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Seven hundred years earlier in the Exodus Era, God had assigned each tribe its camping space around the Tabernacle—Judah to the east, closest to the Tabernacle entrance, with other tribes arranged in armies, clockwise in order (Num. 2). None of the tribes lived in direct contact with the Tabernacle, however; God reserved that honor for the Levites. The sub-tribe of Gershon camped to the west (3:23), behind the Tabernacle; Kohath to the south (3:29); Merari to the north (3:35); and the sons of Aaron to the east, in front of the entrance (3:38).
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, who would carry them, would not die (4:1-15, 17-20). 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.
The Levites’ work may not have been glamorous, but it was necessary, helpful, and honorable—except according to 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. In a miracle of judgment, God 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” (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)!
Now, around 716 BC, Hezekiah reigns. He has had the Temple cleaned and repaired for service, and he has reestablished the service of all of the Levites in the same responsibilities David had assigned them. He has re-established the Passover, which has not been celebrated since the days of Solomon (2 Chron. 30:26). He has returned to his roots.
Hezekiah’s passion for God also includes compiling the Scriptures. Proverbs 25-31 represent a collection of Solomon’s sayings that Hezekiah’s scholars have put together (Solomon had spoken 3000 proverbs and written 1005 songs—1 Kings 4:32). Hezekiah also returns to Israel’s songs—which include psalms of the sons of Korah.
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. 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. As they served God faithfully, God indeed brought them near to Himself, and He touched generations through them—we sing their songs today.
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.
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:
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 known. 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! (written by Jennifer May)