Understanding His story helps us to understand that His-Story is our Story!
Godly Descendants of an Ungodly Family - Part 1
Psalms 42-45; 84; 87
By: Iva & Stan May and Michael Anderson
How much do you know? (Answers at the end of the lesson)
Israel wandered in the desert?
To understand the connections found in this lesson, we have to go back to the Exodus Era around 700 years before King Hezekiah. The twelve tribes were assigned their places with three tribes on each side. Judah was on the East side closest to the gate of the Tabernacle (Num. 2). None of the tribes lived in direct contact with the Tabernacle except for the Levites. They camped next just outside of the Tabernacle fence and camped on all four sides. Each Levite group had a distinct area of service as the Israelites carried the Tabernacle from place to place in the desert of Sinai. Before breaking down the Tabernacle, the sons of Aaron would enter and cover the articles inside the Tabernacle with special wrappings to protect them from being seen or touched, so that the Kohathites (one of the three major divisions of the tribe of Levi), would not die when they carried them (4:1-15, 17-20). The Sons of Korah were Kohathites. The Kohathites carried the holy things on their shoulders (7:9). Outside of these duties, the Levites were to serve and assist the sons of Aaron in the duties of the Tabernacle (18:1-4). In return they would receive the tithes of Israel and special cities and fields throughout the land of Canaan and they would not have to serve in the regular army. They were a special army of warrior-priests assigned to minister (take care of) and protect both the Tabernacle and the people.
The Levites’ work may not have been glamorous, but it was necessary, helpful, and honorable! To everyone that is, except for Korah. Numbers 16-17 records his attempt to usurp Moses and Aaron’s positions before God. Korah, a Kohathite, rebelled against Moses’ authority, claiming that all Israelites were equally holy and worthy to lead. God brought judgment and opened the earth to swallow him and the men who had joined his mutiny. “Nevertheless,” God’s Word says, "the children of Korah did not die" (Num. 26:11). According to 1 Chronicles 9:17–19, they served as gatekeepers to the Tabernacle and later to the camps of the children of Levi living in Jerusalem. Four hundred or so years later, recorded in 1 Chronicles 25-26, as David was arranging for the building of the Temple, he also assigned duties to everyone who would serve in the Temple. Guess who became gatekeepers? The sons of Korah (1 Chron. 9:22-31; 26:1)!
As we continue studying through the Divided Kingdom Era in our daily readings, last Tuesday (2 CHRONICLES 29:3-30:9) and Wednesday (2 CHRONICLES 30:10-31:21), we were introduced to Hezekiah. He was a godly young man of twenty-five when he became King in Jerusalem. He was directly descended from David, but his father, Ahaz, was probably the most evil king Judah ever had! He sacrificed his own son (Hezekiah’s brother), possibly several of them, in the fires of Molech. (See: 2 Kings 16:3, 2 Chron. 28:3, Lev. 18:21). After he became king in about 715 BC, Hezekiah had the Temple cleaned and repaired for service, and he reestablished the service of all of the Levites in the same responsibilities David had assigned them including the sons of Korah as the gatekeepers. That is one way that Hezekiah is connected to the sons of Korah. The gatekeepers not only protected the Temple, they were also singers! He also re-established the Passover, which had not been celebrated since the days of Solomon (2 Chron. 30:26). He had returned to his roots. In part 2 of our lesson (next week), we will look at some of the evidence of how God worked to make Hezekiah the godly king he became…
Hezekiah's passion for God also includes compiling the Scriptures. Proverbs 25-31 represents a collection of Solomon’s sayings that Hezekiah's scholars put together during this time (Solomon had spoken 3,000 proverbs and written 1,005 songs - 1 Kings 4:32). Hezekiah also returns to Israel's songs - which include psalms of the sons of Korah. (Ps. 42, 44-49, 84, 85, 87, 88) These psalms and other scriptures obviously affected Hezekiah in a major way. We can see who God has made him when the Assyrians are about to attack and he says, “‘Be strong and courageous! Don’t be afraid or discouraged because of the king of Assyria or his mighty army, for there is a power far greater on our side! He may have a great army, but they are merely men. We have the Lord our God to help us and to fight our battles for us!’ Hezekiah’s words greatly encouraged the people” (2 Chron. 32:7-8). This week, we will read these Psalms after the lesson has been taught. Hopefully you will have a greater insight into the Psalms as you read them, and also, hopefully, you will be touched by the Spirit of God through them as never before. As we study over the next few weeks, we will see examples (like: Hezekiah, the sons of Korah and Isaiah) of people who refused to follow their ancestors or sometimes their parent’s examples and instead choose to follow the Lord with joy and gladness. They were godly descendants of an ungodly family.
At the conclusion of this lesson, students will be able to identify aspects of the ministry of the sons of Korah that allowed them to not only overcome their family’s past but to learn to serve not merely with obedience but with joy.
God’s plans are not just for today; they are for generations. Man, however, sees only today.
God’s intention for service is that people learn things about Him by obedience - things they could never learn otherwise.
Today’s faithful, joyful service touches generations far into the future. God’s economy wastes nothing.
God redeems people from a legacy of unfaithfulness set by parents or ancestors and gives them a new purpose, a new identity, and a new legacy as they serve Him.
As we continue to study the Bible chronologically, we need to remember that sometimes just a few chapters can cover many years and other times many chapters may cover only a few years. During the latter part of the Divided Kingdom Era, we find ourselves in one of those situations where there are a lot of Scriptures read and only a few years of the history of Israel is covered. When we began our study in Genesis, we moved from creation up through the flood in just seven chapters and covered more than a thousand years. We are in a very detailed area of the Scriptures in 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Proverbs and a number of Psalms. From the introduction of King Hezekiah in Week 46 to his death in Week 57 in our daily readings, the Lord chose to give us a lot of detail for this twenty-nine year period of Hezekiah’s reign and the latter part of Isaiah’s ministry. So, it’s going to take us several lessons to get through this period and we are beginning with a look at the sons of Korah and some of the Psalms that were written by the sons of Korah. (All of the males descended from Korah were called sons of Korah.) These Psalms were being sung by the gatekeepers, the descendants of Korah during Hezekiah’s reign, and Hezekiah was assembling the Scriptures together for the worship of Yahweh!
Korah and his followers were an example of the high cost of sin. But sin does not have to pass from generation to generation. Hezekiah did not follow his father, Ahaz’s, rebellion against the Lord and the sons of Korah did not follow their father’s rebellion against Moses and the Lord. Hezekiah became the best king Judah ever had! He possibly even rivaled David as the greatest king? Here is what the Scriptures say: “He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel; so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those who were before him. For he clung to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses” (2 Kings 18:5,6). This week, we will be reading Psalms contained in the word of God written by the sons of Korah. It is not the priests who wrote several of the Psalms that became part of the eternal Word of God! It was Korah's family! They served with a hunger for God (Ps. 84:2). They felt deep contentment in God's presence. "I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness" (84:10 NIV). They had a continual habit of prayer. That resulted in some of the most beautiful songs to be included in God's Word.
There is a wonderful lesson to be learned from this! Today's faithful, loving and joyful service to the Lord touches generations to come! The question is: Do we see things from a holy perspective like the sons of Korah? Are we looking to the Lord and serving Him with faith, joy and steadfastness, knowing that service to Him will build a legacy that can lead generations to come to life in Christ? It is easy to become distracted by the things around us with an eye on the next accomplishment in this life? Or the troubles of today…
All of life's situations are found in the Psalms. Up or down, weak or strong, happy or sad, lonely or surrounded by loved ones, God has a word for you in the Psalms! The sons of Korah show us that satisfaction with what God has given us while serving Him with a joyous heart can be more rewarding than the best job on earth! They were the doorkeepers! The gatekeepers! They were the singers and some of them played instruments! Not a very important job in the sight of others. Time spent with God changed their lives and it changed their family for hundreds of years!
The sons of Korah have come a long way from their father’s legacy. Seven hundred years after Korah’s rebellion, his sons still aren’t priests - but they have never mutinied and they don’t complain. Instead they have learned a holy perspective, a habit of prayer, and a heavenly promise. Their psalms ring out with their joy in serving God.
1. A Holy Perspective (Ps. 84, 87)
Korah could not grasp the beauty of serving God in the duties God had given him. He missed out on so many blessings! His sons, faithful in their duties, experience something Korah could never have fathomed.
2. A Habit of Prayer (Ps. 42-44)
One of the beauties of the Psalms is the sheer range of emotion they express. These writers were real people; they shared struggles common to us all. And what did they do with these struggles? They learned how to pray:
3. A Heavenly Promise (Ps. 45; Heb. 1:8-9)
Had the sons of Korah shared in their father’s legacy of rebellion, they too would have perished in the wilderness. God spared them, however, because He intended to add them to a much greater legacy - people who had received promises about the redemption to come. Messianic promises tend to run along two tracks - the Suffering Servant or the Coming King. The wedding song of Psalm 45 beautifully records the latter in a joyful proclamation. “My heart is overflowing with a good theme,” the psalmist says (45:1). What rapturous joy he experiences as he begins to recite poetry about the greatest King the world has ever know. Not all descriptions of kings are good, but for this King, the psalmist sings, “My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” How do we know that this is about Jesus? The writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 45:6-7 when talking of the Son’s superiority to all of the angels: “But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.’” What a privilege, to bear such a prophecy!
Application - Finding Jesus on Every Page!
When Korah rebelled against Moses’ leadership in the wilderness, Moses asked him, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: 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; and that He has brought you near to Himself, you and all your brethren, the sons of Levi, with you?” (Num. 16:8-10, emphasis added). From an earthly perspective, Korah’s service did not look like nearness to God; because he rejected the task that God had given him, he never got to experience that nearness. God spared the sons of Korah, however, because He had a plan to bless Israel, Judah, and every believer through their songs. Because they were obedient at God’s gates, they experienced God in a special way. As they served God faithfully, God indeed brought them near to Himself, and He touched generations through them - we sing their songs today.
They did not know it, but it would not be that long and one would be born in Bethlehem who would be THE GATE! They were forerunners and proclaimers of the Good News of the Lord Jesus Christ. They understood that just one day with the Lord was better than thousands elsewhere! How about you? When is the last time you spent a day with the Lord! Not just at church? Not just a couple of hours? A day with the Lord? It is better than thousands elsewhere!
The sons of Korah were the gatekeepers! A picture of Christ. Jesus is the Gate! In John 10:7-9 (NLT), Jesus says, “‘I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and robbers. But the true sheep did not listen to them. Yes, I am the gate. Those who come in through me will be saved. They will come and go freely and will find good pastures.’" It is better to be the gatekeeper for just a day, but Jesus lets us be the gatekeepers every day! In verse 3, Jesus said, "The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep recognize his voice and come to him." Jesus is the gate and we have the key! (See: Matt. 16:19.) When we tell them about Jesus, we offer them a chance to go in through the gate (Jesus) and be saved! They cannot go in unless they hear the Gospel! Open the gate! Spread the Word! Tell someone about Jesus this week!
Some things to remember:
God speaks His promise of a King who is God, whose throne will last forever.
God acts by using the sons of Korah to lead worship, protect the worship of God and to even write some of the Word of God in spite of their father’s evil sins.
God reveals His faithfulness, mercy, and generosity as He brings redemption, joy and a new legacy for the sons of Korah.
What do the sons of Korah learn about God in their time of service? What do you think they saw in the Temple as they kept its gates? What happened there on a daily basis?
How did the songs of the sons of Korah affect Israel? What messages did Israel receive from God through their ministry?
What can the psalms of the sons of Korah teach us about praying through times of depression, disappointment, and fear?
Answers to: How much do you know?
1) He was the ringleader of the crowd that the built the golden calf, trying to usurp Moses and Aaron’s authority. The ground swallowed him. 2) Any male descendant of Korah, they became the gatekeepers of the Tabernacle, the camp of God’s people and the Temple. 3) If not, read the lesson.
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