Thursday, March 23, 2017

Daily Bible Reading - March 23, 2017

Today's Reading:

Matthew 20:17-34

Numbers 15-16

Ecclesiastes 9:13-10:20

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Thoughts and Commentary on Today's Reading:

In Numbers 15-16, we find the story of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. What a dramatic account! Korah, Dathan, and Abiram led a mutiny against the Heaven-ordained leadership of Moses. This tragic story took place at Kahelathah, Israel's 18th campsite on their journey from Egypt to Canaan. In the story of this rebellion, we find a few powerful lessons for today...

“Under Heaven, respect for the person’s position continues even when the individual himself is undeserving.”

Korah’s incitement to insurrection would have fallen on deaf ears had not the majority of Israel already been discontented. Still, had Korah used his influence and respected position in the camp to call the people to repentance and submission, the tragic mutiny of Kehelathah might have been a reformation instead of a revolution. It was Korah’s critical words against Yahweh’s chosen leader, Moses, which ignited the flames of mutiny like a match to dry tinder.
American scientist, statesman, and philosopher, Benjamin Franklin, observed,  “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain, and most fools do.”  Having a spirit of criticism is the height of folly. In fact, criticism is the surest indicator of a prideful and unsubmitted heart.

The Bible is filled with warnings about criticism against Yahweh’s appointed leaders. There are numerous examples in Scripture of the righteous refusing to rise up against Yahweh’s “anointed” leadership. Under Heaven, respect for the person’s position continues even when the individual himself is undeserving.

Consider the respect for God’s appointed leadership, which David showed unto King Saul. Although King Saul had become demon possessed (1 Samuel 16:14),  David refused to harm or speak against him. Having been anointed by the prophet Samuel, as the Heaven-appointed leader of Israel, Saul was to be respected for this position, whether or not he was personally worthy. David's regard for the aberrant king was not based upon Saul's character, but upon YAH's authority to set up and remover rulers.

"Yahweh render to every man His righteousness and His faithfulness: for Yahweh delivered thee into my hand to day, but I would not stretch forth mine hand against [Yahweh’s] anointed,"  1 Samuel 26:23

David had a heart for Yahweh, and a desire  to do only that which was pleasing in His sight. As David voiced in 1 Samuel, Chapter 26, he strongly believed that Yahweh, alone, sets up kings and leaders. This concept of respect for leadership is echoed by Paul, who wrote:

"Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of Yahweh.  Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of Yahweh: and they that resist  shall receive to themselves damnation," Romans 13:1-2.

Before we further develop the concept of righteous respect for authority, we should note that deference does not include implicit obedience to unscriptural human commands. Many have chosen the easy road, avoiding suffering, while “sanctioning” this compromise as obedience to authority.  But, there is an important difference.

Recall the compromising Children of Israel in Daniel’s day. Nearly ten thousand Israelites were taken into Babylonian captivity along with Daniel and his three friends (2 Kings
24:10-14). Of all the professed worshipers of Yahweh in that throng, only three stood bravely when the music played. They  risked death rather than bow to the image. When there is a contention between the commands of the human authority and those of the Most High, obedience to Yahweh should win, every time! As it says in Acts 5:29, “…We ought to obey God rather than men.”

Still, it is important to notice that the Hebrew worthies were not disrespectful or confrontive to King Nebuchadnezzar. They did not rudely flaunt disregard of his command. In this example, and in numerous others, we find the Scriptural principle of respect for authority at all times, even in instances of righteous resistance against ungodly demands.

Developing respect for positions of human authority, is a vital part of spiritual maturity. Peter contrasts the spiritually established with the developmentally immature, saying, “He that lacks these things is blind... Give diligence to make your calling and election sure,” (2 Peter 1:9-10).  With that reminder,  he next warns of false prophets (Strong's 5578 - spurious teachers) among you (2 Peter 2:1) who:

“…Walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed; they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities,”2 Peter 2:10.

Korah and his cronies were certainly false prophets, as they dared to speak evil of Moses and plot against him. The critical spirit which Korah, Dathan, and Abiram manifested against Moses was inappropriate even toward an unrighteous ruler; but, it was doubly evil in that they spoke against the Spirit-led headship of Moses. Speaking in a critical manner against anyone is ungodly (James 4:11), let alone when it is against Yahweh's divinely-appointed leader (Acts 23:5).

“And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom [Yahweh] knew Face to face,” Deuteronomy 34:10.

In Scripture, a horn symbolizes power. Ironically,  the name “Korah,” the man who coveted the power and authority of Moses, also means “without horns.” This suggests that Korah had no godly power within him. Instead, he was pridefully calculating and ambitious in his pursuit of power. Is that not the purpose of criticism, after all?

“Dathan,” on the other hand, had a name that meant “cistern or spring,” having to do with “a fountain;” but, in this case, his rebellious spirit was a broken cistern, yielding polluted water.

“Abiram” also had a negative meaning. His name meant “father of elevation, high, or pride,” and represents the arrogance of self-sufficiency. The three thoughts, combined, spelled rebellion. Here was the spirit of self-ambition which Yahweh could not tolerate.

"Seekest thou great things for thyself? Seek them not: for, behold, I will bring evil upon all flesh, saith Yahweh," Jeremiah 45:5.

According to Josephus, "When Moses was a general of the Egyptian army in the attack against the Ethiopians, he married an Ethiopian woman as part of a political alliance to end the war.” This union had spawned some gossip among the women, supposedly led by Miriam.

It is, thus, suggested that Moses lost grace in the eyes of his siblings over his mixed marriage. Miriam and Aaron criticized Moses over his choice of  a  mate, complaining that the Ethiopians were non-Israelite descendants of Cush. This personal criticism eventually eroded Aaron and Miriam’s respect for Moses’ authority. Ultimately, it was only Yahweh’s intervention, chastising Miriam with leprosy, that curbed the insurrection for a time. But sympathy seemed to still exist in the camp long after Miriam was restored.

How destructive it is, once the poison of a critical spirit has been released; even its instigators cannot control how far-reaching will be the ripples of its effects. The unforgotten bitterness behind this early challenge to Moses’ authority, as the leader of Israel, had long lain dormant in the hearts of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. 

Now, at Kehelathah, their prideful rebellion had grown to the point that, when Moses summoned the conspirators to appear before him, they defiantly refused to come. “We will not come up!” they responded. It seems that Dathan and Abiram considered themselves under no authority, certainly not Moses' authority. They considered their rank higher than his. After all, they were of the tribe of Ruben, the first born son of Jacob!  Their arrogance shouted loud and clear: “Moses, we have no respect for your authority. Your word means nothing to us. We have just as much intelligence, inspiration, and leadership ability as you do. Furthermore, as descendants of the eldest son of Jacob, we have birth rights. That gives us pre-eminence in civil matters.” They simply would not submit.

Then Moses sent a summons to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Elia; but they said, "We will not come up. Is it not enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey to have us die in the wilderness, but you would also lord it over us? Indeed, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor have you given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Would  you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!" Numbers 16:12-14, NAS.

Without any spiritual understanding and only their tribal “rights” in mind, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram raised unfounded accusations against Moses. These rebellious instigators challenged Moses with the allegation: “You have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey.” Clearly, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were grasping at straws in their vain attempt to find evidence by which to critically judge Moses. In the light of the Fire by night and Cloud by day, all of Israel had been eyewitnesses to the fact that Yahweh was the One leading them back into the wilderness. As is the testimony of any godly leader, Moses had only guided the people under the over-shadowing direction of the Great I Am.

When rightly “called upon the carpet” for their poisonous attitudes, the rebels dared to act affronted. They accused Moses of “lording it over them.” Underlying this unfounded accusation was Korah’s desire for promotion. He and his associates were unsatisfied with their own level of power. Yet, in an ironic role-reversal, Korah and his critical cohorts accused Moses and Aaron of lifting themselves up above the congregation (see Numbers 16). So blinded by pride had Korah, Dathan, and Abiram  become,  that they actually thought they were holy and that Moses and Aaron were motivated by selfish ambition! They accused Yahweh's appointed servants of self-assumed power, the sin for which the Kohathites (the followers of Korah) were actually guilty!

How did Moses respond to this deepening insurrection? Moses did what every godly leader must do in the face of such accusation. He cried out to Yahweh, humbly calling upon Heaven to resolve the conflict.  

"And when Moses heard it he fell upon his face: and he spoke unto Korah and unto all his company saying. Even tomorrow Yahweh will show 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," Numbers, 16:4-5.

How should we respond to criticism or react when we are falsely accused? Should we strike out with words in self-defense? Accuse the accuser?  If we would learn from Moses in this crisis, we will not choose self-defense; rather, we should be concerned for Yahweh's cause and reputation. Moses first response was a humble one. He fell on his face before the Almighty, seeking to know if there might be any truth in the accusation. When he received the assurance of Yahweh's blessing, with a clear conscience, he prayed for his attack-ers, the nation, and his own soul. His prayerful approach to a volatile situation is a model for each of us when falsely accused.

When a leader is surrounded by rebellious and divisive critics, there is something glorious about having a clean conscience. Moses reminded Yahweh that he had not taken even a donkey from any of them, nor hurt one of them (Exodus 16:15). Moses was a man of integrity and service to the people; his was the peace and assurance that brings the rest of a clear conscience.

With his own heart assured, Moses turned to Yahweh for a response to the rebels’ demands. Humanly speaking, the odds were not good. Moses and Aaron seemed to stand alone against nearly the entire congregation, now fomenting like an angry mob! The Most High would make this choice, not popular opinion. Moses and Aaron rested their case in the control of Yahweh.

The next day they presented their censors at the tent of meeting where the glory of YAH appeared. There the people awaited the endorsement of Yahweh upon His chosen men. Would Yahweh honor their favored replacements and show Moses a thing or two? Remarkably, the self-deception of the rebel leaders was so great, that even now they did not fear!

The Almighty spoke to Moses and Aaron, instructing them to move away from the others so that Yahweh could make a quick end of them. So great was the crime of insurrection against this godly leader, that instant death was the punishment deemed just in Yahweh’s eyes.

Again Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in intercessory prayer for the entire assembly. Because of the intercession of Moses and Aaron, the people were spared and only the instigators were judged.

And he spake unto the congregation, saying, Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs, lest ye be consumed in all their sins, Numbers 16:26.

The day Yahweh judged Korah, Dathan, and Abiram was the “close of probation” for them and their followers. Even though Israel was only two years into their forty-year journey, in a sense, this experience typified the final Day of Atonement. On that Day, all mankind will either experience the culmination of Atonement (“at-one-ment”) or will be forever barred from Grace.

In the Kehelathah Atonement for Israel, we have a prototype for the censer being “thrown down” to prevent the plagues (Revelation 8-9) from touching the righteous. Those who heeded the call to come out from among the wicked (Revelation 18:4) were protected, lest the innocent die with the sinners under judgment.

“Ultimately it will be the professed ‘Christians,’… who will thirst for the blood of the saints.”

Among the many future types to be found at this encampment, one of the most significant is the parallel to the final persecution. Korah, in the “Name of  Yahweh,” led the people into rebellion with the intent to kill the servant of the Almighty! This rebel leader thought he was holy, and believed his cause to be righteous.

This wilderness experience lends an interesting perspective on the events foretold in Revelation 13. Ultimately, it will be the professed “Christians,” who “say they are Jews (spiritual Seed of Abraham and heirs of the Kingdom), and are not…” (Revelation 2:9), who will thirst for the blood of the real saints. This false group will actually be of Satan’s church, although they fully believe themselves to be godly.

The “brethren” will come from the same congregations as the righteous, yet they will have rebelled against Yahweh’s appointed leader, Moses, by rejecting the Torah. These false shepherds will encourage people to forsake the the Law of God, and form their own pseudo-religion, making their own pathway to Canaan. Their hatred and persecution of the followers of Moses will be intensified until it reaches the boiling point in desiring to slay the “heretics” and “fanatics.” But, Yahweh will intervene for His people, as He did for Moses, separating them from the insurgents. And the Synagogue of Satan will be judged by the Almighty as swiftly and severely as were Korah and those who believed his doctrine at Kehelathah.

The air was tense with anticipation, as the people awaited the judgment of the Al-mighty. The people fell back in fear as the earth began to shake beneath the feet of Korah and his cohorts. Like a hungry mouth, a huge chasm gaped open in  the ground. Their foundation cleaved from beneath them; Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, their households, and all the people directly participating in their insurrection, fell into the yawning earth. Suddenly, the chasm closed, swallowing them, all persons that pertained to them, and their belongings altogether (Numbers 16:32).

At the warning of Moses, most of Korah’s admirers had moved away. Simultaneously, as the Bible says, fire broke out from Yahweh consuming the two-hundred and fifty sympathetic princes, who had come to the Tabernacle to offer incense in their golden censers.

Korah’s rebellion reverberated from the courts of Heaven, when Lucifer fell to criticism and jealousy. “I will exalt my throne above the stars of [Yahweh]... I will be like the Most High,” he had asserted (Isaiah 14:12-15). Like Korah, his end will be “the pit.” Like the foolish followers of Korah, every unrepentant person in The End, will join the devil in“The Pit,” and be consumed in fire (Rev. 20:10).

Imagine the stunned silence that lay upon the multitude after witnessing Yahweh’s dramatic judgment upon Korah. After they recovered sufficiently from their shock, how did they respond? One might expect the congregation to have melted in humble submission to Yahweh, or at least to have recoiled in fear of Him, lest they also be consumed. One would expect to hear of them beating their breasts in contrition, crying, “We have sinned a great sin! Have mercy upon us, O God!” But, amazingly, this was not their response.

The ending of Revelation tells us of the final cycle of this rebellion. Type will meet antitype: Satan and his sympathizers will, in rage, rush upon the “city of God, ” the saints surrounded by His protection. The earth will shake as never before and lightning fire will devour the attackers.

Perhaps even more shocking than the daring rebellion of Korah is the story of what happened the day after his death. All the congregation had witnessed Yahweh's consuming earthquake and fire. Yet, the congregation had the blind daring to complain against Moses and Aaron the very next day!

With a fevered frenzy, they cried out against Moses, “You have killed the people of Yahweh!” (Numbers 16:41). What a stark parallel to the future, when the faithful ones will be blamed for calamities coming upon the unified religious world! What prideful folly! Such depths of blindness gain control once man has rejected Truth. In a stupor of self-deception, he forms his own pseudo-religion in which all gods are equal. So firmly will it be entrenched in the rebel mind that counsel and even miracles cannot deliver him.

They received not the love of the Truth, that they might be saved.  And for this cause Yahweh shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.

From this Bible story, the “fear of Yahweh” should take on new meaning. No wonder there are so many references to respect for our holy and mighty God! Most of Israel never gave Him the awesome reverence called for by the Commandments and Statutes. “The fear of [Yahweh] is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding,” Job  had exclaimed (Job 28:28).

As David also observed, “The fear of Yahweh is the beginning of wisdom,” Psalms 111:10. But the pride of the people eclipsed even the fear of Yahweh, preventing repentance! The day after Korah’s dramatic death, the remaining leaders of Israel would have stoned Moses, except for the intervention of Yahweh Himself! That spirit is building, even now, toward the final confrontation. Acting swiftly, Yahweh struck the raging multitude with a plague, just as He will once again.

In a remarkable shadow-picture of End-Time intercession, Moses commanded Aaron:

"Take your censer and put incense in it, along with fire from the altar, and hurry to the assembly to make atonement for them.Wrath has come out from Yahweh; the plague has started," Numbers 16:46.

Can you imagine interceding for such a wicked bunch of folks? Moses had a godly heart. It isn't natural for a person to start interceding for the very ones who have been so difficult and even wanted you dead! Naturally, we would tend to respond with, "Well, let me just step back here so you can get em good, God...  Boy they sure do deserve it!" But that isn't what God is like. And that isn't what He wants us to be like. We are to love, even our enemies. And Moses' intercession for Israel was a powerful demonstration of this kind of love. 

So, Aaron did as Moses had said, and he ran into the midst of the assembly swinging the “hallowed incense” as an act of atonement for them. Aaron, the high priest, stood between the living and the dead, and the plague was halted. Yet, 14,700 people died from the plague, in addition to those who had died as sympathizers with Korah, (Numbers 16:32). 

In conclusion, what lessons for today may we find in the record of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram?

  • At Kehelathah, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram led a revolt against Moses’ leadership. This revolt began with criticism, and culminated in the death of the revolutionaries, plus a plague upon their sympathizers.
  • Israel’s experience at Kehelathah is a shadow picture of the Synagogue of Satan and their ultimate attack against the saints. Like Korah, the leaders of the Synagogue of Satan will reject Moses’ leadership (Torah) and seek to lead the people by their own route to Utopia in a pseudo-religion of their own making.
  • The writings of Moses, called the Torah, comprise the Law of Yahweh, as His instruction for holy living. This is the lens through which all Scripture is to be discerned and framed.
  • Spiritual “Kohathites” in the Last Days will reject Moses’ leadership by rejecting the validity of the Torah. They will believe themselves to be the true servants of the Most High. But in rejecting Moses, Yahweh’s appointed leader who brings Israel to the border of the Promised Land, the End-Time Kohathites are daring to reject the leader whom Yahweh appointed to lead ultimate Israel into the Ultimate Promised Land.