“Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not” (Numbers 26:11).
This short striking statement is interjected between verses 1 and 12 of Numbers 26. No explanation is added. The “why?” and the “wherefore?” of the exception are not narrated. The fact only is stated in its simple brevity.
The judgment of God overwhelmed Korah, Dathan and Abiram and all that appertained unto them (Num. 16:32-33) because of their high-handed rebellion against Jehovah and His servants. “They went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed upon them, and they perished from among the congregation.”
One would not have discovered from that account that any exceptions whatever were made. All seemed plunged into the same condemnation. Whence, then the “notwithstanding” concerning the children of Korah?
The sovereign mercy of God came in and spared them. This alone. Apart from it they would doubtless have been cut off also, even as nothing but the sovereign mercy of God spares us and saves us today from everlasting woe.
Dathan and Abiram were left without descendants. The children of Korah, being delivered, continued his name. And for their descendants, “For the sons of Korah” to sing was Psalm 84 prepared.
They were to be singers of the praises of Him who had revealed Himself as a Saviour, and they were among those whom David set over the service of song in the house of the Lord after that the ark had rest. And they ministered before the dwelling-place of the tabernacle of the congregation with singing until Solomon had built the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, and then they waited on their office according to their order (1 Chr. 6:31-32).
The psalm is based on the knowledge of redemption. (And it is only the ransomed who can rightly raise the song of salvation.) Those who were ruined have been recovered in the undeserved, unqualified goodness of God. Therefore it is that with glad hearts they chant His praises, and rejoice before Himself.
The Psalm is divided into three sections of four verses each. And each section contains an ascription of blessedness to the man who is one of the favoured of the Lord.
The first portion presents Jehovah’s DWELLING-PLACE.
His dwelling is their delight, and they cry:
“How amiable are Thy tabernacles, O, Lord of hosts.”
The tabernacles of God were lovely in their view. The God of the tabernacles dwelt there between the cherubim and He was their soul’s satisfaction.
“My soul longeth, yea even fainteth, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh crieth out for the living God.”
He was their portion, and thus His courts were their pleasure. He alone could meet the longings of their souls, and after Him it was their heart and flesh aspired. The heart of man is too large for anything material to fill. This world or ten thousand like it can never answer the heart’s yearning to be filled full. God alone is enough for this.
“Yea, the sparrow hath found an house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Thine altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.”
One of the most worthless of birds and one of the most wandering of birds have places of refuge and repose. And Jehovah’s altars are the refuge and repose of His people. The burnt-offering altar speaks of perfect acceptance in virtue of Christ’s perfect atonement. The golden incense altar setting before us our perfect approach as we respond in acceptable thanksgiving and praise, presenting His graces and beauties before God.
“Blessed are they that dwell in Thy house; they will be still praising Thee. Selah.”
In the sense of Jehovah’s favour and of their nearness to Him they would voice His praise continually. And He dwelt in the midst of the praises of those who knew Him as their Redeemer.
And if this was so in the days when the sons of Korah sang their sweet song, how much more should adoration flow from our hearts today. Now God is fully revealed, and in virtue of the cleansing value of the precious blood of Christ He has brought us into His marvellous light. There we can be without a fear, without a misgiving. And there in the presence of God, known in the fullness of His grace, we can be happy worshippers. The Father seeketh worshippers, and He finds worshippers in those who know Him as revealed in Christ the Son. Knowing Him they love Him, and loving Him, they worship Him in spirit and in truth. Truly “blessed” is their lot. At home with Him now in spirit they gladly acclaim His worthiness. And soon the Father’s house will be their eternal habitation and resound with their everlasting hallelujahs. But even while they await the call to the home of joy on high some of the joys of that home are already known to them in the power of the Holy Ghost come down from heaven.
The second section of the Psalm (vv. 5-8) opens with another character of “blessed”-ness. It deals not with the rest but with the road. It speaks of the TESTING-PLACE and the singer sings
“Blessed is the man whose strength is in Thee, in whose heart are the ways of them.”
Such a one will not be detained by man’s schemes or the world’s attractions. “Go forward” is his watchword. He will press on, refusing enticements and entanglements. The sense of the passage is gained better if we omit the words “of them,” supplied by the translators at the end of the verse. The heart is set on the highway here, as it is set on the home in the verses we have already considered. The soul is seen addressing itself to the journey to the home and learning His sufficiency in a new way. His strength is in Jehovah.
“Who, passing through the valley of Baca, make it a well; the rain also filleth the pools.”
The valley of Baca is the valley of tears (Baca is the singular form of the word Bochim, the place of “Weepers”, Judges 2). We have to travel along a tearful, toilsome, testing track. But all the exercises of heart only lead us the more to rely upon Himself, and experiences painful to nature become a well, a source of spiritual refreshment. Moreover, the Lord knoweth the trials of His own, and sends a rain of heavenly ministry upon His inheritance when it is weary. This fills the pools and covers our course with blessings. The flowers of faith and hope spring up fresh and fair, and bloom to His praise amidst the barrenness around.
“They go from strength to strength, every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.”
From one stage to another the pilgrim passes on. The strength for the way is given. The strength for the day is known.
The love of the heart of God has opened His home. The strength of the hand of God maintains His people journeying thither. No reserves of power have they in themselves. It is supplied as needed, and the supply never fails.
“Live a day at a time” was the good counsel of an established Christian to a young mother who was almost overwhelmed by her manifold duties. And in her case the wisdom of that word was proved. The necessary grace was ever ministered a day at a time through many years of varied testing.
Do not attempt to shoulder tomorrow’s cares. Do not attempt to tread tomorrow’s path. Christ who is with you today will be with you tomorrow too. And grace will be granted tomorrow without fail, but it will not be given today. You may not need it tomorrow.
The Lord of Hosts is enough for the pathway you have to tread. He is your Father, and He cares for everyone of His children. He will never leave you nor forsake you in time of trouble. Lean on Him, lean hard on Him, and you will prove the power of His arm in every emergency.
“O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer: give ear, O God of Jacob. Selah.”
Here is comfort too. Our God is the Lord God of hosts. He has almighty and universal dominion. But then He is not only the Lord God of multitudes of holy ones, He is also the God of the failing individual believer—even of Jacob. He is our personal God. He carried Jacob through his “few and evil” days of pilgrimage, and He will carry us even the feeblest of His own. Turning to Him we may cry, “Hear my prayer,” and know that His ear is never closed to our supplication.
Coming to the third section of the Psalm we find the Lord is the HIDING-PLACE of the godly one amid every danger and every difficulty.
“Behold, O God our shield, and look upon the face of Thine anointed.”
God is ever the refuge of His distressed people. Never has He failed them. Faith can always say “God our shield.” In the midst of circumstances most contrary and foes most furious that shield is a perfect defence. No weapon can reach the soul sheltering there. And we are shielded and secured not because of any merit we possess but because of His anointed—because of Christ. For Christ’s sake God blesses every believer. For Christ’s sake He has cleansed us from all our sins. “For Christ’s sake” He covers us in all our sorrows.
“For a day in Thy courts is better than a thousand; I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.”
One day in His courts exceeds the joys yielded by a thousand in other surroundings. “God’s worst is better than the devil’s best,” as someone has said. While another phrases the same idea thus, “God’s doorstep is a happier rest than downy couches within the pavilions of royal sinners for a lifetime of luxury.” Yes. So it is indeed. The one who has tasted the food of His table is spoiled for every other. There is no sense of loss, but, on the contrary, a sense of infinite gain for all who abide with Him. The devil’s delicacies may please the palate of the worldly wanderer from God, but the Christian walking in the Spirit is a full soul and loathes the honeycomb with which the foe would seek to entice him away from the well-spread board of his God and Father.
“For the Lord God is a sun and shield. The Lord will give grace and glory: no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.”
He is all to His own. Sun and shield and source of supply of everything that is needed for all our way. Nothing will be lacking, nothing will be kept back which would be beneficial for the one who walks in uprightness. In him we have a hiding-place until travelling days are over and the goal is reached and the heart rests in His presence eternally.
Communion with Him leads to confidence in Him, and in that confidence the believer exultingly cries:
“O Lord of hosts, blessed is the man that trusteth in Thee.”