Numbers 34-36

Numbers 34-36…Boundaries of Canaan, the city of refuge, and the inheritance of Zelophehad’s daughters.

Canaan was not particularly large in geographical size. In this life we don’t need to have the biggest and best to demonstrate what God is like. Those who have their portion in heaven, have reason to be content with what they have on earth. The riches of forgiveness and joy in Christ are far better and more satisfying than earthly prosperity.

The city of refuge in Numbers 35 is a picture of what Christ offers. It gave support to every one who entered its walls. Those who have reached the refuge, may live by faith in Him whose flesh is spiritual food, and whose blood is spiritual drink. The things of this world will never bring satisfaction ultimately. This is why the most wealthy and famous are clearly the most broken if you’re paying attention. They keep turning back to idols which are not satisfying, and the perpetual cycle of serving self continues to disappoint. Contentment is a very powerful witness for the gospel, because it allows us to walk in freedom.

In the final chapter of Numbers (ch. 36), the heads of the tribe of Manasseh represent the evil which might follow, if the daughters of Zelophehad should marry into any other tribes. They sought to preserve the Divine appointment of inheritances, and that contests and quarrels should not rise among those who should come afterwards. It is wise for those who have estates in the world, to settle them, and to dispose of them, so that no strife and contention should arise.

Numbers 31-33

Numbers 31-33…Vengeance on the Midianites, the Transjordan tribes, and stages in Israel’s journey.

God waged war on the Midianites, and used Israel explicitly for that purpose. He enabled them to conquer by miracles, and the war was just and right. Their war was initiated and carried on expressly by Divine direction, and they were enabled to conquer by God’s hand. Waging war is not as clear today, as there are no theocratic nations selected by God to carry out His purposes like Israel in the Old Testament. There is nothing special about the actual nation of Israel today, nor is the United States “set apart” to carry out God’s purposes in the world in a peculiar way like we see in Numbers 31.

In Numbers 32, the Reubenites and Gadites wanted possession of the land before crossing the Jordan with the rest of Israel. There is much to learn from their selfishness. They consulted their own private convenience more than the public good. We see this in our churches today, as individualism has seeped in and pushed out living as a community. Many Christians go years without any consideration of the other members of their church. Sadly, many Christians go years without joining a church, and try to live out the Christian life on their own.

The people were about to enter the promised land. Now that they were close to getting what had been promised, they entered again into temptation to follow idols. They were warned if they spared either the idols or the idolaters, their sin would certainly be their punishment. This is also the result of local churches who aren’t careful about membership. When the church looks no different than the world, she lies about what Christ is like. Her corporate witness is diminished, and the message of the gospel loses power.

Numbers 28-30

Numbers 28-30…Offerings, festivals, and vows.

God saw fit now to repeat the law of sacrifices. This was a new generation of men; and they were concerned to keep their peace with God when at war with their enemies. They were a figure of the blood of Christ, the memorial of which is still left to the church in the cup, and of the blood of the martyrs, which was poured out as a drink-offering on the sacrifice and service of our faith, Philippians 2:17.

Every day of the festival of tabernacles required a sin-offering, as in the other feasts. Our burnt-offerings of praise cannot be accepted of God, unless we have an interest in the great sacrifice which Christ offered, when he made Himself a sin-offering for us. Everything we see here in Numbers 29-30 reminds us of our sinfulness. The life that we live in the flesh must be by faith in the Son of God, until we go to be with Him, to behold His glory, and praise His mercy. The objective reality that we often forget, is that God would be good and right to judge us right now and send us to eternal punishment under His wrath. However, in His great love and mercy, He’s made a way for a few to be saved. How gracious for the One who made us and who has been offended by our sin, to die in our place.

Numbers 25-27

Numbers 25-27…Moab seduces Israel, and Joshua is selected as Moses’ successor.

Israel was enticed to sin by the daughters of Moab and Midian. Friendship with those who draw us in to sin is more dangerous than their enmity. We will become like those with whom we spend the most time. Therefore, we should seek to spend time around those who will help us grow spiritually. When we aren’t intentional about our relationships, it shows we either underestimate sin, or we don’t have an interest in growing. We need to carefully consider this warning in Proverbs 13:20:

“Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.”

God appointed Joshua to succeed Moses in Numbers 27. He was a man full of grace. He feared God, hated covetousness, and acted from principle. He had the spirit of leadership, and was prepared to serve those under his care. But, even Joshua wasn’t perfect, and could not save the people from their sins. The perfect servant-leader, Jesus Christ, was the only perfect, acceptable sacrifice, because He lived a sinless, holy life, and laid down his life for our sake. His perfect righteousness is counted as ours if we repent and believe. He was raised from the dead, and we will be as well, if we fight for faith, and seek holiness.

Numbers 22-24

Numbers 22-24…Balak summons Balaam, and Balaam gives seven messages.

Out of fear for the safety of his kingdom, the king of Moab hired Balaam to curse the nation of Israel lest they overrun his country (Num. 22:1–6). We have some further explanation of this in 2 Peter, where he explains that Balaam “loved gain from wrongdoing” (2 Peter 2:15). This is implicit in Numbers 22:7 as Balaam is given fees for divination, a practice clearly forbidden by God (Deut. 18:9–14).

That Balaam affirms his desire to obey God and goes with the king’s men when God commands him to do so (Num. 22:8–21) might make us question his greed. However, God’s anger towards Balaam even when he obeys (v. 22) shows us that indeed Balaam’s motivations were not godly. Like Balaam, false teachers may express a desire to obey God and, like Balaam, speak some theological truths on occasion (23:19, for example). However, the clear presence of greed will always be a warning to us that they are not sent by God.

Even a broken clock is correct twice a day, or so the saying goes. False teaching is particularly dangerous because rarely will false teachers speak no truth at all. That truth is spoken on occasion, however, does not make one approved by God, for even the vilest of sinners have the capability to know and teach true things because they bear the image of the One who is Truth. Remember to take into account the motivations of your teachers as well as the words they speak.

Numbers 19-21

Numbers 19-21…The water of cleansing, the people continue to grumble, and the bronze snake.

In Numbers 19, the ashes of the heifer signified the merit of Christ, and the running water signified the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, who is compared to rivers of living water. It is by His work that the righteousness of Christ is applied to us for our cleansing.

God had consistently provided both food and water for the people. He had delivered them out of Egypt and had blessed them by protecting them and being with them. And yet, them complain about the taste of the food. Sounds a lot like us, complaining that things aren’t cooked perfectly, or that the flavor of something is off. Believers in impoverished countries serve as a good example to Americans, as they have not taken the provision of food for granted.

It was not the sight of the bronze snake that cured, but in looking up to it, they looked up to God as the Lord that healed them spiritually. This is a picture of the gospel. Our Savior declared, in John 3:14-15, that as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man must be lifted up, that whoever believes in him should not perish.

Numbers 16-18

Numbers 16-18…Korah, Dathan and Abiram, the budding of Aaron’s rod, and offerings for priests and Levites.

In Numbers 16, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rise up against the leaders God has put in place. The same glory of the Lord that appeared to appoint Aaron as leader in Leviticus 9:23, now confirms him in it in order to oppose these rebels. Nothing is more terrible to those who are conscious of guilt, than the appearance of the Divine glory.

Aaron’s rod became a living branch. Christ is expressly called a rod out of the root of Jesse. According to human views, He was stricken and afflicted. But the dry rod revived and blossomed to the confusion of his adversaries. Similarly, if you are bearing fruit as a Christian today, it is amazing. You were once dead in your sins and transgressions, with no hope, and no interest in God. He rescued you, which is miraculous.

In Numbers 18, the priests were to be completely devoted to their ministry, and not to be distracted by the world. According to 1 Peter 2:5, we are all spiritual priests:

“You also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

How do we carefully live in the world, but avoid worldliness? Join a church, and link arms with other believers. Encourage and hold one another accountable in love. Lone ranger Christians have a spiritual death wish and often don’t even know it. If we are arrogant enough to think we can live out the Christian life on our own, then we truly don’t understand the bible, or the power of sin.

Numbers 13-15

Numbers 13-15…Exploring Canaan, the people rebel, and offerings for unintentional sins.

Numbers 13 describes the unbelief and complaining of the people about the land God was going to give them in Canaan. They thought more highly of their own wisdom rather than God’s. We do the same and make foolish decisions by believing our emotions rather than Divine revelation. We walk by sight not by faith far too often, and need to be reminded of the objective reality of the gospel. God’s word will keep us from doing that, so we should depend upon it for sustenance.

Moses made humble intercession for Israel in Numbers 14. He was a type of Christ, who prayed for those that hated him and used him. We show our hatred for Christ every time we rebel. And yet, He is patient and merciful, and continues to love us. He knew we would fail to love Him perfectly when He went to the cross, which makes His sacrifice all the more amazing.

We see just how deceptive sin is in Numbers 15. Offerings were made for unintentional sins. In the Psalms, David prayed to be cleansed from his secret faults, those of which he was not aware. Sins committed ignorantly, will be forgiven through Christ the great Sacrifice. When he offered himself up once for all upon the cross, He seemed to explain one part of the intention these offerings, in His prayer in Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

Numbers 10-12

Numbers 10-12…The silver trumpets, fire/quail from the Lord, and Miriam/Aaron oppose Moses.

The silver trumpets in Numbers 10 typify the preached gospel. It sounds an alarm to sinners, calls them to repent, proclaims liberty to the captives and slaves of Satan, and collects the worshipers of God. It directs and encourages their heavenly journey, stirs them up to combat against the world and sin, encouraging them with the assurance of victory. It leads their attention to the sacrifice of Christ, and shows the Lord’s presence for their protection. It is also necessary that the gospel trumpet gives a distinct sound, because very few have been called to repent and believe. The sounding of the trumpet of the gospel is God’s ordinance, and demands the attention of all to whom it is sent.

God’s wrath burned against the people because of their complaining in Numbers 11. Complaining is a manifestation of unbelief, pride, and selfishness, with unbelief being at the very heart of it. We are all guilty of unbelief, and therefore need to repent. An habitual, lively faith, is needed for us to fight our three spiritual enemies; our nature, the world, and Satan.

The patience of Moses was tried in his own family, as well as by the people. Opposition from our family and closest friends is painful, but is to be expected in a fallen world. Moses dealt with this opposition by exercising humility. When we understand our relationship with God rightly, we’ll deal with others rightly. In other words, if we know we’ve been given far more than we deserve in Christ, we’ll be more likely to treat others mercifully.

Numbers 7-9

Numbers 7-9…Tabernacle dedication offerings, the lighting of the lamps, and the Passover.

It was a time of joy and rejoicing, but in the midst of their sacrifices, we find a sin-offering in Numbers 7. So it is for us, that even when we do good, we are conscious that there is sin (Romans 7:21), and there should be repentance. In all approaches to God we must by faith look to Christ as the Sin-offering.

Aaron himself lit the lamps in Numbers 8, representing his Divine Master. God’s word is a light shining in a dark place (2 Peter 1:19). The church is dark without it, just as the tabernacle, which had no window, would have been without the lamps. The work of pastors/elders is to light these lamps, by expounding and applying the word of God. Jesus Christ is the only Light of our dark, sinful world, and by his atonement, by his word and the Holy Spirit, he diffuses light around.

In Numbers 9, we see a very similar corporate gathering and time of consecration similar to our partaking of the Lord’s supper today. Instructions were given concerning those who were ceremonially unclean, when they were to eat the passover. Similar careful instructions are given in the New Testament. Those whose minds and consciences are persistent and unrepentant in sin, are unfit for communion with God, and cannot partake with comfort of the Lord’s supper, until they are cleansed by true repentance and faith (1 Corinthians 11:29).