From That Which Fills the Heart
Numbers 16 brings us to really one of the most difficult times in Moses's life and it's been building up to this. In chapter 13 we were reading that Israel had been in the desert, really a quite a short time, maybe only a year and a half. They came to the very doorstep of entering into their promised land. What had happened? God instructed Moses to send 12 men to spy out the land to see what it was like. Is it rich and fertile, bring back some samples of the fruit?
What about the people? Are they few? Are they many? Are the cities fortified? Are they strong? They came back after 40 days and 10 of the 12, really had a discouraging report. Yes, sure, it's the land flowing with milk and honey. Here's the fruit, it's abundant in that but the people in it are of great size and we there are too many for us. We cannot overcome this. In other words, there are giants in the land. There are mountains ahead. We can't do this thing and fear just began to wave, just move through the people.
Now, you get a sense of the trouble to come. In that story, when the people, when they hear this discouraging report, they cried that night and they said, "Oh, would that we had died in the land of Egypt. Oh, would that we had died in this wilderness. Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt? Let us appoint the leader over us and let us return to Egypt." Little did Moses know that they'd actually do it or at least tried to.
Now I mentioned last week the key issue behind all of these is the hard and it started really, surely after they came out of Egypt, it starts building in intensity until we get to Numbers 11:1 where it says, "The people became like those who complain of adversity and the hearing of the Lord." It's difficult to make good decisions with the bad attitude. This complaining or contentious spirit it did something to them. It changed them. They became spiritually weak.
The whole point of leaving Egypt was to come to the land flowing with milk and honey, but there are giants in the land. There are mountains ahead and the people become discouraged and their fear defeats them. Great lesson. When you look at that last week it's a great lesson. Then God instructed Moses to tell the people of Israel that because of their lack of faith he says, "Just as you have spoken to my hearing, so I would surely do. You asked to die in the wilderness and so you will. Everyone who is 20 years old and older."
Now when you get to Number 16, it comes to open rebellion. You're going to meet three men in this story. Korah and Dathan and Abiram. They gathered together 250 leaders. Men of renown. They come against Moses. You have gone far enough. When Moses hears this, he falls on his face and it's a great lesson. A lot of great lessons follow us out of the story. Paul wrote, "It's important to have this as an overarching theme that these things were written for our instructions." You can learn a lot from the mistakes of others or at least we should try to learn and apply those to our lives. Let's read it.
Now there are 50 verses in this chapter. I'm not going to read all of them. I'm going to read portions of the chapter to give us the unfolding story and then as you know Wednesday, verse by verse, we cover all of the other verses and chapters around it. Let's begin in Chapter 16:1. Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi. Now right there that's important to recognize this background because the Levites were given the privilege of being the priest. The sons of Aaron of the Levites, God gave them the priesthood ministry itself.
The other clans of the Levites had responsibilities and whenever the tabernacle, that's the place of God's dwelling in the midst of the camp of Israel. Whenever it was to be taken down and carried, then various different clans would carry different parts. The sons of Kohath, in particular, had a privilege. They had the privilege of carrying the Holy things. The most Holy things they'd carry them on their shoulders. Now they could not see them with their eyes, these were covered. They could not minister inside the temple or the tabernacle itself. That was left for the sons of Aaron, the High Priest but they had a privilege. It wasn't a high enough privilege. Korah, he's the grandson of Kohath.
Now there were others. There is Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth. These are sons of Reuben. Now they're carrying a grudge. Reuben was the firstborn. The tribes of Israel but he was displaced from the position of firstborn because of his trying to take a leadership and the sins that he did in his own life, so he was displaced. They've got aggrievance also. They've been carrying a grudge a long time.
These they rose up before Moses together with some of the sons of Israel, 250 leaders of the congregation, chosen in the assembly. Men of renown. They assembled together against Moses and Aron and they said to them, "You have gone far enough for all the congregation are holy, every one of them. The Lord is in their midst, so why do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord? When Moses heard this, he fell on his face.
Verse 8. Moses said unto Korah, Hear now, you sons of Levi. I just love the authority. He's going to deal with this straight up. Hear now, you sons of Levi is it not enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the congregation of Israel to bring you near to himself, to do the service of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation and minister unto them? And that he hath brought near, Korah, and all your brothers, sons of Levi with you. Are you now seeking the priesthood also?
Verse 12. Then Moses send a summons to Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, but they said, "No, we're not going to come up." Then they sent this message, "Isn't not enough that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey." Oh, I see, Egypt is the land flowing with milk and honey now. Is it not enough that you brought us from there to die here in the wilderness, and now you're going to Lord it over us. Indeed, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey and nor have you given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Would you put out the eyes of these men? No, we would not come up.
Verse 25. Then Moses arose and he went to Dathan and Abiram with the elders of Israel followed him. I love to see that scene unfolding. Then he spoke. Notice he doesn't speak to Dathan and Abiram. He speaks to the congregation and he says, "Move away from the tents of these men. Everyone, move away from these tents of these wicked men, touch nothing that belongs to them, lest you'll be swept away in all of their sin." They got back from around the dwellings of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.
Verse 31. Then it came about as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground that was under them was split open and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their houses, and all the men who belonged to Korah, and their possessions so they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them and they perished from amongst the assembly. Then verse 35, then fire also came forth from the Lord, and consumed the 250 men who were offered incense with strange fire by the way.
Verse 41. On the next day, all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron and they said, "You are the ones that have caused deaths of the Lord's people." It came about when the congregation had assembled against Moses and Aaron that they turned towards the tent of meeting and behold, the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting and the Lord said to Moses, "Move away from these people. Move away from these congregation that I might consume them instantly."
Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces. Moses said to Aaron quickly, "Take your censer, put in it, fire from the altar, lay incense on it. Quickly bring it to the congregation and make atonement for them for wrath had gone forth from the Lord. The plague has begun." Then Aaron took it as Moses had spoken and ran into the midst of the assembly for behold the plague had begun amongst the people. He put on the incense and made atonement for the people, but you noticed verse 48. He took his stand between the dead and the living so that the plague was checked. Those who died by the plague were 14,700 besides those who died on the count of Korah.
I. Natural Man Rebels Against Authority
Then Aaron returned to Moses at the doorway of the tent of meeting for the plague had been checked. What a tremendously important story in the history of Israel filled with lessons for us to apply and take hold of, starting with this understanding it's a natural state of man, natural man rebels against the authority. There's a vast difference between a natural man and a spiritually mature person. Every person in this room was born in the natural human condition. The natural human condition of man and something's got to change between the time that you're born in that condition and the point by which God would bring about a spiritual maturity, starting with the heart, that's where transformation has to come from because Jeremiah 17:9-10 tells us, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? I the Lord, search the heart and test the mind.
The natural man, it's a natural condition of man to not want authority over him, he wants to be his own authority, natural man rebels against any constraints of authority on him. He wants to be the master of his own soul, captain of his own destiny, again raise himself by his own bootstraps, that's the mantra of the day. That's the natural condition of man but the ability to submit to authority is a mark of spiritual maturity because they know those who are spiritually mature know the importance of being submitted to God.
A. The root of immaturity is the nature of man
You are the master. Your word is authority in my life and when You direct my steps, I say, "Lord, You are the captain. You give me the direction, I will move." That's spiritual maturity. What we got to understand, He's trying to show us tremendous spiritual lessons and that is that the root of immaturity is in the nature of man, it's a natural condition and that's the root of immaturity. The nature of man is the root of a lot of problems, that's where immaturity comes from, but God takes a person who comes to Jesus Christ, He takes them in their immaturity and then He begins to press into them.
He just continually presses into them to bring about a transformation of spiritual maturity, He'd never relent, He keeps pressing in. I was thinking of an illustration. I remember a time where there was a group from another church, they had asked if I would give them a tour of our building. I said, "Sure, no problem." I'm showing them the sanctuary, the kitchen and the fellowship hall in the youth center and at one point a fellow in the group says to me, "I have a question." He said, "I see that you have signs on the doors of the sanctuary that ask people not to bring coffee into the sanctuary." He said, "How do you enforce that?"
I said, "We don't, the vast majority people will honor that, but I don't want someone missing out on hearing the Gospel over a cup of coffee." Amen.
That's when he got serious. He said, "Why in the world--" That's always a good start. "Why in the world would you make a rule and then not enforce it? "I had to look at him to make sure this thing was for real.
I looked at him and I could see this thing's for real. "The reason that we have a rule and we don't enforce it, is because some people are confrontational by nature."
"They are the ones who need the Word of God most." Amen.
A few weeks later, I saw the pastor and I said, "Hey, tell me about that fellow." He said, "You have no idea what you started."
"I'm sorry, what happened?" He said, "The very next Sunday, I'm in the back of the sanctuary greeting people as they're coming into the service and who should come by me holding a cup of coffee like this."
He said, "He sat there in the front row with his cup of coffee like this the whole time I was teaching the Word of God." I said, "Really, his name isn't Cora for chance."
I said, "I am so sorry." He said, "No, it's worse than that, he's one of my elders."
Exactly. "Houston, we have a problem here. The problem is the heart." Cora's heart becomes evident here. He's not content, is he? He's not content with what God had given to him. He's the son of Cora, of the tribe of Levi given tremendous privilege but it wasn't enough. That's why this confrontation where Numbers 16:9-10, hear now you sons of Levi, is it not enough that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the congregation of Israel and now you're seeking the priesthood also?
Is part of the human condition, isn't it? It's not enough, I want more, I should be that, I should be this, I should deserve. The nature of man, the problem is discontentment and the root of the complaining heart is the discontentment. That's why When Paul writes in Philippians 2:3 and he's speaking to what spiritual maturity looks like, he says," Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind, regard one another as more important than yourselves."
God is trying to bring about maturity, God is trying to bring transformation from the condition at which we were born into that which is of God. James 3:13-14, who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behavior, his deeds done in the gentleness of wisdom, but if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your heart, do not be arrogant and lie against the truth. James is pretty bold, he's speaking to the condition but he's speaking to what spiritual maturity looks like because what Peter wrote is that God will bless the heart that's spiritually mature, that's why you should desire it. God's power is behind it, God's blessing is behind it.
Notice 1 Peter 5:5-6, God is opposed to the proud which is to say in another place, God resists the proud. I don't want God resisting, I don't want the opposition of the Holy Spirit. God will resist, he says the proud, but God will give grace to the humble. Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you at the proper time which is to say the blessing of God is behind, is the principle in spiritual maturity, God's power, God's blessing is behind it.
B.Discontent is contagious
That's why this lesson is so important because this speaks to the nature of man and it gives us tremendous revelation and it shows us in the story that this content is contagious. It wasn't enough that Cora had rebellion and discontent in his own heart, he then sowed the seeds of discontent in others. Starting with Nathan and Byron, then they influenced the 250 and eventually the whole congregation.
This was a dangerous time for Moses and Aaron. In fact, I suggest that if they had taken a vote at that moment, Moses and Aaron would have lost but God chooses, God chose Moses. That's why we don't vote here, I'm convinced that voting actually sows the seeds of discontent and separates people. I was telling this to some pastor friends of mine and one of the pastors was intrigued, he wanted to know more. He said, "Can we get together and have lunch?" I said, "Great, sure." We get together and he says, "I don't understand that, how does that work?" I said, "It works beautifully.
Let me ask you a question, do you vote in your church?" He said, "Yes." I said, "I think the nature of voting is divisive." I said, "Let me give you an illustration. Imagine you go to church with 1,000 people and you take a vote. 450 people say, "No, don't do this thing." I said, "By the very fact that you took a vote, you're going to have to do this thing even though 450 people tell you don't do this thing. It's kind of divisive."
She said, "Sometimes for bigger decisions, we need a bigger majority." I said, "Like what?" He said, "60, 40." I said, "You see, now you got a bigger decision and you got 400 people saying don't do this thing and you're still going to do it." He said, "Sometimes when you got really big decisions, you need a supermajority." I said, "What's a supermajority?" "75, 25," I said, " See, now you're talking about really big decisions." You've got a really big decision and 250 people say, "Don't do this thing," and you're still going to do it. Now when you just put it that way the divisiveness then becomes clear. I don't want to do this thing if five people are against it. I want to hear what's on their heart. Maybe they know something I don't know. I want the unity of the Holy Spirit. You know what we've been doing this as a church for almost 30 years. I know I don't look old enough.
We started this church when I was 10 actually. Anyway, we've been doing this as a church for almost 30 years and you know what in 30 years, we've never had a church split we've never even had one disagreement or fight amongst the elders. Amen. Can we just say, "Praise God"?
I am convinced that the maturity of the Spirit brings the unity in the body of Christ. See we need agreement in maturity. Amos 3:3 says, “Can two walk together except there be agreed?” See the 10 spies they sow the seeds of a lack of faith a fear. Korah sows the seeds of discontent to the congregation. In other words, be careful who you choose as friends because discontent is dangerous and discontent is contagious.
C.Walk in agreement with God
God took action to separate those who were rebellious, "Tell the people to move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram lest you be swept away in their sin". See the ground open up and swallowed them up. Discontent is contagious and sometimes the best course is to separate, move away from the one who is discontent and complaining because God is trying to show us a tremendous point and that is the-- what is it that God wants? What God wants is that we walk in agreement with God. That's what He wants.
See verse 11, shows us He says, "Therefore, you and all your company have gathered together against the Lord. It's really the Lord with whom you have that dispute". See the rebellious part of nature the rebellious part of the nature of man is going to have to be ironed out or it's going to impact your relationship to God. That's why it's so important to iron this out in your children while they are young.
Because if you don't iron this out while they are young it will continue to be a problem for them because it is a fundamental principle in the kingdom of God. It's a fundamental principle the nature of man must be ironed out. You teach this to your children. Jesus himself being the tremendous example. The night that Jesus was arrested He prayed. Part of that prayer was not my will, but your will be done. Oh, Father in heaven.
The example is so critical. Iron this out when they are young. See a parent can get obedience. See there's a big difference between obedience and agreement. See when you have agreement with God you say to the Lord, "You're right Lord. You're right. Your way is right. Your word is right. I want that in my life. You're right Lord". That's agreement. See and when you teach that to your children it's important that you teach them agreement.
You can always get obedience if you yell enough and become intimidating enough you can get obedience but it's a big difference between that and agreement. Romans 2:4, do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance. I love the lyrics of that song. In fact, we just sung it last week. It will be my joy to say your will your way. I love that. That's the heart of spiritual maturity right there. It would be a joy for me Lord. It would be a joy for me to say, "Your will your way".
II.Life is Lived from that which Fills the Heart
That's what God wants. That's why God is bringing to our attention and that's why one of the great lessons that we can apply out of this story is this life is lived from that which fills the heart. Life is lived from that which fills the heart. Look at the contrast between the heart and character of Korah, Dathan and Abiram and that of Moses. In Korah, Dathan and Abiram is the heart of discontent and complaining. They became like a people who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord. Then in Moses you see a heart a desire to meet with God, to draw near to God, to speak as one speaks to a friend. You see the contrast and then you see the contrast in how they lived.
Notice what Jesus said because Jesus taught a very similar thing in Luke 6:45. He said, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good but the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil for his mouth speaks". In other words, the life is lived from that which fills the heart. This is the key.
A. Watch over your heart with all diligence
You see that in Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Then you see it in Moses. That's why this lesson is such a critical lesson for us. Watch over your heart with all diligence.
Whenever Moses faced a challenge and there were many he fell on his face before God. Which is to say God, "I need you. I need you. I need your help". See when you walk with God, when you walk in agreement with God you know that He is with you, you know that He is for you, and so you watch and you wait for His help. Because you know that He is with you. You walk in agreement with Him. That's why Psalm 121:1-2 is such a great verse. I lift up my eyes to the hills where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord maker of heaven and earth.
One of the scenes that I love out of the story of Moses leading the people of Israel is that when Moses brought the people to Mt. Sinai it says that he set up a tent some distance outside the camp, and he called it the Tent of meeting. Anyone who desired to seek the Lord could go there. Now that's beautiful. Anyone who seeks the Lord can go there. It says that whenever Moses went out of the camp to the Tent of Meeting that the people would stand on their feet and gaze at Moses. What a contrast between that scene and what we're seeing here in number 16. Whenever Moses would walk out to the Tent of meeting all the people would stand up and gaze at Moses.
It says that the glory the Lord would be seen at the tent while Moses is there. It says that God would speak to Moses' face to face as a man would speak to his friend. I love that scene. I love that scene, but I want to bring something out of it that's very important. When Moses went there and spoke to God as a man speak to his friend something happened. Moses was changed. It changed him. Then you see Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; they're discontented and complaining hard did something to them too. It changed them. That's why this is so important.
Proverbs 4:23 says, "Watch over your heart with all diligence for from it flow the springs of life." Moses was changed because he drew nearer to God to the point that you can see his character in how he lived his life. See when a person is changed it changes how they live. When Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were changed it changed how they live to the point that they confronted Moses. "You've gone far enough Moses," but when Moses was changed in the presence of the Lord, his life was demonstrated in his character when he interceded in behalf of this rebellious people, and he took his stand between the living and the dead. I loved that scene right there. There's something so bold about that scene right there. Here He is facing a rebellious people and His character because He had been near to the Lord because God had changed Him. He took His stand between the living and the dead. He placed himself at risk of death in order to save those who were accusing Him. Does that remind you of anything? Moses is the picture of Jesus who didn't just risk it all, He gave it all, He took it all. The death that He died was a death that we deserved.
Romans 5:8 says God demonstrates His own love toward us and that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.
B.It’s not too late to change
I want to show you a great lesson that comes out of this, and we'll close with this, it's not too late to change. What's beautiful about the follow up to this story is that the descendants of Korah they learned from what happened here. The descendants of Rueben, they held the grudge, they held on to this bitterness about their father but the sons of Korah didn't, they learned from this.
In fact, it tells us that some of the most beautiful songs that we read later in the book of Songs were written by the sons of Korah. In fact, it was one of the sons of Korah who wrote the beautiful words of Psalm 42:1. As the dear hearts for the water brooks so my soul pants for you oh God but maybe the most beautiful words written by the sons of Korah have to be in Psalm 84 because here the sons of Korah are content even being doorkeepers in the House of the Lord. Psalm 84:10, one day in your courts is better than a thousand outside.
I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. They've learned something, they've learned something. One day in your courts Lord is better than a thousand days anywhere else I'd rather dwell even on the threshold of the door than in the tents of wickedness. The dearness of my God is my good, it's my desire. Here's my point. It's not too late to change. God takes people who were born in the condition of man and transforms them.
That's what God does. Moses met with God, talked with Him as a man is fixed with a friend and it changed him. You are changed by what you draw near. Those who drew near to Korah, Dathan and Abiram were changed and became discontented and bitter, others like Moses, Joshua, Caleb, they drew near to God and they were changed and that's where you can be changed too because it's not too late. Many of you know my story, I've related the story of my father. It's a tragic story.
Alcoholic, abusive, curse constantly, angry all the time, he used to hit our mother in front of us. It's a tragic story until you hear the end because when he was 75 years old, he sat with me one day and he said, "I've come to realize that I've wasted almost all my life, help me. I don't know how much time I have left but I want to make something of what I've got." We talked, heart to heart, man to man.
"Come to church." And there he was in church and I gave an invitation to respond to the Lord and I gazed with my eyes and I came to the center and there he was in the back. He stood up and He put his hand up like this. Strong constitution no matter what he does. Put his hand up like this. It was a glorious day, it was the beginning of transformation, we had four years more with him as a very different man. It's not too late to change.
God takes people in the condition of man in which they were born, and He moves them, He transforms them but how does that happen? You are changed, you are transformed in the nearness of God. Even today, even right now, even this morning God is in this place. The Holy Spirit is in this place, and even today, even now God is moving on hearts. You are being changed even now so am I because the presence of God is here. You are drawing near to God and God will change you and it's not too late to be transformed into spiritual maturity.
Let's Pray. Father, thank You so much for showing us Your heart after us and I pray for every person in this room. God pour out Your Spirit in this place. Transform us, change us. Church as we're before the Lord this morning. I want us to have just a moment of just nearness and intimacy with God. I'm going to ask that they're just going to bring the lights down for a moment and I'm going to ask that we will just look at our own hearts and would you bring your heart to the Lord and say God I want to be changed I'm asking I need to be changed.
This is the work that you do, I want to draw near to you, I want to be changed, I need to be changed. I'm asking do it, Lord, you do it, you do it. Church would you say that to the Lord today, would the Lord speak to your heart, would He stir you up. Would you say to the Lord I want to be changed, would you? I'm going to ask that you would say that the Lord by raising your hand like my father did. Raise your hand in a bold way and say I do want to be changed. I'm asking, I want to be changed.
I bring You my heart, I bring You my life and I say Lord, now here it is, change me, touch me with a boldness we asked with a boldness we ask because we know that You delight to answer. Lord, you see every hand, You know every heart behind that and You move by your Spirit, You're moving on this church. Bring revival because Your Spirit is stirring people and drawing people to yourself. God, move in power, move and power, change us, transform us we need it, we're asking that You would do this in us.
We give You thanks, we give You honor we give You praise for all that You are doing and desire to do it us in Jesus' powerful name and everyone said? Amen. Can we give the Lord praise and glory and honor?