Every time Israel moved, thousands of people with their tents, livestock, possessions, and children had to make the journey. Also, the Levites needed to carry the Tabernacle with all of its furnishings.
Numbers 33:55 says, “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.” God warned them of taking the "easy" rout of only destroying enough of them where they would not be a threat anymore. We’ll read in Joshua and Judges that they did not listen and paid the price for it later.
The LORD covenanted the land to Israel, so in the end, he will not let any other have it. Joel 3:2 says “I will also gather all nations, And bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; And I will enter into judgment with them there On account of My people, My heritage Israel, Whom they have scattered among the nations; They have also divided up My land.” God will not let the land be "divided" to others nations.
The judgment on the Midianites may sound severe, but it is a lot less severe than what God did in Noah’s day. The LORD is merciful and longsuffering; these were people that are hardened and refused to repent.
There is much that could be said about this chapter, but I will only make one point from it. This is a powerful picture of how we cannot be content to try to dwell in the promises of God when others are not. It is up to us to go before others “armed” and “ready for battle” to see others come into what God has for them. We are called to take up the whole armor of God and pray always; this is how we fight to see others come into the victory Jesus bought for them. (Eph. 6:18)
We see again in this chapter the importance of keeping a vow that we make. It is interesting to note that a woman was free to make any vow she wished but the one who was her head (father or husband) had the right to cancel her vow and it would be like she never made it. If her head didn’t agree with the vow, he had a responsibility to speak up and cancel it; he did not have the luxury of remaining silent. By speaking up to cancel the vow he could protect his daughter or wife from binding herself to a vow that could be a weight she was not meant to carry. If he remained silent when he found out about the vow, his silence voiced his approval to it. By approving to his daughter's or wife's vow, he was also partly making himself responsible to see that the vow was performed since he was her covering.
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Balaam speaks about the nation of Israel in Numbers 23:23, "For there is no sorcery against Jacob, Nor any divination against Israel. It now must be said of Jacob And of Israel, 'Oh, what God has done!”
The same principle is seen in Proverbs 26:2, “Like a flitting sparrow, like a flying swallow, So a curse without cause shall not alight.”
Israel was God’s people and He had blessed them. The LORD taught the priests to put His blessing upon them through their spoken word. He also made a way to atone for their sins if they sinned against God or another. God was for Israel so who could be against them? Moab wouldn’t be able to bring any curse on Israel unless they could get Israel to choose sin and therefore choose death. That brings us to chapter 25, verse 1, “Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab.” There was no amount of money Moab could pay to curse Israel, but when they tempted them to sin, they could cause judgment to come upon them.
NOTE: Not every bad thing that happens to a Christian happens from a curse or a curse they opened themselves up to. It is important to know the power of the blood of Jesus, and His Name, also to know the power of speaking God's word so we will be protected from attacks.
Making a vow
Numbers 21:2 says, “Israel made a vow to the LORD…" When is it right to make a vow? Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 says, “When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed— 5) Better not to vow than to vow and not pay.” So, first of all, it’s better to never make a vow if we don’t fully intend on keeping it; we must learn to be people of our word. When you read Numbers 21:3, we see Israel’s vow caused God to listen and act on their behalf. After they made the vow it said, “The LORD listened to the voice of Israel and delivered up the Canaanites…” Remember how Hannah vowed to the LORD in 1 Samuel chapter 1 and He answered her also. I believe in both of these vows (Israel’s & Hannah’s), their vow was a vow to do what they knew God wanted them to do after God answered. If a vow is simply someone trying to “buy” a miracle from God, then it is wrong. A good vow is when you fully commit to do what you believe the LORD would have you do after He answers. Do you believe God wants you to give a certain amount to fund the Gospel or feed the poor? You can vow to give the money when the LORD gives you the means to do it.
Balaam thought he could get God to change his mind after he found how much was to be gained if he went with the men sent from King Balak. He went and verse 22 says, “The Angel of the LORD took His stand in the way as an adversary against him.” Even though God’s Angel came as his adversary, he still gave him mercy and a chance to repent by opening the donkey’s eyes to see the Angel and causing the donkey to talk. I think there is a deeper meaning to how God allowed Balaam to see that the LORD was opposed to what he was doing. Instead of just opening Balaam’s eyes at the start, God showed him that He can cause a donkey to do what Balaam does (see into the spirit and speak the oracles of God). If God gives us a gift, it is to be used the way God directs and not for personal gain.
Numbers 18:19 says, "All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer to the LORD, I have given to you and your sons and daughters with you as an ordinance forever; it is a covenant of salt forever before the LORD with you and your descendants with you." What is a covenant of salt? The commentary “IVP Bible Background” has this to say about it:
It’s hard to blame Moses for his anger after all he had gone through with the people, but it does serve as a reminder to us to not let frustrations build up in our heart against others. God wanted to be glorified by Moses speaking to the rock; instead Moses would not be allowed to go into the Promised Land. I don’t know if it was all anger and frustration that Moses hit the rock or was he just resorting to what he did last time. Does anyone else have any thought on this event?
Jesus was confronted with the same type of accusation that Korah and the 250 men confronted Moses with. Matthew 21:23 says, “Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, "By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?"
It is up to every one of us to be able to recognize who someone is and what God has authorized them to do. Moses wasn’t just any leader; he was authorized by God to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt to the Promised Land. Assuming a position is unwise and will lead to a fall. It is best to do what the Lord Jesus said and take the lowest place and allow Him to exalt you in due time.
God caused Aaron’s rod to blossom to show that He had called him as priest. A (dead) rod blossoming is a type or picture of resurrection. One reason Jesus Christ was raised from the dead was to show the world He is the Anointed One of God and He is God’s Son. Someone might say that He didn’t really rise from the dead, but He had many witnesses that spent their life proclaiming it. If they didn’t witness Him resurrected why would they spend their life to testify of it? If it was not true and is was possible to get a large number of people to spend their life testifying about a man’s resurrection, would they die for their testimony also? Many people died because they testified that they saw Him die and saw Him after He was raised from the dead. God gave enough proof of who Jesus is even in history, but in His mercy He continues to do the miraculous to awaken people’s hearts today.
Caleb didn’t have an evil heart of unbelief, but was a man fully convinced in the LORD. Numbers 14:24 says, “But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” Faith in God causes you to think different and act different. Caleb was ready to engage the enemy regardless of how big and numerous they were; he believed God would cause them to win. Real faith doesn’t complain and look for an easy way; real faith is bold.
Psalms 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days, That we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Wisdom comes when we live for the age to come, when we can rejoice in the injustices done to us because our reward is great in heaven.
Psalms 78:25-32 recounts what happens in Numbers 11; it says, “Men ate angels' food; He sent them food to the full. 26) He caused an east wind to blow in the heavens; And by His power He brought in the south wind. 27) He also rained meat on them like the dust, Feathered fowl like the sand of the seas; 28) And He let them fall in the midst of their camp, All around their dwellings. 29) So they ate and were well filled, For He gave them their own desire. 30) They were not deprived of their craving; But while their food was still in their mouths, 31) The wrath of God came against them, And slew the stoutest of them, And struck down the choice men of Israel. 32) In spite of this they still sinned, And did not believe in His wondrous works.”
The judgment sounds severe for asking for meat to eat, but Psalm 78:32 describes the real problem. They continued in sin and refused to believe God’s wondrous works.
It was dangerous for Aaron and Miriam to look at the faults or supposed faults of leadership (Moses) and allow that to cause them to lose honor for him. We should honor everyone for who they are; we are to honor everyone with God’s love, and honor leadership as leadership. David didn’t honor King Saul based on how nice he was or his lack of faults, but he honored him according to who God made him, “the anointed of the LORD.”
All 12 spies saw the same thing on the outside, but Joshua and Caleb saw something completely different on the inside. Circumstances are not our problem; seeing things without faith is the problem.
Numbers 9:6-10 "Now there were certain men who were defiled by a human corpse, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and Aaron that day. 7) And those men said to him, "We became defiled by a human corpse. Why are we kept from presenting the offering of the LORD at its appointed time among the children of Israel?" 8) And Moses said to them, "Stand still, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you." 9) Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 10) "Speak to the children of Israel, saying: 'If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the LORD's Passover."
This is a picture of “who” can come to Jesus for forgiveness and have death “Passover” them because of His blood. Those who were defiled and unclean didn’t need to clean themselves up or wait till they were good enough; they were free to come and receive of the Passover. Verse 10 says that even those that are “far away” can keep the Passover. Everyone who is unclean or far from the Lord can come to Him: whoever will call upon the Lord shall be saved.
Read through the Bible with us in 2012! The reading plan can be downloaded below; we are reading in chronological order. Check back often to read the blog posts on the Bible readings and discuss things in the "comments" section.
2012 Bible Plan