September 21, 2015.
Daily Reading: Numbers 9-12.
Background: Numbers 5-8.
Concepts and Connections.
1. Lessons from keeping the passover: At the beginning of this chapter, we find ourselves in the first month of the second year that the Lord had brought the children of Israel from the land of Egypt, and as it is the first month, the Lord reminds Moses that the people are to keep the Passover on the 14th day of the month (see Exodus 12). As the people were keeping the command to the Lord, some of those of the camp who had been made unclean by touching a dead body came to Moses and asked why they couldn’t keep the passover. Anyone who was unclean was supposed to stay outside the camp, so as to not defile the camp within (see Numbers 5:2). They’re uncleanness would only last for a short time until they cleansed themselves, but it was going to make them miss the passover to the Lord. Note the longing to keep the Passover here. Moses tells them to wait and he will see what the Lord has to say about the matter. It is important to note this, as Moses could have just told them to keep the passover, since they seemed to have good intentions to serve the Lord. But he didn’t; rather, he turned to the Lord and asked Him what to do. We need to be careful how we react to situations, especially when we have been given a command of the Lord, even if we think it would be good to do something. Moses asks the Lord what to do, and the Lord sets up another time for any who had been made unclean through the touching of a dead body, or any who were on a journey during the passover, to keep the passover to the Lord. Those who were unable to keep it in the first month were to keep it one mont later, on the fourteenth day of the second month. Note, however, this was not a secondary option for those who simply didn’t want to observe the passover in the first month, however, as the Lord says that those who could celebrate the passover, but didn’t, would bear their sin. Let us always seek the will of the Lord, and not our own, when we are trying to follow Him.
2. The cloud by day and fire by night: The latter portion of this chapter deals with the tangible presence of God with the children of Israel, as a pillar of cloud over the tabernacle by day, and a pillar of fire by night. This was their way of knowing whether or not the Lord wanted them to move from where they were or stay were they were. They would follow the cloud, moving when it was taken up and staying when it remained, and thus they were lead by the Lord. Note the dependance and obedience here by the children of Israel. God didn’t have them move at set intervals of time. Rather, they remained until the cloud moved, whether that be fore a couple of days, a week or even if they remained in once place for a month or longer. At the command of the Lord they camped and set out. Let us follow the Lord in this manner.
The silver trumpets and movement from Sinai: Here we see Moses commanded to make trumpets made of hammered silver to use in addressing the congregation as a whole. They were to be for giving the people messages, as different horn blasts signified different commands. Remember they size of the congregation of Israel at this time- there were 1 ½ to 2 million people settled around the tabernacle. Organization and planning had to be put into place to allow the unit to function as a one. The Lord had put in place a system for sounding movement, alarm, summoning the chiefs and summoning the whole congregation.
After the trumpet sounds are put in place for the congregation, we see the pillar of cloud move in the second month, signaling the people of Israel to set out from the wilderness of Sinai. Note here that the people move in succession, starting with the tribes on the east side of the tabernacle, just as the Lord had commanded them (see Numbers 2). As the people set out on their march towards the promised land, Moses’ father in law, Hobab, suggests that he go back to his homeland of Midian instead of going with the children of Israel. Moses, however, convinces him to go with them, as he would be a great help in knowing where to camp in the wilderness, and he promised to bless him as the Lord blessed the children of Israel. And so the children of Israel set out on a three day journey, guided by the pillar of the Lord.
Lessons from the people’s complaining: After the children of Israel set out from the wilderness of Sinai, there arose a complaining an grumbling among the people because they had grown sick of the manna that they were getting from the Lord (see Exodus 16) and they wanted meat to eat. As the story unfolds, there are several lessons that we can take from the people’s complaint, Moses’ response and the response from the Lord.
1. The Lord does not like complaining: One of the first things that is apparent from this story is that the Lord does not like complaining. When the people start complaining about their misfortunes (though the Lord had brought them out of slavery), His anger is kindled and He causes a fire to spring up on the outskirts of the camp to consume some of the people. Then when the people start complaining again about not having meat to eat (though the Lord had been consistently providing them with food), the anger of the Lord again is kindled, and He tells them that He will give them so much meat to eat that it will come out of their nostrils and they will hate it. It is somewhat ironic that the Lord would use the thing that the people are asking for to punish them for their complaining. The children of Israel had a bad habit of grumbling agains the Lord and against Moses whenever things got rough. Let us do all things without grumbling or disputing, as Paul tells the Philippians in Philippians 2:14-16.
2. It’s okay to ask for help: When the people of Israel started crying out to Moses because of their lack of meat, Moses goes to the Lord and tells Him that he cannot bear the burden of all the people alone. He felt like he had been given a task that was too much for him. The Lord tells him to call 70 elders of Israel out to the tent of meeting, they He might take some of the Spirit that rested on Moses and put it on the elders of the people, so that Moses would not have to bear the burden of the people alone. Here we see that it is good to ask for help when we are over burdened, and good to help those who are carrying heavy loads. Paul says that bearing one another’s burdens fulfills the law of Christ (see Galatians 6:1-5). Note that not just anyone is called here, but rather 70 elders who were leaders of the people. When you get in over your head, seek out wise people to help you.
3. Do not be against those who have the Spirit of the Lord: When the Lord placed some of the Spirit that rested on Moses on the elders at the tent of meeting, they began to prophesy (it is interesting to note that this much Spirit was placed on Moses himself before this). There were two men that remained in the camp (apparently two of the 70 who were summoned to go out and didn’t for some unstated reason) who also received some of the Spirit as the elders who went out to the tent of meeting did, and they too prophesied. When the people say this, it was told to Moses, and Joshua told Moses to make them stop, apparently because he thought they were taking glory away from Moses. It seems that Joshua was upset with them and didn’t think they should be prophesying. Moses’ answer, however, was that he would that all of the Lord’s people have a portion of the Spirit and prophesy. He was not to despise those who the Spirit of the Lord rested on. Paul gives a similar command to the Thessalonians in I Thessalonians 5:19-21.
4. Do not allow cravings to destroy you: At the end of this chapter, we see the fulfillment of the Lord of His word spoken in the beginning of the chapter when He said that He would give all the congregation of Israel meat to eat. He cause quail to fall and pile up two cubits high a day’s journey on either side of the camp. Note that the people had to work to get the meat that they craved so badly. The people went out to gather the quail, and each gathered at least 10 homers, which was 6 bushels. But the craving of the people angered the Lord, and He sent a plague to strike the people. There are some different thoughts as to why the Lord sent the plague. Perhaps it was sent on the people who had such a craving for the meat that they started eating it before they got back to the camp to cook it, and thus eating the blood with it which was against the Law (see Leviticus 3:17, 7:27). Or perhaps the craving of the people moved some to gluttonous eating when they got back to the camp. It could even be possible that this was still a punishment for their grumbling and craving in the first place, which is how the chapter began. Regardless of the exact reason, we can learn the lesson to be in control of our cravings, and not let them overpower us and lead us to destruction.
Miriam and Aaron oppose Moses: Here we read a very interesting story that reveals just how close a relationship Moses had with the Lord. It is interesting to note the meekness of Moses here, as the text says there was none other on the face of the earth as meek as he was; this is amazing, considering he was the chosen leader of the entire congregation of Israel- a very important man (who would be one of the biggest and more honored characters of the Hebrew scriptures). Moses somehow avoided letting this power go to his head. With great power, however, usually (if not always) comes with opposition. Moses had married a Cushite woman, and Miriam and Aaron (two quite powerful figures in the congregation of Israel themselves, Moses’ brother and sister-in-law) spoke out against Moses because of it. It seems that Miriam probably lead the charge, as her name is mentioned first and she is the one who receives the physical punishment later. The Lord was angry with Miriam and Aaron, so He called all three to the tent of meeting and there explains to Miriam and Aaron the deep relationship He had with Moses, different than all the other prophets in the land. To the others, God revealed Himself in a vision or dream; but with Moses, the Lord spoke face to face (see also Deuteronomy 34:10). When the cloud went away, Miriam had become leprous like snow. Note the true humility and loving spirit of Moses here, as he pleads with the Lord to take her leprosy away even though she had just been grumbling against him. The Lord says that she will bear the punishment for seven days outside the camp, and the children of Israel remained where they were until Miriam was made clean, and then set out and camped in the wilderness of Paran.
Tomorrow’s Reading: I Chronicles 15-19.
The Lord bless you and keep you.