Numbers 21

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In chapter 21 of Numbers we continue journeying with the Israelites as they progress through the desert and towards the Promised Land. With battles ahead of them – it is pertinent that they start to trust the Lord now – relying on Him (and Him alone) for their provision and sustenance. Instead – we see them complaining.

And they journeyed from Mount Hor by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom, and the people became impatient (depressed, much discouraged), because [of the trials] of the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no bread, neither is there any water, and we loathe this light (contemptible, unsubstantial) manna.” – Num 21:4-5 AMP

A few things here about how the people of God are reacting:  They become impatient – they speak out against God and their leadership – they take a posture of fear – they detest what was previously a blessing.

The Israelites quickly forgot the miraculous ways God has taken care of them throughout this entire trip… instead beginning to complain and grumble. (Isn’t that ALWAYS how we get into trouble… it starts with complaining?). The result of their complaining: God lifts His hand of protection and the serpents come in. (Irony?).

Now – the people are facing these serpents due to their own choices… grumbling – complaining – spitting out the Blessing. If anything… they deserve this (and more!). But – the heart of God is revealed quickly once the people repent and Moses (the Deliverer) intercedes on their behalf. They are told to craft a bronze serpent and use it as a focal point for their healing. Any man who was bitten, only need look at the bronze serpent and he will live.

Do you see the big picture of Jesus here?

Jesus would later clue us in to this symbolism in John chapter 3.

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert [on a pole], so must [so it is necessary that] the Son of Man be lifted up [on the cross], In order that everyone who believes in Him [who cleaves to Him, trusts Him, and relies on Him] may not perish, but have eternal life and [actually] live forever!” John 3:14-15 AMP

The Bronze Serpent

Lifted up on a pole – brought healing to those afflicted – only for those who look at it. The word “look
here actually means – “look attentively, expectantly, with a steady and absorbing gaze.” It isn’t describing the guy who casts a quick glance at the bronze serpent and then moves on his own merry way… but instead someone who trusts the Word of the Lord and looks expectantly at it with a steady gaze.

ANY man who was bitten and looks at it will live!

The Son of God

In the same way – Jesus would one day be lifted up on an execution stake – and that act would bring healing to those afflicted by sin and death. It will only be for those who look at it – again, not just a fleeting glance, but a steady gaze of expectation. Not a casual shrug – but a determined commitment.

ANY man who looks at it will live!

Isn’t God good? 🙂

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

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Numbers 20

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As the journey of the Israelites continues – we continue to see the devastating effects of life choices apart from God. Right at the outset of Numbers chapter 20 we see Miriam die (without setting foot in the Promised Land) – and then Moses/Aaron are faced with a water crisis.

The people complain.

Moses gets frustrated.

Moses takes matters into his own hand – by striking the rock twice (instead of speaking to it as God said).

The end result of that choice is that both Aaron and Moses will also die without setting foot in the Promised Land.

There is much we could talk about in the above passages alone… but I would like to instead focus on something that happens in the middle of the chapter.

And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, saying, Thus says your kinsman Israel: You know all the adversity and birth pangs that have come upon us [as a nation]: How our fathers went down to Egypt; we dwelt there a long time, and the Egyptians dealt evilly with us and our fathers. But when we cried to the Lord, He heard us and sent an angel and brought us forth out of Egypt. Now behold, we are in Kadesh, a city on your country’s edge. Let us pass, I pray you, through your country. We will not pass through field or vineyard, or drink of the water of the wells. We will go along the king’s highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed your borders. But Edom said to him, You shall not go through, lest I come out against you with the sword. And the Israelites said to him, We will go by the highway, and if I and my livestock drink of your water, I will pay for it. Only let me pass through on foot, nothing else. But Edom said, You shall not go through. And Edom came out against Israel with many people and a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory, so Israel turned away from him.” Num 20:14-21 AMP

Moses and the Israelites ask permission from the King of Edom (a powerful nation to the north) if they could pass through their lands, on their way to the Promised Land.  As we see – the Edomites deny this permission – despite Moses seeming to bend over backwards in graciousness.  In the end the Israelites are forced to turn away and find another route. But why? Why did they not go to war against the Edomites – especially under threat?
The easy answer to this question is found in Deut 23:7 – where God tells the Israelites to not engage the Edomites or the Egyptians in battle. But to really understand this… we must trace these Edomites back to their origins. This people group is a direct descendant group from Esau – the twin brother of Jacob. Do you remember their squabble in Gen 27:41? That feud was the result of Jacob attempting to bring about what God had promised him by his own strength. By stealing the Blessing from his brother – Jacob began a snowball of evil – which would be passed on for generations and would be responsible for countless lives lost. This seemingly “innocent” action of Jacobs would extend through the entire Old Testament and into the New – where King Herod, an Edomite himself, would attempt to take the life of the baby Jesus (a descendant of Jacob) by ordering the killing of every baby boy in Bethlehem (Matt 2).

James 3:5 tells us that a tiny spark can set a forest fire ablaze… and this is certainly proved true in this instance. God had promised Jacob (through Abraham) that He would give Him the Blessing… yet Jacob chose not to wait and allow God to bring that promise to pass – but instead use his own arm of flesh to “make it happen”. (Read Jeremiah 17 to see how this typically works out!). We will see the escalating effects of Jacob’s fateful choice as we continue through the Word.

But – what is the deeper point for you and I?

We are all given access to ALL of the promises of God spoken of in His Word. BUT – those promises will only come about by following Him and obeying His every instruction. When we make the choice to “go it our own way” and attempt to bring about this good life offered to us by God – the devastating effects are long-lasting and far reaching.

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Numbers 15

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The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the Lord, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. “ – Num 15:37-39

Near the end of the 15th chapter of Numbers, God gives the Israelites a command to craft tassels on the corners of their garments in order to remember all of the instructions God has been giving them – not just for their remembrance – but also for “generations to come”.

The garment God is speaking of is the traditional prayer shawl worn by every Israelite. They are told to decorate this shawl with tassels on their corners (fringes). As we have seen throughout this study – commandments from God ALWAYS mean something much bigger.

The Hebrew word for “corner” is kanaph – and it literally refers to “borders or edges”. On each kanaph they are instructed to tie strands of threads into 5 knots (representing the 5 books of Torah). This was to serve as a reminder for them the Torah (instructions) that God has given them on how to live life to it’s fullest.

The Hebrew word for “tassels” is tzitzis. The Israelites are instructed by God to tie tzitzis on their kanach to remind them to live the Torah every day of their lives. When temptation comes – these fringe tassels will help you remember the commandments of God and prevent you from stepping into sin. (The term tzitzis also refers to “peering at something intently”.

Another interpretation of the word kanaph is “wings”. (This came about due to the wing-like shape of the shawl flowing in the breeze). Throughout Scripture we see the reference for “wings” (kanaph) in various settings. One of the main uses is God’s wings as a place of comfort, rest, and protection (Psalm 17:8; Psalm 36:7; Psalm 91:4).

In the book of Ruth – the imagery for wings is taken further in that Boaz blesses Ruth as she trusts the Lord, “under whose wings she takes refuge” (Ruth 2:12). Later on Ruth implores Boaz to cover her with his “wings” as her kinsmen Redeemer – another fore-shadowing of Jesus. (Ruth 3:9).

 

More infamously – the Old Testament Prophet Malachi, speaking of the coming Messiah< says…

But unto you who revere and worshipfully fear My name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in His wings…” – Mal 4:2 AMP

This was demonstrated in action in Mark 5:25-29 when the woman with the issue of bleeding crawls through the crowd and touches the “wings” of Jesus’ prayer shawl as a practical step of faith in His Word as the Messiah.

 

So what does this all mean for you and I? God set up visual reminders throughout the every day lives of the Israelites in order to help them remember His instructions on how to live their lives. These visual reminders were far from simply empty props – they actually came to contain the very power of God! Throughout the generations to follow – obedient Jews would continue these practices – all leading up to the revealing of the Messiah – Jesus – who came with “healing in HIS wings”!

That same Jesus now lives within us who have trusted our lives to Him. The tzitzis are now wrapped around our hearts… with all of their healing power!

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Numbers 13

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So what began as a group of misfit slaves – rescued out of the powerful grip of Egypt – crossing the Red Sea in dramatic fashion – has now become a full-fledged nation on the brink of marching into a land God has promised to give to them as He builds them into a nation which models the life He has always meant for humanity to live. They have spent the past 2 years at the base of Mt. Sinai where the LORD poured into them various laws and details to train them for what is to come.

Finally, in chapter 13, we find the nation encamped at Kadesh Barnea – just outside the desert of Paran. God instructs them to scout out the land in order to find the best routes – strategic strongholds – portions of land which they can use to their advantage as they possess Canaan. Moses obeys God and selects 12 spies (one from each tribe) to go into the land and scout it out.

40 days later – they return… with mixed results.

Ten spies claim things look grim. “But the people who dwell there are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; moreover, there we saw the sons of Anak [of great stature and courage].”Num 13:28 AMP  (The Amplified Bible notes here that this was probably the first time these people had ever seen walled cities – having grown up in the Land of Goshen in Egypt).

While ten of the twelve spies saw negativity and fear – two spies saw something much different.

Caleb quieted the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once and possess it; we are well able to conquer it.” – Num 13:30 AMP

All 12 spies saw the same land – yet they came back with conflicting reports. The 10 saw the land through the lens of fear and doubt – while Caleb (and Joshua) saw the land through the lens of the Promised Blessing.

Looking through fear and doubt brings on a grasshopper complex (vs 33) – but looking through the Blessing brings faith!

Caleb – unlike the others – placed his trust in God and HIS ability. He wasn’t confident based on anything they could do – but he was confident on what God had said HE would do. Caleb had years of examples now to back up what he believed. Egypt – the Red Sea – Manna – Quail… the list goes on and on where God has rescued them, provided for them, and led them to this very spot! By forgetting all of this – the 10 spies saw their situation as hopeless. And as the old saying goes… “God makes all the difference between cowards and Calebs.”

All of us face situations like these 12 spies. Although we “know” what God has said – when faced with a huge obstacle it is easy to forget and start hopping around like a grasshopper! Instead – stand on the Promise you have received (just like Caleb) and watch the LORD move on your behalf!

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Numbers 9-11

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So for 2 years the Israelites have been encamped at the base of Mt. Sinai – receiving instructions from the Lord regarding everything from daily hygiene to how they will worship. The purpose (as we have discussed) was to set these people apart as distinct from the world in which they were going to be living. God knew the best way to live – and He was ensuring that HIS people lived that way as an example to the nations around them.

In chapter 9 we see a few final instructions before the people set off on their 38 year journey through the wilderness. God reminds them once again about keeping the Passover feast (foreshadowing of Jesus on the cross) – and then gives us some interesting details:

At the Lord’s command the Israelites journeyed, and at [His] command they encamped.” – Num 9:18

From the very beginning God’s people have been instructed to follow Him and obey His every word. While the trek through the wilderness was riddled with various threats and dangers, they would remain safe and secure as long as they followed His lead at every turn. When the cloud rested in the camp – they remained where they were (even if it lasted several days). When the cloud moved – they moved.

Jesus did this as well.

So Jesus answered them by saying, I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, the Son is able to do nothing of Himself (of His own accord); but He is able to do only what He sees the Father doing, for whatever the Father does is what the Son does in the same way [in His turn]. “ – John 5:19

Jesus was the perfect representation of obedience to the Father. Just as the Israelites of old – He lived a life of total submission to the Father – only saying and doing what He said and did.

Finally – after being told in what order to march out of camp each day (in the perfect organization and order of the Lord) – the Israelites set out… only to quickly fall back into their complaining ways. Despite having been sustained by miraculous means in the desert for the past 2 years – they began to murmur and grumble about this miraculous food they were eating – longing for the days when life was “good”. (Like when they were slaves???).

The anger of the Lord is ignited against them – and He withdraws His hand of protection from over them – allowing fire, death and disease to creep into the camp with it’s destructive results. He fed them meat until it came out of their ears and noses!

I point is quite clear for us all. Our lives apart from the Lord were pointless and empty. The fleeting glitter of the gold of the world seemed to answer our every care – yet in reality it only left us wanting more and more, never satisfied. While eating choice food – we were also slaves to a system which was consuming us. But life with God provides security and provision that satisfies into our inner most depths. The gold of the Lord will not only purchase all that we need and desire in THIS world – but also in life – part two.

YET – when we gaze longingly back toward the life we “used to live” – scampering back into Egypt each night to thrill ourselves in it’s tantalizing dance – we only subject ourselves to endless misery – inviting the “rewards” of those choices to enter our camp… bringing with it fire, death, and disease.

Shall we now examine what we watch… listen to… read?

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Numbers 6

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At the end of Numbers chapter 6 we see a benediction given to Moses for Aaron to speak over God’s people. Let’s examine this blessing…

 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
the
Lord make his face shine on you
and be gracious to you; the
Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace. ”

Num 6:24-26

First of all – this was originally given to the priests (under Aaron) to speak over God’s people. The priest was the only member of the nation who could enter the presence of God, and only after his hands were stained with the blood of sacrifices. Today – we, as believers, have this blessing spoken over us by the shed blood of Jesus as the Ultimate Sacrifice (Heb 10:10-12).

Secondly – this blessing was spoken over God’s people. The Lord tells Moses to have Aaron speak it over his people, to bless the Israelites (vs 22-23). Today – this blessing is spoken over all of us as believers in Jesus. ALL the promises of God are yes and amen in Jesus (2 Cor 1:20).

Thirdly – notice how many times the word ‘you” is used in this blessing. It is meant to be a personal blessing from the Lord to all of us – both individually and corporately. “The Lord bless YOU and keep YOU…” When things appear to be going difficultly for you – speak these words to yourself out loud and remember what God has spoken over you. He WILL keep you and protect you! (Read Psalm 121 for more encouragement here).

Fourthly – the Lord will ‘make his face shine on you” and will “turn his face toward you”. God is on our side… He isn’t angry or against us… While He does hate our sin and will turn away from that sin – He loves us and has great plans in store for us – as long as we walk with Him. Remember this when things are hard and others tell us to blame God (just like Job’s “friends”). Also – check out Psalm 90:17.

Finally – the blessing ends with “the Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace”. That is the heart of God in a nutshell (and has always been). Why would God tell Moses to give this blessing to Aaron if He didn’t mean it? He longs to fill us with peace. He isn’t setting us up for failure, nor has he placed an insurmountable opportunity before us like a dangling carrot. He wants to fill us with peace in our lives – but we must respond to His offer by “placing our mind steadfastly on Him” (Isaiah 26:3).

Be encouraged by this priestly blessing in Numbers 6. Speak it over yourself every day – and see the results start to change your life from the inside out!

 Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK