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Numbers
 

Numbers

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    Numbers Numbers Document Transcript

    • Numbers - FNG - Friday, April 6, 2012Tonight we get to look at the book of Numbers. If I had to summarize it in a sentence Iwould say that it is intense, gripping action sandwiched between total and utter boredom.Yet there are so many incidents in this book that can really leave you scratching yourhead and asking serious questions about the traits of God‘s character revealed in thebook of Numbers. And so I am hoping that you will join us for the discussion tomorrowafternoon, so we can maybe explore some of those.Historically we have once again started to move, leaving the foot of Sinai where most ofExodus and all of Leviticus took place and we cover about 40 years during which theIsraelites wondered through the wilderness. In this book we say ‘good bye’ to Miriam andAaron as well as the entire generation of the Israelites that walked out of Egypt. We arealso told that Moses will be following shortly with Joshua slated to replace him as theleader of the nation. This book brings us to the threshold of the promised land twice,finally depositing us on the eastern bank of river Jordan. I thought it may be helpful tojust quickly put up a map of their travels, just so you can get an idea of where all theaction took place.Among the many, many things that deserve discussion in this book, there are a couple ofthings that thread their way throughout this book that I would like to explore tonight. Thefirst one of these is God’s eye for organization. Have any of you ever moved your familyfrom one house to another? Was that fun? If you enjoyed it, try moving from one countryto another! I’ve done it twice - and I’m done!  But seriously though, how much work isthat? How much planning, work and logistics goes into that? Packing up the wholehouse, finding and booking the moving company, making sure everything is labeled,having the things you will need first closest to hand at offload, cancelling all the utilities inthe old place, turning them on in the new place, making sure you have your pet situated,and of course making sure you didn’t forget to take the baby with you when you finallyroll out.Now imagine doing that with a nation of approximately 2 million people! That is thelogistical challenge that confronted God in relocating the nation of Israel from Egypt toCanaan. Compounding the challenge is the fact that they would be crossing hostile
    • terrain and encountering hostile nations along the way. So one of the things that Goddoes was to establish the order of camp and the order of march, and this we find inchapters 2 and 10. The Tabernacle was set up in the middle of the camp with three tribescamped on the north, south, east and west side of it respectively. Everyone had theirdesignated place and especially when it came to Levites - their designated duties. Whenthey moved out they had an exact marching order. There was no stampede and massconfusion. They moved out in an orderly fashion. The tribe of Judah, which was the mostnumerous tribe led the way. The tribe of Dan, the second most numerous tribe broughtup the rear. Surrounded by hostile nations this was a very natural military posture -having your vanguard and your rear guard be comprised of the strongest units. After thefirst three tribes moved out, the first group of Levites moved out carrying the Tabernacle.After three more tribes, right in the middle of marching order was the second group ofLevites carrying the holy things from the Sanctuary. The plan being that the first group ofLevites would arrive and set up the Tabernacle by the time the second group arrived sothey could immediately carry in the holy articles and set them up. As someone who nowworks in logistics, and has spent a good part of my life organizing trips and events, thisis very appealing to me. I see a God who plans the details and works in an orderlyfashion.The second part of the logistics in moving 2 million people across the desert is evenmore astounding. How do you provide food and water for 2 million people every singleday for over 40 years?! I don’t know if anyone here is in the catering business, so youmay have a deeper appreciation of what it would take to put on such a spread. Jesusonce fed 5000 men from five loaves of bread and two fishes. Now I did a bit ofhomework on this. Assuming you could even find a caterer in Battle Creek who would beup to the challenge of putting on a spread for 5000 people, this is what the figures wouldlook like. If each person get a couple of chicken salad sandwiches, coleslaw, a bit of fruitand a cookie or brownie it would run at $8.50 per person. Add a soft drink or a bottle ofwater for $1.50, and that would run you at $10 a head, for a total of $50,000 dollars, oras the disciples pointed out – well over 8 months wages! That is a one time event for5000 people. Now do that for 2 million people day in and day out for 40 years! A singlemeal would cost you $20 million and over the course of the 40 years you will have spent$876 billion to put on three square meals a day, and have a good chunk of yourpopulation just making sandwiches around the clock! And so God makes an elegant
    • solution to this problem by raining manna onto the camp 6 mornings every week.Perhaps not surprisingly people eventually got a bit bored with the menu, and started todemand meat. Bearing in mind the logistical challenges we have talked about you cansympathize with Moses as he finally snaps and tells God how it is: “Why have youbrought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put theburden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth?Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the landyou promised on oath to their ancestors? Where can I get meat for all these people?They keep wailing to me, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I cannot carry all these people by myself;the burden is too heavy for me. If this is how you are going to treat me, please go aheadand kill me—if I have found favor in your eyes—and do not let me face my own ruin.”(Numbers 11:11-15). Where am I supposed to find meat for all these people?! RelaxMoses, YOU are not supposed to find meat for all these people, God is and promises todo so for an entire month. “But Moses said, “Here I am among six hundred thousandmen on foot, and you say, ‘I will give them meat to eat for a whole month!’ Would theyhave enough if flocks and herds were slaughtered for them? Would they have enough ifall the fish in the sea were caught for them?" The LORD answered Moses, “Is theLORD’s arm too short? Now you will see whether or not what I say will come true foryou.” (Numbers 11:21-23).Which brings me to my second point - God’s abundance. What happens next is thatflocks of quail come into the camp, and the Israelites gathered and ate so much it quiteliterally made them sick. It wasn’t a case where each family got a little bird to sharebetween them, so each could have a little taste of meat. There was plenty - in fact toomuch for them to handle!And this is actually a bit of a theme in Numbers. In the very next chapter, Aaron andMiriam grumble that they should be equals with Moses in leadership. Ironically, Mosesnever coveted that leadership role. You may remember at the beginning of ExodusMoses was more than happy that someone else, in fact, anyone else but him, take onthe role of the Israelite leader. I would imagine that the scene at the Tent of the Meetingwas quite a solemn one. God, as some kind of a stern school master calls 3 of Hischildren to His office. “Miriam, Aaron - front and center!” And they did get a bit of alecture from the eternal school master. As if that experience hadn’t produced a deep
    • enough impression, Miriam then becomes a leper.There are, in fact, a number of challenges to Moses’ leadership within the book ofNumbers. And God deals with them quite sternly for a number of reasons. First of all,Moses didn’t ask for the position, God chose him, and so in going against Moses whowas merely following orders from God, they were rebelling against God Himself.Numbers 12:3 tells us that Moses was a very humble man. All the others wanted theposition because of the power and the glory. They wanted to rule. God wanted a manwho would be humble enough to seek and accept God’s guidance. And finally this allfalls into the category of keeping things orderly. All these people wanted to be chiefs andyou know what they say about having too many chiefs. There needed to be a clear chainof command with God at the top if such a multitude was ever going to survive theirjourney through the wilderness and enter the promised land.And so God answers the rebellions by leaving no doubt about how things should be.When Korah, Dathan and Abiram led 250 men in rebellion against Moses and Aaron,they were not just told to stop. They were swallowed up by the earth, so that there wasno doubt that God wanted Aaron and Moses to lead the people. And yet, it seems thisdid not sufficiently quell the challenge. The very next day people were at it again,accusing Moses and Aaron for being responsible for the death of these men. What Goddoes next to me is one of the coolest things in the Bible. “The LORD said to Moses,“Speak to the Israelites and get twelve staffs from them, one from the leader of each oftheir ancestral tribes. Write the name of each man on his staff. On the staff of Levi writeAaron’s name, for there must be one staff for the head of each ancestral tribe. Placethem in the tent of meeting in front of the ark of the covenant law, where I meet with you.The staff belonging to the man I choose will sprout, and I will rid myself of this constantgrumbling against you by the Israelites." So Moses spoke to the Israelites, and theirleaders gave him twelve staffs, one for the leader of each of their ancestral tribes, andAaron’s staff was among them. Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the tent ofthe covenant law. The next day Moses entered the tent and saw that Aaron’s staff, whichrepresented the tribe of Levi, had not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed andproduced almonds. Then Moses brought out all the staffs from the LORD’s presence toall the Israelites. They looked at them, and each of the leaders took his own staff. TheLORD said to Moses, “Put back Aaron’s staff in front of the ark of the covenant law, to be
    • kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, sothat they will not die.” Moses did just as the LORD commanded him. (Numbers 17:1-11).Aaron’s staff did not just sprout. It sprouted, it budded, it blossomed and it grewalmonds! It wasn’t just a small proof - it was beyond any reasonable doubt. You can justsee God looking on as Moses brought out the staffs for inspection and saying to theIsraelites: “Was that clear enough for you?”That is how God works. He is orderly and He provides in abundance. Whether it is foodor water, whether it is proof of His will, even the proof of His very existence. You mayremember a couple of months ago we talked about how God used the plagues toconvince Pharaoh beyond any reasonable doubt of His existence and power over anyother “gods”. And today, on Good Friday we remember a time when God, in the personof Jesus, provided such ample evidence for His claims that He put them beyond anyreasonable doubt.God created an orderly Universe - every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Alllife comes from God. Rebelling and cutting ourselves off from God, the source of life,results in death. When God said to Adam and Eve: “when you do this, you will die”, Hewasn’t making a threat - He was stating a fact of an orderly Universe. And on the cross,Jesus took on our rebellious, sinful nature and provided evidence beyond anyreasonable doubt - sin does indeed pay its wages and the wages is death (Romans6:23). In the garden of Eden, Satan said “you cannot trust God to do right by you”. Andwhile God spent the Old Testament wooing and calling His children back to Him, tellingthem of His everlasting love for them, on the cross Jesus proved beyond any reasonabledoubt that there is nothing that we can do to God that would diminish His love for us. Inthe Old Testament God invites His children to come to Him despite their sins. “Comenow“, He says in Isaiah 1:18, “let us reason together… Though your sins are likescarlet , they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be likewool.” The empty grave is proof beyond any reasonable doubt that God has the power tocreate all things new.
    • kept as a sign to the rebellious. This will put an end to their grumbling against me, sothat they will not die.” Moses did just as the LORD commanded him. (Numbers 17:1-11).Aaron’s staff did not just sprout. It sprouted, it budded, it blossomed and it grewalmonds! It wasn’t just a small proof - it was beyond any reasonable doubt. You can justsee God looking on as Moses brought out the staffs for inspection and saying to theIsraelites: “Was that clear enough for you?”That is how God works. He is orderly and He provides in abundance. Whether it is foodor water, whether it is proof of His will, even the proof of His very existence. You mayremember a couple of months ago we talked about how God used the plagues toconvince Pharaoh beyond any reasonable doubt of His existence and power over anyother “gods”. And today, on Good Friday we remember a time when God, in the personof Jesus, provided such ample evidence for His claims that He put them beyond anyreasonable doubt.God created an orderly Universe - every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Alllife comes from God. Rebelling and cutting ourselves off from God, the source of life,results in death. When God said to Adam and Eve: “when you do this, you will die”, Hewasn’t making a threat - He was stating a fact of an orderly Universe. And on the cross,Jesus took on our rebellious, sinful nature and provided evidence beyond anyreasonable doubt - sin does indeed pay its wages and the wages is death (Romans6:23). In the garden of Eden, Satan said “you cannot trust God to do right by you”. Andwhile God spent the Old Testament wooing and calling His children back to Him, tellingthem of His everlasting love for them, on the cross Jesus proved beyond any reasonabledoubt that there is nothing that we can do to God that would diminish His love for us. Inthe Old Testament God invites His children to come to Him despite their sins. “Comenow“, He says in Isaiah 1:18, “let us reason together… Though your sins are likescarlet , they shall be white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be likewool.” The empty grave is proof beyond any reasonable doubt that God has the power tocreate all things new.