Monthly Archives: October 2013

Numbers 20 – THE BEGINNING OF THE END

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Numbers 20 – THE BEGINNING OF THE END

A. Contention among the children of Israel.

1. (Numbers 20:1) The death of Miriam.

Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there.

a. The people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there: Miriam died in Kadesh. Through the years of wandering in the wilderness, Israel came back to Kadesh, the place where they rejected God’s offer (Numbers 13:26).

b. Miriam died there and was buried there: Miriam’s death was an important point in the journey from Egypt to Canaan. She was the first of Moses’ siblings to die in the wilderness, and her death was an important demonstration of the fulfillment of what God promised: That the generation which refused to enter Canaan would die in the wilderness, and the new generation would enter instead (Numbers 14:29-34).

i. Miriam’s death shows us there were no special exceptions for the family of Moses. God said only Joshua and Caleb would survive from that generation (Numbers 14:30), and that included, Miriam, Aaron, even Moses himself. This chapter will show the frailty of each of these giants in the account of the Exodus.

ii. Many people still deceive themselves into thinking they have a special exception from God, believing they are a special case, with their own special arrangement with the LORD. If Moses and his siblings had no special deal, we should not be so arrogant to think we have our own deal with God.

c. Miriam died there and was buried there: Miriam died a complex character. She was great for her courage in assisting Moses and his parents (Exodus 2:4-8), and great for her leading Israel in praise (Exodus 15:20-21). But she was also disgraced for her rebellion against Moses (Numbers 12:1-16). One incident of rebellion left a black mark on her whole life.

2. (Numbers 20:2-6) Israel contends with Moses and Aaron because of thirst.

Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron. And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: “If only we had died when our brethren died before the LORD! Why have you brought up the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.” So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them.

a. There was no water for the congregation: The need was real, but the response of Israel was filled with unbelief and bad attitude – which always go together! When you find a bad attitude, you will also find a lack of simple, secure trust in God.

b. If only we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!

Their contention lead them to outrageous statements, words lacking any trust in God. The older generation of unbelief was almost dead, and now the younger generation started to act like the unbelieving generation. They openly doubted God’s promise that He would lead them into the land of promise.

c. Why have you brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? Their contentions lead them to outrageous accusations. The new generation accuses Moses just as the generation of unbelief did!

d. Not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates: Their contentions lead them to a stunted vision. Of course the wilderness was not a fruitful land. But they would never make it to the land of rich fruit until they came through the wilderness trusting God.

e. Moses and Aaron . . . fell on their faces: They realized how serious this was. With this contentious attitude, the new generation would be just as unbelieving, as untrusting in God as the old generation was, and they would likewise perish in the wilderness.

3. (Numbers 20:7-8) God’s command to Moses: Provide water for Israel.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.”

a. Take the rod . . . Speak to the rock before their eyes: Specifically, God told Moses to take the rod, but not to use it. Water would be provided if Moses would speak to the rock before their eyes.

b. And it will yield its water: Back at Mount Sinai, God told Moses to strike the rock and water came forth (Exodus 17:6). But now he was merely to speak to the rock, yet with the rod in his hand. This rod was a symbol of his authority from God.

4. (Numbers 20:9-11) Moses’ contention with the people – and with the LORD.

So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank.

a. So Moses took the rod from before the LORD as He commanded him: Moses began by doing exactly what the LORD had told him to do: Take the rod, and gather the people of Israel.

b. Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock? God did not command him to speak to the nation, and to speak so severely to the nation, yet Moses did.

i. Moses, after doing what God had told him to do, then did something God had not told him to do: He lectured the nation.

ii. Worse, he lectured the nation with an attitude of heart he had not shown before – one of anger and contempt for the people of God, with a bitter heart. Before, Moses fell on his face before God when the people rebelled (Numbers 16:4). At Meribah, when the people contended with Moses because there was no water, Moses cried out to the LORD, not against the people (Exodus 15:22-25). When the people did need to be boldly confronted, Moses did it; but without the edge of anger, contempt, and bitterness we see here (as in Exodus 17:1-7). There are a hundred explanations for Moses’ frustration here (Psalms 106:32-33describes how the people provoked Moses here), but not a single excuse.

iii. Worse yet, Moses not only took the rebellion of the people against the LORD too personally, he also over-magnified his own partnership with God: Must webring water for you out of this rock? Moses spoke as if he and God would do the job, as if they divided the work fifty-fifty; as if God couldn’t bring water unless he was around to speak to the rock. His lapse into contempt for the people led him into a lapse of subtle pride.

c. Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod: Moses disobeyed God directly, striking the rock instead of speaking to it.

i. Not only did he strike it, but he struck it twice. When he struck the rock at the beginning of the Exodus journey, he only had to strike it once, but now, out of anger and frustration, he did it twice.

d. Water came out abundantly: Yet, despite Moses’ lapse into sinful attitude and action, God still provided abundantly for the people.

i. This teaches us that God’s love for His people is so great, he will use very imperfect instruments, and that the fact God uses someone is no evidence – to themselves or to the people – that they themselves are really right with God or ministering according to God’s heart.

ii. God would deal with Moses, but the people needed water – and so it was provided. Moses might have come away thinking he did right, and the people probably thought so as well – because what Moses did seemed to work. But what works is not the best measure of what is right before God.

5. (Numbers 20:12-13) God’s rebuke and correction of Moses.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” This was the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel contended with the LORD, and He was hallowed among them.

a. Because you did not believe Me: Moses’ sinful attitude and action was rooted in unbelief. He didn’t really believe God when the LORD told him to speak to the rock and not to strike it.

b. To hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel: What Moses did was an unholything. He made God look no different than an angry man or one of the temperamental pagan gods. He did not reflect the heart and character of God before the people.

c. Therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land: God’s correction of Moses was hard; he would not lead Israel into the Promised Land. That which he dreamed of and felt called to even as a child in the palaces of Egypt – to deliver God’s people – would not be completed. Another person would finish the job.

i. This is only painful because of Moses’ faithful heart; an unfaithful man is not pained at the idea that he cannot complete what God had called him to.

ii. We might have thought, Israel might have thought, and Moses might have thought he was exempt from the decree that all the generation that was of age when the Exodus began would perish in the wilderness – after all, Moses was Moses! But Moses, great as leader as he was, was still a man subject to God and God’s law.

d. You shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them: This may seem an excessively harsh punishment for Moses. It seems that with only one slip-up, he now had to die short of the Promised Land. But Moses was being judged by a stricter standard because of his leadership position with the nation, and because he had a uniquely close relationship with God.

i. It is right for teachers and leaders to be judged by a stricter standard (James 3:1); though it is unrighteous to hold teachers and leaders to a perfect standard. It is true the people’s conduct was worse than Moses’ but it is irrelevant.

ii. Worst of all, Moses defaced a beautiful picture of Jesus’ redemptive work through the rock which provided water in the wilderness. The New Testament makes it clear this water-providing, life-giving rock was a picture of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4). Jesus, being struck once, provided life for all who would drink of Him (John 7:37). But was unnecessary – and unrighteous – that Jesus would be struck again, much less again twice, because the Son of God needed only to suffer once (Hebrews 10:10-12). Jesus can now be come to with words of faith (Romans 10:8-10), as Moses should have only used words of faith to bring life-giving water to the nation of Israel. Moses “ruined” this picture of the work of Jesus God intended.

e. And He was hallowed among them: At the end of it all, God was seen as holy among the children of Israel. Moses did not hallow God in this incident, but God hallowed Himself through the correction of Moses. God will get His glory, God will be hallowed – but will it come through our obedience or our correction?

B. On the way to the Promised Land – again.

1. (Numbers 20:14-17) Messengers to the king of Edom.

Now Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom. “Thus says your brother Israel: ‘You know all the hardship that has befallen us, how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians afflicted us and our fathers. When we cried out to the LORD, He heard our voice and sent the Angel and brought us up out of Egypt; now here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border. Please let us pass through your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink water from 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 through your territory.’“

a. Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom: Israel was now at Kadesh, and they wanted to go through the land of Edom – taking them closer to the Promised Land than they had ever been before, beyond where they failed to go in because of unbelief. This was the fifth stage of the Exodus.

· First, from Egypt to Mount Sinai (Exodus 12:31-51; Exo_13:1-22; Exo_14:1-31; Exo_15:1-27; Exo_16:1-36; Exo_17:1-16; Exo_18:1-27).

· Second, the sojourn at Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1 to Numbers 10:10).

· Third, the first approach to the Promised Land, beginning at Mount Sinai, but being aborted at Kadesh with the refusal to enter the Promised Land in faith (Numbers 10:11-36; Num_11:1-35; Num_12:1-16; Num_13:1-33; Num_14:1-45).

· Fourth, the 38 years of wandering in the wilderness until the generation of unbelief had died (Numbers 15:1 to Numbers 20:13).

· Now, fifth, the second and final approach to the Promised Land (Numbers 20:14 toJoshua 2:24).

b. Thus says your brother Israel: The nation of Israel was brother to the nation of Edom, because the patriarch Israel (also known as Jacob) was brother to Esau (also known as Edom), as related in Genesis 25:19-34.

c. Please let us pass through your country: All Moses asked for on behalf of Israel was the permission to pass through. They expected no provision from the Edomites, because they trusted God to provide all their needs.

2. (Numbers 20:18-21) The Edomites refuse passage to the Israelites.

Then Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.” So the children of Israel said to him, “We will go by the Highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothingmore.” Then he said, “You shall not pass through.” So Edom came out against them with many men and with a strong hand. Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory; so Israel turned away from him.

a. You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword: This was an unnecessary refusal. It would have cost Edom nothing and been a genuine gesture of goodwill. But the Edomites, perhaps out of suspicion or fear, refused.

b. So Israel turned away from him: This refusal made the journey of the children of Israel much more discouraging and dangerous (Numbers 21:4-5), but there seems to be no record of God punishing Edom for this sin. In fact, Israel was still commanded to treat the Edomite as a brother (Deuteronomy 23:7). God here showed Israel how to leave the judgment of those who hurt you up to the LORD, and how to love those who have acted as enemies against you – even if they were brothers.

3. (Numbers 20:22-29) The death of Aaron.

Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor by the border of the land of Edom, saying: “Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah. Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor; and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; for Aaron shall be gathered to his people and die there.” So Moses did just as the LORD commanded, and they went up to Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. Now when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days.

a. Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor: Here a definite marker, indicating the end of the 38 years Israel had been “sentenced” to in the wilderness. Numbers 33:38 tells us Aaron died there in the fortieth year after the children of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt.

i. There is very little record of what happened during these years; they are compressed into only five and one-half chapters, while the single year at Mount Sinai is given almost 50 chapters. This was to demonstrate these years accomplished nothing, except the death of the generation of unbelief. These were just years of surviving in the desert, wasted years, waiting for the “old man” to die.

ii. During those 38 years, there was much movement – but no progress. Our walk with God can be the same way.

iii. “Because Israel had rebelled, their life has run to waste ever since, and only now, after such a lapse of time, and after so much suffering, did Israel find itself in a position to recommence the march that was suspended at Kadesh. So it is with the churches which have reached a certain point, then rebelled against the voice of God. Their history runs to waste; they exist, but hardly live; there is indeed a movement in them, but it has no definite aim, it leads no where; they just end up in the same place all the time. Only after a long time (if God has mercy on them) do they find themselves once more in a position to start afresh, and with not one step further forward in all of those years. Even so it is with individuals who will not go resolutely on when they are called. They are spent and wasted in movement back and forth which is not progress. After many years perhaps – perhaps after a whole lifetime – of wandering in dry places they find themselves once more at the very point to which they had come before, and not one step closer.” (Winterbotham in Pulpit Commentary)

c. Aaron died there on the top of the mountain: The passing of Aaron is a huge landmark in the history of Israel; he was the first high priest of the nation – and yet, not exempt from the decree that his generation would perish in the wilderness.

i. Moses, who represented the law, could not lead them into the Promised Land. Miriam, who represents the prophets, could not lead them into the Promised Land. Aaron, who represents the priests, could not lead them into the Promised Land. Only Joshua, that is, JESUS, could lead them into the land of God’s promise.

d. Aaron died there on the top of the mountain: Aaron died as a great, but complex figure, even more so than Miriam. He was used of God mightily, as Moses’ partner (Exodus 4:27-31), to initiate the priesthood (Leviticus 8:1-36), and to plead with Moses for the people (Numbers 16:1-50Numbers 17:1-13). At the same time, he was instrumental in the grotesque debacle of the golden calf (Exodus 32:1-35) and in challenging Moses’ authority with his sister Miriam (Numbers 12:1-16).

i. Aaron’s life shows us, among other things, that the office is more important than the man himself. Aaron the man was not always worthy of respect, but Aaron the high priest always was worthy of honor.

e. Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son: God gave special warning about Aaron’s death, so a smooth and graceful transition could be made in passing down the position of high priest to Aaron’s oldest living son, Eleazar.

i. The man dies, but the priesthood – and the access and relationship with God it describes – carries on. No one’s relationship with God in Israel was to depend on Aaron, but on the high priest – whomever he was. God has ensured there will always be a high priest for us to come to in Jesus (Hebrews 4:14-16), and we need not depend on any man for our relationship with God.

 

 

 

 


 

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Numbers 19 – LAWS OF PURIFICATION

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Numbers 19 – LAWS OF PURIFICATION

 

A. Provision for purification – the ashes from the sacrifice of a red heifer.

 

1. (Numbers 19:1-2) The taking of a red heifer.

 

Now the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD has commanded, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come.”

 

a. That they bring you a red heifer: A heifer is a cow which has never been pregnant, and thus cannot yet give milk. They had to find one with a red color – which, of course, would be somewhat rare.

 

i. “Normally the animal’s colour did not matter. This one had to be red to resemble blood.” (Wenham)

 

b. Without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come: These requirements made this particular animal even rarer. This red heifer, therefore, would be valuable, rare, and pure (because she had not yet been impregnated).

 

2. (Numbers 19:3-10) The sacrifice, burning, and gathering of ashes from the red heifer.

 

You shall give it to Eleazar the priest, that he may take it outside the camp, and it shall be slaughtered before him; and Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of its blood seven times directly in front of the tabernacle of meeting. Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight: its hide, its flesh, its blood, and its offal shall be burned. And the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet, and cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer. Then the priest shall wash his clothes, he shall bathe in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp; the priest shall be unclean until evening. And the one who burns it shall wash his clothes in water, bathe in water, and shall be unclean until evening. Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin. And the one who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until evening. It shall be a statute forever to the children of Israel and to the stranger who dwells among them.

 

a. Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight: its hide, its flesh, its blood, and its offal shall be burned: The red heifer would be sacrificed in the customary fashion, with a bit of blood being sprinkled on the altar. Yet, the complete carcass of the animal was burnt and the ashes gathered by one observing the cleansing ceremonies before and after the gathering of ashes.

 

i. Its blood . . . shall be burned: Unlike every other sacrifice in the Old Testament, the blood of the red heifer is burnt along with the sacrifice, instead of being completely drained out at the jugular. Blood was to be part of the ashes that would come forth from the burning of the carcass of the red heifer.

 

b. And the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet, and cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer: When the heifer was burnt, the priest would also put cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet into the fire.

 

i. In Leviticus 14:4-6, each of these three items are used in the cleansing ceremony for a leper. Each of these items has a special significance.

 

ii. Cedar is extremely resistant to disease and rot, and is well known for its quality and preciousness. These properties may be the reason for including it here – as well as a symbolic reference to the wood of the cross. Some even think the cross Jesus was crucified on was made of cedar.

 

iii. Hyssop was used not only with the cleansing ceremony for lepers, but also Jesus was offered drink from a hyssop branch on the cross (Matthew 27:48), and when David said purge me with hyssop in Psalms 51:7, he was admitted he was a bad as a leper.

 

iv. Scarlet, the color of blood, pictures the cleansing blood of Jesus on the cross. Scarlet was used in the veil and curtains of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:31), in the garments of the high priest (Exodus 28:5-6), the covering for the table of showbread (Numbers 4:8), the sign of Rahab’s salvation (Joshua 2:21), and the color of the mocking “king’s robe” put on Jesus at His torture by the soldiers (Matthew 27:28).

 

c. They shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin: The residue from the burning of the carcass, the cedar, the hyssop, and the scarlet fabric together would produce a lot of ash, and the ash was to be gathered and sprinkled in water bit by bit to make water fit for purification.

 

B. Other laws of purification.

 

1. (Numbers 19:11-13) Touching dead bodies makes one ceremonially unclean.

 

He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days. He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean. Whoever touches the body of anyone who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the LORD. That person shall be cut off from Israel. He shall be unclean, because the water of purification was not sprinkled on him; his uncleanness is still on him.

 

a. He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days: To be ceremonially unclean was not “sin,” as we might think of it; it meant that one was barred from their regular fellowship with and worship of God, and their fellowship with God’s people, until they were made clean.

 

b. I he does not purify himself . . . that person shall be cut off: One who was unclean needed purification, and could not ignore their condition, but was still part of the nation – unless they refused to correct their unclean condition.

 

i. A wonderful parallel is found in John 13:5-11; if we are “bathed” by Jesus, we need only to have our feet washed, as they become unclean in the normal practice of life. Yet, if we do not let Jesus “wash” us, we have no part with Him. We must receive the beautiful once-for-all cleansing Jesus brings to us when we are born again; yet continually come to Him to be cleansed of the “day-to-day” things.

 

c. Defiles the tabernacle of the LORD: These laws were relevant to all in Israel, but especially to priests, who had the potential to defile the tabernacle of the LORD. Under the New Covenant, the Christian also has a special call to purity, because we can also defile the dwelling place of God (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

 

2. (Numbers 19:14-16) How to handle a dead body.

 

This is the law when a man dies in a tent: All who come into the tent and all who are in the tent shall be unclean seven days; and every open vessel, which has no cover fastened on it, isunclean. Whoever in the open field touches one who is slain by a sword or who has died, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.

 

a. This is the law when a man dies in a tent: The practice of quarantining all those who come into contact with a dead body was a wonderful public health measure as well. Those potentially contaminated would be set aside until it could be seen if they contracted a disease from the dead body.

 

b. Every open vessel, which has no cover fastened on it, is unclean: In fact, this principle extended to every open vessel – which could potentially harbor disease causing organisms. If near a dead body, those vessels would be declared unclean and thus destroyed, reducing the danger of communicable disease.

 

c. Shall be unclean: What was inherently unclean about a dead body? Simply that death is the result and positive proof of sin (Genesis 2:15-17Romans 5:12). Death is like sin made visible.

 

i. In someone touched the carcass of a dead animal, he was unclean for less than one day (Leviticus 11:24; Lev_11:27; Lev_11:39). But if one touched a dead human, he was unclean for seven days! Man is indeed greater than the animals – especially greater in sin.

 

ii. Our contact with a dead body also makes us unclean. In Romans 7:24, Paul cries out in frustration of defeat in sin: Who will deliver me from this body of death? We can only be delivered from the body of death if we receive and walk in the precious work of Jesus on our behalf.

 

3. (Numbers 19:17-19) The purpose for the ashes of the red heifer.

 

And for an unclean person they shall take some of the ashes of the heifer burnt for purification from sin, and running water shall be put on them in a vessel. A clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water, sprinkle it on the tent, on all the vessels, on the persons who were there, or on the one who touched a bone, the slain, the dead, or a grave. The clean person shall sprinkle the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day; and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, wash his clothes, and bathe in water; and at evening he shall be clean.

 

a. They shall take some of the ashes of the heifer: The ashes of the red heifer, described earlier in the chapter, were sprinkled in fresh water, and this water was used for purification.

 

b. And at evening he shall be clean: Thus, ashes of the red heifer (which the ingredients all speak of the work of Jesus on our behalf), combined with water (which speaks of the work of the Word of God and the Holy Spirit) combine together to bring cleansing. It can cleanse even the uncleanness brought about by death.

 

i. All this cleansing is a precious picture; but the reality is in Jesus: For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:13-14)

 

4. (Numbers 19:20-22) The nature of uncleanness.

 

But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off from among the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the LORD. The water of purification has not been sprinkled on him; he is unclean. It shall be a perpetual statute for them. He who sprinkles the water of purification shall wash his clothes; and he who touches the water of purification shall be unclean until evening. Whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean; and the person who touches it shall be unclean until evening.

 

a. The man who is unclean and does not purify himself: This shows that uncleanness cannot correct itself. The unclean man will not just become clean. He must do something, and he must do what God says must be done in order to be clean. His own plans or schemes for cleansing mean nothing.

 

b. He who sprinkles the water of purification: Those who help others to become clean must walk in cleanness themselves. The one who regards the water of cleansing as a common thing (he who touches the water of purification) will himself be regarded as unclean.

 

c. Whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean: Uncleanness was easily transmitted, but cleanness had to be deliberately sought.

 

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Numbers 18 – LAWS PERTAINING TO PRIESTS AND LEVITES

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Numbers 18 – LAWS PERTAINING TO PRIESTS AND LEVITES

A. Responsibilities of the priests and the Levites.

1. (Numbers 18:1) The priests are accountable for the sanctuary and the priesthood.

Then the LORD said to Aaron: “You and your sons and your father’s house with you shall bear the iniquity related to the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity associated with your priesthood.

a. You and your sons and your father’s house: The priests – that is, Aaron, his sons, and their descendants – shall bear the iniquity related to the sanctuary, and the priesthood. They were accountable to God.

b. You shall bear the iniquity: This is the other side of Aaron’s prerogative as the chosen priest of God, as demonstrated with the budding of the rod in chapter 17. Moses had authority from God; but he also had accountability.

i. God never gives authority without accountability; the two always go together. If God gives someone headship and expects others to submit to them in His order, God also has a special accountability for that person.

2. (Numbers 18:2-7) The Levites are God’s chosen helpers for the priests in their ministry at the altar and tabernacle.

“Also bring with you your brethren of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may be joined with you and serve you while you and your sons are with you before the tabernacle of witness. They shall attend to your needs and all the needs of the tabernacle; but they shall not come near the articles of the sanctuary and the altar, lest they die; they and you also. They shall be joined with you and attend to the needs of the tabernacle of meeting, for all the work of the tabernacle; but an outsider shall not come near you. And you shall attend to the duties of the sanctuary and the duties of the altar, that theremay be no more wrath on the children of Israel. Behold, I Myself have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel; they are a gift to you, given by the LORD, to do the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Therefore you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything at the altar and behind the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthoodto you as a gift for service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”

a. Bring with you your brethren of the tribe of Levi: Aaron himself was of the tribe of Levi. While only he and his descendants were given the priesthood, the whole tribe of Levi had a special calling to help Aaron and the priests.

b. That they may be joined with you and serve you: The Levites were the support people for the ministry of the priests. They didn’t have the prominent position, but were important for their behind-the-scenes service.

c. They shall not come near the articles of the sanctuary and the altar: The Levites were not allowed to do what the priests did. In the same way, the New Testament says we are all different “parts” of the body, each with particular gifts and callings (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).

B. The privileges of the priests and the Levites.

1. (Numbers 18:8-20) The firstborn and the devoted portions belong to the priest.And the LORD spoke to Aaron: “Here, I Myself have also given you charge of My heave offerings, all the holy gifts of the children of Israel; I have given them as a portion to you and your sons, as an ordinance forever. This shall be yours of the most holy things reserved from the fire: every offering of theirs, every grain offering and every sin offering and every trespass offering which they render to Me, shall be most holy for you and your sons. In a most holy place you shall eat it; every male shall eat it. It shall be holy to you. This also is yours: the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel; I have given them to you, and your sons and daughters with you, as an ordinance forever. Everyone who is clean in your house may eat it. All the best of the oil, all the best of the new wine and the grain, their firstfruits which they offer to the LORD, I have given them to you. Whatever first ripe fruit is in their land, which they bring to the LORD, shall be yours. Everyone who is clean in your house may eat it. Every devoted thing in Israel shall be yours. Everything that first opens the womb of all flesh, which they bring to the LORD, whether man or beast, shall be yours; nevertheless the firstborn of man you shall surely redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. And those redeemed of the devoted things you shall redeem when one month old, according to your valuation, for five shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty GERAHS. But the firstborn of a cow, the firstborn of a sheep, or the firstborn of a goat you shall not redeem; theyare holy. You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar, and burn their fat as an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the LORD. And their flesh shall be yours, just as the wave breast and the right thigh are yours. 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.” Then the LORD said to Aaron: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.”

a. Here, I Myself have also given you charge of My heave offerings: The heave offerings were brought to God as part of the peace offering (Exodus 29:28Leviticus 7:14), a Nazirite’s consecration offering (Numbers 6:20), and for thanksgiving (Numbers 15:19-21). In the heave offering, a choice portion of the animal (the breast or the thigh) was heaved or waved before the LORD.

i. Afterwards, that choice portion of the meat was for the priest and his family, and was considered holy – so it had to be eaten in the holy place.

b. Every offering of theirs: The priest also received portions from the grain offeringand sin offering and trespass offering; gifts of oil, wine, and grain, and ripe fruit from the firstfruits offerings were also to be given to the priests. This was how the priesthood was supported in Israel.

c. Everything that first opens the womb of all flesh: When the firstborn was brought to the tabernacle, either to be given or redeemed with money, it also belonged to the priest.

d. I have given to you and your sons and daughters with you as an ordinance forever: All of these belonged to the priests, and it was vitally important the children of Israel fulfill their obligation to bring these things – God calls it a covenant of salt forever.

i. Salt speaks of purity, of preservation, and of expense. So, a covenant of salt is a pure covenant (salt stays a pure chemical compound), a covenant of salt is an enduring covenant (salt makes things preserve and endure), and a covenant of salt is a valuable covenant (salt was expensive).

ii. Spurgeon on the covenant of salt: “By which was meant that it was an unchangeable, incorruptible covenant, which would endure as salt makes a thing to endure, so that it is not liable to putrefy or corrupt.”

iii. According to custom, a bond of friendship was established through the eating of salt. It was said that once you had eaten a man’s salt, you were his friend for life.

e. You shall have no inheritance in their land: While the priests had the right to receive much, he also was deprived of inheritance in their land; they had no permanent portion of land given to them, because God said I am your portion and your inheritance.

i. What a precious place, to say “the LORD is my portion!” O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot (Psalms 16:5). My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Psalms 73:26). I cried out to You, O LORD: I said, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living” (Psalms 142:5).

ii. When God is our portion, He is our inheritance – our hope, who we trust for our future. We are satisfied in Him. Since we are all a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9), we all have the LORD for our portion.

2. (Numbers 18:21-24) Tithes given to the Levites.

“Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the LORD, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’“

a. I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel: God commanded the tithes (a giving of ten percent of one’s income) be given to the Levites for their support. The tithes belong to God (He says I have given, so they are His to give), but He gives them to the Levites.

i. When an Israelite was not giving their tithe, they were not robbing the Levite – though the money ended up with them. They were robbing God (Malachi 3:8-10), because God received the tithe from the giver, and He gave it to the Levite.

ii. Some today think the tithe, since it went to support the Levites (who were, in a sense, government workers in ancient Israel), is covered by government taxes of today, and that free-will giving mentioned in the Old Testament answers to the New Testament emphasis on giving. We can say that the New Testament nowhere specifically commands tithing, but it certainly does speak of it in a positive light, if it is done with a right heart (Luke 11:42).

iii. It is also important to understand that tithing is not a principle dependent on the Mosaic law; as Hebrews 7:5-9 explains, tithing was practiced and honored by God before the law of Moses.

iv. What the New Testament does speak with great clarity on is the principle of giving; that giving should be regular, planned, proportional, and private (1 Corinthians 16:1-4); that it must be generous, freely given, and cheerful (2 Corinthians 9:1-15).

v. Since the New Testament doesn’t emphasize tithing, one might not be strict on it for Christians (though some Christians do argue against tithing on the basis of self-interest); but since giving is to be proportional, we should be giving somepercentage – and ten percent is a good benchmark – and starting place! For some to give ten percent is nowhere near enough; for others, at their present time, five percent may be a massive step of faith.

vi. If our question is, “How little can I give and still be pleasing to God?” our heart isn’t in the right place at all. We should have the attitude of some early Christians, who essentially said: “We’re not under the tithe – we can give more!” Giving and financial management is a spiritual issue, not just a financial one (Luke 16:11).

b. In return for the work which they perform: The tithes were also given by God as pay to the Levites, not as gifts. Because the Levites had dedicated themselves to the service of God, the people of God, and the things of God, it was right they be supported by God – through the tithes of the children of Israel.

i. In return for the work which they perform means the Levites had the “right” to expect to be supported through the tithe. Paul presents the same principle for ministers of the gospel in the New Testament (1 Corinthians 9:7-14); yet also shows that when it is better for the gospel, the right should be willingly laid down for God’s glory (1 Corinthians 9:15).

ii. However, once every three years, the tithe was collected and distributed not only to the Levites, but also to the poor and needy among Israel (Deuteronomy 14:28-29).

c. The Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity: This shows that the Levites also had a special responsibility. If they were to be supported through the tithe, they had to do the job, and do it with diligence.

i. There are probably few things worse than one supported through the gifts of God’s people who is lazy at his job; if a man is robbing his employer by laziness, how much more a minister of the gospel.

d. Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance: Just as with the priests, it was a trade-off. The Levites did not have the best of both worlds; they did not have a personal inheritance of land as the other tribes did.

i. Those who are supported through the giving of God’s people should expect that they would not have the best of both worlds; they will not be wealthy in this life, though they should be comfortable. It is wrong for the congregation to keep the pastor “humble” through poverty, and just as wrong for the pastor to be using the gifts of God’s people to live above God’s people.

3. (Numbers 18:25-32) The Levites tithe to the priests.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the LORD, a tenth of the tithe. And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the LORD from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the Lord’s heave offering from it to Aaron the priest. Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave offering due to the LORD, from all the best of them, the consecrated part of them.’ Therefore you shall say to them: ‘When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress. You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting. And you shall bear no sin because of it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die.’“

a. A tenth of the tithe: The Levites themselves were not exempt from tithing. They were also to give a tenth (and the best of them given as the tenth) due to the LORD, and the LORD gave it to the priests.

i. It was important for the Levites to learn how to be givers also; just because they were supported through the giving of God’s people, it did not mean they didn’t need to give. We all need to learn how to be givers, because God is a giver, and we are being transformed into the image of Jesus.

b. Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave offering due to the LORD: We are not told if the priests were to tithe from what they received; presumably they did not – because what belonged to the priests was considered holy, and not to be used by others outside the priestly families.

i. This chapter clearly shows that the obligation of the Israelite to give was far more than just the tithe (the giving of ten percent); the Israelite also had to givefirstfruits (Numbers 18:12) of all their produce and the firstborn (Numbers 18:15) of their flocks and herds, portions of each that went to the priests and/or Levites.

ii. Firstborn and firstfruits were “risky” giving; your land might not yield much more produce, and your cow or ewe might not give birth again – yet the first still belonged to God, and was given to the priests. God promised to bless this giving of the firstfruits and firstborn in faith: Honor the LORD with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase; so your barns will be filled with plenty, and your vats will overflow with new wine. (Proverbs 3:9-10)

iii. This wasn’t the end of Israel’s required giving; they were also told to leave a portion of their fields unharvested so the poor could eat from those portions (Leviticus 19:9-10), a Passover sacrifice was required from each family every year (Exodus 12:43-47), sometimes a temple tax was required (Nehemiah 10:32-33), or a special tribute (Numbers 32:28-29).

iv. It is hard to estimate exactly how much the firstfruits and firstborn obligations amounted to; it would differ from family to family. But the actual required giving of Israel was far more than ten percent (the tithe).

v. Some say that Deuteronomy 12:6 speaks of another ten percent given (sometimes called the “festival tithe”), but in context Deuteronomy 12:1-32 is only speaking of where to bring the tithe, not commanding an additional one to be brought; others have said Deuteronomy 14:28-29 speaks of another tithe (sometimes called the “poor tithe”) to be brought every three years, but since it speaks of the tithe, and since it also goes to the Levite and not just to the poor, it is best to understand that this is not an additional tithe, but a command that once every three years the tithe also be available to the poor, not just to the Levite.

vi. Besides the required giving, Israel was asked to give free-will offerings: This chapter speaks of willingly given sacrifices, of which the heave offering went to the priests (Numbers 18:9-11).

vii. This wasn’t the end of Israel’s voluntary giving; they also were asked to give for special projects (like the building of the tabernacle, Exodus 35:4-9), and free-will giving to the poor.

 

 

 

 


 

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Numbers 17 – THE BUDDING OF AARON’S ROD

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Numbers 17 – THE BUDDING OF AARON’S ROD

A. The test commanded.

1. (Numbers 17:1-3) Gathering rods, identified with each tribe.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Speak to the children of Israel, and get from them a rod from each father’s house, all their leaders according to their fathers’ houses; twelve rods. Write each man’s name on his rod. And you shall write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi. For there shall be one rod for the head of each father’s house.”

a. Get from them a rod from each father’s house: A rod was a symbol of authority, because shepherds would use a rod to guide and correct the sheep (Psalms 23:4).

i. Moses, as a shepherd, had a rod in his hand when tending sheep in the wilderness (Exodus 4:2); this rod later became known as the rod of God – a symbol of the authority God gave to Moses (Exodus 4:20).

ii. This same rod demonstrated Moses’ authority in action, by miraculously becoming a serpent, and then becoming a rod again (Exodus 7:9-10), by turning the waters of the Nile into blood (Exodus 7:17), by bringing forth plagues of frogs (Exodus 8:5) lice (Exodus 8:16-17), hail (Exodus 9:23), and locusts (Exodus 10:13); God commanded Moses to raise the rod over the Red Sea when it was to be parted (Exodus 14:16), the rod that was raised in prayer over Israel in victorious battle (Exodus 17:9), the rod that struck the rock and brought forth water (Numbers 20:11); the rod is a picture of God’s authority over man (Psalms 2:9; Psa_23:4; Psa_89:32Isaiah 10:24; Isa_11:4Ezekiel 20:37); Jesus, in His divine authority, is given the title “the Rod” (Isaiah 1:11Micah 6:9); the rod is an emblem of an apostle’s authority in the church (1 Corinthians 4:21).

b. Write each man’s name on his rod. And you shall write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi: In gathering rods, and inscribing each with the name of a tribe, and on Levi’s rod inscribing Aaron’s name, God would declare which tribe possessed priestly authority by choosing one of the rods. This was the issue at hand in light of Korah’s rebellion.

2. (Numbers 17:4-5) The rods to be placed in the tabernacle for God’s choosing.

“Then you shall place them in the tabernacle of meeting before the Testimony, where I meet with you. And it shall be that the rod of the man whom I choose will blossom; thus I will rid Myself of the complaints of the children of Israel, which they make against you.”

a. The rod of the man whom I choose will blossom: Not only would this obviously be a miraculous sign, the blossoming of dead wood spoke of fruitfulness. Fruitfulness – miraculous fruitfulness – is present when godly authority and leadership is being practiced.

b. Thus I will rid Myself of the murmurings: This did not mean that after this, the children of Israel would never complain again. But God, having demonstrated more than sufficient evidence to the murmurers, would no longer regard their murmuring. Indeed, He would then judge their murmuring.

i. Murmurers (complainers) are rarely satisfied by evidence or the resolution of one issue. Complainers are not issue-motivated, though they claim to be and appear to be; they are heart-motivated. They murmur because they have complaining, discontent hearts. The complaining heart is demonstrated when people murmur about one issue after another, never being satisfied.

ii. So, God will give them an unmistakable answer to this matter of contention – then rid Himself of their murmurings.

B. The test vindicates Aaron as God’s priestly leader.

1. (Numbers 17:6-7) The rods are placed before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness.

So Moses spoke to the children of Israel, and each of their leaders gave him a rod apiece, for each leader according to their fathers’ houses, twelve rods; and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. And Moses placed the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness.

2. (Numbers 17:8-9) The budding of Aaron’s rod.

Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds. Then Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD to all the children of Israel; and they looked, and each man took his rod.

a. And behold, the rod of Aaron: When Moses checked on the rods the next day, Aaron’s rod – and only Aaron’s rod – had sprouted. It not only sprouted, it had put forth buds. It had not only put forth buds, it had produced blossoms. It had not only produced blossoms, it had yielded . . . almonds. It had not only yielded almonds, it yielded ripe almonds!

i. This was a place where a “small” miracle would have been convincing. After all, God could have merely made a little green sprout come forth from Aaron’s rod alone, and that would have – or should have – been enough.

ii. But God gave, as in the words of Acts 1:3many infallible proofs, to demonstrate His approval of Aaron’s leadership. God gives us more than enough evidence; our problem is a lack of willingness to see what He has made clear.

iii. “We are probably to understand that some parts were in bud, other in bloom and others had fruited.” (Wenham) Fruit from a godly leader may come in all different stages.

iv. There is nothing remarkable about a piece of wood with buds, blossoms, or fruit on it. But a piece of dead wood with all these things appearing in one night after sitting in a tent is remarkable. “Miracles in the Bible are often of this sort: natural events in unnatural conditions, timing, and placement.” (Allen)

b. Behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted: God’s choice of Aaron’s rod did not mean that Aaron was the most spiritual man in the nation. God’s chosen leaders will have godly character according to the principles of 1 Timothy 3:1-13and Titus 1:5-9, but it wasn’t a contest to determine the most spiritual man among them.

i. It also did not mean that Aaron had not and would not sin or fail significantly. God’s chosen leaders may fail (we do not believe in the Roman Catholic idea of “papal” or “pastoral” infallibility), but must set things right when they fail.

ii. It meant Aaron was God’s chosen priest, and the nation was required to recognize it.

c. Each man took his rod: This was a dramatic scene. Each murmurer from the different tribe took his rod, and clearly saw that his had not budded or borne fruit, and that Aaron’s had.

3. (Numbers 17:10-11) The command to preserve Aaron’s rod in the ark of the covenant.

And the LORD said to Moses, “Bring Aaron’s rod back before the Testimony, to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put their complaints away from Me, lest they die.” Thus did Moses; just as the LORD had commanded him, so he did.

a. To be kept as a sign against the rebels: The rod of Aaron was to be kept as a museum piece, to remind the children of Israel that God had chosen a priesthood, and nothing would change that – Aaron’s priesthood would always be Aaron’s priesthood.

i. If God demonstrated His choice of Aaron and his descendants as priests for Israel, how can Jesus be our high priest, as Hebrews 2:17 says? Because Jesus is a high priest of the order of Melchizedek, not Aaron (Hebrews 7:1-28).

b. Bring Aaron’s rod back before the Testimony: Aaron’s rod was to be kept in the ark of the covenant, as another example of Israel’s failure and rebellion. When God looked down from heaven into the ark, He saw emblems of Israel’s sin: The tablets of law they broke, the manna they complained about, and Aaron’s rod meant to answer their rebellion. The covering blood of sacrifice was applied to the lid covering over these reminders of Israel’s sin, so God “saw” the blood “covering” their sin, and atonement was made.

4. (Numbers 17:12-13) The reaction of the children of Israel.

So the children of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, “Surely we die, we perish, we all perish! Whoever even comes near the tabernacle of the LORD must die. Shall we all utterly die?”

a. Surely we die, we perish, we all perish: This shows they the people of Israel were clearly convicted of their sin. They now clearly knew that it was wrong to rebel against the leadership of Aaron.

b. Shall we all utterly die? After seeing all what God did in the rebellion of Korah – destroying Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, along with their 250 followers among the leading men of Israel; the retrieval and hammering out of the censers for a covering on the altar; the plague destroying 14,700 of those who sympathized with Korah and his followers, and the miraculous confirmation of Aaron’s priesthood – the people fear they are next to be judged, which was not an unreasonable fear.

i. This kind of hysterical fear doesn’t necessarily mean their hearts were changed. This will not be the last account of a complaining, murmuring Israel. This shows that dramatic events don’t take away our complaining and rebelliousness. The heart has to be changed by God.

 

 

 

 


 

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Numbers 16 – KORAH’S REBELLION

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Numbers 16 – KORAH’S REBELLION

A. The battle lines are drawn: Korah and his followers oppose Moses’ leadership.

1. (Numbers 16:1-3) The accusation against Moses and Aaron.

Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?”

a. Now Korah the son of Izhar: This rebellion, like all, had a leader and followers. This leader was Korah, descended from Kohath. Both Moses and Korah were descended from Kohath, but by different sons (Moses through Amram [Numbers 26:58-59], and Korah through Izhar).

i. The Kohathites had the most exalted duty among the Levites; their charge was to carry the most holy things of the temple, after Aaron and his sons had covered them with the specially prepared coverings (Numbers 4:15).

ii. The name Korah means “baldness.” Old baldy was going to give Moses a tough time!

b. You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy: Korah was not content with what the LORD had called him to do in serving with the other Levites of the family of Kohath. He accused Moses of pride and exclusionary leadership.

i. It was significant this accusation was made publicly, in front of two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation . . . men of renown. Men like Korah are always playing to an audience, always trying to draw a following after themselves – after Moses has already gathered the nation and led them this far, of course!

c. You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the LORD is among them: This was a clever attack. Korah acted as if he is represented the people and fought for their interests. The truth was that he desired a following and a position for himself.

i. “Moses, you shouldn’t be the leader. Let everyone be a leader. God can speak to everyone.” Rebels and divisive persons have always used such words for their cause.

ii. Significantly, Korah proclaimed the holiness of the people (all the congregation is holy) and regarded strong leadership as unnecessary (You take too much . . .) at the very time when the nation was not holy and desperately needed strong leadership! Korah, like many rebels and divisive persons, completely misread the state of the “flock” – because he was not a true shepherd.

d. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the congregation of the LORD? Korah accused Moses (and Aaron) of pride and self-seeking. The truth was that Moses had not aspired to his position, that God had indeed called him, and Moses did not in fact see himself as above the congregation.

e. Two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown: On a human level, Korah was successful because these followed him. The “Korahs” of the ministry are difficult enough to deal with, but the people who follow them – the two hundred and fifty leaders . . . representatives . . . men of renown – who lack the discernment to oppose the “Korahs” can be even more painful.

2. (Numbers 16:4-11) The response of Moses to Korah and his company.

So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face; and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the LORD will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him. Do this: Take censers, Korah and all your company; put fire in them and put incense in them before the LORD tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the LORD chooses is the holy one. You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!” Then Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the LORD, and to stand before the congregation to serve them; and that He has brought you near to Himself, you and all your brethren, the sons of Levi, with you? And are you seeking the priesthood also? Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the LORD. And what is Aaron that you complain against him?”

a. When Moses heard it, he fell on his face: Moses first prayed. Being a humble man, he probably asked God if his critics were right or had something to teach him. He probably asked God what should be done in the situation. He certainly asked God to spare the nation and he asked God to not allow these divisive men to bring permanent harm to the people of God.

b. And he spoke to Korah and all his company: We don’t know how long Moses prayed, but after prayer he had a sense of God’s direction for this crisis. He issued a challenge whereby Korah and his followers would come before the LORD, and Moses and Aaron would also come, so that the LORD would choose His leaders.

c. You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi! This shows that Moses did not doubt the outcome of the test. He knew that God would prove him right and Korah wrong. Therefore, Moses was unafraid to put it to the test.

d. Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel: Moses knew that the rebellion of Korah was rooted iningratitude. They were not thankful for the wonderful ministry God gave them to do. He rebuked the pride and self-seeking that prompted their challenge.

i. Even if Korah was right, this was the wrong way to approach the problem. A power play like this was the wrong way to remove a leader like Moses. The methods of Korah (his use of accusation, intimidation, the gathering of a rival following) revealed his rebellious, divisive heart.

3. (Numbers 16:12-14) Dathan and Abiram speak for the rebels.

And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, but they said, “We will not come up! “Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you should keep acting like a prince over us? Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!”

a. Dathan and Abiram: These were co-conspirators with Korah (Numbers 16:1). They would not even meet with Moses, nor answer his challenge. They chose to accuse Moses instead.

b. Out of a land of milk and honey: This shows that Dathan and Abiram colored the past. They thought of Egypt as a land of milk and honey, even for the Hebrew slaves. Rebels and divisive people commonly create a past of their own preference, a past that puts leaders like Moses in the worst possible light.

c. To kill us in the wilderness: This shows that Dathan and Abiram assigned an evil heart to Moses. They spoke as if they had discovered the plot of Moses and Aaron: To lead the nation into the wilderness and then kill them. The foolishness of this shows how, against all reason, rebels and divisive people often assign every evil intention to the heart of leaders like Moses.

d. That you should keep acting like a prince over us: This shows that Dathan and Abiram refused to acknowledge growth in Moses. It was true that Moses was at one time a prince, a self-confident man who thought he could deliver and lead Israel with his own hand. God broke him of that with forty years of leading another man’s flock in the wilderness. Yet Dathan and Abiram threw it back in his face, as if God had never dealt with Moses in these areas.

e. You have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey: This shows that Dathan and Abiram had unfair expectation of Moses. It was true that Moses had not yet brought them to the Promised Land, and it was true that some of the blame must lay at the feet of Moses because he agreed to the demand of the people to send spies into the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 1:19-23). Yet, it is wrong to wholly blame Moses for this, or to think that Korah could have done any better.

i. It is unbelievably easy for the Korahs of this world to sit back and say, “If I was leading the nation at Kadesh Barnea, I would have done thus and so.” But Korah was not leading the nation, and men of his type rarely do. God rarely puts the Monday-morning quarterbacks, the backseat drivers, in positions of real leadership – except as a chastisement, to show them just how difficult leadership really is – and that perfect leadership, like perfect anything, is impossible.

ii. Leaders should expect to be held to a higher standard; but it is patently unfair to hold a leader to a perfect standard.

f. We will not come up! This shows that Dathan and Abiram considered themselves under no authority. It said, loud and clear: “Moses, we have no respect for your authority. We will listen to God, but not to you. Your word means nothing to us.” They simply would not submit.

g. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up! Perhaps Dathan and Abiram did not speak for all of the 250 leaders, representatives, and men of renown. Yet note of those 250 were heard to raise an opposing voice to their harsh accusations.

i. Some of the 250 thought that maybe Dathan and Abiram were going a little far; but they did not have their courage to speak up. They were wrong because they allowed Moses be accused this way with no one to defend him.

ii. It was easy for them to stand back and say, “Well, I won’t take sides. I can be friends to both groups.” But here and in many subsequent conflicts, silence is taken as agreement. If a godly man or woman – especially a leader – is being falsely accused, and you say nothing, you have sinned, because your silence is received as agreement.

4. (Numbers 16:15-19) Moses restates his challenge.

Then Moses was very angry, and said to the LORD, “Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt one of them.” And Moses said to Korah, “Tomorrow, you and all your company be present before the LORD you and they, as well as Aaron. Let each take his censer and put incense in it, and each of you bring his censer before the LORD, two hundred and fifty censers; both you and Aaron, each with his censer.” So every man took his censer, put fire in it, laid incense on it, and stood at the door of the tabernacle of meeting with Moses and Aaron. And Korah gathered all the congregation against them at the door of the tabernacle of meeting.

a. Then Moses was very angry, and said to the LORD: After the words of Dathan and Abiram, Moses was angry – very angry. He knew he has done nothing to deserve such an accusation, and he did the right thing – he left the situation to God.

i. Remember that Moses was, after all, a man of political power; it was certainly within his capability to have Korah and his followers (like Dathan and Abiram) arrested and/or executed. Instead, he left the situation to God.

ii. Sometimes people are offended that a man like Moses was angry with men like Dathan and Abiram. They think a gentle, easy love is the proper response. Such thinking is understandable, but wrong. Shepherds are gentle with wayward sheep who might injure themselves, but they are passionate against wolves who would injure the flock.

b. I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt one of them: This shows that Moses was a man of integrity and service to the people. Moses could rest in his clean conscience before God.

i. This reminds us of Paul’s testimony before the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:1-38 : Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God . . . I have coveted no one’s silver or gold or apparel . . . I have shown you in every way, by laboring like this, that you must support the weak (Acts 20:26-27; Act_20:33; Act_20:35). When a leader is troubled by rebellious and divisive persons, there is something glorious about a clean conscience.

c. Let each take his censer and put incense in it, and each of you bring his censer before the LORD: This specified the challenge. God would approve or disapprove of these 250 men gathered with censers of incense before the door of the tabernacle.

i. God used the censers with fire and incense in this test for a good reason. Acenser is a metal pot used to burn incense, and they were used in the priestly worship of God. Since Korah and his companions questioned Moses and Aaron’s right to lead the nation and conduct the priesthood, each group would come to the LORD as worshipping priests – and God would show which group He accepted.

ii. Moses made the rebels take the position they desired – the position of priest. Often the best judgment on the divisive and rebellious is to let them lead.

iii. Humanly speaking, the odds were not good. It was Moses and Aaron stand alone against all the congregation. Yet God would make this choice, and not popular opinion.

B. God affirms Moses’ leadership over the nation of Israel.

1. (Numbers 16:19-21) God announces judgment on the rebels.

Then the glory of the LORD appeared to all the congregation. And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.”

a. Separate yourselves: It is as if God said, “Moses and Aaron, will you please move away? I’m going to destroy all these rebels in an instant, and I don’t want you to get hurt.”

b. That I may consume them in a moment: God decided to make His choice immediately evident. Sometimes this is not the case when God deals with modern Korahs and their followers.

2. (Numbers 16:22) The intercession of Moses and Aaron for Korah and the rebels.

Then they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?”

a. Then they fell on their faces: This was amazing love from Moses and Aaron. Undoubtedly, one of God’s reasons for allowing such a painful event in the life of Moses was that God wanted to see this kind love drawn out of Moses. Perhaps it was only the prayer of Moses and Aaron can spare the lives of these men who have tried to bring them down. Such love for the undeserving shows that Moses and Aaron were growing in love, and being transformed into the image of Jesus – before Jesus ever walked the earth.

i. Again, the importance of prayer is emphasized. It seems as if there were no prayer, then the rebellious congregation would be destroyed. We should think that Moses’ prayer was essential.

b. Shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation: Moses and Aaron saw right through it. Though many were involved (at least more than 250), one man was at the center of it all – Korah. His sin, his drawing of a group after himself, was the cause of all this mess.

3. (Numbers 16:23-35) God’s judgment on the rebels.

So the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’“ Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. And he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.” So they got away from around the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, with their wives, their sons, and their little children. And Moses said: “By this you shall know that the LORD has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the LORD has not sent me. But if the LORD creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the LORD.” Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly. Then all Israel whowere around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up also!” And a fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.

a. The elders of Israel followed him: This was glorious. God had appointed elders back in Numbers 10:16-30, in response to another attack on Moses’ leadership. There, the elders were to be men with the same spirit and vision as Moses, men to help him bear the burden, men to stand with Moses. Here they did exactly what God appointed them to do.

b. Lest you should be consumed in all their sins: Moses, in response to God’s command to get away from the tents of the leaders of the rebellion (Korah, Dathan, and Abiram), plead with the people to separate themselves from the divisive persons.

i. The same attitude should be among God’s people today. They should stay away from divisive, argumentative, contentious people in the body of Christ. You don’t want to be close to them if God should deal with them. A divisive, contentious man will influence you, and you do not want to be consumed in their sins.

ii. The New Testament also speaks along this same principle: Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. (Romans 16:17-18)

iii. Remember a divisive, contentious person will never claim to be divisive and contentious – they always consider their work a noble cause. Therefore Christians need some discernment and to look at what others do, not only at what they say.

c. By this you shall know: God gave Moses supernatural insight to know some special judgment (a new thing) was going to come upon Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. The earth would swallow them up, as evidence that these men have rejected the LORD.

d. The ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up: This was just the way Korah, Dathan, and Abiram were destroyed – along with their families.

i. We may be uneasy seeing the families destroyed also, but it clearly shows that the families of the rebellious, divisive, contentious people suffer also – often greatly.

e. A fire came out from the LORD and consumed the two hundred and fifty men: God had judgment reserved for those who walked in agreement with Korah, though not as horrific as the judgment Korah himself received. Their worship was not received.

4. (Numbers 16:36-40) A bronze covering for the altar.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Tell Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, to pick up the censers out of the blaze, for they are holy, and scatter the fire some distance away. The censers of these men who sinned against their own souls, let them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar. Because they presented them before the LORD, therefore they are holy; and they shall be a sign to the children of Israel.” So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were burned up had presented, and they were hammered out as a covering on the altar, to be a memorial to the children of Israel that no outsider, who is not a descendant of Aaron, should come near to offer incense before the LORD, that he might not become like Korah and his companions, just as the LORD had said to him through Moses.

a. Pick up the censers out of the blaze, for they are holy . . . let them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar: The censers were beaten flat and used to cover the main altar of sacrifice. The censers of the rebels were holy and preserved because even though Korah and his followers worshipped wrongly, they worshipped the right God.

i. “Can you imagine the scene? True priests are picking among the bodies, charred flesh, stench, smoke, smoldering embers, and twisted parts. They are to make a count. There were 250 censers; not one is to be lost. Each one is recorded, each one cleansed, each one holy.” (Allen)

ii. In the end, each one of the 250 were identified completely with Korah. Perhaps that wasn’t how they meant it. “Well, I don’t agree with everything Korah says, but he’s got some good points.” But to God all those distinctions were lost. All the censers are hammered together, and collectively titled: Korah and his companions.

b. Scatter the fire some distance away: The fire was not holy and was to be scattered away. It was a strange fire – not acceptable to the LORD at all.

c. They were hammered out as a covering on the altar, to be a memorial to the children of Israel: The censers were thus memorialized and served as an important reminder. God appoints His leaders, and no one should be a divisive rebel like Korah.

i. If Christians today encounter ungodly, divisive leadership they should do what the 250 followers of Korah did not do. The right thing to do is to, if possible, remove yourself from such leaders without becoming rebellious and divisive. If it isn’t possible, leave it up to God to deal with it (as David allowed God to deal with Saul) instead of taking matters into his own hands.

ii. In the Hebrew edition of the Old Testament, Numbers 16:36 begins a new chapter (chapter 17).

C. The people murmur against Moses and Aaron.

1. (Numbers 16:41) The accusation is made: You have killed the people of the LORD.

On the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the LORD.”

a. On the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron: Poor Moses! He no doubt hoped that all the trouble was over when the rebels were judged. But now he had to deal with those who were sympathetic to the divisive people and who felt sorry for them.

b. You have killed the people of the LORD: Their accusation against Moses was absurd. Moses certainly did not kill them. When the earth opens up and swallows more than 250 people, it is evidently the hand of God, not of Moses.

2. (Numbers 16:42-45) The threat of judgment on the children of Israel for their sympathy for Korah.

Now it happened, when the congregation had gathered against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tabernacle of meeting; and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the glory of the LORD appeared. Then Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of meeting. And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” And they fell on their faces.

a. Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment: God reacted the same way towards the sympathizers as He did towards Korah and his company. Evidently, these people deserve to be judged.

b. And they fell on their faces: This humble, desperate reaction showed that they took the threat of judgment seriously. They understood that it was no small thing to sympathize with a divisive, contentious person. God takes it seriously, and so should we.

3. (Numbers 16:46-50) Aaron’s intercession stops the plague of judgment upon the children of Israel.

So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the LORD. The plague has begun.” Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped. Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident. So Aaron returned to Moses at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, for the plague had stopped.

a. Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them: God had promised judgment in Numbers 16:45 (that I may consume them in a moment). Therefore, Moses told Aaron, as the high priest over God’s people, to immediately offer incense to make atonement for the congregation.

b. Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly: Moses and Aaron might have had an interest in letting God consume all those who sympathized with those who rebelled against their leadership. Instead, out of love, they tried to stop the plague.

i. We have no reason to think that Korah or his group would have shown the same mercy to Moses. The probably would have passively said, “Well God, go ahead and give them what they deserve. I knew they had it coming to them!” Korah and the complainers didn’t have the same shepherd’s heart for Israel that Moses and Aaron did.

ii. Aaron ran into the midst of the congregation; his sense of urgency is characteristic of true intercession.

c. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people: A censer filled with burning incense was used to stop the plague. Incense is a picture of prayer in the Bible (as in Revelation 8:3-4), because the sweet-smelling smoke of incense ascends to heaven as our prayers would. This was a dramatic picture of Aaron, as high priest, interceding for God’s people.

d. And he stood between the dead and the living, so the plague was stopped: The plague stopped where Aaron prayed. Intercessors do the same thing today; they stand between the dead and the living, beseeching God’s mercy, preserving and promoting life with their prayer.

i. To stand between the dead and the living speaks of how serious the matter of prayer is; it is no casual pursuit, no fatalistic exercise in self-improvement. Prayer moves the hand of God, and moves it to stop death and to give life!

ii. When was the last time we prayed as if life and death depended upon it?

e. Those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred: This is a great number, but not compared to the consuming of the whole nation. Even now, the generation of unbelief was perishing in the wilderness, so a new generation of faith and boldness could be raised up to take the Promised Land.

i. Most importantly, Aaron the high priest’s work here is a picture of our high priest Jesus, and his work on our behalf. We were guilty sinners deserving judgment, we were rightly plagued, our Savior was sent on His mission, He was unjustly accused and attacked, He prayed on our behalf, He “ran” to save us, He stood between death and life for us, and He is the only chance for salvation, being the dividing line between death and life.

ii. “Aaron wisely puts himself in the pathway of the plague. It came on, cutting down all before it, and there stood Aaron the interposer with arms outstretched and censer swinging towards the heaven, interposing himself between the darts of death and the people. ‘If there be darts that must fly,” he seemed to say, “let them pierce me; or let the incense shield both me and the people.’“ (Spurgeon) There is nothing that can save the soul of man except Jesus Christ standing between that soul and the judgment of God.

iii. “If Aaron the high priest, with his censer and incense, could disarm the wrath of an insulted, angry Deity, so that a guilty people, who deserved nothing but destruction, should be spared; how much more effectual may we expect the great atonement to be which was made by the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom Aaron was only the type! The sacrifices of living animals pointed out the death of Christ on the cross; the incense, his intercession. Through his death salvation is purchased for the world; by his intercession the offending children of men are spared.” (Clarke)

 

 

 

 


 

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Numbers 15 – VARIOUS LAWS AND PROVISIONS

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Numbers 15 – VARIOUS LAWS AND PROVISIONS

A. Grain, drink, and wave offerings.

1. (Numbers 15:1-5) The sacrifice of a lamb to be accompanied with grain and wine.

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you have come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving to you, and you make an offering by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering or in your appointed feasts, to make a sweet aroma to the LORD, from the herd or the flock, then he who presents his offering to the LORD shall bring a grain offering of one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a HIN of oil; and one-fourth of a HIN of wine as a drink offering you shall prepare with the burnt offering or the sacrifice, for each lamb.’“

a. Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: Israel was at one of its lowest points in history. It had just rebelliously rejected God’s offer to bring the nation into the Promised Land. God had consigned them to wander in the wilderness for 38 years, until the unbelieving generation had perished in the wilderness and a new generation of faith would take the Promised Land. Yet, immediately after this stinging rebellion and the chastisement from the LORD, Israel received precious tokens of God’s mercy, care, and help to Israel.

b. And you make an offering by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering or a sacrifice: God was merciful to Israel, in that this section deals with sacrifice, sacrifice to cover sin and sacrifice as an expression of thanksgiving. Israel, at their point of failure, needed to be reminded of sacrificial atonement, and the need to give thanks – even in the wilderness.

i. The grain with the drink offering of wine meant to accompany the blood sacrifice speak of thanksgiving and joy; we really can have thanksgiving and joy in the LORD, even if we are smarting from our own failure and from the loving correction of God.

ii. This passage also shows how God helped Israel. This section reads just like the passages of law God had so patiently instructed Israel with at Sinai; now, after their failure at Kadesh-Barnea, God is taking them back to school.

c. When you have come into the land: God cared for Israel. These were commands that could only be fulfilled in the Promised Land. Inherent in these commands was the promise that God would lead them there, and would not leave them in the wilderness forever.

i. God said, “When you have come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving to you.” He said, when you come into land, and not if you come into the land. God has not, and will not give up on Israel. Many a believer under the rod of God’s correction has felt abandoned by God, as if He had given up on them, but God is always near to the believer under correction.

2. (Numbers 15:6-7) The sacrifice of a ram to be accompanied with grain and wine.

Or for a ram you shall prepare as a grain offering two-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-third of a hin of oil; and as a drink offering you shall offer one-third of a hin of wine as a sweet aroma to the LORD.

3. (Numbers 15:8-10) The sacrifice of a bull to be accompanied with grain and wine.

And when you prepare a young bull as a burnt offering, or as a sacrifice to fulfill a vow, or as a peace offering to the LORD, then shall be offered with the young bull a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with half a hin of oil; and you shall bring as the drink offering half a hin of wine as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD.

a. Fine flour mixed with half a hin of oil: The offering of the ram and bull each needed progressively greater amounts of grain and wine to accompany them, because they were progressively bigger sacrifices. The greater our sacrifice unto the LORD, the more thanksgiving and joy should come with the offering.

4. (Numbers 15:11-16) The universal character of these laws.

Thus it shall be done for each young bull, for each ram, or for each lamb or young goat. According to the number that you prepare, so you shall do with everyone according to their number. All who are native-born shall do these things in this manner, in presenting an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. And if a stranger dwells with you, or whoever isamong you throughout your generations, and would present an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD, just as you do, so shall he do. One ordinance shall be for you of the assembly and for the stranger who dwells with you, an ordinance forever throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD. One law and one custom shall be for you and for the stranger who dwells with you.

a. Thus it shall be done for each: Everyone who made a sacrifice had to bring it with the thanksgiving of grain and the joy of wine; God did not want grudging, griping sacrifices brought to Him. If one could not serve the LORD with gladness (Psalms 100:2), then God didn’t want his service at all.

5. (Numbers 15:17-21) A heave offering of thanksgiving to the LORD.

Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land to which I bring you, then it will be, when you eat of the bread of the land, that you shall offer up a heave offering to the LORD. You shall offer up a cake of the first of your ground meal as a heave offering; as a heave offering of the threshing floor, so shall you offer it up. Of the first of your ground meal you shall give to the LORD a heave offering throughout your generations.’“

a. When you come into the land in which I bring you: This shows how rich in promise and encouragement these commands are. God sets their mind on the Promised Land, even though they are a long way away from it. Keeping their minds on His promise will help see them through the wilderness and prepare the hearts of the new generation to succeed where the old generation failed.

b. Then it will be: This set their minds forward to the promise. Even if a child of God isn’t walking in the richness of God’s promises now, they need to set their mind on heavenly places. Ephesians 2:6 says God has raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus – even if it doesn’t feel like it now, set your mind on those heavenly places!

B. Remedies for sin.

1. (Numbers 15:22-29) Addressing unintentional sin, both as a nation and individuals.

If you sin unintentionally, and do not observe all these commandments which the LORD has spoken to Moses; all that the LORD has commanded you by the hand of Moses, from the day the LORD gave commandment and onward throughout your generations; then it will be, if it is unintentionally committed, without the knowledge of the congregation, that the whole congregation shall offer one young bull as a burnt offering, as a sweet aroma to the LORD, with its grain offering and its drink offering, according to the ordinance, and one kid of the goats as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for the whole congregation of the children of Israel, and it shall be forgiven them, for it was unintentional; they shall bring their offering, an offering made by fire to the LORD, and their sin offering before the LORD, for their unintended sin. It shall be forgiven the whole congregation of the children of Israel and the stranger who dwells among them, because all the people did it unintentionally. And if a person sins unintentionally, then he shall bring a female goat in its first year as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for the person who sins unintentionally, when he sins unintentionally before the LORD, to make atonement for him; and it shall be forgiven him. You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally, for him who is native-born among the children of Israel and for the stranger who dwells among them.

a. If you sin unintentionally: Significantly, the Bible talks about sins unintentionally committed. Many today think and live as if an action is unintentional, it cannot be sin. But many of the worst sins are committed with the best of intentions. Intentions matter nothing when the result is sin.

i. Especially in the 20th century, all sorts of horrific atrocities and terror have been committed by those dedicated to honorable causes; Communism sought to establish a just, fair economy where each worked according to his ability and received according to his need – and became the instrument of the genocide of tens of millions of people.

ii. Today, in the church, many a gossip, many a talebearer, many a divisive person will claim the best of intentions. Even if we agree they have the right intentions, they still may be in grievous sin. The same applies for a myriad of other sins we are often ready to ignore or think lightly of, all on the basis of “after all, they had good intentions.”

b. That the whole congregation shall offer one young bull as a burnt offering: Unintentional sins needed a blood atonement; a bull had to be sacrificed with the nation as a whole was guilty, and a female goat had to be sacrificed when an individual was guilty.

c. You shall have one law for him who sins unintentionally: There was to be no exception. Sin is sin, and must be accounted as such, even if the motive seemed good.

2. (Numbers 15:30-31) Addressing presumptuous sin.

But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the LORD, and he shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the LORD, and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him.

a. But the person who does anything presumptuously: Literally, to sinpresumptuously means to sin “with a high hand.” It speaks of a flagrant rebellion against God, the law of Moses, and the nation as a whole.

b. That person shall be completely cut off; his guilt shall be upon him: Such sin was not to be tolerated in Israel. This command was a cultural mechanism for addressing this sin, and ensuring that such arrogant flaunting of public morality would not be rewarded.

i. This is in stark contrast to modern culture where notorious, flagrant sinners are rewarded with fame and fortune. Instead of his guilt shall be upon him, our society puts guilt on anyone who would judge or condemn such depraved individuals by calling what they do evil.

3. (Numbers 15:32-36) Execution of a Sabbath violator.

Now while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day. And those who found him gathering sticks brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. They put him under guard, because it had not been explained what should be done to him. Then the LORD said to Moses, “The man must surely be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.” So, as the LORD commanded Moses, all the congregation brought him outside the camp and stoned him with stones, and he died.

a. They found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath day: This was an immediate example of dealing with someone who sinned presumptuously. All of Israel knew the Sabbath law, and this man no doubt thought him self a courageous social reformer, trying by his example to free the nation from the shackles of heaven’s law.

i. “It seems likely that the following story of the sabbath breaker illustrates what sinning with a high hand means.” (Wenham)

b. The man must surely be put to death: Instead, God commanded the execution of this presumptuous sinner, that all might fear. This was so all would know that the social order and law of God are more important than any individual’s “right” to attack or destroy that social order or law of God.

4. (Numbers 15:37-41) Reminders for a holy people.

Again the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners. And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined, and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God. I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.”

a. Tassels on the corners of their garments and the blue thread in the tassels of the corners: These were intended to remind Israel to Whom they belonged; they were God’s people. Such reminders are an effective preventive remedy for sin.

i. Perhaps a blue thread was commanded because the ark of the covenant was covered with a blue cloth, blue curtains adorned the tabernacle, and blue was in the high priest’s garments. The color blue was full of holy reminders.

b. That you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the LORD and do them: We might imagine an Israelite being tempted into some kind of sin, and then catching sight of his own distinctive garments – reminding him of who he is, and reminding him that others can see who he is: A child of God, and not a child of the sin he is contemplating.

i. In this sense, Christian theme clothing and jewelry and such can indeed serve a purpose. Such things can remind us of who we are, and provide a kind of “walking accountability” for our conduct.

ii. However, man’s instinctive pride always has a way of perverting such good and holy commands of God; in Jesus’ day, He directly rebuked the abuse of this command among the religious elite, speaking of how they would enlarge the borders of their garments (Matthew 23:5), making the tasseled area as conspicuous as possible, as an ostentatious display of their “holiness.”

iii. The same can also be said of today’s Christian theme clothing and jewelry; it can also be abused in the same self-righteous, hypocritical manner.

 

 

 

 

 

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Numbers 14 – THE PEOPLE REJECT CANAAN

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Numbers 14 – THE PEOPLE REJECT CANAAN

 

A. The rebellion of Israel at Kadesh Barnea.

 

1. (Numbers 14:1) Israel rebels by mourning at their dilemma between faith and unbelief.

 

So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night.

 

a. Then all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried: The children of Israel were confronted with two reports regarding the Promised Land. Two of the twelve spies (Caleb and Joshua) say Let us go up at once and take possession, for we are well able to overcome it (Numbers 13:30), but the other ten spies said “what God promised about the land is true; nevertheless, the natives of the land are too mighty, and we cannot overcome them, despite what God has promised.”

 

i. We should not forget that the twelve spies were sent one from each tribe (Numbers 13:2); in this way, they truly represent the people of Israel, and the lack of faith of the majority of the spies is a lack of faith on behalf of the whole nation.

 

ii. We also must remember the details of how and why the spies were sent; the idea to send them did not originate with Moses or with God, but with the people (Deuteronomy 1:19-25); Moses unwisely agreed, and God merely told them how many spies to send and that they should represent the whole nation.

 

iii. But why were the spies sent? There was no military information needed; God had promised them victory over their enemies. Perhaps a reading of the terrain would have been helpful, but Moses told them to see if the land was good, and to see if the people and cities were weak or strong (Numbers 13:17-20) – and this information indirectly led to the bad report of the ten spies!

 

b. And the people wept that night: The unbelief of the ten spies truly represented the unbelieving heart of the nation. Israel wept that night upon hearing that the enemies in Canaan were formidable. This mourning had a distinct character.

 

i. It was mourning because God would not make it all “easy.” We often somehow expect that of God, and resent adversity in our lives, forgetting the example of Jesus, who had it “harder” than any of us – and Whom we are not above.

 

ii. It was mourning filled with a resentful attitude towards God, blaming Him for their “problem” – denying that He is a loving Father who cares for His children.

 

iii. It was mourning that gave into the feeling of unbelief and fear; mourning that allowed feelings rule in one’s life instead of faith in the living God. Here, their clinging to the feelings of fear and mourning is plain sin and rebellion, and their feelings did not by any means justify their rebellion. Clinging to feelings can be sin.

 

iv. This was mourning over a loss. We usually mourn because something has died. Here, God was trying to cause something to die – the flesh, the sin-nature, the old man (as much as it could in an Old Covenant sense); and Israel mourned because they wanted the old man to live, not die.

 

c. And the people wept that night: So here, Israel stood barely a year out of Egypt, on the threshold of the Promised Land. Over the first ten chapters of Numbers they had been fully prepared to walk as Promised Land people – they had been ordered and organized; cleansed and purified; set apart and blessed; taught how to give and how to function as priests; had been made to remember judgment spared and deliverance brought; and had been given God’s presence as a guide and the tools needed to lead the people.

 

i. Now God invited them to take the land – and they rebelled through their mourning. Unbelief made them think of God’s good for them (the gift of the Promised Land) as something evil.

 

2. (Numbers 14:2-3) Israel rebels by murmuring.

 

And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, “If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims?”

 

a. And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron: Their murmuring was directed first towards Moses and Aaron, but since these were the LORD’s leaders, they were murmuring against the LORD. The vision of Moses and Aaron (to lead these people into the Promised Land) is the LORD’s vision. Their complaint is against the LORD, even if they want to hide it by directing to Moses and Aaron.

 

i. Probably some falsely “spiritual” folks among the murmurers said, “Oh no, we trust the LORD. We love the LORD. We would never rebel against the LORD. It’s Moses and Aaron we don’t like.”

 

ii. But Joshua and Caleb knew: Only do not rebel against the LORD (Numbers 14:9), and the LORD Himself knew: How long will these people reject Me?(Numbers 14:11)

 

b. If only we had died: The challenge of faith before the people seemed so great – and so grievous – that they would rather have died than go on with what the LORD has for them.

 

i. Tragically for this generation, God would give them what their rebellious, unbelieving hearts wanted.

 

c. Why has the LORD brought us to this land to fall by the sword: Here, they directly accused the Almighty with sin and evil towards them. They were angry with God, accusing Him of plotting the murder of them and their wives and children.

 

i. This was a deep state of rebellion. God, who can do no evil, with Whom there is no shadow of turning, was called evil and a murderer by His own people.

 

ii. Some counsel it is a healthy thing to be angry with God, and to let it all out, so that God and you can be reconciled, as sort of a matter of counseling therapy. While it is true that one may be angry with God, and should take every such feeling to God, it is wrong to ever assume or imply that such feelings are justified. If we are angry at God, we are in sin, because God has never done anything that deserves us being angry. We should honestly bring such sin before God, but never for a moment feeling it to be justified.

 

d. That our wives and children should become victims: The unbelieving among Israel justified their unbelief on the basis of concern for their wives and children. Tragically, because of their unbelief they would die in the wilderness and their children – a new generation of faith – would inherit the promised land.

 

3. (Numbers 14:3-4) They rebel by longing for the memory of Egypt.

 

Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?” So they said to one another, “Let us select a leader and return to Egypt.”

 

a. Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt? This was not better. In the first ten chapters of Numbers, God led Israel through a process intended to change them from a slave-minded people to being a “promised-land” people. Here, they completely revert back to their slave mentality, preferring slavery under cruel, murdering masters than the walk of faith God has for them.

 

i. Make no mistake; what Israel rejected here was a walk of faith. If God was going to lead them into a deeper trust than they had before, they wanted no part of it. If He made it all easy, that was fine with them – but they did not want a walk of faith.

 

b. Let us select a leader and return to Egypt: This was pure rebellion. They said that they did not want God’s plan, they did not want God’s leaders, and they did not want God’s land. They believed that they knew better than God.

 

i. Notice how man-centered their rebellion was: They said to one another (the decision was made among themselves, believing their majority vote had more wisdom than God). Let us select (they didn’t like God’s selection, so they wanted a leader who would truly represent them – in all their rebellion against God).

 

4. (Numbers 14:5-9) The reaction of the godly against the rebellion of the people.

 

Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces before all the assembly of the congregation of the children of Israel. But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: “The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. If the LORD delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, ‘a land which flows with milk and honey.’ Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.”

 

a. Then Moses and Aaron fell on their faces: Moses and Aaron were older and wiser and therefore knew how bad the situation was. They simply prostrated themselves in prayer, and said not a word to the people (knowing it would do no good), but they knew that they must cry out to God for a miracle if Israel is to be spared.

 

b. But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh: Joshua and Caleb, the two faithful spies, are younger and more optimistic, so they attempt to persuade the people.

 

i. They tore their clothes, showing utter grief and mourning; acting as if someone had died – or was about to die.

 

ii. The land . . . is an exceedingly good land; they reminded the people of the faithfulness of God’s promise. He promised the land would be good, and it was – they saw it with their own eyes. If God promised we could take possession of it, they could trust that promise also.

 

iii. Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people . . . the LORD is with us: Their fear and unbelief was willful rebellion. Therefore Joshua and Caleb appealed to their will of the people, asking them to decide to give up their rebellion and return to the LORD. The people of Israel didn’t have to give in to their feelings of fear, of anger to the LORD, of unbelief. By God’s grace they could choose to submit to Him and trust Him.

 

5. (Numbers 14:10) Two responses to the appeal of Joshua and Caleb.

 

And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the LORD appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel.

 

a. All the congregation said to stone them with stones: This was the response of the people. Rebellious, carnal man cannot endure the men of faith, who came with the challenge of faith. They would kill Joshua and Caleb for calling them to forsake their unbelief and to trust God.

 

i. Nothing can be more vexing, more aggravating to the child of God in rebellion than another child of God who is full of faith and submission to God – and who has godly counsel.

 

b. The glory of the LORD appeared: This was the response of the LORD. We are not yet told what the glory of the LORD would do, but it isn’t hard to figure out. Their actions and feelings were not consistent with the glory of the LORD.

 

· Was it consistent with the glory of the LORD to be unbelieving?

 

· Was it consistent with the glory of the LORD to mourn because the walk of faith was hard?

 

· Was it consistent with the glory of the LORD to long for death?

 

· Was it consistent with the glory of the LORD to accuse God of plotting murder?

 

· Was it consistent with the glory of the LORD to go back to the slavery of Egypt?

 

· Was it consistent with the glory of the LORD to reject God’s leaders and go with “the people’s choice”?

 

· Was it consistent with the glory of the LORD to threaten to kill those who call you to a deeper life of trust in God?

 

B. Moses’ spectacular intercession for the children of Israel.

 

1. (Numbers 14:11-12) God’s charge against Israel and offer to Moses.

 

Then the LORD said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.”

 

a. The LORD said to Moses: God does not even speak with the nation; He knows they are past hearing Him. He will speak with Moses, and Moses alone.

 

i. Many of child of God in rebellion wonders why they do not hear the voice of God anymore; why should they? They are rejecting what God has already said, do they think they can be open to what more He might say?

 

b. How long will these people reject Me? God had been only good to Israel, and had demonstrated His loving strength towards them countless times. Israel’s rejection of God makes no sense.

 

c. I will strike them . . . and disinherit them . . . I will make of you a nation greater and mightier: This is a dramatic offer to Moses; God says He will give rebellious Israel what they deserve – judgment (indeed, what they said they wanted – to die in the wilderness! [14:2]), and He will fulfill His promises of a land, nation, and blessing to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob through Moses instead!

 

i. This was heady stuff for Moses; he is offered the position of “patriarch” – to become a father for Israel in the same way Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were. Moses knew of their greatness and fame – he was used of God to compile their stories in the book of Genesis!

 

ii. We must regard this as a real “offer” from God; the LORD does not speak make-believe words. If Moses were to do nothing, this plan of God would go into effect – the nation would perish, and somehow, God would start all over again with Moses – and the new nation would be better (greater and mightier) than the present one!

 

iii. Moses had a similar “offer” from God back in Exodus 32:7-14; will Moses react in the same way now as then?

 

2. (Numbers 14:13-16) Moses intercedes for Israel, appealing to God’s glory.

 

And Moses said to the LORD: “Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them, and they will tell it to the inhabitants of this land. They have heard that You, LORD, are among these people; that You, LORD, are seen face to face and Your cloud stands above them, and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night. Now if You kill these people as one man, then the nations which have heard of Your fame will speak, saying, Because the LORD was not able to bring this people to the land which He swore to give them, therefore He killed them in the wilderness.’“

 

a. And Moses said to the LORD: Moses did not entertain God’s offer for a moment. Instead, he pled for the nation and loved them despite their rebellion, and he was zealous for the glory of God.

 

b. Then the Egyptians will hear it, for by Your might You brought these people up from among them: Moses’ zeal for God’s glory was evident. He knew that if God wiped out the present nation and started again with Moses, it would be a black mark on His reputation before the nations – especially Egypt.

 

i. Perhaps then the nations could claim that the LORD was not able to bring this people to the land. It could be said that the sin and rebellion of man was greater than the power and goodness of God.

 

c. Which He swore to give them: Moses brought God’s promise before Him. He begged God to not give the nations any opportunity to think God has not been true to His word.

 

3. (Numbers 14:17-19) Moses intercedes for Israel, appealing to God’s power and promise.

 

“And now, I pray, let the power of my LORD be great, just as You have spoken, saying, ‘The LORD is longsuffering and abundant in mercy, forgiving iniquity and transgression; but He by no means clears the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourthgeneration.’ Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy, just as You have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.”

 

a. Let the power of my LORD be great: Moses glories in the power of God, but asks that God would use His power by showing mercy and longsuffering to a rebellious Israel.

 

b. Just as You have spoken: The list of Numbers 14:18-19 is almost a quote from the words of self-revelation God spoke to Moses in the dramatic encounter Moses had with God in Exodus 34:6-8.

 

i. Long-suffering . . . abundant . . . forgiving iniquity and transgression . . . by no means clears the guilty . . . mercy: Each of these are mentioned first inExodus 34:6-8.

 

ii. Moses basically said: “LORD, you have revealed Yourself to me by Your word. Your word declares who You are. Now LORD, please act towards Israel according to who You have declared Yourself to be in Your word.

 

c. Pardon the iniquity of this people, I pray, according to the greatness of Your mercy: Moses knew God’s power, and appealed to it; Moses knew God’s promise and appealed to it, and Moses knew God’s glory and appealed to it. This was a spectacular example of intercession.

 

i. What made this intercession spectacular was not primarily Moses’ method (appealing to God’s glory, power, and promise); but Moses’ heart. Here, Moses is totally others-centered, not concerned for his own glory, but only for Israel. He displays he shares the heart of God towards His people, and that is what made Moses’ intercession spectacular.

 

ii. This, of course, was God’s intention all along: To develop and draw out of Moses just this kind of heart, transforming Moses into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), long before the time of Jesus.

 

C. The fate of Israel after the rebellion at Kadesh Barnea.

 

1. (Numbers 14:20) God’s promise of pardon in response to Moses’ intercession.

 

Then the LORD said: “I have pardoned, according to your word;

 

a. I have pardoned: The heart of Moses and his method of intercession were successful. These are sweet words for any sinner to hear.

 

b. According to your word: This means that Moses’ prayer mattered. Some may wonder if prayer is some elaborate game, where God threatens to do something He will never do anyway, and we pray, pretending to believe God will do what He has threatened, and when God hears us pray, He forgets His idle threat and does what He was going to do anyway. Prayer definitely does not work that way.

 

i. We don’t understand the relationship between the eternal, sovereign plan of God and our prayers; but we know it is no game. God never wanted Moses to think of it as a game, and wanted Moses to at least think that his prayers had directly affected the outcome: I have pardoned, according to your word! We should pray as if life and death, heaven and hell, would be decided by our prayers!

 

2. (Numbers 14:21-25) The fate of the rebels and the fate of the faithful.

 

“But truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. 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. Now the Amalekites and the Canaanites dwell in the valley; tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness by the Way of the Red Sea.”

 

a. But truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD: God’s response to Israel would be full of and reflective of His glory. He would show mercy and pardon, but in a way consistent with His glory.

 

b. They certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it: Therefore, those who put God to the test and rebelled against His promise, would not see the Promised Land. But the faithful like Caleb would inherit the land.

 

i. Look at the high praise heaped upon Caleb: My servant Caleb . . . he has a different spirit in him . . . [he] has followed Me fully . . . I will bring into the land. Caleb’s stand of faith seemed futile when Israel rejected him; but it was richly rewarded by God.

 

c. Tomorrow turn and move out into the wilderness: God had brought them to the threshold of the Promised Land, but they rebelled against Him, and did not enter – so God will send them back to the wilderness.

 

i. Israel has demonstrated they are still slave-minded; they do not think like Promised Land people. It will take more wilderness training until they are a people ready to live in the Promised Land!

 

3. (Numbers 14:26-35) The death sentence upon the rebels.

 

And the LORD spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation who complain against Me? I have heard the complaints which the children of Israel make against Me. Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: 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. 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. But your little ones, whom you said would be victims, I will bring in, and they shall know the land which you have despised. But as for you, your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness. And your sons shall be shepherds in the wilderness forty years, and bear the brunt of your infidelity, until your carcasses are consumed in the wilderness. According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. I the LORD have spoken this; I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.’“

 

a. All of you who were numbered . . . from twenty years old and above: God gave the message to the nation – this generation must die in the wilderness and would never see the Promised Land. It was as if God said to them, “You didn’t want it when it was offered to you, so now you will never have it.”

 

i. They said, If only we had died in this wilderness! (Numbers 14:2). God will now give them their desire. If they preferred death to a walk of faith, God would make that their destiny.

 

b. Except for Caleb . . . and Joshua: These men of faith were the glorious exceptions. They would enter into the land of promise because they have the hearts and minds of new men.

 

i. Not even Moses and Aaron were excepted. They would also not enter the Promised Land, each for their own reasons. But we remember that Moses was not guiltless in this whole tragedy, having agreed to the request of the people to send out spies instead of just boldly taking the land by faith.

 

c. But your little ones: When excusing their unbelief, Israel had claimed concern for their children (Numbers 14:3), accusing God of wanting to murder them. Now, ironically, their children would inherit the land, while they perished in the wilderness.

 

d. The land which you despised: We may imagine many in Israel objected saying, “We did not despise the land. We wanted it. We were just afraid.” But they did despise it, because as much as anything, it was a land of faith for people of faith, and the unbelieving and rebellious do despise the land.

 

e. Forty days . . . forty years: The spies, representing the nation, failed in the test of 40 days. Now the nation would be tested 40 years – and they would come forth purified, ready to inherit the Promised Land, but only after the man of unbelief and rebellion has perished in the wilderness.

 

i. The old man, the man still slave-minded to sin, can never enter into God’s promises; the old man must die – and God will do whatever it takes to make that happen.

 

ii. This turning point in Israel’s history is an essential lesson for every believer, and is trumpeted to us in Psalms 95:7 b-11: Today, if you will hear His voice: Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, as in the day of trial in the wilderness, when your fathers tested Me; they tried Me, though they saw My work. For forty years I was grieved with that generation, and said, ‘It is a people who go astray in their hearts, and they do not know My ways.’ So I swore in My wrath, ‘They shall not enter My rest.’

 

iii. Then they despised the pleasant land; they did not believe His word, but complained in their tents, and did not heed the voice of the LORD. Therefore He raised up His hand in an oath against them, to overthrow them in the wilderness, to overthrow their descendants among the nations, and to scatter them in the lands. (Psalms 106:24-27)

 

iv. But they and our fathers acted proudly, hardened their necks, and did not heed Your commandments. They refused to obey, and they were not mindful of Your wonders that You did among them. But they hardened their necks, and in their rebellion they appointed a leader to return to their bondage. (Nehemiah 9:16-17)

 

v. Hebrews 3:7-19; Heb_4:1-16 makes it clear: God has a place of rest and promise for every believer to enter in to, and it can only be entered by faith. The man of unbelief, self-reliance, and self-focus can never enter into God’s rest and abundance.

 

4. (Numbers 14:36-38) An immediate death sentence upon the ten unfaithful spies.

 

Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the LORD. But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land.

 

a. Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land . . . died by the plague before the LORD: If the death of the unbelieving generation would take some 38 years (the number of years left to make a total time of the exodus forty years), the death of the ten unfaithful spies was be immediate.

 

b. Died by the plague before the LORD: God has one prescription for the old man, and the flesh: to kill it. It can’t be reformed. We are not called to turn over a new leaf for God. The old man dies, and only then can the new man patterned after Jesus Christ, can inherit God’s land of rest and promise.

 

5. (Numbers 14:39-45) Aftermath: Failure of the attempt to take the Promised Land by man’s strength and wisdom.

 

Then Moses told these words to all the children of Israel, and the people mourned greatly. And they rose early in the morning and went up to the top of the mountain, saying, “Here we are, and we will go up to the place which the LORD has promised, for we have sinned!” And Moses said, “Now why do you transgress the command of the LORD? For this will not succeed. Do not go up, lest you be defeated by your enemies, for the LORD is not among you. For the Amalekites and the Canaanites are there before you, and you shall fall by the sword; because you have turned away from the LORD, the LORD will not be with you.” But they presumed to go up to the mountaintop; nevertheless, neither the ark of the covenant of the LORD nor Moses departed from the camp. Then the Amalekites and the Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah.

 

a. The people mourned greatly: They were indeed sorry; many people are sorry for the consequence of their sin. But they were not so sorry as to turn their hearts to a genuine trust of the LORD.

 

b. They rose early . . . went up to the top of the mountain . . . “Here we are, and we will go up . . .we have sinned!” They wanted to make it all better with a few religious works and words but their hearts were not changed. All this was on their initiative, as a way of doing God’s will their way, and hoping to reap the same blessings. It could not work. Moses spoke rightly: For this will not succeed.

 

c. The Canaanites who dwelt in that mountain came down and attacked them, and drove them back as far as Hormah: It did not succeed because God was not with them. They made a futile attempt in the flesh to accomplish what they had rejected by faith, and it ended in defeat. It was now back to the wilderness.

 

i. When God was with them, they did not think it was enough; now that God wasnot with them, they thought they could do it.

 

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