Most of us, when reading the Psalms, glance over the titles that often appear in the text; paying little attention to them unless they offer contextual insight into the psalm itself. Many may not even know that the titles are actually part of the inspired text. Here in the title of Psalm 42 we see that it was written to be sung by the temple choir, and that it is “A Maskil of the sons of Korah.” We’re not sure what a Maskil is precisely. It’s possible that it is a song intended to teach truth. If that’s true, it’s important for us to read and learn.
The name Korah, for those who have studied the Old Testament, is synonymous with rebellion and judgment. We read about Korah’s rebellion in Numbers 16:1-40. Korah, Dathan, and Abiram challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron. For their sin, fire from God consumed them and all those who followed them into their rebellious act. Then, ”the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, and their households, and all the men who belonged to Korah with their possessions,” (Numbers 16:32).
But that isn’t the end of the tale. For the story of Korah is not only one of rebellion and judgment. It’s also a story of redemption, and God’s incredible, amazing grace. Later, we read in Numbers 26 where Moses records the results of a census taken. In it he comes to mention Dathan and Abiram, noting that these were the ones who were consumed along with Korah as a result of their rebellion. Then, in Numbers 26:11, there appears a short statement that “the sons of Korah, however, did not die.”
The significance of that little sentence can easily be past over without notice. But, it becomes significant if we consider it in light of the title of Psalm 42. In that, we see that God took the spared offspring of a rebellious man, and redeemed them, raising his descendents to an elevated position of leadership in temple worship.
For those who believe that the God of the Old Testament is a God of judgment, and the God of the New Testament is a God of grace, they need to look no further than this song of the sons of Korah to see that God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow; and He is eternally gracious.
“For the LORD is good; His lovingkindness is everlasting And His faithfulness to all generations.” (Psalm 100:5, NASB95)