Daily reading assignment – Numbers 21-22
Forty years after Israel departed Egypt, the nation is nearing the culmination of her 40-year sojourn in the wilderness. The generation that departed Egypt, but refused to trust the LORD to enter Canaan, has perished. Miriam and Aaron, Moses’ sister and brother, are dead (20:1, 28). I wonder what loneliness Moses have borne?
Forty years of trials and hardships has prepared the people for the battles that lie before them.
Numbers 21 opens with a victorious battle against a Canaanite king. These were the people before whom Israel had fled forty years prior (Numbers 21:1-3; 14:44-45). Soon after, in spite of their victory, the people fell to murmuring against the LORD and Moses (21:4-5).
Responding to the accusations that He and Moses had led them out of Egypt to die, the LORD sent “fiery [poisonous] serpents” among the congregation (21:6). Chastened by the LORD, the people confessed their sin and asked Moses to pray the LORD would “take away the serpents from us” (20:7).
The LORD answered Moses’ prayer by providing a way of salvation, a serpent of brass he was instructed to make and suspend above the people (21:8). The LORD promised that when the people looked upon the brass serpent they would live (21:9). It was that symbol, the brass serpent, Jesus mentioned when He foretold His own sacrificial death on the cross. Jesus prophesied:
John 3:14-16 – “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:  That whosoever believeth in Him [Jesus Christ] should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that He gave His Only Begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
As the brass serpent suspended on a pole was the object God provided for Israel to be saved, Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross is the LORD’S provision for our salvation and deliverance from the curse of sin.
We find Israel within months of entering the Promised Land, the land God promised Abraham would be an inheritance for his lineage (Genesis 12). Knowing the adversaries they would face when they cross the Jordan River, it was necessary that Israel conquer and destroy her enemies on the east side of the Jordan River less they fall victim.
War and More Wars (Numbers 21:12-22:41)
Ancient enemy states, whose ruins modern archaeology have identified, are named here: the Amorites, Moabites (21:13-23), and Ammonites (21:24).
Balak, a king of the Moabites (22:1), is renowned for his desperate attempt to have Balaam, a heathen prophet, intercede for him against Israel (22:2-6). After refusing the king’s petitions, Balaam yielded to take his journey with representatives of the Moabite king after God directed him to go with the men (22:20-21).
Insuring the prophet would obey Him, the LORD sent an angel to stand in the path of Balaam (22:22). An argument ensued that is a favorite of children and one of the most unusual conversations in the Scriptures…an exchange between a man and his donkey! (22:23-35)
Terrified by the appearance of an angel bearing a sword, the donkey rushed out of the way as Balaam desperately attempted to guide him. Seeing the angel, the donkey fell down and refused to move in spite of Balaam’s abuses (22:27).
Miraculously, the LORD gave the donkey the ability to speak, and Balaam, seemingly without thought, found himself in a heated conversation with his donkey until the “LORD opened the eyes of Balaam” (22:28-31). Complying to the angel’s bidding, Balaam continued his journey to Balak, king of Moab (22:34-35).
I close today’s devotional with the stage set for a dramatic confrontation between a heathen king (22:36-41), a wayward prophet, and the LORD, the King of Heaven!
To be continued…
Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith