I wrote about the division of the tribes of Israel and their different blessings and what occurred because of their actions last week. In case you missed it, you can read it here.
In this post let’s talk about the rest of the Book of Numbers. Numbers is the 4th book in the Pentatuech and was written by Moses. Numbers as with Leviticus (read the post here) deals with a lot of rules and regulations. We, as believers under Grace, may think the book isn’t relevant to us. On the contrary, while we are not obligated to follow every single direction, we can learn a lot from Numbers. We learn to SEE God as Holy. We learn that we are set apart for a reason and a purpose, but we are NOT set aside. We learn we are His chosen and everything that He tells us to do, is for His Glory.
Some of the other things we can learn from Numbers are :
- We are consecrated to God. We are cleansed and set apart to do good works.
- God redeemed the firstborn to Himself. This was for the fact that He provided a way for the firstborn of the Israelites to be saved when He took the all the firstborn of the Egyptians.
- God gave instructions for trumpets to be made and used. He gave very specific and detailed notes for when they were to be used. Trumpets were used as worship to a Holy God. Trumpets were also used in warfare. They were sounded when the Israelites were to leave camp, so it was a call to assembly as well.
- God said anything (animals, money, things) consecrated to Him was holy and was not to be used for personal uses anymore but only for the Tabernacle. We see this principle corrupted by the Pharisees and religious teachers in the New Testament. They tell people that what they should have used to support their patents, could be “consecrated” to the Lord ( they called it Corban), and that way they are exempt from taking care of the people of their families in need. Jesus denounced this soundly when He heaped woes/curses on them.
- God is so tired of the people constantly complaining, criticizing and wondering if the Levites are really chosen to be priests, He asks that one staff belonging to the head of each tribe be placed before the Ark of the covenant. The next day, Aaron’s staff has not only budded, but it bloomed and produced flowers as well. When we operate out of a mentality of Being His Chosen People we can bud, bloom and flourish as well.
- Many of the times when the Israelites did not have water to drink, God provided miraculously for them. One time Moses was asked to strike a rock. Another he was told to speak to the rock. He did not do that. He struck the rock instead. For this reason, Moses was not allowed to enter the Promised Land. He chose not to glorify God in the midst of the people this time. We learn that when God places us in a place of visible and great leadership, we have a responsibility to Glorify God with our actions, our words and our lifestyle.
- Balaak (King of Moab) and Balaam (a prophet for hire) try to make sure God’s plans for Israel come to naught. But three times. THREE. God comes through in a miraculous way, what they planned for evil, HE turns to blessings. Later both these men are killed when God commands it.
- Amram and Jochebed’s names are mentioned here in Numbers. They are the parents of Miriam, Aaron and Moses. In Exodus it just mentions that a woman saw her child was good looking and hid him for three months.
- Zelophad from the tribe of Manasseh had 5 daughters and no sons. ALL of their names are mentioned several times, Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. These women respectfully ask for their inheritance among their father’s people and are given it, after Moses consults with the Lord. This shows that God cares. He cared for girls left on their own. He cared for justice. He cared enough to give instructions regarding a family matter. He’s not too busy for you.
RELATED POST: Rhythms in (the book of) Numbers and in our lives.
- Joshua is commissioned to follow Moses. He’s anointed and set apart and trained. For forty years. Forty. He’s been the right hand man of Moses. He shows patience, yes, and also submission to the authorities. He also displays a spirit of leadership even while he’s been trained. He’s the one who leads the Israelites in their wars and battles.
- God institutes rhthyms of worship in the lives of the Israelites. These are daily rituals. Weekly ones like the Sabbath offerings. There are monthly offerings. There are yearly celebrations like Passover, Festival of weeks (Pentecost), Festival of Trumpets (called Rosh Hashanah which marks the head/beginning of the Jewish civil year and is held 10 days before the Day of Atonement), the Day of Atonement, and the Festival of Tabernacles (also called Festival of in-gathering). Don’t forget that while God instituted these “offerings and sacrifices”, these were really means of worshipping Him. The Israelites were to remember Him and His goodness and their covenant with Him. Three times a year, the people were to make annual pilgrimages to His Holy Temple. We see Jesus honouring these festivals by participating Himself. We are to make our daily and weekly and monthly and yearly lives revolve around Him.
- We see the difference between binding and non binding vows and how God graciously gives a way out. This is not to say that we should not honour our promises to Him. On the contrary we should. But He gives us grace.
- God gives the Israelites detailed instructions to take His Vengeance on the Midianites, for the part they played in luring the Israelites to worship idols. As we’ll see several centuries later in Saul ‘s lifetime (when he was commanded to destroy the Amalekites but he only partially obeyed), the Israelites at this time partially obey. Moses on God’s command has harsh instructions for them. When the soldiers counted themselves (in chapter 31) they realised there was no one missing. So from their own personal plunder they chose to give gold ornaments to the Lord. Aaron was instructed to accept them to use for the upkeep of the Tabernacle. It’s important to note , that we may think God’s judgements are harsh and not merciful, but, BUT, God is Sovereign and HE alone knows the hearts of men. HE alone can judge, and judge rightly.
- While God had made plans for ALL the tribes to cross over the River Jordan and settle in Canaan, we see 2 1/2 tribes ( the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half the tribe of Manasseh) decide that the far side of Jordan is where they want to settle. They ask permission to build cities for their families and only the fighting men cross over the River to help their brethren subdue the peoples of Canaan. When they return to their homes, they erect a memorial and it is almost the cause of misunderstanding between them and the rest of the Israelites. Until they explain their reasoning behind it all. When centuries later, the Israelites rebel and are constantly warned but still persist in their sins, first Israel, then Judah are taken into captivity, and these tribes are the first ones attacked.
- In Chapter 33, Moses is asked to record the stages of Israel’s journey. As fascinating as it is to read, it’s easier to understand from the map shown here.
- God defines the boundaries of each tribe’s lot in Canaan. You can see the division in the picture above.
- Levites as I mentioned in the last post are dispersed within all the tribes of Israel. From the cities they re given, they designate cities of refuge . These cities as the name implies are a refuge for those who kill unintentionally. With no malice or forethought or planning. The person who so killed was allowed to stay in one of these cities ( with no fear of revenge or vengeance from the family of the person killed) until the death of the high priest of his day. Here again we see God’s mercy. These places weren’t for killers but for people who had accidentally killed, and so they were exempt from the law of “an eye for an eye”, but at the same time they weren’t free from consequences for their actions. They had to live in a different area with different customs and they had to do so for at least a generation.
PREVIOUS POST : The Book of Numbers. Part 1.
I hope this post has given you something to think about. If so, let me know in the comments below.
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