Yesterday, we explored the story of Korah as told in Numbers 16. It’s a pretty dark cautionary tale about not getting too big for one’s britches, and being content with your lot in life.
Just the warm, fuzzy message you were looking for as we move deeper into the holiday season, right? You’re welcome, reader(s).
But don’t worry, we’re not done.
There is a pretty encouraging message in the Korah story, but you won’t find it easily in Numbers 16. Fast forward 10 chapters to the Second Census documented in Numbers 26, and you’ll find this short passage:
‘The line of Korah, however, did not die out.’ – Numbers 26:11
Korah’s sons were not among the ~250 swallowed up by the earthquake or burned up in the fire. In Numbers 16:24, just before these dramatic executions, Moses told the Assembly of Israel to put some distance between themselves and the tents of Korah and his followers. And Korah’s sons apparently obeyed. They saw their dad’s folly and wanted no part of it.
And God spared them.
What’s more, He used them.
The Korahites are mentioned a couple of times in the Books of Chronicles as important attendants in the temple, so they served in precisely the role to which their family had been called in Numbers 16. For example, they’re described as gatekeepers of the Temple, in 1 Chronicles 9:17-19.
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And, as men after my own heart, they were also worship leaders. Eleven of the 150 Psalms are attributed to the Korahites: Psalm 42, Psalms 44 -49, Psalm 84, Psalm 85, Psalm 87 and Psalm 88.
Of these, my two favorites are 42 and 84 – which were adapted by Martin Nystrom and Matt Redman respectively into famous worship songs As the Deer and Better is One Day.
As I ponder these facts, and look at the text with the 20/20 goggles of hindsight, I can see several lessons here in the story of the Korahites:
- We don’t have to worry that God will indiscriminately lump us in with those around us. If you don’t let your horrible family (or friends, or co-workers, or neighbors) make you horrible, He doesn’t hold them against you. As we established the other day, He’ll separate the sheep from the goats on the last day – so stay a sheep, even if you’re surrounded by goats.
- The Fifth Commandment (Honor your father and mother) doesn’t include standing with them against God. Loyalty is a virtue, but misplaced loyalty doesn’t honor God. Luke 14:25, which uses the word ‘hate’, but refers more to priority than emotion, makes that very clear.
- Work that seems pedantic and unglamourous to us in the here-and-now can be used by God in His own time and according to His own purpose to have staggering impact. Korah the Clod probably thought a lowly Levite would be a profoundly unsung hero, toiling away in obscurity, compared with his Aaronite cousins who got to do the real work for God as priests. But three millennia later, we’re still singing the songs written by his sons and grandsons.
I bet some of the Aaronite priests wish they’d left such a legacy.
Peace be with you.
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