Monday, August 14, 2017

Daily reading assignment – Numbers 1-4

Our “Read-Thru the Bible” plan brings us to the Book of Numbers this Monday, August 14, 2017.   Its author is Moses and the timeline for the book is the “first day of the second month, in the second year” following Israel’s exodus out of Egypt (Numbers 1:1).

I will take a few moments to review for those who are novices to a study of the Old Testament scriptures.  The twelve tribes of Israel are descendants of the twelve sons of the Old Testament patriarch Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel.   Jacob (Israel) was the son of Isaac, the grandson of Abraham of whom two races originate; the Israelites descended from Jacob and the Arabic people, descendants of Ishmael.   The Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:1-3) was given to Abraham when God called him to depart from ancient Ur (modern-day Iraq), leaving his country and kindred, and journeying to a land he was promised as an inheritance for his lineage.  God not only promised Abraham would be a father to a great people, but also “all families of the earth be blessed” through him (Genesis 12:3b).   It is the latter promise Jesus Christ fulfilled as our Savior.

Numbers traces the journey of the twelve tribes of Israel from Egypt, through the wilderness, to the threshold of Canaan, the land God promised Abraham and his heirs.  The Book of Numbers derives its name from the fact it is the record of three separate census counts of Israel during her sojourn in the wilderness.

The first census (Numbers 1:2-54) was of males, 20 years and older, who were able to go to war (Numbers 1:2-3).  Moses and Aaron were responsible for numbering the men identified by their tribe, father’s name and their own name.   Altogether there were thirteen tribes (Numbers 1:5-15) descended from the sons of Jacob (Israel), of which two tribes descended from Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh – Numbers 1:10); excluding the priestly tribe of Levi from the census count because of their dedication and service to the LORD (1:47-54).

The Levites were not numbered among the men of war because God had set them apart for Himself in lieu of the first-born from every tribe and family being set apart for the priesthood (Numbers 3:12-13).  Because worshipping and serving the LORD was central to Israel as a nation, the Levites were responsible for setting up the tabernacle and the vessels used for worship and offering sacrifices (Numbers 1:50; 3:8).  When the nation was on the move, the Levites were responsible for taking down the tabernacle (Numbers 1:51, 53).

The tabernacle, in the center of the encampment with the tribe of Levi encamped around it, represented God’s presence among His people,  (1:53).

Numbers 2 gives the organization of the encampment by tribe: Simeon (2:12-13), Gad (2:14-15), Ephraim (2:18-19), Manasseh (2:20-21), Judah (2:3-4), Issachar (2:5-6), Zebulun (2:7-8), Reuben (2:10-11) Benjamin (2:22-23), Dan (2:25-26), Asher (2:27-28), Naphtali (2:29-30), and Levi in the midst around the tabernacle (2:17, 33).

Numbers 3 gives the generations of Moses and Aaron who were of the priestly tribe Levi. The census of the Levites is recorded as well as their duties regarding the tabernacle and service to the LORD (3:1-51). Numbers 4 continues with a description of the ministry of the Levites, their age of service (“thirty years old and upward even until fifty years old” – 4:3) and responsibilities when breaking down the tabernacle for moving (4:4-15).

On a personal note, in the winter months of 2004, I had the privilege of preaching a series in the Book of Numbers on Wednesday nights while Hillsdale Baptist Church was in the midst of her own wilderness journey.  Having sold our church properties in early February 2003, Hillsdale relocated her worship services to a public high school auditorium while our new facility was under construction.  A building project scheduled for no more than nine months became a 2.5-year journey of trials with a dishonest contractor who hired sub-contractors like him.  I easily identify with Moses shepherding Israel through the wilderness.  In hindsight I understand our wilderness journey was not only God’s way of proving and purging, it was also His method of humbling and preparing our hearts to minister in our new community that would give us an outreach far greater than we had envisioned.

As a personal testimony, God’s “grace is sufficient” (2 Corinthians 12:9) and “His ways past finding out!” (Romans 11:33)

Copyright 2017 – Travis D. Smith