“The book of Numbers is about faithfulness—portraying the faithfulness of God in dealing with a people who are often unfaithful. As a whole the book presents a challenge to the people of God to live holy and righteous lives according to the Word of God, and as a result enjoy the blessings and benefits of living in right relationship to Him…Whatever the interpretation of the numbers, the theological importance is clear: in spite of the faithlessness of the people of Israel, God was faithful to bless and increase them even during the difficult times encountered in their wilderness journey.” (HCSB)

Note the summary statement in 1:19 and 1:54, that Moses and Aaron led the Israelites in doing just as the Lord commanded them. This statement appears several times in Exodus and Leviticus to express the faithfulness of the people in following the instructions from God. Chapters 7-10 are concerned with celebration and consecration, as the nation prepared for the journey from Mount Sinai to the Promised Land. The success of their future endeavors depended on their obedience. An excellent example of faithfulness was that those celebrating the Passover must do so in a state of ritual purity. But several Israelites had become unclean due to death in their household. If they chose not to celebrate Passover, they were subject to banishment from the community. They approached Moses for a judgment regarding their case. As was his usual recourse, Moses consulted the Lord for the answer. We find this in chapter 9:7-10, 14, “We are unclean because of a human corpse. Why should we be excluded from presenting the LORD’s offering at its appointed time with the other Israelites? Moses replied to them, “Wait here until I hear what the LORD commands for you.” Then the LORD spoke to Moses: “Tell the Israelites: When any one of you or your descendants is unclean because of a corpse or is on a distant journey, he may still observe the Passover to the LORD…If a foreigner resides with you and wants to observe the Passover to the LORD, he is to do so according to the Passover statute and its ordinances.” Even when a person was “unclean,” God showed his love again in the Old Testament by still allowing that person to celebrate in worship to Him.

What I found interesting was that chapter 9:17-23 was originally a song that was sung during the wilderness journey, as the people followed the Lord in the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. The song also reiterates the theme of the faithfulness of the Israelites, who were to follow the Lord’s leading in the movement through the wilderness. Imagine a wilderness where it is hot during the day and cold by night, and many obstacles in the way to the final destination. God served as a cloud by day, and fire by night, while leading His people to a blessed land. How can anyone turn away from such a God?

6:1-4, “The LORD instructed Moses: ‘Speak to the Israelites and tell them: When a man or woman makes a special vow, a Nazirite vow, to consecrate himself to the LORD, he is to abstain from wine and beer. He must not drink vinegar made from wine or from beer. He must not drink any grape juice or eat fresh grapes or raisins. He is not to eat anything produced by the grapevine, from seeds to skin, during his vow.’” The Nazirite vow involved total restriction from the vineyard and any of its products. The cultivation of vineyards required a settled lifestyle that tended to lose the sense of total devotion to the Lord that characterized Israel’s nomadic life in the wilderness. Today, such a vow would be considered a fast for Christians. God is telling us that when we choose to fast, that we must do so with a clear mind with no alcohol in our system, with no worries or “to-do” lists on our minds. When we fast, we should have 100% focus on God and God alone.

In 10:29-32, Moses asked his brother-in-law Hobab to accompany them on the journey and experience the goodness of the blessing of God upon Israel. In 10:32, Moses says, “If you come with us, whatever good the LORD does for us we will do for you.” Jesus Christ died and rose again to conquer the grave of our sins, what more can we do for our fellow people? Moses was the interpreter of God’s direction, revealed through the cloud in the wilderness, but Hobab could provide valuable support in the desert setting native to the clans of the Midianites. The Lord was the provider of both forms of leadership through the Spirit. 11:14-15, Moses tells God, “I can’t carry all these people by myself. They are too much for me. If You are going to treat me like this, please kill me right now. If You are pleased with me, don’t let me see my misery any more.” In 11:17, God replies, “I will take some of the Spirit who is on you and put the Spirit on them. They will help you bear the burden of the people, so that you do not have to bear it by yourself.” In regards to 11:16-27, the work of the Spirit of God here is to enable the elders and officers to carry out the task of teaching, judging and leading the Israelites through the wilderness experiences. God has provided us with different gifts from the Spirit, and it is up to us to be used as much as possible as instruments in His will to help others.

When God supplied the needed food in Exodus 16 the people gathered it gladly, but in Numbers 11, they complain about His provision. In regards to 11:4-6, the people’s needs are both physical and spiritual. They complain that they are tired of the monotonous diet of manna, God’s special provision, and crave the luxury of the produce of Egypt. To have that, they would return to slavery and oppression. Insatiable human craving leads to a life of bondage. The blessing turned to craving, and the craving to disease and death. Then God instructs Moses in 11:17-20, to inform the people that, “The LORD will give you meat and you will eat…for a whole month—until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes nauseating to you—because you have rejected the LORD who is among you, and cried to Him: ‘Why did we ever leave Egypt?” How much does this relate to our lives? We become tired of a monotonous lifestyle, so we decide to get and/or do something luxurious for ourselves on our own terms, then later on, we regret that decision because that “blessing” was really a curse that caused bondage of financial, and even worse, personal responsibility. We all have a difficult time being content and just waiting on the Lord to provide in His timing. We want things to be our own way and on our own time, and when we follow our own path, we miss out on God’s blessing that He had in store for us.

In chapters 22-24, God demonstrated that He can use whatever means necessary to bring blessing to His people. Even the person most adamantly opposed to His will can become an instrument of His purpose. 22:28-33, “Then the LORD opened the donkey’s mouth, and she asked Balaam, “What have I done to you that you have beaten me these three times?” Balaam answered the donkey, “You made me look like a fool. If I had a sword in my hand, I’d kill you now!” But the donkey said, “Am I not the donkey you’ve ridden all your life until today? Have I ever treated you this way before?” “No” he replied. Then the LORD opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the LORD standing in the path with a drawn sword in His hand. Balaam knelt and bowed with his face to the ground. The Angel of the LORD asked him, “Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? Look, I came out to oppose you, because what you are doing is evil in My sight. The donkey saw Me and turned away from Me these three times. If she had not turned away from Me, I would have killed you by now and let her live.” Balaam was so set on doing his own will; he completely ignored the fact that his devoted life-long donkey actually talked to him. The LORD finally had to open Balaam’s eyes to see what was happening. I believe that if the donkey had not talked, Balaam would have kept his eyes closed, figuratively speaking of course, and would have been killed by the Angel. This passage says a lot about the consequences of today. It is up to Christians to “talk” to non-believers, and everyone who lives in sin, so that the eyes of those who are going against God’s will be opened and lives be saved.

The text in chapter 14 emphasizes their repeated rebellion against God (10 times) to which He has now responded. In rejecting entry into the promised land, they were rejecting an essential part of their covenant with Yahweh, which was in turn founded in His covenant with Abraham. 14:7-9, “The land we passed through and explored is an extremely good land. If the LORD is pleased with us, He will bring us into this land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and give it to us. Only don’t rebel against the LORD, and don’t be afraid of the people of the land, for we will devour them. Their protection has been removed from them, and the LORD is with us. Don’t be afraid of them!” In today’s age of postmodernism, the non-believers are doing everything they can to get rid of God, and they are succeeding from the school to the courts. It is important to remember that Christians should not be afraid of this, because God is on our side and with Him, all things work together for the good for those who love Him. We must trust in Him and wait for the day when every knee will bow down and realize the Truth. In the mean time, it is our job to pray and find out how He wants us to respond to such attacks against His name. 14:11, “The LORD said to Moses, “How long will these people despise Me? How long will they not trust in Me despite all the signs I have performed among them?” 14:18-19, Moses replies to the LORD, “The LORD is slow to anger and rich in faithful love, forgiving wrongdoing and rebellion. But He will not leave the guilty unpunished…Please pardon the wrongdoing of this people in keeping with the greatness of Your faithful love, just as You have forgiven them from Egypt until now.”

In chapter 23, Balaam informs Balak that God is unchangeable; if His intent is to bless Israel, His word will be accomplished without fail and without deviation. Nothing Balaam could muster via sorcery or incantation could bring violence or destruction upon God’s people. Later on in 24:12-14, we become amazed at such faith, “Balaam answered Balak, “Didn’t I previously tell the messengers you sent me: If Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go against the LORD’s command, to do anything good or bad of my own will? I will say whatever the LORD says.” Balaam had chosen the high road to follow God rather than sell out and obey another person’s order.

15:37-41, “The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments, and put a blue cord on the tassel at each corner. These will serve as tassels for you to look at, so that you may remember all the LORD’s commands and obey them and not become unfaithful by following your own heart and your own eyes. This way you will remember and obey all My commands and be holy to your God. I am the LORD your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the LORD your God.” Christians today can do something similar by at the very least wearing a cross around our necks. As we wear the cross, we can remember everything that Jesus went through and to remind us that He is with us in every step of life.

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