Moses, by the mighty hand of the Lord God, rescued Israel and brought them out of Egypt. The Egyptians were struck with 10 different plagues which ultimately resulted in the first born of Egypt being struck down by God’s angel of death. In return, God’s first born, Israel, was spared and saved. The Red Sea opened and dried up and the people crossed from the domain of slavery and bondage into the realm of freedom and service to the God of Israel. Korah, along with all the elders and the heads of the families of Israel ventured out through the Red Sea into the wilderness en route to the Promised Land.
Korah in Exodus chapter 6 represents the fallen man who has encountered the savior and in spite of the offer of rescue and deliverance, resists and rejects the offer in unbelief! It was not until God demonstrated His awesome power, by unleashing a series of judgmental curses upon Egypt, that Korah and all the rest of the children of God realized who this God was. He was unlike any one of the gods of Egypt: silent, immobile, impotent! The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob was a LIVING God who heard, spoke, and responded to the circumstances with appropriate actions. He was a different God from all others. Thus by proving His power and might through His servant Moses, all Israel came to believe and trust Him as God! Likewise, the fallen and lost man, in the manner of Korah and Israel, is an unbeliever by birth and substance until God demonstrates His power and love in a single act of placing His own Son on the cross to gain our trust and belief in Him and His purpose for us. Yes! Just as there was a Passover lamb prepared and substituted for each and every Israelite who trusted in the efficacy of its shed blood, so was Jesus Christ our Lord given up and offered up as a sacrifice for all man’s unbelief, rebellion, and sin in order to open to way for man’s escape from the tyranny of Satan and entrance into God’s wonderful and blessed presence and fellowship. Jesus was not only in type the Passover Lamb, but He, as the firstborn of His Father, was struck in our stead that we may live. Similarly one firstborn son was struck that night in Egypt for another to live! What a marvelous grace! What a horrific price God had to pay for the redemption and the freedom of His people from slavery to sin and death!
All Israelites, including Korah and his family, had taken the blood and applied it to the door posts of their homes as a sign of their absolute and unconditional trust in the promise of safety and rescue made by God in lieu of the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. They had all eaten of the roasted lamb coupled with bitter herbs, representative of fellowship in the life of the lamb and the remembrance of their bitter and painful slavery in Egypt. They had all exited in haste from Egypt as the Red Sea parted and ushered them into the newness of a new life on the other side of the sea of death! It’s no coincidence that the name of the sea is “Red”, signifying death. As Israel was saved from the judgement of the angel of death and later from the wrath of Pharaoh by and through the Passover lamb and the crossing of the Red Sea respectively, likewise, we as the New Testament believers experience such salvation and rescue in and through Christ. We experience Christ as our Savior, the Passover Lamb when we believe and receive the benefits of the shed blood of God’s Son on the cross and are thus saved from the penalty of sin and the curse of the Law. And as we obediently enter the waters of baptism, in type the Red Sea, we forsake our past identity and die to the world and enter the newness of life in Christ (Romans 6:4). The Red Sea signifies passage from the world into the life and the fellowship of God through death (entrance into the sea) and resurrection, (exit from the sea).
In I Cor. 10:1-11, Apostle Paul brings up the example of Israel’s experience in the wilderness as an object lesson for the believers in Corinth. He writes, “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all (including Korah and his family) our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, all ate the same spiritual food (referring to Manna which was a type of Christ and His life), and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ. But with Most of them God was not pleased, for their bodies were scattered in the wilderness. Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted and do not become idolaters as were some of them. As it is written, ‘the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.’ Nor let us commit sexual immorality, as some of them did, and in one day twenty-three thousand fell; nor let us tempt Christ, as some of them tempted, and were destroyed by serpents; nor complain, as some of them also complained, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.”
Paul states that all Israelites which included Korah and all the leaders of the tribes of Israel experienced the manifold provision and protection of the Lord in bringing them out of Egypt for the purpose of taking them into the land of Canaan. The Old Testament, as Paul so emphatically insists, is a mirror image, a shadow, an example, and a type of the conditions that do and will prevail under the New Covenant, with the marked difference that the Old Testament is literal and physical, whereas the New is spiritual and internal! The principles that operated in the Old Testament have relevance and application in the New to the extent that they are authored by the same God and His plans and purposes have not changed since Genesis 1:26 as the bedrock of His counsel. “Let Us create man in Our own image and in Our likeness, and let them have dominion…” God has sought to have His dominion fully expressed and lived out in and throughout man, who He created for this specific reason, and He will obtain such humanity in the end as revealed in the Book of Revelation. What transpires between Genesis 1:26 and Revelation is the process of the humanity coming into full view, whose federal head and sustainer is Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul insists that Israel had the same relationship to God under the Old covenant as the church has to Christ under the New Covenant. In the Old Moses was the means and the savior of the people of God; in the New Christ is the means and the Savior of the people. As they were redeemed by the blood of the Passover lamb in the Old Testament, so are we redeemed under the blood of Christ in the New Testament. As they passed through the Red Sea and were saved from the hand of the Pharaoh, so are we saved from the control of Satan and his kingdom by passing through the waters of baptism. As they fellowshipped and were thus sustained by the manna and the water from the Rock, so are we sustained and nurtured by the word and the Spirit of God in Christ. As they were guided by the angels on their journey, so are we guided by the Holy Spirit on our journey to God’s kingdom. The parallels and the similarities are too many to mention and elaborate in detail, but suffice to say that Israel was the redeemed people of God under the Old Covenant whereas the church is the redeemed people of God under the New Covenant. The individual Israelite was a child of Jehovah by the virtue of the covenantal sign God had imposed on Israel such as the circumcision, but we are individually the children of God by the sign of the New Covenant, the death and the resurrection of Christ. Korah had all the markings of an Israelite and was truly and certainly an Israelite. There is no doubt as to his real identity and relationship to God. He was God’s child by covenant of promise through his ancestral fathers and the signs that accompanied these covenants.
The reason I am addressing this issue here is the question of who or what Korah represents. We can look at the life of this man and decide that he was the portrayal of an unbeliever who rebelled against God, just as Adam and Eve did, or we can look at him in this light as a child of Israel who fell into a grave sin and reaped the consequence of that sin. In examining the life of this man, I am convinced that in Exodus 6, he, being in Egypt and under bondage of Pharaoh represents humanity in general who are in slavery to sin and Satan’s kingdom. He, and all Israel, portray the condition of humanity before the coming of Christ to this world 2000 years ago, but once they were redeemed and taken out of Egypt, they no longer represent the unbelieving humanity, even though the elements of unbelief are still present in them, but they are now under a new Covenant with the God of Israel and are as such, saved and God’s own possession.
Korah in Exodus 6 is an unbeliever, but in Numbers 16 He is a fully redeemed believer. He stands on the ground of God’s manifold covenantal dealings with the nation of Israel. He is the recipient and beneficiary of the covenant of God with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as he is also the recipient of God’s promises made to and through Moses. He has witnessed the coming of the divine Law from the mountain, he may even have been one of the seventy elders who went up on the mountain to dine with God.
Paul lists 5 sins committed by Israel in the wilderness that caused their demise and failure: lusting after Evil things (Numbers 11:4), idol worship (Exodus 32:6), sexual immorality (Numbers 25:1-9), tempting Christ (Numbers 21:6-9), and complaining against God and His messenger (Numbers 16)!
Each of these actions and sins were the result of one major underlying factor that caused God’s people such disastrous experiences and results: Unbelief! These people had believed to come out, but had failed to believe that He who had brought them out with such might and power was also able to take them in to the Promised Land safe and sound. Isn’t this what Paul reassured the believers in Philippi when he wrote, “being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you (saved you) will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”?
The Israelites had faith to come out, but no faith to go in. They had faith unto salvation for Egypt, but no faith unto entrance into the land of Canaan. They had saving faith but no living faith! Their faith in God literally ended the moment they got out of the Red Sea and stepped on to the sands of the wilderness. They became visual instead of spiritual. The seen was so deceptive to them (having expected to see the land flowing with milk and honey, instead what they saw was sand and arid desert) that they trusted their senses instead of the one who had the power and the grace to see them through the wilderness, fully providing for all their needs in order for them to enter the land in fulness and victory! Before we read the Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16, we must see all that transpired that finally lead to this ugly confrontation that ended in such tragic ending. The Bible must be read in its full and correct context to see the depth and the true spiritual meaning of what the Lord is saying and expecting. Here, in studying the life of Korah, as we saw in Exodus chapter 6, we ought to pay attention to events prior to the infamous chapter 16 in order to fully comprehend what Korah represents and how it applies to us, believers of the New Covenant.
The incidents leading up to and including the incident known as the “rebellion of Korah” are mostly recorded in the book of Numbers. Even though this book takes its name from the fact that it begins and continues to enumerate the people of Israel in a census like manner, underneath all those numbers and statistical facts, a spiritual cancer is eating away at the very fabric of the nation of Israel. This cancer is none other than unbelief! Israel simply has lost her ability to believe God and His promises uttered through His word. The problem of sin and slavery was dealt with in Egypt through the Passover lamb. The problem of the world and attachments to it were resolved in crossing the Red Sea. But man faces four different foes he must contend with before he is totally emancipated and free: Slavery to sin, the world, the flesh, and finally Satan himself. Israel in type was made free of the first two elements. They were free from bondage and slavery, freed from the kingdom of Pharaoh, but were still very much entangled in the flesh and its obsessive drive. Likewise, we as the New Testament believers experience freedom from slavery to sin, are emancipated from the world through the testimony of water baptism, but our flesh still remains undealt and a source of trouble and ensnarement. Upon entry into the Promised Land and the leadership of Joshua, Israel having cleansed the land of the inhabitants of the land found rest and security and experienced the goodness of the Lord coupled with abundant fulness and life. Likewise, He will someday, as seen in the book of Revelation 12, conquer the heavenly realms where Satan and his forces currently have taken as command center, and will liberate the world of his influence and thus our world will experience what the Bible calls the “kingdom of God”, a realm and period where there is nothing in the world but fulness, light, and life! Meanwhile, and as we see in the Israel’s experience as well, flesh becomes the major obstacle in achieving this fulness and life! Flesh is the internal defenses Satan has erected in our lives to support and maintain his rule over our lives and to repel any notion of God’s rule and dominion in our lives.
Israel was forgiven, was delivered, but remained utterly fleshy and carnal! Someone has said that it took God one night to take Israel out of Egypt, but it took Him 40 years to take Egypt out of Israel! How true this is in our lives. To experience God’s abundant forgiveness of sins is literally an instant of time when the sinner comes to God’s throne of mercy of grace and asks for forgiveness on the basis of Christ’s finished and perfect work on the cross, but it takes a lifetime of struggle and striving to be made rid of the power of the flesh in the life of the believer. We are all living epistles attesting to this often painful and yet very real challenge and struggle!
Israel, as much as was delivered from the penalty and the judgment of death in Egypt, and as much as her identity and ownership and relationship to God was changed following her exit through the Red Sea, needed to be freed from the power and the control of flesh which would have rendered her useless and her testimony ineffective among the nations she was sent to be God’s Royal ambassador and regent of His kingdom on this planet. Israel had come into freedom, but freedom had not come into Israel!
So the entire journey of Israel in the wilderness, her failure to enter the Promised Land, her utter defeat time and time again was the most clear and convincing evidence of the presence of flesh in her!
Thus we come back to Korah! What and who is this man?
I am convinced that the Bible clearly reveals to us the battle between the flesh and the spirit as the inner conflict of every child of God. Korah is sensuality of man without the in-filling of the Spirit of God! Jesus declared in John 3:6, “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Adam and Eve were created in God’s image and likeness in order to have and to exercise dominion over all God’s creation. They were spiritual in their disposition and orientation. They were under God’s protective and sovereign grace. The Garden of Eden represented this protection and sovereign grace. They had access to all the goodness of God and His creation, save the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
What transpired in the Garden of Eden with the enticement brought about by Satan was rebellion, a declaration of independence from God and His rule, a separation from the order of things God had initiated and instituted, and an outright desire on behalf of the first couple to be self-focused and self-centered. In many ways, as we shall see, this rebellion was similar to what happened with Korah and his company.
Korah represents the rebellious nature of the fallen Adamic race at its best!
Now let’s continue our reading of the scriptures in understanding the person and the rebellion of Korah. As said before, our next encounter with Korah, passed the Exodus 6 incident, is Numbers 16.
“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; 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. 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 you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”
Here we see a major confrontation initiated by Korah and the leaders of the Reubenites in opposing the authority of Moses and Aaron. Prior to this, we read in Numbers 1 through 5, a number of important facts. In Numbers 1 and 2, Israel conducts a census of all her tribes and the various tribes are commanded by God to be placed in specific arrangement around the Tabernacle of Meeting (testimony). This was the second Passover Israel celebrated away from Egypt and out in the wilderness in preparation to enter the land of Canaan. During this time, God had begun feeding them with Manna, the heavenly food in order to change their diet and transform them into a new people for Himself. He had given them water from the Rock. He had revealed His divine expectations in from of the 10 essential commandments, and had revealed through Moses, the means of worship and appropriation of perpetual forgiveness and mercy in and through the sacrificial and ceremonial acts performed in the Tabernacle of Meeting (or Testimony). All these we read in the book of Exodus and Leviticus. Here in Numbers, once the first anniversary is celebrated, Israel is brought to the borders of Canaan in order to enter the Promised Land.
Then in Numbers 3, we see the record of the sons of Aaron and the duties of the Levites in the Tabernacle. In Numbers 3:5, we read, “And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest that they may serve him. And they shall attend to his needs and the needs of the whole congregation before the Tabernacle of Meeting, to do the work of the tabernacle. Also they shall attend to all the furnishings of the Tabernacle of Meeting, and to the needs of the children of Israel, to do the work of the tabernacle. And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; They are given entirely to him from among the children of Israel. So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall attend to their priesthood; but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death. Now behold I myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every first born who opens womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be mine, because all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They shall be mine: I am the Lord.’”
We are clearly told by Moses that the tribe of Levi was supposed to be involved in the work of ministering to the Lord. Thus, they were to present themselves to Aaron who would be priest, standing between God and man as the mediator (the sons of Aaron are also mentioned as ones worthy of rendering priestly ministry because Aaron’s life was limited and since the office of priesthood was to be a perpetual and everlasting covenant between God and man, thus such transition from generation to generation was necessary. Contrast this with the priesthood of the Lord Jesus, which is eternal and perpetual in nature and function, due to His resurrection and glorification in Heaven). The spiritual point in this passage is significant, namely:
- 1.Only Aaron was to act as priest for and to God. In like manner, Jesus Christ is the only mediator and person worthy of interceding for us in the presence and at the throne of God (1 Tim. 2:5). Jesus Christ is the only person God would allow and accept any intercession or sacrifice, due to the fact that He is the one and only Son of God, without sin, and the perfect and unblemished Lamb of God.
- 2.Humanity is called into a very special office and vocation. We are called into serving Christ, just as the Levites were to serve the needs of the priest and the people of God. We have been created with a specific purpose in mind. God did not create us because He was lonely and needed companionship, even though one day and forever, the redeemed man will be God’s companion and fellowship with Him forever. We were created to fulfill the needs of Christ, the High Priest of the Lord and ultimately the needs of His people. We are saved, forgiven, and restored for one reason; to serve the high priest of our confession and His people. Our life is about service to the Lord and His people and not about ourselves. We are not saved to be served, but saved to serve! The Levites were to serve Aaron. We are to serve the Lord Jesus.
- 3.This service required an entire and whole hearted presentation to Aaron. They were to forsake everything else in their lives and totally dedicate themselves to the service of the Tabernacle, the priest, and the people of God. There were not “part-time” Levites! They were either a Levite or not! They could not pursue self-interests or other vocations. They were entirely Aaron’s. Likewise, we as the children of God under the New Covenant that was instituted and ratified by the blood of the Lord Jesus Himself, are to be totally and unconditionally dedicated and presented to God, for the work of the ministry and the service rendered to the Lord Jesus our High Priest.
Paul in Romans 12:1 says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies as living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service”.
Just as the Levites were to draw near to God, on the basis of the already shed blood of the Passover, so must we draw near to God in full assurance of the blood that was shed in Calvary for our forgiveness and salvation.
Just as the Levites, who with God’s representative people called into a wonderful and special vocation of serving the priest Aaron and his needs, so are we, as God’s people are called into a wonderful and special vocation of serving the Lord Jesus and His needs. The mercies of God on the cross has made this possible for us to draw near to Him and His people. According to Paul, and just as the Levites were supposed to do, we are to present our bodies totally dedicated to God’s purposes and will, just as the sacrifice was utterly and entirely placed on the altar (in our case its not only utterly and entirely, but willingly also!) to be consumed by the fire of purification and identification streaming through the sovereignty of God and His kingdom in our lives. We live and yet we are always a “living sacrifice”. We exist, but we exist for Him and for His purposes. The days of our selfish and obsessive lives for ourselves is past, behold we have become a new creation; one that is willing to live on the altar! We live on the altar and apart from its message and power we desire nothing else. Our life is the life of the altar, being a sacrifice that lives to testify of the person of God and His counsel.
This mindset and such presentation makes us “holy and acceptable to God”. God will savor the sweet aroma of our lives being consumed with His love and grace. He will experience us as we experience Him. He will live in us as we live in Him; a mutual and deliberate infusion of our lives to serve His ends.
This is ultimately our “reasonable service”, a service that must be this way to begin with! This is the norm and not the exception! This is how and why we were created and what was expected of us. We were created to serve Him and that would have been our reasonable service.
I want you to parallel another New Testament passage that deals with this subject, in harmony with this section of Numbers.
In Ephesians 4:11 we read, “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…”
Here Paul is presenting the various offices given by God to the church, the fivefold ministries of the church, for a specific purpose. Just as the Tabernacle of Meeting or Testimony needed the Levites to help Aaron in achieving his duties and calling, so are we called and chosen to various ministries within the body of Christ to fulfill Christ’s need for His body.
Just as the Levites were to help the people of God to offer their due offerings and sacrifices to the Lord, so are we and, everyone of us as the Lord enables us within the body of Christ to help equip each other for the work of ministering up. The Levites served both the priest (Aaron) and the people of God. We are also to serve both the Lord in our personal life and worship and the people of the Lord in our corporate life and fellowship.
In Numbers 2, we see the distribution and the arrangement of the tribes in relation to the Tabernacle. We notice that Judah is on the East side of the Tabernacle, facing the entrance to the tabernacle accompanied by Aaron and his sons from the tribe of Levi. This signifies the redemption and kingdom and access to the presence and the throne of God’s grace and sovereignty is only and only through Jesus Christ, who was from the tribe of Judah and is a priest in the Heavenly Tabernacle offering His blood and interceding for His people.
To the South of the Tabernacle were the children of Reuben, Simeon, Gad along with the Levites from the family of Kohath; specifically the children of Amramites, Izharites, Hebronites, and Uzzielites (3:27). If you recall Korah was an Izharite! He was camped on the south side of the tabernacle. And who was he accompanying from the children of Jacob? Reubenites! You will recall that the conspirators were Korah of the Levites and Dathan, Abiram, and On, the Reubenites!
In Numbers 11, we see the first incident of complain recorded in this book, as people celebrated the second Passover. The people had camped in the wilderness for one year, during which time God had instructed them about His law, had made them erect the Tabernacle, and various other laws and ordinances of social nature and application were instituted. This was a period of learning and experiencing the majesty of God. God was new and exciting to them. Everyday something exciting would happen and they would see some new aspect of God. Life was good and they were happy to be a child of Israel and God’s chosen people. However, there is a phenomenon that if one neglects to watch for and yields to it, spiritual disaster looms in the not too far distance. This I call the principle of the Second Passover. It is no longer the first Passover but the second one. It’s no longer as exciting as it used to be. God has lost His flavor and taste! The common expression “been there, done that” takes hold of our mind and heart and we become insensitive to the moving of God. We lose sight of the goal for which we are saved and redeemed. We are not at the verge of becoming wilderness wanderers. The first step in the fall of a believer from the enjoyment and the fullness of God’s life is the Second Passover principle! It’s like wearing a second hand dress or eating day old food! Once we begin to accept such mindset and fall into the trap of second Passover syndrome, the slippery slope quickly becomes the path of choice and we begin to backslide. How many children of God have we met, perhaps including ourselves as one of those, who have had a wonderful and ablazing repentance and conversion followed by a sudden and inexplicable coldness and indifference in the second year! The church is full of these children of the Lord who are in the Second Passover phase and are complaining to the Lord! Jesus warned the church in Ephesus that they had lost their first Love! Perhaps they had caught the second Passover disease and were no longer in love with the Lord, just as the people of Israel had begun losing their devotion and love for Jehovah and thus complaining had replaced praise and worship! The New Testament church in Ephesus that was founded by Apostle Paul and was a model church to whom the apostle Paul wrote perhaps the greatest revelational epistle, were at the turn of the first century in danger of losing their lampstand of testimony before the Lord! The first love had become the Second Love! The magic and the wonder of the first Passover had become the dullness and the monotony of the second Passover! Love was not out of combustion of the soul with the goodness and the faithfulness of the Lord, but out of compulsion of duty and responsibilities of adherence and upholding of orthodoxy and fundamentalism! A truly great tragedy of unimaginable proportion! Chapter 11 is the seed of what happened in chapter 16. I have taken time here to elaborate the background events and causes of the rebellion of chapter 16 for the reader to understand what Korah truly and actually represents. Without this perspective, I am afraid, we will judge Korah without ever considering ourselves as very much and very typically a Korah in our spiritual quest and progression.
In Numbers 12, Aaron and Miriam rise in opposition to Moses and accuse him of having married an Ethiopian woman and further accuse him of monopolizing the office of prophet and leader over the people of Israel. They said, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” They were referring to the incident in Numbers 11:16-30 where God asked Moses to appoint 70 elders who would receive a portion of his (Moses’) spiritual anointing for the purpose of helping Moses in leading the people of God. In verse 25 we read that as they were given of the Spirit of the Lord, that “they prophecied”. In other words, they became God’s mouthpiece for that moment in time, even though the word of God says in the same verse that “they never did so again”. Here in Numbers 12, Aaron and Miriam are referring to this incident and accuse Moses of elevating himself above the others. Now the rebellion has entered its second phase. The first phase of it is the Second Passover syndrome. Discontentment and dullness of faith. The second phase of this cancer sets in as they begin to criticize the vessel of God’s choice and personal attacks are launched at him. Once we become blind to our own condition, we begin to look for faults in others. Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5 said, “Judge not that you be not judged. For with what judgement you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you and why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eyes? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye; and look, a plank is in your eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”
Aaron and Miriam had the plank of Second Passover sickness in their hearts and they were picking on Moses’ wife and her ancestry which in God’s estimation was less important and relevant to the matter at hand. As a matter of fact, part of the Second Passover disease as caused by the “mixed multitude who were among them”. Moses’ wife was a wife of His youth from the time Moses was in the wilderness of the Medians and she had acted more out of faith and obedience to the Lord than many Jewish women had. The plank was not the wife of Moses, but the hundreds and perhaps thousands of foreign women and men who were in the camp of Israel. Moses’ wife was the speck compared to the plank in Israel!
This has always been the trend and the natural outcome of backsliding which begins with the second Passover and craving after the food from Egypt. Our eyes are turned back to the world and we begin craving for what we used to have and eat. Discontentment sets in. Apostle Paul warns Timothy of this truth by saying, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6), and the reverse is a great loss!
Then accusations and harsh judgement of people’s specks become our preoccupation as we slide further down the slope of failure on the way to the edge of the cliff that spells doom for us!
So as you can very clearly see, the downfall has begun with the whole of the people. Korah is the terminal stage of the inner cancer of the people’s carnality and selfishness!
In chapter 13 of Numbers, we see the most important failure of the people of Israel west of Jordan: namely their inability to enter the land promised to them by God due to unbelief. Unbelief is the direct result of Second Passover principle! Once life in God becomes routine and dull; once we come to view everything in the spiritual realm as “been there, done that”; once we begin to look back and reminisce the false goodness and pleasure of the world as embodied in the concept of Egypt, forgetting the burdens and the harshness of Satan’s cruelty; and once we begin to dare open our mouths and utter displeasure and discontentment, we will end up in the marshlands and the quicksands of unbelief.
Moses appointed 12 spies, one from each tribe, to survey the land and bring report back to the people. The reason God wanted them to survey the land was not only to see the giants and the walled cities, but to experience the beauty and the fullness that was awaiting them and to trigger their faith in trusting their Lord for full recovery and possession of their ancestral land. Instead, they return with bad reports, save Joshua and Caleb. It’s ironic that they carry the produce of the land and yet have no faith to possess the land. They know the goodness that awaits them and yet, they are paralyzed with fear and unbelief! They see but can not believe! They taste but can not enjoy! Isn’t this what the writer of Hebrews had in mind when he wrote in Hebrews 6:1 which is a parallel passage to Numbers 13? “Therefore (referring to the fact that the rest of God, or the promise of entry into the millennial kingdom as typed by Canaan) leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ (everything Israel experienced in the wilderness prior to entry into the land of Canaan in comparison to the magnitude and the greatness of the land was simply preliminary and rudimentary! The Law was elementary compared to words given by prophets who would appear one day in the land! The Tabernacle would be replaced with the Temple, and ultimately all of these would be replaced with the true Law-giver Himself and His true Temple), let us go on to perfection (maturity or full age which refers to exit from the childlikeness of the wilderness life into the adolescence of the promised land), not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment (all the lessons learned in the wilderness were mostly about these matters. They were not supposed to stay in that state in the wilderness and keep repeating the same things over and over again). And this (going on to maturity and perfection as signified by the entry into the land) we will do if God permits (God will permit those who have set their minds and their hearts in faith to enter as mentioned in Heb. 4:3,6,9 and 10. If we have not hardened our hearts as had the Israelites done due to the principle of Second Passover, we will be able to enter that rest or promised land in type by faith in the spirit now and later physically upon the return of the Lord Jesus). For it is impossible (God did not allow a single soul from the original redeemed people to enter except Joshua and Caleb) for those who were once enlightened (the Law and the tabernacle had enlightened the people of God who were already redeemed under the blood of the Passover Lamb and on the right side of the Red Sea), and have tasted the heavenly gift (referring to the gift of the Holy Spirit upon conversion [ref. Acts 2:38] as was the crossing from the Red Sea and the subsequent feeding of the people by the manna and the water from the Rock which was Christ Himself [1 Cor. 10:4], and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit and have tasted the good word of God (the people had partaken of the Holy Spirit in type by drinking of the Rock and eating the manna and having heard the Law in their own ears) and the powers of the age to come (they had witnessed the supernatural powers of God in the many wondrous and miraculous works He had done in and for the people) if (it is totally possible therefore for a believer to reach this point) they fall away (not lose their identity as the children of God, nor being disowned by God, but simply drift away and distance themselves from the command of God to enter His fullness and victory by faith [refer to Heb. 2:11), to renew them again to repentance (repentance here refers not to the repentance of people of God because we know that the day after their rejection of the invitation to enter by God, they repented and desired to go in [refer to Numbers 14:39-45], but to God repenting or changing His mind about His people becoming disqualified to enter. God has commanded us to enter His life and fullness by faith and allow the work of full conformity to the image of Christ which is typed in the possession of the land to be completed in us. If we refuse to allow God to bring about such transformation in our lives, He will not change His mind about His verdict in our life: we will always be His redeemed children and yet not worthy to rule and reign with Jesus Christ in His kingdom. God does not change His mind. The word repentance refers to change of mind and not necessarily to an act of confession and seeking of forgiveness), since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame (Israel’s failure caused the nations to ridicule them and their God in failing to bring them in. They had to go back and re-enact their redemption and justification many times over as they wandered in the wilderness for forty years. These years were the years of crucifying the Son of God and out Him to an open shame. When a believer continues to live in the flesh, as were the Israelites doing, he will wander in the wilderness and continue to seek mercy and forgiveness by re-erecting the scene of the cross in his life, thus openly putting Christ to shame. Christ is shamed because of the lack of faith on the part of His church who do not enter that spiritual rest and victory in the spirit and in the realm of the soul life).
The book of Numbers is a picture perfect view of FLESH in action. At the cost of being misunderstood, I must state this fact that: the blood of Jesus will not disarm the flesh! Baptism does not do it either. Ritualism and formalism fail miserably! Even being in the midst of God’s people does not yield the flesh inoperative. Flesh will disguise itself and take many masks upon itself only resurface at opportune times to ignite the displeasure of God and the loss of spiritual standing with the Lord. Jesus said it so profoundly, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh…” The blood of Jesus forgives sins, but it does not deal with the power of the flesh! That remains as a living experience of every child of God and the yielding to the scrutiny and the often painful dealings of the Cross of Christ. The cross crushes the self life and holds it in a state of death and ongoing abandonment. Israel was forgiven but the flesh was no forgotten! The flesh was very much alive and well! Korah was the role model of how the flesh would arrive at such a low point in the life of an otherwise great prince and a man with great calling and vocation.
Therefore, we see in Numbers 11 complain, Numbers 12 criticism, Numbers 13 unbelief, Numbers 14 fleshly remedies, and finally before the 16 arriving we have the chapter 15 of Numbers which answer and remedies all the previous chapters in Numbers by offering the grain and drink offering; both referring to the work of the cross in purifying and refining of the believer in the face of his fleshiness! Notice in 15:17-21 we read, “Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: When you come into the land to which I bring you, then it will be, when you eat of the bread of the land, that you shall offer up a heave offering to the Lord. You shall offer a cake of the first of your ground meal as a heave offering; as a heave offering of the threshing floor, so shall you offer it up. Of the first of you ground meal you shall give it to the Lord a heave offering throughout your generations’”.
The implication here is a cake of bread that is totally grounded to fine flour having been taken from the grain of the threshing floor! Do you remember what John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and the scribes who had come to question him on his baptism and identity? He said, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruit worthy of repentance. And do not think to say to yourselves, ‘we have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
The believer in the face of such repugnant and repulsive exposure of his flesh and the acting out of the flesh needs the pressing and the crushing of his outer and hardened shell of the self life and energy. The cross as the instrument of thorough and complete cleaning out of every and any race of flesh and self will execute judgment in the flesh and its authority by the revelation of the word of God in the life of believer and powder the stiff-necked flesh and its rebellion into soft and useful power like flour which in the hands of the Lord Jesus as the high priest of our confession can be baked into a sweet and pleasant cake which would experience heaving which signifies resurrection and an abundant entry into the kingdom to rule and reign with Christ (Phil. 3:1-12).
Chapter 15 stands as the remedy of the previous chapters should the believer yield and allow the Holy Spirit to take control of one’s life. Failure to surrender at this point in the process and allow the Lord to break and deal with the flesh will be fatal in consequence as we are finally ushered into the dark and frightening 16th chapter with Korah in full bloom and ready to manifest the ugliest of all flesh’s claims: the priesthood!
I hope and trust that this lengthy but necessary background preparation has enlightened the reader to the context of the rebellion of Korah and its consequences. It was not simply an accidental and purely unintended mistake. The root of it had gone back as far as the exodus itself. The flesh will escape the blood and the Red Sea, but it will finally meet its match in Numbers 16. Korah can not remain unchecked! He will eventually stick his head out of the mask of religiosity and spirituality, causing great defilement of God’s people and a retardation of God’s wok in the life of the believer, but God allows this to go on and eventually come to full manifestation that He would once and for all crucify it and render it powerless and inoperative.
With this view and understanding we now will examine the rebellion, its true meaning, its consequences, and the grace of God in the midst of all the tragedy and loss!
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