April 17, 2011
Numbers 16:39-40, Page 247
The Rebellion of Korah
Coming Near the LORD–a Reminder
“So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers which the men who were burned had offered, and they hammered them out as a plating for the altar, as a reminder to the sons of Israel that no layman who is not of the descendants of Aaron should come before the LORD; so that he will not become like Korah and his company–just as the LORD had spoken to him through Moses.”
Do you know why a rainbow appears in the sky? God placed the rainbow in the sky for a sign of a covenant between all flesh and God. God said He will remember His covenant between God and Noah, “and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh” (Genesis 9:8-17, pages 12-13). God set the bow as a reminder of the covenant and the great judgment He brought about upon the earth with the flood. In Numbers, God created a reminder to the people of Israel about His holiness.
The Sign to the Sons of Israel–the Bronze Censers. When two hundred and fifty men came before the LORD with bronze censers, God burned them with fire because they acted in rebellion (Numbers 16:35, page 247). Yet, God instructed Moses to take up those bronze censers from the mist of the blaze, because they did present them before the LORD and they were holy (Numbers 16:38, page 247). The LORD held the men accountable for their rebellion, and they had sinned at the cost of their lives (Numbers 16:38, page 247). Even so, God commanded Moses to hammer those bronze censers into sheets for a plating of of the altar.
Approaching God in Holiness. God taught the people of Israel a painful lesson about the holiness of God and rebellion. Whenever we think that we can come near to God on our own terms, or on the basis of our own righteousness, then we violate the holiness of God. As sinners, we lack holiness and all our righteousness amounts to filthy garments before God (Isaiah 64:6, page 1171). God set out very specific guidelines for anyone approaching His presence in the tent of meeting, and anyone who violated it would be subject to death. In this case, when Korah, Dathan and Abiram all decided they could approach God on the basis of their position as Levites, or as children of Israel and, in their minds, privileged and holy people of God and His covenant with Abraham, they were sadly mistaken and taken away in sin.
The Bronze Plating on the Altar. The LORD directed that the bronze plating, hammered from the censers of the two hundred and fifty rebels with Korah, be attached to the altar to serve as a perpetual sign and reminder to the people of Israel about the holiness and unapproachability of the LORD. Notice in Numbers 16:40, page 190, that God says that “no layman” (“אִישׁ זָר“), better translated “common man,” because the next phrase specifies that he must be a descendant of Aaron. God does not raise up a “clergy” of men in the Bible, although God does appoint special people to special ministries, often on the basis of genealogy in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, all saints live before God as a holy priesthood, and God gives gifts to every believer because they have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:5, page 1895; 1 Corinthians 12:7, page 1796).
Approaching God in Christ Jesus Today. One of the great lessons we learn from the New Testament Book of Hebrews concerns the ministry of Christ as Savior and High Priest. No one could have free access to God in the holy of holies in the Old Testament tabernacle, but only one high priest could enter once per year (Leviticus 16:1-17:34, pages 187-190). We now have a greater blessing in Christ Jesus today. Christ not only performed the work of salvation on earth for all men by dying upon the cross of Calvary, but He also entered the greater tabernacle in heaven not made with human hands (Hebrews 9:11, page 1878). Jesus also grants the privilege to each believer to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, because of His offering of Himself on the cross. His sacrifice on the cross perfected for all time and sanctified each believer (Hebrews 9:14-18, page 1880). Therefore, because Christ (our eternal High Priest) has opened up a new living way into the presence of God, and we draw near with “full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:20-22, pages 1880-1881).
So we learn more about drawing near to God today.
● God placed a sign on the altar from the bronze censers used in the rebellion of Korah. He wanted everyone to remember His holiness, and only the men He selected could approach Him, and serve Him.
● God will always be holy, and unapproachable on our own merits.
● Only through the sacrifice of Christ Jesus on the cross, and because of His blood offering for sin, can we draw near to God. We should always remember the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, who thought they could approach a holy God wearing their own righteousness and doing it their way, not God’s way.
Application for Today
Today I will bow down before the Holy God of Israel, the Lord Jesus Christ. Only because of Christ can I draw near to the Living God. I will remember that whole families sinned at the cost of their lives. I will remember that God takes His holiness very seriously, but allows me to enter His presence now with confidence and cleanliness only because of the blood of Christ. Will you approach God in confidence today?