The Turnaround Generation
Next week we will move to an area that the locals call Kore’ but over time has become known as Korah to others. It is kind of funny because the first time I asked for a taxi to take me to the area, I asked him to take me to Korah and he had no idea where I meant. As I kept talking with him, he said, “Oh, Kore’, sure I’ll take you there.” These two words appear to be mostly interchangeable in the Bible – Korah is the closest derivative of the Hebrew and Kore’ is the equivalent in Greek. So, while both are one and the same, perhaps the more important issue is the change that occurred between a man named Korah and his ancestors known as the Sons of Korah. Within a generation – and a few generations to follow we see an amazing turn around for a family name. I believe this turn around for the name Korah in the Bible has meaning for the turn around of a place named Kore’ (Korah) today.
Korah lived at the time of Moses and was the great grandson of Levi. This made him a Levite whose occupation it was to serve and lead the Israelites in their service of The Lord in The Tabernacle. However, he seemed to desire more…much more… power and control than what he had been given. Moses had already endured the discontent of the Israelites and one rebellion in Numbers 12, but in Numbers 16 we see a rebellion being led by Korah. What was his complaint? His complaint was that Moses and Aaron had “gone too far” in leading the people spiritually. Deep down it would appear that he wanted a piece of that power, so he found 250 others who also had their gripes against Moses’ and Aaron’s leadership. (Moses’ response to Korah in verse 9 seems to point to the fact that Korah was trying to grab the priesthood). They all came to Moses with their complaints and their attempt at a coup, but Moses points toward this not being a mere rebellion against he and Aaron, but rather this is a rebellion against The Lord.
So, Moses sets up a moment of decision the next day. He would not be the one to decide who is of The Lord and who is not, but rather The Lord Himself would decide. In verses 16 – 35 we read of this time of decision between a group of 250 men led by Korah and Aaron. In the end the earth opened up and swallowed up many of Korah’s people and fire consumed the 250 men. From the verses that follow we read that it left quite an impression on the people of Israel. An interesting point in the midst of all of this is that Moses interceded on behalf of the very people who were rebelling and we read of how The Lord gave many a way out before the earthquake and fire came.
Now, fast forward 10 chapters to Numbers 26 where in 26:11 there is an interesting verse, “The line of Korah, however did not die out.” It is interesting how The Lord preserved these descendants of Korah and how He chose to trust them with very important tasks. In 1 Chronicles we read of 7 generations that follow after Korah through to Samuel and his son Joel. I find it fascinating to think that within a matter of just over 100 years The Lord has taken one of the most cursed names on the earth and has redeemed it in Samuel. Here in the line of Korah is the servant of God who listened to The Lord and anointed David as the king through whom The Messianic line would flow. God had over time changed the legacy of a whole line from being connected with Korah “The Power Grabber” to Samuel “The Servant.” God in His faithfulness changed the destiny for a whole clan.
But, the good news doesn’t stop there because we read of Heman (a descendant of Korah through Samuel’s son Joel) who was in charge of leading music in the Lord’s sanctuary. It is from Heman and others considered The Sons of Korah that we get some of the most beautiful Psalms which show a depth of emotion and a heightened sense of praise of God for who He is. One of the Psalms that catches my attention the most is Psalm 46 which becomes one of those bedrock Psalms to lean on during tough times and which lives on in the hymn “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”
The Sons of Korah wrote,
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall. God will help her at break of day. Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall; he lifts his voice, the earth melts. The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” Psalm 46
Here the descendants of a man who was grabbing for power from Moses, Aaron and ultimately God Himself wrote a Psalm which is totally focused on God being the only place of refuge, hope and strength. I wonder if Heman reflected back at all on his great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather’s story as he wrote the line about the earth giving way? God in His faithfulness changed history for this family line. And now, today, the legacy of Korah is contained in beautiful Psalms which praise God rather than a man named Korah who cursed his family through his rebellion. God has brought about redemption and restoration in a profound way.
So, what does this have to do with this place named Kore’ (Korah) here in Addis Ababa? This is a place that has become known as God forsaken and cursed. This is a place that is known for somehow having attracted the wrath of God. However, like in the story of Korah, there is hope. The same God who redeemed the line of a man who rebelled against Himself is the same God who is redeeming and restoring residents of Korah one heart at a time. The curse no longer prevails, but rather the promise can be declared. God Himself is bringing that very river that makes glad the city of God and the holy place where the Most High dwells and He is intersecting lives in Korah with that Kingdom. He is changing lives and bringing promise where curses have prevailed. I count it a privilege to be a small part of what He is doing in making His promises and purposes known here. And I look forward to the day when we read songs written by the sons and daughters of Korah that bring the highest praise to God. The great news is that it’s already happening…we won’t have to wait 8 generations to start hearing those songs!