Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Numbers---[cheers and applause] You're all the kind of crazy that I like. Numbers, chapter 16, if you'd turn in your Bibles there, Numbers 16. Seemingly, as providence would have it, something really weird happened this morning in Kentucky. A sinkhole in a museum, we'll show it to you, in a car museum, a sinkhole that's twenty to thirty feet deep, forty feet across, in a car museum, an automobile museum just appeared and six vintage, rare Corvettes went down.
And it's odd that it happened here on this day when we happen to be studying something similar, though not with rare, vintage Corvettes, but with a group of naysayers, complainers under the direction of a guy named Korah that we're going to discover in chapter 16 of the book of Numbers; a famous event called in the New Testament in the King James Version "the gainsaying of Korah." And if you think it was bad seeing Corvettes go under and we all went awwww! Imagine what the people said as 250 human beings were swallowed up by the earth. So let's pray before we begin.
Father, we're entering some serious narrative, some sobering territory, an infamous piece of Jewish history that appears over and over again in the New Testament that is spoken of, mentioned, as people would look back to this very fateful day. Lord, as we study this section of what is history to us, I pray that the lessons of history would be fresh in our minds and hearts as we go through it, because we always want to compare the principles that are shown in your Word with the condition of our own hearts to see how they are before you, and how we please you or are not pleasing to you. And Father, we're going to be dealing with attitudes. And so, Father, we just ask for a measure of your grace as we study, in Jesus' name, amen.
It was Mark Twain who said, "Don't complain to people." He said, "When you complain to people, 80 percent of the people you tell don't care anyway, and 20 percent of the people you tell are glad you finally got what you deserve." [laughter] So, "Don't complain to people," good, solid counsel from Mark Twain. There was an old cowboy who had a pickup truck and a horse trailer, and he was driving down the road, a country road. And in the back of his pickup was his faithful dog, and in the horse trailer was his faithful horse.
As he was driving down the road and going around a curve, he didn't negotiate the curve right. He was going too fast and he got in a serious accident that caused damage not only to the vehicle, but to himself and to his animals. So, a policeman came by and found the wreckage. And being a lover of animals himself, went over to assess the damage. And he first looked at the horse and saw that that the horse was in very bad shape and received a fatal blow, that he would not last long, and he was in excruciating agony. And being a country sheriff, he pulled out his revolver and he put the horse out of its misery, took its life.
He went and looked in the back of the pickup truck and there the dog---he also loved dogs. He had one at home. And the dog was broken up and bruised and severely whining, and it broke his heart. So he again took his revolver out and put the dog out of his misery. Then he went around to the cab where the driver was sitting. And he said, "Hey, how are you doing?" Well, the man was fractured up, he had several breaks. But he looked up, seeing the smoking gun, he said, "I've never felt better in all my life." [laughter] Probably a smart move. He just didn't know what was up, didn't want to risk any kind of complaining, but it spared his life.
When you hear the word "murmur," it's a funny word, murmur. Just to say it is funny. You know, it's one of those words that is onomatopoetic. Remember that word in English class, onomatopoeia? An onomatopoetic word is where the word is like the sound that it's describing by the word. The definition of the word is like the sound that that word is there to define. So "boom" is onomatopoeic. "Honk" is onomatopoetic. "Meow" is a word that is onomatopoetic. It sounds like the sound that is being made.
"Murmur" is one of those words. It means to hum or to mutter. But the word, the idea, when you hear murmur is you think of a group of people in a corner---"mur, mur, mur, mur, mur, mur." They're just talking in a critical kind of a tone, a complaining kind of a tone. It's that buzz that goes out in a congregation. In this chapter we come to a murmuring, a complaining, a buzz that starts with a few, but spreads quickly to the congregation. And one of the things we have noted in Numbers is that it is filled with incidents of murmuring. We come now to the fifth murmuring in chapter 16 of the children of Israel in this book in the wilderness.
The fifth murmuring is seen in the beginning of this chapter. And before the chapter ends we'll already see the sixth murmuring---mur, mur, mur, mur. You're going to see it; you're going to hear it. In this chapter a guy by the name of Korah, another guy by the name of Daythan, another one by the name of Abiram, and a fourth one by the name of On, O-N, these four, the not-so-fab four and 250 other coconspirators mount up a murmuring, a complaint against Moses and Aaron and the leadership.
Poor Moses has had his share of these kinds of murmurings and complainings before, but I think with each chapter, with each incident, it gets worse and worse. Now, God is training him. He is a leader. Some people love him. Some people hate him. I think the vast majority of people are just sort of putting up with him. With that said, I brought a little book, and I passed this book out to my pastoral staff and we discussed it over months. I love the book. It's called What They Didn't Teach You in Seminary. And it's a practical book on leadership.
In one particular chapter it says: "One of the great expectations pastors have is that every one will like you, and if they don't, they should. When this does not reflect reality, many pastors just redouble their efforts to please as many people as possible. Why? Many enter ministry with a secret need for approval and affirmation. That's what made them pleasers to begin with. As a result, the goal is to have everyone happy, and even more, happy with you." But, writes this author, "Get used to disappointment. The reality is the 10-10-80 principle. Knowing this principle, and working it to your advantage, is the key to sanity.
"What is the 10-10-80? Ten percent of people will instantly take to you," he writes. "They liked you the minute they met you. They liked your face, your family, the story of your life, and your voice. And they will keep liking you. You could run naked through the vestibule and they would say, 'Bless his heart, he's just having a hard day.' [laughter] Thank God for such people. You didn't do much to earn their affection, and you don't have to do much to keep it. But then there are the 10 percent who, well, they don't like you. They didn't like you the minute they met you.
"They didn't like your face, they didn't like your voice. Your family may pass muster---as a deacon once proclaimed in the first church that I served as a pastor, after roasting me publicly in my very first performance review, he said, 'Well, you know, we all love Susan, of course.' No streaking in front of these people. They don't even like the clothes you do wear. [laughter] Marshall Shelley"---and I'll close with this little ending. "Marshall Shelley, longtime editor of Leadership Journal, calls them 'well-intentioned dragons.'
"I'm not sure how well-intentioned they are. But it doesn't matter what you call them; we have to deal with them. It's part of the job." Poor Moses. He's already had his family members rebel against him, Aaron and Miriam, a few chapters back. In this chapter he's going to have leadership, his leadership, rebel against him. And before the end of the chapter the congregation at large, the bulk of congregation will also be against him, all because of one disgruntled man. He's the kingpin named Korah who spreads his poison among three other leaders and then finally 250 other leaders.
They start a rebellion against leadership. And here's the deal: because Moses was God's choice---it wasn't their choice, they didn't vote this pastor in, God appointed Moses---rebelling against Moses is rebelling against God because that was God's choice. So the issue is going to be between them and God. A. W. Tozer once said, "The essence of all sin is rebellion against divine leadership." And if you think about it, it's absolutely true. The essence of all sin is that we rebel against God being in charge of our lives, of our situations, of what's going on around us. And so with that said, long introduction, but chapter 16, verse 1.
"Now Korah the son of Izhar," or Yitshar in Hebrew, "the son of Kohath," so he was a Kohathite, "the son of Levi." If you read Numbers, chapter 6, later on, you discover that Korah is the first cousin of Moses and Aaron. So he's a leader, but he's also family. "With Daythan," he's number two, "and Abiram," he's number three, "the sons of Eliab, and On." That's his name, On. He's got a great name, but he's really off base in this chapter. He's "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," notice, "men of renown."
Any rebellion that is going to be effective in any organization, even in a church, or back in the day of Moses, will take prominent leaders, prominent men, prominent people in the group that will decide to conspire to rise up and buck the leadership that is in place. "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 do you exalt yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?' " Now, first of all, their accusation is untrue. They said to Moses and Aaron, "You take too much upon yourselves."
If you know the history, they didn't take anything upon themselves. God called Moses. Moses resisted, he didn't even want to go. He said, "Send somebody else. I'm not gonna do this." And, finally, God said, "Tell you what, I'm sending you, we'll bring Aaron with you." So he took nothing on himself. It was all the Lord that pushed him into the ministry. He said---or they said, this group of conspirators, every one of the congregation is holy. " 'Every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?"
Now, there's truth and untruth. Perhaps they are saying, "We don't like the rigidity or the legalism of this type of approach to God. You have a priesthood, and you have a special family, and a special way of approach, when everybody is holy." Now part of that is true, but the part that is untrue is they say, "You, Moses, have exalted yourself." If you remember back a couple of chapters, Moses himself said---he didn't have a jealous bone in his body. He said, "Oh, would to God that everyone could prophesy, that all of them were the Lord's holy people, so in tune and in touch with God that this approach, these sacrifices were unnecessary."
So he's not exalting himself, he's meek. He's the meekest man on the earth, remember? He said so. [laughter] "So when Moses heard it," here he is again, "he fell on his face." You know, somebody once said that in heaven you'll be able to recognize Moses---he's the guy with a flat nose. He's constantly falling on his face. Now that's simply a biblical statement, a Hebraism for a position: a posture of humility and a posture of intercession. He's praying for the people as we have seen that he is want to do. So he hears this, he doesn't puff his chest out like, "Well, who do you think you're dealing with, dude?" He just humbles himself and gets down on the ground in humility and in praying for the people.
"And he spoke to Korah and all of his company, saying, 'Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is his and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to him. That one whom he chooses he will cause to come near to him. Do this,' " he says, " 'Take censers,' " those little fire burners, " 'Korah and all your company; and put fire in them,' " or, or, yeah, " 'put fire in them and put incense in them before the Lord tomorrow, and it will be that the man whom the Lord chooses shall be the holy one. You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!' " The root of the problem seems to be jealousy. They're jealous of the position.
Korah already had a great position. The text says that he was a Kohathite. Now, do you remember that the tribe of Levi was divided into the three family groups: the sons of Kohath, the sons of Gershon, and the sons of Merari? And all of them had a special task to perform with the tabernacle. The Kohathites, I believe, had one of the most important and most special tasks. They would go into the tabernacle where the furnishings were---the golden altar of incense, the ark of the covenant, and the Holy of Holies, the table of showbread, the seven-branched golden candlestick, menorah---and they were the tribe that would cover it up with the different skins and cloths and bear it through the wilderness on their shoulders.
So the very holiest of implements, that was their tasks. That's a great task. But some kind of jealousy must have overtaken Korah and then he spread it around to some of the other prominent leaders. I don't know how---what started it. Maybe, maybe Korah one day looked at the robes of the high priest, the robes of Aaron, and he just thought, "Man, those are beautiful robes. And there's a sense of awe whenever Aaron comes out and addresses the people. I notice how the people respond to Aaron as if he's somebody special." Or, "When Moses speaks, boy, people listen."
And he saw the it kind of authority that was on these two individuals who the Lord had anointed, and something restless grew inside of his heart. And he became envious, and he became jealous. So, Moses calls for a showdown. "Let's fire it up. Fire up your censers, boys. Gentlemen, start your engines. Fire up the censers, put incense in it, let's appear before the Lord and we'll let the Lord make a choice." This kind of jealousy will arise time and time again in history, in God's history, in biblical history.
One of the most notable will come later on when a king arises named King David. And he will have a son that he will become alienated with by the name of Absalom. And because there's tension between father and son, and Absalom is kept out of Jerusalem for a period of years, when David finally brings Absalom back, but really has no fellowship or interaction with his son, a jealous spirit grows within Absalom. A restless heart grows within him. And Absalom decides, "I'm going to go to the gate of the city of Jerusalem."
And he goes out there in public. And early in the morning when people would come in and bring their civil cases, their lawsuits, they would see Absalom at the gate of the city. There they are going in to see the king or one of the king's deputies, and Absalom stops them and greets them and butters them up like Eddy Haskell would, if you remember that. "Don't you look wonderful today, Mrs. Cleaver?" "Why are you here?" "Well, I have a lawsuit against so-and-so." "Oh," Absalom would say, "Boy, that sounds great. Your case is good." And then he just said, "Oh, if there was only somebody to hear it. If the king was only not so busy and had deputies that could hear it."
He goes, "You know, if I were a judge, and I were a deputy, I would make sure that you have justice." And he greeted the people and he went and hugged and he kissed the people. And the Bible says he "stole the hearts" of Israel away from the king. And it was all by design. He knew how to manipulate, he knew how to get people, get leaders, get the crowd against David and to be for Absalom. So this isn't new, and it will happen over and over again. So they take the censers and they put incense in them, and as you remember, that's one of the priestly duties.
The priest would have the censer and he would put incense on it. And it spoke of the prayers of the saints and the representation of the wishes of the people before the hand of God. Verse 8, "Then Moses said so Korah, 'Hear now, you sons of Levi: Is it a small thing to you that God, the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to serve them; and that he has brought you near to himself, you and all your brethren, the sons of Levi, with you? And are you seeking the priesthood also?' "
God called them to serve him. God called them into ministry. They had, as I mentioned, those special tasks in the tabernacle. But, I contend, their eyes were off the Lord and on the task, especially the task of other people that won approval in the eyes and the hearts of the congregation. Their eyes are off the Lord, and whenever your eyes are off the Lord, you are never ever a happy person. It's always somebody else's fault. It's somebody else to blame. "If only they . . ." And, "It's because of him or her." Their eyes were off of the Lord, and they were on Moses, and they were on Aaron.
Let me just say that as a leader, there's no joy in being a leader. The joy is being in sync with God's will and plan for your life. The joy isn't in being a leader, but in being in sync with the Leader. The Bible says we are the body of Christ, and the head is Christ. Jesus is the head of his body. We're members of the body. It's the analogy Paul uses. However, because it is like a human body, even Paul, when he writes to the Corinthians, notices that there are certain positions within the body of Christ that are just more visible, more notable, more noteworthy.
He compares, for example, when he writes to the Corinthians, the eye and the ear. He says, "What if the---what if the ear would say, 'Because I'm not an eye, I'm not of the body,' is it therefore not of the body?" Or a foot, you shake people's hands, you don't say, "Nice meet you." It would be just really goofy to do that. You don't shake feet, you shake hands. You notice people's eyes: "Oh, she has beautiful, brown eyes or blue eyes." You never say, "Man, I met that girl and her earlobes are just awesome." [laughter] So translate that into real life, into the real life of the church.
There are some positions that just because of the way the Lord put the body of Christ together, the church, they're more visible, and thus, they're going to be noticed more. And because they're noticed more they could seem---and I say seem---to be more important. If you know anything about human anatomy, however, you know that you could live without an eye, and you could live without a hand, you can't live without unseen parts like your liver or your lungs. So if the lungs were ever to come to a place where they say, "Nobody sees me. Nobody cares about me. I want more exposure. [laughter]
"I want people to notice me. I want to get out from under this skin and these bones, them bones, them bones. I don't like being caged up." Well, if you did get that kind of exposure for your lungs, you'd flatline, you'd die. The body can't exist. It needs all of those parts. And so Paul said the most important parts are so often those ones that nobody sees. So in this case, he says, "Look, God has already given you a very important part in the body," so to speak, "and the people, the nation of Israel; do you want the priesthood as well?"
It is my observation that not everybody in ministry is called to ministry. Many are. It's not an easy place. We've shared that with you before. Sixteen hundred ministers every year quit the ministry because of the pressures, many of them saying it's an "outright hazard to my family." I am convinced that many people join the ministry because they're trying to fulfill a personal psychological need to be noticed, to be validated. And they figure the best way to be validated is to be in charge of something. And so: "I don't agree with you, so I'm going to move right down the street and start my own thing, my own deal."
And so we have to be careful. And here is, I think, the secret: discover who God made you. Discover what gifts you have. And they're gifts from the Lord for you to function. And you will be happy and satisfied when you function with the unction, the anointing of the Spirit for your own ministry and gifts. When you function with that unction, life is good. I can't think of anything more miserable than trying to be something God hasn't called you to be, or do something God did not call you to do. It's absolutely heart wrenching. And even Moses doubted his calling on a few different occasions after the Lord made him get into the ministry, saying, "Why have you afflicted me, Lord? I didn't ask for this."
" 'Therefore,' " verse 11, " 'Therefore' "---I always like when there's a therefore, " 'You and all your company are gathered together against the Lord. And what is Aaron that you murmur' "---there is it is, mur, mur, mur, mur---" 'against him?' And Moses sent to call Daythan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, but they said, 'We're not going to come up! Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of the land flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness, that you should keep acting like a prince over us?' "
Ho, ho, ho. Notice what they call Egypt: "You brought us away from a land flowing with milk and honey." Now wait a minute, didn't God say he would deliver you out of Egypt and take you to a land flowing with milk and honey? Now they're calling Egypt, the very land that they couldn't stand, they asked God for deliverance from, and they're remembering it as "the land flowing with milk and honey"? That's because there was water in it, I will say that. The Nile River was something that provided abundant resource. And being out in the middle of just desert without water, it was tough for them.
So now they're looking back and they're rewriting history: "Oh, Egypt, land of milk and honey! Wasn't it great?" "Oh, yeah, wasn't it awesome being a slave?" "Yeah! Those hits and beats on the back---awesome!" "Don't you miss that?" "Oh, yeah. Remember the leeks and the garlics and the onions? Even though we didn't get any. They were awesome." This is called Selective Memory Disorder. We all have it. We sometimes look to our old life before we came to Christ: "I think I had it better then. I had so many friends then, and people loved me then." And you were going to hell then, so let's just kind of look at the whole picture here. [laughter]
" 'Moreover,' " they're continuing. I'm sorry, I cut them off in mid-rant. " 'Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards' "---now stop, stop, stop, stop. Chapter 13 and 14 they spied out the land. They came back and said, "That land is awesome. It is a land flowing with milk and honey. We're not going. There's some big dudes. We don't want any part of it." So they're out in the desert, they haven't gotten in yet. " '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!' "
In other words, "Can you make us blind to what we plainly see around us in the desert here in Sinai? This is not the land flowing with milk and honey. There's nothing good here. We want to get out of here. It was better back there than where we are now. So we're not coming up for this little contest, Moe." [laughter] "And Moses was very angry, and said to the Lord, 'Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt one of them.' And Moses said to Korah, 'Tomorrow, you and all your company be present before the Lord---you and they, as well as Aaron.' "
So it is the showdown at the O.K. Corral. "Fire up your censers and I'll see you at high noon." " 'Each of you take his censer, put incense in it, and each of you bring his censer before the Lord, two hundred and fifty censers; you also and Aaron, each of you with his censer.' So every man took his censer, put fire in it, laid incense on it, stood at the door of the tabernacle of meeting with Moses and Aaron." So here's the contest, completely uncensored, you might say. [laughter] They're all there. "And Korah gathered all the congregation against them at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation."
We have seen this before. Whenever there's an issue, God just sort of makes himself known. Almost like you're talking about somebody and that somebody is in the room and you don't know he's in the room. And you mention his name, and you start griping about him, and then you hear a "Ahem, ahem, ahem." Hello! The Lord showed up. "The glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation. And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 'Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.' Then they fell on their faces."
Not them, not the Korah, not the Daythan, the Abirams, the Ons, and the 250 Reubenites. No, no, no, no, Moses and Aaron. Again, flat noses "fell on their faces and said, 'O, God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and you be angry with all the congregation?' " Amazing, this is amazing to me. Because human nature, human tendency is if you're the guy in charge, you're the leader and this happens, and God says, "Okay, don't worry about them. I'll take care of them. Just get away from them, because I'm going the wipe them out."
You go, "Awesome! I want a front-row seat." [laughter] Doug Jerrold was an author who said, "I could be a gravedigger and a hangman for some people with joy in my heart." I'd have no problem with that job, with that gig, for some people---but not Moses, not Aaron. Once again, he goes, "Lord, these still are your people. There is still a covenant that you have made." "And so the Lord spoke to Moses, 'Speak to the congregation, saying, "Get away from the tents of Korah, Daythan, and Abiram.' And the elders of Israel followed him." Go back to that phrase, because it's only used twice in the Old Testament.
In verse 22, "O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh." It's an interesting construction. It's a fascinating way to talk to God, "the God of the spirits of all flesh." It's only used twice and I find it very descriptive. Here's what's I mean: the very essence of who we are is not flesh, it's our soul, it's the hidden part. Remember in Genesis, "God breathed into man the breath of life and he became a"---in Hebrew, nephesh---"a living soul"? And that's the essence of who we are. We are spirit. Now some think that we are bipartite: we are spirit, slash, soul, and body, the two parts, the inward and outward.
The Bible in the New Testament seems to indicate that we are tripartite beings: body, soul, and spirit. The real you is spirit. You need a body so that your spirit can relate to your environment and to other people. So you need it, but when you're done with it, you'll leave it on this earth, also known as physical death, and you will be present with the Lord. You won't die, you just move, right? You change houses, you change locations, it's graduation day, you leave the old tent. God is the Spirit, or "the God of the spirits of all flesh." The real you is the inner you, your spirit, your soul. And then also you need your flesh simply to relate to the world around you.
The fact that Moses and Aaron pray, and we see them doing that a lot, even with the midst of a rebellious people, keeps reminding me of how much Jesus Christ was like Moses. I bring that up because it was Moses who said back in Deuteronomy 18, "God is going to send you another prophet like me. Him you shall listen to." It's a direct prophecy of the coming of Christ. He would be in many ways like Moses. "He came unto his own, his own received him not." Jesus interceded on the cross, "Father, forgive them, they don't know what they're doing." Like Moses, Jesus prayed for people; and like Christ, Moses is seen foreshadowing that here.
So, the Lord speaks and says, "Tell everybody, 'Get out of town,' " basically, " 'Get away from these numskulls.' " "And the elders of Israel followed him. And he spoke to the congregation, saying, 'Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.' So they got away from around the tents of Korah, Daythan, Abiram; and Daythan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, with their wives, and their sons, and their little children. And Moses said: 'By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. If these men die naturally' "---now here's the announcement.
Can you just picture, here's Moses, "Now if these men"---now, first of all, how weird would it be if everybody just runs away from you. And here you are over in the corner, it's like a couple million people, and you got like 250 over here, and then Moses says this: " 'If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. But if the Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens up its mouth and swallows' "---the Corvettes up, [laughter] or " 'them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the Lord.' "
Now, by this time wouldn't you think that Korah would start repenting or having second thoughts? The Lord has spoken, everybody now is divided against them. And then Moses says, "Okay, let's make it fair. If nothing happens to these men, God didn't send me, I'm not a true prophet of God, and they're right. But if the earth opens up and just, like, swallows them up in a sinkhole, then I guess they're wrong." Boy, if I were Korah or Daythan---if I were Daythan, I'd be, like, elbowing Korah. It's like, "Dude, what did you get us into? I don't feel good about this." But, you know, a hardened heart is hard to break. And once you put your foot down and you start a rebellion, it's hard to turn back. You become recalcitrant and dug in.
Well, think of Jonah. Jonah went down to Joppa, down into the boat, it says, "to flee from the presence of the Lord." The language is telling, because whenever you go away from God's will, you go down, down, down. And Jonah was going down. [laughter] He went out to sea and a storm broke out. The waves started spitting up and foaming up. And the soldiers or the sailors who were on the boat who were pagans woke Jonah up who was asleep and said, "Dude! We're all praying to our gods, you ought to pray to your God. Who are you?" And he says, "Oh, my name is Jonah. I'm a prophet of God. I'm disobeying God." [laughter]
"Really? And you're not going to, like, do anything about that?" "Yeah, I'm gonna do something about it, just throw me overboard. I'll die first. Just throw me into the water." And then a whale gets him. You think, "Come on, Jonah. You got your arm behind your back, you're backed up against the wall, give it up, say uncle." "Nah, just throw me overboard, I'll be all right. Just kill me." Thus, these men. "It came to pass," verse 31, "as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened up its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods."
Now here's a case of the sins of the fathers being visited on the children. But it also works in reverse. All those who obeyed and separated and scooped up their children, lest they be consumed, were saved by the positive faith of their fathers and mothers. So the blessings were visited on the rest of them. "So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the congregation. Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, 'Lest the earth swallow us up also!' " Ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is a visual aid.
Think about it, the earth swallowed them up. Korah, Daythan, Abiram, On, these 250 men, were trying to divide, bring division among the children of Israel, so a little bit of poetic justice was called for. "You, congregation of Israel, divide from the dissenters, let there be a division that way." And then the earth was opened up, divided, and they fell in them. So the same thing they were trying to do is what happened to them. They were trying to create division, division happened because of them. Remember what Jesus said in Matthew, chapter 7, the Sermon on the Mount, "With what judgment you judge, you will be judged; with what measure you use, it will be measured back to you"?
Or Galatians, chapter 6, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; whatever a man sows, that shall he also reap." We have a case of that here. And verse 35, "And a fire came out from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense." How's that for a spectacle? Remember the sound we made as we saw six vintage Corvettes get lost in a sinkhole? Awwww! Imagine the sheer shock wave that went through when the earth opens up and then fire from heaven comes and consumes the rest of them. Now, let me say this is, this is not typical. Right? This is episodal.
There are episodes throughout biblical history where God wants to show his overt displeasure in a very dramatic way so as to leave a warning and an example for future generations. The first one that comes to mind: Genesis 19, Sodom and Gomorrah. Boom! I'm being onomatopoetic. Boom! They're destroyed with fire out of heaven. Second example: Numbers, chapter 10, Nadab and Abihu offering up strange fire before the Lord and fire consumes them. A few chapters before this in the book of Numbers when Miriam and Aaron complain against Moses their brother, and she breaks out in leprosy. Moses has to pray for her to be healed.
Here's another instance with Korah. And then, finally, in church history there was a couple, a husband and wife team named Ananias and Sapphira in Acts, chapter 5, who lied to the Holy Spirit and pretended to give a huge offering, but they really kept most of it for themselves. And so they came in, and the issue wasn't how much they gave. It wasn't like, "You didn't give enough money, you're going to die. You don't tithe well enough." That wasn't it at all. It's that they pretended to give a huge amount, but they didn't. They were just being hypocrites. So God wanted the early church to know what he felt about hypocrisy.
And so husband came in and Peter goes, "Hey, let me ask you a question. Did you give this amount?" "I gave it all to the Lord." "Okay, thanks." Boom! He keels over dead. That's Ananias. A couple of the fellas take him outside and bury him. His wife comes in later, not even knowing her husband is dead, Sapphira. And Peter goes, "Let me ask you a question. Did you give so much?" "Yes, we did. Glory to God, hallelujah!" And then he said, "Why have you and your husband conspired in your hearts to lie to the Holy Spirit? You haven't lied to man, you've lied to God. Behold, the feet of the men who carried your husband away and buried him are on the way to get you." And boom! she fell right over.
So there are episodes where God dramatically shows how he feels about a situation. Now we can just be very thankful that we live in the age of grace, though it is not beyond God's pale to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants to. But aren't you glad that this isn't a regular occurrence? Can you imagine if during our worship service you're singing "I surrender all, I surrender all, all to Jesus I surrender, I surrender all." But maybe you're really not surrendering all, and then all of a sudden in the middle of that song you just sort of fall forward and keel over dead. And we have to have a special crew that mops the bodies off the floor. [laughter]
It happened, but it doesn't happen regularly. But episodally throughout church history it has happened, and God shows his displeasure. "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'Tell Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, to pick up the censers out of the blaze, for they are holy, and scatter the fire some distance away. The censers of these men who sinned against their own souls, let them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar. Because they presented them before the Lord, therefore they are holy; and they shall be a sign to the children of Israel.'
"So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were burned up had presented, and they were hammered out as a covering on the altar, to be a memorial to the children of Israel so that no outsider, who is not a descendant of Aaron, should come near to offer incense before the Lord, that he might not become like Korah and his companions, just as the Lord had said to him through Moses." Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you visual aid number two. If you remember out in the outer courtyard of the tabernacle was a second altar, a bronze altar, the altar of sacrifice. It was already covered with bronze.
Here's the instructions, get this: take those censers from the burned up guys, they're burned up, they're burned out, but those censers are holy. They're only for priests to use. These are not priests, they were usurpers, they were posers. Nothing worse than a poser. We had a term for people who, like, bought a surfboard and put it up in their house, but they never, like, could every paddle out and catch a wave. But they kind of talked the talk. You know, "Hey, dude, what's up, man?" Just, they're just posers. These guys were poser priests. After they're dead, they take the bronze, they hammer it out into a second sheeting, a second layer to put around the altar so it would always be a reminder of this rebellion.
And a reminder that only those that God calls into the priesthood are to exercise the authority of carrying the censer with the incense in it. H'm, quite a visual aid. "On the next day," verse 41, "all the congregation of the children of Israel"-mur-mur"murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, 'You have killed the people of the Lord.' "What's with these guys? Moses didn't do anything, right? Fire fell from heaven, the earth swallowed up. What, is he like the best magician ever? They're blaming him. Now, see, it was Miriam and Aaron, number one. Number two, it was the leadership in the beginning of this chapter. Now it's the whole congregation.
" 'You've killed the people of the Lord.' Now it happened, when the congregation had gathered against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tabernacle of meeting; and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared." The congregation is mad at Moses and Aaron for the death of those people they knew and loved: "It's your fault. You killed them." Is that the truth? No. What is the truth? It was Moses and Aaron through the their prayer and intercession that spared the whole congregation of Israel---that's the truth. Were it not for these two, you'd all be dead. Not mostly dead---all dead. [laughter]
They're angry with God. Now, here's the principle---they're angry with God, but God is invisible. When you're angry with God, and you can't see God, who do you take it out on? God's visible representatives. "You represent God, you're Moses, you claim to speak for God." And I've had people---I can relate to this---unleash against me when the whole time they're really angry at God. But I'm a representative, they see me as a rep, a field rep. And because I'm a field rep, I get the field rap from them. It could be: "Why would God allow this to happen?" or "allow my so-and-so to die?" "How could a God of love . . . ?" I have to say, first of all, I'm not God.
Any time somebody asks me, "Why would God . . .?" Please, you're asking the wrong person. They take out their fury on the visible representative of the Lord. "The glory of the Lord appeared." There it is again, this, this presence of the Lord, this cloud, you know. Remember it was a cloud during the day and it was a pillar of fire---excuse me for that pop in the microphone---that pillar of fire by night. It was for two reasons now I'm discovering. I thought it was just the presence of the Lord to guide them, for guidance, but now we also see it's the presence of the Lord for guiltiness; not just guidance, but guiltiness.
The Lord shows up to display his displeasure with their guilt, their sin, to remind them of his absolute holiness and of his absolute choice. So I guess you're going to have to decide what kind of the---what kind of presence of God do you want to enjoy. God can show himself strong in a number of ways to you; how would you like that? You want him to show up to guide you, or do you want him to show up to reveal your guilt? Reminds me of a little boy who lived in the Alps. His grandfather was raising him and in the Alps, in the mountain range, the ravines, whenever you'd yell something out loud, the mountains would echo whatever you yelled out back to you.
So you could say, "Hello!" "Hello . . . hello . . . hello . . ." The little boy went out there one day: "I love you!" And the mountain shouted back, "I love you . . . I love you . . . I love you . . ." One day his grandfather scolded him because he had misbehaved, disciplined him. And the little boy was so angry at his grandfather, he ran outside and yelled, "I hate you!" Only to have the mountains yell back, "I hate you . . . I hate you . . . I hate you . . ." So what do you want to hear back? What's in your heart? "The glory of the Lord appeared," the presence of the Lord was strong to guide or to prove guilt.
"Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of meeting. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.' And they"---there they are, flat nosed---"fell on their faces. Moses said to Aaron, 'Take a censer, put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the Lord. The plague has begun.' And Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the congregation; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put incense and made atonement for the people."
Remember, incense is a symbol of prayer. Psalm 141 the psalmist says, "Let my prayer come before you as the evening incense." It's a symbol of intercession, of prayer. "And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped." It's the work of an evangelist. "Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident. So Aaron returned to Moses at the door of the tabernacle of meeting; for the plague had stopped." I sit here and part of me wants to say, "Poor Moses." I kind of wish I could put my arm around him and go, "Moe, dude, I feel for you.
"I'm so sorry. You didn't want this job, hang in there, buddy boy. I know you think the Lord's afflicting you sometimes with these people. Yeah, I know that your sister and your brother were against you. Yep, I know your leadership was against you. I know the whole congregation hated you. But God called you." My first introduction to being a pastor, the first Sunday morning we met, we met in a theater nearby. I thought it was a great service. We began with the Sermon on the Mount. Someone walked up to me and said, "Thank you for the service. This is my first time." I knew it because it was the first---it was my first time, it was our first time. [laughter]
"And I won't be coming back," he said. I said, "Oh, why is that?" He says, "Well, you don't believe in any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The worship wasn't very lively today." I said, "Well-well, I mean, you know, we saw people raising their hands." He says, "No, no, but they were no gifts of the Spirit. You know, tongues, prophecy, interpretation of tongues, and words of wisdom and knowledge." I knew exactly where this person was coming from. I said, "Well, do you believe in the gift of helps, also mentioned in the New Testament? Do you believe in the gift of teaching, also mentioned in the New Testament? and exhortation? All of those were in operation."
He says, "Oh, I-I-I know that, but . . ." it wasn't a charismatic church, in other words, he was saying. And he was saying, "I'm not coming back." Okay. The very next Sunday, the very second Sunday someone else came up, because that person didn't show back up, and said, "Pastor, thank you for this service. I won't be coming back." I said, "Okay, why is that?" He goes, "This place is too charismatic for me. [laughter] It's too much of that Holy Ghost stuff, that raising of the hands, and live worship." So between the first and second---and it was only a week, you know, seven days.
You know, that's all it took for that to be forged in my mind and bow my head and say, "Thank you, Lord, that's right where I want to be. Not on that extreme or on that extreme, but right in the middle." And if both extremes were complaining, that's exact---that's the sweet spot [laughter], right where we want to be. Discover God's plan and purpose and gifting for your life---enjoy what it's like to just be used with the gifts and calling God has made, tailor made for you, specifically made for you. We need it as a body of Christ, we need your input, we need your gift. If you don't contribute your giftedness, your service, your time, your talent, your treasure, we're all going to be the poorer for it.
You won't all be able to sing as good as Ryan or Natalie or Stuart, or some of the others. You may not teach, however, some of you might. But whatever God has called you to do, if you do it with all of your heart, you will have great enjoyment. If you try to force yourself to where God hasn't placed you, you're going to be miserable and you're going to make all of us miserable with you. So, maybe there's something to what Mark Twain said after all. Maybe, maybe not, but there's a whole lot to what God has said in his Word. With that we close in prayer.
Father, we thank you for this example. It's an infamous example, even Jude in the New Testament mentioned this very chapter when he talked about people who are caught up in "the gainsaying," the rebellion of Korah that false prophet. They have gone aside, they have gone astray. Lord, keep our hearts pure, our motives pure to rest and to trust in your sovereign leadership. None of us are perfect. No leader is ever perfect, no church, no pastor, no group, no board, no set of deacons or elders, no government, but, Father, we invite your leadership. We, as the body of Christ, want to be bendable and malleable to your touch and your direction.
Lord, I pray for anybody here tonight who doesn't know Jesus personally, who's not a part of the body of Christ, who's not enjoying fellowship with the Savior. Not only are they not experiencing the joy of being used by God, they're not even enjoying the joy of the presence of God cleansing them from their sin. They're caught in darkness. They're caught in a trap. Their life is one that feels empty to them. Lord, bring them to know you, we pray. As your heads are bowed, just quickly as we close this service, perhaps you're here tonight and you don't know the Lord.
Maybe you've gone to church different times in your life, you may be a religious person, but you don't have a personal relationship with the God of heaven through his Son Jesus. You can, and not only that, you can know for certain that when you die you're going to heaven. But you have to do what God wants you to do, and that is, to come his way. And his way is the way of the cross of Christ. You don't have to be crucified on it, Jesus was crucified on it for you. And if you would trust him and that finished work that he took away all your sins, and is willing to announce that you are clean, and that you're his child, he will give you new life here, now, and forevermore.
If you're not certain that you have that, or if you know that you don't have that, or if you've wandered away from him and you need to come back home, as we close this service, our heads are bowed, you raise your hand. Just raise your hand up so I can pray for you, as you're saying, "Yes, I want to give my life to Christ." God bless you, right up here toward the front. Who else? Anyone else? Raise your hand up; to my right. Yes, ma'am, I see your hand. Just lift that hand up, you're just willing to trust in Jesus Christ to get you to heaven; right up toward the front; and in the back. Who else? Anybody else? Anybody in the family room, or on the side, or on the balcony?
Father, we thank you for these, and we pray that you would do a transformative work, in Jesus' name, amen. Let's stand to our feet. We're going to sing a final song. If you raised your hand, no matter where you're seated, I'm going to ask you to do something that's going to feel a little bold to you. But I'm going to ask you to get up from where you're standing, find the nearest aisle, and stand right up here. I'm going to lead you in a prayer in just a moment to receive Christ. Just come stand right up here. Good man, came right up right away. [applause] Anybody else? Just come right up to the front. You raised your hand, just say excuse me, and stand right up here.
We're going to wait for you if you're in the back, in the middle, in the balcony. Don't jump over the railing on the balcony, come down the steps. If you're---if you're in the family room, come through that door. Come and stand right up here in the front. [applause] Acknowledge Christ and say a prayer with me to receive Jesus into your heart. [worship music plays] Anybody else, quickly before we close this service? Anyone else? Make a beeline, we'll wait for you. Jesus called people publicly, and we're giving you a public opportunity as well. Now those of you who have come forward, come up here real close. I want to see the whites of your eyes. [laughter]
So glad you came. I'm going to lead you now in a prayer. I'm going to ask you to pray these words out loud after me. I'm going to ask you to say them, mean them from the depth of your heart. You're giving your life to Jesus. Let's pray. Say: Lord, I give you my life. I admit it, I'm a sinner. I'm sorry for my sin. I believe that Jesus died on a cross, that he shed his blood for me, and that he rose from the dead. I turn from my sin, I turn to you as my Savior. Help me to live for you as my Lord, in Jesus' name I pray, amen. [applause] Yeah!