The Book of Numbers – We Do These Things Not Because They Are Easy But Because They Are Hard

Posted: June 30, 2016 in Book of Numbers

THE BOOK OF NUMBERS

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL

Yesterday, as I completed our walk together through the book of Daniel, the natural question that came to my mind was “What book do I move to next, Lord?” The thing that came through and clear was that I have been bouncing around the Bible. When I started this journey of documenting my studies of each book of the Bible several years ago, I had either through this blog page or through solely Facebook posts before that that I had studied several books of the Bible but only a few in consecutive order as the books appear to us in the Bible. Below are the books of the Bible that I have done devotionals on either here or as a Facebook post over the past four years:

 

The Old Testament

  1. Genesis (Facebook posts only)
  2. Exodus (Facebook posts only)
  3. Leviticus (Facebook posts only)
  4. Job (Facebook posts only)
  5. Daniel (Blog page)
  6. Hosea (Facebook posts only)
  7. Amos (Facebook posts only)

 

The New Testament

  1. Matthew (Blog Page)
  2. Luke (Facebook posts only)
  3. John (Facebook posts only)
  4. Romans (Facebook and Blog Page)
  5. 1 Corinthians (Blog Page)

 

It made me realize that (1) I have been steadfastly studying my Bible almost daily for about 3 ½ years and have documented that in some way through my daily writings for 12 of the 66 books of the Bible, (2) I need to go back to all those old Facebook posts and copy and paste them into here on my blog page and (3) it was time to walk through the Bible’s books in order so that gain a greater sense the building of God’s plan of redemption throughout history. So, the Holy Spirit is leading me back to the beginning of the Bible and I must start at the earliest point at which I have not done daily study. Seeing as how I have done daily studies of Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus, guess what was next? Numbers, that’s right! I struggled with the Lord on this one all day yesterday. Numbers, Numbers, Numbers was the answer. C’mon, Lord, really? Numbers? That’s why I jumped to Romans awhile back after having completed Genesis – Leviticus. Numbers seems to the untrained eye to be a difficult and non-exciting book to walk through for the purposes of a daily devotional through which you try to offer up relationships to my personal life or current events and then practical application to the 21st century readers of my blog including myself.

 

Previously I had thought the same thing when I began my study of Leviticus a year or two ago. What can I learn and share? But that turned out to be one of the most moving spiritual periods of my life. It was where I learned that the historical books of the early Old Testament were actually full of the basics of the theology of the Christian faith and it is these early books of the Bible that shows how God was preparing to send us Jesus Christ from the moment that Adam and Eve disobeyed Him. It is amazing to think about when you think about it.

 

That’s the thing that I come today as we open up our study of the Book of Numbers is the similarity of my unwillingness previously to tackle this book is not too dissimilar to the reason that the Israelites in the Book of Numbers ended up wandering for 40 years. The Book of Numbers by appearances and by reputation among Christ followers is a tough book to read and maybe it is. Many of shy away from it all together as a yawner and because it is seemingly hard to get any spiritual meat out of. Was that not the way of the Israelites when they stood before the Promised Land. They murmured and complained that it would be too hard to try to conquer the Promised Land. Without even having given the conquest a chance, they were already defeated. They had already given up. They had already conceded defeat. Without even trying.

 

Many of us avoid these early Old Testament books because of the difficulty in relating some of their content to today’s world, the seemingly incessant need for genealogies, and odd rules that do not seem to fit today’s world. What we learned previously in Genesis – Leviticus is that God was teaching His people about holiness and what it took to be a holy people. These books were to teach God’s people about cleanliness in what was very diseased world at the time. These books were to establish practices that also pointed us forward to Jesus Christ. There was much that I took away from those first three books of the Bible.

 

Thus, we move into Numbers now. Not because it is easy but because it is hard, as JFK said about the space race, and because it is hard, the reward is great. Let us not stand before the Promised Land and whine and complain that it is too hard to accomplish. Let us stand there and say take us there Lord. We trust in your almighty power. It looks like it is going to be difficult but we trust that you have us here for a reason. Teach us, God. Teach us from the history of your Chosen Ones about ourselves in the 21st century. Teach us the hard lessons that we need to hear from your timeless Word. Let us move forward and learn together not because it is easy but exactly because it is hard!

 

Amen and Amen.

 

To help us get started in our study in earnest tomorrow, here is an overview of the Book of Numbers that I gathered from www.gotquestions.com and www.biblehub.com:

 

 

Overview of Book of Numbers

 

Author:

Moses was the author of the Book of Numbers.

 

Date of Writing:

According to most scholarly research, the Book of Numbers was written between 1440 and 1400 B.C.

 

Purpose of Writing:

The message of the Book of Numbers, is universal and timeless. It reminds believers of the spiritual warfare in which they are engaged, for Numbers is the book of the service and walk of God’s people. The Book of Numbers essentially bridges the gap between the Israelites receiving the Law (Exodus and Leviticus) and preparing them to enter the Promised Land (Deuteronomy and Joshua).

 

Key Verses:

Numbers 6:24-26, “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

 

Numbers 12:6-8, “When a prophet of the LORD is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the LORD. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

 

Numbers 14:30-34, “Not one of you will enter the land I swore with uplifted hand to make your home, except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. As for your children that you said would be taken as plunder, I will bring them in to enjoy the land you have rejected. But you — your bodies will fall in this desert. Your children will be shepherds here for forty years, suffering for your unfaithfulness, until the last of your bodies lies in the desert. For forty years — one year for each of the forty days you explored the land — you will suffer for your sins and know what it is like to have me against you.'”

 

Brief Summary:

From chapters 1-9 the Israelites are preparing for their journey and entry into the promise land. Moses begins by taking a census of all the tribes, primarily to see how many men are available and in shape for military service. Next, Moses dedicates the Levites and instructs the Nazirite vows and laws. During this time, the Israelites celebrate the 2nd Passover one year after their exit from bondage.

 

In chapters 10-12, the Israelites travel from the wilderness in Sinai to approach the promise land. The people complain about their food, God gives them quail, and because of their greed, He also sends them a plague. Miriam and Aaron learn a lesson about whom God places in leadership.

 

In chapters 13-19, we see severe punishment for disobedience and unfaithfulness to God. Moses sends out 12 spies to perform reconnaissance on the promise land. The 12 spies return and only two of them bring good news. The people fear the occupants and rebel against taking the land. For this God punishes them and sends them into the wilderness for forty years to roam.

 

The last chapters of Numbers, from 20-36, the new generation of Israelites again attempt to enter the land to take it as God promised. This time they easily destroy two nations that confront them as they are entering. Balak uses his prophet Balaam to learn to seduce the Israelites to worship Baal. Because of this disobedience, about 24,000 people die, including Balaam. Before the book of Numbers ends, Moses again conducts a census, and Joshua assumes the leadership of Israel in place of Moses who is banned from the promise land, due to his disobedience.

 

Most of the events of the Book of Numbers take place in the wilderness, primarily between the second and fortieth years of the wandering of the Israelites. The first 25 chapters of the book chronicle the experiences of the first generation of Israel in the wilderness, while the rest of the book describes the experiences of the second generation. The theme of obedience and rebellion followed by repentance and blessing runs through the entire book, as well as the entire Old Testament.

 

The theme of the holiness of God is continued from the book of Leviticus into the book of Numbers, which reveals God’s instruction and preparation of His people to enter the Promised Land of Canaan. The importance of the Book of Numbers is indicated by its being referred to in the New Testament many times. The Holy Spirit called special attention to Numbers in 1 Corinthians 10:1-12. The words “all these things happened to them for examples” refers to the sin of the Israelites and God’s displeasure with them.

 

In Romans 11:22, Paul speaks about the “goodness and severity of God.” That, in a nutshell, is the message of Numbers. The severity of God is seen in the death of the rebellious generation in the wilderness, those who never entered the Promised Land. The goodness of God is realized in the new generation. God protected, preserved, and provided for these people until they possessed the land. This reminds us of the justice and love of God, which are always in sovereign harmony.

 

Foreshadowings:

God’s demand for holiness in His people is completely and finally satisfied in Jesus Christ, who came to fulfill the law on our behalf (Matthew 5:17). The concept of the promised Messiah pervades the book. The story in chapter 19 of the sacrifice of the red heifer “without defect or blemish” prefigures Christ, the Lamb of God without spot or blemish who was sacrificed for our sins. The image of the bronze snake lifted up on the pole to provide physical healing (chapter 21) also prefigures the lifting up of Christ, either upon the cross, or in the ministry of the Word, that whoever looks to Him by faith may have spiritual healing.

 

In chapter 24, Balaam’s fourth oracle speaks of the star and the scepter who is to rise out of Jacob. Here is a prophecy of Christ who is called the “morning star” in Revelation 22:16 for His glory, brightness, and splendor, and for the light that comes by Him. He may also be called a scepter, that is, a scepter bearer, because of his royalty. He not only has the name of a king, but has a kingdom, and rules with a scepter of grace, mercy, and righteousness.

 

Practical Application:

A major theological theme developed in the New Testament from Numbers is that sin and unbelief, especially rebellion, reap the judgment of God. First Corinthians specifically says—and Hebrews 3:7-4:13 strongly implies—that these events were written as examples for believers to observe and avoid. We are not to “set our hearts on evil things” (v. 6), or be sexually immoral (v. 8), or put God to the test (v. 9) or gripe and complain (v. 10).

 

Just as the Israelites wandered in the wilderness 40 years because of their rebellion, so too does God sometimes allow us to wander away from Him and suffer loneliness and lack of blessings when we rebel against Him. But God is faithful and just, and just as He restored the Israelites to their rightful place in His heart, He will always restore Christians to the place of blessing and intimate fellowship with Him if we repent and return to Him (1 John 1:9).

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