3 They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” (Numbers 16:3)
It’s probably no secret that ministers deal with envy. When we get together at conferences and conventions, we stand in circles and size each other up. We ask each other, “How’s your church doing?” And the answer is always, “Oh, we’re running such-and-such in worship. Or, “We baptized XX number of people last year.” And I doubt I am the only pastor who’s ever been tempted to skew my church’s numbers up a little just to fit in. If we have 225 in worship, I’ll round it up to 250. You know, just to be maybe 10% more impressive.
It’s the sin of Korah, who looked at Moses and Aaron and said, “What’s so special about them?” The modern-day version is, “Why is HIS church doing so well? How come they’ve got such a huge budget? I’m just as good a preacher as he is.” And on and on it goes.
As a Koahite, Korah was closer to the holy things than anyone else. His clan cared for the Ark and the altar and all the tabernacle furnishings. And maybe that was part of the problem. Familiarity breeds contempt, and proximity to sacred things breeds pride and, God help me, indifference.
Not only that, but it was hard work. The Koahites didn’t get ox-carts like the Gershonites and the Merarites did. They had to lug all of the holy things by hand. Maybe they began to resent the hard work. It happens.
It’s fitting that Korah was swallowed by the earth. Envy, pride, entitlement—those are all things of the world. And like Korah, the world can swallow us alive. We can look a lot like Lucifer in Milton’s Paradise Lost, deciding it’s better to reign in hell than serve in Heaven.
But my God shot this morning came from taking the long view. God redeemed the sons of Korah! A few generations later, Samuel, of the line of Korah, would anoint David king of Israel (1 Chron. 6:31-38). Once the tabernacle was replaced by the Temple, the Korathites became its doorkeepers (1 Chron. 9:19-21). The sons of Korah are credited with eleven of the Psalms, and in one of them, they would write, “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness” (Psalm 84:10). It took some time, but the Korahites apparently learned to praise God for the role they were given.
God, fill me with gratitude for the work you’ve given me to do. Renew my wonder at sacred things. And let me keep my eyes on You, and not be swallowed by comparison.