Songs and Praise
   

 
 
 

Less 105 THE REBELLION OF KORAH, DATHAN, AND ABIRAM

 
Numbers 16:1-50; 26 :9-11;

Lesson 105 Senior Lessons

MEMORY VERSE:  "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31).

I The Charge of Korah and His Company

The rebellion was led by Korah, a Levite; and Dathan and Abiram, sons of Reuben, Numbers 16:1; 26:9 The conspiracy was strong and included many princes famous in the congregation of Israel, Numbers 16:2 They charged Moses and Aaron with usurping the powers of govern¬ment and the priesthood of which they envied a share, Numbers 16:3; Psalm 106:16

II Moses' Request that the Lord Might Show Who Were His

Korah and his company were commanded to stand before the Lord, along with Aaron, with a censer and incense, that the Lord's chosen might be known, Numbers 16:5-7; II Timothy 2:19 God had already separated the Levites to a particular duty and had brought them near unto Himself, Numbers 16:8-11; 3:5-9 Dathan and Abiram refused Moses' invitation with seditious speeches, thereby showing what manner of men they were, Numbers 16:12-14 Moses instituted proceedings, Numbers 16:15-20 The glory of the Lord appeared and He threatened to consume the whole congregation, Numbers 16:19-21, 43-45 Moses and Aaron interceded, as they had done on previous occasions, Numbers 16:22; Exodus 32:10-14

III The Lord's Swift Judgment

The congregation was commanded to depart from the tabernacle (or tents) of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, Numbers 16:23-27 By the unusual judgment meted out to the rebels, the Lord proved He had sent Moses, Numbers 16:28-34 Fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 princes who offered incense at the door of the Tabernacle, Numbers 16:35; Leviticus 10:1, 2; II Chronicles 26:16-21 The censers had been hallowed for the use of the priests only, Numbers 16:36-40

IV The Congregation's Complaint About God's Judgment

The people charged Moses and Aaron with the death of the Lord's people, Numbers 16:41 The plague began in the congregation, but was stayed by Aaron's intercession, Numbers 16:46-48 Fourteen thousand and seven hundred died of the plague, Numbers 16:49

NOTES

The cause of righteousness and truth shall prevail though there be few to uphold it. The cause of Satan is not so; although he may have untold millions on his side. His realm is based on deceit and error; there¬fore he is sure of defeat at last, regardless of any temporary successes that he may have.

The Rebels

This lesson takes up the study of the rebellion of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. God hates rebellion. These men, as well as the whole congre gation, had seen how God dealt with Aaron and Miriam when they spoke against Moses. Miriam was smitten with leprosy, and except for the mercy of God would have died of that terrible disease. Through the prayers of Moses, God healed Miriam; but He said that she should be shut out of the camp seven days. The congregation did not journey again until Miriam was brought into the camp, therefore everyone knew what had happened (Numbers 12:1-16).


This example should have been great enough to keep everyone from speaking against the Lord's anointed. Through the prophet Samuel, God has said, 'For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry' (I Samuel 15:23). Under the Law, witchcraft and idolatry were to be punished by death. We can see, then, just how serious a matter it is to criticize one of God's representatives who is carrying out the will of God. In His sight it amounts to rebellion. Under the Dispensa¬tion of Grace the standard is even higher. Jesus said, 'But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea' (Matthew 18:6).


Korah was a Levite of the family of Kohath. This family had been given a specific and important work to do in the Tabernacle (Numbers 3:30, 31) ; still Korah was not satisfied with his lot. Dathan, Abiram, and On, sons of Reuben, were not included in the priesthood or service of the sanctuary by divine proclamation. In Exodus 28:1 we read, 'And take thou unto thee Aaron thy brother, and his sons with him, from among the children of Israel, that he may minister unto me in the priest's office.' Also in Hebrews 5:4, 'And no man taketh this honour [high priesthood] unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.' God Himself had chosen Aaron and his family to serve in the priest's office; man could not hope to improve upon the selection.

A Need for Help

During Israel's wilderness wanderings the time came that Moses needed help in governing this great congregation. As a result, seventy elders were appointed to help Moses bear the burden of the people (Numbers 11: 11-17). It was at approximately this same period of time that the Lord gave Moses the names of the men who were to be captains of the tribes of Israel (Numbers 1:5-15). Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were not included in either of these groups of rulers.

They became envious of the authority God had given Moses and Aaron (Psalm 106:16). They planned to use the congregation as a basis for the overthrow of Moses; but their argument, 'seeing all the congrega¬tion are holy, every one of them,' was entirely without foundation. It is true that God had called Israel to be a kingdom of priests and a peculiar treasure, but they had fallen far short of that calling. Had not Moses pre¬vailed with God more than once, this entire congregation would have been destroyed by the wrath of a just God (Exodus 32:10-14; Numbers 14:11-20).


It takes more than a thought, hope, or mental attitude to be holy in God's sight; it takes a work of grace to accomplish this in the heart (He¬brews 13:12; Ephesians 5:25-27), and a continuous walk with Him to retain it (I John 1:7). Just because we have seen the manifestation of God at one time and felt the approbation of divine love in our hearts is no guarantee that it will ever be so, unless we walk in the path of His choosing (Ezekiel 33:13) .

The Accusation Brought

These rebels accused Moses and Aaron of taking too much upon themselves, but forgot that it was Jehovah who ruled the camp of Israel. Moses and Aaron were His servants and did all things at His command. At Sinai these same rebels had witnessed the glory of the Lord in 'the thunderings, and the lightnings, and the noise of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking.' 'And when the people saw it, they removed, and stood afar off. And they said. unto Moses, Speak thou with us, and we will hear: but let not God speak with us, lest we die' (Exodus 20:18, 19). Evidently, these people had forgotten their vows and wanted to take matters into their own hands.
It is easy to make vows when men are in a hard place or fearful of God's judgments. Usually God hears prayers at a time like this because they are uttered in desperation. But the man who remains in God's favor, and knows the fullness of His divine love, is the man who pays his vows  not in letter only but in spirit as well. 'When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed' (Ecclesiastes 5:4).

The Challenge

When Moses heard the accusation brought against him by these re¬bellious leaders and the 250 princes who followed them, he fell on his face before God. Soon he knew what to do: he would let the Lord choose who should be His representatives. He instructed Korah and his company to take censers, put fire therein, and put incense in them before the Lord on the morrow: 'And it shall be that the man whom the LORD doth choose, he shall be holy.' Dathan and Abiram were also called to come up to the Tabernacle, but with a very angry reply they refused to come. The Lord was watching all these proceedings. His glory appeared unto all the congre¬gation, and He instructed Moses and Aaron to withdraw themselves from the people that He might consume the congregation in a moment. It was only Moses' and Aaron's intercession that withheld complete judgment.

A New Thing

Judgment was averted from the congregation as a whole, but it swiftly struck the offenders. The people were warned to separate them¬selves from the tabernacle, or tents, of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, and to touch nothing of theirs, lest they, too, be consumed in all their sins. Moses prophesied that a new thing was about to happen, that the earth would open her mouth and swallow the guilty; and thereby the people would know that Moses had done all these things at the Lord's command. The prophecy was fulfilled immediately, and all that appertained unto Korah (except his children, Numbers 26: 11), Dathan, and Abiram went down alive into the pit and the earth closed her mouth upon them. Then a fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 princes who offered incense at the door of the Tabernacle.


At a previous time, Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, also had been de-voured by fire from the Lord, (Leviticus 10:1, 2). They died because they brought strange fire and offered it before the Lord. These princes who were with Korah, remembering this incident, no doubt were careful to bring the right kind of fire in their censers, but they were unfit persons; therefore they suffered a similar fate.


We cannot hope to get to Heaven by doing only half the will of God. We must do His whole will. The censers that these princes had used were hallowed; therefore God commanded that they should be made into broad plates for a covering of the altar. This covering would then serve as a warning to all Israelites and strangers that only descendants of Aaron could come near to offer incense before the Lord.

The Murmuring

We can understand how deep-rooted this revolt really was. It can be clearly seen why God wished to destroy the whole congregation. One would think these people had seen enough of God's judgments to convince them that this was not man's doings. Still they murmured and complained and said, 'Ye have killed the people of the LORD.' A deadly plague started among them immediately; but once again, through intercession on the part of Moses and Aaron, the people were saved. Aaron ran into the midst of the congregation with his censer in his hand, and made an atonement for the people, standing between the dead and the living. The plague was stayed, but not before 14,700 people died. It is a serious thing to murmur


Unfortunately, murmuring did not pass out of existence with the scattering of the Children of Israel many years ago. It is still widespread in the world today. The Apostle Paul warns us about murmuring and its inherent dangers: 'Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer' (I Corinthians 10:10). Murmuring has no place in a Christian's life.

'Except Ye Repent'

As we look at these men upon whom God brought swift and terrible judgment, we are justified in saying that they deserved judgment, that they were blameworthy for resisting God's great leader, Moses. We remem¬ber that Israel served God under a theocracy, a government with God as its head. When they 'rebelled, they said, in effect, 'We are tired of God's rule; we can do better ourselves.' There is little wonder, then, that the earth could bear up no longer under the feet of these rebels and ingrates. It was time that the nakedness of their sins be covered, and that the earth should open her mouth to devour those who had so lightly opened their mouths against the Lord and His servants.


What does Jesus say to these things? As the Jews of His day were recounting some of the judgments that had taken place, Jesus answered, 'Suppose ye that these Galileans were sinners above all the Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish' (Luke 13:2, 3). In other words, we do not have to be outbroken sinners in order to miss Heaven. If we have but one unre¬pented sin, we stand condemned before God. 'For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all' (James 2:10). But we thank God for a merciful Savior. 'He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?' (Micah 6:8). 'And to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love his neighbour as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices' (Mark 12:33).


The cause of the Christian is still the cause of Christ. It is a danger¬ous thing to usurp sacred functions. Just as jealously as God protected His leaders in Korah's day, so will He guard His ministers of righteousness to¬day. We do not need to come out in open rebellion to incur God's wrath. If we even lend our sympathetic, though perhaps unspoken, support to un¬dermine one of His own, we shall answer to Him for it.

QUESTIONS

1 Of what tribe in Israel was Korah? Dathan and Abiram?
2 What was their contention with Moses and Aaron?
3 What kind of spirit did Moses manifest?
4 Did Moses feel that it was against himself or against the Lord that these people were rebelling?
5 How did Moses propose to determine whom the Lord had chosen?
6 What kind of spirit did Dathan and Abiram display?
7 How did God punish these rebels? Had anything like this ever hap¬pened before?
8 What became of the 250 princes who offered incense?
9 Did the congregation acknowledge God in these proceedings, or did they murmur?
10 What was the result of their murmurings?

 
   
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