Freelance Writing to the Glory of God

Month: March 2024

The Gospel and Identity

You might ask: “What’s the problem? Why can’t I just live my life and you live yours? Why do Christians always feel the need to worry about what I do behind closed doors?” As I am sure you are aware, this whole movement that has been going on centers on the question of identity. Specifically, there are three identity questions that I want to address. Different answers to these questions will result in radically different views of the world. Take a look at this chart:




Who Am I?

No different than the animals

Image Bearer of God

How Did I Get Here?

Random accidents and natural selection

Created by God’s Righteous Decree

Where is This All Going?

No guarantee of tomorrow.

All things go according to God’s Plan, to His Glory

Who Are We?

Naturalistic materialism and evolution teach that we are just animals. If all humans are is merely animals, there is no reason we shouldn’t act like it. The animals eat and kill one another. Why can’t we? What is wrong with hurting people if all we are morally is sophisticated over evolved vegetation? All you have is preference.

It doesn’t stop at cannibalism, either. One society might prefer to call chattel slavery evil and racist, while another society might accuse black people of being less evolved and subhuman. Who is right? Give me a reason that slavery is wrong besides the fact that it is your preference. Tell me why it is actually wrong.

The only satisfactory answer to this question is found on the pages of Scripture in Genesis 1:27 where it teaches:

“God created man in his own image,

in the image of God he created him;

male and female he created them”

God has made every one of us for a purpose. We are not created to live for ourselves, but have been created to enjoy and serve Him. God does not see us as mere animals, but as unique persons worthy of glory, dignity, and honor because we are reflective of Him.

How Did I Get Here?

And this is where we start to get into the issue of our day. The unbelieving worldview would tell you that you got here because of a bunch of random accidents. If all you are is nothing but the result of chemicals bumping up against other chemicals, then you have no guarantee that your thoughts are coherent. Your thoughts are simply the result of chemicals fizzing in a particular way. Why assume that all of this brain fizz corresponds to what is going on in the “real world.” Wouldn’t it be simpler and more likely if you were a potato or a blade of grass having a dream? It’s far more likely to think that a single brain came into existence from nothing than all of space and time.

Simply put, the problem is it is always possible for you to be wrong about everything you claim to know. There could always be some unknown factor that undoes your entire worldview. So, the only way that we can know anything at all, is if the One who knows everything reveals it to us. This is what God has done for us in the Scriptures. In Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Gen 1:27) and “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge” (Prov 1:7). The only way to have any certainty and true knowledge at all is to submit to Christ.

Where Is This All Going?

Imagine you flipped a coin and the first five times you flipped it, it landed heads up. Would you be rational to conclude that the next time that you flipped it, it would be guaranteed to land heads-up? Let’s pretend again and say that this coin is magical. If it lands heads up, a brand new universe pops into existence with the appearance of age. People in this universe will think they have been alive for decades when in reality they were flipped into existence a few seconds ago. Alternatively, if it lands tails up, that whole universe disappears never to be seen again.

In an unbelieving worldview, there is no guarantee that the future will be like the past. There is no promise that gravity, electromagnetism, and the stuff that holds neutrons and atoms together will still all work together the same way today as it did yesterday. You might argue that it will be that way because it has not changed in the past, but this is begging the question. If you flipped that coin a thousand times, and each time got heads, the next time you flipped it your odds of getting heads are still one in two.

While in an unbelieving worldview, we have no guarantee of tomorrow, the Biblical message provides a stark contrast. Ephesians 1:11 teaches that God works all things according to the counsel of his will. In Romans 8:28 Paul reminds the Church “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” This promise is available for anyone who would repent from their sins and confess that Jesus is Lord.

Why Does This All Matter?

True meaning can only be found by submitting one’s life to the Risen Savior. Jesus calls us to come to him, to die to our old selves, and to be raised to walk in His Righteousness. Romans 3:23 says “. . .for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” This means that all of us have ways in which we have wronged God that separate us from a relationship with him. Paul Washer once retorted that the most terrifying truth in all of Scripture is that God is good. The reason that should terrify us is because we are not. He asked “What does a good God do with people like us? Sinners.” The only way we can come before a holy God is if we do so, not with our own identity (which is that of a sinner) but, with the identity of Christ. He earned this for all who would believe in Him by dying on a cross for their sins, bearing the punishment that we deserve before the good and holy God, rising from the dead, and ascending to the right hand of the Father, where he now reigns over every rule dominion and authority. Therefore, repent of any sinful identities that you may pretend to possess, and be the man or woman who you have been called to be in Christ.


The Moabite Stone

I thought I would do something different and talk about something a little bit nerdy. In 1869 a man named Fredrick Klein discovered a large basalt stela that appears to corroborate with the biblical account of 2 Kings 3. While there may be some interpretations of these two texts that do not allow for complete harmonization, however, you slice it, you have to contend with the fact that the Moabite Stone explicitly references biblical names and places. Consequently, the Moabite Stone serves as an excellent apologetic against those who believe that the Bible should only be used as little as possible in archeology and dismiss any attempt to understand the Bible as a part of history.

You will also hear the Moabite Stone called the Mesha Stele or the Dibon Inscription. Regrettably, the stone was destroyed due to an ownership dispute sometime in the 1870s. This was owing to a belief that the stone may contain gold. Before its destruction, the large basalt stela stood around four feet tall with a two-foot-wide base. Fortunately, there were some crudely done paper-mâché’ squeezes taken of the stela before it was destroyed. Today, pieces of the original stela can be seen embedded in a re-creation based on those paper-mâché molds. 

The Moabite stone was written from the first-person perspective of King Mesha. Like the account in 2 Kings 3, it details Mesha’s kingship over Moab, how he was subjugated to Israel under the leadership of King Omri, and how he led a rebellion against the Omrides. In the stela, Mesha demonstrates a polytheistic perspective and a belief in regional, tribal gods. Specifically, Chemosh, the national deity of the Moabites, to whom he appeals to execute justice against Israel. It potentially differs from the account in 2 Kings 3 in that it seems to imply that Mesha was able to escape the dominion of Israel.

In seeking to understand the chronology, it is helpful to turn to the parallel account in Scripture. 2 Kings 3:8-9 explains that there was a three-nation alliance between King Jehoram of Israel, King Jehoshaphat of Judah, and the King of Edom against the Moabites. After marching northward for seven days through Edom, they began to run out of water. Miraculously, Yahweh provided water for the Hebrew people.

Skeptics will often dismiss the Bible out of hand on the presupposition that such miraculous happenings discredit the Bible. However, this kind of naturalism is a tenuous position that leaves one without a foundation for real knowledge. It is the biblical worldview that gives one a basis to point out how weird it is when things don’t seem to follow the general pattern because it is the biblical worldview that teaches that God consistently upholds creation.

That said, these accounts have distinct biases and do not always agree. To be faithful to Scripture, we do not need to prove that everyone in history always agreed with the biblical perspective. A few places where they seem to differ are on the timing of the war relative to Ahab’s death, and through the presence of a forty-year occupation.” In preparation for this blog, an article that I read by Dr. Joe Sprinkle explained it by pointing out that while the Scriptures date Israel’s war against Judah after Ahab’s death, the Moabite stone states that it occurred during the reign of Omri, and implicitly during Ahab’s life. Thus, the two accounts seem to be contradictory. Another point of distinction can be found in lines 8-9 of the Moabite Stone, which say “Omri had taken possession of the land of Medeba, and dwelt there his days and much of his son’s days, forty years; but Chemosh dwelt in my days.” A forty-year occupation of the land of Medaba under Omri’s rule is difficult to reconcile with the biblical text. In the Bible, Omri’s dynasty lasted 44 years, which was occupied by a 4-year civil war. Thus, many consider these texts to be irreconcilable.

Critics use these (apparent) discrepancies to attempt to undermine the authority of Scripture. This is an awful argument. The Hebrew record has proven itself so reliable that should there be any discrepancy between it and the Moabite inscription, the biblical record should take priority. There is no reason to choose the testimony of the Mesha Stele over the Bible to appease modern naturalist sensibilities. The Moabites appealed to the supernatural just like the Hebrews did.

Furthermore, there are better interpretations of the Moabite inscription that harmonize the two accounts. John Davis attempts to do this in his work The Moabite Stone and the Hebrew Records. As he works to date the stone, he notes three things:

  1. The Stela is a memorial stela.
  2. The stela must have been erected after the death of Ahab because the author writes with a knowledge of how long Ahab ruled.
  3. It was written after the sons of Ahab experienced “utter humiliation” which likely refers to the extermination of his lineage by Jehu in 2 Kings 10.

These three things would place the dating of the Moabite stone sometime during or briefly after Jehu’s reign. Davis then addresses Mesha’s words in the stela that say “Omri had taken possession of the land of Medeba, and dwelt there his days and much of his son’s days, forty years; but Chemosh dwelt in my days.” Davis argues that “son of Omri” can refer to not only Ahab but any descendant of Omri who carries the throne.

While there is some minor disagreement regarding the identity of the son of Omri, there is no ambiguity in that the Moabite stone refers to the Israelites. J. A Emerton writes “To speak to Omri dwelling in the land may in a sense be figurative, but it is clear that the reference is really to the Israelites, as subjects of Omri.”[1] These two texts are not contradictory but complimentary.

There is also the possibility that the Moabite Stone makes a reference to David, although this is, admittedly, somewhat tentative. In lines 12b-13a it says “And I brought back (or took captive) thence the altar-hearth of Davdoh, and dragged it before Chemosh in Qeriyyoth” If this is a reference to David, it would be a unique spelling not found in either the Bible or the Tel Dan inscription. That being said, it is entirely feasible that the ending is a dialectical distinctive relating to how feminine nouns are formed. While there is some uncertainty, the possibility of this being a reference to David remains.

Any set of people who go to war and possess differing worldviews are going to come to different conclusions. So, we should not be surprised when the Mesha Inscription doesn’t 100% agree with the Bible. What should take you off guard, though, is that the Moabite Stone and the Bible, actually agree on a lot of historical realities. Both accounts:

  • Affirm there was a Moabite King named Mesha who was subjected to the house of Omri and later rebelled against it.
  • Affirm that Chemosh was the Moabite God.
  • Affirm that Yahweh was the Israelite God.
  • Affirm that Mesha would kill as an act of worship.
  • That the Gadites occupied territory north of Arnon
  • And, that Mesha was responsible for flocks of sheep.

These parallels should not be overlooked because they ultimately serve as yet another reminder that God is sovereign over all of history. It provides evidence against skeptics who doubt the validity of the Hebrew account. The fact of the matter is the Bible says what it says, and history backs it up pretty clearly. Even assuming that these texts are completely contradictory in no way takes away from its value as a phenomenal witness to the biblical text. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if you think the Mesha Stele can be harmonized with the Bible. The authority of Scripture doesn’t stand or fall on some guy who disagrees with what Jesus has to say – whether he be Moabite or Modernist.

True Manna From Heaven Is More Filling

Christ alone is sufficient because Christ alone has been sent by the Father. For many, John chapter six is a difficult text. In it, Jesus says some very difficult things. But, simply because a text is difficult does not mean that it is not clear. When we approach a text of Scripture, we all approach it with a set of traditions and beliefs. It is our responsibility to take those traditions and weigh them against what God has spoken in his Word.

John 6:35-40

English Standard Version

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

Only Jesus is enough because he is the only one that God the Father has sent. Christ is sufficient to reveal the Father to us. As the one sent from the Father, he is true spiritual food. He always does the Father’s will – and it is the Father’s will that everyone who believe in him be raised on the last day. It is God alone who accomplishes this. It is not an act of our own strength. The Father’s drawing is always effective to save those for whom it is intended. Jesus is sufficient because he does his Father’s will perfectly.

Jesus does the Father’s will perfectly in the incarnation. In this passage, it is important to take careful notice of what the crowd believes is true of Jesus. The crowd that Jesus was preaching to did not have an issue with necessity of Christ, but the sufficiency of Christ. After Jesus performed the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, the crowd responded by trying to make Jesus king by force. These people clearly understood that Jesus was the king. They even called him “the Prophet who is to come into the world!” The crowd is so persistent that Jesus flees the crowd into the mountains by himself, and once it becomes dark he uses his ability to walk on water to regroup with the disciples. But that doesn’t dissuade these followers of Christ. The crowd notices that Jesus is mysteriously gone and they follow him all the way across the lake in what is probably stormy waters. These were not a group of random pagans. The crowd was a group of people who believe that Jesus was king, that he’s the prophet they were looking for, and that he was powerful enough to do miracles.

The problem, however, was that these people’s faith was not a genuine faith. In verse 26-27 Jesus tells them “. . . you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” They just wanted to have their bellies filled. Rather than focusing on the Messiah himself, they were focused on all the blessings that the Messiah had to offer. They were working for the wrong food.

They thought that eternal life came through Jesus and adherence to God’s commandments. But eternal life comes through Christ alone. While God’s commandments are important, they aren’t the source of eternal life. Rather, “It is the Spirit who gives life” and true food – true justification and peace with God – doesn’t come from Moses but from the Father. These particular Jews understood that Christ was necessary, but they just didn’t understand that he was sufficient. And the reason that they didn’t understand Jesus sufficiency is because they didn’t recognize that Jesus was sent by the Father.

When Jesus claims to have seen the Father the Jews began to grumble. And if Jesus was not God, then it’s sort of understandable why they got upset about this. In Isaiah chapter 6, the prophet Isaiah is transported to the throne room of God where he sees mighty seraphim covering their faces crying out day and night. And when Isaiah sees just this small glimpse of God’s glory he is struck with despair and cries out “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!” So it is understandable why they where a little skeptical when this carpenter guy from Nazareth claims that he has seen the Father.

But if he has seen the Father, then there is an exclusivity there. He’s unique in that way. He is the only one who has seen him. And, since he alone has seen the Father, only he can reveal the Father to us. We get this same sort of idea back in John chapter 1 when he says “No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”

God the Son humbled himself, not by depriving himself of his divinity but by taking on humanity. Think about how marvelous it is that the holy, good, and just God of the entire universe would not only reveal himself, but take on a created human nature to do so. The simple fact that Jesus came down from heaven should blow us away. Though the crowd understood that Christ was necessary they failed to recognize that he was sufficient. As a result, they were offended when Christ said that he was sent by the Father. We can only have a relationship with the Father through Christ. The God-man is sufficient because he was sent by the Father to reveal himself to us.

Christ is sufficient because he raises all who believe in Him. Verse 40 reads “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Jesus always accomplishes his Fathers will, and the Father’s will is that Christ would always raise everyone who believes in him on the last day. Do not be like the crowd who though seeing, they did not believe. Rather understand that the law has been fulfilled in Christ. He himself is the sign that they were seeking. If you are a believer, you have the hope of a future resurrection because Jesus always accomplishes the Fathers will. Jesus is sufficient because he has been sent by the Father to resurrect all those who believe in him.


When Jesus claimed to be the bread of life, he was claiming that he was authoritative in and of himself, not because of some external standard. The crowd kept asking for a sign while failing to recognize the significance of those signs. They kept pressing “what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?” They wanted a sign. They wanted Jesus to miraculously provide more bread for them to eat. So Jesus responds to them by saying “I am the bread of life.” It’s as though he is saying, that he himself is the sign that they are seeking.

Their problem was not a lack of evidence. They had just seen the feeding of the five thousand. Their problem was an unbelieving heart. Jesus expresses a similar idea in one of his parables in Luke 16:31 where he says “If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.” They didn’t want a sign so that they could worship Jesus as God, they just wanted to scrutinize Jesus. To fear Jesus, is the beginning of wisdom.

Do not put your trust in a sign. We should not look to some external thing to put our faith in instead of Christ. I am asking you to look to yourself and ask what is your trust in? Is it in a wonderful emotional experience that the Lord blessed you with once? Praise God for that, but your heart is deceitful. Maybe you’re the kind of person who places their faith in their intellect. But how inscrutable are the Lord’s judgments. However God has blessed you don’t mistake the blessing for God himself. He is the Bread of Life. He is the sign. And if we miss him because we were so focused on what we could get, we will be like those of whom Jesus said “you have seen me and yet do not believe.” So, are you today placing your trust in the person of Jesus Christ? Because, only he is sufficient to raise you from the dead.

If we choose to live with Jesus plus our works, we have robbed the gospel of its value by claiming that Christ is not good enough. These particular Jews thought they had a relationship with the Father through Jesus and obedience. Doctrinally, they had a better understanding of who Jesus was than most other people of their day. They acknowledged that he is king, that he was the Prophet, and that he had miraculous supernatural capabilities. They understood that Jesus was necessary, but they failed to recognize that he was sufficient.

And how easily do we fall in to the same trap. We might not say it out loud, but we think it. “If I could just be humble enough, pure enough, sober enough, spiritual enough, loving enough, contrite enough…” Stop thinking that way! Jesus is enough!

Jesus is sufficient because he has fulfilled the law as the true manna from heaven. The crowd thought that Moses was the source of all this manna. They thought that adherence to the law of Moses would bring them eternal life. But manna doesn’t come from Moses, but from the Father. It’s not that God’s standard has changed in the New Testament. It’s simply that the Law presented a standard that we could never uphold. It is the Father, not Moses, who sends his Son into the world to be our life. Jesus was obedient to the law, and kept it perfectly. Since Jesus has kept the law perfectly, he is righteous enough to be eternal life. Because Christ has obeyed the Father who sent him, Jesus is sufficient to raise all who believe in him.

Manna is temporary and transient, but the Son whom the Father has sent is eternal and unchanging. He is the living bread. Manna certainly was a sign of God’s provision but the problem with it is that everyone who ate it eventually died. Manna doesn’t keep very long. It lasts for a day or two, and then gets filled with maggots. Rather, we worship Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday today and forever. Since Jesus is the living bread, we ought to trust him. So how is your diet going? Are you feasting on Christ, or are you chowing down on a maggot-infested jar of smelly day-old manna? Christ alone is able to give us the spiritual diet that we need, because only he is eternal. By saying ego eimi “I am the bread of life” Jesus asserts his divinity. Christ is sufficient to raise everyone who believes in him because he is living, eternal food.

Christians have hope here. Jesus is not authoritative from some external standard. Jesus himself is the sign. He has fulfilled the law and the prophets and was perfectly obedient to the Father, even to the point of death on a cross. As true, living, everlasting, bread, he did not stay dead. We have a bread who lives. A bread that resurrected, entered into the Holy of Holies and now makes intercession for us. This bread has shown us who the Father is in his Word and in his incarnation, and now this bread is seated at the right hand of God where he declares that the only way for us to have a relationship with the Father is to eat of him. Our living bread is sufficient to save all of those who believe in him.

Christ is sufficient because the Father effectively draws a people unto himself. This passage presents a unified argument. Those whom the Father draws, are those who believe, and those who believe are those whom Christ will raise on the last day. This passage does not present Christ as potential savior, but as an actual savior. Apart from God’s grace none of us would come to him. We cannot have come to God in repentance unless God grants us repentance. Christ is sufficient because he has been given a people whom the father will draw effectively.

We cannot repent unless God grants us repentance. Jesus taught in verse 44 that “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” He then repeats himself in verse 65 by again saying “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Paul recognized that repentance is something that must be granted when he gave instruction for overseers in 2 Timothy 2:24. We cannot come unless it is granted by the Father for us to come.

The context demands that this drawing be effective, and particular. Not everyone is drawn, and everyone who is drawn comes to Christ. Jesus elaborates on what it means to be drawn by the Father in verse 45 when he says “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me.” Now we can tell from the rest of the passage, especially verses 35 and 36 that Jesus is using coming and believing synonymously. So, anyone who has been taught by God in the way that this passage is talking about will assuredly believe in Christ. Christ is sufficient to raise all of those whom he is given through the Fathers drawing.

Because Christ is sufficient, we can know that he doesn’t draw everyone, but a particular people. Jesus says of those whom are given to him by the Father “I will raise him up on the last day.” Since not everyone comes to the Father and enjoys resurrection unto eternal life on the last day, the Father’s drawing must be a particular drawing. This is because what is presented in this passage is not mere potentiality. It says that Christ “will raise him up on the last day.”

Christ is sufficient because the Father has chosen a particular people for himself and has effectively granted them faith. No one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him. Apart from Christ, we can do nothing. All our righteousness is as filthy rags. As Romans 8:8 says “those who are according to the flesh cannot please God.” I think everyone would agree that it is pleasing to God when we believe in him. But the problem is pleasing God is precisely what this text says that we cannot do. Therefore, our salvation is completely dependent upon God’s grace. In verse 63 Jesus says “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all.” Knowing that our salvation comes entirely from the act of the sovereign God ought to humble us. We who were dead in our trespasses in sins have been made alive together with Christ. Christ is sufficient because he has effectively redeemed a particular people from their sins.

Jesus is sufficient because he has been sent by the Father to do his will. Christ perfectly did the Father’s will in his incarnation. Though the crowd didn’t see it, Christ the God-man reveals to us who the Father is. Since he alone is sent from the Father, he alone can restore us in a relationship to the Father. Christ is sufficient because he will raise everyone who places their faith in him on the last day. He does so not on the basis of some merit in them, but solely on the basis of what he has accomplished on the cross. We do not look to what is temporary to save us, but we look to Christ, who resurrected and lives forever. He is enough because the Father has given him a particular people, and drawn them unto Christ effectively. He is not merely a potential savior, but an actual savior, and he is now seated at the right hand of God, making intercession for his people by virtue of what he has accomplished on the cross. It is only through Christ that we can have a relationship with the Father. So, dear reader, abide in Christ. Only Jesus is sufficient because only Jesus has been sent by the Father to do his will.

Drop Your Censors

In Numbers 16:1-40 we learn that only those whom God has appointed can serve as his priest. The only way that we can serve as faithful priests of God is if we come through Jesus Christ the only High Priest. Fundamentally a priest was a go-between between God and the people. To understand this we need to understand that there was (and is) a distinction between a priest and the High Priest. Even the priests could not go directly to God. Instead, the priests were required to go through the High Priest who was the only one who could enter into the Most Holy Place where God dwelt. What’s more, even he could only enter in to the Most Holy Place once a year on the Day of Atonement. This system had just been set up by God through Moses, but there was a growing number of people who did not think it was very fair lead by some men named Korah, Dathan and Abiram.

Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men. And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. 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?” When Moses heard it, he fell on his face, and he said to Korah and all his company, “In the morning the LORD will show who is his, and who is holy, and will bring him near to him. The one whom he chooses he will bring near to him. Do this: take censers, Korah and all his company; put fire in them and put incense on them before the LORD tomorrow, and the man whom the LORD chooses shall be the holy one. You have gone too far, sons of Levi!”

Korah’s rebellion was based on the premise that he was just as deserving of the priesthood as anyone else in the assembly. Before we start diving into where Korah went wrong, let’s try and understand things from his perspective. In a way, his desire was not entirely a bad thing. He desired to burn incense before the Lord and wanted that incense to be a pleasing aroma to God. So in some capacity, he wanted to please God. Furthermore, the priesthood had just recently been established, so from his perspective it seemed like Aaron and Moses were arbitrarily propping themselves up. After all, the whole congregation was supposed to be set apart and holy to the LORD, not just Moses and Aaron. His desire, even if it was mixed up with a desire for power and a failure to trust God’s promises, actually had some truth to it. The problem was not that Korah wanted a relationship with God. The problem was that he wanted a relationship with God his way.


But, the call of the gospel is that you come through Jesus, or don’t come at all. Korah rightly understood what it says Deuteronomy 7:6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. But he failed to understand what Moses would say to us in just the next two verses where he says “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery.”  God’s anointing on an individual, whether to salvation in general or to a specific ministry or gifting, is solely a gift of a God’s grace. Korah did not understand this and thought that he (and the entire assembly) were righteous enough on their own. Moses addresses this attitude by saying to Korah “The one whom he” that is God “chooses he will bring near to him.” Korah failed to understand his need for a mediator and that he needed an external holiness applied to him in order to come to God. Only Jesus Christ is holy, so only those who have his righteousness can serve as his priests.

Like Korah, we demonstrate that we are not holy enough to serve God on our own by our obstinate attitude of dissatisfaction in the grace of God. In addition to failing to recognize his inability to come to God in his own strength, he and his followers had a general spirit of discontentment. Korah was a Levite. More than that, he was a Kohathite and a cousin of Moses. Numbers 3:31 tells us that as a Kohathite and a Levite Korah had the very special task from God to help guard the “ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the vessels of the sanctuary with which the priests minister and the screen.” How often is it that we are given a task to
do, and we respond by saying “that’s not good enough, I want to do this instead.” Christians often talk about finding our “calling.” Our callings are not these enigmatic things. Simply look around you and see how you can serve in your immediate context. What responsibilities, giftings, and opportunities, has he given you today. “Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring” (Prov 27:1). Rather, “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called.” (Eph 4:1) We need his calling, otherwise we will never possess the contentment necessary to serve as one of his priests.

Another way that we demonstrate that we are not holy enough to serve God by our own merit is by our constant impatience and distrust in the promises of God. Korah’s followers, Dathan and Abiram, would have surely remembered what God said to Moses in Exodus 3:8 during the burning bush incident. The Lord said “I have come down to deliver them out of the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey.” This is a wonderful promise. But, Korah and his followers thought to themselves, “where is this ‘promised land’ Moses? What gives?” Recall what happened and why they had to wander the wilderness for forty years. God brought them to the land and instructed them to take it, but they fled out of cowardice. They saw these large strong men and they felt like grasshoppers in comparison. Dathan and Abiram’s failure to recognize how the congregation had just sinned two chapters ago at Kadesh-Barnea, caused them to fail to trust in God’s promises.


In order to establish who was an authority over the congregation and the priest, God instructed the rebels and Moses to take censers and light them and wait until the next night. A censer was a basin mounted on a pole where you would light incense. After they finished waiting, on the next night God would reveal who he had chosen to serve in the priesthood.

So every man took his censer and put fire in them and laid incense on them and stood at the entrance of the tent of meeting with Moses and Aaron. Then Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation.

And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” And they fell on their faces and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all the congregation?” And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Say to the congregation, Get away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.”

John Calvin is helpful in this passage by pointing out that If they had any sense of the fear of God at all, they would drop their censors in terror. Rather, they acted senselessly against God as if to extinguish the light of the sun with a little smoke. He writes:

John Calvin

Commentary on Harmony of the Law Volume IV

“It is manifest how greatly they were blinded by pride, since, although admonished both by the confidence of Moses and also by the previous examples, they still obstinately go forward. Surely if any spark of the fear of God had remained in them, their censers would straightway have fallen from their hands; but Korah seems to have sought, as it were, deliberately how he might cast aside all fear, and totally bereave himself of his senses. For in the next verse, Moses narrates how ostentatiously he hardened himself in his rebellion, before he should offer the incense; for he gathered the people together to his party, in order that the magnificence of his array might overwhelm the grace of God, which opposed him. Herein also his senselessness is clearly seen, when he seeks to fortify himself against God by the favour of the mob, as if he had desired to extinguish the light of the sun by interposing a little smoke.”

We must not make the same mistake that they did. It is of men such as these that the Lord says “Vengeance is Mine, and recompense; Their foot shall slip in due time; For the day of their calamity is at hand” (Deut 32:35; NKJV). These men underestimated how seriously God takes his holiness and incurred his wrath. Listen to the reign of the Lord’s anointed in Psalm 2 “Why do the nations rage \ and the peoples plot in vain? \The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, \against the LORD and against his Anointed, saying, \“Let us burst their bonds apart \ and cast away their cords from us.””  Those who have been chosen by God to serve as his priests must humble themselves before the Lord. 


By the way, “those who are called to serve as priests” is not restricted to people who are called to special ministry work like the pastorate or the mission field. While there the desire to go into ministry is a noble one, it’s not what makes you a priest. What makes an individual a “go-between” between the world and God is not their occupation, but whether or not they are in Christ. Meaning, if you are a Christian, you are priest.


So, priests, how are you doing at your job? Are you praying for unbelievers? Being a royal priesthood comes with responsibilities. It is your job to be a go-between for God and the unbelievers in your life. When was the last time you went out and evangelized? How often are you praying for your lost friends and coworkers?

Moses and Aaron modeled what faithful intercession looks like in this passage. The congregation, evidently, shared some guilt by association. But, Moses and Aaron came before the Lord and interceded for them. They fell on their faces and appealed to God’s own character by saying “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all the congregation?” Abraham prayed a similar thing for Lot when he prayed “Far be it from you to do such a thing, to put the righteous to death with the wicked, so that the righteous fare as the wicked! Far be that from you! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?”


God would have been completely justified to sweep away Lot and his daughters with the city. Likewise, he would have been completely justified to swallow up the entirety of the congregation into his judgment. But he didn’t do that. Spend hours on your knees reminding God of his character imploring him to show mercy on you and on your neighbors. Cast yourself on Christ who is Yahweh, Yahweh, “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation”  Are you being the priest?


The only way you can answer yes to that question is if you have been set apart by God on the basis of what Christ did on the cross. Jesus, the Great High priest, “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25).  Even though Jesus was not descended from Aaron, he is of a greater priesthood, just as Melchizedek was a priest yet was not a descended from Aaron. It was at his baptism that Christ was anointed by the Father who said “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matt 3:17). This was to fulfill what was said in the second Psalm “The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; \ today I have begotten you” (Ps 2:7). Christ is the Lord’s anointed. He is the only one who is able to save us to the uttermost. Any attempt to go around Him is treason.


God hears Moses’ prayer and graciously shows mercy to the congregation and does not judge them with the same judgment that he is about to show the rebels.

So they got away from the dwelling of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, together with their wives, their sons, and their little ones. And Moses said, “Hereby you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, and that it has not been of my own accord. If these men die as all men die, or if they are visited by the fate of all mankind, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD creates something new, and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into Sheol, then you shall know that these men have despised the LORD.”

And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!” And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men offering the incense.

Moses understood that unless he had been uniquely appointed by God, he had no right to claim the things that he was claiming. But, if he really was sent by God to do all these works, then Korah and his followers and would rightly be judged for blasphemy. God wanted to make it clear to the entire congregation that Moses had been uniquely sent by him. The followers of Korah display their pride by standing outside their tents even after everyone else had fled from them. This is really an incredible prophetic prediction that Moses makes here. He doesn’t just predict that they would be judged in general, but that they would be judged through the earth opening up and swallowing them alive into Sheol. God used this miracle to vindicate Moses as being uniquely appointed by Him for the task of interceding between God and the people.

The rebels became a very clear warning for the rest of the congregation that you were not to go around the high priest. The warning was to be so clear that God told Moses to tell Aaron’s son Eleazar to take the censors, and to shape them into a covering for the altar. It was to be a continual reminder that only a descendant of Aaron was to stand before the altar on that day. Every morning and every evening the high priest was instructed to go into the Holy Place (which was just outside the Most Holy Place) and burn incense on it. And the idea was that the tabernacle, and by extension the people, would always “smell good” to God. But, every time Aaron did this he would see those plates covering the altar and he would be reminded of his people’s need and his own need for an intercessor and how if anyone ever tried to come to God on their own terms, strict judgment would await them.

God is extremely particular with who is allowed to come before him and how he is to be worshiped. So it raises the question, on what basis are you trying to appeal to God. Are you trying to come to God on your own terms? Are you standing at the tent of meeting trying to show God how you are holy without Him? Maybe you have a whole bunch of people on your side that you have fooled. Korah had an entire mob that was willing to go along with him. Maybe you have fooled yourself. “Be sure your sin will find you out”  At the end of the day, God saw his heart. The only way to God is through the High Priest, and no outsider will ever be able
to offer a pleasing aroma on his altar because without faith it is impossible to please God. Jesus understood this principle in John when he tells his disciples “No one can come to the Father except through me”  and earlier when he was preaching to the crowd in John “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”
Do not perish in the way. Are we trying to, as Calvin put it “extinguish the light of the sun” with a little smoke? Brothers and sisters, we must drop our censers.


“Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion” There is one calling, one election, and one basis upon which you can stand before God. We, as New Testament Christians, are a royal priesthood and a people for his own possession, and therefore have the unique responsibility of making “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings,” for all people. But, we only do these things because he first loved us. Only Christ can intercede for us, because only Christ has been appointed by the Father to serve as our great High Priest. Since only those who have been appointed by God can serve in his priesthood, we need intercession, and we need to be interceding. Christ, the Only True High Priest can give us the relationship with God we need in order to show who God is like to others.

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