God’s Sure Foundation
Please read Numbers 16 & 17 and 2 Timothy 2, 3, & 4:1-4.
The Gainsaying Of Core” was evidently in the mind of Paul when he wrote his Second Epistle to Timothy. The sad consequences of that affair were so disastrous that God sought to keep Israel in remembrance of them by means of “broad plates” which were used to cover the altar. The brazen altar is no more; but the necessity to be continually reminded of the lesson which those plates taught, remains: and always will as long as there are men who will repeat the sin of Korah.
The Rebellion Of Korah
The rebellion of Korah and his adherents was three-fold: they sinned against God, against Moses, and against themselves; for they are described as “. . sinners against their own souls”. This identifies it as the work of the arch-rebel, Satan.
Korah’s complaint to Moses and Aaron was, “Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?” Dathan and Abiram added insolence to this accusation: they refused to come to Moses at his request and charged him with deception. The revolt spread throughout the camp. Korah succeeded in gaining the confidence, not only of “… two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown”, but of all the congregation; for he gathered them all to the door of the tabernacle, where the glory of the Lord appeared unto them.
It is evident that before the sedition could have become so extensive there must have been much secret conspiracy among the people. Their defection was brought about, no doubt, in three stages: first, they listened to Korah’s plausible plan; then they began to believe in it; and finally, they joined him actively. Their conversion to Korah’s ideas was so thorough that they persisted in them even after their leaders had suffered the judgment of God.
Moses was cast upon God. He fell on his face: not before the rebels, but before God. Moses did not attempt to vindicate himself: he threw the responsibility upon God. He had learned that he could do this when he was doing the will of God. In a later day God taught Jehoshaphat the same lesson when He said (2 Chronicles 25:15-17), “. . Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s … Ye shall not need to fight in this battle . . “ Moses was given grace to handle the matter according to the mind of God. He recalled that it was written (Numbers 3:10), “And thou shalt appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall wait on their priest’s office: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.” Moses, with the experience of Nadab and Abihu fresh in his memory (Leviticus 10:1-11), must have realized the solemnity of putting this scripture to the test when he suggested that both Aaron and Korah and his company take censers, and, with incense, approach unto the Lord. He knew that the presumption of the rebels would meet with judgment, for he was on the sure foundation of the word of truth. That judgment was administered quickly by God Himself, for “ . . there came out a fire from the Lord, and consumed the two hundred and fifty men that offered incense.”
God answered the insurrection with three-fold judgment: fire, the pit, and the plague. These terrible consequences of sin foreshadowed the awful end reserved for the author of rebellion and all those who are his “. . where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:44). God vindicated Moses: not primarily for Moses’ sake, but, because he was appointed of God, rebellion against the authority of Moses was rebellion against God Himself. “The Lord will shew who are His, and who is holy; and will cause him to come near unto Him: even him whom He hath chosen will He cause to come near unto Him.” Then God demanded a clear-cut separation from those under condemnation: “Depart … from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins.”
Then, after the fire had fallen, God remembered mercy. “The censers of these sinners against their own souls, let them make them broad plates for a covering of the altar: . . to be a memorial unto the children of Israel, that no stranger, which is not of the seed of Aaron, come near to offer incense before the Lord; that he be not as Korah, and as his company . . “ Thus the Lord sought to warn coming generations in Israel of the danger of disregarding God’s order of approach unto Him. In spite of this ever-present memorial, however, no less a person than King Uzziah ‘ . . transgressed against the Lord his God, and went into the temple of the Lord to burn incense upon the altar of incense”, so bringing upon himself the plague of leprosy. (2 Chronicles 26:16).
Following these events, which resulted in the death of over fourteen thousand of the people: God gave Israel a “sign”, in order to settle once for all the question of His choice of who should approach unto Him and go before the people. Moses did not need this evidence: he was quite content to believe the word of God; but unbelieving Israel needed signs and wonders to convince them that God was still among them.
The rod is the symbol of leadership: so a rod from each tribe was laid up before the Lord. “And it shall come to pass,” said the Lord, “that the man’s rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from Me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you.” “And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.”
Thus God witnessed to His appointment of Moses and Aaron and the truth of His word. From a piece of dead wood God brought life and fruitfulness: thereby presenting a beautiful type of resurrection; pointing forward to the coming Great Leader Whom God would declare to be the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead (Romans 1:4). That fruitful rod was kept for an everlasting reminder of God’s authority. So the victorious resurrection of our Lord is ever to be kept in remembrance both as a living power in our lives and in our gospel testimony before the world.
The rebellion of Korah reveals in prophetic events the source, the nature, the aims, the methods, and the end of both the author and all those who spread evil doctrine. It also shows us the method whereby Satan’s purposes can be defeated and foretells that great work by which God has finally overcome the adversary. Surely we need not be ignorant of his devices.