Week 7: Numbers 11-30
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The apostle Paul expressed the importance of studying the history in Exodus and Numbers in 1 Corinthians 10:11 when he explained the “these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction.” We learn from experience but it is better to learn from the experience of others so we do not have to learn life’s lessons “the hard way.” In this portion of scripture, we see a series of rebellious acts and learn from the consequences for the rebellion. But even in His judging the people God’s love and mercy are never failing.
In chapter 11 the people complain about only having manna to eat. God tells the people that He is going to send them meat to eat until it is coming out of their noses. As an alternative to going out to get the meat invites the people to meet with His representatives at the tabernacle. Some went out to get the meat, some came to the tabernacle but some remained in the camp.
God had two men Medad (whose name means “beloved”) and Eldad (who name means “loved by God”) into the camp to reach out to those who did not come to meet with Him. This is a picture of how God pursues us to give us every opportunity to be in relationship with Him. Again Paul points this out in Romans 10:20-21 by quoting the prophet Isaiah, “I was found by those who did not seek Me, I became manifest to those who did not ask for Me.” But as for Israel He says, “All the day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and obstinate people.”
The low point in Israel’s relationship with God was when the people worshiped the golden calf. The second lowest point was when the people believed the negative report of the 10 spies rather than the positive report of Joshua and Caleb. They reported that the land was good and that God was able to give it to them.
The people chose to believe the majority report and incurred God’s wrath. Because of their lack of faith, they would die in the wilderness but the people were not totally destroyed and God promised to give the land to their children.
Perhaps the most disheartening episode occurs in Chapter 20 when Moses strikes the rock to get it to yield water when God had told him to instead speak to the rock. This disobedience disqualified Moses from going into the promised land. But prior to his death, God does permit Moses to see the land from across the Dead Sea.
Finally, in a foreshadowing of the cross, the people are delivered from the fatal bite of fiery serpents in Chapter 21 by looking with faith at a bronze serpent raised up on a standard. We are delivered from the sting of sin and death when we look with faith to God’s judging sin by Jesus crucifixion.
Dr. Samuel Abatte is a physician practicing in Wasilla, Alaska. This column first appeared in the Frontiersman, a Wick newspaper serving the Matanuska-Susitna Valley of Alaska.