Numbers 1:45 Are Ye Able Said the Master
It seems to me that the way to get the most out of this book as we study chapter by chapter using each as a basis for our devotional walk with the Lord is to view it typically and apply it to the church. True, Israel and the church must be understood as two separate entities. To mix them is confusion. God hates mixture (Lev.19:19) and is not the author of confusion (I Cor.14:33). That being said, it is evident from I Corinthians 10:11 that God intends to use the experiences of Israel in the wilderness as examples to us “upon whom the ends of the worlds are come.” The word example is the Greek word tupos which is our very word type.
The typology of the book of Numbers is very rich indeed! The church is everywhere in this book which, in contrast with Leviticus, covers a period of 38-39 years. Comparing Num.1:1 with Ex.40:17, Leviticus occupied one month. From a book with almost no narrative, we come to one that is almost all narrative.
C.H.M. says the theme of Numbers is walk and warfare of the wilderness. Up until now it has been offerings and incense, consecration and washings, sacrifice and feasts – but suddenly the emphasis is mobilization and warfare. Israel is on the march and is illustrative of the church militant.
Our theme will be Church Lessons from Israel’s Example in the Wilderness. The outline: chapters 1-10, the strength of the church ( characteristics to be emulated); chapters 11-25, the weakness of the church (failures to be avoided); chapters 26-36, closing instructions and preparations for entering the Promised Land.
In the repetitive information of this chapter we are given the pedigrees all of those “able to go forth to war.” Two things should impress us. First, each man knew the family to which belonged. Aren’t you glad you’re a part of the family of God? Is there any hesitation in declaring, “I know whom I have believed?” Secondly, each man knew that he was expected to be a man of war. Have we allowed ourselves to become so entangled with the affairs of this life that it could not be said of us, as it was of them, that we are able (II Tim.2:4)?
Note that of the six hundred and three thousand, five hundred and fifty, only two would be alive at the end of this book!
Numbers 2:2 Pitching by Our Own Standard
One cannot read the first three chapters of Numbers without being impressed with the
fact that our God loves order. None of this was Moses’ idea – it all came from Jehovah. The tabernacle of witness was in the center of our scene being protected by a ring of some 22,000 Levites in the order prescribed in chapter three, Moses And Aaron, with his sons, firmly ensconced on the East at its entrance.
Next in order were all of the tribes, here accounted a second time and encamped in four subdivisions each made up of three of the tribes being pitched together on one of the quadrants with the distinctive marching orders accorded them. When the pillar of cloud or fire moved (Num.9:17), hastily the Levites disassembled the tabernacle and prepared to take off after it (Him) ready to set it up as soon as the Shikinah found a new resting place. Immediately the tribes also moved forward with Judah in the east setting forth first (v.9) accompanied by Issachar and Zebulun, the three totaling 186,400. Thus and thus, next from the south side, in second rank, the standard of Reuben, this to the fanfare of trumpets. Then came the Levites bearing the tabernacle. After it followed the Ephraimites from the west side and finally Dan, having been camped on the north side, accompanied by his two confederate tribes came up “hindermost”(v.31).
The key word in chapter one was pedigree but here it is standard (v.2). As it is important to know to which family one belonged, it was equally important to know which camp is ours and under which banner we will fight. If we are a member of the Red Sox team we had better not be in the Yankee dugout! In this case all of these teams are on the same side only too often our churches appear to be at odds with each other so I don’t know if it is a good illustration or not. The point is God loves order and He has a place for us to serve and if we know what’s good for us, we will find it and stay in it. Can’t you picture some Israelite wandering around looking for just the right tribe. You might call it “tribe hopping.” Seriously, there is every reason to believe that it was not a practice in New Testament churches no matter how many problems there were.
Numbers 3:13 “ Mine Shall They Be”
The subject of this chapter is the Levites and it is divided into two parts. The first part is subdivided into four and delineates who shall guard the four quarters of the tabernacle and what shall be their primary function each when a move in indicated. Moses and Aaron guard the entrance on the east. The three sons of Levi have their respective assignments of place and function. If you will just highlight their divisions once in your Bible you will always be able to see the outline at a glance. As already indicated the whole tribe numbers twenty two thousand (v.39).
The second part of the chapter before us has to do with the exchange of the Levites for the firstborn - an interesting swap. In verses 12 and 13 we are alerted to facts of the case. Israel had just about forgotten already how Jehovah had delivered them from bondage by the smiting of the firstborn of Egypt and had thus claimed all of Israel’s firstborn as being His since He had redeemed them (I Cor.6:20). Considering the work He had for the group to do, it was probably more feasible to deal with a full tribe such as the Levites so without consultation God simply made the swap even down to their cattle (v.45), the slight overage of firstborn being compensated for by the payment of five shekels apiece. (The shekel equals twenty gerahs - now that’s a helpful bit of information!) The 1365 shekels Moses gladly received to be used for operating expenses (probably). That’s 27,300 gerahs. Considering the book we are in we should do the numbers – right. God did them and very precisely, showing us again how concerned He is over details.
We will miss the point if we do not understand that each Israelite represents us as individual members of an organized local assembly and yet, each Levite represented a redeemed firstborn (Heb.12:23) so we have a sort of double type but, each of us as believers are also priests, so that makes it a triple type as we see ourselves following the Lord through the wilderness. Each of us belong to Him and of us He says, “Mine shall they be: I am the Lord.” Let us serve Him with reverence and Godly fear (Heb.12:28).
Numbers 4:20 “Lest They Die”
Again, we can divide our chapter into two sections. Both of these may be subdivided into three parts. The first section gives us the responsibilities of the Kohathites, the Gershonites and the Merarites when the tabernacle was to be moved. The second gives the number of males entering into service in each of these three houses.
When the number is totaled of the three branches of Levi’s house we find it to be 8,580 (v.48). “Ah,” but you say, “I see a discrepancy . Doesn’t it say in 3:39 that there were 22,000 males, why this difference?” Some of you are more observing that the others, perhaps, and you already know the answer. The d...ah .. angel is in the details. See if you can determine it.
Eleazor, the son of the high priest Aaron, had charge of the work of the sons of Kohath (v.16) and Ithamar, his brother, was over the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari (v.28 & v.33).
The Kohathites had to handle all of the articles of furniture and yet not touch them! How were they to do this? The answer to this question lies in the way they were covered and the way they were to be carried. In the former, however, lies a mystery that the careful reader will discover. It will be noted that regarding the ark, after the covering veil was placed upon it, the badger skin (leather protecting case) was put on next and the whole covered with a “cloth wholly of blue” whereas the colored cloth on all of the other pieces was placed inside the badger skin cover. Then too, the table of shewbread had two cloths, the outer one being scarlet but no one would know this except the Levites. Blue cloths were likewise wrapped around the candlestick and the “instruments of ministry” but the brazen altar had a purple cloth applied before the badger skin. Great care was taken in all of this that the Kohathites would not see any thing but the coverings “lest they die.”
Once all was prepared for travel within the sanctuary, the wooden staves were slid into the rings prepared for them and thus they were handled by the Kohathites but never seen or touched by them.
No doubt there is deep meaning underlying the differences mentioned above. It is for each believer to meditate upon them and seek to draw conclusions under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Numbers 5:15 Iniquity Brought to Light
How long has it been since you have heard or read anything on the subject that occupies the bulk of today’s text? Yet, it is, without question, a most interesting one to say the least. To those of us that look for types, is there anything here that suggests a New Testament counterpart? I believe so and at first you may disagree but I beg you not to rush too quickly to condemn what is about to be unfolded.
What do we have in our practice that is akin to a “memorial bringing iniquity to remembrance” (v.15)? That’s right, the Lord’s Supper! Are there any other similarities? Yes, quite a few. Start with the fact that this is the examination specifically of a woman. The church is never thought of as a man. This woman has a jealous husband. So do we, His name is Jesus. If the Lord’s table is seen properly as a disciplinary measure, and it should be though unfortunately this aspect is being overlooked these days, we begin to get the picture.
Two elements, a liquid and a solid are used in this inquisition and if the woman was guilty she drank judgement to herself and if she was not guilty she drank death and rejoiced in victory. Why would this woman, if guilty, sit and say “amen, amen,” we might ask but by the same token behold the hypocrite who lives in sin and sits with his brethren partaking of the supper as if God smiled upon him. How would such a one be rooted out? Those who think that our jealous God did not design this symbolic ceremony for that reason among others must have a blind spot when they read I Corinthians 11:23 - 34.
In such a short essay we have not opportunity to go into more detail though doubtless there is sufficient reason to do so. Instead, however, I wish, in closing, to make it clear that in no sense is the church responsible to carry out such an inquisition as we find here. This is Old Testament and is couched in terms consistent with the law. The key words for us are these, “let a man examine himself,” but let us not lose sight of the facts that both events are carried out under the signature of our sovereign God Who gave “all scripture” by divine inspiration.
Numbers 6:2 The Vow of the Nazarite
Technically the word separation (or a form of it in Hebrew) occurs in this chapter 24 times so I guess it is easy to see what the emphasis is and the application. The words separation and consecration may be used interchangeably and helps us to get the emphasis.
There is not much we can say about the text except that as usual, being under the old covenant (O.T.) it is all very strange to us. Basically the Nazarite (actually nazerite and no relationship to Jesus being a Nazarene from the town of Nazareth) was prohibited in three areas. He was forbidden to drink wine, cut his hair or touch a dead body. Rules were given in the case of an accidental infringement of the third (9 - 12). The consecration of oneself, man or woman, was usually temporary as indicated by the text from verse thirteen and following, an outstanding exception being the lifelong commitment required of the famous Israelite deliverer (Judges 13).
We might ponder over the thorough nature of the prohibition both in our text (3 & 4) and in Judges vss.3 & 4, but we must remember that God always has His reasons for everything He does or requires and these regulations as clearly indicated are directly from Him.
In application we may surely conclude that this vow being voluntary pictures the surrendered Christian’s life (Rom.12:1) but under grace the commitment is obviously for life.
Intoxicants and mind altering drugs are only the tip of the iceberg. The separated believer under the influence of the Holy Spirit will gradually become less worldly and more like Jesus as he grows in grace. The total consecration of one’s life to the Lord should probably be a once and for all event followed by daily living under the search light of God’s word. I strongly recommend it!
Once you know that you have made this commitment begin to pray for your saved loved ones, your Christian friends and particularly for your pastor. This message should be preached often.
Numbers 7:9 No Cart for Kohath
The second longest chapter in the Bible containing eighty nine verses is now before us. You may say, “and what a boring chapter it is.” There is no doubt that it is rather tedious, but we must remember that, like the genealogies at the beginning of I Chronicles, it is God’s Word and must be reverenced as such. Even there, however, there is an occasional bit of narrative like Jabez’s prayer (4:10) tucked in among all the lists of names that one might miss if he were careless but in our chapter today we do not find, at least on the surface, much that is inspirational. And we do want these devotionals to be inspirational!
Actually, we can and should be inspired by the generosity of these twelve princes. We can also marvel a bit that this many leaders could agree on the nature of their offerings. (Good example for a church board meeting.) Can you imagine the meeting where these decisions were made? How did it happen that each of them possessed these exact same implements? How many other Israelites owned silver chargers, silver bowls and golden spoons? Did any of their wives put up a fuss in parting with these treasures? You see, beneath the surface there are many stories if we will but think of it. Of course, much is pure conjecture, but surely, human nature being what it is, it is not hard to imagine some drama. I like to think that Moses and Aaron might have had a little discussion as to how the Gershonites and the Merarites were going to fare handling those heavy curtains and gold covered boards in the hot Eastern sun. Jehovah Jereh will take care of it! Certainly He did so through the generosity of the princes.
But then, I wonder if the Kohathites grumbled at all when they found out that they were not given a cart and if they had to be reminded that Jehovah had specifically indicated that their lot was to carry their burdens on their shoulders. Later in their history some of them found out in a hurry how serious God was about this (II Sam.6: 3 - 10).
Some folks get carts for their burdens, some don’t, do we dare complain?
Numbers 8:19 Gifts to Aaron
It might be erroneously thought that the Levites typify a similarly elite caste in the church as was their place in Israel. There, however, is no such status among the saints! Elevating the clergy is a Roman Catholic concept and has no place among us. There should be none other than “full time” servants of the Lord. Paul’s enumeration of the various gifts in Rom.12:6 and following is enough to show this. We are one body with many parts.
The Levites, being as they were, selected in place of the first- born, are a privileged lot. They are said to be His (v.14) but as for the church may it not be said that we are all equally His? Are we not all represented by the firstborn who were delivered from Egypt? The answer of course is yes and therefore, the Levites are clearly a type of the entire Church not just a segment of it. They, in fact, did represent the nation as demonstrated by the laying on of hands by the congregation (v.10).
We have been given as a gift to Christ (John 17:24) even as the Levites were given to Aaron (v.19). We are to serve the Lord and not just warm a pew. Is it possible that the Lord might want families to be willing to go to small churches where they can be of help even if is hard on the kids? How many Christians do you know who leave their community to go to some large church because of the music or the youth activities? I know that if all such in our area were to come to our church it would make quite a difference. We should all ask the Lord how and where we should serve.
It is interesting that the words wait and waiting in verses 24 and 25 are usually found to be used in a military sense. It is the word transliterated as Sabaoth and speaks of a host of warriors. Sounds like more than pew-warming to me, what do you think?
Most commentators agree that the age of twenty-five for the Levites involved a 5-year apprenticeship (v.24) and the over 50 seniors found plenty to do in “keeping the charge” (v.25).
Numbers 9:17 There They Pitched Their Tents
If we compare the opening verses of this chapter with Exodus 40:2 and 40:17 it will be
noted that these things were spoken to Moses at the time the tabernacle was set up (as were chapters 7 & 8) and are retrospective, the first verse of Numbers having already stated that the numbering was commanded on the first day of the second month. Here it is plainly stated that these things were said during the first month. It is simply the case that everything could not be written at once and we have now come to the point where instructions must be given concerning the Passover.
Verse five tells us that the passover was kept on this the beginning of months (our April) on the 14th day of this second year. In other words, this is the first anniversary of the celebration of their deliverance that night when the firstborn were slain in Egypt. A most important event involving the shedding of the blood of a lamb, it was, as can be seen here, to be scrupulously kept even if a month late due to certain circumstances (v.10) and failure to do so would bring dire results (v.13).
Certainly, no one can doubt the seriousness of Jehovah in setting forth this feast day which is undeniably the type of Christ’s death and can it be conceived that the memorial of His death, the Lord’s supper, is any less important in the life of New Testament saints? Here we pound the pulpit and fairly shout the answer, of course not!
Paul writes, “let us keep the feast- - with unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (I Cor.5:9). No sincere Christian who claims to love the truth can avoid the communion of the saints without incurring God’s displeasure. O callused heart repent and return.
Is there a relationship between obedient submission and guidance? The occurrence of these two subjects together here might suggest it. The way for the Israelite was to be always under the Shekinah. Jesus is our way and may our eyes be upon Him. “Lord guide me into paths of righteousness for thy name’s sake. I rest beneath thy wings and wait patiently for thee to lead me.”
Numbers 10:28 Setting Forward
Finally the day has come to move on. According to our calender it was May 20th and nineteen days since the book of Numbers opened (compare 1:1 and 10:11). Significantly the subject of the trumpets is introduced, for the march, among other things, was to be ordered by its clear signals.
The trumpets sound the first alarm. Instantly Nahshon was on his feet to be joined by Nethaneel and Eliab – “that’s us, let’s go.” Here come the wagons, carrying the tabernacle - a second blast of the trumpets - the banner of the camp Reuben flutters in the breeze as that contingent falls into place joined by the host of the tribe of Simeon and that of Gad. Quite possibly a hush falls over the scene as the Kohathites appear in line carrying on their shoulders the Ark of the Covenant covered with blue. One by one the remainder of the tribes assemble without further sounding of the trumpets and, in their appointed place, begin a three day journey before they will hear Moses say, “Return O Lord, unto the many thousands of Israel.”
Remember that God said, at the end of forty years, that their clothes had not gotten old or their shoes worn out (Deut.29:5), so let us not become too exercised about the care and comfort of these blessed people who would experience, day by day, His goodness (v.32).
Rather our concern ought to be for the Church that seems to know little about such unity and order. Our hearts should grieve over the believers that we know who apparently pay no attention to the alarm from the silver trumpet of God’s word. “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together as the manner of some,” and also over whole “tribes” that seem to march to a different drummer (trumpets), going off to do their thing. Can the Lord Who by His spirit said, “Let all things be done decently and in order” (I Cor.14:40) be anything but unhappy about the lack of unity in His “one body” (Eph.4:4)? There is no question that we must be concerned for doctrinal purity, but isn’t part of our doctrine the preserving of the oneness of the Body of Christ? For this we should pray. “ Hobab, we need you, come with us and we will do thee good.”
Numbers 11:34 The Graves of Lust
Have you ever heard it said, “some people just have to learn the hard way?” It is a sad but true statement and unfortunately far too many Christians share the fate of what takes place when they are not satisfied with the lot God gives them in life.
In our chapter today we see a powerful example of what can happen when dissatisfaction sets in. Actually what is told us about the manna sounds pretty good. It was available every day except on the Sabbath when there fell earlier enough for two days. It must have tasted okay and even looked good. One thing was sure no housewife had to spend much time thinking about what to have for supper and there were apparently numerous ways to prepare it. Angel food cake for dessert as well.
But no, seemingly influenced by the mixed multitude, there developed a complaining spirit. Some hankered for an Egyptian salad with some meat on the side. It got so bad that they fell to shedding tears publically and the thing was catching so that soon they were all doing it, and Jehovah was very displeased.
Oh, beloved, what a serious matter it is when our God’s anger is kindled and what has done it? Failure to believe that He knows what is best and thus failure to simply say, “thy will be done.” Imagine the absolute thanklessness of these people in saying “why came we forth out of Egypt?” But think of it, when He has redeemed us by the blood of His only begotten , and we turn from Him like Demas over some Egyptian fleshpot. I came so near it myself and the verse God used to turn me back was Psalm 106:15 “And he gave them their request but sent leanness into their soul.” These folk got more than leanness, they got flesh to eat until they puked and it ran out their nostrils (v.20) and then they got buried in Kibrothhataavah (the graves of lust). For what are we willing to trade the sweet bread of heaven? O foolish heart, be stayed upon Jehovah!
Numbers 12:2 “And the Lord Heard it”
The words of a wall plaque I have seen come to mind when preparing to write on this passage. It stated that, among other things, God is a “silent listener to every conversation.” Both yesterday’s chapter and today’s certainly attest to that fact. Rarely do we see two separate stories appearing side by side with such an obviously common theme as this. “And the Lord heard it.” He heard the multitude and He heard a brother and sister, the former complaining over their supposed deprivations and the latter discussing a judgement call.
The Hebrew, I am told, indicates that Miriam was the leader in this domestic episode and there is Aaron again getting swept up in a compulsive argument leveled against Moses. Perhaps Jehovah didn’t care much for Moses’ choice of a wife either, but the over- riding sin here was the imperious attitudes of his sister and brother. There is, in fact, nothing but good spoken of Moses by the Lord as He angrily chastens the guilty pair.
Meekness is an excellent character trait and Moses next to Christ is our prime scriptural example. What injustices he endured and we have only begun this journey. True, he did crack a bit later under the strain, but here we have God’s own word as a testimonial (v.3) and I can’t help but wonder about how it got placed in the text.
Miriam becoming leprous is an excellent example of what we have said about how the Lord used leprosy as a disciplinary measure discounting the idea that it is to be thought of as a disease.
The application to be made from our text today is certainly obvious. Our God is listening all the time so let us be as circumspect in the matter of our tongue as if at any moment He might call us on the carpet for what He has heard us say. This is especially true when we are speaking of our brethren and, of course, our pastor.
Numbers 13:36 “Well Able to Overcome”
Since the name of Joshua comes into play in the story before us I would like to point out some interesting if not mysterious facts surrounding it. You will note that it is stated in verse 16 that Moses changed this name from Oshea to Jehoshua. One of the “heads of the children of Israel”(v.3), he has played a prominent role already in the history of God’s people but in each of the eight times mentioned he is called by his new name or actually the shortened version, Joshua. The question is, when did Moses start using this new name? Or perhaps he simply chose to use it when he wrote the divine record.
At any rate, it was not such a bad name to start with, in fact, it is exactly the name of a famous minor prophet, Hosea, and means deliverer. I guess Moses wanted to make sure that it was clear who was doing the delivering so he added Jehovah’s name Jehoshua which, shortened, is Joshua, Jehovah delivers (saves) and is, of course, the New Testament name Jesus.
Joshua is certainly a type of our Lord Jesus. The very first time we meet him he is successfully battling Amalek ( a type of the flesh) Exodus 17: 9. Next we see him as Moses’ minister (24:13) as they go up to Sinai, and still being with him in 32:17, we wonder if he also fasted those forty days (v.18). Another mystery is seen in Exodus 33:11 where it says that though Moses left the tabernacle Joshua did not. What was he doing in there? Here in today’s story, strangely, it is Caleb who “stilled the people before Moses” (v.30) and who alone seems to get the credit from God in 14:24 Who says “he had another spirit with him.”
As the great deliverer of Israel, Joshua conducts God’s people into the promised land in the book that bears his significant name. Leading the nation to one successful battle after another, this rather hidden personage emerges as a powerful military figure typifying our mighty conquering Saviour Who “giveth us the victory!” “Thanks be to God!”
P.S. I have finally learned that typify does not have an “l.”
Numbers 14:23 “Them That Provoked Me”
Here is probably the most compelling passage in the Bible. Of course, the judgement is not so sweeping as the flood, but here there are 603,548 men of war, Israel’s total army condemned to death over a period of forty years, all who are numbered in 1:46 except Joshua and Caleb. This includes all of the non-Levitical men who had been involved in the building of the tabernacle including Bezaleel and Aholiab. It included the princes who had offered their wagon loads of gifts in chapter seven at the sanctifying of the tabernacle, i.e. all of the leadership such as the recently selected seventy elders and every strong young man over 20 who had been standing by his colors in the camp. An average of forty-three plus men were scheduled to die every day and in fact were completely consumed two years earlier than scheduled (Deut 2:14).
Why? Because God was provoked and in fact, so provoked that He was ready to disinherit them and make of Moses a greater and mightier nation than Israel. Whew, that was a close call!
He calls their sin whoredom (v.33). He says “you have tempted me ten times and not hearkened to my voice.” He promises that their carcases will fall in the wilderness. In addition, an immediate plague fell upon the ten unfaithful spies “before the Lord.” As we would say in Maine, God was some mad!
But, let us not miss the point. He is still talking about this when we get to the New Testament. “Harden not your hearts as in the provocation ... take heed brethren lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief ... let us therefore fear ... today, if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts” (Heb 23:7 - 4:11).
The rest spoken of by David and quoted in Hebrews was primarily the rest of the gospel of grace in contrast to the works of the law being tenaciously held by the legalizers of New Testament times, but there is an important application we should make. Too often we fail to enter upon God’s promises through unbelief when trying to live the Christian life in our own strength.
Numbers 15:40 Remember
There are a variety of subjects in this chapter and as I start to write, though I have spent several hours studying it, I have not quite settled on a particular theme. C. H. MacIntosh points out first of all a blessed fact that following the doom and gloom of events in the previous chapter, this one starts out on a real up beat note, “when ye be come into the land of your habitations which I shall give unto you” (v.2), and is a clear indication that in spite of their failure, God has not given up on them. Grace, ‘tis a charming sound.
The next verses (3-13) may sound repetitious but did you note how the amount of flour, oil and wine expand proportionally with the magnitude of the sacrificial animals and in spite of the amount of revelation on related subjects, this is the first time this exact subject has been made known, being a part of the preparation for entering the land. The drink offering according to Gill consecrates the offering to the worship and service of God. It is in this sense that Paul speaks of it in Phil.2:17.
Notice also the repetitive phrase “a sweet savour unto the Lord” which reminds us how these sacrifices speak of Jehovah’s pleasure with the sacrifice of His Son and is the reason why His grace continues to be extended to a sinful people, an extension that reaches to the stranger (vss.14-16).
While there is always grace extended to those who err ignorantly, to despise the word of the Lord (v.31) is to reproach the Lord and incur judgement which shall surely fall upon those who are guilty of presumptuous sin as in the case of Israel’s army in 14:44 and the man who gathered sticks on the sabbath (15:32-36). God’s word had been so clear on the sacredness of the 7th day that there could have been no doubt as to guilt, only as to how it should be met. Clearly, and regardless of what we might think of the judgement, God made an example that would likely never be forgotten. For N.T. reaffirmation of the principle see Heb.12:28 & 29.
In conclusion, let us fasten to the fringe of our testimony a ribband of heavenly blue or royal purple which is a reminder to do His commandments and be holy rather than seeking after our own heart and our own eyes (v.39).
Numbers 16:40 Remember the Plates
It was vindication with a vengeance when Jehovah took in hand this spirit of rebellion for which about 15,000 souls perished, some in a most spectacular manner. Since that day many a pastor has faced a charge similar to this of the Korathites when he has had to take a stand for some righteous cause. With two hundred and fifty prominent leaders backing them up this small group of dissidents faced Moses and Aaron with the false accusation that they were taking too much upon themselves as they executed the role of leadership. It may have been a relative who had been disciplined for picking up sticks on the sabbath and the blame was being placed on them. Though, of course, we do not know it for a fact, it is very often the case that people get stirred up when they have a personal axe to grind.
Satan has certain families all staked out that he can use to stir up a spirit of rebellion in the church. Just let the pastor refuse to marry their daughter who is a professing Christian to some unsaved guy and he turns into a rat overnight. In a week the family leaves the church with aunts, uncles and cousins plus a raft of friends. Their support is withdrawn and it is hoped that the pastor will have sense enough to leave and go find a church that will put up with his nonsense.
Sounds a bit far fetched? Ah, but it has proven many a time to be the case that the blood of human relationship is far thicker than the water of sound doctrine. This may be one reason God dealt with whole households as seems apparent in this chapter and is clear in others though in the case of Korah’s children they were specifically exempted (26:11). I just “happened” to run across this verse – thank you, Lord.
There is never sufficient justification for ever putting one’s family ahead of Jehovah’s clearly revealed will and as hard as it sometimes may be, tough love is the only way to go. It wouldn’t hurt to keep what happened in this little rebellion in mind, whenever one is tempted to “touch the Lord’s anointed.” Let the plates be a reminder ( vss.36-40).
Numbers 17:13 Consumed With Dying
In the previous chapter Moses, the man of God, had been surely vindicated, just go and look at the place where the tents of the complainers, nay rebels, had stood. But what about Aaron? His being involved, as he was, in at least a couple of situations where his leadership ability was a bit suspect, perhaps it is time to confirm the fact that he was indeed the man Jehovah had chosen as His high priest. It is time to shut the mouths of the murmurers! We’ll see if it works.
When the twelve princes’ rods were “laid up before the Lord in the tabernacle of witness,” it was Aaron’s that not only miraculously blossomed but actually “yielded almonds,” making it clear to all that he was selected. This on- going miracle would be preserved in the ark for future generations (Heb.9:4). Would an old dry stick prove anything? So, too, the pot of manna with nary a worm and still smelling sweet. It is the evidence of a daily walk with the Lord that shows the reality of our witness.
The attitude of Israel toward the tabernacle as we note in the last two verses is typical. “That tabernacle is our problem– if we keep it around we are all going to die.” It sounds just like people today who say, “if there’s a God, how come there’s so much suffering in the world?” That tabernacle represents the solution to your problem, that is where you will find forgiveness and life, where you can come with a sacrifice and find peace with your Creator. He is not the cause of your problem but the gracious solution. The problem in the world is sin and the judgement is sickness and sorrow, suffering and death. “It is appointed unto men once to die and after this the judgement”(Heb.9:27). Yes, “we die, we all perish” but there in that tent is the Living God and He wants to meet with you. Yes we will be consumed with dying (Deut.2:15) due to our sinfulness but we may have forgiveness and cleansing if we will but seek His face. As with Israel so with us.
Numbers 18:19 A Statute Forever
Since under the Old Testament economy the Levites were not to be given a section of the promised land as were the other tribes, some revelation is needed regarding how the physical needs of the priestly tribe were to be met. Here we have it. These servants which belonged to the Lord were to be well cared for as can be seen in this chapter. As we see in verse 26 the tithe from the nation went to the Levites who in turn tithed what they received which went to the priests. In addition, whatever was not burned on the altar from the regular offerings went to the priests and was specifically to be eaten in the most holy place by the males only. Commentators say this was likely the outer court area rather than inside the tent which was not a place for eating. Later when the temple was built there were small rooms for the priests surrounding the court. The sons and daughters are mentioned in verses 11-13 as being partakers of the heave and wave offerings specified as being “the best of the oil and all the best of the wine and of the wheat, the first fruits of them,” etc., but only if they (the eaters) were clean.
All of the firstborn were given to the priests or the redemption money if it applied, as in the case of humans or of unclean beasts.
The Levites could eat their portions with their households any place (v.31) and it is said that this was their reward for their services.
All of these servants of the Lord are a picture of Christians who as believer priests whose clean lives are to be dedicated in service to the Lord and His Church, are rewarded by His bountiful provision for which we give thanks. God has given to us the privilege of being His priests by giving us His Son and with Him He has freely given us all things richly to enjoy. His covenant of salt is His promise that this relationship is forever (v.19).
Numbers 19:2 The Ordinance of the Red Heifer
I suspect that most of us scratch our head over this chapter! Yet, C.H. MacIntosh says of it, “one of the most important sections of the book of Numbers presenting ... the deeply interesting and instructive ordinance of The Red Heifer.” Actually I think it is much more difficult to understand the need for this ordinance than to make spiritual applications on it. It is rich in symbolism and typical significance, but what did it mean to the original involvees? John Gill, probably the best rabbinical scholar, helps in understanding the facts but doesn’t help us much in answering the question, why. Some would attach sanitation implications but not Gill and not I.
The obvious here, I believe, is that these people are headed out into the wilderness where for thirty-eight years there will need to be at least 43.2 healthy strong men dying every day on average besides normal attrition. Folks, that’s a whole lot of funerals and opening a mobile funeral parlor would be a smart move. Just make it all as easy as possible, put it as far away as possible, right?
No, Jehovah was making it very certain that no one would become calloused about a matter that He wanted them never to forget. “ This is all due to your UNBELIEF – YOUR UNBELIEF – the SIN OF YOUR UNBELIEF! I am the giver of life, I hate death and I want you to hate it too. I want you to be so sick of it that it will becoming out of your nose (11:20) so that when you get to the promised land you will be ready to live the abundant life I have for you there.” (That’s what I think!)
Now, a closing word about application. The word red comes from the word Adam. The animal, according to a Jewish commentator, could not have one black or white hair. The last Adam was perfect and stands alone (no yoke). Seven times – perfection. The third day – resurrection, seventh – completely clean. The person becoming unclean on behalf of another may picture believers going the second mile. Everyone in the tent being defiled – how sin affects the family. There is so much distress everywhere and lives are in such a mess. But there is a solution for believers, the washing of water by the word, the power of the resurrection and complete cleaning. And someone to say, can I help?
Numbers 20: 10 The Waters of Strife
One hundred and sixty miles back behind them in Exodus 17:6 Moses had, at Jehovah’s command, smitten the rock in Horeb when the people thirsted for water and were almost ready to stone him in their desperation. We are amazed so soon after witnessing the judgement of God upon Korah and company for this rebellion that these people were so audacious, but it is a commentary on the human heart. That heart, we are told, is deceitful and desperately wicked and we must remember that under the old covenant they did not have the benefit of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
Was it Moses’ lack of attention to God’s word, his castigation of those he named as rebels or the taking to himself the honor of being able to fetch forth the precious stream that incurred his Lord’s displeasure? Three strikes, at any rate, and he and Aaron with him were out of the game. They were denied the joy and privilege of leading the nation into Canaan.
True, Jehovah had, even as before, commanded Moses to take the rod from before His presence but He gave specific instructions to speak to the rock declaring that it would then give forth the water the multitude so craved.
How I wish that more of the saints today were using The Old Scofield Study Bible, the notes of which were so applicable. From memory I recall what he said at this point as he spoke of the rock as a type of Christ (I Cor.10:4), “the rock once smitten need only be spoken to” or words to that effect. When at the cross the spring of Life was opened He forever after has been there for us, His life “gushing” forth to satisfy our every need. We speak to the Rock in our prayers.
Moses’ hasty words would ever after come back to haunt him justified as he thought he was at the time. God had every right to call those rebels who spoke so ungraciously of His servants, but for Moses to speak such words was not his place and the lesson should not be lost on us. (Psalm 106:32 &33).
Would we have given them the water anyway?
Numbers 21:8 Look and Live
Between chapters 19 and 20 the 38 years of wandering take place and the list of their stopping places may be found in chapter 33. Gill suggests that it is the new generation that is being tested in chapter 20 in the wilderness of Zin (v.1) where Moses smote the rock. Halley’s Bible Handbook stated that “Miriam, Aaron and Moses, their work done, died, all three, in the same year”. It would be fitting that Moses and Aaron would be taken after the 603,548 that failed to enter in had all died. Probably part of that number were those who died in the plague “for Peor’s sake” in chapter 25 since the new numbering followed which was between the death of Moses and Aaron. I was tipped off to the change when I noticed in this chapter that Israel had begun to successfully do battle and is spoken of as possessing the land (v.24).
Actually, they were so close they could easily have crossed into the promised land when instead they were led to “compass the land of Edom” and since that meant that they were now going away from their intended goal, “the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.” This was what brought on the questioning of Moses’ leadership by the new generation and the judgement of the fiery serpents. No one knows exactly which species these were but there were several in that area, all deadly. Some were flying serpents, some were so deadly that death occurred almost instantly. Others caused great pain.
The people realized that they had sinned and had actually spoken, not against Moses, but against the Lord, for it was the Shekinah that was still leading them. When appealed to, Moses prayed and God gave deliverance. The fact that it was a brazen figure of the serpent that was biting them, that when looked upon gave life, pictures Jesus on the cross being made sin for us and dying under the judgement of the Father. He bore our sins in His body on the tree and those sins were our problem and were causing us pain and death. John 3:14 cites this story and bids us, as does the old hymn, to look to Jesus and live.
This is a good time to thank Him for what He did for us.
Numbers 22:32 Thy Way is Perverse
Who do we suppose was dumber, the ass that talked or the prophet who argued with it? Obviously the latter. There are twelve chapters in our Bible that contain references to this well documented yet curious tale of curses turned to blessings, of a mad soothsayer who could not control his tongue and of the fateful fall of a famous fellow. This is the story of Balaam the son of Beor.
Balak, king of the Moabites, was a very superstitious man and he had the idea that if he could enlist the services of a certain seer of whom he heard was supposedly quite successful in curses and blessings, he just might, with Balaam’s help, prevail against the huge host of Israel that had recently destroyed Sihon and the Amorites..
Admittedly, it is hard to figure Balaam out. Sometimes he seems like a devout person and at other times he is anything but; and it seems that God isn’t quite certain as to what to do with him, though deep down, we know He has a plan.
How often has God allowed us to do something that He doesn’t want us to do and then uses our disobedience to teach us an important lesson and sometimes even using it to accomplish His will in the lives of others? Many Christian young people have fit this pattern in their choice of marriage partners.
The story of the talking donkey is real special and is a notable miracle since animals have no vocal cords. Our God can do marvelous things and He must have really enjoyed this one! I wonder if the two servants were in on the conversation.
I will list the other passages besides the three here that you may be able to get the whole story for I’m afraid you won’t do the work yourself. In fact, it is doubtful that most of you will even look up these verses though I hope I am wrong!
The verses are: Numbers 31: 8 &16; Deut.23: 4 & 5; Joshua 13:22 and 24:9&10; Neh.13:2; Mic.6:5; II Peter 2:15; Jude11 and Rev.2:14.
It has often been my prayer when I needed guidance and lest my way be perverse, “ Lord, I am not a hireling prophet and I expect you will do for me at least what you did to stop Balaam. Put an angel in my path to stop me from going my own way
Numbers 23:23 No Divination Against Israel
These two chapters, twenty-three and twenty-four, contain the three prophetic utterances of Balaam: 23:8-11; 19-24 and 24:5-9. Previously we have met this hireling and wonder at first what to make of him. But if he is a conundrum, this Balak is dolt. First of all, if he had done his homework he would have realized that these people are relatives (Gen.19:37) and they are harmless (Deut.2:9). One might think, except for the fact that some pretty serious statements are made, that this story was included in the sacred canon for its humor. I don’t think Balaam shared his story of the talking donkey with Balak, but we are glad that the Holy Spirit shared it with us.
Balaam tells Balak that he can’t speak a word beyond what the Lord puts in his mouth and verses five and sixteen bear this out, each reported on in twelve and twenty-five. In spite of this they both keep trying, amidst the building of numerous altars and climbing of several high places, to get Jehovah to change His mind. Trying first to get high enough to see how many Israelites there are, then finding a place where only some of them would be seen (v.13) and then on to another where “peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence” (v.27). Listen to Balak, “What hath Jehovah spoken?” Does this dimwit have any idea who he is dealing with? Apparently not. “Neither curse them at all nor bless them at all,” he says in desperation.
Meanwhile, our Lord is coming up with all the most wonderful things to say about Israel and is cramming them into dumb Balaam’s mouth much the same as He had the donkey’s. Even some of them sound humorous and I think God must have really enjoyed doing it. Imagine after all He had been through with these people and now He says that He had “not beheld iniquity in Jacob neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the Lord his God is with him and the shout of a king is among them.” Talk about grace!
When God revealed all of this to Moses, he must have been astounded and I can just hear him out among the mountain crags and under the spacious canopy of heaven having a good belly laugh.
Numbers 24:18 “Israel Shall do Valiantly”
We fundamentalists do not subscribe to a mechanical dictation theory when contemplating the method God used to pass His word on to us. He used the gifts, talents and human limitations of each agent He employed as these “holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Pet.1:21). Such was not the case with Balaam. He was not in the same category as these servants spoken of by Peter and that is one reason why this story is so unique. What this man said was mechanical for he was in a trance and his words were in no sense his own. Four times he spoke and in our KJV this amounts to approximately 26 verses of absolutely controlled utterances. I do not intend to say that these words are any more sacred than any others of the text, for God has certainly superintended them all so that we can say with confidence that every word of the original is the Word of God, however there is something rather special about these words I think, and there are few like them in all of our Bible. Let us read them carefully!
As Jehovah looked upon the camp of Israel He put it into Balaam’s mouth to declare how special that sight was in His eyes. The tents were beautiful, spread out as they were across the wilderness which He saw as in lovely valley with gardens along side of a sparkling refreshing stream looking much like aloe trees conical in shape and thinking of them as trees He reflected on His planting of each of them. He had brought them forth out of Egypt and strong as the mythical unicorn He sees them “eating up” the enemy nations, breaking their bones and piercing them through with arrows. As a crouching lion, who shall bestir him? Repeating the ancient promise (Gen.12:3) of blessing to those who bless Israel and curses to those who curse him, He states that His kingdom shall be exalted and a Scepter shall arise in the latter days to smite, to destroy and take dominion.
Today as we see Israel surrounded by her enemies, hating her presence in the Middle East and vowing her destruction, how refreshing to read these prophetic words and to be assured that “Israel shall do valiantly.”
Numbers 25:11 “Then Stood up Phinehas”
If ever we had any question about the rascality of this knave Balaam, this unprincipled,
mischievous, dishonest piece of rabble that called himself a prophet, we have it all cleared up for us once we find out in the New Testament what he was really like. II Peter 2:15-16 tells us that he “loved the wages of unrighteousness” and names them cursed children, natural brute beasts with eyes full of adultery, beguiling unstable souls, that followed his way. Jude 11 classifies him with those who are “wells without water,” twice dead trees whose fruit withereth greedy, like him, for reward. But it is a passage in Revelation chapter two, verse 14 that really exposes the man for what he was. His very “doctrine”came into play at the end of the story, for it was Balaam who was behind the sordid events of the Baal-peor incident in Israel’s history. The Holy Spirit says that he “taught Balak to cast a stumbling block before the children of Israel to eat things sacrificed unto idols and to commit fornication.”
God was so angry with His people over this obscene travesty of His holiness that He ordered the leaders to be “hung up before the Lord against the sun”and in spite of the fact that twenty-four thousand died in the plague that ensued, Joshua 22:17 indicates that twenty-five years later they still sensed that they were not cleansed from the sin of it!
There was one bright spot in the midst of these events which had set the congregation to weeping before the tabernacle, and that was the action of Phinehas, the priest, in dealing with Zimri and Cozbi. The execution of this couple caught in the act on the point of his javelin turned away the wrath of Jehovah and won Phinehas and his zeal a place of honor forever (Ps.106:30-31).
Moses’ last act before he was “gathered” to glory was to deal with the Midianites (31:2). Among the warriors was Phinehas and among the slain was Balaam (v.8). We are told in the finale (Deut.23:5) that God turned Balaam’s curse into a blessing for Israel because He loved them. Think how He loves us too!
Numbers 26:65 Two Exceptions
We have reached the point in this book where all of the men under judgement have died and a new generation of warriors is in the field. In comparing verse 51 with 1:46 we see that there is a net loss numerically of 1818. At first we might think that this army has lost strength, but that is not the case. Conversely, this force ready to cross Jordan and attack the Canaanites is by far superior because it is a much younger army. There is not a man among them that is over fifty-eight (with 2 exceptions), whereas the original number must have contained many older men who still felt fit to fight when they left Egypt. Many, however, of those men were probably debilitated from life in Egypt as slaves but these replacement forces were hardened from life in the wilderness.
It is to be noted from this chapter also that the Levites had gained a thousand over the earlier numbering (compare 26:62 with 3:39). We must assume that since they were not listed as warriors their ranks were only depleted by attrition hence they had grown modestly in their ranks. It should be remembered that while the numbering of the warrior tribes was from twenty years upward, the Levite’s total included babies and youths from 1 month. Secondly, this difference would provide a small company of males who would be older than fifty-eight and thus would furnish some wisdom of age.
At the end of this chapter we should especially take notice of the fact as stated that every last man from the original list at the beginning of this book has died save the two exceptions mentioned above and, of course, they are Caleb and Joshua. How wonderfully God has honored these two faithful spies. Looking back they must have thanked the Lord many times for enabling them to stand against the crowd. It will be worth it all when we see Jesus so let’s not sell out to the crowd that may pressure us these days to change our stand on music or whatever else may be the issue of the day and we can be certain there always will be one.
Numbers 27:13 Time to Be Gathered
“Yes, but”... the daughters of Zelophehad raised a valid point but, there is a fly in the ointment and since we must wait until chapter thirty-six to learn all about it, we might as well also wait until then to speak about the subject in verses 1-11. This we shall do.
There is, however, a second subject in this chapter and we shall focus upon that. It has to do with the fact that Moses is to be replaced, for God announces in verse 12 that the time has come for him to be “gathered unto his people.”
We are rightly ambivalent about such a time as this. It is always difficult to part with loved ones and certainly in this case a beloved leader who had been God’s wonderful provision for the Israelite nation. True, they had often found fault with his leadership but on serious reflection, there really was no one quite like Moses. He was the meekest of all men (12:3) according to God’s records and yet when necessary he could speak sharply and act forthrightly as in the case of Korah’s rebellion (ch.16). Surely he is one of the first of all the Bible characters that we will want to see when we too are gathered unto our people. Yes, Moses was going home - a sad time especially since it was connected to a failure on his part at the waters of strife at Meribah (20:12) but, on the other had, it was a time of rejoicing and was spoken of as such. Being gathered to one’s people has got to be a time of rejoicing. I look forward to it. A few years ago I found a book in an antiquarian bookstore that had a lot of my Libby ancestors in it. There were obviously many of these departed loved ones that were among the elect. Lots of them were Baptist pastors, many were deacons in Baptist churches. Baptists in those days were almost always born again people. There were those associated with other churches that in earlier days were more sound in doctrine and practice than today and I’m sure many of them will be there too. My wife Gloria has relatives among the Huguenots. Oh, there will be lots of our “people” there I’m sure. Won’t it be great! And we will see Jesus!
Numbers 28:3 Our Continual Burnt Offering
It takes two chapters to get through the next subject which is a reiteration of the feasts of the Lord (Lev.23:2). The reason for them being repeated is due to the fact that the generation of adult males to whom it was first given are all dead and the new generation is being educated to the subject.
In addition to the seven feasts, Israel was commanded to observe a daily, weekly and monthly ritual involving burnt offerings. Notice verse three ends with reference to a “day by day...continual burnt offering;” verse 10 speaks of “the continual offering of every sabbath” and verse eleven says that in the beginning of their months they should offer a burnt offering. Each of these was to be accompanied by a meat (meal) offering.
Chapter twenty-eight covers these three repetitious sacrifices plus the yearly feasts of Passover which includes the feast of Unleavened bread and Firstfruits which includes Pentecost. The remaining major feast is Tabernacles including the feast of Trumpets and the day of Atonement. These are covered in chapter twenty-nine.
When we study these chapters carefully it is very clear that what is being emphasized is the daily continual burnt offering. This feature was not even mentioned in Leviticus twenty-three, nor anywhere else in that book. You do find a rather extensive reference to it, however, in Exodus twenty-nine verses thirty-eight to forty-six (29:38-46). The significant aspect of the continual burnt offering was that a lamb of the first year was to be offered daily, one in the morning and the other in the evening.
Looking back to the passage in Exodus, I asked the question “what else do you see in this chapter (Ex.29) my fellow priests?” Now is the time to be certain we have paid adequate attention to this morning and evening event. The Lord Jesus is our continual burn offering and we should continuously be yielded to Him. There He dwelt among them and spoke to them at the door of the tabernacle. Today He dwells within us and speaks to us as we fellowship with Him daily.
Numbers 29:38 Besides the Continual Burnt Offering
Frankly just reading this chapter is probably a waste of time. Now be honest, what did you actually get out of it? Did you realize that you were reading about the happiest and most blessed week in the whole Jewish calender year? That’s right, this all has to do with the feast of Tabernacles.
Every Jewish male was expected to attend the three feast periods consisting of Passover, Firstfruits and Tabernacles. Few, actually only the most devout, made it to all three and that is why only they were present on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given. If one could only make it to Jerusalem once a year it would probably be during the seventh month. Let’s say it is the month, ( December 2006), during which this is being written. The first day, a Friday, is a Sabbath, that is, a holy convocation during which no work or traveling may be done. The next day is a regular Sabbath. On the 9th another regular Sabbath followed on the 10th by the most important day of the year, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement (v.7) (See also Lev.16, especially verses 30-34). This too is a high Sabbath with no work being done. On the 15th day, Friday, there is another holy convocation (v.12) (a holy day or sometimes called a Sabbath and all foreshadowing Christ, Col.2:16 & 17 ). During this week all of the festivities are being engaged in, like living in booths made from tree branches, and during which 70 bullocks, 98 lambs, 28 rams and 7 goats must be slain besides each day’s continual burnt offering. Finally on the 22nd “that great day of the feast” (John 7:37) there would be another holy convocation (compare v.35 and Lev.23:36), with no work and no travel followed by a regular Sabbath on the 23rd. Allowing for travel time, and if you managed to take it all in from day one when the trumpets sounded, you have put in about a whole month in the holy city.
Is there anything significant about 70 bullocks and ending with seven in the seventh day (v.32) when there were____ elders? Count how many times the words “besides the continual burnt offering” appear. Now why do you suppose that’s important? Don’t forget to have your daily devotions during all that excitement in Jerusalem! Jesus in the morning, Jesus in the evening and Jesus during my whole vacation.
Numbers 30:2 A Binding Vow
“All I can say is it’s very plain that the Bible was written by men because they are always putting women down.” Is that really the way you ladies feel when you read a passage like we have before us today? If it is, then the first thing you must do is confess those thoughts as sin and take from the Lord the right ones by faith. As your brother in Christ I’ll admit that some things that come your way in the Bible are hard to take, but let’s examine this one and see what we find of a positive nature.
First, of course, if we really believe that “all scripture is God-breathed and is profitable” etc.(II Tim 3:16) then we must bow before our Sovereign God and say “what would you teach us from this chapter?”
Is it, after all, better to be a man with the obvious responsibility of having no recourse from rash promises? What is good about the place that the all-wise God has given me? Would being a widow or divorced be a preferred state?
It is very important to remember that this passage is Old Testament when women (and most men) did not have the indwelling Holy Spirit as a check for their actions. Also, since these provisions were limited by conditions, it would seem that they must have been primarily symbolic and thus designed to teach the authority of the man and the submission of the woman. These are concepts that are carried over into the New Testament as in I Corinthians eleven verse three. It is clear from this passage that it is no more a threat to the woman to have a man as her head than for the man to have Christ as his and God as Christ’s. Order is obviously very important to Him.
Finally, we must not forget that according to Ephesians 5:32 the underlying cause for His establishing the marriage relationship is to portray the mystery of the church, hence, it is as great a blessing for the woman to rest in the authority of her husband as it is for each of us to rest in that of our bridegroom, Jesus, as His bride.
It is always sinful to be dissatisfied with what God gives us in life, and being sweet, gentle and lovingly faithful is so becoming to your sex and being theologians is usually not the woman’s forte, exercise yourself unto godliness by praying that those unqualified males in your life will “get with the program.”
Numbers 31:49 Victory in Warfare
Midian was a half brother to Isaac, Abraham’s son by Keturah, called his wife in Genesis 25:1 and his concubine in I Chronicles1:32. Later it was Jethro, a priest of that branch of the family that gave one of his seven daughters, Zipporah, to be Moses’ wife while he dwelt near Horeb on the backside of the desert (Ex.3:1). What had happened to alienate these people from Israel, we do not know, but they joined forces with the Moabites against them as indicated in Numbers 22:7 and incurred the wrath of God for the part they played in enticing Israel into idol worship and whoredom. It was a Midianite woman named Cozbi whose father was head over a chief house in Midian that was slain by the priest Phinehas, son of the high priest Eleazar, thus halting the plague that slew twenty-four thousand of his people (Num.25:7-9).
Strangely enough, while it had seemed to be the Moabites who had taken the lead in resistance to Israel as they now drew near to the promised land, it was the Midianites who became the primary object of Jehovah’s wrath. “Vex the Midianites and smite them,” He had directed Moses (25:17) “for they vex you with their wiles and have beguiled you” etc. Some commentators say He spared Moab for Lot’s sake, but that hardly seems plausible when considering the relation of Midian to Abraham and Moses both. No, there is something here that is beyond our vision as we now come in our present chapter to the last obedient act of Moses and he is told, “avenge the children of Israel of the Midianites: afterward shalt thou be gathered unto thy people.” What is especially interesting here is the fact that those who were Israel’s enemies were also the Lord’s for He was being avenged as well (v.3).
It is comforting to us to have that same assurance. When governments today resist the work being done by God’s people, let them be aware that they are resisting Him and if Midian is any example, they had better watch out!
Comforting also is the fact that not “one man” was lost in a war that brought them great spoils of battle (v.49).
Numbers 32:6 “Shall Your Brethren Go to War and Ye Sit Here?”
Do you think Moses was too quick to jump to conclusions and misjudged the Reubenites and Gadites? It would seem so, but I don’t think we can blame him for being suspicious in light of the history of Israel’s failures. It is a reminder to us again as it was to these who approached him with their request when he reiterated the failure to enter the land from Kadesh-barnea and the judgement God’s anger brought upon them. Isn’t it great to hear again about these two spiritual giants of the faith, Joshua and Caleb and the fact they “wholly followed the Lord.” Would we have stood with them and had the faith to trust God in view of the overwhelming forces being faced?
Okay, hopefully we would say yes but here is another principle being brought up by Moses and unfortunately it is a constant problem in our churches these days. He asks the question “Wherefore discourage ye the hearts of the children of Israel from going over into the land,”etc? In other words he is accusing them of being selfish and thinking only of themselves, not considering the welfare of the whole nation and how their action is discouraging to their fellow comrades. It’s no wonder Moses suspected them of being like this and it may have been only after he spoke this way that they changed their tune a bit.
Sometimes I feel like standing up in prayer meeting and rebuking some of my brethren who let a few of us bear the entire responsibility of prayer warfare. It’s funny in a non-humorous way when certain people will offer prayer requests but never pray themselves. Than too, what if everybody stayed home from prayer meeting or evening service like so many do, leaving the responsibility to a few to carry on the these important functions? I say these are discouraging the hearts of those brethren by not going to war but sit home perhaps watching TV. And finally there are those who do not at least tithe but put in a dollar or two in the plate letting their brethren carry the load. Such are discouraging the hearts of their brethren. Be not one of them.
Numbers 33:1 Journeys
We have recorded here all the stopping places en route to the promised land where Jehovah in the cloudy and fiery pillar halted Israel. Usually these places bore the name (in Hebrew) of some feature of the land like a mountain or a bottom land, often the kind of trees found growing there but sometimes the names spoke of Israel’s failure, like “the graves of lust” or of some bad experience like “bitter” (Marah).
It has been a long hard journey and the ashes of the red heifer have been used often, we are certain, for if one thing above all has marked the way it has been the pale horse of death and the grave. Over 600,000 men of war have perished because they were disobedient at Kadesh-barnea. We may think that this is a high price paid for a single act of disobedience. The fact is that it represented an attitude on the part of God’s people and it was clearly one that God hated, that of unbelief. Measured against the backdrop of His amazing grace in their deliverance from Egypt it was blatant and inexcusable and it kept raising its ugly head time and time again until it was as if Jehovah said “ It will never do to allow such as these into My milk and honey paradise, let Us try it with a new generation.” These too may fail (v.55).
Lest we miss it, there is, unfortunately, a sad parallel that has existed in New Testament times for the majority of believers have, likewise, not entered into the rest that has been made available for us through the cross. Due to one primary failure the blessed land of victory is often never reached. It is that unwillingness to yield the body to the Lord in total surrender. This results in a Christian life lived only for self, lived in the strength of the flesh.
When we see old men who have served the Lord as Bible teachers and pastors ending their years in bitterness and failure, disillusioned with the local church, out of fellowship, lacking love and the spirit of tenderness, we can be certain that there are thousands of everyday believers who have lived their lives in fleshy pursuits and faltering service. I have known so many Christian men who have lived for themselves or have never learned to walk by faith allowing Christ to live through them. By the thousands these through unbelief, though saved, never reach the promised land of victory over self and glorious rest in the work of the cross nor experience the power of the resurrection. Not that I have already attained but I press toward the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Read Hebrews 3 - 4:11 and Philippians 3:7-14.
Numbers 34:29 “In the Land of Canaan”
We might suppose that the people headed for Canaan might be getting a bit anxious about where they would be living in a few months. The subject of this passage has to do with inheritance and certainly an exciting prospect lies before them. The Lord Himself defines the outer boundaries in the first half of this chapter and the remainder names the princes, who, under Joshua and Eleazer the high priest, will be doing the dividing.
The implication of these plans is that the land is already theirs and it is being spoken of as their inheritance but there is, of course, a slight problem. The Canaanites are still very much in possession, giants that they are, and the walls are still there to be surmounted (not to even suggest at this point, flattened) in fact nothing has changed at all since the spies brought back their evil report! Looking back, we might suppose, is rather a bleak exercise having just come off of a thirty-eight year hike in the wilderness. “Yes, we had better go forward. Somewhere there is a house all built that may be mine, a garden all planted that I may harvest, land that I can walk on and call my own.” And say, here we are almost at the end of the book of Numbers. With Deuteronomy soon behind us we will be standing with Joshua hearing God’s charge, “Only be thou strong and very courageous” (Joshua 1:6).
As believers we too have a great inheritance. Do we deserve it? Absolutely not! Must we take it by faith? Yes. Are there battles to be fought and ground to be appropriated? By all means. Is victory assured? So long as we stick with Joshua, how can we lose? He is a sure winner! Here we should all sing Who is on the Lord’s Side?
One final thought. In verse thirteen we read that they inherited the land by lot. My Bible has a note here saying “that is without man’s choice or will.” What does He have for me today? Let me be yielded and still, with eyes on the Master.
Oh yes, and then there’s Heaven.
Numbers 35:11 Cities of Refuge
There is so much in today’s portion of Scripture that it is hard to know where to start and how to handle it wisely. But first there is an obvious problem on which we must comment. It concerns the apparent discrepancy regarding the distance of the suburbs out from each of the forty-eight Levitical cities. Jewish authorities, the Mishna and the writer Maimonides agree that the two figures are to be added suggesting that the inner ring be for cattle, etc. and the outer for gardens or other extension projects. I think this is the best we can do but if you have anything to add, let’s hear it.
The subject of the avenger of blood is extremely interesting but is quite straightforward . The most fascinating thing is the fact that this Hebrew word goal is also the word translated kinsman redeemer and incorporates the two concepts both picturing God in Christ being the Avenging Judge who must deal death to the murderer (“for I the Lord have slain”) and the Savior who identifying with us in our humanity rescues us, marries us and elevates us to be heirs of all He possesses.
I tap the resource of notes from three messages on the Cities of Refuge, in which I am sure only the surface has been skimmed. The first and usually acknowledged antitype is Christ Who is our Place of Refuge but the fulness is unfolded when these plural cities are seen as local churches. If the fleeing refugee does not find this here, where will he go? Those who do not see local New Testament churches embodying and applying the fulness of the reality of our Lord Jesus have failed to grasp the whole implication of what it means to be “in Christ” (Rom.12:5).
Only troubled sinners find consolation in Christ and in these cities of refuge. They are driven into the loving embrace of those ready to render forgiveness, compassion, understanding and acceptance. Does Christ have any hands but ours? “By this shall all men know....” Our High Priest not only lives forever (v.28) but live in this place (Eph.2:22). (Note 35:34)
Surely, the Levites in these Cities of Refuge should exemplify the character of leaders as envisioned by Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law. They should be “able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness”(Ex. 18:21). Lord give us such to greet sinners at the doors of our churches - and women too!
Numbers 36:6 Liberty Within Bounds
What! Zelophehad’s daughters are back on the front page (ch.27). What do they want this time? Oh, it’s not what they want but what their family wants. You can’t be serious, do you want to ruin the future of these girls by forcing them into marriage within their own tribe? What if they were to fall in love with someone else, are you going to let some silly old law stand in the way of their happiness? Men!
The fact is, of course, that not to respect the law relating to this particular situation would be tantamount to removing the ancient landmarks (Prov.22:28 and Deut.19:14). In the year of the jubilee the inheritance of these girls would end up in the tribal family of their husbands (v.7). In this fashion, the possessions of a given tribe could theoretically be whittled away, so this provision became law to prevent this from happening.
If they had any negative reaction when informed of this new wrinkle in their matrimonial future,it is not recorded that the girls said a word and we are told that they very obediently married their father’s brothers’ sons. (And probably made obedient wives to them too!)
We shall conclude this episode with an appropriate application. In the New Testament girls (and boys too) are also told that there are certain rules to be observed when picking a mate. They are cautioned by Paul not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers (II Cor.6:14) and the words at the end of I Cor.7:39 “only in the Lord” are appropriate as well.
Personally I believe the concept of the unequal yoke should be carried a bit further. Let no baptized person marry an unbaptized person, and furthermore let no church member marry any other than another church member. For, after all, if one says he (or she) is a believer, let them prove it by bringing themselves under the discipline of a local church. “Ah, consistency, thou art a virtue.”
(Not a part of the devotional – What Noah said when she was told of the decision, “whatever floats your boat.”)