Thursday, August 09, 2012

Jesus in Numbers

Numbers picks up the plot at Sinai, before tracking a journey that almost gets into the promised land before failing to do so. A book called Numbers is a turn off to most people and is based on the Greek name for the book because it opens with census data - members of the people of God who are as real as the people in your church... the original Hebrew title is more like "In the wilderness" which probably reflects better the story... of a people tested for 40 years who fail, whose Saviour the True Israel would be tested far more intensively for 40 days in the wilderness.

@John Hindley offers some gospelicious tweeting from Numbers:
  • "Numbers 5 - the bride of Christ would fear being filled with holy water, except that her husband has taken the curse already on himself"   
  • "Numbers 15 - Israel's clothes reminded them of the Lord's commands. We wear the Lord's himself (Galatians 3:27)"  
  • "Numbers 18 - the High Priest has no inheritance, the Lord is his inheritance. Our High Priest leaves us his Father as our inheritance in him" 
  • "Numbers 21 - odd for princes to dig, not labourers. Odd to sing to a well. Unless you know the Prince will give you his well of living water" 
Where is Jesus in the book of Numbers - present, pictured or prophesied?
1v2 He is the true Israel who loses none of those given to him
1v53 He is the true Levitie who protects his people from wrath
2v2 He is the one who gathers us around him, and he is the one who is able to enter in boldly
Listen -- Peter Mead: 2 minutes on Hebrews
3v13 He is the true firstborn - not just of Israel but of all creation
5v3 He, though he was clean, touched the leprous and became unclean for us, going outside the came to suffer
5v22 He bears the curse of our spiritual adultery, so we can drink the holy water and live
6v25 He always knows the smile of his Father
6v26 He is our peace
7v89 He speaks from the mercy seat, his throne, where his own blood is sprinkled,
9v2 His salvation is remembered as the people eat the Passover meal, until he comes
9v10 He welcomes even the defiled to the passover meal... if he didn't, who could come?
9v14 He welcomes the foreigner to the passover meal, with no favouritism
9v21 He calls his people to move when he moves, to stay when he stays
10v24 He went with his people, making them distinctive
10v35 He rises to scatter his enemies
11v3 His fire burns, even among his people, a consuming fire of judgement
11v6 He is the bread provided for the people, and despised by them
11v25 He comes down to speak and to put his Spirit on his people
12v3 He is meeker than Moses and truly blessed
13v27 He prepares a land flowing with milk and honey
15v39 He clothes us not just with tassels but with his righteousness to remind us of his word, and to keep us from whoring after other lovers
16v31 He swallowed by Korah in judgement, but resurrected his sons to sing marvellous songs
17v12 But for him, we would all perish
18v23 He is the true high priest, who leaves us his Father as our inheritance
20v6 He appeared to them at Meribah, and speaks also to us. Let us not harden our hearts.
20v11 He is the rock that need only be struck once, not twice.
21v8 He is the true bronze serpent, lifted up - to die - that we might look on him and live
21v18 He is the prince who gives us waters from his well
22v27 He appeared and blocked Balaams way and opened the mouth of a donkey to speak
25v1 He was betrayed by his whoring people at Shittim... from there the people went to the house of Rahab, a Canaanite woman of far greater faith than they... prominent in Jesus' genealogy. (Their spiritual whoredom btw, is with the gods of Moab... trace the thread of misery from Lot heading to Sodom in Gen 13, to its destruction and his daughters actions in Gen 18 and on... good news will come when Boaz redeems Moab's Ruth, one of Jesus' ancestors)
25v11 He is the true and greater jealous Phinehas who turns back wrath from the people
27v11 He is our brother, so we inherit from him
30v2 He is the man who does exactly what he says he will do
35v12 He is our refuge from vengeance, flee to him sinner!

Don't be afraid to read parts of Numbers quickly - the census data should be read but its probably not necessary to read very slowly... see the way the LORD deals with his grumbling and faithless people, to judge them - and yet on the other side of judgement is life...  Korah is succeeded by the Psalmist Sons of Korah... snakes bite the people, but a serpent is lifted up as a symbol for salvation... the people prostitute themselves but salvation itself will come through the house of a Canaanite prostitute.


  1. 30v15, he is the true husband who bears the iniquity of his bride when she utters thoughtless (v8) vows?

  2. Quite possibly...

    My lists aren't exhaustive or infallible... there are allusions and illustrations in the texts, and there are pictures and personal appearances of Christ, and patterns (types). Someone like Andrew Bonar on Leviticus sees phenomenal references... some of them a little fanciful, many of them very rich. In places the Scriptures are explicit about Christ, in others implicit, sometimes in the foreground, sometimes in the background... sometimes dominant melodies, sometimes subtle riffs and rhythms beneath the surface. I hope there's room for various levels of interpretation here!

  3. 11v20 (see whole chapter) He is the Lord among his people who is infinitely better than cucumbers in Egypt. (When I preach Numbers 11 my sermon title will be "Cucumbers or Christ?")
    14v14 He is the LORD seen "eye to eye"!
    24v7-9 He is the king who will be greater than Agag. God will bring him out of Egypt. As the lion of Judah he will crouch and lie down. (cf Genesis 49:9 - John Sailhamer is *awesome* on the way the links between Gen 49 and Numbers 24 are thoroughly messianic. See
    24v17 He is the star who will come out of Jacob and crush the foreheads of Moab.