Follow Along

Get new posts by email:

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Matt's Messages - Korah's Rebellion

“Korah’s Rebellion”
Life in the Wilderness
April 29, 2007
Numbers 16:1-50

How would you like to be Moses?

There are times in the story, when I think it would be great to be Moses.

- Witnessing the Red Sea Rescue as you raise your staff.
- Carrying the 10 Commandments chiseled out by the very finger of God.
- Seeing the afterglow of the back of the glory of the LORD.

There are times when I think it would be great to be Moses.

And then there is...the rest of the time!

Having to lead these grumbling Israelites.

Grumbling, complaining, discontent, unbelieving, rebellious Israelites.

In Numbers chapter 16, we read about yet another rebellion against Moses (and against his brother Aaron, the High Priest).

This rebellion is led by a man named Korah. It’s called, elsewhere in the Bible, “Korah’s Rebellion.”

And it takes up the whole of chapter 16.

As we read Korah’s Rebellion, we will not only learn about Korah and what he wanted, we will also learn about God and how He operates in this world.

There are three words that are going to guide us through the passage this morning as a kind of outline.

They are:

1. Judgment
2. Atonement
3. Remnant

And we will see God at work in all three of these ways.

He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

Numbers 16, verse 1.

“Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites–Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth–became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council. They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘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?’”

Let’s stop there and make sure we know who these people are.

We know about Moses and Aaron. [Though it is interesting to see that Aaron gets a taste of his own rebellious medicine here. Remember how he had sided with Miriam against Moses back in chapter 12? Well, now he’s on the other side.]

Then there is Korah. What do we know about him?

He was the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi. What is that saying?

He is a Levite!

What do we know about Levites? Are they priests?

Not all of them. Was Korah a priest?

No. He was a Kohathite. Anyone remember where the Kohathites camped and what their job was?

They camped to the South of the Tent of Meeting (which was a place of honor). And they carried the Holy Things. We read about it in Numbers chapter 4.

So, Korah was not a nobody.

Neither were his buddies: Dathan, Abiram, and On. What tribe were they from?

Reuben. Where did Reuben camp? On the Southside, too. Probably that’s how they got together.

But this isn’t just a group of Southsiders mounting a rebellion. They have at least 250 other Israelite men from around the circle of tribes. V.2 “well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council.”

This was a high-stakes attempt at a hostile take-over.

What was their line? V.3

“They came as a group to oppose Moses and Aaron and said to them, ‘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?’”

Can you see the scene? 250-some leaders come pointing their fingers at Moses and Aaron. And they claim that Moses and Aaron had overstepped their roles and were sinfully setting themselves above the LORD’s assembly.

And they base this on the fact that everyone in Israel is holy. Not just Moses and Aaron.

Is this true?

It is true that everyone in Israel was to be holy. Remember the tassels on their garments that we read about last week? Everyone was to be holy.

But it wasn’t true that Moses and Aaron weren’t supposed to be charge.

God had put them in charge! Since the burning bush! Exodus chapter 3!

This was a power-play. No doubt about it. Korah tried to make it look like it was about equality and holiness. But it was really about greed and covetousness. V.4

“When Moses heard this, he fell facedown.” He’s probably getting used that position by now!

We don’t know how long he stayed facedown, but when he got up, Moses had a word from the Lord. V.5

“Then he said to Korah and all his followers: ‘In the morning the LORD will show who belongs to him and who is holy, and he will have that person come near him. The man he chooses he will cause to come near him. You, Korah, and all your followers are to do this: Take censers and tomorrow put fire and incense in them before the LORD. The man the LORD chooses will be the one who is holy. You Levites have gone too far!’”

Moses comes back at Korah with the same words, “You have gone too far!”

And he says that there will be contest the next day, a trial by fire, and we will see who really is God’s man.

Korah should be shaking in his boots if he had any kind of memory.

Remember the names Nadab and Abihu?

We talked about them back in Numbers chapter 3.

Whose sons were they? Aaron’s sons. They were actual priests but they offered strange fire (unauthorized) before the Lord.

Do you think that Korah and the others will fare any better?

Moses gets right to the heart of the matter. V.8

“Moses also said to Korah, ‘Now listen, you Levites! Isn't it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the LORD's tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them? He has brought you and all your fellow Levites near himself, but now you are trying to get the priesthood too. It is against the LORD that you and all your followers have banded together. Who is Aaron that you should grumble against him?’”

Moses sees through Korah’s false-spirituality. He is actually full of selfish ambition and vain conceit.

God’s been good to Korah and given him a leadership role. But it’s not enough for him.

And it just against Aaron that he’s rebelling. It’s against God.

Which is good word for anyone who is in a position of leadership and they find that people are sniping at them. It’s not just you. It’s God that they are angry with.

And see how insolent and shameless are Dathan and Abiram. V.12

“Then Moses summoned Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab. But they said, ‘We will not come! Isn't it enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the desert? And now you also want to lord it over us? Moreover, you haven't brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey or given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you gouge out the eyes of these men? No, we will not come!’”

They won’t even appear before Moses to make their complaint!

And notice how they have everything twisted around. All of a sudden, Egypt is a land flowing with milk and honey?! And why didn’t they get the Promised Land? It wasn’t Moses. It was their unbelief!

But they say, “You won’t fool us! You won’t gouge out our eyes. We know the score. And we aren’t coming.”

This angers Moses. V.15

“Then Moses became very angry and said to the LORD, ‘Do not accept their offering. I have not taken so much as a donkey from them, nor have I wronged any of them.’”

Moses knows that he is in the right.

And the next day, it is crystal clear. V.16

“Moses said to Korah, ‘You and all your followers are to appear before the LORD tomorrow–you and they and Aaron. Each man is to take his censer and put incense in it–250 censers in all–and present it before the LORD. You and Aaron are to present your censers also.’ So each man took his censer, put fire and incense in it, and stood with Moses and Aaron at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting.

What do you think is going to happen?

Here’s the word: JUDGMENT.

God is not mocked. God does not wink at sin.

God does not let the guilty go unpunished.

God judges justly.

The innocent are judged innocent.

And the guilty are judged guilty.

God swallows rebels in judgment. V.19

“When Korah had gathered all his followers in opposition to them at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, the glory of the LORD appeared to the entire assembly. [God shows up!] The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, ‘Separate yourselves from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.’ [Again, He’s about as angry as it gets.] But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, ‘O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?’ [Don’t wipe them all out, Lord!]”

“Then the LORD said to Moses, ‘Say to the assembly, 'Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.'’ Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. He warned the assembly, ‘Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.’ So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents. Then Moses said, ‘This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me.”

[And Korah was right.]

“But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt.’

Do you have the picture in your head?

250 men with censers are at the Tent of Meeting trying to get answer from the LORD as to who should really be in charge of the priesthood and the people.

And the rest of the followers of Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and On and most of their families are standing defiantly at their tents. They wouldn’t even talk face to face with Moses.

And Moses tells them that if these men live and then die of natural causes then Korah was right all along and God hadn’t appointed Moses and Aaron.

But if something happens that had never happened before, namely, the earth swallowing up Korah and his followers, then all will know that God had sent Moses and Aaron and Korah had been treating God with contempt. V.31

“As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions. They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.”

“At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, ‘The earth is going to swallow us too!’ And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.”

Judgment.

The Bible says that “Sinners will not stand in the judgment.”

This event was almost too horrible to describe. I’m not even going to try.

Korah and his followers got what was coming them.

Judgment.

This holy, wrathful, avenging, judging side of God is one that is not very popular today.

People don’t like to talk about. People don’t like to think about it.

But God is just. He is angry at sin. And the righteous requirements of His holiness demand justice.

This is what God does to rebels: He swallows them up in judgment.

Our God is a consuming fire.

Do you think about God like that?

Some people have a skewed view of God where this is all that they know about God. They know that God is holy and mad at sin. And that’s it.

They don’t know or believe in His love, mercy, and grace.

But many, many people have the opposite problem.

They think that God doesn’t care about sin. He doesn’t take rebellion seriously.

He’s just a big softie who wouldn’t lift a finger to harm an evil doer.

But this is God right here. V.31

“The ground under them split apart and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah's men and all their possessions. They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.”

“At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, ‘The earth is going to swallow us too!’ And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.”

That’s God’s judgment.

And He doesn’t want us to forget it. V.36

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Tell Eleazar [oldest] son of Aaron, the priest, to take the censers out of the smoldering remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy–the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the LORD and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.’ [Remember!]”

“So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned up, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, as the LORD directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the LORD, or he would become like Korah and his followers.”

What a sight!

Eleazer and his helpers had to sort through the smoldering remains of these men who were fried to a crisp and bring out the bronze censers and beat them into an overlay to go over the altar. So that every time an Israelite saw that altar, they were reminded of Korah.

“This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron [no one except for WHO GOD SAYS] should come to burn incense before the LORD, or he would become like Korah and his followers.”

Judgment.

The application is to take God seriously.

What God has commanded is of paramount importance.

We don’t pass over God’s commands to do it the way we think we should.

We don’t laugh at God’s way. We do it God’s way.

We take God seriously.

We take God’s judgment seriously.

Korah, Dathan, and Abiram’s names show up again and again in the Bible. And almost every time they do, there is a warning. Don’t be like them!

Don’t rebel. Don’t think you can get away with it. Don’t treat God with contempt.

Take God seriously.

Take God’s judgment seriously.

That means take Hell seriously.

We’ve got to get serious about evangelism and sharing our faith because Hell is real.

There is a judgment coming.

“Man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.”

“Our God is a consuming fire.”

Do you believe that? Do you know that? Do you take God seriously?

I take no pleasure in shouting about this.

But it needs to be heard.

We need to be ready for God’s judgment. And we need to get other people ready for God’s judgment.

If we love people, we will pray for them and we will share the Gospel with them. Because without being readied by the Gospel, no one can stand in the judgment.

We need to take God’s judgment seriously.

Don’t be like Korah.

And don’t be like the people of Israel were the very next day.

Yes, the very next day they grumbled again! V.41

“The next day the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. ‘You have killed the LORD's people,’ they said.” Where do they get that?

“But when the assembly gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron and turned toward the Tent of Meeting, [there He is again!] suddenly the cloud covered it and the glory of the LORD appeared. Then Moses and Aaron went to the front of the Tent of Meeting, and the LORD said to Moses, ‘Get away from this assembly so I can put an end to them at once.’ And they fell facedown.”

Judgment has come again.

A plague broke out from the LORD and began to consume the people of Israel.

And they deserved it!

But here’s our second word: ATONEMENT. V.46

“Then Moses said to Aaron, ‘Take your censer and put incense in it, along with fire from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them. Wrath has come out from the LORD; the plague has started.’ So Aaron did as Moses said, and ran into the midst of the assembly. The plague had already started among the people, but Aaron offered the incense and made atonement for them. He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped. But 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died because of Korah. Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, for the plague had stopped.”

Christianity is no light and airy thing! It’s turn away and death!

Aaron, the High Priest, the one God had chosen took incense and fire from the altar (authorized not strange fire) and ran–he ran! Over 80 years old and he’s running! To the midst of the assembly. And He makes atonement for the people.

“He stood between the living and the dead, and the plague stopped.”

There is judgment here. But there is also grace.

There is atonement.

Atonement is the turning away of God’s anger by the payment of an acceptable ransom by an acceptable mediator.

In this case: the High Priest Aaron.

I can’t imagine what this was like!

People dying everywhere. And where Aaron stood with the fire of incense in his hand was the dividing line between death and life.

14,700 people died but hundreds of thousands were spared.

Atonement.

And the Bible says that Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. (1 John 2:2)

And the Bible also says that Jesus Christ became a merciful High Priest so “that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17)

That’s the Cross!

Jesus Christ made atonement for His people by His ransom paying death on the Cross.

And He’s calling you to put your trust in Him and His atoning work.

Jesus Christ stands between the living and the dead, the plague one side and abundant life on the other!

Trust in Him.

God swallows rebels in His judgment.

Hell is real. Sin is bad. God is mad.

But there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus!

Are you trusting the mediator? And the mediator alone?

Last Sunday, during the invitation, Davey Williamson received Jesus Christ as His own Lord and Savior.

I have his permission to share this with you.

Davey had been taught in the past to rely not just on what Christ had done but also on his own good works and attempts to be a good Christian.

Davey had tried to help Jesus and make atonement for himself.

But Davey has come to understand the Bible’s good news.

That we can’t and shouldn’t even try to make atonement for ourselves.

Instead, we trust in the One mediator between God and man, Jesus Christ, and His perfect atoning sacrifice for our sins on the Cross.

And we trust in Him alone.

And we are saved.

Davey crossed over the line from death to life by trusting in the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Have you? It is not too late if you are listening to this message and want to turn from your sins and your own way of life and come in to Christ.

I invite you right now, right here, to get right with God.

Because God is holy and brings judgement.

But He’s also merciful and offers atonement.

And, not only that, but He’s also gracious and preseves for Himself a remnant.

#3. REMNANT.

A remnant is a small group of faith-filled people that God preserves for Himself, even when He brings large-scale judgment.

A remnant is proof that God is still working even when all seems lost.

The principle of the remnant is all over the Bible.

But what I want to show you this morning is what happened to Korah’s sons.

But you say, Korah’s sons? They all died in the judgment!

Uh uh. Skip ahead to chapter 26, verses 10&11. It tells the story again.

“The earth opened its mouth and swallowed [Dathan and Abiram] along with Korah, whose followers died when the fire devoured the 250 men. And they served as a warning sign. [Catch this!] The line of Korah, however, did not die out.”

It turns out that at least some of Korah’s sons didn’t stand with Korah when the judgment came. They separated themselves from Korah and his rebellion.

And they didn’t die out.

In fact, most Bible scholars believe that they became the Sons of Korah that we read about in the Psalms.

Psalm 42, Psalm 44, Psalm 45, Psalm 46, Psalm 47, Psalm 48, Psalm 49, Psalm 84, Psalm 85, Psalm 87, and Psalm 88 were all written by these men called the Sons of Korah.

They didn’t go in the direction their father did.

God preserves a remnant for His glory.
God saves people out of judgment into ministry!
And He is doing that right here, right now with us.

Praise God! That He preserves a remnant by means of atonement to escape judgment and serve Him in ministry.

If you are a Christ-follower, that’s really a description of you.

Praise God!

0 comments: