Numbers 16 details Korah's rebellion, and in fact that's the heading my Bible gives to Number's 16:  Korah's Rebellion.  Interesting, that Korah gets all the blame since Dathan and Abiram were in on it with him.  I'm not going to reprint Numbers 16 here, but just give the highlights.  Korah is a Kohathite so he's a Levite, but not a priest.  Remember the three divisions of Levites are Kohathites, Gershonites, and Merarities.  Numbers 4 tells how the labor of the tabernacle was to be divided among the families.  The Kohathites were responsible for the transportation of the most sacred objects like the Ark, the lampstand, the table of showbread, and the altar.  But, the only Kohathites allowed into the sanctuary to care for the objects and to cover the sacred objects for transportation, were the sons of Aaron.  Only the priests, the sons of Aaron, could see the holy objects in the sanctuary and only the priests could present offerings to the Lord on behalf of Israel.  Anyone else who even went into the holy place while the objects were uncovered would die.  This was a big responsibility and also a great privilege. 

Dathan and Abiram, both Reubenites and Korah, a Kohathite, but not a son of Aaron, thought this wasn't fair.  They gathered together 250 other leaders of Israel and incited a rebellion against Moses and Aaron.  They argued that the whole community of Israel had been set apart by God and that the sons of Aaron should not have any special privileges.  It just wasn't politically correct!  Moses spoke to Korah (interesting that he addressed Korah and not Dathan and Abiram) and pointed out the privileges God had given him in being a Kohathite and being allowed to minister in the Tabernacle in the first place.  

"Does it seem insignificant to you that the God of Israel has chosen you from among all the community of Israel to be near Him and serve in the Lord's Tabernacle and stand before the people to minister to them?  Korah, He has already given this special ministry to you and your fellow Levites.  Are you now demanding the priesthood, as well?"  Numbers 16:9-10 

Moses went on to point out that Korah was actually rebelling against the Lord, not just Aaron.  (And remember, Moses though a special intercessor for Israel with God, was a Kohathite, but not a son of Aaron.  Aaron was appointed by God as high priest, not Moses.  Moses was pleading with Korah, one of his own clan.)

Unfortunately Korah didn't heed Moses' plea.  Numbers 16:19 says that Korah "stirred up the entire community against Moses and Aaron."  Now this is where it gets interesting.  The glorious presence of the Lord comes down to the entrance of the Tabernacle and threatens to destroy the whole community.  Moses and Aaron fall face down and beg the Lord not to destroy all of Israel.  Then the Lord tells all the people, who were all gathered in a rebellious mob about to storm the Tabernacle, to get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.  Moses jumps up to do God's bidding, and warns everyone to step back from the tents of the three leaders of the rebellion.  Then the text (verse 27) says that Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the entrances of their tents, together with their wives, and children and little ones.  Korah died too, but his sons didn't.  The children of Dathan and Abiram all died.  The sons of Korah didn't.

"But the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them with Korah, and fire devoured 250 of their followers.  This served as a warning to the entire nation of Israel.  However, the sons of Korah did not die that day."  Numbers 26:11

Do you know who some of the sons of Korah were?  The most famous is Samuel.  The geneology in 1 Samuel 1 gives only a partial geneology of Elkanah, so unless you realize it from other Scriptures like 1 Chronicles 6:33-38, you may not realize Elkanah is a Levite, a Kohathite and descended from Korah to be precise.  Heman, chief musician assigned to the Temple by David, was also descended from Korah.  Isn't it amazing that God continued to work through Korah's sons?  He didn't wipe them from the face of the earth.  He was merciful, compassionate, and gracious.  1 Chronicles 9 relates that even after the Babylonian exile, descendants of Korah were responsible for guarding the entrance to the sanctuary, just as their ancestors had guarded the Tabernacle in the camp of the Lord.

Now that you know the backstory, Psalms 84 and 85 written by the descendants of Korah, can be more fully appreciated.

"How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord of Heaven's Armies.  I long, yes, I faint with longing to enter the courts of the Lord.  With my whole being, body and soul, I will shout joyfully to the living God.  Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow builds her nest and raises her young at a place near your altar, O Lord of Heaven's Armies, my King and my God!  What joy for those who can live in Your house, always singing Your praises... A single day in Your courts is better than a thousand anywhere else!  I would rather be a gatekeeper in the house of my God than live the good life in the homes of the wicked.  For the Lord God is our sun and our shield.  He gives us grace and glory."  Psalm 84:1-4, 10-11a

"You forgave the guilt of your people- yes, you covered all their sins.  You held back your fury.  You kept back your blazing anger... Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, so our land will be filled with His glory."  Pslam 85:2, 9

I'm fairly certain the descendants of Korah were aware all their lives that they shouldn't be alive.  They must have realized in a special way that every breath was an act of God's mercy.  And never again do we see them complaining about their God-ordained duties.  Rather, we see thanksgiving and praise to the Lord.

Korah died for his sins, but even in his death, God redeemed his name.  God let his sons live on and God used them for His glory.  The name of Korah lived on, but its legacy is not one of rebellion.  Just think of it- Psalms sung by God's people in praise to Him for all eternity.  (Yes, I think we'll be singing Psalms in heaven : ).  God turned Korah's rebellion into praise.  Isn't that what He does with each of us?  Plucks us out of our rebellion and redeems us, breathing new life into our souls?  Let us also leave a legacy of praise to Lord!

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I'm an on-the-run mom to 6 kids who studied and taught exercise science in a previous life. I love all things running, nutrition, and health-related. I usually run at zero dark thirty in the morning and am often quite hungry before, during, and after my run, but I live a rich, full, blessed life with my children, family, and friends. My faith in God is my anchor, and looking to Him and His promises allows me to live fully even when life circumstances are difficult. While running gives me an appetite, my desire is to hunger and thirst for righteousness more than for physical food.