Overview Of The Old Testament: Numbers
‘Every man able to go forth to war’ (1:3): God is looking for ‘soldiers’: Soldiers of Christ! ‘The Lord said to Moses’ (2:1): Let your life be centred on the Word of the Lord - Listen, Read, Study, Memorize, Meditate! ‘Every male from a month old and upward’ (3:15): ,24,28,34,39-40,43): Long before we even thought of serving God, He was calling us to be His servants. ‘The sons... from thirty years old up to fifty years old’ (4:2-3): The service of the Lord calls for maturity. 'Atonement' is more than a provision for our need of forgiveness. It is a ‘restitution... to the Lord’ (5:8). Christ’s atoning death does two things: (a) It meets the demands of God’s holiness. (b) It meets our need of salvation. ‘Separate... to the Lord,... Separate... from wine and strong drink’ (6:2-3): These two thoughts are closely connected in the New Testament - ‘Do not get drunk with wine,... Be filled with the Spirit’ (Ephesians 5:18). Why do we bring our offerings to the Lord? - ‘that they may be used in doing the service of the tent of meeting’ (7:5). ‘When Moses went into the tent of the meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat...’ (7:89). Listen for God’s Word. Speak to Him in prayer. God is speaking. Are you listening to Him? God is listening. Are you speaking to Him? ‘Service for the people of Israel’ (8:19): As servants of Christ - He ‘came not to be served but to serve’ (Mark 10:45) - , we are to serve others for ‘Jesus’ sake’ (2 Corinthians 4:5). To those whom we serve, we say, ‘We are your servants but you are not our lords’. Jesus is Lord: It is ‘as the Lord commands’ (8:22).
God’s people are guided by the ‘cloud’ and ‘fire’ (9:15): Not one without the other, but both together. We need both grace and faith: Not grace without faith, not faith without grace. God is ‘able to keep us from falling’ (Jude 24) - This is grace. We are to keep ourselves in the love of God (Jude 21) - This is faith. ‘Kept by the power of God through faith’ (1 Peter 1:5). We hear the divine declaration, ‘I am the Lord your God’ (10:10), and we say, ‘Yes, Lord, You are our God’ (Psalm 63:1; John 20:28). ‘The people complained in the hearing of the Lord’ (11:1) - Remember: All our words are spoken ‘in the hearing of the Lord’! There was ‘a rabble among them’ (11:4): What problems there are when such people are mingling with God’s people! What are we to do when this happens? - Pray for God’s help (11:10-15). God will not disappoint us - He gives people who will ‘take their stand with us’ (11:16), the Spirit who rests on God’s people (11:25), the Word, ‘strong meat’ to sustain our spiritual strength (11:31-32; Hebrews 5:12-14). The lure of the world , the pull of the flesh - ‘the rabble’ wanted to go back to ‘Egypt’ (11:4-6): This is the attack of the devil. Standing in Christ’s strength alone, we ‘resist the devil’. Defeated by Christ, Satan can do nothing but ‘flee from us’ (Philippians 4:13;James 4:7; 1 John 3:8). Unbelief sees nothing but problems - ‘We are not able...’ (13:30-31). ‘Not able’ or ‘well able’? The choice is yours. Choose faith. There must be no place for unbelief. ‘The Lord... will bring us into this land’ (14:8). With the promise, there was also the warning: ‘Do not rebel against the Lord’ (14:9). Though angry, God remained patient: ‘How long will this people despise Me? How long will they not believe in Me?’ (14:11). He was waiting patiently for a change of heart. Nevertheless, there may be times when God says, ‘Enough is enough - It’s time for a new beginning’: Only Caleb, Joshua and the ‘little ones’ would enter the land (14:30-31): No one else! Not even Moses!
We read of offerings for ‘atonement’ (15:25,28). We think of Christ: He went ‘outside the camp’ for us (15:35-36; Hebrews 13:12) - to bring us forgiveness (15:25,28). 16:1-50 - ‘You have gone too far!’: They regarded themselves as ‘holy’, yet they refused to go ‘too far’ with God (16:3)! What kind of ‘holiness’ is this? There is a ‘holiness’ which is more concerned with respectability than obedience to God. Faced with ‘the upward call of God in Christ Jesus’, we dare not say, ‘We will not come up’ (12; Philippians 3:14). Don’t get dragged down to the level of those who ‘will not come up’ to where God wants them to be - and remember: ‘By grace... not your own doing... the gift of God’ (Ephesians 2:8). We look at ourselves, and we say, ‘We perish, we are lost, we are dead’ (17:12). We look to Christ, and everything changes (John 3:16; Luke 19:10; Ephesians 2:1). ‘Service’ and ‘reward’ (18:31): The Lord blesses those who serve Him faithfully each day (1 Corinthians 15:58). The sacrifice was to be ‘without defect’. There was to be ‘no blemish’ (19:2). Here, we have a picture of the Lord Jesus Christ - ‘without sin’, He offered Himself ‘for the sins of the people’ (Hebrews 4:15;2:17). No man or woman is indispensable. God’s work goes on, with or without us! Moses had been the leader of God’s people. He sinned, and he was excluded from the promised land (20:12). Moses had gone - but God was still there! Enter, Destroy Possess (21:21-24,33-35): Let Christ enter your heart, destroying Satan’s strongholds and taking possession of your life (2 Corinthians 10: 3-5). Learn from the past. In 2 Peter 2:15-16, Jude 11 and Revelation 2:14, we are encouraged to learn from the events of chapter 22. Each passage contains a warning. (a) 2 Peter 2:15-16 - Don’t leave ‘the straight way’ and follow the crooked way! (b) Jude 11 - Don’t let making a profit become more important than being a prophet! (c) Revelation 2:14 - Make sure you don’t get drawn away from God into sin!
We speak His Word, yet - through our words - He speaks (23:20). This is the work of the Holy Spirit. ‘God’s Word is the sword of the Spirit’ (Ephesians 6:17). The Spirit uses the Word to convict us of our sin and lead us to our Saviour (Hebrews 4:12-16). ‘With far-seeing eyes’, Balaam prophesies concerning our Lord Jesus Christ: ‘I see Him, but not now’ (24:17). God is the unchanging God - Nothing changes Him (23:19). He is also the changing God - the God who changes people! He changed Balaam. He will change us! God is looking for people who have the ‘same zeal’ as He has (25:11). ‘There was not left a man of them, except Caleb and Joshua’ (26:65). So many had died in the wilderness. A new generation has to be won for Christ. Will we rise to the challenge? Or, will we ‘die in the wilderness (26:65)? Joshua is chosen to succeed Moses as the leader of God’s people (27:12-23). Soon, Moses would be gone. The Lord was preparing His people for the future. God had His man - Joshua - waiting to continue the work which Moses had begun. For each place and time, God has His ‘Joshua’. The work of God will go on. His work requires more than a ‘Joshua’. What part will you play in God’s ongoing work? Will you take up the challenge? The sacrifices, offered to God, were to be ‘a pleasing odour’ to Him (28:2). These sacrifices are no longer required. A greater Sacrifice has been offered and accepted. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, has offered Himself as a Sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 9:23-26). This Sacrifice is ‘a pleasing odour’ to God. It is ‘good news’ for us. This is ‘good news’ - the Gospel of our salvation: ‘Christ died for our sins’ (1 Corinthians 15:3). How do we know that Christ’s Sacrifice is ‘a pleasing odour’ to God? - God ‘raised’ Him from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:4)
We ‘blow the trumpets’ of worship, rejoicing in the Lord (29:1), and ‘alarm’, calling on men and women to pay attention to the Word of the Lord (Joel 2:1). Learn from Balaam. Full of good intentions about speaking God’s Word (22:18; 23:12), he hoped to ‘die the death of the righteous’ (23:10). He did not live up to his good intentions. He sinned and he led others into sin (31:16). He ended up being slain among God’s enemies (31:8). Sin needs to be removed if we are to press on to a greater enjoyment of God’s blessing. ‘Put to death what is earthly in you... put off the old nature... put on the new nature’ (Colossians 3:5-11). This is what we must do. Enter the war, Destroy the sins, Possess the land. This is what we must do throughout life. Looking beyond Israel’s triumphs to Christ’s victory over Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15;1 John 3:8), we thank God for His victory and we claim this victory by faith (1 Corinthians 15:57;1 John 5:4-5). Some look for an easy life. They know that there will be conflict on the other side of the Jordan. They opt out - ‘do not take us across the Jordan’ (5). They think they’ve travelled far enough. God says, ‘Let us go on to maturity’ (Hebrews 6:1). ‘My happiness’ - This is what concerns the self-centred person. Spiritual maturity is not about happiness. It’s about holiness. We find happiness when we aim at holiness. Pretend to be more holy than you really are, and ‘be sure your sin will find you out’ (32:23). Let us ‘wholly follow the Lord’ (32:12).
Numbers 33- 36
In the history of Israel - Set free by the power of God, failure to learn, wandering, the promised land - , there is a picture of the Christian life - conversion and growth to spiritual maturity by way of learning from our mistakes. We are not to remain in the past. That would be nostalgia. It is, however, a good thing for us to remember, with gratitude, all the way the Lord has led us. This will increase our appreciation of the goodness of God. It will deepen our sense of indebtedness to Him. Israel’s redemption was a mighty work of God. Our salvation is a mighty work of God. Think back over your life - ‘stage by stage’ (33:2) - and thank God for all that He has done. ‘Drive out all the inhabitants of the land’ (33:52): We must drive out the enemy (Satan) if we are to enter more fully into our salvation in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:3-14). Idolatry is to be banished (33:52). It has no place among God’s people. God wants us to ‘possess the land’ (33:53) - a fuller enjoyment of Him. Idolatry is settling for ‘second best’ - letting something or someone else become more important to you than the Lord. Don’t let it happen! The setting of the boundaries of the land of Canaan (34:1-29) is a reminder that there are boundaries in the Christian life, boundaries set by God Himself, the boundaries of Holy Scripture. When we move beyond the boundaries of God’s holy Word, we move outside the sphere of God’s blessing. Live in the will of God - within the boundaries set by His Word. Cities of refuge were provided for those who had killed someone accidentally. This is a good illustration of fleeing to Christ for refuge. He is our ‘strong tower’. We ‘run’ to Him and we are ‘safe’ (Hebrews 6:18;Proverbs 18:10). Christ is our ‘inheritance’. Our full enjoyment of Him is still to come (36:2-4,7-9,12; Ephesians 1:18; Colossians 3:24;1 Peter 1:4). How can we enjoy our Saviour more fully? - ‘These are the commandments...’ (36:13). We have been redeemed by God. Let us live in obedience to Him. There is nothing more important than this - if we really want to enjoy His blessing.