Book #4 ~ NUMBERS
In NUMBERS, God reveals the stubbornness of man’s heart and the kindness of His own as they disobey Him despite His faithfulness. And He points forward to the cross, where His righteous anger over sin and His grace, mercy, and love toward sinners would meet in the death of His Son Jesus.
In Numbers, the action picks up after a slow opening – the account of a census (Numbers 1).
1, 2, 3, 4 . . . zzzzzzz.
The first census counted 603,550 men able to fight (Numbers 2:32).
(The census gave the book of Numbers its English title. The Hebrew title is Bemidbar, which means In the Wilderness because the action takes place in the wilderness. I like the Hebrew title better.)
The census proved God was fulfilling His promise to make a large nation from Abraham. With God as their ruler, they’d grown to more than a million Israelites. This certainly qualified them to be a nation.
Bird’s Eye Cross
After the census, God mapped out where each tribe would set up their tents whenever they camped along the way to the Promised Land (Numbers 2).
(From a bird’s eye view, the tribe placement resembled a cross. Interesting.)
He then instructed the tribe of Levi how to serve the Lord in the tabernacle and detailed more rules and regulations for Israel (Numbers 3:1-10:10). Throughout these chapters, God reminded them of His holiness — and mankind’s struggle with it.
Camping With God
For a year, Israel had been camped at Mt. Sinai as God prepared them for their journey to the Promised Land.
His presence would now lead Israel from a cloud by day and from a pillar of fire by night. That must have been an intimidating sight. (Numbers 9:15-23.)
Now organized by God, Israel left Mt. Sinai and headed into the wilderness by tribes for the first time following the cloud (Numbers 10).
You might expect the priests to be the first to head out after God, but the tribe of Judah led the way. How fitting since Jesus descended from the tribe of Judah.
No sooner had Israel headed out, than it began again. They showed their true colors, and it wasn’t pretty.
Incessant Whining and Mutinous Plots
Incessant whining and mutinous plots fill the book of Numbers. Each time, God responded in dramatic fashion.
Israel’s worst offense came when they rebelled against God and refused to enter the Promised Land. (Numbers 13-14). (God wasn’t just saving them from slavery. He’d promised them a new life in a land of their own.)
Moses sent twelve spies into the land. Ten came out with their knees knocking because they saw giants. Two (Joshua and Caleb) came out itching for battle.
But the ten spies melted the hearts of the people, and the Israelites refused to budge.
Their unbelief fueled their rebellion and turned an 11-day hike into a 40-year wandering because they chose to fear men rather than trust God.
You’d think Israel would’ve learned their lesson by now. Just. Believe. God.
Mutiny in the Wilderness
As the Israelites wandered, they continued their mutinous ways, even worshipping worthless idols.
Israel’s sins cost them. And God answered in jaw-dropping ways.
The ground swallowed some (Numbers 16), Aaron’s staff grew flowers and almonds (Numbers 17), and a plague ravished those who worshipped the false god Baal (Numbers 25).
A donkey even talked. (Yes, really – Numbers 22.)
An evil king had hired a certain prophet to curse Israel, but it didn’t work out well for the king. After the donkey and the Angel of the Lord talked sense into the greedy prophet, God used him to bless Israel and prophecy about King David and Jesus.
The prophet later met his doom at the end of a sword when he battled against Israel – Numbers 31:8. More proof that mankind’s heart is stubborn and slow to learn. Who forgets what a talking donkey taught you?
Sin played Israel, but even faithful Moses wasn’t exempt from its traps.
Moses heard God’s instructions to speak to a specific rock and God would bring water from it. But he had a better plan. He chose to alter God’s instructions and struck it instead – twice (Numbers 20:2-13).
Even though Moses sinned, God brought life-giving water from the rock and displayed for Israel how Jesus, the Messiah, would one day give them living water. (Numbers 20:11; John 4:10)
Living water is a metaphor of the type of life Jesus gives.
“Correcting” God cost Moses dearly. God banned him from entering the Promised Land.
In another display of Israel’s true heart, they “loathed” God’s miraculous care of bread (manna) He sent each morning from heaven (Numbers 21:5 NASB).
So He gave them serpents. (Remind anyone else of the first sin in the garden?)
He also gave them a powerful picture of Jesus lifted up on the cross. Jesus Himself referred to it (Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14-15).
Poised for Victory
As God led Israel throughout the wilderness for 40 years, we see a mixture of battles, sin, mercy, consequences, and victory.
By the end of their wandering, everyone who’d refused to trust and obey God and enter the Promised Land had died.
But their children were ready. They’d grown in wisdom and faith through God’s training.
Numbers comes to a close with another census (601,730 fighting men—Numbers 26:51) and Israel standing poised on the border of the Promised Land.What's the big deal about the book of Numbers? Dip your toes in and find out. #Biblestudy #Godsword #Jesus Click To Tweet