Thursday, August 16, 2012

Introduction to Numbers

Numbers is a book for those on the journey. A book for any Christian, living as a stranger in this world. It's evidence that every day is a day to believe the gospel and that Christ is being continually held up for us to believe in.

Numbers, or In The Wilderness, feels far more dramatic than Leviticus. There is plenty of legal material but also plenty of action.

1:1-10:10 Law at Sinai. Preparations to enter the land, census.
10:11-12:15 From Sinai to Kadesh
13:1-19:22 Law at Kadesh (40 years)
20:1-22:1 From Kadesh to Moab
22:2-36:13 Law at Moab

Some Gospel moments
There are major moments in the story of God's people.
  • We see the failure to enter the land, just a couple of years out of Egypt leading to a 40 year delay as the rescued generation, including Moses, are sentenced to die. In the middle of this rebellious Korah is swallowed up, yet the Sons of Korah will rise to sing great resurrection songs in the Psalms.
  • We see salvation through judgement, such as the people afflicted with snakes and called to look to a bronze snake for salvation... that LOOK being a picture of trusting in Jesus who would be lifted up on the cross. Jesus teaches this to the Old Testament expert Nicodemus who visits him one night.
  • We see the Levite Phinehas, a footnote in Exodus 6 in Moses & Aaron's genealogy - but deliberately mentioned, rise to become a judging saviour for the people, turning aside wrath from them. Exodus-Leviticus-Numbers would originally have been one scroll, and perhaps even to be considered as one book - with the story of Phinehas being a prominent picture of the Saviour we need.
The story completes a 120 year arc from the beginning of the book of Exodus, 40 years from the Exodus itself, through the lifetime of Moses. Moses is still alive at the end of the book and will have his final moment in the great sermon of the book of Deuteronomy.

The census data is likely to cause the modern readers some struggles - lists of names don't feel very appealing... consider each name as a real person just like you. See the completeness and growth of the people. At the end of Genesis just a large family, increasing and multiplying by the start of Exodus... now a vast nation with all her tribes. See the distinction of the Levites - and so much of the focus at Sinai (Exodus 19-Numbers 10) has been on the priests and the Tabernacle... and on the leading Levites, Moses and Aaron... and Phinehas.

There is a strong theme of judgement upon the people for their spiritual whoredom, prostituting themselves to the gods of the nations - as prophesied in Exodus 34... and yet salvation remains in view, overwhelming grace mediated by humble Moses and Phinehas. All this is set in the context of a journey 'in the wilderness' - the formative years of the nation as their children prepare to enter into the promised inheritance in The Book of Joshua.

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