No Trust = No Obedience = No Blessing

Posted: January 22, 2015 in Numbers, Route 66

Route 66: Numbers, “No Trust = No Obedience = No Blessing”

When was the last time you played the game of “trust”?  For many, it was when their supposed friends dropped them!  For others, it’s difficult to simply fall back and trust someone else to catch them.  Their hesitation is understandable.  After all, humans aren’t always the most trustworthy of creatures.  God, however, is different.  God is completely trustworthy, never once going back on His word – never once showing Himself incapable of providing for us according to His promise. 

Yet even with God, we so often find ourselves struggling to trust Him.  And when distrust rises, disobedience is sure to follow.  For example, God tells us to forgive those who have sinned against us (and the Lord Jesus specifically taught us to pray along these lines), but forgiveness is often one of the most difficult things we have to do.  We know what God has said, but then we start second-guessing things, imagining all of the wrongs that won’t be made right – remembering all of the hurt that we believe won’t be healed – thinking that we will get hurt again, and more.  At the core of all of these worries is a lack of trust in God.  We don’t trust that God will protect us, heal us, be just, etc.  And because we don’t trust God, we disobey God & choose to hold a grudge.

If only we made the decision to trust God and walk in faith, then we would be obedient to God’s command.  And if we are obedient & submitted to God’s word, then we would experience God’s power and blessing.  Our distrust causes our disobedience, and we miss out on so much that God would have to offer.

That’s the story of Numbers in a nutshell.  People are the same, no matter what century in which we live, and the ancient Hebrews were no different than us.  Like us as born-again Christians, they had personally experienced the power and glory of God, and they knew without a doubt that God is real & He is the One who saved them & delivered them.  And also like us, they still had a difficult time trusting God, and their lack of trust caused a lack of obedience.  The result for them is that they missed out on the blessing of dwelling with God in the land of promise.  Instead of moving from Mt. Sinai to their future home in Canaan in just under a couple of weeks, they spent 40 years wandering around in the wilderness.  Their disobedience led to a death march, and an entire generation perished.  And it all began with a lack of trust.

God repeatedly showed Himself to the Hebrews as being worthy of their trust – even in the middle of their massive rebellion.  He continued to reach out to them, as they continued to harden themselves against Him.  They had to learn the hard way how important it was for them to walk by faith in God; hopefully our lesson need not be so difficult!

BACKGROUND: Author, Date, Title
Once more, this is authored by Moses, as are all 5 books of the Pentateuch (the 1st 5 books of the Old Testament).  There are some parts of the book that may have been edited by later generations, such as the description of Moses being the most humble man on the face of the earth. (Someone who boasts about their humility doesn’t exactly fit the description!)  But by & large, tradition shows this written by the hand of Moses, and there isn’t any real reason to doubt it.

As with the other books of the Pentateuch, it was likely written during the very years of wandering that the book of Numbers describes, right up to the very end of that wandering when the Hebrews prepared to actually enter the Promised Land.  The events themselves pick up where the book of Exodus leaves off.  When the book of Exodus closed, the tabernacle had been built, and the cloud of God’s glory filled the place.  The book of Leviticus picked up with the message of how to worship God using the Tabernacle, showing both the holiness of God, and the holiness that God expected from His people.  Although there was a bit of narrative in regards to Aaron and his sons as the priesthood began, most of the book was instruction regarding worship and holiness. 

It is with the book of Numbers that the narrative history picks up again.  The very first words of the book make the historical timing clear: Numbers 1:1, "Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying:" .  The Hebrews have had a year of freedom from Egypt at the base of Mt. Sinai, and as the 2nd year began, God prepared them to move out.  It ought to be a quick trip, but it will take them nearly 40 years to complete their journey – all because of their lack of trust & resulting disobedience.

In regards to the title of the book, although there are two censuses taken of Israel in the book (which is where the Greek LXX got the name), that’s not the entire story.  The book is not all about Numbers, and the Hebrew title actually makes more sense: “In the desert.”  That’s where the people began, and that’s where the people remained…but it didn’t have to be that way.  They could have ended up in the land of promise; but that was the cost of their lack of faith.

SIGNIFICANCE
What does Numbers have to say to the Christian?  Of course it speaks to the importance of trust and obedience…that’s a primary theme that runs throughout.  The lack of trust isn’t seen only in the Israelites’ refusal to enter the Promised Land, but continued instances of grumbling against God’s provision in the wilderness, and rebellion against God’s chosen man to lead His people (Moses).  Grumbling in the heart leads to garbage in our actions – and that’s true no matter what historical era in which we live.

The book of Numbers also reminds the Christian that God is faithful, even when we are not.  The Israelites delayed their entry to the Promised Land through their distrust and disobedience, but they did not make void the promises of God.  God had a future plan for Israel, and still promised to bring the Messiah through their nation.  God still had a plan to right every wrong through Jesus Christ, and He would see it through to the end, no matter what (as demonstrated through the prophecies of the pagan prophet Balaam).  God is always faithful, even in the midst of our own faithlessness.  We can praise God for His faithful grace!

GENERAL OUTLINE
Numbers is somewhat difficult to outline, and there are several different ways of doing so.  Overall, we can organize it in terms of the Hebrew generations:

  • The 1st generation & journey to Canaan (1-10)
  • Complaining & rebellions (11-25)
  • The 2nd generation & journey to Canaan (26-36)

That gives us three basic section breaks, with the understanding that there are many other items interspersed throughout (laws & miscellaneous regulations, prophecies, etc.).

The 1st Generation & Journey to Canaan
The people are organized (1-2)
The book of Numbers begins exactly as it is named: with a count.  God commands Moses to take a census of the people, primarily to get a count of men who are of age to go to war (1:2).  God was taking His people to the land of promise for a glorious inheritance given by His grace, but it wasn’t as if the Promised Land was vacant real estate.  The Israelites would have to go in and fight in order to receive it.  Of course God would empower them for the task, but they would still need to be willing to be active and do their part.  If they never physically walked into the land, the promise of God would be unrealized (something that this particular generation would have to learn for themselves).  The only way they would walk in the promise of God is if they acted in obedience to Him – and in this case, that meant there needed to be armies of Hebrews ready to go, thus the count.

  • It’s not any different today.  We still need to be willing to be active in what it is the Lord has promised us.  We are blessed with a glorious relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and He gives us so incredibly much through His grace – but there’s much we will never experience if we do not personally get up & act.  If we never share our faith, we’ll never know the joy of leading someone to faith in Christ.  If we never use the gifts the Holy Spirit entrusts to us, we’ll miss out on the personal blessing that comes from it as well as denying the rest of the Church the benefit that God desired to bring through us.  So often we have this expectation that God will just lower things from heaven and place them in our laps, and we use that as an excuse to “wait on the Lord.”  God has something so much better for us.  Yes, we are to wait upon Him, but we are to actively wait.  We’re to get up and act in faith, trusting God to provide for us in the process, which He is faithful to do.

The actual census count of the people is a subject of intense disagreement and debate among liberal and conservative theologians.  When all of the numbers from the various tribes are added together, the total comes to 603,550 (1:46).  Considering that this only numbered the men who were 20 years old and above, specifically those of fighting age, that means that the total population of Israel at this time could have easily been over 2 million people.  That is a massive number for any nation at the time, not to mention a nation that was constantly wandering through the wilderness of the Sinai peninsula.  Archaeology has never disproved the existence of the wandering nation, but neither has there been an abundance of proof for them.  Many scholars believe that the numbers were inflated, or perhaps misinterpreted by well-meaning scribes through the centuries.  What should we do with these figures today?  Simple: trust them.  This is what the Bible records, and we have every reason to take the Bible at face-value.  It has been proven correct in every other area, so it has earned the benefit of the doubt in this one as well.  Was it a miracle for God to provide for such a large nation in the desert?  Absolutely…but God is a God of miracles!  This is the same God that created the heavens and earth – the God who brought the plagues to Egypt – the God who parted the Red Sea – the God who appeared in fire, thunder, and earthquakes at Mt. Sinai.  If this God decided to provide for His people in the wilderness, why would we doubt His ability to do so?  This is the same God who raised Jesus from the dead & gave us new life & salvation.  If He can do that, then providing for 2 million people is a piece of cake.

Whereas Ch. 1 is a census of the nation, Ch. 2 is an organizational chart.  The Levites (not originally counted in the census) pitched their tents around the tabernacle as a symbol of their set-apart service to God, and as a guard from the rest of the people approaching God in their sin.  The other tribes were arranged around the Levites, with each tribes assigned a specific location by God.  Not only did this provide order in the camp (in organization & movement when they broke camp), but it illustrates the fact that God had plan for each one of them.  Each tribe was specifically told to be in a specific location by the command of God.  Not one was forgotten; all had something to contribute.

  • It’s no different in the New Testament Church.  Sometimes people get the idea that some Christians are more important than other Christians.  Missionaries trump laypeople – pastors trump missionaries, etc.  Not true!  No one Christian is more important than any other Christian.  No one role is more important than any other.  We are all part of the ONE body of Jesus Christ, and not one of us is more valued than the other.  1 Corinthians 12:23–25, "(23) And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, (24) but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, (25) that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another." .  Each one of us has something to offer the other because each one of us has been gifted by God & specifically appointed by Him to our particular ministry.  What a glorious privilege to have been thought of by the Lord God!

The priests are organized (3-4)
Originally, the Levites were not to be counted among the rest of the nation, but God did command a census of the Levites to be taken (3:15).  The idea was that the Levites were set apart.  God had taken them for Himself as a type of a firstborn offering from the Israelite nation.  God had purchased the nation out of Egypt with the death of the firstborn (i.e. the Passover), and this was symbolized among Israel by the Levites’ dedication to the Lord. 

All of the males of the Levites were counted (even the young children), and the various families among the Levites were given their specific duties regarding the tabernacle.  Some were assigned to carry and set up the holy tabernacle furniture – others were assigned to carry the curtains of the tabernacle – others assigned to carry the boards, etc.  Each one had their own duties, and as with the rest of the tribes of Israel, each was specifically assigned and gifted by the Lord for their task.  Once more, we see how each had value to the Lord, and were privileged to serve Him in ways precisely appointed by God.

The holiness of God is emphasized (5-8)
Although Numbers gets back to the historical narrative of the people of Israel, that doesn’t mean that it is void of laws and regulations from God.  On the contrary, laws are scattered throughout the book – regularly reminding the reader that despite the Hebrew’s lack of faith, God still sees them as His people.  He still has a covenant relationship with them – one that is unbreakable, and ultimately one that will bring forth the Messiah.  So God continues to reveal His law to them through Moses, pointing people both to the holiness of God, and God’s expectation for His people to be holy.

This is seen in Ch. 5 with laws that deal with unclean people and unfaithful spouses.  People who were ceremonially unclean were to be kept outside the camp until they could be restored (and restoration is always the goal of separation from uncleanness).  Restoration was also addressed in interpersonal relationships as people were told how to make restitution for their sins against one another.  Finally, distrust between unfaithful spouses is addressed as wives accused of adultery are given a venue to either prove their innocent or guilt, as determined by the Lord God.  Because women had so few rights in the culture, this was actually a way God protected them from false accusation and random divorce.

The Nazirite vow and regulations are laid out in Ch. 6, famously applied to men like Samson and John the Baptist.  Usually, this was meant to be a short-term vow as a man specifically set apart time to be dedicated to the Lord.  Ultimately it points to the reality we have in Christ, how we are all completely set apart to Him by the Holy Spirit and made new creations.

The famous priestly blessing is taught here as well, giving a three-fold blessing from God (pointing to God as Trinity), and God affirms His blessing and favor that He will put upon His people.  Numbers 6:24–26, "(24) The Lord bless you and keep you; (25) The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; (26) The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace." .

  • The blessing promised to Israel is one we also enjoy as members of Christ.  We are favored & kept by God.  God looks upon us in kindness, and bestows to us His grace.  God smiles upon us as His own children, and grants us peace with Him through Jesus.  How blessed we are to be the children of God!

From here, the nation and priests each dedicate themselves to the Lord.  The nation does so through a massive national offering (7), and each tribe brings the same amount: a silver platter, a silver bowl full of fine flour, a gold pan, a young bull, ram, and lamb, a kid of the goats, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs – all to be used in the various burnt, grain, sin, and peace offerings.  The priests themselves are taken through the ritual of dedication (8), and set apart to perform the ministry of the tabernacle worship.

Breaking Camp (9-10)
Finally the time has come for the Israelites to move beyond Sinai, and they celebrate the Passover again in the 2nd year after they came out from Egypt (9:1).  They were to always remember the redemption they had received from God, and the price that God paid for them.  (Likewise, we are to continually remember the redemption we’ve been given in Christ, and the price He paid for us in His blood.  This is exactly what we remember in the Lord’s Supper.)

God’s presence was continually with the people in the form of the pillar of cloud & fire, which not only showed them the way through the wilderness, but gave them protection from the sun and light in the middle of nowhere.  The people would arise every morning to a visible representation of God’s presence among them…an amazing reminder that they belonged to the most High God.

  • As amazing as this experience was, we have something far better with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  We don’t look outside to the presence of God; we have the presence of Almighty God within us.  He is our seal & guarantee of the future inheritance we have with God, and one day we’ll have the best of both worlds.  Not only will we continually be the Church sealed with God the Holy Spirit, but we will physically dwell with Jesus in the heavenly kingdom.  It can’t get any better than that!

In Ch. 10 the nation of Israel sets out in orderly fashion, called out by God, led by His presence, ready to move towards their inheritance.  It was marvelous!  But it wasn’t to last long…

Complaining & Rebellion
Grumbling against God & Moses (11-12)
They weren’t in wilderness for very long before they began complaining, and we’re not even told the entire story of what happened when already the fire of the Lord consumes some of the Israelites early on (11:1-3).  Yet not even this initial act of discipline stopped the people from their complaining, and soon they were despising the manna that God miraculously provided for them every day.  They longed for the fish & the crops that they ate in Egypt, and turned their noses up at the gift of God. 

Have you ever given a gift, and had it thrown in your face?  That was what the Hebrews did to God.  Every single day they awoke to the visible presence of God in their midst.  Every day they gathered up bread that had not been there the evening prior.  It wasn’t as if there were weeks and months between miracles, as if they could forget the things God was capable of doing; they saw it with their own eyes on a daily basis.  And still they complained.

  • We are so often a complaining people, and it ought not to be so.  How often has God provided for us in the past?  Has God ever let us down?  Hasn’t He gotten us through in ways we could never have imagined?  Hasn’t He given us the strength to endure hardships, and the peace that passes understanding?  Hasn’t He given us the bread of life in Christ Jesus?  How careful we need to be not to despise the gifts & grace of God!  May God open our eyes to the continual things He is doing, and that we can put complaining far from our lips.

In this particular instance, the Hebrews and mixed multitude complained about a lack of meat, so God gave them meat…with a vengeance.  A massive flock of quail descended upon the nation, and so did something else: the wrath of God.  The people were still picking the meat from their teeth when people started dropping dead. (11:33)  It was a hard lesson, but it still wouldn’t be enough to stop the people from rebelling against the Lord.

Moses’ own family was next to start complaining.  His brother Aaron and sister Miriam had been each greatly used by God, but they became jealous of their younger brother’s role within the nation.  They spoke against Moses’ Ethiopian wife (really speaking against Moses himself), and though they might have thought their grumbling was secret, the Lord God knew & He called them to the carpet.  He affirmed His sovereign choice of Moses as His servant, and struck Miriam with leprosy (Aaron was spared due to his role as high priest).  Moses demonstrated his typical compassion by interceding for his sister, and she was healed after seven days of discipline.

  • The principle for us today?  Don’t complain!  Paul exhorted this same thing of the Philippians.  Philippians 2:14–16, "(14) Do all things without complaining and disputing, (15) that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, (16) holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain." . When we grumble & complain, we demonstrate that we’re not trusting God.  After all, we’re upset that things aren’t going our way, and we wanted things done differently.  We need to remember that ultimately we aren’t in control; God is.  Instead of grumbling against God, we need to trust Him, and ask for His help to deal with the difficult things.

Rebellion at the Promised Land (13-15)
The grumbling only gets worse from this point, and this is where the history of Israel hits a true turning point.  The Israelites arrive at the edge of the Promised Land, and Moses (at the command of God) sends spies to the land, in order that they would bring back a report of what the people could expect (13).  After 40 days, the spies return with examples of the fruit of the land, and they report that it is indeed a good land.  It flows with “milk and honey” (13:27), and is everything that the people had always dreamed of.  There was only one problem: it was already inhabited.  Not that God hadn’t already warned the people of this, but once the Hebrew spies saw the Canaanites with their own eyes, they panicked.  They seemed like giants in the eyes of the Hebrews.  Only Caleb (and presumably Joshua) spoke up in faith, knowing that God would give them the strength to overcome the giants in the land, but it was those who feared that carried the day.

  • We’ve seen it many times before: faith replaces fear & vice-versa.  Unless we’re talking about the holy fear of God, fear is always diametrically opposed to faith.  When we start acting in fear, then our eyes are taken off God.  When that happens, we panic & try whatever we can do to fix things ourselves, and any thoughts of obedience to the Lord go out the window.  When we fear, we act in our flesh, and we always end up sorry.  However, faith is the solution.  We choose to walk in faith, and choose to step out in obedience to the Lord.  When we truly trust God, obedience is the natural result.  When we give into fear, then disobedience is the only other option.

As for Israel, they gave into fear, and Ch. 14 shows them balking at the Promised Land, complaining against God & Moses, even desiring to return to Egypt.  Moses, and Aaron fell on their faces in humility before God, and Joshua & Caleb pleaded with the people not to rebel against the Lord.  It was all for naught, and as they picked up stones to kill the faithful men, God’s glory appeared at the tabernacle ready to wipe out the entire nation & build a new one from the children of Moses.

In a glorious act of intercession, Moses pleaded with God for the people, and God graciously spared them. (Not unlike how Jesus intercedes with God on our behalf, and God graciously turns His anger away from us.)  The nation was spared from annihilation, but not from God’s judgment.  The generation that rebelled was doomed to perish in the wilderness, and it would only the next generation of Hebrews that would inherit what their fathers missed.  Numbers 14:29–31, "(29) The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above. (30) Except for Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun, you shall by no means enter the land which I swore I would make you dwell in. (31) But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised." .

  • This is the result of rebellion & disobedience, and it was all avoidable.  They could have experienced the blessing of God.  God wanted them to experience His blessing.  Instead, they made the decision not to trust God, and walk in disobedience.  As a result, they experienced death, and their blessing was given to another.
  • What does this say to us as NT Christians?  Are we to fear the loss of our salvation?  No.  None of us are perfectly obedient unto God, and God doesn’t want us to live in constant fear of losing our salvation and eternal hope.  Jesus intercedes on our behalf for exactly those things.  However, our unwillingness to trust God does cause us to miss out on much of what God has for us.  We miss incredible opportunities and blessings when we choose to walk in disobedience.  We live under the discipline of God rather than the favor of God.  Sin always has consequences, and God will let us experience them if necessary.
  • There’s also a lesson here to those who are not yet believers in Christ: don’t wait!  When God gives you the opportunity to be saved, take it.  He had brought this people to the edge of the Promised Land, and they turned aside & faced death.  For you, God has given you a new day & new breath – a new opportunity to receive of the grace of Christ.  Don’t turn away…you will surely face eternal death if you wait too long.

Ch. 15 seems like a strange transition from this point.  The people had been placed under the judgment of God, and despite a futile attempt to fix things on their own, they couldn’t do it.  All of a sudden, Ch. 15 starts another section dealing with the law – specifically grain & drink offerings, dealing with unintentional sins, and even violating the Sabbath.  Why would God give this kind of instruction at this point?  Because it demonstrates a crucial fact: the older generation of Hebrews would die in the wilderness, but the Hebrews themselves wouldn’t pass away.  God would eventually bring the nation into their own land.  He had not cast them aside; every promise He made to them would remain true.  They were still His people, and He was still their God.

Rebellion against Priesthood (16-19)
One would think this death sentence would be enough to cause the people to humble themselves in repentance.  Sadly no; they double-down.  A mutiny develops against Moses & Aaron, led by a Levite by the name of Korah.  Unhappy with Aaron’s role as high priest, Korah (along with others) coveted it for himself.  God had still graciously given Korah a role in the ministry, but it wasn’t good enough for Korah.  His rebellion cost him his life, as God opened up the earth and it swallowed Korah and all who chose to rebel with him.

  • Interestingly, many of the psalms are written by men who were known as the “Sons of Korah.”  Although some of Korah’s children perished in this rebellion, others apparently humbled themselves and survived, and they were greatly used by God in worship, even penning Holy Scripture.  They hadn’t needed to desire Aaron’s role; God had a wonderful enough role of His own to give them!

After the rebellion of Korah, God reiterated His choice of Aaron as high priest, by miraculously allowing Aaron’s rod to bud, and even yield ripe almonds (17:8).  The role of the priesthood was not something someone could choose for themselves; it had to be appointed to them by God.  Likewise, we have but one High Priest: the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is a role that He and He alone can fill.

From this point, more laws are given regarding the priesthood.  God showed how they were to be supported, and showed the role they played in the ritual of purification.

Moses’ sin (20)
No one is perfect, save the Lord Jesus, and even Moses could sin, and sadly that is what he did.  Once more wandering around the wilderness, the nation grumbled about the lack of water to drink.  As humble a man as Moses was, even he could reach the end of his patience.  God heard the complaining of the people, and commanded Moses to speak to a rock that was in front of the people, that the rock would yield water – something very similar to what had happened years before when the Israelites first left Egypt (Exo 17).  Moses gathered the people together, and blew his top.  He claimed credit for the water, and twice struck the rock with his staff.  At this point, even Moses lost his privilege to enter the Promised Land.  He had not rightly represented God to the people, and thus sinned in his primary duty.

Even Moses could fall to a lack of trust.  Certainly Moses trusted God far more than any of us have ever done – but he was human, too.  His frustration with the people manifested itself in a lack of trust that God had the right to be gracious to His people – and thus Moses sinned, and it cost him dearly.

Military exploits (21)
Just because the people had sinned did not mean God was through with them.  He gave them a preview of the battles (and victories) to come as they came against the king of Arad, King Sihon of the Amorites, and King Og of Bashan.  God gave them such victories here, that these battles were still spoken of by the time Joshua led the Israelites into the Promised Land.

Of course, the Hebrews were still Hebrews, and they still occasionally complained against the Lord.  In their discouragement from constant wandering, they once again grumbled against God’s provision of manna for them.  This time, God sent poisonous serpents among the people, and the only way they were saved was by looking in faith to a bronze serpent that Moses constructed and lifted up high for all to see.  It was this very event that Jesus referenced in His conversation with Nicodemus, relating the serpent to the cross.  Jesus Himself would be lifted up, and it is only by looking to Him in faith that we are saved.

  • BTW, this tells us something about the book of Numbers: Jesus believed it.  Jesus taught from the books of Moses.  He actually quotes or references all five (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy).  If Jesus believed the books of Moses, so should we!

Prophecies of the Pagan (22-25)
At this point, the focus of the narrative departs from Israel, and moves to one of her enemies: Moab.  King Balak had seen how God gave military victories to Israel, and he feared that his nation was next.  So he hires a well-known pagan soothsayer/prophet/magician to come and curse Israel on his behalf.  The prophet Balaam is interesting in that he seems to truly know the Lord God as God, but he still doesn’t worship God.  Balaam understands that God has blessed Israel, and that they would not be able to be cursed, and he understands that he would not be able to personally speak any words that God did not allow him to speak.  Yet still he did not worship the Lord as God. 

  • People can know the right facts about God without truly knowing God as God.  It’s not enough to know the facts about Jesus; we need to fear Him and worship Him as God.

Through a famous event in which God uses a donkey to speak to Balaam (proving that God can use anyone as His voice), Balaam is allowed to prophesy, but he is constrained to speak only the words God gives him.  To Balak’s dismay, Balaam ends up blessing Israel three times, and upon his fourth prophecy even looks ahead to the future Messiah, and destruction of the enemies of God.

Although Numbers closes the account quickly at that point, showing Balak sending Balaam packing, it’s later revealed that Balaam did give Balak some advice regarding Israel.  Balaam could not pronounce curses against Israel, but he could show Balak how to get Israel to curse itself, which apparently Balak did.  The women of Moab were sent among the Israelites, and the Israelites committed harlotry with them & started worshipping the false gods of the Moabites (25).  It was only the quick action of Phinehas (the son of Eleazar, high priest after the death of his father Aaron) who turned aside the wrath of God.

The 2nd Generation & Journey to Canaan
A repeated census & new leadership (26-27)
Time has passed, and the death sentence has been carried out in the wilderness.  Once more, God commands a census to be taken, again with the men of Israel counted separately from the Levites.  Miraculously, the nation of Israel did not shrink during its 40 years of wandering.  They numbered 601,730 – almost exactly the same as they did back in Ch. 1 (difference of less than 200).  God was faithful to preserve His people…down to the last man.  The nation had missed out on blessing, but God had not changed.  His promise remained, and now the people were ready to enter into it.

As the people entered, they would enter with new leadership.  Due to Moses’ sin, he was not allowed to take the people across the Jordan river. That responsibility would be given to Joshua, who was publicly installed as the next leader of Israel.

Covenant law reiterated (28-30)
Not only were the people renewed in their census & leadership, but also in their covenant law.  As God did immediately following the Israelite’s rebellion, He reiterates the fact that they were still His covenant people, and He was still their covenant God.  He gave them laws regarding their daily & weekly offerings, as well as laws regarding the annual feasts, and the vows they would make unto God.

God’s promises are never void!  The gifts and callings of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:29).  That’s just as true for us as it is for Israel.  Just as God still has a plan for Israel as His people, God has a plan for us as the Church.  When we’ve entered into a covenant relationship with Christ, we can be sure God is going to see it all the way through.  He will begin the work He has begun within us, and that’s something that ought to give us much hope!

Preparation to enter the land (31-36)
One final battle is recorded under Moses’ leadership, this time against the Midianites as vengeance on behalf of God.  Balaam is counted among those who are killed, along with the kings of Midian.  The spoils of war are divided among the Israelites, and much of the gold is offered to the Lord via the tabernacle.

So at this point, everyone is ready to enter the Promised Land – right?  Wrong.  Two tribes (Reuben & half of Manasseh) so enjoyed the land that they had taken from Sihon & Og that they decided to settle on the east side of the Jordan.  They were settling for less than what God made available to them, but they knew better than to cross the line into outright disobedience.   They still promised to send their warriors along with the other tribes to help them conquer the land.  They settled for less, and they received less.  It doesn’t take long before their land holdings fade from history, and fall into the hands of foreigners.  (Beware that you don’t settle for less!  Trust God and fully walk in what He has appointed for you!)

The remaining chapters are filled with details, but pass rather quickly.  The boundaries of the Promised Land are described in Ch. 34, the provision of cities for the Levites is given in Ch. 35, and some follow-up is given in Ch. 36 regarding women receiving their familial inheritance.  All in all, every provision is made for the Israelites to enter the land.  They’re all set – the only thing they await is the command of God.

Conclusion:
Of course, they could have been their sooner.  If they had only trusted the Lord & been obedient to His voice, they could have already been settled in the Promised Land by this point.  Instead, they spent 40 years wasting their time, wandering in the wilderness.  They sent up complaint after complaint, when they could have humbled themselves before God & trusted in His provision.  So much wasted time – so much wasted opportunity!

What time have you wasted because of a lack of trust.  We have every reason to trust our Lord Jesus in everything – He’s never given us a reason to doubt.  All the proof we ever need that Jesus is faithful is the empty tomb.  Because Jesus is risen from the dead, we know everything else He has said is true.  So make the choice to trust Him.  Make the choice to walk in faith.  It IS a choice, so choose wisely.

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