Daily Word

Historical Posts | Numbers

June 9, 2021

*the goodness and severity of God*

Numbers 36 (selections, AMP)

1 The leaders of the fathers’ households of the family of the … families of the sons of Joseph, approached and spoke before Moses and before the leaders, the heads of the fathers’ households of the Israelites, 2 and they said, “The Lord commanded my lord [Moses] to give the land by lot to the sons of Israel as an inheritance, and my lord was commanded by the Lord to give the inheritance of Zelophehad our brother to his daughters. 3 But if the daughters marry any of the men from any of the other tribes of Israel, then their inheritance will be taken away from that of our fathers (tribal ancestors) and will be added to the inheritance of the tribe to which they belong; so it will be taken away from our allotted inheritance…5 Then Moses commanded the Israelites in accordance with the word of the Lord, saying,…9 So no inheritance shall be transferred from one tribe to another, but each of the tribes of the Israelites shall hold to its own inheritance.”


Now for details about allocation of inheritance of the land for the special cases such as the daughters of Zelophehad who earlier were given rights to their father’s property and now are required to marry within the tribe so to keep the land within the tribe.

Our final chapter of Numbers. Clarke commentary gives a nice concluding comment about Numbers: “Scarcely any piece of history in the sacred writings is better calculated to impress the mind of a serious reader with a sense of the goodness and severity of God. In every transaction his holiness and justice appear in closest union with his benevolence and mercy. From such a Being what have the wicked not to fear! From such a Father and Friend what have the upright not to hope! His justice requires him to punish iniquity, but his mercy inclines him to pardon all who truly repent and believe in the Son of his love.”

June 8, 2021

*Cleansing blood*

Numbers 36:1-?? (AMP)

30 ‘If anyone kills a person [intentionally], the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of [two or more] witnesses; but no one shall be put to death on the testimony of [only] one witness. 31 Moreover, you shall not accept a ransom [in exchange] for the life of a murderer guilty and sentenced to death; but he shall certainly be put to death. 32 You shall not accept a ransom for him who has escaped to his city of refuge, so that he may return to live in his [own] land before the death of the high priest. 33 So you shall not pollute and defile the land in which you live; for [the shedding of innocent] blood pollutes and defiles the land. No atonement (expiation) can be made for the land for the [innocent] blood shed in it, except by the blood (execution) of him who shed it. 34 You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I live, for I, the Lord, live among the people of Israel.’”


Continuing the rules about cities of refuge and murder, Moses now provides the closing details. Shed blood (presumably intentionally shed) pollutes, defiles, the land. Capital punishment, death, is the necessary response. Only the shed blood of the murderer could atone for the blood of the murdered. Here is where it gets quite interesting. 

This brings to mind 2 Corinthians 5:21: ”For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”(ESV) Since Jesus became sin for us, that means He became sin for all sinners – including the murderers referred to in this passage. His shed blood, then, perfectly atoned for the sin of murder and, all sin. His blood atones for the sin and cleanses the land – where the Lord lived among Israel, the holy land. In the NT, God lives not just among us but IN us. Hence Jesus’ blood cleanses sin from “the land” (the place God resides), us.

June 7, 2021

*Cities of Refuge*

Numbers 35:6-39 (AMP)

6 [Among] the cities which you give to the Levites shall be the six cities of refuge, which you shall provide for the one who commits manslaughter to flee to; and in addition to them you shall give forty-two cities [to the Levites]. 7 So you shall give to the Levites forty-eight cities in all, together with their pasture lands. 8 As for the cities which you shall give from the possession of the Israelites, from the larger tribes you shall take many and from the smaller tribes few; each tribe shall give [at least some] of its cities to the Levites in proportion to [the size of] its inheritance which it possesses.” …12 The cities shall be to you as a refuge from the avenger, so that the one who has caused the death of another will not be killed until he has had a [fair] trial before the congregation. 13 The cities which you are to provide shall be your six cities of refuge. 14 You shall provide three cities on this [east] side of the Jordan [River], and three [more] cities in the land of Canaan; they are to be the cities of refuge…29 ‘These things shall be a statutory ordinance for you throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.


As they move into the land, parcel it out and set aside land for the Levites, they are instructed to set up cities of refuge where a person who has committed murder (presumably unintentionally) can flee until he’s tried. If they did it in anger with mal intent, they are a murderer and shall be killed – and that by the “avenger of blood”, a relative of the slain person. If they did it by accident, without malicious intent, they need to stay in this city until the High Priest dies, after which time they can return home. Seems pretty strict. 

The 6 cities were split between the east and west Jordan tribes. These cities were of those given to the Levites – possibly indicating a more holy place, of justice and maybe peace. 

Again, this points out to me God’s attention to details of the society. Moreso, it possibly points to Christ (whom the Levitical priests represented) in whom sinners find refuge.

June 6, 2021

*places for the Levites*

Numbers 35:1-5 (ESV)

1 The LORD spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, 2 “Command the people of Israel to give to the Levites some of the inheritance of their possession as cities for them to dwell in. And you shall give to the Levites pasturelands around the cities. 3 The cities shall be theirs to dwell in, and their pasturelands shall be for their cattle and for their livestock and for all their beasts. 4 The pasturelands of the cities, which you shall give to the Levites, shall reach from the wall of the city outward a thousand cubits all around. 5 And you shall measure, outside the city, on [each] side two thousand cubits, …the city being in the middle. This shall belong to them as pastureland for their cities.


God covered every detail – even places for the Levites to live, since they didn’t get to inherit land as the rest of the tribes, since they belonged to God in place of the firstborn. Land was allocated to them in each of 48 cities for them to raise the flocks. 

But why didn’t they all just stay in Jerusalem where the temple was and the priests were? Mathew Henry’s concise commentary provides a nice answer: “The cities of the priests and Levites were not only to accommodate them, but to place them, as religious teachers, in several parts of the land. For though the typical service of the tabernacle or temple was only in one place [that is, Jerusalem], the preaching of the word of God, and prayer and praise, were not thus confined. These cities were to be given out of each tribe.”

June 5, 2021

*Boundaries and Assignment responsibilities*

Numbers 34

1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance, that is, the land of Canaan according to its borders. 3 Your southern region shall extend from the wilderness of Zin along the side of Edom, and your southern border shall extend from the end of the Salt Sea eastward…12 And the border shall go down to the Jordan, and its termination shall be at the Salt Sea. This shall be your land according to its borders on all sides.’”… 16 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “These are the names of the men who shall assign the land to you as an inheritance: Eleazar the priest, and Joshua the son of Nun. 18 And you shall take one leader of each tribe to assign the land as an inheritance… 29 These are the ones whom the Lord commanded to apportion the inheritance to the sons of Israel in the land of Canaan.


God now maps out for Israel what their borders are of the promised land. I’ve attached a map of one historian’s depiction. The area was about 150 miles long by 50 miles (240x81km) wide. We notice in v 3 and 12 that the boundary started and ended at the Salt Sea (Dead Sea) which was likely the most prominent landmark near where they were camped. For interest, I’m also attaching a rudimentary map of ancient vs modern Israel to see how they compare. The biggest difference is the West Bank, which is today mostly controlled by Israel but also the PLA. The areas of Gad and Reuban are also not included today.

This chapter also identifies the leaders who will oversee the allotment of the promised land, headed by Joshua (the new Moses) and Eleazar, the priest.

June 4, 2021

*Root out sin*

Numbers 33:50-56

50 Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, 51 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52 you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from you, and destroy all their idolatrous sculptures, destroy all their cast metal images, and eliminate all their high places; 53 and you shall take possession of the land and live in it, for I have given the land to you to possess it. 54 You shall maintain the land as an inheritance by lot according to your families; to the larger you shall give more inheritance, and to the smaller you shall give less inheritance. Wherever the lot falls to anyone, that shall be his. You shall pass on land as an inheritance according to the tribes of your fathers. 55 But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from you, then it will come about that those whom you let remain of them will be like thorns in your eyes and like pricks in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live. 56 And just as I plan to do to them, I will do to you.’”


Moses now returns to addressing the whole nation about their most crucial responsibility as they take possession of their new home: dispossess all the (wicked) inhabitants, including every vestige of their pagan gods and rituals. They are to divvy up the land by lot, as we learned earlier, with the largest plots going to the largest tribes and the land will be passed from generation to generation as an inheritance. As new believers, one of the most important tasks we have is to tear down the old strongholds and ways of thinking and behaving; confessing our sin and understanding we are a new creation in Christ; the old has passed away and all has become new. We’re learning more about this as we read Neil Anderson’s book, VICTORY OVER THE DARKNESS.

June 3, 2021

*Israel out of Egypt out of Israel*

Numbers 33:1-49

1 These are the journeys of the sons of Israel, by which they came out of the land of Egypt by their armies, under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. 2 Moses recorded their starting places according to their journeys by the command of the Lord, and these are their journeys according to their starting places. 3 Now they journeyed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the day after the Passover the sons of Israel started out boldly in the sight of all the Egyptians, 4 while the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn whom the Lord had fatally struck among them. The Lord had also executed judgments against their gods. 5 Then the sons of Israel journeyed from Rameses and camped in Succoth… 49 They camped by the Jordan, from Beth-jeshimoth as far as Abel-shittim, in the plains of Moab.


Moses spends a chapter reviewing the Israelites journey from Egypt to the promised land. It began with their amazing deliverance from slavery in Egypt when God sent the angel of death to kill all the firstborn of Egypt and execute judgement against their gods. It was the initiation of Passover which has been celebrated ever since up to today, with Christians celebrating Easter. The Israelites were led out slavery to Egypt; we are led out of slavery to sin. God got Israel out of Egypt in one night but it took 40 years to get Egypt out of Israel! God delivers us from sin and makes us born again in a moment but it takes a whole lifetime (even physical death) to get the sin out of us!

??Thoughts for our next book??

June 2, 2021

*contract and consequence*

Numbers 32:28-42 (AMP)

28 So Moses gave the command concerning them to Eleazar the priest, and to Joshua the son of Nun, and to the leaders of the fathers’ households of the tribes of the Israelites. 29 Moses said to them, “If the sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben will cross over the Jordan with you, every man armed for battle before the Lord, and the land is subdued before you, then you shall give them the land of Gilead [east of the Jordan River] as a possession; 30 but if they will not cross over with you armed, they shall have possessions among you in the land of Canaan [and surrender their right to their land east of the Jordan River].” 31 The sons of Gad and the sons of Reuben answered, “As the Lord has said to your servants, so will we do. 32 We will cross over armed before the Lord into the land of Canaan, so that the possession of our inheritance on [the east] side of the Jordan may be ours.” 33 So Moses gave to them, to the sons of Gad and to the sons of Reuben and to the half-tribe of Manasseh the son of Joseph…42 Nobah went and took Kenath and its villages, and called it Nobah after his own name.


Moses laid out the contract and the consequences: If Reuben and Gad cross over and help the rest of Israel capture the promised land, then they can have the land east of the Jordan, otherwise, they forfeit it and must settle in the promised land. How would they enforce it? Fight them into submission is my guess. They almost did it when Reuben and Gad later set up a memorial at the Jordan river in Joshua 22. We also see that somehow the half-tribe of Manasseh, son of Joseph (Ephraim was the other half) was included with Gad and Reuben to settle east of the Jordan river. They didn’t participate in the appeal earlier by Gad and Reuben to settle on the East side so it’s not sure why; we can only guess that they also had a lot of cattle.

June 1, 2021

*Skin in the game*

Numbers 32:20-27 (AMP)

20 Moses replied, “If you will do as you say, if you will arm yourselves before the Lord for war, 21 and every armed man of yours will cross the Jordan before the Lord until He has driven out His enemies before Him, 22 and the land [west of the Jordan] is subdued before the Lord, then afterward you shall return and be blameless [in this matter] before the Lord and before Israel, and this land [east of the Jordan] shall be yours as a possession before the Lord. 23 But if you do not do this, behold, you will have sinned against the Lord; and be sure that your sin will find you out. 24 Build yourselves cities for your children, and folds for your sheep, and do that of which you have spoken.”

25 Then the descendants of Gad and of Reuben said to Moses, 27 “…your servants will cross over, every man armed for war, before the Lord to the battle, just as my lord says.”


Moses eases his tone after hearing the commitment of the two tribes and their plan. We see the phrase, “before the Lord” repeated six times in this short passage. I believe it means, “in the presence of the Lord” that is, under His guidance, care and watchful eye, with His blessing. What struck me is v21 – these are God’s enemies, which, by extension, are Israel’s enemies. Did you ever wonder why God didn’t just send a plague and wipe them out? There are many reasons, but one is He wanted Israel to be involved, to have some ownership, some skin in the game. He would fight for them (as He just displayed in the fight with the Midianites) but they needed to do their part. God is fighting for you and doing all the “heavy lifting” in your battles and good works He prepared for you, but we need to do our part. 

The other teaching here is that “sin will find you out”; if Gad and Reuban reneged on their vow and sinned, God would surely remember them and execute judgement. Same applies to us.

May 31, 2021

*settling for less*

Numbers 32:16-19

16 Then they [Ruebanites and Gaddites] approached him [Moses] and said, “We will build sheepfolds for our livestock here and cities for our little ones; 17 but we ourselves will be armed, hurrying ahead of the sons of Israel, until we have brought them to their place, while our little ones live in the fortified cities because of the inhabitants of the land. 18 We will not return to our homes until every one of the sons of Israel has gained possession of his inheritance. 19 But we will not have an inheritance with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has come to us on this side of the Jordan toward the east.”


Moses just laid into the tribes of Gad and Reuben for their plan to not live in the promised land – thinking they were rebelling against the Lord as their fathers had done 40 years ago. As it turns out, they still planned to help the rest of the tribes conquer the promised land but then come back to this land of Gilead and settle here. The rest of this chapter hammers out the agreement. What strikes me is, “because our inheritance has come to us on this side of the Jordan”. They decided to settle for less. God’s promise and blessing was the promised land. This was His perfect will, but they decided themselves to settle here. [Note that there is no record of them seeking the Lord or asking Moses; they TOLD Moses.]  Moses, representing the Lord, allowed it. 

What has God called you to? What is His will for you? Are you pressing forward in faith and action to accomplish it? Are you delighting in the Lord so He can give you the desires of your heart? (Psalm 37:4) You’ve heard Jim Collins’ quote, “The enemy of great is not bad, the enemy is good.” Don’t settle for less than God’s best. [You get the pun – “settling for less”?]

May 30,2021

*Ready, Fire, Aim*

Numbers 32:6-15 (ESV)

6 But Moses said to the people of Gad and to the people of Reuben, “Shall your brothers go to the war while you sit here? 7 Why will you discourage the heart of the people of Israel from going over into the land that the LORD has given them? 8 Your fathers did this, when I sent them from Kadesh-barnea to see the land … 13 And the LORD’S anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation that had done evil in the sight of the LORD was gone. 14 And behold, you have risen in your fathers’ place, a brood of sinful men, to increase still more the fierce anger of the LORD against Israel! 15 For if you turn away from following him, he will again abandon them in the wilderness, and you will destroy all this people.”


Wow! Moses let ‘em have it and with both barrels! To Moses, the sin of the people rejecting the Lord and the promised land was as fresh to him as it was 40 years ago when it happened. This was a quick, “ready, fire, aim” response (vs ready, aim, fire). That sin led to 40 years wandering (might say wasted) in the wilderness. God’s anger was surely hot when they rejected Him and His perfect plan for them. They paid the penalty by dying in the wilderness, never getting to the promised land. Moses thinks the children are now doing the same – which would incur the same judgement and another 40 years. To be continued…

May 29, 2021

*Another plan?*

Numbers 32:1-5 (AMP)

Now the sons of Reuben and the sons of Gad had very large herds of cattle, and they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead [on the east side of the Jordan River], and indeed, the place was suitable for raising livestock. 2 So the sons of Gad and of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying, 3 “[The country around] Ataroth, Dibon, Jazer, Nimrah, Heshbon, Elealeh, Sebam, Nebo, and Beon, 4 the land which the Lord conquered before the congregation of Israel, is a land [suitable] for livestock, and your servants have [very large herds of] livestock.” 5 They said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us across the Jordan [River].”


Reuben and Gad had lots of sheep and had been camping on the same (southern) side of the tabernacle, with Simeon inbetween (Numbers 2:10-14). They eyed the land and saw that it was good for them so they petitioned Moses, Eleazar and the leaders to occupy this land, rather than the promised land. Could it be they didn’t want more fighting? Were they again turning their backs on God (like their fathers did when the spies returned 40 years before)? We don’t know, but their request received a strong warning from Moses. This section will bring up the topic of the perfect vs. permissible will of God. We know His perfect will was for all Israel to live in the promised land. Stay tuned…

Bonus: related to yesterday’s study, “the land which the Lord conquered before the congregation of Israel”, seems to indicate they recognized it was God who miraculously fought for them which is why none of Israel died in the battle.

May 28, 2021

*No man missing*

Numbers 31:48-54

48 Then the officers who were over the thousands of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, approached Moses, 49 and they said to Moses, “Your servants have taken a census of the men of war who are under our authority, and no man of us is missing. 50 So we have brought as an offering to the Lord what each man found, articles of gold, armlets and bracelets, signet rings, earrings, and necklaces, to make atonement for ourselves before the Lord.” 51 Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold from them, all kinds of crafted articles. 52 All the gold of the offering which they offered up to the Lord, from the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, was 16,750 shekels. 53 The men of war had taken plunder, every man for himself. 54 So Moses and Eleazar the priest took the gold from the commanders of thousands and of hundreds, and brought it to the tent of meeting as a memorial for the sons of Israel before the Lord.


If you thought the parting of the Red Sea was amazing, consider this: 120,000 fought against a much larger army and not only won, they annihilated them, literally. What takes the cake, however, in the miracle contest is: NOT EVEN ONE of the Israeli soldiers died! How could that be unless God was fighting for them. He did that later – like allowing an opposing army (Midianites again) to be routed and become confused and kill each other Judges 7:19-23. 

See how the Israelite leaders responded? They gave an offering to the Lord. It was not required of them; they offered it willingly. May we take notice of the blessings God gives us and the miracles He does and give Him an offering of thanks and praise.

May 27, 2021

*It’s all His*

Numbers 31:25-47 (AMP, selections)

25 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “You and Eleazar the priest and the leaders of the fathers’ households of the congregation are to take a count of the spoil of war that was captured, both people and livestock. 27 Divide the spoil into two [equal] parts between those who were involved in the war, that is, those who went out to battle and all [the rest of] the congregation. 28 Levy a tax for the Lord from the warriors who went to battle, one in five hundred of the persons, the oxen, the donkeys, and the flocks. 29 Take this tribute from the warriors’ half and give it to Eleazar the priest as an offering to the Lord. 30 From the Israelites’ half [of the spoil] you shall take one out of every fifty of the persons, the oxen, the donkeys, the flocks, and of all the livestock, and give them to the Levites who are in charge of the tabernacle of the Lord.” 31 Moses and Eleazar the priest did just as the Lord had commanded Moses.

32 The plunder that remained from the spoil of war which the warriors had taken, was 675,000 sheep, 33 and 72,000 cattle, 34 and 61,000 donkeys, 35 and 32,000 persons in all, of the [Midianite] women who were virgins.


This military campaign patterned what was to come so now was a good time to establish regulations. A tax was instituted on winnings from war. They counted it all then split it in half; half to those 120,000 who went into battle and half to the rest of Israel. The tax was .2% for the fighting men and 2% for the rest of Israel. The fighting men got a larger portion per capita and their tax was less since they sacrificed and risked their lives. Their portion of the tax was given to the priests, who were much fewer in number than the Levites who got the second, larger, tax portion. Were there other taxes? Exodus 30:13 tells us of the temple tax to help maintain the sanctuary (and later the temple). 

We should mention that this wasn’t a tithe (which is from gain from work) but a tax. Both income and winnings from war were from God and rightly belong to God – as do all our material blessings. Taxes are a necessary part of society as a whole as tithes are of religious community. 

Note: vs 35-47 provide the details of the allocation. 

May 26, 2021

*Tested by fire*

Numbers 31:21-24 (AMP)

21 Then Eleazar the priest said to the men of war who had gone to battle, “This is the statute of the law which the Lord has commanded Moses: 22 only the gold, the silver, the bronze, the iron, the tin, and the lead, 23 everything that can stand fire, you shall pass through fire, and it shall be clean. Nevertheless, it shall also be purified with the water of purification [to remove its impurity]; and all that cannot stand fire [such as fabrics] you shall pass through water. 24 And you shall wash your clothes on the seventh day and be clean, and afterward you may come into the camp.”


The Israelites soldiers had caused death and/or come in contact with death so they had to purify themselves (chapter 19) which required them to stay outside the camp seven days and wash on the 3rd and 7th days. It may have also served as a way for God to cause them to dread shedding blood – which they were about to do a lot of as they went into the promised land. The items they captured had belonged to pagans so were defiled and needed to be cleansed. Fire was used to purify the metals and water for the other items.

Is there a connection to our trials on earth? Not that our faith is defiled, but it needs to be tested. 1 Peter 4:12-13: “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though something strange were happening to you; 13 but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that at the revelation of His glory you may also rejoice and be overjoyed.”  God allows us to be tested (fire) to purify and prove our faith. See also 1 Pet 1:7 and this short commentary: https://www.bibleref.com/1-Peter/1/1-Peter-1-7.html How will we respond to the test, the trials of life?

May 25, 2021

*God’s ways vs man’s ways*

Numbers 31:13-20

13 And Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation went out to meet them outside the camp. 14 But Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. 15 And Moses said to them, “Have you spared all the women? 16 Behold, they caused the sons of Israel, through the counsel of Balaam, to be unfaithful to the Lord in the matter of Peor, so that the plague took place among the congregation of the Lord! 17 Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man intimately. 18 However, all the girls who have not known a man intimately, keep alive for yourselves. 20 And you shall purify for yourselves …”


Wow! So many questions. For starters, was this just Moses’s idea or God’s? God at least approved since He never reprimanded or opposed Moses. We also know Moses’s character and zeel for the Lord and Israel. I guess the officers thought they were doing right and proper to “spare the innocent” but Moses looked beyond that to the sin that the women of Midian led Israel into which brought God’s judgement. He also looked ahead to the conquering of the promised land and the need to wipe out all traces of the inhabitants 1) as reflection of ridding their homes of yeast during passover; yeast represented sin and 2) to keep Israel from taking up the evil practices and worship of the inhabitants. If you wrestle with this passage, I encourage you to seek the Lord through His Word and prayer. Know Him. Isaiah 55:8-9: “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”

May 24, 2021

*Israel’s final act under Moses – revenge on Midian*

Numbers 31:1-12

1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Take vengeance for the Israelites on the Midianites; afterward you will be gathered to your people [in death].”… 6 Moses sent them, a thousand from each tribe, to the war, and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to war with them, and the sacred vessels [of the sanctuary] and the trumpets to blow the alarm in his hand. 7 They made war against Midian, just as the LORD had commanded Moses, and they killed every male. 8 They killed the kings of Midian along with the rest of their slain: Evi and Rekem and Zur [the father of Cozbi] and Hur and Reba, the five kings of Midian; also Balaam the son of Beor they killed with the sword. 9 The sons of Israel captured the women of Midian and their children; and all their cattle, all their livestock, and all their property they took as spoil [of war]. 10They burned all the cities where they lived, and all their encampments with fire.


Moses has lived a long life of service to the Lord and Israel. For Israel’s “final act” under his leadership, God tells him to seek revenge on the Midianites who, following Balaam’s advice, had used adultery with their women to lead Israel to sin by following their gods. Moses numbers off 1,000 from each tribe, 12,000 total then sends them, along with Phinehas the priest and articles from the sanctuary into war. They killed all the men, including Zur, the king whose daughter was Cozbi [she was slain in front of the tent of meeting which ended the plague of judgement]. They also killed Balaam, the wicked prophet, along with the rest of the people. He finally got his just deserts (what he deserved). All the dwelling places were burned. All the cattle, livestock, property, women and children were captured and brought to Moses and Eleazar the priest. This was Israel’s final act under Moses’ leadership.

May 23, 2021

*vows & woman’s protection*

Numbers 30 (selections)

2 If a man makes a vow to the LORD, or takes an oath to put himself under a binding obligation, he shall not break his word; he shall act in accordance with everything that comes out of his mouth.

3“And if a woman makes a vow to the LORD, and puts herself under a binding obligation in her father’s house in her youth, 4 and her father hears her vow and her obligation under which she has put herself, and her father says nothing to her, then all her vows shall remain valid and every binding obligation under which she has put herself shall remain valid. 5 But if her father expresses disapproval to her on the day he hears of it, none of her vows or her obligations under which she has put herself shall remain valid; and the LORD will forgive her because her father has expressed disapproval to her.

9“But as for the vow of a widow or of a divorced woman, every binding obligation under which she has put herself, shall remain valid against her.

15However, if he actually annuls them after he has heard them, then he shall bear the responsibility for her guilt.”


Vows are serious matters – especially then. If a man made a vow, he was obligated to keep it. Psalm 15:4 in NIV says it this way: “[the godly one] who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their [sic] mind.” Men are “on the hook.” Women should also be, right? Not so in God’s economy – at least not here. The father (of an unmarried girl) or the husband of a married woman could annul a vow if they determined it was not right or good, perhaps done hastily. God built in this protection for women. V9 indirectly confirms this, I believe, since a formerly married woman has no husband to protect her, she is “on the hook”. Maybe that’s one reason the NT encouraged widows to remarry. Finally, in v15, we see that if the husband annuls the vow after the 1 day grace period, he takes on the full responsibility!

May 22, 2021

*soothing aroma*

Numbers 29:selections

1 Now in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall have a holy assembly; you shall do no laborious work. It will be to you a day for blowing trumpets. 2 And you shall offer a burnt offering as a soothing aroma to the Lord: one bull, one ram, and seven male lambs one year old without defect; 3 also their grain offering, … 5 and one male goat as a sin offering, to make atonement for you, 6 … for a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the Lord.

7 ‘Then on the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy assembly, and you shall humble yourselves; you shall not do any work. 8 You shall present a burnt offering to the Lord as a soothing aroma:

12 ‘Then on the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy assembly; you shall do no laborious work, and you shall celebrate with a feast to the Lord for seven days. 13 You shall present a burnt offering, an offering by fire as a soothing aroma to the Lord:” 


We identified quite a few animal sacrifices yesterday. Today, we add a bunch more for the 7th month festival which lasted the whole month ending in a week-long celebration. Add these to yesterday’s daily, Sabbath, monthly, Passover and First Fruits, you get a grand total now of 113 bulls, 37 rams, 30 goats and 1093 lambs (one year old without defect). As we noted yesterday, it was a LOT of sacrifices and it happened continually, as we’re encouraged to do.

What’s this “a soothing aroma to the Lord”? The first time we see this phrase is Genesis 8:21 which is after the flood when Noah offered to the Lord a sacrifice of all the clean animals. God said, “The LORD smelled the soothing aroma, and the LORD said to Himself, “I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth;” If you are an American, you likely love the smell of steak cooking on the grill, especially when there is fat! I can taste it now. Does God like the death of the animal? Maybe no more than we do. But one reason he created the animals is for these purposes – sacrifice in the OT and food for us. (Sorry for anyone who is vegan).

More importantly, however, A Desiring God.com article by Denise Kohlmeyer suggests, “it wasn’t the aroma from the sacrifices that pleased God as much as what it represented: repentance, clean souls, changed lives (Leviticus 1:9, 13; 2:2; 23:18). If performed properly, these sacrifices were “a pleasing aroma to the Lord” (Numbers 15:3).” Hence our repentance and living a life of sacrifice is a pleasing aroma to the Lord.

May 21, 2021

*Why so much sacrifice?*

Numbers 28:9-31

9 ‘Then on the Sabbath day two male lambs one year old without defect, and two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering, and its drink offering: 10 This is the burnt offering of every Sabbath in addition to the continual burnt offering and its drink offering.

11 ‘Then at the beginning of each of your months you shall present a burnt offering to the Lord: … 

16 ‘The Lord’s Passover shall be on the fourteenth day of the first month… 19 But you shall present an offering by fire, a burnt offering to the Lord: …

26 ‘Also on the day of the first fruits, when you present a new grain offering to the Lord in your Feast of Weeks, you shall have a holy assembly; you shall do no laborious work. 27 But you shall offer a burnt offering as a soothing aroma to the Lord: ..”


If you total up the animal sacrifices, accounting for the daily, Sabbath, monthly, Passover and First Fruits, you get 40 bulls, 20 rams, 20 goats and 974 lambs (one year old without defect). That’s a LOT of sacrifices per year! These are the routine ones; there are a number of other individual and special occasion sacrifices as well. Hence my question: Why so much sacrifice?! What are your thoughts? 

For one, it’s a daily reminder bolstered by monthly and annual reminders of our need for atonement and relationship restoration. We sin daily and daily need to confess and repent to restore the relationship with the Father. It would also serve to constantly remind them of God’s holiness and presence with them. A third reason is, of course, God is worthy of all the sacrifice and infinite more. 

How about us? Let our lives be a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God which is our spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1). Confess and repent so that your relationship with God can be restored. “I’m wrong, God, you are right. Forgive me and restore our relationship.” Do it at the moment of sin and conviction by the Spirit; don’t let it build up (I’m speaking to myself).

May 20, 2021

*continuous worship*

Numbers 28:1-8 (ESV)

1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the people of Israel and say to them, ‘My offering, my food for my food offerings, my pleasing aroma, you shall be careful to offer to me at its appointed time.’ 3 And you shall say to them, This is the food offering that you shall offer to the LORD: two male lambs a year old without blemish, day by day, as a regular offering. 4 The one lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight; 5 also a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a grain offering, mixed with a quarter of a hin of beaten oil. 6 It is a regular burnt offering, which was ordained at Mount Sinai for a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the LORD. 7 Its drink offering shall be a quarter of a hin for each lamb. In the Holy Place you shall pour out a drink offering of strong drink to the LORD. 8 The other lamb you shall offer at twilight. Like the grain offering of the morning, and like its drink offering, you shall offer it as a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the LORD.


Israel stands on the border poised to enter the promised land.  The previous generation had, by now, passed away due to faithlessness at the report of the spies 40 years ago. The men of the new generation have been counted, Joshua has been anointed, they’re “ready to rumble”. Now it’s time for a review of the most important of the laws; the daily sacrifices of burnt offerings – sacrificial and festival laws previously given in Exodus to the previous generation. The object was to remind the new generation of these laws so as to, “form and sanctify the whole life of the congregation into a continuous worship.” (Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on the OT). Why? Simple. God is worthy of praise, of continuous praise. It’s occurring now in Heaven (Revelation 4). What’s it mean for us? We, the body of Christ, should endeavor to continually offer up praise to God – in song, prayer, holy service and devotion. Let our lives be a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God which is our spiritual act of worship. (Romans 12:1).

May 19, 2021

*Transition time*

Numbers 27:18-23

18 So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him; 19 and have him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation, and commission him in their sight. 20 And you shall put some of your authority on him, so that all the congregation of the sons of Israel will obey him. 21 Moreover, he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord. At his command they shall go out, and at his command they shall come in, both he and all the sons of Israel with him, all the congregation.” 22 Then Moses did just as the Lord commanded him; he took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and before all the congregation. 23 Then he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, just as the Lord had spoken through Moses.


Another title for this passage could be, “end of an age”. Moses is about to die and God has appointed Joshua to take his place. We know all too well by now that God spoke directly to Moses as in v1 “the Lord said to Moses”. While He does speak directly to Joshua, it’s nowhere near as with Moses, for with Moses, God spoke as a friend (Exodus 33:11). Starting with Joshua, discernment of God’s will will come through the priest, in this case, Eleazar, by use of the Urim – kind of like rolling dice. This doesn’t mean God is leaving Israel or even just stepping back. His way of communicating to them is changing. 

Joshua had the Spirit in him. It would be ludicrous to think that anyone could lead these people of God without the Spirit. Some commentaries say it was a spirit of wisdom; others say THE Spirit. Whatever the case, it is from God and it is in him. Probably in a similar way as David.

Finally, this transition of power (some of Moses’ authority) was done in front of everyone so it was clear who the next leader was – like a coronation ceremony where the reigning king passes rule to his successor. 

May 18, 2021

*Loving Leader*

Numbers 27:15-17 (ESV)

15 Moses spoke to the LORD, saying, 16 “Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.”


God had just reminded Moses that he won’t enter the promised land with the nation due to his sin. How does Moses respond to knowing He will die very soon and not get to enter the promised land he had been leading Israel to for 40 years? How would you respond? Moses doesn’t express a hint of disappointment nor anger. It’s as if he was thinking of one thing: the people of God. If he’s gone, who will lead them? Who will be the intermediary between Israel and God? What can he yet do to help ensure God’s plan is accomplished? Such a loving leader! So many times these people had frustrated Moses and caused him to get angry yet he always stood in the gap pleading God’s mercy on them, and with great success I might add. If you’re a leader, seek to be a loving leader like Moses. Otherwise, pray for your leader and follow the Lord so as to make their job less burdensome.

May 17, 2021

*Seeing is believing?*

Numbers 27:12-14 (AMP)

12 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go up to this mountain (Nebo) [in the] Abarim [range] and look at the land I have given to the sons of Israel. 13 When you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people [in death], just as Aaron your brother was gathered; 14 because in the Wilderness of Zin, during the strife of the congregation, you rebelled against My command to treat me as holy [by following My instruction] before their eyes at the water.” (These are the waters of Meribah in Kadesh in the Wilderness of Zin.)


Moses’ days are numbered. Before he dies, God has him take a look at the promised land from the top of mount Nebo, about 1,220 meters above the Dead Sea below. Since he’s East of the Jordan, he’s not in the promised land but as it turns out, this land also became Israel’s. Why did God send him to look? Did God want Moses to see the land so he’d believe the promise (seeing is believing)? No! Moses already believed. Did God want to remind him of his sin, to “rub his nose in it”? I don’t think so. I believe he wanted to remind Moses of His promises and that He is a faithful God – despite the sins of the Israelites and even Moses. Departing this world in death for Moses meant he didn’t set foot in the promised land but, he was destined for the REAL Promised Land, which he received by faith. Believing is seeing.

Here’s a picture of what Moses may have seen: https://www.seetheholyland.net/mount-nebo/

May 16, 2021

*Importance of Inheritance*

Numbers 27:1-8 (ESV)

1 Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad the son of Hepher, son of Gilead, son of Machir, son of Manasseh, from the clans of Manasseh the son of Joseph. The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 2 And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the chiefs and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, 3 “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. 4 Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.”

5 Moses brought their case before the LORD. 6 And the LORD said to Moses, 7 “The daughters of Zelophehad are right. You shall give them possession of an inheritance among their father’s brothers and transfer the inheritance of their father to them. 8 And you shall speak to the people of Israel, saying, ‘If a man dies and has no son, then you shall transfer his inheritance to his daughter.


Numbers 26:33 first introduced us to this situation – these daughters were listed in the census. They sought to preserve their father’s memory, his name, his possession, among Israel as they inherited the promised land. They pointed out that he didn’t rebel against the Lord with Korah yet had his own sin. For one, we know that the whole congregation rejected the Lord when the spies returned. Moses listened to the request of the daughters and brought it to the Lord who also listened, then agreed and made a law to protect the name and inheritance for all like this.

Inheritance is an important theme in God’s Word.one of the reasons for the census was to identify who was of Israel and what their lineage was. Having heirs is critical to maintaining the family name and legacy, and inheriting the blessings. We know from Ephesians 1 we are heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ as God’s adopted children. We have “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,” (1 Peter 1:4 ESV). It’s by nothing we’ve done, but by God’s Divine plan. Our names are in the Book of Life, Heaven’s roll call. Give thanks. 


*Faithfulness then and now*

Numbers 26:52-56, 62-65 (AMP)

52 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 53 “Among these the land shall be divided as an inheritance according to the number of names. 54 To the larger tribe you shall give the larger inheritance, and to the smaller tribe the smaller inheritance; each tribe shall be given its inheritance according to its numbers. 55 But the land shall be divided by lot…”

62 Those numbered of the Levites were 23,000, every male from a month old and upward; for they were not numbered among the sons of Israel, since no inheritance [of land] was given to them among the Israelites.

63 These are those numbered by Moses and Eleazar the priest, who numbered the sons of Israel [for the second time] in the plains of Moab by the Jordan [River] at Jericho. 64 But among these there was not a man [left] of those numbered by Moses and Aaron the priest, who numbered the sons of Israel [for the first time] in the Wilderness of Sinai. 65 For the Lord had said of them, “They shall certainly die in the wilderness.” And not a man was left of them except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.


Two thoughts here on the allocation of the land: the lot (like rolling dice, “chance”) and the census data. Regarding the lot, Clarke commentary suggests God used the lot to divide the land by His design to the believing Israelites who had no right or claim to the land; it was a promise and blessing of God by grace. Likewise, Heaven is given by God’s selection and design, by grace, to those who believe. Further, those Israelites who didn’t believe God would safely lead them to the promised land after they heard the report of the spies were cursed and excluded from the promised land and died in the wilderness. Likewise, those today who don’t believe the Gospel are excluded from Heaven.

The census data was used to divide up the promised land. The larger amount of land (blessing) went to the tribes with higher populations. A higher population was achieved through trusting God and not doubting, since those who doubted were killed. [Note: As noted above and v65, all from the first census over 20 died in the wilderness.] Is there a parallel to our rewards in Heaven? Those who are more faithful on earth, trusting God in all things, will receive a greater blessing (more rewards) in Heaven? Something to think about.


*Census of the New Generation & sign*

Numbers 26:1-4,9, 51

1 After the plague, the LORD said to Moses and to Eleazar the son of Aaron, the priest, 2 “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, by their fathers’ houses, all in Israel who are able to go to war.” 3 And Moses and Eleazar the priest spoke with them in the plains of Moab by the Jordan at Jericho, saying, 4 “Take a census of the people, from twenty years old and upward,” as the LORD commanded Moses…9 The sons of Eliab: Nemuel, Dathan, and Abiram. These are the Dathan and Abiram who were called by the congregation, who fought against Moses and against Aaron in the group of Korah, when they fought against the Lord, 10 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up along with Korah, when that group died, when the fire devoured 250 men, so that they became a warning sign…51 This was the list of the people of Israel, 601,730.


For this first part, Wesley’s commentary nicely sumarizes: “They were numbered twice before, Exo 30:11,12 Nu 1:1,2. Now they are numbered a third time, to demonstrate the faithfulness of God, both in cutting all those off whom he had threatened to cut off, Nu 14:29, and in a stupendous increase of the people according to his promise, notwithstanding all their sins, and the sweeping judgments inflicted upon them; and to prepare the way for the equal division of the land, which they were now going to possess.” A total of 600K men of fighting age were numbered, not including the Levites.

Yesterday we mentioned how God at times notes special events and people for memory sake – some for positive reinforcement and others for negative avoidance. Included in the census is a reminder of those, like Korah, Dathan and Abiram who opposed Moses (the Lord) and were punished publicly. ”They became a warning sign”, so future generations would not follow their ways but follow the Lord. We’re part of those future generations!


*Be not deceived*

Numbers 25:14-16

14 Now the name of the dead man of Israel who was killed with the Midianite woman, was Zimri the son of Salu, a leader of a father’s household among the Simeonites. 15 And the name of the Midianite woman who was killed was Cozbi the daughter of Zur, who was head of the people of a father’s household in Midian.

16 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 17 “Be hostile to the Midianites and attack them; 18 for they have been hostile to you with their tricks, with which they have deceived you in the matter of Peor and in the matter of Cozbi, …”


A public (and eternal) record is made of the prince and princess who were killed for their sin by zellous Phinehas. God often has Israel create memories of significant events to remind them of Him. When they crossed the Jordan river on dry ground, they set up stones of remembrance. Here, Moses recorded the names so they could remember God’s judgement and have a holy fear of Him.

In the second paragraph, I’m struck by “deceived”, the Midianites deceived Israel. How? By tempting them with sex, basically, which led to idolatry. God warns us against deception. 1 Corinthians 6:9 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,” In Revelation 12:9 we learn the source of deception: “And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”

Let us be wise to deception, the work of the Devil. Needless to say we don’t want to engage in his practices.


*jealous with My jealousy*

Numbers 25:10-13

10 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 11 “Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has averted My wrath from the sons of Israel in that he was jealous with My jealousy among them, so that I did not destroy the sons of Israel in My jealousy. 12 Therefore say, ‘Behold, I am giving him My covenant of peace; 13 and it shall be for him and for his descendants after him, a covenant of a permanent priesthood, because he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.’”


Yesterday we saw Phinehas’s bold action to purge the sin right in front of them. Here, God recognizes, honors and blesses him. He was “jealous with My jealousy”. What is God jealous about? You and me, the people He created. He created mankind to worship Him and enjoy fellowship with Him. When that is incorrectly directed to any other thing, God is jealous. It’s more than a jealousy like we may have, a selfish one, wanting something for ourselves only. He’s jealous for us to fulfil our design, our purpose, since it’s best for us.

I noticed God says that Phinehas will be blessed with a permanent priesthood. Since he would die and all his descendents would die, how could it be permanent? The key seems to be, “he was jealous for his God and made atonement for the sons of Israel.” How is that the key? To me, it points to Jesus, who made atonement for Israel (and all mankind) and lives forever. It seems Phinehas was a type of Christ.


*Take action against sin*

Numbers 25:4-9

4 And the Lord said to Moses, “Take all the leaders of the people and execute them in broad daylight before the Lord, so that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.” 5 So Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you kill his men who have become followers of Baal of Peor.”

6 Then behold, one of the sons of Israel came and brought to his relatives a Midianite woman, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the sons of Israel, while they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from the midst of the congregation and took a spear in his hand, 8 and he went after the man of Israel into the inner room of the tent and pierced both of them, the man of Israel and the woman, through the abdomen. So the plague on the sons of Israel was brought to a halt. 9 But those who died from the plague were twenty-four thousand in number.


This sin of Israel was not just idolatry, not just fornication, but it was with non-Jewis women. The public nature of the sin demanded quick, public display of judgement. Moses was commanded by the Lord to execute the offenders. 

Then one of the offenders had the boldness and audacity to participate right in front of Moses and the elders, in front of the Tent of Meeting! They were weeping over the sin and the plague which was killing 24K of them. Phinehas took action. He didn’t just sit and watch and lament. It could be that Phinehas was the first to perform the execution God has commanded Moses and the zeel with which he acted satisfied God’s judgement. We’ll see more of God’s praise of Phinehas tomorrow.


*Balaam’s epitaph: sold to the Devil*

Numbers 25:1-3

1 While Israel remained at Shittim, the people began to commit infidelity with the daughters of Moab. 2 For they invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 So Israel became followers of Baal of Peor, and the Lord was angry with Israel.


It is certainly sad whenever God’s own people sin, but woe to the one who leads them to sin. Who instigated the sin here? Balaam. Numbers 31:16 tells us, “Look, these [are the women who] caused the Israelites, by the counsel of Balaam, to trespass against the LORD in the matter of Peor, and so a plague came among the congregation of the LORD.(AMP)”. Balaam counseled the Moabites to send their women among the Jews to cause them to sin and lead them away from the Lord. He had already sinned by going with Balak’s men and “… loved gain from wrongdoing” (2 Peter 2:15 ESV). God made it very clear He would only bless Israel and He used Balaam to pronounce blessing on Israel and even destruction on Israel’s enemies. So why did Balaam persist in his sin? W. Roberts suggests, “He would not touch Israel himself. He dare not utter a word against them; but he could whisper suggestions of evil into the ears of others, that they might execute the diabolical design.” Sounds a lot like how the Devil operates! If you weren’t sure at the start of this account, it should be clear now that Balaam, though a prophet and used by God, was not such a good guy. We’ll see later in Numbers how he meets his demise through the ones whom he was to curse.


*Plans for evil frustrated+*

Numbers 24:10-25 (selections)

10 Then Balak’s anger burned against Balaam, and he struck his hands together; and Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, but behold, you have persisted in blessing them these three times! 11 So flee to your place now. I said I would honor you greatly, but behold, the Lord has held you back from honor.” 12 And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not in fact tell your messengers whom you had sent to me, saying, 13 ‘If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything contrary to the command of the Lord, either good or bad, of my own accord. What the Lord speaks, I will speak’? 14 So now, behold, I am going to my people; come, and I will advise you of what this people will do to your people in the days to come.” 15 Then he took up his discourse and said,…25 Then Balaam arose, and he departed and returned to his place, and Balak also went on his way.


So here we have Balak, a king of a large kingdom who senses impending doom then desperately sends for a religious superman (in his thinking) from far away for big bucks to come help. When Balaam not only didn’t curse Israel, Balak’s source of fear of destruction, he actually blessed them, he could have spit fire he was so mad. It seems  an understatement to translate it as, “struck his hands together”. I believe he was wanting to have Balaam’s head between his hands when he struck his hands together! God had His way, His higher, perfect way, and used Balak’s evil intent and Balaam’s sin to accomplish it.

Not only that, Balaam went on to prophesy  destruction on the nations in that area – including Balak (verses 16-24) for a total of 7 oracles or discourses. Balak’s plans were more than frustrated, they were turned against him. Thankfully for Balaam, Balak didn’t kill him! We’ll see tomorrow the final outcome of this episode. Suffice it to say God’s will will be done. Best to seek it and align ourselves with it.


*What a merciful God!*

Numbers 24:1-9 (AMP)

1 When Balaam saw that it pleased the Lord to bless Israel, he did not go as he had done each time before [superstitiously] to seek omens and signs [in the natural world], but he set his face toward the wilderness (desert). 2 And Balaam raised his eyes and he saw Israel living in their tents tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came on him. 3 He took up his [third] discourse (oracle) and said:

“The oracle of Balaam the son of Beor, and the oracle of the man whose eye is opened [at last, to see clearly the purpose and will of God], 4 The oracle of one who hears the words of God, Who sees the vision of the Almighty, Falling down, but having his eyes open and uncovered, 

5 How fair are your tents, O Jacob,

And your tabernacles, O Israel! …

9 “He bowed down [to rest], he lies down as a lion;

And as a lioness, who dares to rouse him?

Blessed [of God] is he who blesses you,

And cursed [of God] is he who curses you.”


Three times God opposed Balaam on his way to Balak. Three times Balak requested Balaam to curse Israel. Is this a coincidence? Let’s look further. The third time God opposed Balaam, He opened Balam’s eyes. The third time Balaam seeks God at Balaak’s request is different.

The first two times, Balaam superstitiously used omens and signs to seek God. These two times, God gave His word how? 23:16 says, “Then the Lord met Balaam and put a word in his mouth, and said, “Return to Balak, and this is what you shall speak.”” The third time, however, Balaam finally realized God would only bless Israel so he simply gazed at Israel and the Spirit of God came on him and he spoke. Anything instructive in this?

What is truly amazing is God’s mercy. In Balaam’s (total of 7) discourses we hear many blessings on Israel and defeat for their enemies. We look back at the 40 years of rebellion and unfaithfulness of Israel in the wilderness we’ve studied these past weeks and wonder: What kind of God is this who will choose a people and be faithful to them and even bless them when they act like His enemies? Then I see me and my rebellion. I can only say, “Thank you God for your mercy!”


*Romans 8:28 in the OT*

Numbers 23 (selections)

1 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Build seven altars for me here, and prepare seven bulls and seven rams for me here.” 2 Balak did just as Balaam had spoken, and Balak and Balaam offered up a bull and a ram on each altar. 3 Then Balaam said to Balak, “Stand beside your burnt offering, and I will go; perhaps the Lord will come to meet me, and whatever He shows me I will tell you.” So he went to a bare hill.

4 Now God met with Balaam, and he said to Him, “I have set up the seven altars, and I have offered up a bull and a ram on each altar.” 5 Then the Lord put a word in Balaam’s mouth and said, “Return to Balak, and this is what you shall speak.” …

11 Then Balak said to Balaam, “What have you done to me? I took you to put a curse on my enemies, but behold, you have actually blessed them!” 12 He replied, “Must I not be careful to speak what the Lord puts in my mouth?”


Balaam and Balak are at a temple of their god, Baal, overlooking just a portion of the Israel camp. God had made it clear at the beginning that Israel will not be cursed and Balaam was not to go. Nevertheless, Balaam went, and God chose to use his sinful disobedience and compromise to accomplish His good will – to bless Israel; He works out Romans 8:28 here in the OT. I find it so interesting how God superintends the situation and the personalities while allowing free will. Two other thoughts:

1) Curious wording. With Moses, God would tell Moses, “Speak to the people…”, like in Numbers 16:23 “Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from the areas around the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’”” Here, however, He “puts the word in Balaam’s mouth” – almost like Balaam didn’t know what the word was until he actually spoke it to Balak. If that’s the case, it might have been to make sure Balaam didn’t change the message. Any other thoughts?

2) Have to give Balaam some credit, for in each interaction with Balak he refused to curse but only bless Israel – probably due to a healthy fear of the Almighty God.


*Partial obedience*

Numbers 22:36-41

36 When Balak heard that Balaam was coming, he went out to meet him at the city of Moab, which is on the Arnon border, at the extreme end of the border. 37 Then Balak said to Balaam, “Did I not urgently send word to you to call for you? Why did you not come to me? Am I really unable to honor you?” 38 So Balaam said to Balak, “Behold, I have come to you now! Am I really able to speak anything? The word that God puts in my mouth, that only shall I speak.” 39 And Balaam went with Balak, and they came to Kiriath-huzoth. 40 Balak sacrificed oxen and sheep, and sent some to Balaam and the leaders who were with him.

41 Then it came about in the morning that Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, and he saw from there a portion of the people.


Balaam continued on the journey. When he met Balak, he responded to his chastening by reciting the command from the Lord. This is good. He’s put to the test three times as we’ll shortly see and each time he only says what God tells him – which is pronouncing blessing on Israel. He’ll even go as far as to pronounce judgement on the people of that area! This is obedience. Yet we’ll also see his sin against God’s people and hence, God. It seems he was obedient to the command itself but harbored evil intent and desire so was not obedient to the intent of the command, nor the Command Giver. Why did God speak to him and use him? It’s due to His grace, to accomplish His will, to bless Israel. Earlier we said God will use whatever means to ordain praise and do His will. Well, this includes evil men.


*Real repentance?*

Numbers 22:31-35

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the way with his sword drawn in his hand; and he bowed all the way to the ground. 32 Then the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? Behold, I have come out as an adversary, because your way was reckless and contrary to me. 33 But the donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away from me, I certainly would have killed you just now, and let her live.” 34 So Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the way against me. Now then, if it is displeasing to you, I will turn back.” 35 But the angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but you shall speak only the word that I tell you.” So Balaam went along with the representatives of Balak.


God opened Balaam’s eyes and he saw the angel of the Lord who had been opposing his trip. God’s mercy allowed the donkey to see the angel and aid in protecting Balaam’s life. Balaam confesses his sin. Was this genuine repentance? Surely only God knows, but it may be inactive to consider this exchange. Is he confessing the actual sin from the first encounter; his decision to go with Balak’s men after God already told him not to? Or, is he confessing just that he didn’t recognize the angel of the Lord opposing him? Then he asks if he should return? I believe he should have just turned around and headed back; that is repentance. If, as it appears, God wanted him to go, God could have accepted his repentance and then told him to continue. My sense is Balaam was still angling to get to King Balak and get his pockets lined. Have you ever known clearly God’s will but chosen to compromise and do what you wanted, maybe with an attempt to do His will but in your own way? I’m raising my hand; it happens too often. Do I obey His will? When I don’t, do I confess the actual sin or just its consequences? 


*Bad boy Balaam *

Numbers 22:22-30

22 But God was angry that he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the road as an adversary against him. Now he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn in his hand, the donkey turned off from the road and went into the field; and Balaam struck the donkey to guide her back onto the road. 24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path of the vineyards, with a stone wall on this side and on that side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she pressed herself against the wall and pressed Balaam’s foot against the wall, so he struck her again. 26 Then the angel of the Lord went further, and stood in a narrow place where there was no way to turn to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam was angry and struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 And Balaam said to the donkey, “It is because you have made a mockery of me! If only there had been a sword in my hand! For I would have killed you by now!” 30 But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I ever been in the habit of doing such a thing to you?” And he said, “No.”


This is a long story. It gives us some insight into how God works; how He deals with rebellion and uses what was meant for evil for good, His good. One thing is clear, Balaam sinned in deciding to go with the men from Balak. In the coming days, we’ll see how God worked this for good; and tomorrow, how Balaam confessed his sin. The angel from God opposed Balaam three times. The donkey had sense to see and respond, and was even enabled to speak. [Note, this is not a passage to prove that animals have spirits and the like.] One thing we can learn is that God can speak through anyone or anything – even rocks (Luke 19:40 – “Jesus replied, ‘I tell you, if these stop speaking, the stones will cry out!’”). God deserves praise. Psalm 19:1 ESV “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Though this is not an audible voice as with the donkey, the point is that God will use many means to ordain praise, even us! So let’s praise Him!


*God said no but I’ll still go*

Numbers 22:15-21

5 Then Balak sent representatives once again, more numerous and more distinguished than the previous. 16 They came to Balaam and said to him, “This is what Balak the son of Zippor says: ‘I beg you, let nothing keep you from coming to me; 17 for I will indeed honor you richly, and I will do whatever you tell me. Please come then, curse this people for me.’” 18 But Balaam replied to the servants of Balak, “Even if Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not do anything, either small or great, contrary to the command of the Lord my God. 19 Now please, you also stay here tonight, and I will find out what else the Lord will say to me.” 20 And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, rise and go with them; but you shall do only the thing that I tell you.” 21 So Balaam arose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the leaders of Moab.


Seems innocent enough. Balak sends another request to Balaam but “ups the ante” to persuade him to come. We know from yesterday that Balaam, “loved gain from wrongdoing”. He had the blessing of being a prophet of God yet he desired to squander it for pleasure and riches. JFB commentary summarizes his compromise: “The divine will, as formerly declared, not being according to his desires, he hoped by a second request to bend it, as he had already bent his own conscience, to his ruling passions of pride and covetousness. The permission granted to Balaam is in accordance with the ordinary procedure of Providence. God often gives up men to follow the impulse of their own lusts; but there is no approval in thus leaving them to act at the prompting of their own wicked hearts”. Balaam knew God’s will but wanted the money so sought to bend God’s will to align with his own. God permitted Balaam but did not not sanction his sin, his disobedience. God did not change his will on the matter. In fact, he used Balaam’s disobedience for His own plans as we’ll see. I believe prayer is the opposite, it’s changing the future (including our will) to align to God’s perfect will.


*God’s clear command*

Numbers 22:7-14 (ESV)

7 So the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the fees for divination in their hand. And they came to Balaam and gave him Balak’s message. 8 And he said to them, “Lodge here tonight, and I will bring back word to you, as the LORD speaks to me.” So the princes of Moab stayed with Balaam. 9 And God came to Balaam and said, “Who are these men with you?” 10 And Balaam said to God, “Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, has sent to me, saying, 11 ‘Behold, a people has come out of Egypt, and it covers the face of the earth. Now come, curse them for me. Perhaps I shall be able to fight against them and drive them out.’” 12 God said to Balaam, “You shall not go with them. You shall not curse the people, for they are blessed.” 13 So Balaam rose in the morning and said to the princes of Balak, “Go to your own land, for the LORD has refused to let me go with you.” 14 So the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.”


It’s pretty clear what’s going on here – King Balak wants Balaam to come and see the situation and curse Israel so he can defend his kingdom. Seems reasonable for such an ungodly king. But it’s opposed to God. God’s plan and purpose is to bless Israel and bring them to the promised land so He won’t allow or pay heed to any curses. It seems Balaam got it right – this first time. God condescends to visit Balaam and give clear instructions to not curse Israel. It appears Balaam heeded the instructions since he boldly told them, “God said ‘No.’, so go home.” He seems to turn down the money, the prestige, the fame. Or was he just playing with God’s command and playing hard to get with the king in order to get more money? Speaking of false teachers in 2 Peter 2:15 Peter let’s us know, “Forsaking the right way, they have gone astray. They have followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved gain from wrongdoing,”(ESV)


*crazed cry for cursing*

Numbers 22:1-6

1 Then the sons of Israel journeyed on, and camped in the plains of Moab beyond the Jordan opposite Jericho. 2 Now Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. 3 So Moab was in great fear because of the people, for they were numerous; and Moab was in dread of the sons of Israel. 4 Moab said to the elders of Midian, “Now this horde will eat up all that is around us, as the ox eats up the grass of the field!” And Balak the son of Zippor was king of Moab at that time. 5 So he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor, at Pethor, which is near the Euphrates River, in the land of the sons of his people, to call for him, saying, “Behold, a people came out of Egypt; behold, they have covered the surface of the land, and they are living opposite me. 6 Now, therefore, please come, curse this people for me since they are too mighty for me; perhaps I will be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land. For I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.”


Balak, the king of Moab, and all of Moab “was in dread of the sons of Israel”, as God had said in Deut 2:25: “This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.” Balak knew he was up against a power which he didn’t have military might to contend with so he called for spiritual help. We’ll see tomorrow this was “big bucks business”. He sent for Baalam who lived quite a distance away. He was desperate and sent out this crazed cry for cursing of Israel. This encounter will leave some questions in our minds but we’ll try to sort through them as we go along and learn more. Is Baalam actually a prophet of God? Why does God still deal with him after his disobedience? But we want to keep the big picture of how God is working with Israel and a bit of how that relates to us. For now, know that as we serve the Lord, we will face opposition; it is primarily spiritual in nature.


*God is with us*

Numbers 21: 27-35 (AMP)

31 Thus Israel settled in the land of the Amorites. 32 Now Moses sent men to spy out Jazer, and they overthrew its villages and dispossessed the Amorites who were there.

33 Then they turned and went up by the way of Bashan; and Og the king of Bashan went out against them, he and all his people, to battle at Edrei. 34 But the Lord said to Moses, “Do not fear him, for I have handed over him and all his people and his land to you; and you shall do to him just as you did to Sihon king of the Amorites, who lived at Heshbon.” 35 So the sons of Israel killed Og and his sons and all his people, until there was no survivor left to him; and they took possession of his land.


V27-30 is a poem about the history of the area. The conquest of Amorites continues with Jazer. Then they proceed and King Og opposes them. From Deuteronomy 3:11 we know that Og was a giant; maybe 13’ tall. God encouraged Moses in advance not to fear him. As He has done in the past, He will do in the future for Israel and, for us. Israel summarily wiped them out and possessed their land. This was all on the East side of the Jordan river; the promised land is on the West side. God is preparing them as they transition from nomadic wanderings to living in the land, the promised land. God calls them to a task, encourages them and as they go in faith, He is with them doing the work only He can do. Get the idea?


*The backstory*

Numbers 21:21-26

21 Then Israel sent messengers to Sihon, king of the Amorites, saying, 22 “Let me pass through your land. We will not turn off into field or vineyard; we will not drink water from wells. We will go by the king’s road until we have passed through your border.” 23 But Sihon would not permit Israel to pass through his border. Instead, Sihon gathered all his people and went out against Israel in the wilderness, and came to Jahaz and fought against Israel. 24 Then Israel struck him with the edge of the sword, and took possession of his land from the Arnon to the Jabbok, as far as the sons of Ammon; for the border of the sons of Ammon was Jazer. 25 Israel took all these cities, and Israel lived in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon and in all her villages. 26 For Heshbon was the city of Sihon, king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab and had taken all his land out of his hand, as far as the Arnon. 


Thankfully God’s Word often gives us multiple versions of the same event. The Gospels are the best example: four different authors writing about Jesus’ life, focusing on different aspects, often different events with different purposes/emphasis. Same here. God gives us the first chapters of Deuteronomy as a quick summary of the movements of Israel but also some of the backstory – including much historical detail about other nations of the time in the area. In Dt 2:8-9 we see God’s instructions to Israel to not bother Edom or Moab for He had given them to Esau and Lot’s descents (respectively). In verse 24, we see God’s hand and plan: “24‘Arise, set out, and pass through the valley of Arnon. Look! I have given Sihon the Amorite, king of Heshbon, and his land into your hand; begin to take possession and contend with him in battle.”  Then in V25, we see God’s continued protection and blessing on Israel: “This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you upon the peoples everywhere under the heavens, who, when they hear the report of you, will tremble and be in anguish because of you.” 


*Transition time*

Numbers 21:10-20 (selections)

10 Now the sons of Israel moved out and camped in Oboth. 11 Then they journeyed from Oboth and camped at Iye-abarim, in the wilderness which is opposite Moab, to the east…18…And from the wilderness they continued to Mattanah, 19 and from Mattanah to Nahaliel, and from Nahaliel to Bamoth, 20 and from Bamoth to the valley that is in the land of Moab, at the top of Pisgah, which overlooks the desert.


Israel is now in transition time from wilderness wandering to procuring the promised land :). It’s been almost 40 years of wandering filled with giving of laws, miraculous provisions, establishment of the sacrificial system and the priesthood, but also with complaining and rebellion and judgement. In all of this, God keeps His promise to Abraham to make him into a nation and bring them back to the land He promised to Abraham. They now migrate to the area east of the Jordan to prepare to enter the promised land. They will begin to fight other nations in earnest. Moses will die. More miracles (like the wall of Jericho falling down) will happen and they’ll be established in their land. This site has a map of this last stage of the journey.



*Look to the S and live*

Numbers 21:4-9 (ESV)

4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.


And here we go again. Israel gets impatient and frustrated then complains…against God. God sends judgement for their sin in the way of snakes whose bite would kill. Israel confessed, Moses interceded and God sent a solution. Notice that God didn’t remove the snakes. He sent a cure for the bite. The bitten person must, in faith, look to the snake to be healed.

And here WE go again. We complain to God often, mostly in small ways, sometimes indirectly by seeking a solution outside His will. And God has provided a solution; not a snake in a pole but a Savior on a cross. Whoever confesses their sin, repents, and looks to Him in faith is saved.

Aside: did you ever notice the medical symbol is a snake on a pole? Look again.


*Annihilate wickedness*

Numbers 21:1-3 (AMP)

When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negev (the South country) heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim [the route traveled by the spies sent out by Moses], he fought against Israel and took some of them captive. 2 So Israel made a vow to the Lord, and said, “If You will indeed hand over these people to me, then I will utterly destroy their cities.” 3 The Lord heard the voice of Israel and handed over the Canaanites; then they utterly destroyed them and their cities. So the name of the place was called Hormah (dedicate to destruction).


Arron is dead and the next challenge arises. The Canaanite king of Arad attacks Israel and takes some captive. Israel rises to the challenge in a godly manner. They don’t run away in fear or start complaining about why God let this happen, why didn’t He protect them, why did Moses lead them here to die, etc. No, they vowed to God that if He would fight for them, they would annihilate these people. God granted their request as it was His will to wipe out the people in the promised land (PL). But why would God do this? I want to take a moment to discuss this. God selected the PL for Israel. The people living in the land were wicked. God needed to cleanse the land of this wickedness so Israel could live there with God as their Monarch. Of course, Israel was full of sinners but God’s presence and their abiding in His law and sacrifices would keep the land pure (relatively). In some ways, it was like Heaven. So in the rest of this book and as they capture the PL in Joshua, and other books, there are many battles where God has Israel annihilate the people of the land to rid if of their wickedness. He also instructs and warns Israel to not take up any of their wicked practices, worship and gods. Alas, we know they do. God is leading us to THE PL. He has cleansed us. We need to abide in Him, trust Him, follow Him and His Word. We need to annihilate wickedness.


*The Death of Aaron*

Numbers 20:22-29 (ESV)

22 And they journeyed from Kadesh, and the people of Israel, the whole congregation, came to Mount Hor. 23 And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron at Mount Hor, on the border of the land of Edom, 24 “Let Aaron be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land that I have given to the people of Israel, because you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. 25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son and bring them up to Mount Hor. 26 And strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron shall be gathered to his people and shall die there.” 27 Moses did as the LORD commanded. And they went up Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. 28 And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son. And Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. 29 And when all the congregation saw that Aaron had perished, all the house of Israel wept for Aaron thirty days.


The death of Aaron was a big deal. Imagine how difficult it was for Moses, Aaron was his brother after all and his sister Miriam had just died. Aaron was the first official High Priest. Aaron was a type of Christ, the last High Priest who was from an order of priests different and better than the Aaronic priesthood, the priesthood of Melchizedek – Heb. 6:20. Hebrews 7:23 – 25 tells us, “The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, 24 but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” V25 is a wonderful verse to memorize and meditate on. John Piper suggests that Jesus will, through eternity, continually intercede with the Father for us, for our sins.


*share the truth without shame*

Numbers 20:14-21

14 From Kadesh Moses then sent messengers to the king of Edom to say, “This is what your brother Israel has said: ‘You know all the hardship that has overtaken us; 15 that our fathers went down to Egypt, and we stayed in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians treated us and our fathers badly. 16 But when we cried out to the Lord, He heard our voice and sent an angel, and brought us out from Egypt; now behold, we are at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. 17 Please let us pass through your land. We will not pass through field or vineyard; we will not even drink water from a well. We will go along the king’s road, not turning to the right or left, until we pass through your territory.’”

18 Edom, however, said to him, “You shall not pass through us, or I will come out with the sword against you.” 19 Again, the sons of Israel said to him, “We will go up by the road, and if I and my livestock do drink any of your water, then I will pay its price. Let me only pass through on my feet, nothing more.” 20 But he said, “You shall not pass through.” And Edom came out against him with a heavy force and a strong hand. 21 So Edom refused to allow Israel to pass through his territory; then Israel turned away from him.


What strikes me about this passage is Moses’ testimony to the king of Edom. He recounts a brief history of Israel from the time Jacob (Israel) was separated from Esau (Edom). In the middle of his request to pass through their territory, Moses points to God as their Savior who brought them out of slavery and is leading them (to the promised land). Moses was not ashamed to “tell it like it is” which included the Lord as the central figure. Maybe his hope was the Edomites had chosen to worship the Lord so would indeed be brothers and grant them passage. Not so, they rebuffed Moses so Israel acquiesced and went the other way, the long way. Likewise we should share the truth without shame. A testimony of how God worked in our life is a natural and appealing way that cannot be argued with. Go for it!


*Moses loses the promised land*

Numbers 20:7-13

7 then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the staff; and you and your brother Aaron assemble the congregation and speak to the rock before their eyes, that it shall yield its water. So you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and have the congregation and their livestock drink.”

9 So Moses took the staff from before the Lord, just as He had commanded him; 10 and Moses and Aaron summoned the assembly in front of the rock. And he said to them, “Listen now, you rebels; shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses raised his hand and struck the rock twice with his staff; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their livestock drank. 12 But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Since you did not trust in Me, to treat Me as holy in the sight of the sons of Israel, for that reason you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” 13 Those were called the waters of Meribah, because the sons of Israel argued with the Lord, and He proved Himself holy among them.


This was their second time to this place after 38 years of wilderness wandering. It seems likely that this must have been the same rock – notice God says, “the rock”. The first time this water situation occurred, in Exodus 17:6, God told Moses to strike the rock, but this time He tells him to speak to it. Moses didn’t speak to the rock but he struck it two times. Maybe he didn’t think speaking to a rock would have an effect. He didn’t speak to the rock, rather, he lambasted the people, “you rebels” he said. I’m in no position to judge him, we’re just looking to understand why the consequences are so severe – that Moses and Aaron couldn’t enter the promised land.  The punishment was the same as Israel who responded in disbelief when the spies gave their report – that God was unable to provide and protect them when they entered the land. It seems Moses allowed his anger to get the best of him to the extent He dishonored God in front of the people and didn’t trust Him. Moses didn’t treat God as holy before Israel but v13 says He [God] proved Himself holy among them. 

Moses was shut out of the promised land but not THE Promised Land. This is a comfort for us who, like Moses (and more so) distrust God and take things into our own hands. We can still know by faith, we are forgiven and accepted.


*Miriam dies; major transition*

Numbers 20:1-6

1 Then the sons of Israel, the whole congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month; and the people stayed at Kadesh. Now Miriam died there and was buried there.

2 There was no water for the congregation, and they assembled against Moses and Aaron. 3 Then the people argued with Moses and spoke, saying, “If only we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! 4 Why then have you brought the Lord’s assembly into this wilderness, for us and our livestock to die here? 5 Why did you make us come up from Egypt, to bring us into this wretched place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, nor is there water to drink!” 6 Then Moses and Aaron came in from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them; 


A few historical facts to note about this juncture. Miriam, elder sister of Moses, died. This was a loss of a key leader for the nation. There didn’t seem to be much fanfare but I guess there was. The “first month” is the 40th year – based on the context of Aaron dying in 33:38 on the 1st day of the 5th month of the 40th year. There is a gap of about 38 years in between that Moses didn’t record. Whether the complaining continued the whole time or subsided until this point when Miriam died, we don’t know. This was now their 2nd time at Kadesh (Deut 2:14). The generation that had been delivered from Egypt had now nearly all died due to lack of trust in God in general and specifically at the report of the Promised Land by the spies. Miriam, Aaron and Moses yet remained with a few others. The new generation, who were under 20 years old at the exodus or were born in the wilderness, were now ready to enter the promised land. 

More complaining. Was it only the remaining of the old generation who complained? I think not for it says, “the people”, which would indicate the majority. My guess is the older generation infected the younger generation to carry the mantle of complaining. Let us be careful firstly to watch our attitude, to choose to give thanks, to look for ways, in every situation, to give thanks. Let us also be careful to remember the impact we have on those around us who we have influence on – to influence them for the Lord.


*Death Cooties*

Numbers 19 (selections)

Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “This is the statute of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying, ‘Speak to the sons of Israel that they bring you an unblemished red heifer in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never been mounted. 3 And you shall give it to Eleazar the priest, and it shall be brought outside the camp and be slaughtered in his presence. 4 And Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger and sprinkle some of its blood toward the front of the tent of meeting seven times. 5 Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight; its hide, its flesh, and its blood, with its refuse, shall be burned. 6 And the priest shall take cedar wood, hyssop, and scarlet material, and throw it into the midst of the burning heifer…9 Now a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them outside the camp in a clean place, and the congregation of the sons of Israel shall keep them for water to remove impurity; it is purification from sin.

11 ‘The one who touches the dead body of any person will also be unclean for seven days. 12 That one shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day, and then he will be clean;…20 ‘But the person who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off from the midst of the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord; the water for impurity has not been sprinkled on him, so he is unclean…

22 Furthermore, anything that the unclean person touches will be unclean; and the person who touches it will be unclean until evening.’”


As a kid, we used to avoid getting “cooties” from others in a kind of game. If you got it, you became infected and then could infect others. Seems like it may have had its origins from v22. The difference here is this was no game; they did indeed become unclean and if they didn’t take necessary steps to become clean, they’d be kicked out of Israel and remain forever unclean.

This chapter deals with people and things that become unclean through association with death. A special cow was sacrificed, blood was sprinkled on the temple then it was burned and it’s ashes used for holy water of cleansing. 

I like what Wesley says regarding the characteristics of the cow: “Red – A fit colour to shadow forth the bloody nature of sin, and the blood of Christ, from which this water and all other rites had their purifying virtue. No blemish – A fit type of Christ.” So we need also to be cleansed by this special sacrifice to be clean in God’s presence.


*Inheritance of the priests and Levites*

Number 18:8, 19-21, 25-26

8 Then the Lord spoke to Aaron, “Now behold,…19 All the offerings of the holy gifts, which the sons of Israel offer to the Lord, I have given to you and your sons and your daughters with you, as a permanent allotment. It is a permanent covenant of salt before the Lord to you and your descendants with you.” 20 Then the Lord said to Aaron, “You shall have no inheritance in their land nor own any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the sons of Israel.

21 “To the sons of Levi, behold, I have given all the tithe in Israel as an inheritance, in return for their service which they perform, the service of the tent of meeting.” 

25 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “Moreover, you shall speak to the Levites and say to them, ‘When you take from the sons of Israel the tithe which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then you shall present an offering from it to the Lord, a tithe of the tithe. 


This starts two chapters of laws for sacrifice and worship. In 18:8-32, we have instructions about the sacrifices; Aaron and his family get them. Whether it’s burnt offering, grain offering, sin offering, guilt offering, redemption of first-born, it all goes to them. They don’t get an inheritance in the physical promised land, rather, God gives them a special inheritance: “I am your portion and your inheritance”. In a similar fashion, we don’t look for any inheritance here on earth, or wealth or fame, we long for our Heavenly Home.

The Levites did not have an inheritance in the promised land. Rather, they also received from the rest of the nation – theirs was the tithe of Israel, a much greater amount than the offerings presumably since there were more Levites than priests. And from the tithe, they also tithed, a tithe of the tithe. It seems Aaron and his priestly family were exempt from tithing. 


*The gift of service to God*

Number 17:12-13; 18:1-7

17:12 Then the sons of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, “Behold, we are passing away, we are perishing, we are all perishing! 13 Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the Lord, must die. Are we to perish completely?” 18:1 So the Lord said to Aaron, “You, your sons, and your father’s household with you shall bear the guilt in connection with the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the guilt in connection with your priesthood. 2 But also bring your brothers with you, the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, so that they may join you and serve you, while you and your sons with you are before the tent of the testimony. 3 And they shall perform duties for you and the duties of the whole tent, but they shall not come near the furnishings of the sanctuary and the altar, or both they and you will die. … 5 So you shall perform the duties of the sanctuary and the duties of the altar, so that there will no longer be wrath on the sons of Israel. 6 Behold, I Myself have taken your fellow Levites from among the sons of Israel; they are a gift to you, dedicated to the Lord, to perform the service for the tent of meeting. 7 But you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything that concerns the altar and inside the veil, and you are to perform service. I am giving you the priesthood as a service that is a gift, and the unauthorized person who comes near shall be put to death.”


Whether the Israelites were reverent in this exclamation or returning to grumbling again, I’m not sure. God addresses this by speaking directly to Aaron (not through Moses), telling him that all the Levites including Aaron and his sons had the high honor of management of the tabernacle but, along with that come responsibility with grave consequences, bearing the guilt, i.e., so the rest of Israel didn’t. Further, Aaron and his sons alone have the privilege and responsibility for the priesthood. God gave the Levites to Aaron as a gift to help serve with the tabernacle duties. He gave the service of the priesthood as a gift, unique to Aaron and his sons. Do we consider the service we have been given by God as a gift?


*Enduring reminder not to question God*

Numbers 17:8-11 (ESV)

8 On the next day Moses went into the tent of the testimony, and behold, the staff of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds. 9 Then Moses brought out all the staffs from before the LORD to all the people of Israel. And they looked, and each man took his staff. 10 And the LORD said to Moses, “Put back the staff of Aaron before the testimony, to be kept as a sign for the rebels, that you may make an end of their grumblings against me, lest they die.” 11 Thus did Moses; as the LORD commanded him, so he did.


It was a miraculous confirmation of God’s selection of Aaron. The staff not only sprouted branches, which would have been proof enough, but it also had buds, even blossoms, even ripe almonds! It was complete, full, proof. Each man took his staff back, a staff which had been presented before the Lord; it was holy. In the future, as they handled their staff, they would have a constant visible, tangible reminder that Aaron is God’s chosen and they need not contest his authority. As we noted yesterday, this miracle had its intended effect for the rest of Israel’s future. Finally, a reminder that though they grumbled against Moses and Aaron, they weren’t actually grumbling against Moses, they were grumbling against God.

We can also note that Moses did as the Lord commanded him. Do we see a pattern here? He was faithful in his obedience to the Lord. The next question is self-evident.


*End of grumbling?*

Numbers 17:1-7

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the sons of Israel, and obtain from them a staff for each father’s household: twelve staffs, from all their leaders for their fathers’ households. You shall write each man’s name on his staff, 3 and write Aaron’s name on the staff of Levi; for there is to be one staff for the head of each of their fathers’ households. 4 You shall then leave them in the tent of meeting in front of the testimony, where I meet with you. 5 And it will come about that the staff of the man whom I choose will sprout. So I will relieve Myself of the grumblings of the sons of Israel, who are grumbling against you.” 6 So Moses spoke to the sons of Israel, and all their leaders gave him a staff, one for each leader, for their fathers’ households, twelve staffs in all, with the staff of Aaron among their staffs. 7 Then Moses left the staffs before the Lord in the tent of the testimony.


With certainty I can tell you that one of the messages in Numbers is: Don’t complain! The Israelites had become proficient at this. They complained about the Promised Land – that they couldn’t conquer it; they complained they had no food so God gave manna; they complained they had no meat so God gave birds; they complained about the arduous journey, about missing Egypt and recently, about Moses and Aaron as leaders. God responded to their complaints and gave them what they needed (and sometimes what they desired) but also punished them to remind them who is God – not them! And not us! Do we accept our situation in life with thanksgiving and actively look for ways to give thanks in all circumstances? (1 Thessalonians 5:18)

Yesterday, the swallowing up of Korah and the rebels plus the 250 was to show that Aaron in particular, is the High Priest and only He could serve in the temple. This test of the staffs (a sign of royalty or leadership) was to reconfirm with absolute clarity which tribe God had selected for His work of the temple (in and out) as already laid out earlier in chapters 8 and 10. God said it was, “So I will relieve Myself of the grumblings of the sons of Israel, who are grumbling against you.” No more grumblings? No more grumblings against Moses and Aaron as God’s chosen leaders. This wasn’t done for God since He knew in advance all their grumblings, both past and future. This was for the people. As Clarke points out, “God therefore took the method described in the text, and it had the desired effect; the Aaronical priesthood was never after disputed.”


*Not again!*

Numbers 16:41-50

41 But on the next day all the congregation of the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You are the ones who have caused the death of the Lord’s people!” 42 It came about, however, when the congregation had assembled against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tent of meeting, and behold, the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron came to the front of the tent of meeting, 44 and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 45 “Get away from among this congregation so that I may consume them instantly.” Then they fell on their faces. 46 And Moses said to Aaron, “Take your censer and put fire in it from the altar, and place incense on it; then bring it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them, for wrath has gone out from the Lord, the plague has begun!” 47 Then Aaron took it just as Moses had spoken, and he ran into the midst of the assembly; and behold, the plague had begun among the people. So he put on the incense and made atonement for the people. 48 And he took his stand between the dead and the living, so that the plague was brought to a halt. 49 But those who died by the plague were 14,700 in number, besides those who died on account of Korah. 50 Then Aaron returned to Moses at the entrance of the tent of meeting, for the plague had been brought to a halt.


Not again! I warned you a few days ago that we’d hit a series of these. This is not the end of their complaining. What makes it all the more aggravating is that it was the congregation, led by Korah, that sinned and brought judgement from God on themselves. Moses and Aaron are so used to this that as soon as Israel started grumbling and God came down, they knew trouble was about to happen. God, for the about fourth time now, tells them to stand back so He can wipe them out. They bow down in reverence. There is no record of them even asking God to stay His judgement; they take action immediately. The key verse has to be, “he took his stand between the dead and the living” (v 48) to make atonement for the people (v47). Aaron, the High Priest, was a type of Christ. Christ, as we know, stands between us and judgement to make atonement for us. Jesus is the perfect High Priest. Thank Him that He stands in the gap, separating us from God’s judgement for our sin. He became sin for us.


*Warning memorial*

Numbers 16:36-40 (AMP)

36 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 37 “Tell Eleazar the son of Aaron, the priest, that he is to pick up the censers from the midst of the blaze for they are holy; and you scatter the burning coals abroad. 38 As for the censers of these people who have sinned at the cost of their lives, have the censers made into hammered sheets as a plating for the altar [of burnt offering], for they were presented before the Lord and they are sacred. They shall be a [warning] sign to the sons of Israel.” 39 So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers which the Levites who were burned had offered, and they were hammered out [into broad sheets] as a plating for the [bronze] altar [of burnt offering], 40 as a reminder to the sons of Israel so that no layman—that is, one who is not of the descendants of Aaron should approach to offer incense before the Lord; so that he will not become like Korah and as his company—just as the Lord had said to him through Moses.


God slew these 250 for presuming their own way of worship and service. God ordered Eleazar to collect the censers and mold them into plates. He didn’t ask Aaron to collect the censers. Commentators suggest that is so that Aaron, the High Priest, would not be defiled by touching dead bodies. We also see the burned incense were to be scattered abroad, meaning outside the camp. My guess is that since they were used in an improper way, God didn’t want them to contaminate the space where Israel, His people, lived.

God loves His people. He establishes the proper way to approach Him and worship Him. We sin when we violate that and, in this case, incur immediate consequences. God will not allow His name to be profaned. He ordered that the censers be molded into plates to add to the altar where offerings were burned. This would serve as a reminder to anyone else who tried to violate God’s laws, especially regarding proper worship. We serve a Holy God; respect and worship Him so.


*Judgment for rebellion*

Numbers 16:23-35

23 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from the areas around the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’” 25 Then Moses arose and went to Dathan and Abiram, with the elders of Israel following him, 26 and he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Get away now from the tents of these wicked men, and do not touch anything that belongs to them, or you will be swept away in all their sin!” 27 So they moved away from the areas around the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the entrances of their tents, along with their wives, their sons, and their little ones. 28 Then Moses said, “By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these deeds; for it is not my doing. 29 If these men die the death of all mankind, or if they suffer the fate of all mankind, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord brings about an entirely new thing and the ground opens its mouth and swallows them with everything that is theirs, and they descend alive into Sheol, then you will know that these men have been disrespectful to the Lord.”

31 And as he finished speaking all these words, the ground that was under them split open; 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, their households, and all the people who belonged to Korah with all their possessions. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive to Sheol; and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 Then all Israel who were around them fled at their outcry, for they said, “The earth might swallow us!” 35 Fire also came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.


What’s the real issue, their underlying sin? Is it the rejection of Moses? No, “these men have been disrespectful to the Lord.” Somehow God gave Moses a premonition of what was about to happen. He warned the bystanders to back away, to separate themselves from sin so God could judge. And judge He did – in a miraculous way that proved Moses and Aaron were God’s chosen leaders, Korah and his band were rebellious, and God is God. God caused the ground to open up like a giant Florida sinkhole. They were judged for this sin of rebellion. Then He sent fire to instantly burn up the 250 Levites who rebelled and assumed the role of priest that only Aaron and his sons were called to fill. They actually became a burnt offering; no joke. When they offered the incense, they presumed for themselves a holy work that they weren’t supposed to or called to do. 

We might ask ourselves if we’re stepping into or already doing a holy work we’re not called to do. It may not have such grave consequences but it could be sin nonetheless – like choosing a ministry we want to do rather than what God called and equipped us for, one that is more difficult. 


*Here we go again!*

Numbers 16:16-22

16 Moses said to Korah, “You and all your group be present before the Lord tomorrow, you and they along with Aaron. 17 And each of you take his censer and put incense on it, and each of you bring his censer before the Lord, 250 censers; also you and Aaron shall each bring his censer.” 18 So they took, each one his own censer, and put fire on it, and placed incense on it; and they stood at the entrance of the tent of meeting, with Moses and Aaron. 19 So Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the entrance of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.

20 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 21 “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, so that I may consume them instantly.” 22 But they fell on their faces and said, “God, the God of the spirits of humanity, when one person sins, will You be angry with the entire congregation?”


The showdown is arranged – Aaron and Moses vs Koah and his 250 leaders of the congregation will stand before God at the tent of meeting (tabernacle) to see who God accepts. This was a foolishly bold but siccincely definitive method proposed by Moses. Only the priests appointed by God could do this – and live to tell about it. Here we go again. Korah boldly (and foolishly) did not consider the weight of the situation and accepted the duel. The whole congregation was there – maybe for the show, influenced by the evil leaders.

Indeed God appeared. What does he say? “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, so that I may consume them instantly.” God is holy. He must be worshiped in holiness, according to His acceptable way, not man’s, by those who “worship in spirit and truth” as Jesus said to the woman at the well in John 4:24. We’ve seen this threat before. Moses (and Aaron) respond again with humility, with an appeal to the Lord – to His character, reputation, love and mercy.

I’m convicted about my lack of seriousness, diligence, sense of urgency in my prayers for the nations, for mankind as a whole and as individuals. 


*Flipping the Facts*

Numbers 16:12-15 (AMP)

12 Then Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab; but they said [defiantly], “We will not come up. 13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land [of plenty] flowing with milk and honey to kill us in the wilderness, but you would also lord it over us? 14 Indeed, you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us an inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you gouge out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!”

15 Then Moses became very angry and said to the Lord, “Pay no attention to their offering! I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I harmed any one of them.” 


Can you relate to Moses, with how angry he became? These guys, Dathan and Abiram, were rejecting his authority, authority which was given by God; they were rejecting God. They were defiant in their rejection; they wouldn’t even come to meet Moses. Not only that, they flipped the facts. 1) They called Egypt a land of milk and honey (blessing and prosperity) when in fact it was a land of hard labor. 2) They said Moses was acting like a slavedriver when in fact he was very humble and was appointed by God – even against his own will. 3) They blamed Moses for not bringing them to the promised land when in fact it was their own disobedience and faithlessness that kept them out. Moses must have been frustrated beyond belief; not just for their defiance and lies, but Moses knew they would suffer consequences at the hand of Almighty God, the One they were really defying. 

Let’s make sure we call a spade a spade and don’t try to twist the truth to our advantage for that is ludicrous considering we serve an omniscient God; He cannot be fooled.


*You’ve gone too far*

Numbers 16:1-11 (ESV)

1 Now Korah the son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men. 2 And they rose up before Moses, with a number of the people of Israel, 250 chiefs of the congregation, chosen from the assembly, well-known men. 3 They assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron and said to them, “You have gone too far! For all in the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” 4 When Moses heard it, he fell on his face,… “You have gone too far, sons of Levi!” 8 And Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: 9 is it too small a thing for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself, to do service in the tabernacle of the LORD and to stand before the congregation to minister to them, 10 and that he has brought you near him, and all your brothers the sons of Levi with you? And would you seek the priesthood also? 11 Therefore it is against the LORD that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?”


Hold onto your hat, we’re in for a rough ride of complaining by Israel. First this group of Levites led by Korah complain they don’t get their fair share of glory in leading Israel and serving in the temple. “You’ve gone too far Moses”, in your leadership. Though God had chosen them, the tribe of Levi, for the special role with protection and management of the temple, they chose to reject the fact that it was God who had selected Moses and Aaron (as well as them) for their positions, not Moses. THEY had gone too far in their demand for more. It wasn’t Moses and Aaron they were rebelling against but the Lord Himself. 

Is the Spirit speaking to you?

This passage is also remarkable in regard to Aaron. Not too long ago Aaron and Miriam had opposed Moses saying the same thing, that Moses was not the only special one to serve God. I like how God completely forgave Aaron and kept His call on him as priest. We’ll see tomorrow how God sets Aaron and Moses apart from the rest of the congregation to signify His call on them.


*Remember the commands*

Numbers 15:37-41

37 The Lord also spoke to Moses, saying, 38 “Speak to the sons of Israel and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a violet thread. 39 It shall be a tassel for you to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, so that you will do them and not follow your own heart and your own eyes, which led you to prostitute yourselves, 40 so that you will remember and do all My commandments and be holy to your God. 41 I am the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord your God.”


As we saw yesterday, the commands were many and difficult to remember. God instituted this idea to help them. By weaving a special violet colored thread into the hem of their clothing, when they saw it, they’d be reminded of the commands thereby creating an opportunity to obey them. The goal was not just to do the commands, it was what, to be holy to the Lord, set apart to Him. Though we are free from the law of sin and death we do indeed need to keep His Word always before us to help us follow Him and do His will. Can you think of a creative way to remind you of His Word? First start by memorizing it then meditate. The Spirit will bring the Word to mind.

Then He ends with a reminder, “I am the Lord your God”. I like the way Wesley commentary phrases this. It’s as if God said: “I am the Lord your God – Though I am justly displeased with you for your frequent rebellions, for which also I will keep you forty years in the wilderness, yet I will not utterly cast you off, but will continue to be your God.” The message is to us as well, “I am the Lord your God.” Though we also sin and rebel, He forgives and will never leave us nor forsake us. Confess and turn from sin toward God. Be reconciled and believe.


*Made an example*

Numbers 15:32-36 (ESV)

32 While the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. 33 And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation. 34 They put him in custody, because it had not been made clear what should be done to him. 35 And the LORD said to Moses, “The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” 36 And all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him to death with stones, as the LORD commanded Moses.


What do you think as you read this account? Poor guy, right? All he was doing was gathering some sticks and it happened to be on the sabbath. It’s a new command and we’re all just getting used to these commands. Maybe. But why was he the only one? Can’t you gather sticks the day before or after? I get the sense he didn’t take the law seriously. Since it was a new law, and the whole congregation knew, it had to be dealt with properly so everyone would know there are no exceptions with sin. This seems to be an example of the willful, defiant sin of v 30-31.

Do these thoughts cut you to the heart? Regarding sin in general and our attitude toward the Lord’s Day in particular? Do we create exceptions to sin: “It’s not really sin. God understands. He’ll forgive.” etc.?  And finally, isn’t all sin deplorable to God, something He cannot allow and therefore necessitates separation (as in v 30-31) – “cut off from among his people” (the fullest extent is death), and cut off ultimately from God?


*Unintentional vs defiant sin*

Numbers 15:22-31 (portions)

22 ‘But when you unintentionally do wrong and fail to comply with all these commandments which the Lord has spoken to Moses, … that all the congregation shall offer one bull as a burnt offering, as a soothing aroma to the Lord, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one male goat as a sin offering. 25 Then the priest shall make atonement for all the congregation of the sons of Israel, and they will be forgiven;… 26 So all the congregation of the sons of Israel will be forgiven, as well as the stranger who resides among them, for guilt was attributed to all the people through an unintentional wrong.

27 ‘Also, if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one-year-old female goat as a sin offering… 29 You shall have one law for the native among the sons of Israel and for the stranger who resides among them, for one who does anything wrong unintentionally. 

30 But the person who does wrong defiantly, whether he is a native or a stranger, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. 31 Since he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him.’”


If the nation together breaks God’s law or statutes unintentionally (or by mistake), when they become aware, they can offer a sacrifice and be forgiven. Same for an individual. There were a lot of laws to keep track of so it was likely to happen. As we noted before, the “stranger” (non-Jew) among them could also participate in the sacrifice and receive forgiveness. 

This is for unintentional sin. But what about sins we don’t know we committed? The Catholic / Episcopal church, during service, has a time during which they ask for forgiveness for the sins they aren’t aware of. Do we need to do this? With the Spirit in us, I believe He convicts us of every sin through our conscience. We must be quick to confess and turn from it and ask for help to not repeat it. How seriously do I take this? How seriously do I take sin?

Finally, for those who defiantly sin (who flat out refuse to obey God’s law is what I presume this refers to) there is no sacrifice or forgiveness; they are to be excommunicated and his guilt will remain.


*Remember your Provider*

Number 15:17-21 (NLT)

17 Then the Lord said to Moses, 18 “Give the following instructions to the people of Israel. “When you arrive in the land where I am taking you, 19 and you eat the crops that grow there, you must set some aside as a sacred offering to the Lord. 20 Present a cake from the first of the flour you grind, and set it aside as a sacred offering, as you do with the first grain from the threshing floor. 21 Throughout the generations to come, you are to present a sacred offering to the Lord each year from the first of your ground flour.


When Israel is in the promised land and they gather in the grain harvest and make bread, they must set some grain aside along with the first loaf of bread they make. This would be a sacred offering to the Lord. It’s not called a tithe but it seems to have a similar notion – to acknowledge that God is their provider and to give the first, the best portion, to the Lord as a way to give thanks and to remember that He is the Provider. 

Or course, we, likewise, must remember our Provider. There is nothing we have that is not from Him. You have a good job? You have good health? You have a stroke? Whatever you have. James 1:17 reminds us, “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.” But we must know Him and understand His definition of good. Don’t use our own definition, since it’s limited and usually selfish. Then, remember to give thanks. Set aside a portion of “the blessings of the land” to remember Him. Thank Him for what you have, not what you wish you had or you don’t have. If you trust Him, you know He is loving and will and can provide.


*God welcomes the non-Jews*

Exodus 15:1-3; 14-16

15 Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you enter the land where you are going to live, which I am giving you, 3 and you make an offering by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering or a sacrifice to fulfill a special vow, or as a voluntary offering or at your appointed times, to make a soothing aroma to the Lord from the herd or from the flock, … 14 Now if a stranger resides among you, or one who may be among you throughout your generations, and he wants to make an offering by fire, as a soothing aroma to the Lord, just as you do so shall he do. 15 As for the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the stranger who resides among you, a permanent statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the Lord. 16 There is to be one law and one ordinance for you and for the stranger who resides with you.’”


This chapter seems to be a short interlude in the historical account to talk about sacracifical laws when they enter the promised land. There are details which are significant but we don’t practice them today since Christ is the sacrifice that all these pointed to. But what is cool is, God was from the beginning opening the door to gentiles (strangers among them). If they were to follow the sacrifices to worship God as He intended, they were allowed to and welcomed. They could participate in worshiping God as the Jews could. So too in new covenant times: “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.” Coll 3:11 ESV. 


*Presumptive sin*

Numbers 14:39-45 (ESV)

39 When Moses told these words to all the people of Israel, the people mourned greatly. 40 And they rose early in the morning and went up to the heights of the hill country, saying, “Here we are. We will go up to the place that the LORD has promised, for we have sinned.” 41 But Moses said, “Why now are you transgressing the command of the LORD, when that will not succeed? 42 Do not go up, for the LORD is not among you, lest you be struck down before your enemies. 43 For there the Amalekites and the Canaanites are facing you, and you shall fall by the sword. Because you have turned back from following the LORD, the LORD will not be with you.” 44 But they presumed to go up to the heights of the hill country, although neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed out of the camp. 45 Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and defeated them and pursued them, even to Hormah.


The people sinned by distrusting God and He said He would wipe them out and start over with Moses. He pronounced punishment. The people mourned. They confessed their sin. Was this mourning repentance or was it only that they couldn’t go to the promised land? Did they understand the depth of their sin and turn to God in humble surrender to His will? Did they mourn the loss of God’s gift or, mourn the offense that caused a break in their relationship with Him?

God had pronounced judgement and they were warned not to go since God would not be with them. As JFB commentary duly notes, “How strangely perverse the conduct of the Israelites, who, shortly before, were afraid that, though their Almighty King was with them, they could not get possession of the land; and yet now they act still more foolishly in supposing that, though God were not with them, they could expel the inhabitants by their unaided efforts”. They presumed that their mourning and sudden eagerness to obey would result in success; as if they were trying to force God. 

Let us be careful to obey what we know is His will when we know it. Delay not. And don’t presume our will on God.

PS: Here is a good proof that God was not “worried about His reputation” which then caused Him to relent from wiping out the people. This incident, which He knew was about to happen, is just as “embarrassing” – the people failed to take the land and the inhabitants clearly knew.


*Punishment for sin*

Numbers 14:26-30, 33-34, 37 (ESV)

26 And the LORD spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall this wicked congregation grumble against me? I have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. 28 Say to them, As I live, declares the LORD, what you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 your dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and of all your number, listed in the census from twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I swore that I would make you dwell, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun… 33 And your children shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years and shall suffer for your faithlessness, until the last of your dead bodies lies in the wilderness. 34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, a year for each day, you shall bear your iniquity forty years, and you shall know my displeasure.’…37 the men who brought up a bad report of the land—died by plague before the LORD.


Now God tells Moses and Aaron to tell the people the consequences of their sin of unfaithfulness – they will wander in the wilderness 40 years, a year for every day they spied out the land, and all 20 years and older would die, never entering the promised land. They had basically cursed themselves with their complaint. This was a punishment for this sin. God determined this punishment. Their other manifold sins they could never suffer punishment for so they, as we, and everyone we know, need someone to pay our sins so our relationship with God can be restored. The children also had to suffer for the sins of their parents unfaithfulness. Our sin clearly affects those around us.

The 10 spies who not only doubted but led the whole congregation in faithlessness died from plague. I presume it was quite soon afterward.


*The power of petition*

Numbers 14:20-25

20 So the Lord said, “I have pardoned them according to your word; 21 but indeed as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord. 22 Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My [miraculous] signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, 23 will by no means see the land which I swore to [give to] their fathers; nor will any who treated me disrespectfully and rejected Me see it. 24 But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land into which he entered, and his descendants shall take possession of it. 25 Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites live in the valley; tomorrow turn and set out for the wilderness by way of the Red Sea.”


We just read Moses’ plea to God to forgive Israel. God granted Moses’ request. Some questions: What if Moses didn’t intercede for them? Would God have proceeded with wiping them out? Did Moses change God’s mind on the matter? 

I don’t think we know enough to be able to concisely answer. I know my understanding of God and how He interacts with His creation is lacking greatly. Since we do know that God doesn’t “change His mind” as humans do, and since He is omniscient, knowing all things past, present and future, we have to believe that He knew the final outcome. The key thing for us is, Moses didn’t know the final outcome. Moses needed to make that prayer, offer that intercession for the nation. I personally believe that if he hadn’t, God would have wiped them out. However, since the Lord is, as V 18 yesterday told us, “slow to anger and abundant in mercy, forgiving wrongdoing and violation of His Law”, we can assume that His will and desire was to forgive. That forgiveness would come at a cost…the life of His Son.

As with Moses, we don’t know the final outcome so we pray. We pray according to His will, in the power of the Spirit, with faith He will do His will. My definition of prayer is aligning the future to God’s perfect will. Let us pray!


*Power…of forgiveness and lovingkindness*

Numbers 14:13-19

13 But Moses said to the Lord, “Then the Egyptians will hear of it, for by Your strength You brought this people up from their midst, 14 and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, Lord, are in the midst of this people, because You, Lord, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night. 15 Now if You put this people to death all at once, then the nations who have heard of Your fame will say, 16 ‘Since the Lord could not bring this people into the land which He promised them by oath, He slaughtered them in the wilderness.’ 17 So now, please, let the power of the Lord be great, just as You have declared, saying, 18 ‘The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in mercy, forgiving wrongdoing and violation of His Law; but He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, inflicting the punishment of the fathers on the children to the third and the fourth generations.’ 19 Please forgive the guilt of this people in accordance with the greatness of Your mercy, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”


While it is true that there is much to learn in this exchange between Moses and God, I want to focus on, “let the power of God be great”. When you think of a display of power, what do you usually think of?  Mechanical or if not mechanical, political? Mose’s appeal was that the Gentile nations would think, as Wesley suggests, “His power was quite spent in bringing them out of Egypt, and could not finish the work he had begun and had sworn to do.” This is undoubtedly true. But what is God’s demonstration of power here really? It’s God being, “slow to anger and abundant in mercy”. As Wesley’s commentary continues, this act of forgiveness is “undoubtedly it is an act of omnipotent and infinite goodness.” 

We’re coming up on Easter, the greatest display of power the world has ever known. God became man in Jesus Christ, lived a sinless life, then offered Himself in our place so that God could forgive our sins and restore the relationship with Him that He created from the beginning. God’s power in forgiving our sins and reconciling us to Himself is unmatched! Meditate a moment on this. Bow down and worship!


*Is this me?*

Numbers 14:11-12

11 And the Lord said to Moses, “How long will this people be disrespectful to Me? And how long will they not believe in Me, despite all the signs that I have performed in their midst? 12 I will strike them with plague and dispossess them, and I will make you into a nation greater and mightier than they.”


So Israel is ready to enter the promised land and sends out spies who discourage them. In fear, they reject God’s promise, His leaders, and God Himself and want to return to Egypt. God uses human emotions that we can relate to to express His anger and frustration. He is not bound by these emotions as we are but uses them to communicate to mankind in a way we can understand and relate to. You might say He is pretty upset, even infuriated with Israel at this point.

Please read it again.

Wow! As I re-read this the thought came to me: “Is this me?” How often do my actions and thoughts display disrespect toward God? How often do they demonstrate lack of trust in Him? He’s proven His faithfulness and love throughout the Bible to many, many people as well to me and people around me. Maybe I (we) need to stop and reflect on His faithfulness to recharge our faith batteries.


*Eyes of Faith*

Numbers 14:5-10

5 Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces in the presence of all the assembly of the congregation of the sons of Israel. 6 And Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, of those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, saying, “The land which we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord is pleased with us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us—a land which flows with milk and honey. 9 Only do not rebel against the Lord; and do not fear the people of the land, for they will be our prey. Their protection is gone from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them.” 10 But all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Then the glory of the Lord appeared in the tent of meeting to all the sons of Israel.


Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb realized the seriousness of the situation. Joshua and Caleb, two of the leaders who went to spy the land, saw the same things as the 10 who responded with fear. They saw that the land was beautiful and they also saw the challenges: the people (even giants) and fortified cities. The 10 responded in fear which infected the whole congregation. Joshua and Caleb responded in faith. Look at their confidence: “they will be our prey. Their protection is gone from them”. That’s faith! Where does this faith come from? They encouraged the congregation with, “the Lord is with us” and, “He will bring us into this land and give it to us”. Joshua and Caleb had eyes of faith, to see natural phenomena transformed according to God’s perfect will. They could then confidently encourage the others to press on to do His will. Joshua and Caleb delighted themselves in the Lord and devoted themselves to the Lord. Let us follow this example.


*Turning Point Test*

Numbers 14:1-4

Then all the congregation raised their voices and cried out, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the sons of Israel grumbled against Moses and Aaron; and the entire congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or even if we had died in this wilderness! 3 So why is the Lord bringing us into this land to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder! Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” 4 So they said to one another, “Let’s appoint a leader and return to Egypt!”


The people received the bad report and responded in fear. They gave up on trying to enter the promised land. They gave up on Moses and Aaron. They gave up on God. This was literally a turning point for them. They turned from God to turn back to Egypt. From what is written, it is the entire congregation (except Joshua and Caleb, Moses and Aaron) who turned.

How do we respond to opposition – especially when we’re being led by God? Are you being led by God or are you on your own path? For sure, believers are being led to the Promised Land. Along the way there will be obstacles and trials, turning points. Will you choose to remain faithful, to trust Him? Know Him! He is faithful. God is good. He loves you. Jesus even died for you. He knows what is best. Remember why you are here – to bring Him glory. This is what you were created for and will bring you joy, fulfilment, peace; it’s what you’ll do for the rest of time and eternity!


*Are you crazy?!*

Numbers 13:25-33

25 When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, 26 they went on and came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel, … they reported to him and said, “We came into the land where you sent us, and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. 28 Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large. And indeed, we saw the descendants of Anak there! 29 Amalek is living in the land of the Negev, the Hittites, the Jebusites, and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan.”

30 Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will certainly prevail over it.” 31 But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, because they are too strong for us.” 32 So they brought a bad report of the land which they had spied out to the sons of Israel, saying, “The land through which we have gone to spy out is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are people of great stature.”


The spies came back after 40 days. They reported to Moses and Aaron and all the people that the land is good (and showed them fruit from the land) but impossible to conquer since the cities are well fortified and some people are actually giants. Caleb acknowledged the challenges but, placing faith in God, said “we can do it!” (We’ll see his (and Joshua’s) full plea in Chapter 14.)

The people likely thought Caleb was nuts. They listened with a spirit of fear and followed the lead of the unfaithful 10 spies. 

Is there someone in your life now speaking hope to you through faith and trials? Don’t take the easy way; do not fear. Put your trust in God. Psalm 43:5 – “Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.” (ESV)


*Sin of doubt*

Numbers 13:1-3, 17-20 (ESV)

1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Send men to spy out the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the people of Israel. From each tribe of their fathers you shall send a man, every one a chief among them.” 3 So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel…

17 Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan and said to them, “Go up into the Negeb and go up into the hill country, 18 and see what the land is, and whether the people who dwell in it are strong or weak, whether they are few or many, 19 and whether the land that they dwell in is good or bad, and whether the cities that they dwell in are camps or strongholds, 20 and whether the land is rich or poor, and whether there are trees in it or not. Be of good courage and bring some of the fruit of the land.” Now the time was the season of the first ripe grapes.


The big question: Why did God tell them to spy out the land? He already told then it was a land flowing with milk and honey – meaning a very beautiful and fruitful place. If they kept on the march, they could be there in a month or so. God knew they would become afraid and rebel against Him, that He would punish them so that they wandered in the wilderness 40 years and all of the current generation would die. (Sorry, I’m reading ahead.) So why would He bother to send them? The answer is in Deuteronomy 1 where Moses records that after Moses gave a pep talk to go take the land God gave them, the people said they wanted to send spies. Likely it was due to lack of trust in the Lord. Chapter 1:32 says, “and you did not believe the  Lord your God”.

I challenge myself to trust the Lord’s call and direction on my life. I cannot wallow in the sin of doubt.


*Expulsion for a week*

Numbers 12:10-16 (ESV)

10 When the cloud removed from over the tent, behold, Miriam was leprous, like snow. And Aaron turned toward Miriam, and behold, she was leprous. 11 And Aaron said to Moses, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned. 12 Let her not be as one dead, whose flesh is half eaten away when he comes out of his mother’s womb.” 13 And Moses cried to the LORD, “O God, please heal her—please.” 14 But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, should she not be shamed seven days? Let her be shut outside the camp seven days, and after that she may be brought in again.” 15 So Miriam was shut outside the camp seven days, and the people did not set out on the march till Miriam was brought in again. 16 After that the people set out from Hazeroth, and camped in the wilderness of Paran.


Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ sister and brother, spoke against Moses claiming he was not the only one God speaks to, but to them also. Humble Moses said nothing but God came down immediately, spoke to them directly, expressed His displeasure and left. We note that Aaron was not allowed in the tabernacle, as he usually was able – probably a sign of God’s judgement. Miriam became leprous as soon as the cloud ascended. Likely it was Miriam who initiated the sin and Aaron followed. God removed Himself from them as a sign of His displeasure. Wesley commentary chastens us, “The removal of God’s presence from us, is the saddest token of his displeasure. And he never departs, till we by our sin and folly drive him from us.”

Moses wasn’t angry or jealous. In fact, he pleaded for Miriam. God listened to his prayer but it seemed there needed to be a message to others so the leprosy lasted a week and all Israel waited until it was healed and she could return to the camp clean before they moved to another place. Thankfully, Mirian’s expulsion from the camp (from God’s presence in the camp) was only temporary. Consider those who sin and are expelled for eternity! Go give them hope.


*Gentle Giant*

Numbers 12:1-8

Now Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses because of the Cushite woman whom he had married (for he had married a Cushite woman); 2 and they said, “Has the Lord really spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken also through us?” And the Lord heard it. 3 (Now the man Moses was very humble (gentle, kind, devoid of self-righteousness), more than any man who was on the face of the earth.) 4 Suddenly the Lord said to Moses, Aaron, and Miriam, “Come out, you three, to the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle).” And the three of them came out. 5 The Lord came down in a pillar of cloud and stood at the doorway of the tabernacle, and He called Aaron and Miriam, and they came forward. 6 And He said,

“Hear now My words:

If there is a prophet among you,

I the Lord will make Myself known to him in a vision

And I will speak to him in a dream.

7 “But it is not so with My servant Moses;

He is entrusted and faithful in all My house.

8 “With him I speak mouth to mouth [directly],

Clearly and openly and not in riddles;

And he beholds the form of the Lord.

Why then were you not afraid to speak against My servant Moses?”


This guy Moses was really something! On top of the complaining of the whole nation, he now has to deal with a challenge to his authority and position from his very own sister and brother, the ones who saved his life at the beginning and stood with him through all the events leading to now. Pride and/or jealousy got into them and they challenged Moses. They used the excuse of who he selected as his wife (which, by the way, was before God called him to this work). Moses didn’t say a word. He was so humble, he may have even agreed with them! God declared him the most humble man alive. That’s certainly not me. Moses was a gentle giant for sure.

But God wouldn’t have any of it. He called them on the carpet and tanned their hides. God made it pretty clear that Moses was not just a prophet (this is the position Mirian and Aaron were claiming) but he was special to God and God spoke with him directly. When they spoke against Moses, they were really speaking against God’s anointed, His called one.


*Follow God’s work*

Numbers 11:26-30

26 But two men had remained in the camp; the name of the one was Eldad, and the name of the other, Medad. And the Spirit rested upon them (and they were among those who had been registered, but had not gone out to the tent), and they prophesied in the camp. 27 So a young man ran and informed Moses, and said, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” 28 Then Joshua the son of Nun, the personal servant of Moses from his youth, responded and said, “My lord Moses, restrain them!” 29 But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? If only all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” 30 Then Moses returned to the camp, both he and the elders of Israel.


Skipping back to this event, the sharing of the Spirit among the 70 to ease Moses’ burden, we see there were 2 guys not present at the tent of meeting yet God still rested the Spirit on them. First, the reaction of the young “reporter” and Joshua – they were so keen on obeying the command of God and “protecting” Moses that they ignored the work of God. Clearly it was God’s will to include these two guys. 

Now, Moses’ response – he was quite happy to have everyone who’d been appointed be given the Spirit. In fact, he was so humble and his burden so great, he wished everyone in the camp got the Spirit! What a prophecy of Pentecost. Similar happened with Jesus (e.g., Mark 9:38-39) where people other than the disciples did miracles; Jesus gave the OK.

How about us? Let us follow God’s work, even if it seems to not follow the “plan”. Yet we need discernment lest we allow herracies. God clearly did the work and it clearly fulfilled His purpose; the fact the 2 guys were not in front of the tent was inconsequential it seems.


*Patience with Moses; anger for the rebellious*

Numbers 11:21- 23; 31-34 [notes added]

21 But Moses said, “The people, among whom I am included, are six hundred thousand on foot! Yet You have said, ‘I will give them meat, so that they may eat for a whole month.’ 22 Are flocks and herds to be slaughtered for them, so that it will be sufficient for them? Or are all the fish of the sea to be caught for them, so that it will be sufficient for them?” 23 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Is the Lord’s power too little? Now you shall see whether My word will come true for you or not.”

31 Now a wind burst forth from the Lord and it brought quail from the sea, and dropped them beside the camp, about a day’s journey on this side and a day’s journey on the other side all around the camp, and about two cubits deep [three feet] on the surface of the ground. 32 And the people spent all that day, all night, and all the next day, and they gathered the quail (the one who gathered least gathered ten homers) and spread them out for themselves all around the camp. 33 While the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck the people with a very severe plague. 34 So that place was named Kibroth-hattaavah [the graves of greediness], because there they buried the people who had been greedy. 


Moses was frustrated and confused; he was allowing his flesh to rule over the Spirit that was upon him. He indeed knew the Lord and knew He could provide the meat, no doubt. I believe that in this moment of frustration he allowed his sinful man to overrule. God patiently tells him to wait and see what He will do.

God sent quail. We cannot imagine how many. It was a ring around the camp 3 feet high! [Maybe in 3 foot piles or, they flew 3’ high above the ground so were easier to catch]. It took the 1 million or so people two days of constant work to prepare and preserve them before they spoiled. They got their wish.

God was angry that they didn’t trust Him. It wasn’t a pride issue for He knows who He is and doesn’t depend on mankind for His identity in any way. He knew it was best for them to trust Him. He chose to send a plague of some sort that killed those sinfully greedy ones.


*Careful how you complain*

Numbers 11:18-20 (AMP)

18 Say to the people, ‘Consecrate (separate as holy) yourselves for tomorrow, and you shall eat meat; for you have wept [in self-pity] in the ears of the Lord, saying, “Who will give us meat to eat? For we were well-off in Egypt.” Therefore the Lord will give you meat, and you shall eat. 19 You shall eat, not one day, nor two days, nor five days, nor ten days, nor twenty days, 20 but a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and is disgusting to you—because you have rejected and despised the Lord who is among you, and have wept [in self-pity] before Him, saying, “Why did we come out of Egypt?”’” 


The people were complaining that they had to keep eating manna and they missed the food of Egypt. They especially complained about having no meat. So God said He’d give them what they asked for…so much that it would be “coming out of their ears” (as we might say today).

One key difference between their complaining and Moses’ was the heart. The Israelites, “rejected and despised the Lord” whereas Moses was honestly expressing his frustration; he was overwhelmed. The Israelites rejected the Lord; Moses wrestled with his burden from the Lord. They demonstrated distrust in God; Moses was anchored in trust in the Lord.

God can handle our complaints as we shared before. We need to be careful about the condition of our heart. We should be careful about how we complain. Does our complaint demonstrate a lack of trust in Him? That is sin and we need to quickly repent, turn to God, in faith, and trust Him. Is there anything you’re complaining about to God recently?


*God gives Moses help*

Numbers 11:16-17, 24-25

16 The Lord therefore said to Moses, “Gather for Me seventy men from the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and their officers, and bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their stand there with you. 17 Then I will come down and speak with you there, and I will take away some of the Spirit who is upon you, and put Him upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, so that you will not bear it by yourself. 

24 So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord. He also gathered seventy men of the elders of the people, and positioned them around the tent. 25 Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him; and He took away some of the Spirit who was upon him and placed Him upon the seventy elders. And when the Spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. Yet they did not do it again.


God heard Moses’ plea for help and replied immediately. We remember earlier, when they first started the journey, that Moses was overworking himself judging all the disputes of the people so God led his father-in-law to him to give him some sound advice – delegate – and Moses did. This is similar but different. Here, the need was for someone to share the emotional strain of all the complaints and hassles. These 70 were not set up in a hierarchy, they seem to be all at the same level, since their purpose differed. What also was unique here? Yes, God took a portion of the Spirit whom He had put on Moses and distributed it to the 70 elders. He came down in a cloud, spoke to Moses and applied the Spirit. As a sign of the Spirit being on them, they prophesied. This happens a number of times in the OT, like when the spirit fell on Saul on two different occasions and he prophesied (1 Samuel 10 and 19). God also sees our labor and knows our needs and hears our cries (sometimes in frustration) for help. He answers. 



Numbers 11:10-15 (ESV)

10 Moses heard the people weeping throughout their clans, everyone at the door of his tent. And the anger of the LORD blazed hotly, and Moses was displeased. 11 Moses said to the LORD, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? 12 Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? 13 Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ 14 I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. 15 If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.”


Yesterday we saw the rabble among them which affected the rest of the Israelites to complain. Today we see Moses catches the virus and complains to God. I can hear him screaming, “I can’t take it!” 

Moses knows God and speaks with Him often. More than that, God knows Moses like no other man at that time. God raised Moses and brought him to this position. Moses didn’t seek this position, God chose him by grace. He knows how God deals with sin yet he still “tells God off”.

He even goes as far as telling God to just kill him to remove him from this misery. V15 in the NLT helps a bit with this interpretation: “If this is how you intend to treat me, just go ahead and kill me. Do me a favor and spare me this misery!””

This is very instructive for us in relating to God. God is not a human that He gets defensive at our ranting and honest complaints. Psalms records many laments of King David. But the attitude of these writers is submission to God’s will and authority, His love and justice. We can express our feelings honestly to God. But be ever mindful to Whom you speak. Plead for His mercy and grace.


*Positively contagious*

Numbers 11:4-9 (AMP)

4 The rabble among them [who followed Israel from Egypt] had greedy desires [for familiar and delicious food], and the Israelites wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? 5 We remember the fish we ate freely and without cost in Egypt, the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic. 6 But now our appetite is gone; there is nothing at all [in the way of food] to be seen but this manna.” …8 The people went about and gathered it, and ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, and boiled it in pots, and made cakes with it; and it tasted like cakes baked with fresh [olive] oil. 9 When the dew fell on the camp at night, the manna fell with it.


They started to complain about the food. All they had to eat was manna. They Israelites had done their best to make the manna tasty – boiling it and making cakes. The manna was faithfully supplied by God every evening. They didn’t have to work for it. They didn’t have to kill their flocks. They were traveling so couldn’t plant crops. It was God’s provision. Yet they complained. Some commentators (and AMP) suggest that there were some Egyptians that followed Israel and camped nearby them. It could be the “rabble” infected the others with their complaints so the whole nation cried. We know how contagious a bad attitude is. Thankfully, good attitudes, like joy, are also contagious. Let’s pray to be “positively contagious”.

Here’s a satirical song about these complaints by one of my favorite Christian recording artists, Keith Green. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_No9sI69oQ 


*Complaining starts; woe to those who judge*

Numbers 11:1-3 (AMP)

Now the people became like those who complain and whine about their hardships, and the Lord heard it; and when the Lord heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and devoured those in the outlying parts of the camp. 2 So the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the Lord, the fire died out. 3 He named that place Taberah (the place of burning), because the fire of the Lord burned among them.


Three day’s journey and some start to complain. We’re not told why but can only guess that they had gotten comfortable living at the base of Mt. Sinai and didn’t like having to move. Even though it was God leading them and He was leading them to the Promised Land, they complained. God dealt quickly with this sin lest it infect all the people, for the disease of sin infects and affects much more quickly and effectively than any virus. He dealt righteously with a fire that devoured some, likely the complainers. He also dealt mercifully, only striking the outskirts rather than the whole camp.

Truth be told, “Became like those who complain”, hit me between the eyes. Something about the wording caused me to consider how I grumble against God. No, not vocally and not even “against God” but, I allow my heart to be discontent, frustrated, even a bit angry about situations, people. I dare not stand in judgement over these guys. How am I any different? I, too, am a sinner. Be quick to acknowledge sin (confess), then repent and turn to the Lord and be reconciled. Delay not. 


*First Steps*

Numbers 10:29-36 (AMP)

29 Then Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are going to the place of which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will be good to you, for the Lord has promised good [things] concerning Israel.” 30 But Hobab [Moses’ brother-in-law] said to him, “I will not go; I will return to my own land and to my family.” 31 Then Moses said, “Please do not leave us, for you know how we are to camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us [as we make our trek through the desert]. 32 So if you will go with us, it shall be that whatever good the Lord does for us, we will do the same for you.”

33 So they set out from the mountain of the Lord (Sinai) three days’ journey; and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went in front of them during the three days’ journey to seek out a resting place for them. 34 The cloud of the Lord was over them by day when they set out from the camp.

35 Whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Rise up, O Lord! Let Your enemies be scattered; And let those who hate You flee before You.” 36 And when the ark rested, Moses said, “Return, O Lord, To the myriad (many) thousands of Israel.”


They start the journey to Cannan. The first leg was three days – maybe to get them used to traveling, carrying the tabernacle and its holy contents, and learning to listen to the Lord’s command to go and stop. Moses asks his brother-in-law to be their “scout” for the trip to help guide them. It’s not clear if he accepted.Clarke Commentary suggests, “…from Jud 1:16; 4:11, and 1Sa 15:6, it is likely that Hobab changed his mind [and indeed went]; or that, if he did go back to Midian, he returned again to Israel, as the above scriptures show that his posterity dwelt among the Israelites in Canaan.”

Obviously the Ark can’t see and find resting places, etc. so I believe the Ark represented the Lord since He was in their midst guiding them every step. The Lord was the One who “went in front of them”. 

As they start, Moses offers up a call to God to go before them and protect them and drive out their enemies they would encounter on the way as well as in Cannan. And when the Ark stopped, Moses again called for God to return and abide with them. Certainly God is everywhere present so I see this more as acknowledging their need for God’s presence and protection at all times. We surely can and ought to do the same.


*Israel Leaves Sinai*

Numbers 10:11-13, 21, 28 (ESV)

11 In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony, 12 and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai. And the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. 13 They set out for the first time at the command of the LORD by Moses…21 Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things, and the tabernacle was set up before their arrival. 28 This was the order of march of the people of Israel by their companies, when they set out.


They set out on the 20 of the 2nd month of the 2nd year after leaving Egypt Why then? Remember from numbers 9:11, “In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight they shall keep it.” This referred to those who were unclean when the Passover was celebrated by everyone in the first month. God waited to make sure everyone had celebrated the Passover for the first time since leaving Egypt  before they departed.

And they went in order with the tribes who camped on the East of the tabernacle first (led by Judah) followed by South, West and North with the Levites carrying the tabernacle and holy things in about the middle. Judah had the honor of leading the group. Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, descended from King David. Is there significance here? One thing for certain is we should follow the lead of Jesus as He takes us to the true Promised Land.


*Blow the Trumpets*

Numbers 10:1-10 (ESV)

1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Make two silver trumpets. Of hammered work you shall make them, and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp. 3 And when both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 4 But if they blow only one, then the chiefs, the heads of the tribes of Israel, shall gather themselves to you. 5 When you blow an alarm, the camps that are on the east side shall set out. 6 And when you blow an alarm the second time, the camps that are on the south side shall set out. An alarm is to be blown whenever they are to set out. 7 But when the assembly is to be gathered together, you shall blow a long blast, but you shall not sound an alarm. 8 And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets. The trumpets shall be to you for a perpetual statute throughout your generations. 9 And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. 10 On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God.”


It was a huge crowd of maybe 3 million people encircling the tabernacle. How could Moses communicate instructions to the group for general assembly, breaking camp, battle cry, etc.? The trumpets helped.  This was the practical benefit. The spiritual benefit was, “that you may be remembered before the LORD your God”. JFB commentary says, “But more is meant by the words—namely, that God would, as it were, be aroused by the trumpet to bless with His presence and aid.” Wow. Can you imagine? Not that God needed to be aroused from sleep of course but that He would respond to their call for help in the battle. Let us “blow the trumpet” when we head into battle against the enemy of our souls. Consider this even when you fight temptation – blow a trumpet to call for God’s help. He is ever present and ready. Psalm 46:1 says, “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (NIV)

Regarding blowing the trumpet at festivals, Wesley suggests, “God then takes pleasure in our religious exercises, when we take pleasure in them. Holy work should be done with holy joy.”


*At the Lord’s command*

Numbers 9:15-16, 21-23 (AMP)

15 Now on the day that the tabernacle was erected, the cloud [of God’s presence] covered the tabernacle, that is, the tent of the Testimony; and in the evening it was over the tabernacle, appearing like [a pillar of] fire until the morning. 16 So it was continuously; the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. 17 Whenever the cloud was lifted from over the tent (tabernacle), afterward the Israelites would set out; and in the place where the cloud stopped, there the Israelites would camp. 18 At the Lord’s command the Israelites would journey on, and at His command they would camp. As long as the cloud remained over the tabernacle they remained camped… 

21 If sometimes the cloud remained [over the tabernacle] from evening only until morning, when the cloud was lifted in the morning, they would journey on; whether in the daytime or at night, whenever the cloud was lifted, they would set out. 22 Whether it was two days or a month or a year that the cloud [of the Lord’s presence] lingered over the tabernacle, staying above it, the Israelites remained camped and did not set out; but when it was lifted, they set out. 23 At the command of the Lord they camped, and at the command of the Lord they journeyed on; they kept their obligation to the Lord, in accordance with the command of the Lord through Moses.


The pillar of cloud by day and fire by night was God’s presence with Israel since they left Egypt; telling them when and where to go. This now rests over the tabernacle. It foreshadowed the Holy Spirit guiding believers today. A few notes:

-it was continuously there – like the Spirit in believer’s lives

-it was visible day and night; always working

-when it lifted, the Israelites broke camp and moved out; when it stopped, the Israelites stopped and set up camp, at the Lord’s command

-the moving was irregular and could happen during the day or night and might settle in a place just one night or a year; Israel had to always be ready. So Israel was always ready to and obeyed the Lord’s command. No comment needed.:)


*The Passover Celebrated*

Numbers 9:1-3, 9-14 (ESV)

1 And the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “Let the people of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. 3 On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time; according to all its statutes and all its rules you shall keep it.”…

9. [but if] any one of you or of your descendants is unclean through touching a dead body, or is on a long journey, he shall still keep the Passover to the LORD. 11 In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight they shall keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs…13 But if anyone who is clean and is not on a journey fails to keep the Passover, that person shall be cut off from his people because he did not bring the LORD’S offering at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin. 14 And if a stranger sojourns among you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its rule, so shall he do. You shall have one statute, both for the sojourner and for the native.”


It’s been a year since they left Egypt and it’s time for the Passover celebration to commemorate the deliverance from Egypt but more, God sparing life through the sacrifice of a spotless lamb, a foreshadow of Christ. 

A few interesting things of note:

-it was celebrated in the first  month using this new calendar, on the 15th

-if anyone was unclean and disqualified from celebrating, they could wait a month and celebrate in the 2nd month in the same way

-those who didn’t celebrate would be cut off and bear their own sin – pretty severe consequences; yet it was a demonstration of their lack of faith in and submission to God’s plan for forgiveness.

-even a foreigner who celebrated would receive forgiveness, we presume, for demonstrating faith in and submission to God’s way of salvation.


*Retirement? From what?*

Numbers 8:23-26 (ESV)

23 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. 25 And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. 26 They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.”


Mandatory retirement for the Levites, the servants of God in the tabernacle, is here stipulated. Their holy service of maintaining the tabernacle, its belongings and aiding the priests was limited to 25 to 50 years old, the prime of life. Did that mean they were of no value after 50? Well, look at Moses who was 80 when God called him in the wilderness to serve and is maybe 85 or so when he received this instruction. And the Levites over 50 still served a protection role keeping guard – like tabernacle bouncers in a way. 

I don’t know if there is any direct teaching for us. On the topic of retirement, I personally believe the American idea is not quite right. Not that we need to keep working to death but, we need to keep serving the Lord to death; there is no retirement from God’s call, from His service.


*wholly God’s for holy service*

Numbers 8:14-19 (ESV)

14 “Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the people of Israel, and the Levites shall be mine. 15 And after that the Levites shall go in to serve at the tent of meeting, when you have cleansed them and offered them as a wave offering. 16 For they are wholly given to me from among the people of Israel. Instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the people of Israel, I have taken them for myself. 17 For all the firstborn among the people of Israel are mine, both of man and of beast. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I consecrated them for myself, 18 and I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel. 19 And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the people of Israel, to do the service for the people of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement for the people of Israel, that there may be no plague among the people of Israel when the people of Israel come near the sanctuary.”


There needed to be people to take care of the tabernacle (and later, the temple). God had this mapped out from the beginning. In Egypt, at the Passover, He spared the firstborn of Israel. Now He accepts the Levite tribe as a substitution for all the firstborn in this ceremony. They are to be dedicated to be wholly God’s for holy service (v16). In the ceremony, all Israel gathered and laid their hands on the Levites as an act of transferring their firstborn responsibilities to them. Later the Levites laid their hands on bull sacrifices to transfer their sin to them. They were cleansed with water and shaving then offered as a “wave offering” which was, “the symbolic act indicating that the offering was for the Lord.” https://www.gotquestions.org This dedication and substitution and atonement kept God from sending a purifying plague among them.

Though we are not Levites, we are wholly God’s for holy service. Do we live like it?


*The golden lampstand*

Numbers 8:1-4 (AMP)

1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up and light the lamps, the seven lamps will shine in front of the lampstand.’” 3 And Aaron did so; he set up the lamps at the front of the lampstand, just as the Lord had commanded Moses. 4 Now this was the workmanship of the lampstand: hammered work of gold; from its base to its flowers it was hammered work; according to the pattern which the Lord had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.


God speaks to Moses who then speaks to Aaron. Inside the tabernacle was completely dark since there were no windows and the curtains surrounding it were heavy and dark colors. So, the 7 lamps on the lampstand were necessary to give light for the priest’s work. 

There are many spiritual analogies that can be fashioned from this holy candle. Clarke commentary suggests: A “lamp without oil is of no use; oil not burning is of no use. So a Church … without the influence of the Holy Ghost are dead [even though they are supposed to be alive]; and if they have a measure of this light, and do not let it shine by purity of living and holy zeal before men, their religion is neither useful to themselves nor to others. Reader, it is possible to be in the Church of God and not be of that Church; it is possible to have a measure of the Spirit and neither profit [others] nor be profited [yourself].” We should consider this deeply as it relates to us.

https://youtu.be/1mFGsLEpKKk?t=91 Short Youtube movie of tabernacle and the lampstand.


*dedication of the altar*

Numbers 7:10-89 (selections ESV)

10 And the chiefs offered offerings for the dedication of the altar on the day it was anointed; …11 And the LORD said to Moses, “They shall offer their offerings, one chief each day, for the dedication of the altar.”… 84 …twelve silver plates, twelve silver basins, twelve golden dishes,…87 all the cattle for the burnt offering twelve bulls, twelve rams, twelve male lambs a year old, with their grain offering; and twelve male goats for a sin offering; 88 and all the cattle for the sacrifice of peace offerings twenty-four bulls, the rams sixty, the male goats sixty, the male lambs a year old sixty…89 And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.


These guys were blessed! They had already given abundantly to the building of the tent of meeting, they gave carts and bulls yesterday in a freewill offering. Now each tribe brings an offering set for the dedication of the altar. Gold and silver plates, basins, dishes and the like plus animals from their herds for the burnt offering and peace offerings. This was a huge number and it was only a portion of their total. And to consider the Egyptians had been decimated by the plagues makes it all the more amazing the Jews had so much! Do we count our blessings and give thanks?

Then in v89 we get a glimpse into the holy of holies and see Moses in front of the mercy seat and the ark hearing the voice of God speaking directly to him. We can hear God speak to us…through His word.


*Practical giving*

Numbers 7:1-9

1 Now on the day that Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed it and consecrated it with all its furnishings, and the altar and all its utensils; he anointed them and consecrated them also. 2 Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of their fathers’ households, made an offering… 3 When they brought their offering before the Lord, six covered carts and twelve oxen, a cart for every two of the leaders and an ox for each one, then they presented them in front of the tabernacle. 4 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 5 “Accept these things from them, that they may be used in the service of the tent of meeting, and you shall give them to the Levites, to each man according to his service.” 6 So Moses took the carts and the oxen and gave them to the Levites. 7 Two carts and four oxen he gave to the sons of Gershon, according to their service, 8 and four carts and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the direction of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. 9 But he did not give any to the sons of Kohath, because theirs was the service of the holy objects, which they carried on the shoulder.


Earlier I wondered how they carried all this stuff out of Egypt and Dave K suggested they had carts. Yep. God did not instruct Israelites to provide carts but the leaders of the tribes saw the need and got together and made an offering. There’s no mention of Moses or Aaron making the request either; it was a freewill offering. We should be on the alert to identify good works that need to be done and resources to supply to the ministry and then give accordingly, as the Spirit moves.

Moses was told by God to receive the offering. That seems strange. Could it be that Moses was rightly focused on doing everything regarding the tabernacle perfectly, according to God’s instructions and that since God didn’t order this, Moses was reluctant to take it?

Then we see how Moses allocated the resources (the carts and ox) according to the need in a practical manner; the Levite families that needed more got more. And, here’s a reminder that the holy objects were to be hand-carried so no carts were needed by the Koath tribe. The allocation of gifts in the ministry can be practical yet also must abide by holy guidelines. 


*The Lord Bless You*

Numbers 6:22-27 (AMP)

22 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the Israelites. Say to them:

24 The Lord bless you, and keep you [protect you, sustain you, and guard you];

25 The Lord make His face shine upon you [with favor],

And be gracious to you [surrounding you with lovingkindness];

26 The Lord lift up His countenance (face) upon you [with divine approval],

And give you peace [a tranquil heart and life].’

27 So Aaron and his sons shall put My name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”


God commanded Aaron (and the priests) to bless the nation and told them how. It reminds me a bit of “The Lord’s Prayer” in that God gave us a prayer. The prayer calls the name of the Lord three times. It became popular last year to sing a song based on this verse in online choirs; nice to listen to.

Consider this prayer being prayed by the priests of the nation every day (commentators say). It invokes God to constantly remember Israel with blessing, favor, grace, approval, and peace. That’s what God wanted for Israel. I believe that is what He wants for us.

We have no formal position of “priest” in the church but in 1 Peter 2:9 we’re told we are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;”. Let us pronounce this blessing on the body of Christ, our brothers and sisters in the Lord.


*Nazirite vow*

Numbers 6:1-21 (ESV)

1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD, 3 he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried. 4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins.

5 “All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.

6 “All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body…8 All the days of his separation he is holy to the LORD.


This chapter talks about a special vow some Jews made to the Lord to be especially holy and wholly dedicated to Him. They had 3 requirements: 1) no wine or any part of the grape, 2) no haircut, 3) no contact with dead people. The duration was up to the individual. The first mention in the Bible of someone being a Nazirite was Samson. He, John the Baptist and Samuel were Narirites for life. Do we have any parallel in Christianity? Paul took the Nazirite vow twice. Once was to “prove” he and his companion were good Jews. It’s not ever preached in churches that I’m aware of. It’s more common to participate in a fast of some sort for spiritual reasons like devoting more time and focus to the Lord, which Paul also did. I encourage you to consider fasting.


*Test for adultery*

Numbers 5:29-31 (ESV)

29 “This is the law in cases of jealousy, when a wife, though under her husband’s authority, goes astray and defiles herself, 30 or when the spirit of jealousy comes over a man and he is jealous of his wife. Then he shall set the woman before the LORD, and the priest shall carry out for her all this law. 31 The man shall be free from iniquity, but the woman shall bear her iniquity.”


A special procedure was established for situations where a husband suspected his wife of adultery. We need to keep in mind the culture and also consider what this shows about God. JFB commentary helps: “All the circumstances of this awful ceremony—her being placed with her face toward the ark—her uncovered head, a sign of her being deprived of the protection of her husband (1Co 11:7) —the bitter potion being put into her hands preparatory to an appeal to God—the solemn adjuration of the priest (Nu 5:19-22), all were calculated in no common degree to excite and appall the imagination of a person conscious of guilt.” Add to this that the woman had to hear the charge and agree (say “amen”). This was a merciful procedure seeking the repentance of the sinner and the emancipation of the saint. Upon hearing this, if she were guilty, this was her last chance to confess. God loves us and will lead us toward repentance. Notice also that the husband is to first bring the case to the priest – before summarily dismissing his wife in divorce.

It’s also curious that “a spirit of jealousy” is used to prompt the husband to investigate. We may think of jealousy as wrong but here, it can be a tool in God’s hand. Moreover, we know that God Himself is a jealous God.


*Power of conscience*

Numbers 5:5-10 (AMP)

5 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Say to the Israelites, ‘When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind [against other people], thus breaking faith with the Lord, and that person is guilty, 7 then he shall confess the sin which he has committed, and he shall make restitution for his wrong in full, and add a fifth to it, and give it to [the person] whom he has wronged. 8 But if the man [who was wronged] has no redeemer (relative) to whom the restitution may be made, it is to be given to the Lord for the priest, besides the ram of atonement with which atonement is made for the offender. 9 Also every contribution pertaining to all the holy gifts of the Israelites which they offer to the priest, shall be his. 10 And every man’s holy gifts shall be the priest’s; whatever any man gives the priest, it becomes his.’”


This law appears to address a situation where a person stole someone else’s property, since the idea of restitution (payback) is discussed, and later feels guilty about it. Note that this sin is “breaking faith with the Lord” which implies the sin is not just against the person but, and primarily, against God. For our own sins, we need to keep this in mind: our sin breaks God’s law and relationship with Him.

To clear his guilt, he must 1) confess his sin (to man and God), and 2) make restitution. He must pay back what was stolen plus a hefty penalty – so that it “hurts” and will discourage them and others from sinning. Likewise, we should consider reparation for our sins.

What is interesting is that it discusses a “redeemer” which implies the original offended person is dead or nowhere to be found. [See the story of Ruth for a kinsman redeemer example in Boaz.] So it’s possible that much time passed since the sin occurred…and the sinner feels guilty! It could have been 10+ years prior! This is the power of guilt, the power of conscience. We could say, for believers, the power of the Spirit pricking our conscience. 

The last part talks about what to do with the reparation in this case – to give it to the Lord via the priests. This is in addition to the atonement sacrifice for the sin.


*Is that loving?*

Numbers 5:1-4 (ESV)

1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the people of Israel that they put out of the camp everyone who is leprous or has a discharge and everyone who is unclean through contact with the dead. 3 You shall put out both male and female, putting them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camp, in the midst of which I dwell.” 4 And the people of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the LORD said to Moses, so the people of Israel did.


This could be a particularly troubling passage about the character of God. Are you ready to address it? Are you ready to accept it?

1 John 4:8 tells us God is love. Countless times He tells us He loves us. This is true and doesn’t change. He loves everyone. He is also holy and pure; no defilement is in any way near Him. In the case of these people, they are defiled physically so need to be separated. 

One may ask, “But is this fair? Why should they be treated so? It may not have been their fault.” Two reasons: 1) physically, for medical reasons, so disease would not spread to others. Note that this was not necessarily permanent; they could return to the camp later. 2) spiritually – since it represented defilement and God was in the midst of the people and God demands / requires absolute purity. This requires a deeper understanding of God through His word. We need to know Him. We need to seek to see things not from our human, flawed perspective but, as He grants, from His. God perfectly balances: His character, the needs of the individual and that of the community. It’s also a strong picture to us of the need to separate ourselves from sin.


*Details of Duties*

Numbers 4 (selections ESV)

1 The LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “Take a census of the sons of Kohath from among the sons of Levi, by their clans and their fathers’ houses, 3 from thirty years old up to fifty years old, all who can come on duty, to do the work in the tent of meeting. 4 This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tent of meeting: the most holy things…15 And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, as the camp sets out, after that the sons of Kohath shall come to carry these, but they must not touch the holy things, lest they die… 20 but they shall not go in to look on the holy things even for a moment, lest they die.” 49 According to the commandment of the LORD through Moses they were listed, each one with his task of serving or carrying. Thus they were listed by him, as the LORD commanded Moses.


How were they to go about moving the tabernacle, this holy structure where God abided? Very carefully. The Levites were selected for this work and within them, families were designated for specific duties. The Kohathites got the tabernacle furnishings, the holy things – but only after the priests had properly prepared and covered them. They received a stern warning to not touch them or even look upon them lest they die. We see this actually occurred in King David’s reign. The Gershonites’ duty was the curtains and coverings and the sons of Merari’s duty were all the poles and bases that held the curtains. Each had their specific duty for the care of the tabernacle. 

We are the body of Christ. We are the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. We ought to treat this temple as holy and keep sin away from it.


*Ransomed for devotion*

Numbers 3:40-51 (selections)

1 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Count every firstborn male of the sons of Israel from a month old and upward, and make a list of their names. 41 And you shall take the Levites for Me—I am the Lord—instead of all the firstborn among the sons of Israel; and the cattle of the Levites in place of all the firstborn among the cattle of the sons of Israel.” 42 So Moses counted all the firstborn among the sons of Israel, just as the Lord had commanded him; 43 and all the firstborn males, by the number of names from a month old and upward for their numbered men, were 22,273… 49 So Moses took the redemption money from those who were in excess of the number of those redeemed by the Levites; 50 from the firstborn of the sons of Israel he took the money in terms of the shekel of the sanctuary, 1,365. 51 Then Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and to his sons, at the command of the Lord, just as the Lord had commanded Moses.


God declared that the firstborn of Israel (men and beast) were His since He spared them during the Passover when the Egyptian first-born were killed. Since He spared them, they are His. How can they be His lest they are devoted to Him and His work? They had just numbered the first-born of the rest of the nation and now the Levites. The Levites were dedicated to His service. Other than the 273, there was enough for an exact exchange, for God accepted/selected the Levite tribe as a substitution for the first born of the rest. The 273 extra paid a redemption price to even it out.

Is there an application for us? We sinned and were separated from God. Through the precious blood of Christ, God redeemed us. Now He calls us His. He’s adopted us as His children. It seems we, similar to the Levites, need to be devoted to Him and His work. 


*God of order*

Numbers 3:14-39

14 Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying, 15 “Count the sons of Levi by their fathers’ households, by their families; every male from a month old and upward you shall count.” …23 The families of the Gershonites were to camp behind the tabernacle westward, …25 Now the duties of the sons of Gershon in the tent of meeting included the tabernacle and the tent, its covering, and the curtain for the entrance of the tent of meeting, …29 The families of the sons of Kohath were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle, … 31 Now their duties included the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the utensils of the sanctuary with which they minister, the curtain, and all the service concerning them; …35 And the leader of the fathers’ households of the families of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail. They were to camp on the northward side of the tabernacle. 36 Now the appointment of duties of the sons of Merari included the framework of the tabernacle, its bars, its pillars, its bases, all its equipment, and all the service concerning them, …38 Now those who were to camp in front of the tabernacle eastward, in front of the tent of meeting toward the sunrise, were Moses and Aaron and his sons, performing the duties of the sanctuary for the obligation of the sons of Israel; but the layman coming near was to be put to death. 39 All the numbered men of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron counted at the command of the Lord by their families, every male from a month old and upward, were 22,000.


God  is a God of order as we’ve seen. Here He designates what place each family of Levi was to set up their tents in relation to the tabernacle in the wilderness and what responsibilities they had for the tabernacle. They were also counted – and we’ll see the transaction that comes of it tomorrow. The family of Kohath was given the prominent role of taking care of the tabernacle contents; maybe because they were related to Aaron and Moses. We’ll see later in chapter 16 they get some unwanted attention by one family leader, Korah. Aaron and his sons with Moses camped in the position of honor, on the East, the front of the tabernacle and they, of course, performed the duties of the sanctuary – the sacrifices, etc.


*Gods Guards*

Numbers 3:5-13 (ESV)

5 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Bring the tribe of Levi near, and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. 7 They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle. 8 They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. 9 And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel. 10 And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood. But if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.”

11 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the LORD.”


In American football, the most important player on the team, the one who makes the calls and leads the team, is the quarterback. One of the key responsibilities of 5 of the players is to guard  the quarterback and two are even called guards. This term is repeated 4 times here of the Levites – they are to guard Aaron, guard the tabernacle, guard the nation and the priesthood. They were selected by God to represent the firstborn of Israel whom God claimed as His when He spared them but killed all the Egyptian firstborn on the Passover as we read in Exodus. They had a special role in the nation and played a special role in the worship. As we’ll see tomorrow, they were positioned around the tabernacle as a buffer between the people and the tabernacle, where God dwelt. This is one practical way they protected the nation since any outsider who came near the tabernacle was to be killed.


*”Be holy as I am holy”*

Numbers 3:1-4

Now these are the records of the generations of Aaron and Moses at the time when the Lord spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai. 2 These then are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar and Ithamar. 3 These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained to serve as priests. 4 But Nadab and Abihu died in the presence of the Lord when they offered strange fire before the Lord in the wilderness of Sinai; and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of their father Aaron.


The main point is that God chose Aaron and his line (his sons) to be priest before Him, to represent the people to Him and He to the people. So what happened with Nadab and Abihu and what is this “strange fire”? Sorry, we didn’t cover Leviticus where this account occurs (chapter 10). Leviticus chapters 8 & 9 tell of Aaron and his sons being consecrated to serve as priests. In 8:36 we read, “Aaron and his sons did all the things which the Lord had commanded through Moses.” But soon afterward, in 10:1-3‬, we read, “Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord. Then Moses said to Aaron, “This is what the Lord has said: ‘Among those who are near me I will be sanctified, and before all the people I will be glorified.’” And Aaron held his peace.” ‭(‭ESV‬‬) God is perfect and holy and all who serve Him must be as well. To the Israelites He said, “For I am the Lord who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy.”” ‭‭Leviticus‬ ‭11:45‬ (‭ESV‬‬) To us He says in ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭1:16‬, “since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”” (ESV) Let us consider this with all earnestness.


*Centered on the Lord*

Numbers 2 (selections, AMP)

1 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 2 “The sons of Israel shall camp, each by his own standard, with the banners (flags) of their fathers’ households; they shall camp around the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle), but at a distance. 3 Those who camp on the east side toward the sunrise shall be of the standard of the camp of Judah, by their armies…17 “Then the Tent of Meeting (tabernacle) shall move out with the camp of the Levites in the middle of the [other] camps; just as they camp so shall they move out, every man in his place by their standards…34 Thus the Israelites did [as ordered]; according to everything the Lord had commanded Moses, so they camped by their standards, and so they moved out, everyone with his family (clan), according to his fathers’ household.


The tabernacle was in the center of the camp with the Levites surrounding and protecting it. The 12 tribes were arranged like a cross (or a plus sign) around them with Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun, on the EAST, Reuben, Simeon, and Gad, on the SOUTH, Ephraim, Manasseh (two sons of Joseph), and Benjamin (together, the sons of Jacob’s wife, Rachel), on the WEST, and Dan, Asher, and Naphtali, on the NORTH. And when they broke camp to move, they went in that order: Judah, Reuben, Levites with the tabernacle then Ephraim and Dan. The banners were like giant flags to identify each group, a very practical idea when you are trying to find your way back to your tent among 3 million people! I’ve noted before that the Bible order of compass points are East, South, West and North, the oriental way, vs. N, S, E, W as I am accustomed to. Judah was the largest, camped in the East, and led the nation as they traveled to the Promised Land. King David was a descendent of Judah as well as The King, Jesus. Chief to note again is that the tabernacle, the dwelling of God, was as the center of Israel’s encampment. Do I need to add a cliché? 


*Buffer tribe*

Numbers 1:47-54 (ESV)

47 But the Levites were not listed along with them by their ancestral tribe. 48 For the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 49 “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not list, and you shall not take a census of them among the people of Israel. 50 But appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the testimony, and over all its furnishings, and over all that belongs to it. They are to carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings, and they shall take care of it and shall camp around the tabernacle. 51 When the tabernacle is to set out, the Levites shall take it down, and when the tabernacle is to be pitched, the Levites shall set it up. And if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death. 52 The people of Israel shall pitch their tents by their companies, each man in his own camp and each man by his own standard. 53 But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel. And the Levites shall keep guard over the tabernacle of the testimony.” 54 Thus did the people of Israel; they did according to all that the LORD commanded Moses.


The tribe of Levi, the tribe Moses and Aaron, were excluded from the census, in part, since its purpose was to number the Israelites for war and Levites were not to be soldiers in war but ministers of the tabernacle. Wesley points out that, “They that minister upon holy things, should not entangle themselves in secular affairs.” It’s the inverse of 2 Timothy 2:3-4 where Paul encourages Timothy to stay focused on the work: “3 Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. 4 No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him.” Both make the same point: stay focused on the good work God has called Christians to, as soldiers, ambassadors, servants of Christ.

The Levites served as a buffer between the tabernacle and the rest of Israel as well as outsiders (presume gentiles) so the wrath of God wouldn’t fall on those not set apart for service to the Lord. I believe this was a unique role to the Levites and not applicable today in any spiritual sense.



Numbers 1:1-3, 45-46 (ESV)

1 The LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, 2 “Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel, by clans, by fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male, head by head. 3 From twenty years old and upward, all in Israel who are able to go to war, you and Aaron shall list them, company by company… 45 So all those listed of the people of Israel, by their fathers’ houses, from twenty years old and upward, every man able to go to war in Israel—46 all those listed were 603,550.


The book of numbers picks up at the end of Exodus. In between is Levoticus, also written by Moses, which lays out the religious laws for the Jewish nation. From the ESV introduction to Leviticus: “The central message is that God is holy and he requires his people to be holy. The book also shows that God graciously provides atonement for sin through the shedding of blood.”

Numbers is called so because it starts with the census, the numbering of Israel. The Jewish name, “In the Wilderness,” is more appropriate name. 600,000 men over 20 from all the tribes (except Levi) are numbered – quite a crowd. Identifying who was part of the chosen people was very important, part of maintaining their distinction among all nations as holy to the Lord.

Thank God we are numbered among His chosen in Christ and holy to the Lord.


All Bible references are New American Standard Version (NASB) unless otherwise noted or, I forgot.


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