Numbers are often used as a measure of success. What marks did you get? How much do you earn? How many attended a certain function? How old are you? Our great Omniscient God attends to detail, counting the very number of hairs on each person’s head. He also created vast expanses of stars, and angels without number. He numbered the tribes of Israel exactly one year after they left Egypt. They gathered in the desert near Mt Sinai to receive instructions from the Lord, through His servant Moses (Numbers 1:1-2).
Are numbers important to God? The Bible answers that question for us. The Lord Jesus talked about the importance of one sheep that was lost and how the good shepherd left ninety-nine to recover that one (Luke 15:3-7). He used this to illustrate the rejoicing which takes place in heaven over one person who comes into the family of God (Luke 15:7-10).
When is the last time you heard a sermon from the book of Numbers? Yet – the theme of this book is relevant to our day and age. God’s intention was for His people to walk by faith, trusting in His promises. They did not have Bibles tucked under their arms when they went to church, but rather stood in the sun for hours, to hear the Word of the Lord, thundered by His prophet Moses. The book is very real, since it describes the weaknesses of the nation’s leaders; Moses, Aaron and Miriam did not always measure up to God’s standard. Ryrie notes “God miraculously supported them during those years of rebellion and wandering and finally brought them [the nation] to the Promised Land” (Ryrie Study Bible Page 197).
The first chapters of this book deal with the sanctification of God’s chosen people. One event had Messianic overtones, when Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness to heal folks bitten by snakes (Number 21:9) Compare this scripture with John 3:14. Only God could turn that evil into good. Paul understood this principle when he wrote “In all things God works for the good of those who love Him, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).
In this remarkably honest book we find the nation celebrating the first Passover. Just after the completion of the Tabernacle, designed to foster worship, God spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai (9:1) laying out the details of this specific celebration. And so “The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses” (9:5). We also find the Holy Spirit in this Old Testament book! Moses gathered 70 elders together and the Lord descended in a cloud to speak to him. Then “He took the Spirit that was on him [Moses] and put the Spirit on the seventy Elders “. Under the power of the Spirit of God, they prophesied – a one-time only event (11:25).
Throughout their journey, the Israelites often grumbled. We read that in spite of this “The Lord was slow to anger, abounding in love, and forgiving sin and rebellion” (14:18). It is this same God who grows patience and kindness and love in His children today through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22). However, lest we take God’s mercy for granted He warned “no one who has treated Me with contempt will ever see it [the Promised land] (Numbers 14:23). There are consequences for our choices, even today.
There are so many lessons to be learned from the Book of Numbers. Here the character of our faithful, covenant-keeping God is confirmed in the experience of wayward Israel.
The words of Balaam remind us of the committed life “I must speak only what God puts in my mouth” (22:38). Would to God we stayed by this principle, letting our yea be yea and our nay mean nay (Matthew 5:37).
God desires to make a covenant of peace with those who are zealous for the honour of the Lord (25:12-13). This reminds us of the cost to the One who purchased our peace at Calvary, doesn’t it?
by Marilyn Daniels (MarilynDaniels.net)