Many of you probably share my love for Psalm 42 and Psalm 84. Lots of God’s people love these psalms, and some beautiful contemporary worship songs are based on these psalms. The first verses of these psalms reveal why we love them so much: Psalm 42 reads “As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?” and Psalm 84 reads “How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” It is the passionate longing for God, the tender intimacy with Him, the clear experience of His presence, the pure and overpowering desire for God and God alone that appeals to us in these psalms, isn’t it?
Because of the passionate desire for God in these psalms, many people assume that David wrote them, but he didn’t! These psalms (and several others that many of us love) were written by men who were musicians and gatekeepers in “the house of the Lord” (in this case the tent that David prepared for Ark of the Covenant). They were men who were influenced and led by David, but their passion for God was their own!
Not too long ago, God began to show me that not only did these men write some of our favorite psalms (Psalms 42-49 and 84, 85, 87-88), their story also represents one of the most remarkable demonstrations of God’s power to redeem and transform found in the Bible. You see, these men, known as the “sons of Korah,” were descendants of the Korah who led a huge rebellion against Moses in the days of the wilderness wanderings. Because of its redemptive promise, the story of Korah and his descendants is encouraging to anyone who hears it. God took the twisted desires of Korah and purified them into the beauty we see in Psalms 42 and 84. What do I mean? I have shared parts of this with a few of you, but let me unfold this amazing story for all.The narrative of Korah’s rebellion is found in Numbers 16, and it’s an account that should put a healthy fear of God and respect for His leaders in all who read it! (I recommend that you read the story in your Bible before continuing this article.) Korah, a Levite, and two leaders from the tribe of Reuben (Dathan and Abiram) brought 250 other leaders with them to confront Moses and Aaron, challenging and essentially rejecting Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership. They said (v. 3), “You have gone too far! The whole community is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is with them. Why then do you set yourselves above the LORD’s assembly?” Moses, of course, went before the Lord and then invited these men to present themselves before the Lord with incense the next day to see whom the Lord would choose to bring near to Him. If you read the story as I suggested, you know that it didn’t end well for these rebellious men or their families! Verses 28-35 recount what happened:
28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the LORD has not sent me. 30 But if the LORD brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the LORD with contempt.”
31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”
35 And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.
At this point, you may be wondering how this story could possibly have a positive outcome, and I can’t blame you. But God has a wonderful way of giving hope and bringing change when things seem impossible. Here’s how He did that in this case.
First, Korah’s line was not entirely destroyed by God’s judgment during the rebellion. Numbers 26:11 says, “The line of Korah, however, did not die out.” Indeed, the line of Korah later produced some of the greatest and most significant leaders in the history of God’s people. In addition to the musicians we meet in the Psalms, the great leader/prophet Samuel was also a descendant of Korah! And Samuel’s grandson, Heman, apparently was not only a musician and gatekeeper (one of the “sons of Korah”), but also a prophet himself. He is called the king’s seer and was greatly blessed by the Lord (see 1 Chronicles 25:5). Heman’s destiny is in itself a wonderful story of redemption because his father, Joel, son of Samuel, was not at all a godly man (see 1 Samuel 8:1-3, a very sad story, but Heman redeemed the family heritage!).
Now, view the original story with me and see if you also see what I saw. Korah’s rebellion grew out of two strong desires: the desire to be a leader of the people of God and the desire to lead all of God’s people into God’s presence. Do you see what I see? These desires are not bad desires. Indeed, the second desire (expressed in the words, “the whole community is holy”) was actually God’s plan all along and has now been fulfilled in us! Furthermore, these two desires were fulfilled in a healthy way by Korah’s descendants! Samuel lived in the presence of the Lord and was one of
There are all kinds of wonderful lessons to be found here. First, consider why Korah’s desires became twisted and led to his death and the destruction of many other people: PRIDE! Korah had desires that may have started out good, but his prideful refusal to submit to God’s plan, timing and leaders, ended up twisting those desires to the extent that they led to his destruction. His descendants, on the other hand, walked in humility before God and apparently learned to seek God alone, not what God could give them. Pride twisted Korah’s desire; humility allowed God to redeem it in his descendants. Big thought here, eh? Even good desires must be submitted to God and made subject to His timing and control, lest they be twisted by pride. And I believe that the real key to having pure desires is to have all desires grow out of an overwhelming desire for God alone!
But there are other encouraging lessons to be had here. Consider some other applications to your life. First, because of God’s amazing love and power to redeem things, your past doesn’t ever have to hinder God’s plan for you! Your ancestry need not determine your destiny with the Lord Jesus! Second, even a less-than-perfect past (or set of ancestors) may hold at least some of the seeds of your future. Perhaps even in the worst of histories you will discover something that can be redeemed. I will let you ponder that one for yourself. Third, some of our godly desires may not be ours to fulfill, but if we will be good parents in both the literal and spiritual sense, those desires may be lived out by our “descendants.” Many of us have already seen evidence of this either through our biological children or our spiritual children (or both!). In fact, many of my “spiritual children” are already going beyond anything I could have imagined for myself!
Our other favorite Psalmist, David, had the privilege of living out these lessons himself! David’s passionate love for God gave birth to his desire to build a temple for God. But God told David it was not for him to build a temple but for his descendant. David could have been prideful and pressed on ahead with his desire, but instead he submitted to God’s timing. As a result, not only did the world see the marvel of Solomon’s
3 Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
8 Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.
9 For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.
10 A little while, and the wicked will be no more; though you look for them, they will not be found.
11 But the meek (humble!) will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.
Stay lost in His love,
Tom, the least of Abba's children