Fr. James' Lectionary

The Lectionary is both a reading program for completing all of Holy Scripture on a one year schedule, and a daily comment on a portion of the day's reading wedded to a poem to give an added perspective on the theme.

Location: Amherst, Virginia, United States

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Why Exalt Yourselves?

Daily Readings
Psalm 69 + Numbers 16 + Deuteronomy 9 + Matthew 25

Verse for the Day
I will praise the Name of God in song;
I will proclaim his greatness with thanksgiving. Psalm 69:32

Daily Text Numbers 16:1-3, 28-34

Now Korah son of Izhar son of Kohath son of Levi, along with Dathan and Abiram sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth--descendants of Reuben--took 2two hundred fifty Israelite men, leaders of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men, and they confronted Moses. 3They assembled against Moses and against Aaron, and said to them, "You have gone too far! All the congregation are holy, everyone of them, and the LORD is among them. So why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?" 28And Moses said, "This is how you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works; it has not been of my own accord: 29If these people die a natural death, or if a natural fate comes on them, then the LORD has not sent me. 30But 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." 31As soon as he finished speaking all these words, the ground under them was split apart. 32The earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, along with their households--everyone who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33So they with all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol; the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34All Israel around them fled at their outcry, for they said, "The earth will swallow us too!"

Why Exalt Yourselves?
The rebellion of Korah, the Levite, is the most significant, perhaps, of the rebellions that Moses and God faced in the wilderness journey. Korah’s charge seems to be that since the whole congregation is holy, there need not be a hierarchy of leadership—prophetic or priestly. In some ways he has the theology right, but, obviously, his challenge is shot through with rebellion against both the leadership and God.

It seems inevitable that some son of Levi would protest the division within the Levites between the priests and the acolytes, if you will. It was an arbitrary division and fiercely defended by the priests throughout the history of Israel. The problem is that the division was created by the word of God through Moses, and it is a fair assumption that it is this that Korah is protesting. The issue, of course, is that Korah sees himself as a fitting person through which to call the entire existence of the people of Israel into question, for they all are threatened by the wrath of God. It is by their fruit that you shall know them.

The difference between Moses’ leadership and that of Korah is that Moses repeatedly interceded for the lives of his people. He led them into freedom, he prayed for their safety not only after the golden calf incident, but as in Deuteronomy 9 after the report of the twelve, for Aaron and Miriam at their rebellion, and he stuck by the people all the way to the Promised Land—40 years. At Korah’s rebellion the lives of all were at issue once again. Leadership is critical, but not just any leadership will do. Some leadership is for the people; some leadership seems focussed on the leader. Korah misunderstood that profoundly and it became obvious.

He was punished, but his children survived to become leaders in the worship of God in the temple. Cf. Numbers 26 and the ten psalms composed by Korah’s descendants, eg., Psalms 43-49. Amazing how God will make use of his gifts in every generation. There doesn’t seem to be a good way to harmonize that later reality with the note in Numbers 16:31-33 that all of his household was swallowed up by the earth. Obviously, one of his sons, at least, survived.

The Happiest Heart
John Vance Cheney

Who drives the horses of the sun
Shall lord it but a day.
Better the lowly deed were done
And kept the humble way.

The rust will find the sword of fame;
The dust will hide the crowd,
Aye, none shall nail so high his name
Time will not tear it down.

The happiest heart that ever beat
Was in some quiet breast
That found the common daylight sweet
And left to heaven the rest.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

humility, humility, humility....

ah yes, to take ourselves off of

the throne, out from the center and

to place the Lord Jesus there, in

all things we do, think or say...

not an easy task....a great self-


5:03 PM  

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