Previously, the book of Numbers has not been one of the most pleasurable for me to read, well I pray for forgiveness to absolve my misunderstanding, my incomprehension, my ignorance in skimming over such an important book, not just of the Torah, but of the whole Bible. It really has gripped me in such an unforgettable way that its estimation, has rocketed, because my understanding or willingness has, for the Lord has opened my eyes wider.
There are censuses, major ones, 2 major censuses in the book, 1 at the start in Chapter 1 at Mount Sinai, the second in Chapter 26 from on the plains of Moab, that detail the number of the fighting men available above the age of 20, and these are 40 years apart, they both total a number above 600,000, this shows that despite the numbers lost in wars over these 40 years, God carries out His promise to guide them to the promised land but it is a completely different generation.
The actual listings and statistical data can be tedious and is probably the reason many find this book down on their lists too. For people like me who struggle following the genealogical lines at present it is a bit of a slog, but it isn’t really that, it tells of the newly formed nation of Israel’s experiences as they wander in the wilderness, then you come to Chapter 13 which many know as an enormous turning point as the 12 spies are sent out all to different directions on the edge of the promised land from the place where God had brought his people . There was a common theme with the reports, all said of the wonders that lie ahead but also warned of the grave dangers too. When it came to direction, 10 said NO, and only 2, Joshua and Caleb said YES with God.
The 10 didn’t continue with the mindset of what can be done with God with them, only considering what they themselves could do, but Joshua and Caleb continued with the hope, strength and guidance that had brought them to where they were now and to where they were going.
The camp became a complaining camp as fear rippled through the people, lack of faith allowed fear to breed. God became angry with the people and Moses again had to plead in prayer and prostration and argue on their behalf. God heard his plea and reduced His punishment on the people to being one of separation from the promised land for 40 years, instead of a journey that would have taken 11 days, and that only Joshua and Caleb would enter after this whole generation would not enter into the promise of their forefathers but die in the wilderness. Their lack of faith meant that they still where not ready for their own land yet, they still needed to put their trust in God completely. This was their opportunity window and they chose NO.
I was watching something today, where a professor calls this and all of our paths with God: DIRECTION OR DISTRACTION, and that this is a turning point for us to seriously look at and relate to. Today, like then do we not need the same measure of faith, no we have the benefit of time and knowledge, shouldn’t our faith and trust be stronger? We also see quite clearly the necessity and effects of prayer from Moses, so much of its power in others’ lives, the critical importance of it and sometimes the thankless task of the solitary prayer.
There is so much to be learned from these passages of scripture during critical turning points in historical importance and of spiritual magnitude, the close relationship, travelling, communing and communicating with God, the justice meted out for discipline, all helping to further my own relationship, forming a deeper understanding of requirements, faith, trust, obedience and communication can only increase me knowing Him and His character.
There are other fantastic stories to be studied and followed for learning from and about, namely Balaam and the donkey and the rebellion of Korah whom is later used as an example to believers not to be jealous over Gods appointments.
There are many transparent references in the book of Numbers to be seen from the New Testament window looking back through it , the 40 years of wilderness that the people went through is in contrast to the 40 days in the wilderness that Jesus spent being tempted, it was from the book of numbers when Moses lifted up the serpent, which is mentioned in John 3 : 15 “ as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up,”, in the book of Hebrews the writer asks poignantly “ if the ashes of a heifer could bring forgiveness, then how much more will the blood of Christ atone for ? “, and Balaam states, “ I see Him but not now, I behold him but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel.”
All in all, the book of Numbers has been not just a list of boring facts and figures, it is a tremendous piece of important history and understanding of which I hope we all learn a little more from each time we have the privilege of reading it.