Generally the story of the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16 is used to illustrate the judgment of God on sin in very dramatic fashion. But there is a beautiful story of grace here too, hidden within the passages. If you remember Korah initiated a rebellion against Moses, claiming in their pride that they too should lead the Children of Israel.
1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; 2 and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. 3 They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” 4 So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face; 5 and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him.
Clearly God had established Moses as their leader, He had called him at the burning bush and used him mightily before both Pharaoh and the Children of Israel. To say Moses had exalted himself over them was more a revelation of the inner jealous ambition of Korah than describing the ways of Moses. It was also rejecting the path they were currently following. Remember the pillar of fire still lead them by night and the pillar of smoke by day. They had a clear guide to where God wanted them to be they just didn’t like what that called them to do. Given authority they would have rebelled and headed back to Egypt or into the Promised Land before God wanted them to go and not the way the Lord was leading them.
12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, but they said, “We will not come up! 13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you should keep acting like a prince over us? 14 Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!” 15 Then Moses was very angry, and said to the Lord, “Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt one of them.”
They sought to disobey and disregard God thinking they knew the way they should go and were rejecting the one God raised up to lead them, Moses. So the day of reckoning came, and Korah and those who followed him, (in a test of whom God had established as leaders), were swallowed by the earth as a great crack opened up underneath them. God in so doing, demonstrated His authority and power.
23 So the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’ ” 25 Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 And he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.” 27 So they got away from around the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, with their wives, their sons, and their little children. 28 And Moses said: “By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. 29 If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the Lord.” 31 Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. 33 So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly.
Yet they were swallowed by the ways of this Earth long before the ground ever received them. Any time we walk in pride and reject God we have in a sense already been swallowed by this world. We are already falling into its dark chasm and its end is death spiritually. This was just a physical sign of what was going on in their dark hearts. Yet in the midst of judgment there was mercy shown here too.
The Sons of Korah received that mercy. They were not swallowed up by the earth as we read in Numbers 26.
9 The sons of Eliab were Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. These are the Dathan and Abiram, representatives of the congregation, who contended against Moses and Aaron in the company of Korah, when they contended against the Lord; 10 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up together with Korah when that company died, when the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men; and they became a sign. 11 Nevertheless the children of Korah did not die.
Korah’s children did not die though as their parents did. God spared them and had a plan for them. It came to my mind that many of us have the same life, the same story. Our parents may have been swallowed up in the ways of the world, rebelling and rejecting God. They may have rejected His ways, His path to the Promised Land and those who whom He sent to lead us there especially Jesus, one who was greater than Moses. It is the natural heritage that we would’ve assumed left to ourselves but we were rescued by the mercies of God. Just like the sons of Korah, whom God had a plan for. They were set aside to proclaim the greatness of God in a grand way and their very words made it into scripture. We often do not read the little notes before the Psalms but in them is a clue to the story of God’s grace.
Psalms 42:1 NKJV To the Chief Musician. A Contemplation of the sons of Korah. As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God.
They who had received grace also were inspired to write Psalms 44, 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 84, 85, 87 and 88. This was the outcome of the mercies of God to them. Instead of being swallowed by the world they instead help lift up other’s souls to contemplate heaven. They created a different heritage, a good heritage in God’s eyes.
May we do the same with the grace given to us. Become a Son of Korah!
by Jeff Turner, 2015