Well, we made it to the final chapter of Numbers. It is always exciting to get to the end of another book!
Today, in Numbers 36, we have a few parting thoughts for the people of Israel about their inheritance.
Num 36:9 Neither shall the inheritance remove from one tribe to another tribe; but every one of the tribes of the children of Israel shall keep himself to his own inheritance.
Before this verse, God is outlining how inheritances will be handed down through families and emphasizes that each tribe is to keep their own land that was given to them by lot. I think this speaks to the purpose of God.
He divided the land of Israel into perfect parcels of land for every tribe. He knew where He wanted to place each and every one. He had a reason to divide the land the way He did, and in the aforementioned verse emphasizes that humanity should not try to mess that up.
This kind of makes me think of the political marriages that would happen in European cultures. Royal children from two different countries would get married to perhaps enhance an alliance or make some type of political gain.
In Israel, by deciding that people should marry within their tribe, those types of situation would not happen. Everyone would inherit what God intended their tribe to have.
Since this is our final day in Numbers, and I feel like looking forward, it will be interesting to see what how all of these purposes play out. One that immediately comes to mind given that we are in the Christmas season refers to the fact that Jesus was prophesied to be born from the tribe of Judah in the town of Bethlehem.
Of course, God can make anything happen, but that purpose must have been already thought of at this point. God knew what piece of land Bethlehem would be on and knew that Jesus would be born there. He orchestrated all of that ahead of time.
God has a purpose for everything He does, and even if we don’t understand it at the time, when we look at the history of the Bible, it is interesting to see how everything works out.
Numbers chapter 35 really made me think about the fact that we have a God who is entirely in touch with human emotion.
This chapter is essentially laying out the concept of the cities of refuge.
Num 35:10 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come over Jordan into the land of Canaan;
Num 35:11 Then ye shall appoint you cities to be cities of refuge for you; that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.
Num 35:12 And they shall be unto you cities for refuge from the avenger; that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.
These cities would allow people to be protected from any people that might come and hunt them after an accidental death. For example, I would assume that a comparable situation would be a person who dies when someone cuts down a tree.
Obviously, that would be an incredibly tragic circumstance, but there would be absolutely no malicious intent in this accident. However, perhaps the brother of one who passed away would want to seek vengeance. The cities of refuge would allow the one person to remain safe until an official trial could take place.
This particularly stood out to me because God understood that people will not always act rationally. Even though the aforementioned situation was purely accidental, when people are grieving, it is sometimes hard to really consider what happened. He obviously understood this tendency in human beings.
I have heard people criticize God for being out of touch with reality. Some people argue that even if there is a God, He cannot possibly understand what I am going through. They don’t understand that not only has God wired all of us as the Creator of humanity, but when we read passages like this, it seems clear that He understands human emotion as well. He understands how people act when they are hurting. He understands that people do things that they shouldn’t.
He is also not excusing these accidental deaths. The people still needed to stand trial. That speaks to the justice of God. However, through the cities, many murders were prevented. I know this is not a happy thought or theme whatsoever, but I think it does demonstrate once again how God knows and loves us.
Admittedly, I’m not very good at Biblical genealogy, but I was reading in Numbers 34, and I was thinking about Jesus coming out of the tribe of Judah.
In this chapter, the land of Israel is being divided by lot, and God is telling Moses who will draw the lot for each tribe.
Num 34:19 And the names of the men are these: Of the tribe of Judah, Caleb the son of Jephunneh.
Upon reading this, I thought about the shared qualities of Jesus and Caleb. Obviously, they were not identical, but both of them were incredibly bold.
In terms of Caleb, you may remember from a little while ago that he saw the people in Canaan and was immediately sure that the Israelites could overcome them.
Num 13:30 And Caleb stilled the people before Moses, and said, Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it.
Num 13:31 But the men that went up with him said, We be not able to go up against the people; for they are stronger than we.
Even though nobody else agreed with him (except Joshua), he was convinced that because the Israelites had God with them, they would be able to overcome anything. Standing alone like that is brave.
Jesus was also incredibly brave. Beyond the fact that He came to earth and became human, when He was physically here, He preached the word of God even when it was somewhat controversial.
Joh 10:37 If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not.
Joh 10:38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.
To use a cliché that is extraordinarily overused, Jesus drew a line in the sand. He essentially said that He wanted the people to watch how He was acting, and if He ever deviated from doing the will of God, they would know not to believe in Him.
Even though Jesus already knew that He would do everything His Father wanted Him to do, it was still a bold statement. He was not afraid of being evaluated and tested.
While the boldness of these two men did not really depend on each other given that they were separated by earthly time, I think that we can learn something about them. Both of them were not afraid to take challenges head-on, and they were not afraid because they had God with them.
We have God with us, so with the proof of what people have done with Him before, why do we fear?
Numbers 33 is a little bit hard to write about because the direct application in our lives is a little bit daunting.
Num 33:51 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye are passed over Jordan into the land of Canaan;
Num 33:52 Then ye shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their pictures, and destroy all their molten images, and quite pluck down all their high places:
Num 33:53 And ye shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land, and dwell therein: for I have given you the land to possess it.
God essentially told Moses to tell the people of Israel that they needed to go into the Promised Land and tear everything down. They could not be around the idolatry that was there before. Later in the chapter, He even promised punishment if they didn’t.
Num 33:55 But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell.
Num 33:56 Moreover it shall come to pass, that I shall do unto you, as I thought to do unto them.
So, I said that the application of this chapter would be a little bit daunting because as I thought about this chapter, I was thinking about how having Jesus controlling our lives is kind of our Promised Land.
Ideally, when we surrender our lives to Jesus and the will of God, we are walking in a very special place.
However, when we get near that point, we need to tear down anything old that might hold us back. Everyone is different, but I’m sure that this brings up a few thoughts in your mind. We all have areas of weakness that we need to attack, and if we let them stay around, they can easily become a thorn in our side.
We need to take this challenge.
Numbers 32 starts off with the tribes of Reuben and Gad asking to have their inheritance on the other side of the Jordan River. Their rationale was actually relatively solid. These two tribes had flocks of sheep, and the land seemed to be good for that.
Eventually, they were allowed to have their inheritance where they wanted it, but they had to meet a few conditions.
Num 32:17 But we ourselves will go ready armed before the children of Israel, until we have brought them unto their place: and our little ones shall dwell in the fenced cities because of the inhabitants of the land.
Num 32:18 We will not return unto our houses, until the children of Israel have inherited every man his inheritance.
Num 32:19 For we will not inherit with them on yonder side Jordan, or forward; because our inheritance is fallen to us on this side Jordan eastward.
God was concerned about these two tribes terminating their part in the mission. He let them know that they still had a part to play even though it seemed like they could finally settle down and enjoy their inheritance.
This makes me think a lot about the writer of Hebrews in the New Testament and how life is like a distance race.
Heb 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
Heb 12:2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
I have also heard patience translated as endurance. We need to keep going ahead even though it might seem like the race is over. We might feel like we are really far ahead or really far behind, but we need to finish well.
That is essentially what God was making sure the tribes of Reuben and Gad did. He wanted to make sure that they continued working for the betterment of the nation of Israel. Similarly, as Christians today, we need to continue working for the betterment of other people and continue fulfilling the Great Commission.
I was kind of surprised to find a little bit more about Balaam in Numbers 31 (although I guess that he is referenced a few more times in the future). I thought we were done with the story.
Num 31:6 And Moses sent them to the war, a thousand of every tribe, them and Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest, to the war, with the holy instruments, and the trumpets to blow in his hand.
Num 31:7 And they warred against the Midianites, as the LORD commanded Moses; and they slew all the males.
Num 31:8 And they slew the kings of Midian, beside the rest of them that were slain; namely, Evi, and Rekem, and Zur, and Hur, and Reba, five kings of Midian: Balaam also the son of Beor they slew with the sword.
This was the end of Balaam, and I guess it has been quite a journey. If you are reading along with me, you will remember all of the back story, but, in summary, he had to keep blessing Israel even though his boss wanted him to say anything else.
That is what I found particularly interesting about Balaam.
Even though he was not an Israelite, he had the opportunity to hear directly from God, but he still hung out with bad company. He wanted to stay with the enemies of Israel, and that is ultimately what did him in.
You know the old phrase that talks about getting burned when you play with fire. In a way, Balaam continued keeping dangerous company, and eventually it caught up to him.
He himself had prophesied the destruction of parts of Moab in Numbers 24:17, and we found out that the Moabites and the Midianites were in a pretty tight alliance through Numbers 22. Consequently, it doesn’t take an awful lot of deduction to realize that there might be problems for Midian as well. Being a friend of an enemy generally makes you an enemy as well.
God will always forgive us when we mess up, and I don’t want to discount that at all. However, sometimes we do make choices that put us in situations where bad things might happen. They don’t always result in death, but we have all made choices that have hurt other people or our relationship with them.
We need to make sure that we are watching our decisions. Every day, we are faced with thousands of them, and we do have to face the consequences of those decisions. Balaam apparently made the decision to ignore his own warning and live with people who he knew would be conquered by Israel. Whether that decision was the result of a lack of wisdom or a lack of faith, he eventually had to be responsible for what he had chosen.
I hope we choose to follow God.
Sometimes, the Bible is incredibly straightforward. For instance, the first two verses of Numbers chapter 30 don’t leave much room for negotiation.
Num 30:1 And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the LORD hath commanded.
Num 30:2 If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.
That’s pretty much it. If you commit to doing something, you’re not allowed to break your word.
I think that promises and vows are thrown around a bit too lightly today. People say what other people want to hear, but when they decide that they don’t want to do whatever it is anymore, they bail out.
God wants us to deal honestly with Him and each other.
Dishonesty has led many people into problems, and I have to think of Peter denying Jesus as probably the ultimate example of what this verse is talking about.
Mar 14:66 And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest:
Mar 14:67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.
Mar 14:68 But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.
Mar 14:69 And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.
Mar 14:70 And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.
Mar 14:71 But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.
Mar 14:72 And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
He continued arguing that he did not know who Jesus was and because he was afraid of what might happen to him, but when he realized that he had essentially fulfilled an unpleasant prophecy, he was incredibly upset.
Although I am sure that we have all been guilty of this on some level, it makes life so much easier when we just deal straightly with people. Not only does God command our honesty, but other people appreciate it as well.
I think that I have written similar post to what I am going to write today, but I think that this is another valuable lesson for all of us.
Num 29:39 These things ye shall do unto the LORD in your set feasts, beside your vows, and your freewill offerings, for your burnt offerings, and for your meat offerings, and for your drink offerings, and for your peace offerings.
Num 29:40 And Moses told the children of Israel according to all that the LORD commanded Moses.
In Numbers 29, we are again given the situation where freewill offerings are expected above and beyond going through the set rituals and feasts.
I think that this is important for us to move this forward to today. Even though we are not saved by works, Christianity is about more than just showing up at church on Sunday and going home. It is more than just a list of rules.
It is a lifestyle, and we need to offer our previous lifestyle as a sacrifice.
It is a freewill offering in our case because we can live in rebellion if we want to. Many people choose to do that.
We need to live our lives every day in a way that hopefully brings honor to God. As we have talked about before, that is our purpose here on earth, but it is also the logical conclusion of following what the Bible says. If we do everything it says, or at least try our best since we will always be imperfect, we can help lead people towards God.
Rom 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
Rom 12:2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
I think that Numbers 28 is particularly interesting because everything is done down to the details.
Num 28:1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
Num 28:2 Command the children of Israel, and say unto them, My offering, and my bread for my sacrifices made by fire, for a sweet savour unto me, shall ye observe to offer unto me in their due season.
For me, the fact that God talked about making offerings at the right time is significant. We need to do things in God’s time rather than our own time.
Of course, we don’t need to burn sacrifices like the Israelites did, but I think that this passage should be important to us. We need to understand that God has a plan for everyone, but His time is not necessarily our time.
Joh 21:20 Then Peter, turning about, seeth the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on his breast at supper, and said, Lord, which is he that betrayeth thee?
Joh 21:21 Peter seeing him saith to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do?
Joh 21:22 Jesus saith unto him, If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? follow thou me.
Essentially, Jesus told Peter that he shouldn’t worry about the timing of God. In this passage, I think that he is talking about end times prophecy, but I think that the message is clear for any point in history.
Undoubtedly, we need to make sure that we are on the lookout for God, but the timing of God is different. He fulfills everything for His own purposes at the exact time He wants it done. There are millions of things that we could worry about, but this is really unnecessary. God just says that we need to follow Him just like He told the Israelites that they needed to make those sacrifices.
As much as He cared about that in the Old Testament, He will care about us forever as well. Our responsibility is not to worry about the exact plan. We are supposed to follow God as He leads, and from that, God will display parts of His time to us.
We may not understand all of His “seasons,” but it is a good thing that God does and is willing to guide our path.
As a business administration major at the University of Vermont, we have a department that deals with family businesses. One of the biggest problems among family businesses involves keeping the business running after the original founder has retired or passed away.
Moses had similar worries in Numbers 27. He knew that he was going to die relatively soon, but he wanted the people of Israel to keep running behind a solid leader.
Num 27:16 Let the LORD, the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation,
Num 27:17 Which may go out before them, and which may go in before them, and which may lead them out, and which may bring them in; that the congregation of the LORD be not as sheep which have no shepherd.
Num 27:18 And the LORD said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;
Num 27:19 And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.
Num 27:20 And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.
Obviously, God was in charge of the whole operation, but Moses wanted to make sure that there would be someone leading Israel who would be able to lead the people toward God like Moses himself had done.
Leaving a legacy should be important to all of us as Christians. We don’t necessarily need to die or move away, but we should leave behind the love of God wherever we go. People should know that there is something different about us.
We should try to leave something positive behind whenever we meet anyone. Whether it is through our kindness, honesty or joy, we need to help and encourage people.
Mat 5:14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
Mat 5:15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Mat 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.