The Ground Swallowed Them Up

Today I would like to write a simple blog post about a connection in the Bible I had never seen before. Maybe it will get your neurons firing. Maybe it will encourage you. Maybe you’ll see a side of 2 Timothy you haven’t seen before. 2 Timothy 2:17-19 reads, 17 Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 who have wandered away from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some. 19 Nevertheless, God’s solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Everyone who confesses the name of the Lord must turn away from wickedness.” If you look at verse 19, you will see that there are two quotes. These are from Numbers 16:1-5 and 26-32. The Numbers story is basically this: Moses was opposed by the sons of Korah. The sons of Korah clearly had selfish motivation, to gain power where God had not given it. So Moses arranged a showdown of sorts, and proclaimed that they will be swallowed up by the ground. And then we read, in Numbers 16:31, “31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them…” I have read 2 Timothy many times in my life, but I have always skipped this OT allusion. What’s the point? We learn that some of the trials Timothy was facing were from inside the church. Not only that, but we know what happens when there is selfish opposition to God’s leaders. The ground swallowing up the sons of Korah is an OT way of saying there will be a final judgment and separation of the righteous and wicked, as Jesus pointed out many times (Matthew 25:31-46). In the Numbers story, God’s people were called to depart physically from the false teachers, a wise move for anyone seeking to learn and follow God day in and day out. We learn that God will be with us as we follow his call, and will defend us in our ministry as he did Moses. There will be a terrible and fearful judgment for those that oppose God. Let’s just say that last week I was reminded of how rich a seemingly boring passage like 2 Timothy 2:17-19 could be. We find that a simple passage on false teachers, which most of us would read through quickly to get to the “good stuff,” is filled with a very vivid illustration which instructs us and should be taken quite seriously. A prayer: Lord Jesus, please help us to pay attention to all of Scripture, even its mundane details – for it is breathed out by you, and useful for teaching, rebuking, correction, and training in righteousness, so that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Amen.