Seek

Numbers14-15 cain

No matter how many times I read the story, it is hard for me to digest the betrayal of the Israelites in chapter 14. After they saw the land that He promised them, they wanted to return to being slaves in Egypt? What shocks me even more is that we do the same thing today. What do you think Jesus meant when he said this in Luke 9:62, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God”? This is alluding to a plow man tilling the ground to prepare it for planting. If the plow man were to look back behind him the rows would be crooked and off course. Jesus is saying that we are like plow men and if we look back and do a poor job then we aren’t fit for the kingdom. What does this have to do with Numbers 14? We can look back today the same way the Israelites did in Numbers 14. They were liberated from slavery in Egypt and given the promise of a new land that was “exceedingly good”. We were liberated from slavery under sin and given the promise of a perfect new earth. The Israelites looked back at their life in slavery and wanted its comforts once again, even knowing they would return to slavery. We can look back at our life of sin and wish we could go back to it, even if we know it will kill us in the end. Sometimes our desires can turn from God and pull us towards a life of sin.

The last two verses of chapter 15 tell us exactly what God desires from us. “Remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God. 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.” Replace the phrase “land of Egypt” with “sin” and apply this to our lives today. Let’s not miss out on our promises because we want to look back to our old life of sin and return to slavery. Let’s keep our eyes on the goal of the kingdom and remember the God who saved us from sin and is bringing us to an “exceedingly good land.” I enjoy looking at the big picture in scripture and seeing how God works on a grand scale. Like how we see God working out the same goal for us and for the ancient Israelites.

Psalm 90 is a chapter that gives us a big picture view of the world and plainly relays potentially complex ideas into understandable language. When I read Psalm 90, a few things are clear to me. God is eternal. He views time differently than us. He sees our sin and He loves us despite our sin. Sometimes we need reminding of these big picture ideas because they help us understand the world and make us realize what is actually important. We can easily get lost in our everyday activities and bury our minds in worry, but in reality, God is still in control and willing to show us His favor.

Thank you for reading our devotions on Numbers this week. Hopefully we walked away with a renewed respect for God’s holiness, an awe for the awesome work He did in the people of Israel, and a reassurance that He is leading us towards a promise that is better than anything we can imagine. Numbers may sound like a boring math book, but in reality it is a rich record of God’s dealings with His people. As you continue to read through the book of Numbers, see how God deals with His people and make a connection to your life. Where God’s word and application meet, there is life change and understanding.

Josiah Cain

 

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+14-15%2C+Psalm+90&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 16-17 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

Follow

Numbers 11 13 Cain

These next three chapters are where things start to heat up in the book of Numbers…literally. In verse 1, we see the Israelites start to complain. After all that God has done for them, I understand why He would be upset. When it says the “fire of the LORD burned among them,” this isn’t a metaphor, but instead literal fire burned throughout the outskirts of the camp. The people obviously didn’t like this fire, so they complained to Moses and Moses prayed to stop the fire. God stopped the fire, but apparently, this wasn’t enough to teach the Israelites their lesson. In verses 4-6, they complain about not having meat and nice food like they did in Egypt; all they had to eat was manna. In verses 11-15 Moses honestly lays out his heart to God to the point where he asks God to kill him. Now, to me, there is an important lesson that we can learn from this outpouring. Even the greatest among us can reach a point where we have had enough. However, we can always bring our troubles and anxieties to God. Even if the problem seems impossible, like feeding millions of people meat in the middle of the desert. God wants to deal with us in a personal way. He doesn’t want the perfect fake versions of ourselves where we have all the answers and are always composed. We can be honest with Him and show Him our true heart. God dealt faithfully with Moses when Moses came to Him with a huge problem and He will deal faithfully with us when we bring our problems to Him.

This interesting incident happens in 11:24-30. The Spirit of God comes upon the leaders of Israel much like what we see in the New Testament on the day of Pentecost. We usually think about the Spirit being a New Testament power, but it is also present in the Old Testament. After the spirit comes on the elders, two of the elders prophesy in the camp. A young man thought this was a problem, so he told Moses. Little did Moses know, God’s big plan was to give His Spirit to each of His followers in the new covenant that was coming. The elders prophesying was just a taste of what God had in mind for His people. I like how Moses doesn’t get jealous about God giving His Spirit to others, but instead trusts and respects God enough to allow Him to deal as He sees fit. I think we too should have this same attitude of trust in God.

In verse 34, Kibroth-hattaavah literally means “the graves of greediness”. They named the place after exactly what happened in that place. The names of places serve as reminders. Imagine going down the interstate and passing the exit to Graves of the Greedy Town. Chapter 11 serves as a good reminder to us about our selfishness and greediness. Do you feel like God owes you something? Are you complaining to God about the things you want? Let’s take chapter 11 as a good lesson for us today. God truly has our best interest at heart and has already rescued us from death and slavery. Let’s not be like the Israelites who are so quick to forget where God has brought them from and so quickly turn to our own desires.

In chapter 12 we read another story of disobedience. Aaron and Miriam get mad about Moses’s wife being a Cushite. This may be because she wasn’t a Jew and in the law people were only supposed to marry Jews. Regardless of the reason for their anger, they think they are justified in thinking they are better than Moses. They say, “’has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has he not spoken through us as well?’” (11:2). Almost as to say Moses married a Cushite women and God has spoken through us as well, what makes him think He is better than us? In the way that verses 2-4 talk about the situation, I can imagine Aaron and Miriam colluding in the corner of the Tabernacle, whispering to each other about how they are better than Moses. God sets them straight in verses 5-10, even giving leprosy to Miriam for her disobedience. Even the leaders of Israel were making big mistakes and being divisive. The scope of these happenings highlight the sin nature of man. Even after God has liberated the Israelites from Egypt, with all the miracles that went into that event, they still sin and disobey God. No matter the circumstances, people can’t stay away from sin very long. The only way we can be purified and righteous before God is through Jesus. When God looks at us, He doesn’t see all the mistakes we’ve made today. He sees His perfect son who covers our sin. When I read the Old Testament, it makes me very thankful for Jesus and the role that he plays in my life.

Even though the people have continued to fight and disobey God, He still leads them to the Promise Land. In chapter 13, we see the beginnings of God’s plan to move His people into the Promise Land. God wants the people to spy out the land.  However, things don’t go smoothly, even the spies are disobedient and give a bad report about the land. The only spies to come back and give a good report are Caleb and Joshua. It’s like the spies forgot what they just went through with the Exodus. Did they not see the plagues that God sent on Egypt? Did they not see God defeat the entire Egyptian army in one stroke? Did they not see the manna and quail that God provided? How can they go to the land of Canaan after experiencing all these things and not think God can take care of these people too? Where is their faith? More importantly and real to our lives, are we the same way? We know the stories about what God did. We know who God is and have seen Him work. We know that even death has no power, yet we let our faith fail when we are confronted by hard things. Are we different than the spies of Israel who gave a bad report about the land of Canaan out of fear? Is there a land in which God is leading you? We have seen how He works and He is faithful to follow through. He is powerful to complete any task which He undertakes. I want our faith to be strengthened by chapter 13 and I want us to learn a lesson from the Israelites. Let’s not forget and let’s have faith. Let’s be people who follow God through the wilderness, faithfully, so that we can walk into the place He has prepared for us.

Josiah Cain

 

 

Our God

Numbers 8-10 cain

Have you ever thought about your life as a sacrifice to God? When I see how the Levites were cleansed and given before God as a wave offering in verse 13, it makes me want to be the same way before God. Imagine being born into the tribe of Levi and knowing what your purpose is. Your purpose was to grow up, study the job of your calling, study the scriptures, live a righteous life, and eventually serve God for 25 years. But really, how different are any of our lives from that? Can we not have the same basic path? Can we not come to faith, prepare ourselves through study, serve God in our lives, and present ourselves as offerings before God? People give their lives to all sorts of things. Many people choose to make their lives about the pursuit of a career, the growing of a family, the building of a legacy, etc. As the book of Ecclesiastes teaches, life’s meaning comes from following God and keeping His commandments. There is nothing else that we can pursue which gives us meaning and when I read how the Levites were given into the service of God I am reminded of this. I’m not saying everyone must be a pastor or anything like that because serving the LORD comes in many fashions, but we all need to put our life before God as a wave offering. Nothing sounds more appealing to me than being purified before the LORD and serving Him as we see in 8:21. Through Christ, we can all be purified and serve God with the entirety of our lives.

As we move into chapter 9, there is a question that comes up about observing Passover and being unclean. We find the answer in verse 9:10-14.  To me, there is a personal aspect that comes out of the beginning of this chapter. I see real people seeking to live out God’s word. These people wanted so badly to correctly follow God that they asked questions about seeking the desire of God. I think there is a lesson to be learned from the attitude of these followers: be open and real with God in all things. Open up and ask questions, seek His desire, and listen to His response. Today, I think we should learn to posture ourselves more like this before God. He is real and willing to interact with His people and give us wisdom. Sometimes we think that the time for God to interact with His people has passed, even if we don’t believe that, sometimes we act like that is the truth.

Verses 15-16 are an awesome manifestation of God among His people. His presence was continuous around the Tabernacle. Try to imagine the scene in your head. Imagine you are camping with the Israelites. In the middle of the night you walk out of your tent and in the distance, there is the warm glow, looking like fire, surrounding the Tabernacle in the distance. Have you ever seen a big fire from a distance? The warm glow that casts against the clouds in the sky. Imagine that scene every night, knowing that God is here, living among you, watching over you, and showing you His power. Don’t be so fast to read over verses, use your imagination and try to put yourself in the landscape. Imagine the smells, sights, and sounds that would have been observed by the people in the book. This practice brings the Bible to life for us, especially in the book of Numbers, where there are a lot of mind blowing events that take place. Numbers is a hot bed for God’s power manifested like no other time in history. Take your time reading these words and putting yourself in the shoes of the people. It would have been an awesome time to be alive and to witness God working in miraculous ways.

Another point we see in chapter 9 is just how literally God leads His people through the wilderness. When He moved, they moved. God still wants to lead His people today. It might not be a cloud of smoke or fire, literally leading us to the place we need to go, but through prayer and faith He can lead us to great places He has prepared for us. We should be people like those in 9:23. “At the command of the LORD they camped, and at the command of the LORD they set out; they kept the LORD’s charge, according to the command of the LORD through Moses.” When God moves, we should move. When God stays, we should stay. He is leading us to things prepared for us that we can’t see or imagine, but if we follow faithfully, we will be glad we did.

Here’s an intriguing thought. Let’s say you had no modern-day technology – how would you communicate and organize roughly 2.5 million people? Seems like an overwhelming task to me. The system that God put into place at the beginning of chapter 10 is genius. I’m not surprised God came up with such a good system, but none the less, I’m impressed by the simplicity and effectiveness. Now that all the pieces are in place, the tabernacle, the camp organization, the communication system, and the leading system, it is the time to set out for the promise land. The first move was from Sinai to Paran and took three days (10:11-13, 33). We see the organization it took to move millions of people across the desert in verses 14-28. Then come some of the coolest words in the book of Numbers “35 Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, ‘Rise up, O Lord! And let Your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate You flee before You.’ 36 When it came to rest, he said, ‘Return, O Lord, To the myriad thousands of Israel.’” The protection of the LORD went before them and watched over them in their journey, clearing the path of any obstacles that would stop them from reaching the promise land. God is for His people. I can’t explain how these verses make me feel, but I know that it’s awesome. I love seeing how God extends His arm to deal in the lives of His people. Even though seeing a cloud move might be more obvious, God still extends His arm to deal in the lives of His people today. Take some time to think about the prayers you have prayed. How have they been answered? This is God working in your life. I have seen people changed and situations work out in unusual ways. At some point, you have to stop saying things are coincidence and say that God is working in His people. The same powerful God we see in Numbers is the same God who deals with us today. Don’t forget, the God who liberated millions of people from Egypt is the same God who seeks your heart.

Josiah Cain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+8-10&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s reading will be Numbers 11-13 as we continue on the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

His Tabernacle

Numbers 7 cain

During the building of the tabernacle, the tools and utensils were not holy. Everything was normal cloth or gold material until they were consecrated. Once Moses anointed and consecrated the tabernacle and the things that went in it, they were no longer normal objects.  Instead, they were objects of God. If God can turn a simple lamp stand into a holy object, then what can He do with us? We can be made holy and set apart by God to serve a great purpose. As we have said many times, through the book of Numbers God seeks holiness for Himself and His people. This desire didn’t disappear when Jesus came into the world. God desires for us to be holy. Although we sin, God can redeem us just like He did with the tabernacle in Numbers 7.

There is a moment after the tabernacle is consecrated that the people of Israel begin to bring sacrifices and gifts.  Among the gifts are six carts and 12 oxen that are going to be given to the Levites. Carts and oxen make moving things easier.  This would be a pretty handy gift during the time of the wilderness as they move everything they have across the desert by hand! In verse 9, we see the sons of Kohath weren’t given any of the oxen and carts – what kind of rotten deal is that? Why didn’t any of the carts go to the sons of Kohath? The sons of Kohath were in charge of carrying the holy objects on their shoulders. Each heavy object in the tabernacle, including the Ark of the Covenant, was built with places for poles to slide into so that they could be carried by pole on the shoulders of the sons of Kohath. You may remember the story of Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6 when the Ark was going to be moved back into the city of Jerusalem after being gone for a long time. Notice in 2 Samuel 6:3 they placed the Ark, “on a new cart”. This was a big no-no. The Ark was not supposed to be put on a cart, but instead carried on poles like we see in the law. Then what happens? The Ark begins to fall off the cart on the way into the city and Uzzah, who was just trying to help by catching the Ark, died right as he touched it. God’s holiness can’t be infringed upon. Albeit easier, you don’t put the Ark on a cart. This is why no carts where given to the sons of Kohath. They didn’t need carts to assist in the moving of the holy objects of the tabernacle. Isn’t it interesting how the Bible connects in such unique places? Who knew that around 400 years after God gave the command to not move the holy objects on carts that Uzzah would learn the severity of breaking the command.

The rest of chapter 7 sound maybe like Pete and Repeat wrote it. These aren’t particularly exciting verses and the gifts of each tribe are the same. Between verse 10 and 83, the tribes, their gifts and their offerings are listed. After 12 days of offerings the total was: 12 silver dishes, 12 silver bowls (a total of 2,400 shekels of silver), 12 gold pans (a total of 120 shekels of gold), 12 bulls, 12 rams, 12 male lambs 1year old, 12 grain offerings, 12 male goats, 24 bulls for peace offerings, 60 rams, & 60 male goats for peace offerings (a total of 192 animals). The Israelites would have given a total of around $16,000 in silver and around $71,500 in gold. What a great out pouring from the sons of Israel to God in celebration and honor of the new tabernacle.

After the anointing of the tabernacle and 12 days of offerings, one of the coolest things I can imagine happened to Moses in verse 89. God spoke to Moses from above the Ark of the Covenant. Finally, after all the effort that has gone into getting the Israelites out of Egypt, God now has a place to dwell with His people. The time has come when God speaks to Moses from among His people. No longer does Moses have to travel to the top of a mountain to speak to God. God has moved even closer to His people today. We don’t have to travel to a temple in Jerusalem to be with God because, as we see in the New Testament, we are God’s temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). God can now dwell among us in a more personal way; He has moved into the hearts of His people. We have been anointed and sanctified by the blood of Jesus to become the new temple that God dwells in. We see an ever moving forward march by God to be closer to His people. It started with the tabernacle, then into the hearts of men in the time of the New Testament and now. In the future, we have the hope of God dwelling with us in person in the kingdom! He is with us now in the power of the Spirit that moves among us but, at the time of the restoration of all things, God is going to be with us like it was in the garden of Eden. Revelation 21 says that God is going to dwell among men. There is no part of the Bible without significance. All of it is connected because all of it is the word of God. God’s desires don’t change and He desires to be with us. The creator of the universe, the creator of the estimated 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 stars wants to be with you. To me, the realization of this fact is humbling and inspiring.  Thank you, God!

Josiah Cain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+7&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Numbers 8-10 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

His Law & Love

Numb 5-6 CainPicture1

Right at the beginning of chapter 5 we continue the theme of supreme holiness.  This helps me remember that chapter and verse separations are not part of the original scriptures. For me, sometimes using verse and chapter markings can hinder my Bible study because I can see them as walls dividing different ideas or topics instead of a continuation of an idea.  That being said, we see God’s holiness carry over from chapter 4 to chapter 5. He wants His people to be so holy that He doesn’t even want unclean people in the camp. Of course, this could have medical benefits as well, which I think is another reason God instructed His people to leave the camp if they are unclean (verses 1-4).

In verse 6 there is something that grabs my attention. The NASB translation says, “Speak to the sons of Israel, ‘When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the LORD, and that person is guilty”. The word unfaithful is מַעַל (maal) in Hebrew. It is the same word that is used to talk about unfaithfulness in marriage. You will notice that the rest of the chapter deals with unfaithfulness in marriage. I think it is intriguing how God sees sin and idolatry as unfaithfulness in the same way that people see unfaithfulness within marriage. In fact, this is the premise of the entire book of Hosea. God uses the authentic metaphor of an adulteress wife to show how Israel acts towards Him. In God’s eyes, sin and marital unfaithfulness are one and the same.

Speaking of marital unfaithfulness, the majority of chapter 5 deals with an interesting situation that may arise in the lives of the Israelites. We are presented with a situation where there is a jealous man who thinks that his wife might have been unfaithful in their marriage, but there is no proof. No one saw her with another man; there is just suspicion. Now I think it is important to understand the world in which the Israelites live. Surrounding the time the law was given to the Israelites, there were other nations with other laws to deal with similar situations. Here is what the code of Hammurabi says about a woman accused of adultery, “If a man’s wife should have a finger pointed against her in accusation involving another male, although she has not been seized lying with another male, she shall submit to the divine River god for her husband.” This divine River god test pretty much consisted of her husband making her jump into a raging river and if she survived then the “god” ruled that she was innocent and if she died then she was guilty and her judgment was given to her. Keep this in mind as we go through Numbers 5.

If a Jewish man had suspicion that his wife was unfaithful, he didn’t throw her in a river to see what happened. Instead, he had to go to the tabernacle and see a priest. The couple would bring barley meal as a memorial offering and then the priest would set out the rules for the test that was to come. Essentially, the woman agreed to drink some water mixed with a little bit of dust and ink. A little bit of dust and ink isn’t going to have major adverse health effects unless there actually is some divine judgment involved in the situation. However, jumping in a raging river has been known to kill people even if they weren’t unfaithful in their marriage. This test takes the judgment out of man’s hands and squarely puts it in the hands of God to make the call. I know it doesn’t look like it at first, but this dust and ink water test is a major step forward for women in ancient history. No longer can a man choose to beat his wife or throw her in a river based on his suspicion. He must do the very public act of taking her to the tabernacle and allowing God to make a judgment. If you notice in verse 28, she is free if the judgment doesn’t come over her. This means the man can no longer bring this charge against her. Women weren’t treated this well in any other society on earth during this time in history. The Bible puts men and women on equal playing fields in value. God makes sure that His people cannot take advantage of women the same way other nations do.

Many people want to point a finger at the Bible and say that it’s misogynistic and oppressive to women. However, God’s law ensured that women were taken care of and given the same value as men. God doesn’t hate women; He made both men and women in His image. I think there are two major points we can pull out of Numbers 5. First, God sees sin as a spouse sees marital unfaithfulness and second, God values both men and women the same. God put into effect laws that protected both His holiness and the holiness of His people and He made sure the men of His people couldn’t abuse the women who are also made in His image. This is a true gift of the Bible. In every page, in every sentence, we see the heart of God coming alive to us. Even in obscure laws about obscure situations, we see God’s heart for His people.

Now let’s take a look at Chapter 6. The majority of this chapter is dedicated to explaining the Nazarite vow. A Nazarite vow is a special vow that a person can take to dedicate themselves to God. Notably, Samson partook in a Nazarite vow which is why he lost his strength after his hair was cut. A part of the promise to Samson was to keep his vow with God and once he broke that vow, his strength left him. If you wish to take a Nazarite vow, remember the wise words of Ecclesiastes 5:5, “It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it.” The Nazarite vow is so intense it even bars contact with dead relatives which would make a person unclean. Yes, if you were in a Nazarite vow and a close relative died, you wouldn’t be allowed to attend their funeral without breaking your vow. This is how serious the Nazarite vow is.

The last few verses of chapter 6 are an interesting section usually referred to as the Aaronic blessing (Aaronic referring to Aaron, the brother of Moses). The words of the Aaronic blessing are beautiful and tender. God asks for Aaron to make known how much God cares for His people.  In these words we see God’s heart. Later, there is a great promise that proclaims “they shall invoke my name on the sons of Israel, and I then will bless them”. Ultimately, God wants us to call out to Him in all seasons. When we see Israel go off track in the Old Testament, God desires for them to return to Him so that He can return to blessing them. We see this in Matthew 7:11 as we are reminded that God is our Father.  “So if you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!” Don’t these words resonate so well with what we see in Numbers 6?! Our God doesn’t change – He still loves us and wants to bless us. If God didn’t change in the 1,400 years between the writing of Numbers and the words of Jesus, then surely He hasn’t changed between the time of Jesus and our time now. If you are a child of God today, God wants to bless you and wants to take care of you. Take peace and find rest in this truth.

 

Josiah Cain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+5-6&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Numbers 7 as we continue the 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan (1) (1)

The Key

numb 2&4 cain

Over the last four years I have done a lot of moving. I’ve moved from an apartment, to a house, to a trailer, back to a house, to my in-laws, and now to my home. Not to mention, I have helped plenty of others move during this time. Despite my many moving back aches and cardboard box forts, I’ve experienced nothing in the moving department compared to the Levites in chapter 3-4 of Numbers. These chapters are dedicated instructions for the Levites about how to live around and move the Tabernacle.

A portion of the third chapter is dedicated to uncomplicated, yet purposeful counting of all the male sons of the Levites a month or older.  Remember the Passover in Egypt where God spared the first born sons of Israel while passing judgement over the rest of Egypt’s first born sons? In Numbers 3, we see God take the first born of Israel not to death, but to holiness. Numbers 3:13 says that God is making the Levites “sanctified” to Himself. This word sanctified means to make holy. Instead of killing the first born sons of Israel, God uses them to be mediators between Him and the Israelites. Does this sound like any other first born son to you? Jesus is now the first born son that acts as a mediator between us and God. It is so cool to me that the number of Levite males a month or older and the number of first born sons in Israel are almost the exact same number. God sees the males of the Levites being the ransom in place of the first born sons of Israel. In Numbers 3:39, the number of Levite males comes out to 22,00 and in 3:43 the number of first born males is 22,273. I will draw your attention to the extra 273 first born sons which aren’t covered by the ransom of the sons of Levi. Instead of taking their lives, which is what they would deserve, God only requires the small price of 5 shekels per person. That comes out to a total of 1,365 shekels in exchange for the lives of 273 first born sons. I guess I was wrong in my last post when I joked about Numbers being a math text book. But really, the math should be done from this point on. The point is this: God would rather redeem people than kill people; God opts for mercy instead of judgment. This is just one of the great things about Him that makes Him a God worth worshiping.

Moving on to chapter 4 we again see the detailed and intentional nature of God through instructions He gives the Levites for the Tabernacle. Remember holiness is one of God’s main priorities when it comes to the Tabernacle. We are blissfully reading along in chapter 4, hearing about the job of the sons of Aaron….then we get to verse 15. Things get serious in verse 15. It becomes clear to us that the sons of Aaron took so much caution in covering all the holy objects in the Tabernacle so that when the sons of Kohath come to move the stuff they don’t die! Remember God’s holiness is serious. All it would take for an unclean person to die is to touch a holy object. It doesn’t sound like a simple list of instructions anymore; this is a life or death situation. I thought I had it rough when I had to take the legs off my couch to fit it through the door but at least I wouldn’t die if I accidentally touched it! I like to look at verses 5-20 as the “how not to die when moving the Tabernacle” verses. If you were a son of Kohath, in charge of carrying one of the holy objects, you would be thankful that one of the sons of Aaron did their job well.

Reading though chapter 4 and hearing how the jobs of these different people are broken down reminds me of the body of Christ. We have different positions and skills which allow us to come together and work for God. Moving the Tabernacle in a holy and dignified way was no easy task, so too is serving God and His son, Jesus. It takes a team effort with everyone pitching in to make it a success.

Reading this also gave me another idea. Maybe we should only ask people between the ages of 30-50 to help us move. I should have quoted Numbers 4:3 to all the people who have asked me to move over the years. But in all seriousness, there is one big take away that I see from Numbers chapter 4; it is a lesson taught all over the Old Testament. Keeping God’s holiness and His people being holy are top priorities. We need to be holy as God is holy (Lev. 19:2). That is a direct command from God to us. We see this in how God treats even the moving of the Tabernacle. Holiness is key. When God was setting up the nation of Israel He wanted to make sure that they were going to stay separate from the world, separate from their idol worshiping neighbors. All the laws and rules are supposed to help them stay righteous and holy. Of course, we know that this is an impossible task for us to do on our own. Thankfully, we have a God who understands us and knows that we need help. This is why all of history, all of God’s plans, even back in Numbers with the counting of some Jewish men, was leading to the revealing of Jesus. Don’t think for a second that we are redeemed by accident. God was working out the world to be in such a way that you now, reading this post, have the option to be redeemed and righteous. We might be tempted to skip these boring chapters of the Bible where all we do is read about how many 30-50 year olds were in the household of Gershon, but we would miss out on watching God reveal his plans. Seeing God act with such intentional detail reminds me that God is not too big to deal with our everyday highs and lows. God works in the details of our lives today, just as He did in the lives of the Levites moving the tabernacle.

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

Today’s passage can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+3-4&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s passage will be Numbers 5-6 as we continue our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan

 

Counting in the Wilderness

 

Numbers 1 & 2 Cain

Do you ever feel like you’re in your high school math class reading through the book of Numbers like a timeworn Algebra 2 book? Rest assured there’s no Pythagorean theorem in this book of Numbers! The name ‘Numbers’ actually comes from an old Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint. The Septuagint translators gave the book that title because of the listing of the numbers of the tribes of Israel in the first four chapters. It is a shame that the title of this great book is defined by only a small portion of its contents. The Hebrew name given to the book is much more accurate to its true contents, בְּמִדְבַּר (bemindbar). The Hebrew word bemindbar actually means “in the wilderness” which is exactly what the book of Numbers covers. After a long-awaited return to the land, which was promised to their fathers, the Israelites can finally take the journey through the desert back to Israel. The trip from Egypt to Israel shouldn’t have taken more than a couple of weeks on foot, but somehow the Israelites found a way to make the journey last 40 years. There is a lot that happens in these 40 years.  This book is filled with rich history that is very dear to the Israelite people and events that would shape their faith and ours forever. If anyone has ever told you that Numbers is a boring book, I stand opposed. As we spend some time traveling though the beginning of this book I hope you see the importance that God has placed in its words.

The first words of the book are its name sake. “Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting.”  There you have it, these words literally are the title of the book. I want to point out something that can easily be over looked by long-time Christians, and that is the phrase “the LORD spoke to Moses”. When was the last time that God chatted you up to give you direct commands? It’s not every day that the Creator of the universe talks directly to people. Only a few times in the Bible do we see God in direct communication with people in this way. I think as Christians we become numb to the stories we read as if everything is a normal day occurrence when it isn’t. For the first time in history there is a place that God has designated to dwell among His people. For the first time in history God is setting up a nation to call His own. God literally creates the nation of Israel before our eyes in the book of Numbers. When you stop to think about it, what is happening here is a monumental shift in history, setting the world on a course for God’s redemption plan to take place.

We find the book of Numbers picking up the story of God’s people two years into their time in the wilderness. During this time God has made a covenant with His people and they have built the tabernacle. Then we find that God wants Moses to count the number of able bodied men that could fight. These are the numbers that we find in the first chapter. Remember these are just the men 20 years of age and up who can fight; this doesn’t include all the men unable to fight, women, and younger people. Just the fighting men numbered 603,550! No one knows the exact number of the Israelites, but many estimates put the total number of people at around 2-4 million. As we read all the numbers of the first chapter we might be tempted to drift off to sleep, but an interesting point to realize is just how accurate the numbers are. The accuracy and attention to detail, to me at least, is evidence towards the validity of the scriptures. These aren’t details that someone would make up. If you look at any mythology or creation story, you don’t frequently see detailed accounts with genealogies such as we do here in Numbers. The detailed records of the Old Testament are proof to God’s care and intent for truth. Even with counting, our God is faithful and true.

As we move into the second chapter we see a rehashing of the numbers of the tribes and explicit directions from God as to how the Israelites are to set up camp. Imagine a square with the tabernacle at the center.  Directly around the tabernacle are the Levites. On each side of the square we find three tribes. I think there are two things we can glean from Chapter 2 about how God chose to design the camp. First, I think we can see how orderly and intentional God is with His people. I think no small part of having the Levites around the center was to help maintain a health boundary around the tabernacle to keep it holy. Holiness is one of the most important things to God. We can see how seriously God treats His holiness when He strikes now Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons, in Leviticus 10. I think another reason God laid out the camp like He did was so that not one tribe was favored by being closer to the Tabernacle than another tribe. Imagine the fights that could have started if the tribes were allowed to camp wherever they wanted. If Dan claimed a spot right next to the Tabernacle, Judah might have started a fight because they were closer to God that day. Although these might not be the most glamorous chapters of the Bible, they do show us that God set up a very good system for His people. The first two chapters of Numbers show us a glimpse into God’s intentionality and love for His people.

I’ll admit, the first few chapters of this book aren’t the most exciting.  However, the book of Numbers holds many interesting stories and important lessons for us to learn as followers of God.  Many of the greatest teaching points for the prophets and apostles come from the stories in this book.  It is through the miracle of the exodus and the hardships of the wilderness that the nation of Israel is birthed.  I can’t wait to explore more of this book with you in the coming days!

Josiah & Amber Cain

 

Today’s Bible reading can be read or listened to at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Numbers+1-2&version=NIV

Tomorrow’s Bible reading will be Numbers 3&4 as we continue our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan