Remember, the journey of a thousand miles always begins with the first mile. As we go through the Bible, enjoy the journey!
DAY ONE – Numbers 3-5
When commanded by God to do so, Moses numbered all the males in Israel, twenty years old and upward, men who could be conscripted for war. The Levites were excluded. Over six hundred thousand males populated Israel. Now Yahweh instructed that the Levites be numbered as well, and that all the males be presented to Aaron and Moses for service in the Tent of Meeting. It would be their job to package and transport every single item in the structure of the tent whenever Israel made a move. They would also be responsible for the maintenance of the tent and its utensils. Literally they were to be given to the priests for the service of the Tent and its activities among the Israelis. In appointing them, Yahweh made a claim upon the Levites, declaring that they belonged to Him, that they would serve Him–not in priestly service but in the maintenance of all that was so dedicated. The Lord’s claim on the Levites was in exchange for the firstborn of every male child and animal. They would forever belong to Him in their special purpose.
Two things stand out here: 1) Yahweh was in charge; Israel was His possession, and He fully intended to make His Name known among all the nations as the Almighty Creator God, through these special people. 2) Every single person in Israel counted; everyone had a place, a purpose and a service to render. So the nation stood out in every way as special and even different from all the others. God was there. God was leading… and God was blessing them as no other people had been blessed since the days of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Of course, the blessing was contingent since it was based on covenant offered by Yahweh to the people. They didn’t make the rules that were prepared for their benefit and blessing. God did. God made the rules to enable a semblance of heaven on earth–as much of heaven as could be sustained among humankind who were alive to God only through all the external ceremonies and behaviors spelled out in their law. The Lord wanted to bless them, intended to bless them, and slanted everything in their direction to be ABLE to bless them! This is called Mercy… and Grace. It is still God’s way, even with us.
DAY TWO – Numbers 6-9
Evidently individuals were allowed to consecrate themselves to the Lord voluntarily for a period of time. It was called a vow–the vow of the Nazirite. The only well-known example of this was Samson, whose great strength was from Yahweh, to whom he was consecrated a Nazirite from birth by his parents. When Samson defiled himself by being near a dead thing, his vow was nullified; and he was delivered over into the hands of the Philistines, who made sport of Samson by shaving his hair and imprisoning him. Only after his hair grew back did Yahweh allow his vow to activate once again; and Samson destroyed a host of Philistines on the day he died. Given the added instructions from King David, who says, “Pay your vows to the Lord.” While vows no longer carry the weight of the Law of Moses, it is still understandable when one wishes to consecrate himself in some special way to the Lord. Only be very careful… and very faithful, trusting His mercy and grace to help you in all you do.
God’s revealed name to Israel is Yahweh (sometimes rendered as Jehovah). Numbers 6:27 “So they shall put my name on the children of Israel; and I will bless them.” The Lord then gave to Moses and Aaron the priestly blessing which we can appropriate for ourselves through Yahshua (Jesus), our Savior. Numbers 6:23-26 “Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying, ‘This is how you shall bless the children of Israel.’ You shall tell them, 24 ‘Yahweh bless you, and keep you. 25 Yahweh make his face to shine on you, and be gracious to you. 26 Yahweh lift up his face toward you, and give you peace.’ That is a wonderful blessing; use it well, and use it often.
Having been at Sinai for a year, it seemed Israel was about to begin their journey. God instructed them to now keep the second Passover on its appointed day; everything was in readiness, and they would soon decamp to begin their trek to a Promised Land. He even revealed how their movements would be initiated: Numbers 9:15-18 On the day that the tabernacle was raised up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, even the Tent of the Testimony: and at evening it was over the tabernacle, as it were the appearance of fire, until morning. 16 So it was continually. The cloud covered it, and the appearance of fire by night. 17 Whenever the cloud was taken up from over the Tent, then after that the children of Israel traveled; and in the place where the cloud remained, there the children of Israel encamped. 18 At the commandment of Yahweh, the children of Israel traveled, and at the commandment of Yahweh they encamped. As long as the cloud remained on the tabernacle they remained encamped. Dear Ones, we too are so blessed; God’s Presence in Holy Spirit is Present in us at all times if so that we have been regenerated in our spirit through Jesus’ name. So take heart and keep aware of His Presence, continually building relationship through your obedient response to Him. And one other thing: can we just TRUST Him a little more, especially as we see things around us growing bleaker by the day?
DAY THREE – Numbers 10-14, Psalm 90
It took a year at Sinai for Yahweh to establish the Theocracy–that is, a nation whose God is Yahweh and who are led and ruled over by God Himself. However, we learn later that God’s people, at least ten times, tested the Lord and His word in the wilderness for a period of forty years. They eventually finished the trek however, and were led to permanent settlement by Joshua, God having graciously fulfilled every promise He uttered over the people. Unfortunately the entire generation of those who were delivered out of Egypt died in the wilderness without seeing the promise with their own eyes. Only their children, for whom they were afraid of the supposed terrors that were up ahead, completed the trip and were settled into the land through miraculous intervention.
Trouble brewed quickly. As Israel decamped and journeyed for a few days, following the cloud of God’s glorious Presence, a group of people raised up a cry for meat, craving the pots of Egypt and embracing their past. Angry over their rejection and rebellion, the Lord sent them quail from the sea in such quantity that they soon ate their fill and gagged at the thought of more meat! So the first lesson came home to them as a few thousand died of a plague that came with the meat! It’s kind of like, what part of being thankful for God’s blessings don’t you understand?
Then Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ siblings, spoke against him because of his foreign wife. God really didn’t like that. Numbers 12:5-8 Yahweh came down in a pillar of cloud, and stood at the door of the Tent, and called Aaron and Miriam; and they both came forward. 6 He said, “Now hear my words. If there is a prophet among you, I, Yahweh, will make myself known to him in a vision. I will speak with him in a dream. 7 My servant Moses is not so. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him, I will speak mouth to mouth, even plainly, and not in riddles; and he shall see Yahweh’s form. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant, against Moses?” Is there a lesson somewhere in here? When Yahweh left the scene, Miriam was covered with leprosy and, even though the Lord healed her, she had to be shut out of the camp for the next week before she could return, according to their new laws. And the whole nation had to remain during her recovery.
They were so close to their destination that Yahweh told Moses to select a man from each tribe to be sent up into the land of their fathers to spy it out and bring back a report. Forty days later the report was bad…almost. Not that Canaan wasn’t a desirable place; it was everything God said it would be, but there was a problem–giants lived there, and the spies felt dwarfed in their presence. So they discouraged the people with their report and caused another grave injury against the Lord and the Theocracy. Only two of the spies–Caleb and Joshua–spoke up for God and said, “We can do this!” So Moses more or less freaked out and told the Lord, “I can’t do this! How can one man lead six hundred thousand men with all this going on? Lord, it’s too much for me; just kill me before I see myself in worse shape than this!” Well, God intervened, and another lesson about the Theocracy was gained with great difficulty. Can we see that saving a nation, and then the world, is what our God is all about; and can we see how much we put Him through as we trek through our own history? Oh, to just be thankful and to bless His Great Name for all that He has done.
So this is the end of the prayer that Moses, the man of God, spoke out about this time:
Psalm 90:13-17 Relent, Yahweh! How long? Have compassion on your servants! 14 Satisfy us in the morning with your loving kindness, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15 Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, for as many years as we have seen evil. 16 Let your work appear to your servants; your glory to their children. 17 Let the favor of the Lord our God be on us; establish the work of our hands for us; yes, establish the work of our hands.
DAY FOUR – Numbers 15-16, Psalm 95
Challenges to the Theocracy: When God rules among men, what is the extent of His sovereign authority? And what does it mean when He is referred to as ‘Lord’? Through the gracious entreaties and intercessions of Moses and Aaron, who repeatedly fell on their face before God when their authority was challenged, Yahweh spared the nation, though not without severe discipline on the rebellious and complainers.
- After the rebellion of the spies, 40 years of wilderness experience were levied on Israel, one year for each day the spies were out gathering their information.
- The rebellion of Korah and Dathan with their cohort against Moses and Aaron, brought the most severe and spectacular response from Yahweh to date: they, along with the 250 elders, their families and all their belongings, fell into a pit that opened beneath them and then closed over them. The Levites who were offering incense with fire in the censers perished when fire came out from the Lord and consumed them.
- When the congregation formed a conspiracy of complaining and blaming the next day, a plague erupted and moved quickly through them, stayed only when Aaron ran between the living and the dead with incense burning before Yahweh. Over 14,000 died in the plague, in addition to the destruction of the others.
If you were God, what would you do? Is it reasonable for Yahweh to go to such extreme measures, considering that the entire future of the human race is at stake? Should mankind be left to themselves to do whatever we think is right, regardless the circumstances on society as a whole? Does God have a right to intervene in human affairs in order to preserve the race and save those who will ultimately be part of an eternal family that has been purged of evil?
Psalm 95:6-9 Oh come, let’s worship and bow down. Let’s kneel before Yahweh, our Maker, 7 for he is our God. We are the people of his pasture, and the sheep in his care. Today, oh that you would hear his voice! 8 Don’t harden your heart, as at Meribah, as in the day of Massah in the wilderness, 9 when your fathers tempted me, tested me, and saw my work.
DAY FIVE – Numbers 17-20
Who gets to lead? Why are there even leaders? Why can’t everyone simply do what he wants to do and live without leaders? The book of Judges more or less answers that. Its thesis is that “everyone did what was right in his own eyes,” ending in bondage and confusion. So in today’s reading Yahweh, wishing to end the complaints in Israel about who is chosen for this or that, instructed that the rods (carved from tree branches) of all the heads of house in Israel (that would be twelve in number) were to be brought before the Lord. Moses collected them and placed them before the Ark overnight. The next morning, Aaron’s rod had budded, blossomed and had ripe almonds on it! The rest were plain. So God demonstrated who was chosen as high priest and had Aaron’s rod placed inside the Ark of the Covenant as a permanent witness.
The conspiracy of complaining and blaming against leaders is rampant in our culture today. Could that explain some of the chaos and confusion erupting around us almost daily? Does God notice; does He care? Someone will always be chosen to lead; and whether he likes it or not, his leadership will carry a built-in burden as a result of those who complain and carp about the way things are done. If people want to live in peace, their recognition and support of leaders, to the best of their conscience, will improve the atmosphere in which leaders do their job. Will this be utopia? Never. Humans interacting with other humans will always leave unanswered questions and problems; but accepting and working together with our leaders will bring the best circumstances at the moment.
And remember that human government as first established by God in Israel was merely a mechanism for His own leadership among the people, in order that He alone might ultimately rule among them, in order to bless them and give them a future. Remember Jeremiah 29:11-13 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says Yahweh, “thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you hope and a future. 12 You shall call on me, and you shall go and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You shall seek me, and find me, when you search for me with all your heart. So any difficulties we experience with leaders at any level should cause us to first call on God and bring our requests before Him. Is there a time and place to discuss issues with leaders? Yes, but not until we have done this: Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, “Rejoice!” 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. The Lord ultimately wants to rule over us for our own good. To display our will against His as revealed in Scripture and by the Holy Spirit is to cause loss that sometimes cannot be undone. May we all pray for our leaders and trust God to continue His sovereign leadership among us. And may we pray the prayer every day that Jesus taught us to pray: “Your kingdom (your rule) come, your will be done, in earth, as it is in heaven!” If our hearts are tuned to that godly desire, we will do well no matter what happens.
- God wants to ultimately be our leader and rule over us for our good.
- He works through human leaders and government, even those who are imperfect or evil.
- If we reject authority and leadership, we reap the inevitable chaos and confusion that results.