Sermons on Numbers
After 40 years the Israelites were nearly home. The long-awaited land of Canaan, promised 500 years earlier to Abraham, was just across the Jordan River. But first, there was a not-insignificant matter to be resolved concerning the land rights of women who had no brothers. Would they be able to share in the family inheritance? And if they did, what would happen to their land if they married a man from a different tribe? Clearly, sharing in God’s promised land was the ultimate priority for every Israelite. For Christians today our inheritance awaits, promised to us by God, not an earthly inheritance but one that is kept in heaven for us “that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Peter 1:4). Are we just as eager to lay hold of this inheritance as we look to the end of our life’s journey?
Jesus told us to love our enemies, so how do we reconcile this with God specifically ordering the Israelites to annihilate other nations, as we have in today’s passage? There is no neat answer to this difficult question. But in this message Pastor Murray meets it head on. One thing we can be sure of is that God has not changed. And his abhorrence of sin means that his coming judgement of our generation is just as certain as it was for people 3500 years ago. The Christian life is an ongoing battle against sin and compromise. Holiness matters to God. Does it matter to you?
There are times in life, especially when we are nervous or afraid, when we need to be reassured that God is with us. In today’s passage we see how God did this for the Israelites in a rather remarkable way – using a foreign king, a pagan clairvoyant and a talking donkey! God can use anyone or anything to make get His message across. And what a word it was! Through Balaam God assured the Israelites that He was their faithful God who would honour all His promises to them and bless them. The same God makes promises to us, His redeemed people, today. Are you facing difficulties? Is your faith wavering? Then this message is for you.
God’s gracious provision of an instant sin offering to cure the uncleanness of his people reminds us that in Christ we have one who cleanses us not externally and temporarily, but internally and eternally.
Throughout history there have been many famous examples of people who have openly defied God. When Korah led a rebellion against Moses and Aaron, he was actually defying God Himself. What God did to Korah and his followers is a frightening warning to anyone who would arrogantly reject His appointed leaders. Still today God is looking for people who will live holy lives, humbly submitted to His authority, and approaching Him in the only acceptable way – through the Lord Jesus Christ, our great High Priest.
The people of Israel have brazenly rebelled against God by not going into the land. And we find ourselves asking, “Where to from here?” “After this kind of failure, how will God’s people continue in relationship with him?” Numbers 15 outlines a series of offerings they are to make and things they are to do once they enter the Promised Land which will remind them that not only did they start their journey because of God’s grace, but each step is taken only by God’s grace. We who have been saved by God’s grace through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus also fail and rebel. And likewise, we are only able to continue in relationship with God on the basis of his continued grace.
The end was almost in sight. The journey should have been over. A land “flowing with milk and honey” was theirs for the taking. Yet ten faithless men convinced the whole nation to rebel against their God who had been so good to them. He had saved them so powerfully from slavery, provided for them in the desert, entered into a personal covenant with them, and promised to give them the land of Canaan. They had witnessed these things with their own two eyes. But despite all this, they flatly refused to trust Him to take them into that land. So God consigned them to 40 more years in the desert. During those years more than half the population would die because of that catastrophic choice. What is God asking you to do? Are you being obedient?
Some people love to grumble. They always seem to find something to complain about. Yet we are all susceptible, if we’re not careful. The Israelites had begun their journey from Mt Sinai to the Promised Land. This was supposed to be the final, exciting push to “the land flowing with milk and honey”. Instead it became an epidemic of grumbling, spreading throughout the camp with even Moses, then Miriam and Aaron succumbing. No wonder God was angry with them. After all He had done for them, they became a restless mob of grumblers! In 1 Corinthians 10 Paul actually refers to this period as a warning to us today. When we think of all that God has done for us – saving us, caring for us, and leading towards our heavenly home – we should be the happiest, most thankful people in the world! Are we?
If you’ve ever been on a long car trip, you’ll know how stressful it can be. There’s planning and packing, checking the car, organising stops, keeping the children happy, and finally getting to your destination without incident. Life can be like that. And it was certainly true for the two million Israelites who were about to make the journey from Mt Sinai to the Promised Land. After 11 months of preparing, organising and getting final instructions from God, it was time to step out. How would they go? Over the coming chapters we’re going to find out. But what about our journey with God? Each of us will travel a different course and face different challenges, but will we grow closer to the God who calls us to trust Him as He leads us to our heavenly destination?
The Israelites were required to sacrifice hundreds of animals to make preparation for the ministry in the Tabernacle. The pinnacle and the end point of this costly preparation is hearing God speak to them through Moses. God speaks to Christians through the Bible and reveals himself to us through his Son Jesus. Do we treasure this relationship with God enough?
The two million Israelites were out of Egypt, camped at Mt Sinai, and now ready to head off to conquer the promised land of Canaan. But before beginning the journey God gave them a set of instructions… a census to determine the size of their army, how to set up the camp around the tabernacle, a census of the Levites, and the roles of the different Levite families. Why were these details so important? Certainly there was a practical dimension, but even more so, God was teaching them about Himself – His faithfulness, His presence with them, His holiness and His desire for their obedience, especially in view of the battles ahead of them. Jesus has come to save sinners from slavery to sin and lead us to our heavenly destination. How well do we know our God as we make our journey through life?