Korach - קורח - "Korah"
Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and 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 a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the Lord will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him. (Numbers 16:1-5)
The message of Korah is often looked at as a message of rebellion but I believe that the message is far deeper than that. Many times when we read the scriptures we tend to forget that we are reading from the outside looking in. I believe that there many things happening in this week’s Torah port that are below the surface and should be considered when reading this account. Before we can get into what Korah is all about let us recap last week’s Torah portion.
In last week’s Torah portion 12 men were sent into Canaan to give a report of the land. When the 12 "spies" came back, 10 of the 12 gave a very discouraging report which caused Israel to totally lose sight of God and all that He has done for them. After 2 years of fleeing from Egypt they were ready to select a new leader, pack up and head back.
God's wrath rose against Israel, the 10 men died and He told them that everyone 20 years old and over would not enter the Promised Land, that Israel would walk the wilderness for 40 years until all the adults (except Joshua and Caleb) perish in the desert. Realizing that they were wrong, Israel tried to repent by storming the land but by that time it was too late because God had already past judgment. Despite Moses' opposition, they tried to fight anyway and suffered their very first major defeat.
When we read all of this it is very easy for us to ask, "Why did they lack so much faith?" "Why couldn't they just ‘get it’ and follow God with all their hearts?" Keep in mind that what Moses introduced to Israel was, and today still is, something extremely radical. In Egypt and throughout the world, gods are meant to be feared and worshiped only. Back then you lived to worship your god or gods and if you are lucky you just might get blessed. To actually have a god who loves you, cares for you and desires a personal relationship with you was totally unheard of. Israel did not grasp this concept because it was extremely foreign to the world that they lived in and it was totally beyond any logic they had at that time.
When worshiping a false god your actions produce faith, this is a completely opposite approach then what we experience with God.
With God, our faith produces our actions.
Israel as a whole could not understand this so there was bitterness and frustration brewing, not only because they could not understand what God was looking for in them but because their whole reason for leaving Egypt just vanished before their very eyes (For those 20 years old and older anyway).
While in Egypt, Israel was facing harsh slavery and oppression. They left Egypt because they were promised a land of their own flowing with milk and honey, they were promised peace and prosperity. They did not leave Egypt to wander the desert for 40 years, and on top of that, their fears may have been more solidified after their first crushing defeat at the hands of those living in the Promised Land. This is the atmosphere that we enter into as we begin to read this week's Torah portion.
Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and 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 a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (Numbers 16:1-3)
We don't know the length of time that took place from last week's Torah portion to what we read this week, but we do know that bitterness had been brewing. Korah, Dathan and Abiram did not grab just anyone to rebel against Moses, they enlisted 250 of Israel's chiefs, the chosen from the assembly. According to Exodus 18, there are 2 things that we know about these men:
1. They feared God.
2. They did not take bribes.
How could Korah, Dathan and Abiram convince such men to turn against Moses? If someone is not in tune with God to begin with, it is very easy to be swayed. Keep in mind that Israel did not understand God.
He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel (Psalm 103:7)
In the eyes of Korah and these men, Moses and Aaron failed them as leaders, we know that this is their main gripe based on their own words.
And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and they said, “We will not come up. 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 must also make yourself a prince over us? 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." (Numbers 16:12-14)
Numbers 16:12-14 reveals what was going on internally with these men. It is clear that their actions were against God, but in their minds they probably believed they were fighting for God. In their minds it was Moses and Aaron who was at fault for them not entering the Promised Land. Furthermore, they were under the impression that Moses was keeping them in the wilderness in order to rule over them. Their whole reason for leaving Egypt was snatched away from them, but because they did not understand faith they did not realize it was their fault and not Moses’.
Korah, Dathan and Abiram along with those 250 men were not being evil from their point of view; they were fighting the good fight. They were operating in the world's logic and in doing so were not unified spiritually with God. When you are not in spiritual sync with God even the things you do with good intentions can be evil. There’s an old saying, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The story of Korah is not just about rebellion, it is a sad account of how men’s hearts are far from God when they work primarily within the logic of this world no matter how good their intentions are. Maybe this is why the scriptures say,
For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
Adversity can be opportunities that reveal whether or not we are in sync with God. When things are spinning out of control do we seek control with good intentions, or do we allow Him room to be glorified?
The Spirit of Korah is alive today and can rise within any congregation under the false identity of righteousness.
When we read the account of Korah we should not do so as if we are watching a made for TV special. Korah was a real individual and real individuals do not typically view themselves as evil, even when they do evil deeds. If you go to a prison and speak to a rapist, you’ll often here them blaming the woman they raped. The Taliban does not see themselves as terrorist, they see themselves as freedom fighters fighting for a good cause. I highly doubt that President Obama woke up one morning and said, “Today I will defy God and openly support gay marriage!” Korah may not have been simply on a conquest to rule Israel, in his heart he may have had all the best intentions in the world.
Korah was a Levite, one of those who chose God when Moses drew the lines in the sand. He was among those who killed about 3000 on what Rabbinic scholars call the first Shavuot (Pentecost). Korah was one of those who were separated from most of Israel, destined to have YHVH as his inheritance forever. When Korah convinced 250 of Israel’s choice leaders, he probably did so convincing them that it was something good for all of Israel and that he would get them into the Promised Land. If this can happen to Korah it can probably happen to anyone of us, so the question we must ask is; how can we prevent ourselves from being deceived like Korah was?
The first step is to trust in God.
God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy dwelling places of the Most High. God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns. The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered; He raised His voice, the earth melted. The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah. (Psalm 46:1-7)
Many believers understand mentally that God is in control, but when the going gets tough, it becomes clear that few believe it in their hearts. It is easy to believe that God is in control when everything is going our way, but when things start spinning out of control we tend to want to take control. Sometimes we even deceive ourselves by saying something like, “God is with me, He will bless my actions.” Korah may have said this to himself before openly opposing Moses.
Israel’s rebellions did not take place when things were going well; their rebellions came out when they were losing control, when things were not going their way. When things are not going our way that is the time for our faith to shine so that God can be glorified! This is what Paul understood when he wrote,
And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9)
The next step needed to prevent us from being deceived as Korah was deceived is to let God lead no matter what the situation looks like.
Now on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” While he was still speaking, another also came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died, and I alone have escaped to tell you.” Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God. (Job 1:13-22)
Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him. (Job 13:15)
This is where the rubber meets the road when it comes to our faith. Last week I said that real faith is seen through trials and when I said that to a few individuals they all looked at me with a raised eyebrow and said that they needed to think about that; well let me explain. There are different levels to our faith. We show the world our faith on a daily basis by our character and overall spirit. We show our faith every time we pray, read the bible and with our convocations on His appointed times; however, we must remember what James said.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4)
In order for God to see if our faith is pure and to also perfect our faith, we will go through trials or tests if you will. During these tests God wants to see if we are going to be like Job and trust in Him no matter what. But of course not all trials are a test from God, sometimes we create our own trials based on what we want, but He still uses those instances to draw us closer to Him.
For about a year I struggled with my job. My bitterness was evident when I spoke to anyone about my place of employment. I knew it was wrong for me to hold such negative feelings but I could not let it go. I lashed out at every opportunity I got. For reason's I could not explain at the time, I could not leave, there were times that I should have been fired, but it did not happen. I even began looking for people to help incite a rebellion within the work place. The spirit of Korah was manifesting within me and in my heart of hearts I was doing this to help those who were being mistreated as I was.
For almost a year, I have been in a bad working situation; I got promotions, lost promotions, got raises, lost raises and then to make matters worse, my hours were getting cut each week, there were weeks when my 17 year old was bringing home more money than I was. I was ashamed and very frustrated about the whole situation but my pride would not allow me to share my struggles with anyone. Just when I was about to take it a step further, the Holy Spirit stepped in and began showing me what faith is suppose to be in that situation.
I spent a lot of time crying in prayer and asking God to forgive me. Godly sorrow truly does leads to repentance. I began to let go of how I was being treated and in the following work days things were different. I was happy to be there once again as I began to realize how much God has blessed me with that job when I could have been one of the over 7,000,000's out there without a job. I began to have faith in God through my situation and He began to bless me for it.
What seemed like an intolerable situation suddenly did not seem so bad any more. Those that use to be the evil overlords now seemed like just regular folks trying to make a living like I am. Faith in God changed the entire canvas from something negative to something positive and the only change that took place was within me! Within a week I got my full time hours back and got a new supervisor that looked upon me with favor, all it took was me simply accepting what God had allowed in my life and trusting in Him. Wow, God is awesome!
Letting God lead is probably one of the hardest lessons a believer has to learn but it can be done.
Moses, Joseph and David were all given their positions by God and He gave it to them because they allowed Him to lead. But what if God does not want you to be where you want to be? Will you fight to take it like Korah, or will you just be content with where you are, trusting that He has you there for a purpose and that He does have a plan to prosper you? You may have a desire to preach, but now may not be the time for you. Let God lead, let God give you that promotion, that leadership position, that ministry or whatever it is that you want to do to glorify Him. It is far greater to receive from God then it is to take by your own will.
After what I’ve experienced I now fully understand what Paul meant when he said,
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. (Philippians 4:10-12)
The last security measure that we can use to protect our hearts from adopting the spirit of Korah is to love one another through loving God.
This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. (1 John 5:2)
Until I began to love God, I did not understand what it meant to love others. It is amazing how it works, the more you love God the more you love people, especially those who are a part of His body. However, many people confuse what it means to love God and instead fall in love with what He has done; others simply love the idea of not going to hell or fall in love with a Godly cause. There is nothing wrong with not wanting to go to hell, admiring what He has done or taking up the fight for something that is important to Him, but if your love is not centered on who He is, you may find yourself deceived like Korah was.
Loving God is just that. When you love God you are in love with His character, His creativity, His compassion, His perfect love and the list can go on. Yes He is all powerful, all knowing, and there are many reasons to fear Him, but I would not be here today if it wasn’t for the fact that I fell in love with who He is and I now that could not be possible if He did not make it so.
For years I simply wanted to love God but I did not know how despite the fact that I was a devoted Christian (and still am). I knew that something was not right in my walk with God, but I could not pin point it until it was revealed to me by the Holy Spirit. Up until that point I was actually jealous of the men in the Bible (especially David) because in them I saw what I desired more than anything else, I real relationship with God. Finally God introduced me to Torah as a lifestyle and it all began to fit together.
What does Torah mean to you?
To me Torah is not about justification, it is not about gaining deeper insights into the Bible; I do not follow Torah because my salvation depends on it. To me, Torah is all about loving God. To learn how to love what He loves and hate what He hates is my understanding of Torah. I do not know if my approach works for everyone, but I do know that it has produced fruits of love in my life and that is my proof that I’m heading in the right direction.
Loving God produces love for others. If your love for God is not producing the fruit of love for others then something is wrong. One of my biggest concerns within the messianic community is this militant spirit that seems to be rising. There are messianic believers out there hating Christians because they do not follow Torah and being Anti-Semitic because of the religiousness of our Jewish brothers and sisters. If your belief draws hatred towards those who do not agree with it then something is wrong. If God is love and you are drawing closer to Him then love should start defining who you are, not hate or a spirit of judgment.
Throughout my walk with God, the more I drew closer to Him, the more I realized how important mankind is to Him. We are all made in His image and created by Him. Hating someone no matter how hurtful they are to you is like hating a part of God. When Korah opposed Moses, Moses did not lash back with hatred, Moses fell on his face. Moses did not disrespect Korah at all. When Moses got angry he took it to the Lord, never retaliating against Korah or those who supported him. Another great example of this can be found with David.
When King David came to Bahurim, behold, there came out from there a man of the family of the house of Saul whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came out cursing continually as he came. He threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were at his right hand and at his left. Thus Shimei said when he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of bloodshed, and worthless fellow! The Lord has returned upon you all the bloodshed of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. And behold, you are taken in your own evil, for you are a man of bloodshed!”
Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over now and cut off his head.” But the king said, “ What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah? If he curses, and if the Lord has told him, ‘Curse David,’ then who shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” Then David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my son who came out from me seeks my life; how much more now this Benjamite? Let him alone and let him curse, for the Lord has told him. Perhaps the Lord will look on my affliction and return good to me instead of his cursing this day.” So David and his men went on the way; and Shimei went along on the hillside parallel with him and as he went he cursed and cast stones and threw dust at him. The king and all the people who were with him arrived weary and he refreshed himself there. (2 Samuel 16:5-14)
Even though David is known for being a warrior and a man who has taken many lives, his love for God gave him a love for God’s people. Shimei may have expected his own death that day; any other king would not have stood for such emotional and verbal abuse. This was a great example of God’s love and it was an excellent example of being lead by God and trusting in Him no matter what. David understood that his situation was allowed by God so he just trusted in God. For those of you who do not know how this story ends, I strongly recommend reading it, it’s a great account.
Moving forward we will need to love each other more so than before.
When we read the definition of love found in 1 Corinthians 13, all the attributes of love requires that you actually spend time with people. How can you be patient, kind or trusting to someone if you are not there? It is not God’s design for us to go through this alone. As we draw closer to one another we will get stronger, not only as individuals but also as a congregation.
The spirit of Korah is alive and active so we all must be alert. Today we must depend on each other to protect our congregations from the spirit of Korah. Start by making sure your own heart is not cultivating the spirit of Korah, then focus on the congregation by loving God first, trusting in Him, letting Him lead you, then loving your brothers and sisters in Messiah. If we succeed in cultivating love for one another then we will have nothing to worry about because wherever love abounds, the spirit of Korah will not grow. Shalom.