Bible Study Series: The Book of Jude - The Acts of the Apostates
Bible Study: Jude 11: Beware the Rebellion of Korah
By Fraser Gordon
Jude 11 Woe to them! For they have gone in the way of Cain, have run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit, and perished in the rebellion of Korah.
Jude 11 gives 3 examples of false people we should watch out for within our fellowships and in the church. The first one we looked at was the way of Cain, then the greed of Balaam. Today we're going to look at the third example, the rebellion of Korah. Jude uses these three examples to show us the different traits and characteristics of a false person and Korah will give us another type that we should watch out for.
Numbers 16:1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; 2 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, men of renown.
Here we are introduced to Korah, who seems to be the main instigator of this little rebellion. Korah was a Levite and specifically a Kohathite. They had been appointed by God to carry all the holy things of the temple, like the Ark of the Covenant. Korah’s name means baldness so you've got old Baldy here. He tries to exalt himself with these other people to a new position. In verse 2 we find that the rebellion had already taken root and 250 leaders of renown were following him. These leaders would have been representatives of the tribes, people of great reputation and ability. Korah at their head rose up against Moses to have a run on the leadership. They were obviously not happy with how Moses and Aaron were handling things and thought they could do a better job.
Numbers 16:3 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 assembly of the Lord?"
His accusation was that Moses and Aaron had too much authority. There's a certain amount of self righteousness from the lips of Korah. He believes that he and all the congregation are holy enough for the positions that God gave Moses and Aaron. This all speaks of a man claiming his own righteousness. God declares a person holy and declares them in their position. But Korah wanted those positions. He accuses Moses of pride saying ‘Why do you exalt yourself above the assembly of the Lord? He's accusing Moses, the servant of God, of exalting himself over the people. We know the scriptures say that Moses was a humble man. We find that he was schooled in the wisdom of the Egyptians for 40 years then fled when he killed a man who was persecuting his people. He fled to the backside of the desert for 40 years and was a shepherd. As far as the calling of God upon his life; he was reluctant, and in Exodus 3 & 4, when God turned up in the burning bush to speak to him Moses didn't want the position that God placed before him. He said. ‘Can you find someone else? I'm not good at speaking’. God, in his grace, allowed Aaron to be included with Moses as his spokesman, and the Lord was with them both. Moses was reluctant. He didn't want the position, and didn't want to be in charge of the Israelites. He didn’t exalt himself into anything.
There is a contrast here. Usually the person that lifts themselves up is not the person that should be in the job. God chooses the low, the meek, and the mild. People that don't have what it takes so that He can show himself strong in and through those who He calls. But Korah thinks he has the ability, and the men with him are leaders of renown, men of quality and reputation. He typifies Satan in this. Satan was not content with the position God had given him. He was an anointed Cherub and walked among fiery stones. But that was not enough for him. He chose to exalt himself in the same way that Korah did. Satan sought to rise himself above the stars of the heavens so that he would be worshipped as God. This is the same spirit as Korah, seeking to exalt himself, but that is God's job. There is always leadership contention. How many churches are there with leadership splits? People rise up thinking they can do better. The real question is, has God chosen them for that position? This is Satan's way to corrupt fellowship. There will always be men of renown, men of leadership and ability that rise up and challenge God given authority. Satan is always behind it wanting to corrupt and split the fellowship of believers.
The body is one
Korah asks Moses and Aaron ‘why do you exalt yourselves? This here brings out a divine truth.
1 Corinthians 12:11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills. 12 For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptised into one body--whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free--and have all been made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For in fact the body is not one member but many. 15 If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? 16 And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body," is it therefore not of the body? 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? 18 But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased.
God places the gifts of the Spirit within the body. It is the will of the Spirit to give gifts to you and me, and every part of the body according to His will and purpose. We don’t choose our position, it is chosen by the Spirit for His purposes and will. Moses didn't choose his position either, God did. It was God's will for His purposes. We all have a part to play in the body and it's God's business where He puts us, whether we are a hand, a foot, an eye. an ear, or a little toenail, it doesn't matter. You are in the body and God has placed you there. That is your position for His purposes and will.
Korah however is not content with his part in the body. He accuses Moses of pride, of exalting himself and of having too much authority over the people.
Numbers 16:4 So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face; 5 and he spoke to Korah and all 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.
How did Moses respond when Korah accused him of having too much authority and exalting himself? Well, the only way to respond when there is a run on leadership or a personal attack, he fell on his face and gave the situation to God. It was God's problem. It wasn't for Moses to sort out. Moses didn’t debate with Korah, fighting to hold his place, or present his case for leadership. He doesn't argue his point with Korah. Instead he tries to remove himself. He falls on his face and gives the situation to God. You see the same thing in the life of David. When he hears of his son Absalom’s run for the throne David goes to find that suitcase he has packed in the top of the wardrobe. He leaves, ‘If God is gracious to me, he will put me back here’. He didn't try to fight Absalom for the position, David was already king and God had put him there. Instead he removed himself and trusted God to work it out for His will and purposes.
When there's a run on leadership, this meek and mild man puts it before God straight away. It's not a matter of man versus man, the choice was God’s.
Numbers 16:6 Do this: Take censers, Korah and all your company; 7 put fire in them and put incense in them before the Lord tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the Lord chooses is the holy one. You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!"
Then Moses gets to the heart of the matter.
Num 16:8 Then Moses said to Korah, "Hear now, you sons of Levi: 9 Is it a small thing to you that 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; 10 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?
Korah already had responsibilities, he was already part of the body, carrying the holy things of the temple. But he was not content with the position God had given him. Moses asked Korah ‘Is it a small thing?’ In other words do you regard the place and position God has given you as insignificant? Korah had been given a task, a small part in what God had planned for the nation of Israel. In verse 10 he carries on saying ‘He has brought you near to Himself. You and all your brethren’. Korah and his family were near to God but it still wasn't enough. He was not content. We must be content with our part in the body of Christ. Just like Corinthians says ‘The body is one and has many members’ we all have a part to play in that body and we need to be content with the part we have. Not all are the eyes, the ears or the mouthpiece. Some are insignificant members of the body, but it is God's will. ‘But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased’. God's purpose and calling on us is to place us in the body and give us a task, even though it may be small and not as great as other members, but that doesn't matter. We're part of the body and we need to be content with the calling He has placed on us.
The heart of the issue is when Moses asks ‘are you seeking the priesthood also?’ Korah was aiming at the high priest's role. Aaron and his sons had been given the responsibilities of the high priest, not Kohath and his sons. Aaron is a type of the Lord Jesus Christ as our High Priest.
Hebrews 7:23 Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. 24 But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. 26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. 28 For the law appoints as high priests men who have weakness, but the word of the oath, which came after the law, appoints the Son who has been perfected forever. Hebrews 8:1 Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens,
Jesus is our High Priest. Korah was running for the high priest's role but it had been given to another. Korah was trying to usurp the position which God had already appointed. This is one of the tendencies of a false person. You see, there is one mediator between God and man, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ who is our High Priest. He intercedes on our behalf eternally because He is eternal and seated at the right hand of the Father. If a man tries to place himself between you and the Father you know it’s false because that position has already been given to the Lord Jesus Christ. People will try to usurp that position and put themselves in between man and God - they are in the likeness of Korah. Don't let anyone say they are a mediator between God and man for you. You can go directly to the Father through the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our High Priest who intercedes on our behalf. There are false people today in the likeness of Korah.
Numbers 16:11 Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the Lord. And what is Aaron that you complain against him?"
Moses is asking ‘Why are you bringing Aaron into this, he's innocent.
A true prophet
Num 16:12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, but they said, "We will not come up! 13 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 should keep acting like a prince over us?
They would not even address Moses personally. Dathan and Abiram were accusing Moses of exalting himself as a prince of the people and bringing them into the wilderness to kill them.
Numbers 16:14 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!" 15 Then 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." 16 And Moses said to Korah, "Tomorrow, you and all your company be present before the Lord--you and they, as well as Aaron. 17 Let each take his censer and put incense in it, and each of you bring his censer before the Lord, two hundred and fifty censers; both you and Aaron, each with his censer." 18 So every man took his censer, put fire in it, laid incense on it, and stood at the door of the tabernacle of meeting with Moses and Aaron. 19 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. 20 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 21 "Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment."
God was going to consume them all. He told Moses and Aaron to separate themselves, He always calls for separation. It's Satan's way to mix with others, but God calls us to separate ourselves from those that are ungodly.
Numbers 16:22 Then they 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?" 23 So the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 "Speak to the congregation, saying, 'Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.' " 25 Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 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."
In other words, have nothing whatsoever to do with these people in rebellion.
Num 16:27 So they got away from around the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, with their wives, their sons, and their little children.
In verses 28-29 you now have the words of a true prophet,
Num 16:28 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. 29 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.
I love that Moses puts his reputation on the line as a prophet. If anything natural happens to these men, then the Lord hasn't used Moses and the voice of God did not speak through him. How often would you love to hear the so-called prophets of today say that? But they don't, instead they make excuses for why things don't happen. Moses is a true prophet of God. He tells them how it’s going to be, or otherwise God has not spoken through him.
Do you think the church elders faced with a run on leadership could ever come up with a plan like what is about to happen next?
Numbers 16:30 But if the Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows 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."
Interestingly, their accusations were against Moses. But these people will be judged not because they rejected Moses, but because they rejected God. This is what rebellion is, it is against God’s order of divine will and calling. They reject the Lord by assuming they are holy and can take positions upon themselves. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. We should always have that in the back of our mind, because God is Holy, righteous, and the scriptures are true.
Numbers 16:31 Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. 33 So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly.
God is holy and it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of God. He had His own way of judging this rebellion, the Earth opened up and swallowed them. Church leadership would never come up with a plan like that if there was a rebellion. It would have been a huge deterrent to everyone who saw what happened. Remember they had to separate themselves and get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. Then the earth opened up right underneath these three with all their families, and their goods. They were all judged for the sin of rebellion. This deterrent brought fear to the nation of Israel in the same way that the judgement of Ananias and his wife Sapphira in the early church did. These judgments seem harsh but they are a deterrent and reminder that God is holy and righteous. His judgement and righteousness are as perfect as His love.
Num 16:34 Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, "Lest the earth swallow us up also!" 35 And a fire came out from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.
The Earth opened up and Korah, Dathan, Abiram and all their families went down alive into the pit. The rest, those 250 men of renown, those great leaders of reputation were consumed in a moment by fire. Here you have a picture of what judgement will be like for some. Many people today are in rebellion against God. They might not go down physically, but their earthly body will die, and they will be alive spiritually as they descend into the pit. They will be in hell until the Great White Throne of judgement, when they will come before the Lord. The books will be opened and everything laid bare before a Holy God. Those names not found in the Lambs Book of Life will be cast into the fire where the worm is not quenched. God judges those that are in rebellion.
Jude compares false teachers in verse 11 with three different individuals, warning us to beware of people with the same characteristics as them. Firstly Cain - a religious man consumed with his own self righteousness who thought his sacrifice was good enough. He had no need of a substitute, the Lord Jesus Christ. Secondly, Balaam where everything was materialistic. He sought God but in his heart was greed for profit and wages. He couldn’t curse the nation of Israel, and even though he repented and spoke wonderful prophecies concerning the King that would come, later we find in Revelation 2.14 and Numbers 31.16 that he taught Balak how to corrupt the nation of Israel by inter-marrying with the woman of Moab. The third example is Korah’s rebellion. The spirit of Korah exalts itself, believing it can be in a position of authority apart from God’s choosing. However God places people in the body according to His will and purpose.
Saints, we need to watch for all these things. Jude continues with examples in nature of what a false person is like. So next time we will continue to look at those.
Father, we thank you for your word. We thank you that it is alive and we ask that you make it real in our hearts. Speak to us, we pray. We thank you for this great little book of Jude and for the truth that he brings forth. We pray, Lord, that there would be no part of Korah or the spirit of rebellion in our hearts or lives and we would be content with the place you've put us in the body of Christ. We thank you for the gifts and the calling you have for each and every one of us. And Lord, we rest in that and we thank you that even though it may be a small part, we are in the body - in the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us not exalt ourselves into positions that you haven't placed us in. We put these things before you, make everything real to our hearts. For Jesus sake. Amen.