Pastor Bruce Simpkins
Renewal Community Church
Preached: June 16, 2013
As I mentioned last week, I would like to spend more time than usual today observing the context in which this book of Numbers was written.
The book of Numbers is a part of the Pentateuch. These were the scriptures that ALL Jewish boys had to learn and even memorize from the beginning to the end. They are collectively the writings of Moses. There is an historical progression of these books. God is the main character and the Israelites play a key supporting role . . .
The book of Genesis identifies how the Israelites came into being, and how they ended up in Egypt.
The book of Exodus identifies how the Israelites became slaves in Egypt and how God got the Israelites out of Egypt.
Leviticus is how God got Egypt out of the Israelites. While in captivity and over hundreds of years, the Israelites lost their traditions and their relationship with Yahweh and they began to assimilate into the Egyptian way of life. Leviticus was all about purging what they had learned in Egypt and replacing it with a God who is absolute purity and unimaginably Holy.
They spent approximately 2 years learning about Holy Worship and Holy Living. They would face impossible conditions during the journey that could only be overcome by a Holy and Powerful God.
It is at this point that the Book of Numbers picks up. God had taken His people out of Egypt, and had taken Egypt out of the His people and replaced it with His Holiness, and now God would instruct them how to make the final preparations for entering into the land He had promised them way back in Genesis.
The first 9 chapters of Numbers is the organization and division of responsibilities while on the journey.
Then chapter 9 through 12 was the first part of their journey which would take them into Kadesh, which was right on the boarder leading them into the Promised Land.
Chapter 13 and 14 was what they did while hanging out in Kadesh and trying to decide if they should enter into the Promised Land. They sent 12 spies into the Promised Land and discovered that it was all the wonderful things God had said it was, but they were too afraid to go in and take it because of the city fortifications and the men who made them feel like grasshoppers in their presence. There were only 2 of the twelve who recommended going in, but the other 10 scared the people so much, they refused to believe God could deliver them from the enemies they would face.
Chapter 15 through 20 describes their wanderings in the wilderness because they had not obeyed God. God told them that because of their disobedience, they would wander in the wilderness until everyone who was 20 years or older had died. The Promised Land would only be for the NEXT generation of children who were under 20.
There were two exceptions to God’s decree . . . the two men who recommended going into the Promised Land through faith in God. They were Joshua and Caleb. And Joshua ended up being the one who replaced Moses when he died. Moses never got to enter into the Promised Land . . . God let him see it from afar, but he did not get to go in.
Then chapters 21-36 was their return to Kadesh and another census and final preparations to enter the Promised Land by crossing the Jordin River, which was directly across from the most fortified city of Jericho.
Following Numbers, is the book of Deuteronomy. This book gave them reminders of all they had been through and the various laws they had learned . . . the Ten Commandments, to love God, how to worship God, how they were to get along with others. They were to remember the consequences they experienced when they were NOT obedient. And at the end of Deuteronomy, Moses gave them a final admonition to obey God and to hand off his leadership to Joshua.
It was Joshua that actually led the Israelites into the Promised Land which is all described in the NEXT book of Joshua. But once the people were settled, their sin nature began to take over and so God gave them some heroes (called Judges) as role models to live after. But the people weren’t satisfied with that and begged God for a king who would just tell them what to do instead of being a role model. So God did it, but the kings turned corrupt and led the people into corruption. So God provided prophets to tell the kings how to lead the people, but the kings simply had them killed when they didn’t tell them what they wanted to hear. The people got so bad, that God had to send them into exile as a last ditch effort to set them straight. But when they came out of exile, it wasn’t long until they went right back to their old sinful way of life.
It finally became obvious to even a casual observer that the people would never be able to please God by their own efforts and desperately needed a savior that would rescue them from the sin that plagued them throughout history . . . Enter God in the flesh. Ergo, the history of the world part 1. The part before Christ. The one who came and divided time itself in half. Part 1 before and part 2 after His death, burial, and resurrection (B.C. and A.D.).
You know, this macro view of history is a pretty good picture of the micro view of our own lives. First God blesses us. Then Satan tries to mess things up with circumstances beyond our control. So, we call out to God for help and He does help our circumstance, but then disobedience leads us to more trouble. God send people into our lives to get us back on track, but our sins keep haunting us until we finally realize we have a REAL need for a savior who can come personally into our lives and break that cycle of sin which gives us hope and peace..
So, from an historical perspective, how should we interpret what all this means? And how can we apply it to our lives?
- God has a plan for you and it is better than your plan
He makes us lie down in green pastures and leads us beside still waters. But we keep looking for the greener grass on the other side of the hill. Just like the Israelites, He has a Promised Land for us if we will just have enough faith in him to take it.
- God is Holy and you are not – the reoccurring theme in the Pentateuch is people disagreeing with what God is telling them to do because it didn’t make sense to them at the time . . . and then they regretted it miserably. Only God can make you Holy. You can not make yourself Holy or good enough to live in His eternal presence forever. Only God can do it. The people wanted to try, so God gave them all the rules of Holiness, which were impossible for them to keep as we see in the rest of the Old Testament. So when mankind was ready to give up and say, we can’t do this anymore, God came to the earth Himself to save us. When He came, He called Himself, Jesus. He made us Holy with the only acceptable sacrifice of absolute purity . . . the Holy Lamb of God Himself.
- Everyone has a specific and different role to play in God’s plan
Some times I have had little discussions with God to let Him know that He made a mistake in giving me the role which I am to play in life. Like when Jesus called Peter to walk on the water, he never doubted that Jesus could walk on water, but he doubted that he could walk on water even though Jesus is the one who called him to. Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to step out in faith to accomplish the impossible mission He has called us to.
- God rewards those who take action upon faith alone
Heb 11:1-2 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. 2 This is what the ancients were commended for.
This chapter 11 identifies a long list of “ancients” who were commended for stepping out on what they could not see. In fact, there is not one important character in the Old Testament that was not called at some point to step out in faith, even though it made no HUMAN sense to do it.
Accept God perfect plan for you today and trust the power of His Holiness. Embrace the role God has given you in life, no matter what it is, and the rewards will be greater than what we could ever ask for or imagine.