“Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the 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 certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron….”
Numbers 16: 1-3
King James Version
“A Rebel Heart”
“Oh, study your hearts, watch your hearts, keep your hearts?”
What does it mean to me to have a “rebel heart?”
“A man-pleaser cannot be true to God, because he is a servant to the enemies of his service; the wind of a man’s mouth will drive him about as the chaff; from any duty, and to any sin.”
“Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.”
Proverb 4: 23
King James Version
It was the summer of 1969. I was standing in a park with a friend in Sausalito, California. The park was crowded with young people dressed in tie-dyed shirts and ripped Levis. At that time it was difficult to tell boys from girls because everybody sported long-curly hair. On the podium was some speaker exhorting all of us kids to “rebel.” His speech was winsome. And heads were nodding and hands were clapping as voices shouted, “Yes! Yes!”
I was too “square” at the time to agree with everything he said, but to be totally honest, at that crucial time in my life, his message of unfettered freedom, life without rules, living as you please, held an allure that today is hard for me to describe.
As we continue our study in Numbers, I’d like to ask you this question, “What does it mean to “rebel?” Does rebellion have to do with the external or the internal parts of our lives?
I’d like to offer this perspective on “rebellion,” a view-point I didn’t have in 1969 as a young teenager desirous of throwing off the constraints applied by the adults in my life. For what I once thought harmless behavior involving only what I wore or how I colored my hair or who I chose to date, now for me is a much more sinister activity which involves my inside rather than focusing on my outer appearance.
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah helps us understand the concept of a “rebel heart” more clearly when he says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly perverse and corrupt and severely, mortally sick! Who can know it and be acquainted with (her) own heart and mind?” (Jeremiah 17: 9, Amplified Bible).
This is why I believe God was so open and honest in letting His children see the good, the bad, and the ugly in human behavior throughout history. He wanted all His children to understand not only the beauty that arises from a “redeemed heart” but also the destruction that results from a “rebel heart.”
There is no place in Scripture where this point is made more evident than in the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram in Numbers 16. While this story may appear at first to deal with only the “men,” we women folk have something important to learn from associating with “rebel hearted” individuals who not only corrupt their own lives but the lives of their entire families.
In Numbers 16: 3, we find Korah and his like-minded cronies coming to Moses with what on the surface, appears to be a desire to help. “Ye take too much upon you.” (Numbers 16: 3, K.J.V.). “Moses was too busy,” were their first words. And then, these rebel hearts made a very dangerous statement. “All the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?” Basically, within a few words, Korah went from a spirit of kindness, “you are too busy Moses,” to a spirit of a rebel, “I am as good as you. We are holy, too. In fact, what makes you better than any of us, Moses?” Isn’t it striking how quickly this Levite, a priest in the temple, could turn on Moses, God’s appointed leader. Poor Moses went straight to God because these rebel hearts had sowed seeds of discord throughout the camp.
However, God told Moses to speak to all the people and tell them “Depart, I pray you, from the tents of these wicked men, and touch nothing of theirs lest ye be consumed in all their sins.” (Numbers 16: 26, K.J.V.).
And then, the three ring-leaders of the rebellion left the tabernacle and stood in the doors of their tents, “and their wives, and their sons, and their little children.” (Numbers 16: 27, K.J.V.). The ending of these rebel-hearted men was serious indeed, for the earth opened and swallowed not only them but everyone connected to them including their families.
Korah, the rebel leader, who chose to entertain the seeds of rebellion came up against Moses, God’s chosen who is portrayed in Numbers 12: 3 as a gentle, meek, kind and humble man – above all other men on earth. Both these men, Korah and Moses, were called of God. Both on the outside appeared to be on God’s team. But one had a heart where rebellion was welcome and the other had a heart of meekness. I love the words of Amma Syncletica, “Choose the meekness of Moses and you will find your heart which is a rock, changed into a spring of water.” A rebel’s heart becomes a redeemed heart.
“Do your utmost to guard your heart, for out of it comes life.”
“Lord Jesus, our Saviour, let us now come to thee:
Our hearts are cold; Lord, warm them with thy selfless love,
Our hearts are sinful; cleanse them with thy precious blood.
Our hearts are weak; strengthen them with thy joyous Spirit.
Our hearts are empty; fill them with thy divine presence.
Lord Jesus, our hearts are thine; possess them always
and only for thyself.”
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meet Jesus
(Available May 2009)