The land of rest

“And Aaron the priest went up Mount Hor at the command of the LORD and died there, in the fortieth year after the people of Israel had come out of the land of Egypt, on the first day of the fifth month. And Aaron was 123 years old when he died on Mount Hor” (Numbers 33:38-39 ESV).

The Israelites had been without a home for years. Forty years earlier, on the fifteenth day of the first month (Numbers 33:3), they had left Egypt after the ten plagues had culminated with the Passover. They had been “on the road” since that time, in essence “living out of suitcases.” They had no home of their own and were living in tents. They were now into the fortieth year since leaving Egypt. Continue reading “The land of rest”

Honesty

“Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: ‘This is what the Lord commands: When a man makes a vow to the Lord or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said’” (Numbers 30:1-2 NIV).

God’s desire has always been that his people keep their word. This involves honesty in every aspect of that word. If we are honest, we are “free of deceit, truthful and sincere” (Oxford Dictionary of English). This means that what we say must be true, but it is more than that. It also means that we do what we say and that we don’t use truth in a way that would deceive another person. Continue reading “Honesty”

Speak only God’s word

In Numbers 22 we are introduced to a prophet named Balaam. Most who have heard of Balaam remember him because he had a donkey that spoke. What is significant is not so much the fact that the donkey talked but why the donkey was given the ability to speak.

The Israelites were now at the end of their forty year journey from Egypt to the Promised Land. They were travelling up the east side of the Jordan and encountering various struggles as they travelled. They finally were encamped in the plains of Moab. How would we feel if several million people camped just outside the city where we live? Continue reading “Speak only God’s word”

Wanting to be ‘in charge’

How often are problems caused because people want to be the one in charge, the one telling others what to do? This is not only a problem today, but one that Moses had to deal with. Keep in mind that Moses did not want to be the leader of the Israelites, but God had selected him and got rid of all his excuses at the burning bush. God selected Moses’ brother Aaron to be his spokesman and later to be the high priest for Israel in the worship of God.

A couple of years after leaving Egypt, the Israelites arrived at the border of the Promised Land. After sending twelve men to get the lay of the land, they were so disheartened by the strength of the inhabitants that they refused to conquer the land. This led to a number of problems including challenging the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Continue reading “Wanting to be ‘in charge’”

Complain, complain, complain!

“And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp. Then the people cried out to Moses, and Moses prayed to the Lord, and the fire died down. So the name of that place was called Taberah, because the fire of the LORD burned among them” (Numbers 11:1-3 ESV).

Can you imagine it? Here was a group of people who had been slaves for hundreds of years. They were now free! They had a God who was taking care of them! And what did they do? Complain about how bad they had it! Really?! Continue reading “Complain, complain, complain!”

The need to remember

“And the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, ‘Let the people of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time; according to all its statutes and all its rules you shall keep it.’ So Moses told the people of Israel that they should keep the Passover. And they kept the Passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the people of Israel did” (Numbers 9:1-5 ESV).

God did not want the Israelites to forget what had happened to free them from Egyptian slavery. He gave them an anniversary to observe each year called “Passover.” This was to remind them that God had “passed over” their houses and that they had been freed from slavery that night. Continue reading “The need to remember”

The price has been paid

There is a principle found throughout the Mosaic Law about returning something to its owner. Although we don’t always have the specifics given to us, it would seem that the person had stolen or possibly damaged or destroyed something that belonged to someone else. The principle was simply this: you had to restore more than what you had taken. Notice these instructions: Continue reading “The price has been paid”

Promises and blessings

God had set the Israelites free from being slaves of the Egyptians. As they camped at Mount Sinai, they were being formed into an orderly nation. As we will see from the census in Numbers 1, there were over 600,000 men, aged 20 and over, who were able to go to war. Conservative estimates, taking into account that there are generally more females born than males, plus the elderly who couldn’t bear arms, those under 20, and the tribe of Levi, would give a nation of at least two to three million people. That would place them around the same size as Lithuania, Nambia or Slovenia today. But they did not yet have land and were living in tents in the wilderness.

To prepare this new nation to enter the Promised Land, God made promises to them. These were conditional on their obedience and living by the commands he gave them. And for a budding nation, these were quite powerful promises. Continue reading “Promises and blessings”

Give our best

There is a principle found throughout the Bible concerning our giving to the Lord. The principle is very simple: you must give your best. When it came to animals that were sacrificed, here are the instructions God gave the Israelites.

“You shall not offer anything that has a blemish, for it will not be acceptable for you. And when anyone offers a sacrifice of peace offerings to the LORD to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering from the herd or from the flock, to be accepted it must be perfect; there shall be no blemish in it. Animals blind or disabled or mutilated or having a discharge or an itch or scabs you shall not offer to the Lord or give them to the Lord as a food offering on the altar” (Leviticus 22:20-22 ESV). Continue reading “Give our best”

Atonement

Forgiveness. Since the first sin in the Garden of Eden, there was a desperate need for a way to be forgiven. Throughout the Old Testament we see sacrifices of animals offered to deal with sin. When Israel was in the wilderness, God gave a command for a national Day of Atonement to be held each year (this is known by Jews today as ‘Yom Kippur’).

“This is to be a perpetual statute for you. In the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you must humble yourselves and do no work of any kind, both the native citizen and the foreigner who resides in your midst, for on this day atonement is to be made for you to cleanse you from all your sins; you must be clean before the Lord. It is to be a Sabbath of complete rest for you, and you must humble yourselves. It is a perpetual statute.” (Leviticus 16:29-31 NET). Continue reading “Atonement”