Israel got water from the rock at the beginning and end of their journey through the wilderness. Why are their two separate instances of this? What is different about each instance? What does this tell us about Jesus?
TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 30-32
Numbers 30 is all about vows.
The first part of the chapter is about a man who vows to the Lord. This section is very short, just three sentences in two verses.
The second part of the chapter is about a woman who vows to the Lord. This section is much longer, spanning 14 verses. The first three verses cover a woman who vows to the Lord while she still lives in her father’s house. These verses are followed by four verses that deal with the woman who vows to the Lord in her father’s house but later marries. Then there are six verses that deal with a woman who vows to the Lord in her husband’s house, after she is married.
The last verse of the chapter, Numbers 30:16 says, “These are the statutes that the Lord commanded Moses about a man and his wife and about a father and his daughter while she is in her youth within her father’s house.”
Why does Moses write so little about the vows of a man and so much about the vows of a woman? Is it because of the patriarchal society of the Jews? Is this about men controlling and having authority over their daughters and wives since a father or husband has authority over his daughter’s or wife’s vows but a woman has no authority over a man’s vows? Is this because the vows of a woman are more prone to be bad vows and, therefore, more likely to need to be voided by her husband?
TO UNDERSTAND VOWS, LET JESUS BE YOUR TRANSLATOR
Perhaps the culture at the time Moses wrote these words thought the answer to those questions was yes. Maybe not. I don’t really know. And, I don’t think it really matters.
I say it doesn’t matter because we are to read the Old Testament with our minds set on Jesus. We are to search the scriptures not for rules to follow, dead letters to be obeyed, but for their witness to Jesus.
In John 5:39-40, Jesus says the scriptures bear witness to him. We are to read the scriptures and let their witness send us to Jesus. By the witness of the scriptures we are to come to Jesus for he gives us life, not the scriptures.
In Luke 24, Jesus tells the disciples that he can be found in all the scriptures. He then translates all the scriptures for the disciples, showing just how he can be found in them. And, the hearts of the disciples burned within them. When we read the Old Testament as a set of dead letter rules to be followed and obeyed, our hearts faint and become hardened. But, when we see Jesus in them, our hearts come alive and burn with the fire of the Holy Spirit.
Dead letter readings of the scriptures kill. Dead letters translated by the Holy Spirit, our teacher, onto our hearts into the living and active Word, who is Jesus, bring life, refreshment, nourishment, and cleansing.
Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son.” Moses was a prophet. God spoke through this prophet in many ways – through his own voice, the law, tabernacle, and the vows to the Lord by a man and a woman. But, God does not speak that way any more. Today, God speaks to us by his Son.
“By his Son” doesn’t do the original Greek, or the writer of Hebrews, justice though, in my opinion. First, the Greek word for by can also be translated in. Second, the word his was inserted by English translators. There is no Greek word for his in this verse. Theoretically, this was done to help our understanding of what the writer was saying.
But, I believe it does exactly the opposite. Because, in the original Greek, the verse says, “in these last days he has spoken to us in Son.” To say God speaks “in Son” is like saying I’m writing to you “in English.” Today, the language God uses is Son. So, we need to read the scriptures in the language of Son if we want to understand what God is saying. And, to do that, we need Jesus to translate them for us like he did the disciples.
IN SON, WHO IS THE MAN AND THE WOMAN WHO VOWS?
In the beginning, God made a man and put him in the garden God had planted. When there was found no one for the man to share his life with, God put the man into a deep sleep and formed a woman from his side. The man and the woman knew each other. They were married and became one flesh.
Paul makes use of this story when he tells the Ephesians what the relationship between a husband and a wife should look like. But, when describing the relationship between a husband and a wife, Paul likens it to the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church. Paul says this mystery is profound. But, he is not speaking of the mystery of the man and the woman in garden becoming one flesh. No, he says the mystery refers to Christ and the church.
Right there in Ephesians 5 Paul establishes the idea that a man in scripture can be seen as a picture of Jesus and that a woman in scripture can be seen as the church. Therefore, when scripture speaks of a woman, it is often speaking of you and me, whether we are men or women.
Over and over, the scripture speaks of Jesus as the bridegroom, and the church, you and me, as his bride. Recall the last verse of Numbers 30, which says, “These are the statutes that the Lord commanded Moses about a man and his wife.” Read in the language of Son, we understand Numbers 30 to be about the vows of a man, Jesus, and the vows of woman, the church or you and me. Now the cultural context doesn’t matter. The important questions become:
- What does the man who vows to the Lord say about Jesus?
- What does the woman who vows to the Lord say about you and me?
A MAN WHO VOWS TO THE LORD
Numbers 30:2 says, “If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”
Jesus is “a man” in this verse. Jesus vows a vow to the Lord. Some Christians get uncomfortable about Jesus making vows to the Father, or there being an oath or a covenant between them. But, I think this verse helps us to see that Jesus did indeed make vows to the Father.
1 Peter 1:19-20 says, “But with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot. He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you.” We know Jesus as the lamb slain before the foundation of the world. But, that does not mean he was literally slain, or killed, before the creation of the world. No, Peter says that Jesus was foreknown as the lamb that would be slain. In other words, the Father and the Son had agreed that this would take place. There were vows made. The actual death of the lamb was not made manifest, made a visible reality, until the last times.
Jesus repeatedly said he was sent by the Father. You send someone for a purpose. By its very definition, the word send implies that the one sending had a reason, a cause, a purpose for sending the one that was sent. Jesus tells us this purpose in John 6:38-39, which says, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.”
Jesus was sent by the Father to do the will of the Father. But, Jesus had to agree to do this. Indeed, Jesus vowed to do this. He is “a man who vows a vow to the Lord.”
In John 5:30, Jesus says, “I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
In John 4:34, Jesus says, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work.”
In John 5:19, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.”
In John 8:28, Jesus says, “I do nothing on my authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.”
In John 12:49, Jesus says, “For I have not spoken on my own authority, but the Father who sent me has himself given me a commandment – what to say and what to speak.”
In John 15:10, Jesus says, “I have kept my Father’s commandments.”
The Father gave the Son commandments or orders. Jesus promised to do nothing but what the Father showed him to do. He promised to say nothing that the Father did not tell him to say. Jesus is “a man who vows a vow to the Lord.”
Not only is Jesus “a man who vows a vow to the Lord,” but Jesus “swears an oath to bind bind himself by a pledge.”
Abraham had lifted the knife to slaughter his son Isaac. But, the angel of the Lord called from heaven and told him not to do anything to Isaac. Then Abraham looked up and saw that God provided a ram for an offering instead of his son.
Genesis 2:15-18 says, “And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven and said, ‘By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all of the nations of earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.'”
The angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Jesus. Jesus swore an oath binding himself by a pledge to bless Abraham.
The last half of Numbers 30:2 says, “He shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.”
Notice that for “a man who vows a vow to the Lord” there is nothing about what happens if he does not keep his vow or if he does not fulfill the oath that he bound himself to by swearing. If this passage of scripture was about a man like you and me, then surely the passage would have had to consider the possibility of the vows or oath being broken.
But, what a wonderful truth this reveals about Jesus. There is no consideration, there is not even the slightest possibility, that he will not fulfill his vows and the oath that he swears.
When Jesus was at last manifested as the slain lamb on the cross, “knowing that all was now finished,” Jesus said, “It is finished.” His vows had been completed.
In his second sermon, Peter closes by quoting from the oath of the angel of the Lord, Jesus. Peter says in Acts 3:25, “You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.'”
Jesus is the faithful and true witness. Jesus is love. And, love never fails. Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “And I am sure of this; that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” And, 1 Thessalonians 5:24 says, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”
A WOMAN VOWS A VOW TO THE LORD
Israel is pictured both as God’s daughter as the daughter of Zion and as the daughter of Jerusalem (Zephaniah 3:14 and Zechariah 9:9 among many others). Israel is pictured as the woman who is under vows she has made but marries a husband. This is seen in the Jews who were under vows they made as God’s daughter but then were married to Jesus. Then, all people that become the church and marry Christ are pictured as the woman who vows a vow to the Lord in her husband’s house.
Psalm 2:1-2 says, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.” All nations, including Israel, plotted against God and against Jesus. It’s as if they had made vows and bound themselves together by pledging an oath. But, figuratively on the same day, verses 10 and 11 say, “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.”
The nations have always planned, or made vows, against God and his purposes. But, Psalm 33:10 says, “The Lord brings the counsel of the nations to nothing, he frustrates [opposes] the plans of the peoples.” While the nations, the peoples, are always making vows, as a woman making “thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she has bound herself,” God is always opposing those vows on the very same day.
Because God is in constant opposition to the vows we make, on the day that we make them, God as our father and Jesus as our husband is able to void them. When the husband voids the vows, “the Lord will forgive her.” This is why Jesus says from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
What a blessing to know that all of the thoughtless utterances, the vain vows that you and I have made, have been opposed by God so that we can be forgiven of them.
And, if we have made vows while married to Jesus and they were not opposed on the day they were made, then they are established, but Jesus bears the iniquity of them.
The picture of the woman who vows and how her husband can establish or void those vows could be filled out in much greater detail by those that choose to dig into the scripture.
TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 27-29
Many Christians think of Canaan, the promised land, as a picture of heaven. But, it is not. There are still battles and wars to fight in the promised land. However, in heaven the victory has been won. There’s nothing left to fight. So, the promised land is a picture of the rest we have in this life when we abide in Jesus Christ.
This is a critical point of understanding because many Christians think all those that died in the wilderness are a picture of unsaved people. However, this is not so. Those that died in the wilderness are a picture of those that did not enter the rest of Jesus Christ in this life.
Work is the opposite of rest. In Exodus and Numbers, Israel’s wandering in the wilderness is a picture of them working, working, working to make themselves righteous and please God. They promised to keep the law of God and tried to do so. But, they could not keep it no matter how much work they put into it. Take note that throughout the wilderness wandering Israel was led by Moses, who stands for the law.
But, when it came time to enter rest, Israel was given a new leader. Instead of being led by Moses, Israel was now led by Joshua. Joshua was to lead Israel into the promised land, Canaan, the rest of God. Israel was no longer to strive for their own righteousness. They would bear fruit by trusting in God. There would still be battles to fight in the promised land, but Israel would not fight the battles themselves. Joshua, as a picture of Jesus, would lead them in battle. That fight would be his. Israel would rest from its work and striving to please God. They would dwell in the land, which is a picture of abiding in Christ.
Let’s recap some key points in Numbers and then examine today’s reading to see the above playing out.
MOSES STRIKES THE ROCK: A TASTE OF REST
In Exodus 17, Moses strikes the rock to get water for the people. I wrote previously that this was a picture of Jesus’ crucifixion. Moses, the law, struck the rock, Jesus, with a staff of death. The law condemned the one who had kept the law perfectly. But, Jesus was the rock that was struck to yield his water, the Holy Spirit.
Through this first striking of the rock by Moses, Israel had become partakers of the Holy Spirit, the divine nature. In 1 Peter 5:1, Peter says that the other elders were like him “a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed.” Peter writes that they were only partial partakers because the glory was not fully revealed yet.
In 2 Peter 1:4, Peter says that we have been granted the precious and very great promises of God “so that through them you become partakers of the divine nature.” Again, in Exodus and Numbers, we see Israel has partaken of the Holy Spirit, the divine nature, the water from the rock, but they don’t have the Holy Spirit in full.
At this time for Israel, it’s as if they “have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come.” Israel had tasted, but not received in full.
They were still struggling between the law and the Spirit, work and rest. Paul details this struggle as an internal battle in his mind in Romans 6 and 7.
Paul also picks up this battle between the law and the Spirit in Galatians 3. In Galatians 3:2-3, 5, Paul says, “Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith?”
Later in the same chapter, Paul explains why the law was given. In Galatians 3:24, Paul says, “the law was our guardian until Christ came.” Throughout its wilderness wandering, Israel was battling between the law and the Spirit, work and rest. But, the law was there to teach them their work would fail. They needed to trust the rock and live by the water. Rest from the work of the law comes through faith and abiding in Christ, who has given the Holy Spirit to do the work for us.
MOSES STRIKES THE ROCK A SECOND TIME: READY FOR REST IN FULL
In Numbers 20, Moses strikes the rock a second time to get water for the people. However, this time Moses was only to speak for, that is prophesy about or witness to, the rock that would give the people water to drink. Jesus, the rock, was only to be struck once.
Hebrews 6:4-6 says, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.”
When Moses struck the rock a second time, it was a picture of Christ being crucified a second time. Therefore, we see the utter failure of the law to give us life or rest. Israel may have tasted the Holy Spirit, the heavenly gift, the rest they would receive in the promised land. But, Moses, the law, was still leading them. And, the law failed when it came to trust God to get water from the rock by speaking for the rock. Moses, the law, took matters into his own hands.
All of us do the same when we rely on the flesh through its own work, the law, instead of the Holy Spirit. For in the Spirit, we rest from our work and let Christ live through us.
In the second striking of the rock, the law was clearly revealed as failing to bring rest. Moses, the law, had failed. In Numbers 20:12, God said to Moses, “Because you did not believe me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” The law does not display belief in God but in self. The law does not uphold God as holy in the eyes of others. Trying to work the law brings the eyes of others onto ourselves. Therefore, Moses, the law, would not lead Israel into the promised land, into rest.
Yet, the water flowed from the rock abundantly. Israel now had more than a taste of the water from the rock. They had water abundantly. And, now there would be a change in who was leading Israel.
MOSES DOESN’T LEAD ISRAEL INTO REST
In Numbers 27:12, Moses is told to go up into the mountain of Abarim. The Hebrew root word for Abarim means both to pass through and pass over. It also means to pull along or to overstep or contravene. Moses, the law, had led the people through the wilderness. But, now he was being passed over. Moses, the law, had pulled the people along. But, he overstepped or contravened what God told him to do. Like Paul said, the law is our schoolteacher to lead us to faith in Christ. But, we do not receive the Spirit, or rest, by works of the law.
Also, the root word of Abarim is where we get the word Hebrew, which was first used of Abraham when he passed over the river. On the mountain of Abarim, Moses sees the land that God has given to Israel to pass over the river Jordan into his rest.
God reiterated to Moses that he was not going to lead Israel into the promised land because he rebelled against God’s word and failed to uphold God as holy before the eyes of the people.
Lest we feel too bad about what happened to Moses, we should remember that Paul says in Romans 7:12 that the “law is holy.” In 1 Timothy 1:8-9, Paul says, “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient.” Moses, the law got the people to the edge of the promised land. He was needed to a point.
JESUS LEADS US INTO REST
Having been told that he would not lead Israel into rest, Moses asked God to appoint a man over the congregation. Interestingly, Moses acknowledged God as “the God of the spirits of all flesh.” In Numbers 27:18, God told Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” Joshua was to be the man to lead Israel into rest. God picks a man in whom his Spirit dwelt.
Joshua means the Lord saves, and the son of Nun means the son of life. The Spirit was in Joshua. Joshua is a picture of Jesus. Therefore, Joshua leading Israel into the promised land is a picture of Jesus leading us into the rest of God.
But, Joshua is only a picture of Jesus. He did not actually lead the people into rest. Hebrews 4:8-10 says, “For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken of another day later on. So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.”
Truly, we have only partially tasted of the rest that comes through Jesus and the Spirit dwelling in us. In a sense, we are in the promised land, being led by Joshua. However, there are still battles to fight. We still have thoughts, desires, lusts, passions, arguments, and lofty opinions that are against the knowledge of God. But, instead of fighting these in our own strength, we need to stand strong in the Lord and let Jesus fight these battles for us. It is not by our work, the keeping of the law, that we will get victory. We get victory by abiding in and resting in Jesus so that the Holy Spirit can produce fruit – love, joy peace, kindness, etc. – through us.
REST NOT ORDINARY WORK
Notice what takes place in the two chapters following Joshua’s replacement of Moses. Numbers 28 and 29 go through the seven feasts of Israel and detail the offerings to be given at each feast. But, seven times God says that Israel should not do any ordinary work. The work is no longer ours, but God’s. We no longer work. Instead we rest.
TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 25-26
Numbers 26 records the second census that Israel took in the wilderness. The question is how do we see Jesus in the second census?
In regards to Jesus’ time with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:27 says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Later, in Luke 24:44, Jesus told the disciples, “There are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”
In the second passage from Luke above, Jesus was referencing a statement he made in the sermon on the mount. In Matthew 5:18, Jesus said, “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Basically, Jesus is saying that he will fulfill every dotting of the i and every crossing of the t in the Old Testament. Therefore, every little thing in the Old Testament witnesses to Jesus.
Therefore, I believe that every name and every number in the second census of Israel in the wilderness has something to say about Jesus. We may not see it right away. We may not see after considerable study. But, I believe that the Holy Spirit will reveal these things to us if faithfully and whole-heartedly desire to know.
Unfortunately, one morning of prayer, meditation, and study is not enough to see Jesus everywhere in the census. In fact, I am left with far more questions than answers at this point. I believe one of the best interpreters of scripture is scripture. With that in mind, I want to share you possible theories about how we might see Jesus in the second census of Israel.
COMPARING THE TOTAL POPULATION IN THE 1ST AND 2ND CENSUS
In both the first and the second census, Israel was moving through the wilderness with the tabernacle, which is a picture of Jesus. The first census was taken near the beginning of Israel’s journey through the wilderness and the second census was taken near the end of their journey through the wilderness. So, a comparison of the first and second census might reveal some things about Jesus.
I wrote about the order of the tribes in the census and around the Tabernacle from the first census in Numbers 1 and 2 in The Tabernacle, the Priests, and the Men of War – Part 1. In the second census, the tribes are counted in the same order as the first census. Therefore, the meaning of the names of the tribes doesn’t tell a different story between the first and second census.
But, comparing some other facts about the first and second census might. The table shows the name of the tribe, the count from the first census, the count from the second census, the change in population in the tribe, and the tribes position in the camp (S1 would be the first tribe in the south).
The Two Censuses of Israel
|Tribe||1st Census||2nd Census||Change||Camp Position|
The total population in the first census was higher than the total population of the second census. So, Israel had lost people in their wilderness wandering. Why is this important and what might it show us about Jesus?
Well, Israel entered Egypt with 70 people, who were almost all men. Let’s assume you doubled the number of the people of Israel every generation while they were in Egypt. And, let’s assume that a generation lasts 40 years, which there is some evidence of in the Bible. Then, in 14 generations, or 420 years, Israel would have grown from 70 men to 573,440 men. Israel was in Egypt for 430 years. Add some more men over the next 10 years and you would get very close to the total of men in the first census in the wilderness. Despite Israel being persecuted by Pharaoh during their time in Egypt, Exodus 1:7 says, “But the people of Israel were fruitful and increased greatly; they multiplied and grew exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them.” Indeed, the people of Israel were very fruitful, doubling every generation, while they were persecuted in Egypt.
But, Israel was delivered from Egypt. Israel was free from its persecutor. But, Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years because they were disobedient to God and were constantly grumbling and complaining against God, Moses, and Aaron. And, this is despite the fact that Israel had the tabernacle, Jesus, with them this whole time.
However, the tribes that made up the men able to go to war counted in the first and second census camped at a distance from the tabernacle. At least the distance was far enough that the Levites camped between the tabernacle and the people of Israel. Between their camping at a distance and their constant grumbling and complaining, it’s easy to think that Israel was not connected to Jesus during their wilderness wandering.
John 14:4-5 says, “As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…for apart from me you can do nothing.” Israel was not connected to the vine. They were not fruitful like they were in Egypt, even though they had freedom from their persecutor.
1,820 FEWER PEOPLE IN THE 2ND CENESUS
What could possibly be important about this? Honestly, I’m not really sure.
But, something that stood out to me while searching the scriptures is that the age of Lamech when he had Noah. Genesis 5:28-29 says, “When Lamech had lived 182 years, he fathered a son and called his name Noah, saying, ‘Out of the ground that the Lord has cursed, this one shall bring us relief from our work and from the painful toil of our hands.'”
The name Lamech is thought to mean for lowering, for humiliation. He fathered Noah when he was 182 years old. Noah was the 10th man. Genesis 6:9 says that “Noah was righteous man, blameless in his generation.” Out of the one who was lowered or was humiliated came one who was blameless in his generations. The ground had been cursed by Noah would bring relief.
Now, Israel lost 1,820 people in the wildnerness between the first and second census. But, 1,820 is 182 times 10. Could the number of people lost in the wilderness be related to Lamech’s age when he had Noah and the number 10?
In the Bible, the number 10 signifies the law, testimony, responsibility, and completeness of order. Could the fact that Israel lost 1,820 in the wilderness be symbolic of their being lowered or humiliated by their disobedience to the law, the ten commandments, that received in the wilderness? They grumbled and complained the whole way, even though they had the tabernacle, a picture of Christ and the place of God’s presence, with them the whole time.
TRIBES ON THE SOUTH LOSE PEOPLE IN THE WILDERNESS
Based on where they camped around the tabernacle, only the group of three tribes camped on the south side of the tabernacle lost people in total between the first and the second census.
Psalm 75:6-7 says, “For not from the east or from the west and not from the wilderness comes lifting up, but it is from God who executes judgment, putting down one and lifting up another.” The wilderness was south of Israel. Therefore, these verses say that lifting up, or promotion, does not come from the east, west, south. Rather, it comes from the north. This is where God executes his judgment from. Judgment is executed from the throne. Therefore, God’s throne is in the north. Therefore, south is the direction away from God’s throne.
Could it be that the tribes in the south were the only group to lose people the second census in total because they symbolically were the people that went away from God’s throne, that disobeyed his law? It’s an intriguing possibility when you consider the section above. Many of the numbers seem to be speaking about disobedience to Christ, the tabernacle in the midst of Israel while they wandered in the wilderness.
These are just a few of my observations. Ideas that were running through the mind as I asked the Holy Spirit to show me what the census was about. And, I haven’t even gotten to the fact that the Levites gained 1,000 men between the first and second census.
So, I am left with more questions that answers right now about how we see. Jesus in the second census. But, one day the Holy Spirit will reveal Jesus here.
TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 22-24
Numbers 22 through 24 recounts Balak’s attempt to get Balaam to curse the people of Israel. But, while Balaam was going with the princes of Moab to meet Balak, “The angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as his adversary.”
Who is the angel of the Lord? What does it mean that the angel of the Lord took his stand in the way as an adversary?
JESUS IS THE ANGEL OF THE LORD
The angel of the Lord makes many appearances in the Old Testament. The first time the angel of the Lord appears is in Genesis 16. In this chapter, he meets Hagar, a Gentile woman, at a well in the wilderness. Hagar had been looked on with contempt and dealt harshly with by Sarai. After Hagar fled, the angel of the Lord met her.
The angel of the Lord appears a second time when Abraham is just about to sacrifice his son Isaac in Genesis 22. The angel of the Lord calls from heaven to Abraham. Typically, angels go to meet men. But, the angel of the Lord is able to call from heaven. The angel of the Lord speaks of himself as God.
In Exodus 3, the angel of the Lord appears to Moses in a burning bush. Again, the angel of the Lord equates himself with God. He tells Moses his name is I Am That I Am.
There are several other appearances of the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament. Each time he does things that are very much like Jesus. This shows us that the angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Jesus. It’s fascinating to see that Jesus was actively involved in the creation all throughout the Bible and not just the New Testament.
THE ANGEL OF THE LORD TAKES A STAND AGAINST BALAAM
Jesus, the angel of the Lord, shows up in Numbers 22. He stands in the way against Balaam, who was being courted by Balak to curse the people of Israel.
The angel of the Lord stands in the road with a drawn sword. But, Balaam doesn’t see him. Only his donkey sees the angel of the Lord. So, the donkey turns out of the road and goes into a field. Balaam strikes the donkey to turn her back into the road.
Now, Balaam and the donkey are going down a narrow path between vineyards and the angel of the Lord takes a stand in the way again. While Balaam doesn’t see the angel of the Lord, the donkey does and presses Balaam’s foot against a wall. So, Balaam strikes the donkey a second time.
At this time, the angel of the Lord went ahead of Balaam and his donkey. The angel of the Lord stood in a narrow place. The place was so narrow there was no way to turn to the left of the right. Therefore, when the donkey sees the angel of the Lord this time, she just lays down in the path. Balaam strikes the donkey a third time. Bu, the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey so she could ask Balaam why he was striking her.
It was at this point that the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes so that he could see the angel of the Lord standing in the way with a sword drawn in his hand. The Lord tells Balaam that the donkey had seen him these three times. If she had not turned aside, then the angel of the Lord would have killed Balaam.
JESUS TAKES A STAND AGAINST YOUR OPPOSITION
I love this picture of Jesus standing against that which opposes us. Repeatedly, Jesus kept moving into the way of Balaam to turn Balaam the direction Jesus wanted him to go. Because Jesus knew the plans of Balaam, he was even able to get out in front of Balaam, forcing him into a place where he couldn’t turn to the right or the left. Eventually, Jesus let Balaam go with the princes of Moab. But, Balaam was not able to speaks curses over Israel. God wouldn’t allow it. The Lord took a stand against Israel’s opposition and turned the opposition so that he spoke blessings instead of curses.
Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” In this story, Israel was called according to God’s purpose. We see God working out for Israel’s good what Balak and Balaam planned for evil . It’s just like Joseph said to his brothers in Genesis 50:20, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good.”
Romans 8:31, 33, 35 goes on to say, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”
God is for you. Therefore, the angel of the Lord took a stand in the way against Israel’s opposition. Jesus does the same for us. He takes a stand in the way of our opposition. But, while the Old Testament pictures the opposition as other people, in this case Balaam and Balak, look at what Paul says. When Paul rhetorically asks what can separate us from God he never mentions people.
Ephesians 6:10-13 says, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”
Israel’s enemies were nations and peoples in the Old Testament. But, Israel’s enemies are only a picture, a metaphor, of our real enemies. Paul says we don’t fight against flesh and blood, people. We fight against spiritual enemies. How do we fight? Just like the angel of the Lord in Numbers 22. We stand, but we stand in his strength with his armor upon us.
The angel of the Lord stood in Balaam’s way with a sword drawn. The armor God tells us to put on so that we can stand has a sword too. Ephesians 6:17 tells us to take “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Our sword is not a physical sword of the flesh. Our sword is of the Spirit. Our sword is the word of God. The word of God is Jesus. Jesus is our actual sword.
How do we wield our sword. Ephesians 6:18 says we wield our sword by “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”
It’s so clear in the New Testament that our battle is spiritual. We are not to fight other people. We are to fight against all of our own lusts – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. We are to fight against all of our own wrong desires. We are to fight against every wrong idea we have of God in our own minds that lead us to disobey Jesus. That is our Balaam that the angel of the Lord takes a stand against in the way with a drawn sword.
Paul explains in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.”
Balaam is a picture of the arguments and lofty opinions that are against the knowledge of God in our own minds. The angel of the Lord took a stand against Balaam. If Balaam wasn’t turned aside by the donkey, then the angel of the Lord would have killed him.
But, this doesn’t mean Jesus takes a stand, ready to kill people with a literal sword. No, Balaam represents every argument and lofty opinion against God in our own minds. Balaam represents the strongholds in our minds that need to be destroyed. Jesus, as the angel of the Lord, takes a stand with the sword drawn, with divine power, to destroy all of of our thoughts that are against him. That is what Jesus is taking a stand against and ready to kill if they do not give way to him.
Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”
The Bible is not the word of God. The Bible is not alive. Jesus is. Jesus is the word of God. He is alive and active. A physical sword is not alive an active. A physical sword can only separate flesh. But, Jesus is the living and active sword that can separate even between the soul and the spirit. He can separate what is of the earth and what is heaven in us. He can separate the flesh from the spirit in us. Jesus can do this because he knows the thoughts and intentions of hearts.
Jesus takes a stand against your opposition with a sword drawn. That opposition is every wrong argument, idea, and lofty opinion that is against Jesus. Let us stand with Jesus, in his armor, with our sword of the Spirit, the word of God, drawn. Let us pray at all times in the Spirit so that we can kill, put to death, crucify our flesh with its passions and desires.
TODAY’S READING : NUMBERS 19-21
During its wilderness wandering, Israel got water from a rock on two separate occasions. The first time Israel got water from a rock was at the beginning of its journey. The second time Israel got water from a rock was near the end of its journey, nearly 40 years later.
This creates a lot of questions in my mind. Why are there two accounts of Israel getting water from a rock? What are the differences between the two accounts? What are we to learn from the differences between the two accounts? How do they speak of Jesus?
Perhaps the first thing we need to know to understand these two accounts is that the rock is a picture of Jesus. In 1 Corinthians 10:4, Paul says, “All drank from the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ.”
Paul is directly speaking to Israel’s time in the wilderness. He says everyone in the wilderness had the same spiritual drink. They all drank from the rock. Paul says that the rock followed them. So, we know that the rock in the first account is the same as the rock in the second account. Paul explicitly says that the rock was Jesus.
Paul has told us that we drink from the rock that is Jesus. So, what is the water from the rock that we drink?
The answer is in 1 Corinthians 12:13, which says, “For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink of one Spirit.” The water we drink from Jesus, the rock, is the Holy Spirit.
In John 4, Jesus meets a woman at a well. He tells the woman that if she had asked him for a drink then he would have given her living water. Jesus says to her, “Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Drinking from the water, the Holy Spirit, that Jesus gives is how we receive eternal life.
In John 7, Jesus is at the feast of tabernacles, which is a ultimately a picture of his second coming. John 7:37-39 says, “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, “Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”‘ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.”
Like Paul, John specifically says that the water we drink from Jesus, the rock, is the Holy Spirit.
Further, I believe John’s account of Jesus at the feast of tabernacles is critical to understanding the two accounts of getting water from the rock. Notice John quotes Jesus as saying that the scripture has said out of our hearts will flow rivers of living water. It could be that Jesus is referencing three proverbs.
“The mouth of the righteous is a fountain of life, but the mouth of the wicked conceals violence.” – Proverbs 10:11
“The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” – Proverbs 18:5
“The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out.” – Proverbs 20:5
Keep these verses in mind when we look at the second time Israel gets water from the rock.
GETTING WATER BY STRIKING THE ROCK
The first account of Israel getting water from the rock is found in Exodus 17:1-7. I believe this is a picture of Jesus’ first coming where we got water from his crucifixion, his being struck.
This account takes place sometime after the 15th day of the second month since Israel left Egypt. I haven’t worked out the dates, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if this takes place very near the time of Pentecost, which was when the Holy Spirit was first poured out on those that believed in Jesus.
In Exodus 17, Israel has just left the wilderness of Sin, which was a place of pressing. Israel was now camped at Rephidim. The root word for Rephidim means to support or refresh. This pictures that the water that Israel will get from the rock in this account supports and refreshes them. But, the root word for Rephidim also means to spread out or to extend. When the Holy Spirit was first poured out in Acts 2, He was poured out on the 120 disciples who spoke to Jews from all over the world about the mighty works of God. These Jews from all over the world returned home spreading out the message of what God had done in and through Jesus.
Now, Israel found no water to drink in Rephidim. So, they quarreled with Moses. The people said “Give us water to drink.” Moses responds by asking why they are quarreling with him and testing God. So, the people thirsted and grumbled against Moses. They ask Moses why he brought them out of Egypt to kill them, their children, and their livestock with thirst.
This brings to my mind the crucifixion of Jesus. The Jews had been brought out of the city to Golgotha to see Jesus crucified. They are thirsty for their own kingdom, which they have not had since they were exiled into Babylon. They thought Jesus would be the king to restore the kingdom. But, now they have been brought out to watch their king die. They start quarreling with Jesus on the cross to come down and prove that he is God. In a sense, they were saying to Jesus, “Did you just bring us out here so we cold die of our thirst for the kingdom?”
Moses cries out to God, asking what he should. God tells Moses, “Take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile.” The first time we see this staff is when Moses meets Jesus in the burning bush in Exodus 3 and 4. In Exodus 4, God tells Moses to take his staff and throw it on the ground. The staff turns into a serpent. The second time we see this staff is in Exodus 7. God tells Moses to meet Pharaoh at the Nile with the staff that he turned into a serpent. God tells Moses to strike the Nile with the staff and turn the water into blood. So, this staff became a serpent and turned water, or life, into blood, or death.
Back in Exodus 17, God tells Moses that he will stand on the rock at Horeb. Horeb means to dry up, to be dried or to lay in ruins or lay waste. Speaking of Jesus on the cross, John 19:28 says, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was no finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst.'” Jesus was the dry rock on the cross. The Father was there with him until Jesus yielded up his spirit and truly became the dry place.
Then Gold told Moses to take the staff that became a serpent and turned the water of the Nile into blood, the staff of death and strike the rock so that water will come out of it for the people to drink. Moses did exactly this in the sight of the elders of Israel. John 19:34 says, “But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” Jesus, the rock, was struck and water came out for the people to drink. Matthew 27:41 says that the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders mocked Jesus when he was on the cross. Just as Moses struck the rock in front of the elders of Israel, Jesus was struck in front of the elders of his day to give the people water to drink.
Moses called the name of that place Massah, which means testing, and Meribah, which means quarreling. It was at the cross that Israel quarreled with Jesus. It was at the cross that Israel tested Jesus’ love for them. They dared him to prove to them that he was God by coming down from the cross. But, his love for them was too strong.
Notice that in the gospel of John the first time Jesus mentions drinking of the spiritual water, the living water, that he gives is found in John 4. This is the chapter where Jesus meets the Samaritan, a Gentile, woman at the well. this story is about Jesus meeting his Gentile bride, the church.
Not coincidentally, Jesus’ first giving of spiritual water in John 4 occurs near the time of the Passover. Just after his encounter with the Samaritan woman, Jesus is speaking with the disciples about the spiritual harvest. But, he compares the spiritual harvest to the natural harvest. In John 4:35, Jesus says, “There are yet four months, then the harvest comes. Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.” Jesus is telling the disciples that it is four months until the physical harvest, but the spiritual harvest is right now. Four months until the physical harvest puts Jesus’ first giving of spiritual water right about the time of the Passover.
Therefore, the first instance of Israel getting water from the rock by striking it is a picture of Jesus, the rock, giving us the Holy Spirit, the water, to drink when his side was pierced on the cross.
GETTING WATER BY SPEAKING FOR THE ROCK
The second account of getting water from a rock is found in Numbers 20:1-13. I believe this is a picture of Jesus’ second coming where we get water from the rock and “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”
We are told that Israel came into the wilderness of Zin in the first month and the people stayed in Kadesh. The first month is the time of the Passover, the month of Jesus’ crucifixion. However, Israel did not recognize Jesus as the Messiah at his first coming.
I am not definitive on the following. But, for Israel, Jesus’ second coming will be his first coming to them. Could this be why this getting water from the rock is associated with the first month? I think this ties in with the living water Jesus speaks of in John 7.
As I mentioned above, John 7 is connected with the feast of tabernacles. This is the time of Jesus’ second coming. Therefore, I think this second getting water from the rock is tied to Jesus’ second coming. I think the details of the second account in Numbers 20 will help show this.
Zin likely means thorn or barb in Hebrew. Numbers 33:55 says, “But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then those of them whom you let remain shall be barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall trouble you in the land where you dwell.” Even though Jesus has come, we still have barbs, or planks, in our eyes and thorns in our sides. But, at his second coming, all thorns, all sin, will be taken away.
Interestingly, Job 5:5 says, “The hungry eat his harvest, and he takes it even out of thorns, and the thirsty pant after his wealth.” The hungry are getting their food in the wilderness of thorns. But, the thirsty pant for the true wealth, the true riches, of Jesus, which is the full outpouring of the knowledge of the God as we and the earth are completely filled with the Holy Spirit.
When Jesus comes a second time, these barbs and thorns will be taken away and we will drink fully of the Spirit. Indeed, we will dwell in Kadesh, which means to be holy, to be set apart from common use – just like Israel dwelt in Kadesh in the second account of getting water from the rock.
Unlike the first getting of water from the rock, in this second account the people assembled themselves together. Zechariah 12 and 14 prophesies about a future time when all the nations gather against Israel. Psalm 2 talks about the nations raging and plotting a vain thing against the Lord and his Anointed. I think this might be the picture we are seeing here as the whole congregation gather against Moses.
So, the people quarrel with Moses, wishing that they had died with their brothers before the Lord. The congregation was speaking of the men of war more than 20 years old that died in the wilderness, failing to reach the promised land. The congregation asks Moses, “Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here?” This congregation wasn’t like the first. They called themselves the people of the Lord.
They even accused God of bringing them to this evil place. But, not only does God not lead us into evil, he doesn’t even lead us into temptation. In Matthew 6:13, Jesus tells us to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” And, James 1:13 says, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”
The congregation accused God of bringing them to a place without figs, vines, or pomegranates. However, God had them send spies into the promised land. From their trip into the promised land, the spies brought back exactly these three types of fruit. God had showed them the land he was giving them that had these fruits, but the congregation had rejected it.
So, Moses and Aaron went into the tent meeting to hear from God. God told Moses, “Take the staff.” This was not the same staff Moses used in Exodus 17 when he struck the rock to get water the first time. No, this was Aaron’s staff from Numbers 17:1-11.
In Numbers 16, the people grumbled against Moses and Aaron. So, God had Moses get a staff from each tribe, write their names on them, and put them in the tent of meeting before the testimony. The man whose staff sprouted is the one whom God would choose to lead. The next day, when Moses went into the tent of testimony, Aaron’s staff had budded. Aaron’s staff had put forth buds, produced blossoms, and bore ripe almonds. That sounds like us in John 15 when we, the branches, are connected to Jesus, the vine. We produce fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. So, God told Moses to put Aaron’s staff back before the testimony as sign for the rebels.
The staff Moses used in the first getting of water from the rock was a staff that became a serpent and turned the Nile to blood. It was a staff of death. But, Aaron’s dry staff had produced. Aaron’s staff had gone from death to life. This was the staff Moses was to use the second time to get water from the rock.
Moses was to tell the rock to yield its water before the eyes of the congregation. God said this was how Moses was to get water out of the rock and give the congregation a drink. Instead of striking the rock, Moses was told to tell the rock to yield water. In verse 8, the Hebrew word for tell also means speak. And, there is a preposition missing in English that is present in the Hebrew. This preposition can mean for. So, the instruction given by God to Moses could be read that he was to speak for the rock. In a way, this makes more sense because we don’t tell Christ, the rock, what to do. But, we do speak for him, or on his behalf. We testify and prophesy about him. This is what all of the apostles and disciples did.
But, Moses disobeys God. First, he calls the people rebels. This was his how he felt, but it is not what God told him to say. We must remember that Moses is a picture of the law, and it is the law that condemns.
Moses disobeys a second time when he says “Shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” Moses was not to bring water out of the rock. He was to speak for the rock, and the rock would yield its water to the people to drank. The giving of the water was the rock’s responsibility. And, it’s Jesus’ responsibility to give the Spirit. In 1 Corinthians 3:6-7, Paul says, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” Moses was nothing. The rock was the giver of the water. In effect, Moses, the law, was taking God’s glory. This is what the flesh always wants to do.
Then Moses disobeys a third time by striking the rock twice. I don’t think this means that Moses struck the rock two times right here. Rather, it means he struck the rock once back in Exodus 17 and a second time in Numbers 20. However, Romans 6:10 says, “For the death he [Jesus] died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.” Also, Hebrews 7:27 says, “He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”
The author of Hebrews speaks directly to Moses striking the rock, or crucifying Christ, a second time. Hebrews 6:4-6 says, “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt.” And, Hebrews 9:28 says, “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him.”
Moses disobeyed repeatedly in Numbers 20. He didn’t believe the testimony of God. Therefore, Moses could not enter the promised land. God said, “Because you did not believe me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people Israel therefore you shall not bring them in.”
What is the testimony of God? In 1 John 5:11-12, John says, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the son of God does not have life.” See, Moses took the staff that was life and treated it like the staff that was death. God is life, but Moses didn’t believe the testimony about him and treated God as if he has death in him.
Even though Moses disobeyed, water came out of the rock abundantly. Moses is a picture of the law. The law through the flesh disobeys God at every turn. Moses tried to take matters into his own hands. So do we when we are under the law and walking in the flesh. Moses may have been more meek than any person on the face of the earth, but here we see his violence come out. All people apart from Christ are violent no matter how meek they appear.
THE FIRST AND SECOND GETTING OF WATER FROM THE ROCK
The first getting of water from the rock was God’s down payment of his Spirit to us. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1:22 that God “has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” And, Ephesians 1:13-14 says, “In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire the possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
But, in the end, at his second coming, Jesus will get the victory. His life, his Spirit, will come forth abundantly. Jesus says in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
Perhaps the best statement about the water we will get from the rock the second time, Jesus at his second coming, is Paul’s in Ephesians 1:16-21.
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come.”
TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 16-18
Do you believe that God gives life or death?
Is God one or the other? Does one exclude the other?
Or, do you believe God gives both life and death? Can God be both life and death?
THE OLD TESTAMENT: GOD IS LIFE AND DEATH
The Old Testament clearly presents God as one who gives life. Genesis 2:7 says, “Then God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
Isaiah 42:5 says that it is the Lord “who gives breath to the people on it and the spirit to those who walk in it.”
In Job 33:4, Elihu understands that “the Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”
In Job 12:10, Job says, “But ask the beasts, and they will teach you; the birds of the heavens, and they will tell you; or the bushes of the earth, and they will teach you; and the fish of the sea will declare yo you. Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every living thing and the breath of all mankind.”
But, later in Job’s speech we detect the view that God not only gives life, but he takes it too. God is life and death. In Job 13:15, Job says, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him.” The Hebrew word for slay literally means kill. Job and others saw God as giving life. But, they also saw God as one who kills. In addition to giving life, God gave death.
MOSES: GOD IS THE GIVER OF THE LAW AND DEATH
When we read through the life of Moses, we see God giving of the law, God repeatedly giving death. Moses depicts God as one who will kill for the slightest violation of the law.
Pick up sticks on the Sabbath and God will strike you down.
In the rebellion of Korah in Numbers 16, Moses writes that God even killed all the children of the household of Korah and the households of those that rebelled with him.
Moses received from God a revelation of the tabernacle. He was told to pattern it after a heavenly reality. But, if you attempt to come to the tabernacle when you were unclean or otherwise should not, then God will destroy you.
This was certainly the message communicated by Moses to Israel. Numbers 17:12-13 says, “And the people of Israel said to Moses, “Behold, we perish, we are undone, we all undone. Everyone who comes near, who comes near to the tabernacle of the Lord, shall die. Are we all to perish?”
The tabernacle was the place where God’s presence dwelt. But, Moses communicated to Israel that if you came near the tabernacle then you would perish. Come near to God and you will die. Not only would you die, but you would be undone. The Hebrew word for undone literally means to destroy. Come near the tabernacle, the place of God’s presence, and God will destroy you.
But, is God really the one who gives life and gives death? Or, did Moses have a veiled view of who God really is?
LISTEN TO JESUS NOT MOSES
In the New Testament, we are told that not everything the Old Testament said about God was correct. We know this because of the transfiguration of Jesus.
In Matthew 17:1-8, Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him up a mountain. Jesus was transfigured in front of them. His face shone like the sun and his clothes became white as light. Then, Moses and Elijah appeared next to Jesus and were talking with him. Peter said they should make a tent for all three of them. Peter wanted to elevate Jesus to the status of Moses and Elijah. He wanted to put them on equal footing.
But, Peter couldn’t even get the words out of his mouth before God spoke the truth to him. Matthew 17:5 says, “He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.'”
Peter, James, and John fell down on their faces in fear. But, Jesus told them to rise and have no fear. When the three of them did rise and lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus. Moses and Elijah had disappeared.
God is telling us that we should listen to Jesus and Jesus only. Not everything that we find in Moses, the law, and Elijah, the prophets, is the truth about God. Jesus is the truth about God.
We can only begin to read Moses and Elijah, the law and the prophets, clearly when we read them through the lens of the crucified and resurrected Jesus.
2 Corinthians 3:12-15 says, “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.”
The Old Testament presents a veiled view of God. He could not be seen clearly and distinctly. But, in Christ, the crucified and resurrected Jesus, the veil is removed. Now, we can read Moses and see what was really God and what was not God. The New Testament presents the distinction clearly.
In the next chapter, Paul writes further about those who still read Moses through a veil. 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 says, “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”
The god of this world, Satan, blinds the minds of those who don’t believe God and his testimony of and through Jesus. Satan keeps people reading Moses through a veil. Satan keeps people from seeing God for who he really is.
So does God give life and death?
Does God kill and destroy those who come to the tabernacle and the Israelites thought in Numbers 17?
The New Testament provides a clear answer.
SATAN GIVES DEATH
Hebrews 2:14 says that Satan, the devil, is “the one who has the power of death.”
In John 10:10, Jesus says that “the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” It wasn’t God that would kill and destroy those that came to the tabernacle. That was Satan. He is the thief that steals, kills, and destroys.
Romans 5:12 says that death came into the world through sin. Romans 7:8 says that apart from the law, sin is dead. According to 1 Corinthians 15:56, the law gives power to sin. And, sin is the sting of death. When we read the Old Testament without the veil, we see Satan bringing death and destruction by use of the law to give sin its power.
In John 8:44, Jesus says that Satan was a murderer from the beginning. But, in John 14:30, Jesus says that the ruler of this world, Satan, has nothing in him. Jesus has no death, no murder in him.
It is Satan alone that kills and destroys. Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us that Jesus came to destroy those works of Satan so that we would no longer fear death and be held in slavery to it.
GOD GIVES LIFE
Have you received the testimony of men, Moses and Elijah, or God?
1 John 5:9-12 says, “If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
The testimony of God is that he gave us eternal life through Jesus. God gives life. If you don’t believe this testimony, then you make God a liar. To say God gives death is to say Satan has a part of him. This is a lie. If you believe this, then you make God a liar.
At the end of his letter, John writes in 1 John 1:20, “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.”
Jesus has given us understanding. We don’t have understanding through Moses. Through Jesus we know him who is true, God. Jesus is the true God. Jesus is eternal life. Jesus, God, is life.
God cannot be life and death at the same time. One excludes the other. John 1:4-5 says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” And, 1 John 1:5 says, “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” God is light. Therefore, there is no darkness in him. The same is true of life and death. God is life, and there is no death in him at all.
God gives life. He does not kill, murder, or destroy.
In John 5:40, Jesus says there are those who “refuse to come to me that you may have life.” Jesus is the tabernacle that dwelt among us. Israel thought that to go near the tabernacle meant you would be killed and destroyed. But, Jesus shows that we are to go to the tabernacle for life. It’s just the opposite of what Israel learned from Moses.
In John 10:10, Jesus says that Satan, the thief, comes only to steal, kill, and destroy. But, in the very same verse, Jesus says, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”
How do we miss this? How do we miss that Jesus, God, is life? How do we miss that death – killing, murdering, and destroying – is from Satan? We read Moses through a veil.
From now on, let us read the Old Testament through the crucified and resurrected Jesus. Let us read Moses without a veil so that we can clearly see the God gives, and only gives, life. There is no death in him.
TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 14-15
“Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Found in Matthew 4:19, these are the first words that Jesus directly spoke to any of his disciples. Not coincidentally, Matthew records Jesus’ command to “follow me” immediately after the first words of Jesus’ ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
In the gospels, there are 22 verses were Jesus says, “Follow me.”
Whenever Jesus finds a disciple, he says, “Follow me.”
To find your life, you must lose it.
Jesus says, “Follow me.”
In Matthew 10:38-39, Jesus says, “And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
To come after Jesus, you must take up your cross.
Jesus says, “Follow me.”
In Matthew 16:24-25, Jesus says, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his for my sake will find it.”
To inherit eternal life, you must sell all that you have.
Jesus says, “Follow me.”
Mark 10:21 says, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
To not walk in darkness, you need the light of life.
Jesus says, “Follow me.”
In John 8:12, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
To believe, you must be a sheep that hears the shepherd’s voice.
Jesus says, “Follow me.”
In John 10:25-28, Jesus says, “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give eternal life, and they will never perish, and no on will snatch them out of my hand.”
In order for the Father to honor you, you must serve Jesus.
Jesus says, “Follow me.”
In John 12:26, Jesus says, “If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.”
“FOLLOW ME” INTO DEATH TO HAVE LIFE
In Numbers 13, Moses sends 12 spies into the land of Canaan to see if it is as God promised. In the land, the spies found a single cluster of grapes so large that two men carried it on a pole. They also found pomegranates and figs.
After 40 days, the spies brought back with them the fruit of the land to show Israel. In Numbers 13:27, the spies said, “We came to the land which you sent us. It flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.” There was life in the land.
But, there was a problem. There were people in the land who were strong. They were giants. Ten of the spies said it “is a land that devours its inhabitants.” The ten spies knew they were going to die in that land. Those 10 spies caused the whole nation of Israel to grumble. In Numbers 14:2-3, the whole congregation says, “Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would that we had died in this wilderness! Why is the Lord bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and out little ones will become a prey. Would it not be better for us to go back t o Egypt?
However, two spies saw something different. These two spies focused on the fruit and not the giants in the land. These two spies focused on the life and not the death. In Numbers 13:30, Caleb said, “Let us go up at once and occupy it, for we are well able to overcome it.”
Why was Caleb able to say this? The answer is in Numbers 14:24, which says, “But my servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit and has followed me fully, I will bring into the land into which he went, and his descendants shall possess it.”
There was death in the land. But, there was also life. Caleb heard the call of God. He heard God say, “Follow me.” Therefore, Caleb went into death. He picked up his cross. He lost his life so that he and his descendants after him could possess God’s life.
Earlier in Numbers 1-2, we read about all the men of war age 20 years old and upward. All these men grumbled against God. They did not hear God calling, “Follow me.” Therefore, they could not enter the land of Canaan. But, there were two exceptions – Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.
“FOLLOW ME”: 2 COMMANDS VS. 10 LAWS
10 vs. 2
Moses gave ten laws on tablets of stone in the old covenant. Jesus summed every law up in two commandments that are written on our hearts in the new covenant.
In Matthew 19:16-22, the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he had to do to have eternal life. Jesus told him to keep the commandments. So, the rich young ruler asked which ones. Then, Jesus basically listed the last six laws of the ten laws Moses gave. These six laws pertained to how we treat others while the first four pertained to our relationship with God.
The rich young ruler said he had done all those. He asked Jesus what he was still lacking. And, Jesus said sell everything you have and “Come, follow me.” It’s easy to see this passage focusing on material possessions and earthly wealth. But, to sell everything you have means to sell your whole life. Lose your life. Pick up your cross and deny yourself. The rich young ruler was unwilling to sell everything he had to follow the first four laws of Moses.
But, isn’t it interesting that Jesus’ initial response was six of the laws from Moses? The rich young ruler was doing those but knew he didn’t have eternal life. He knew it wasn’t the law, the ten commandments, that would lead him to eternal life.
In Luke 10:25-28, Jesus was asked by a lawyer what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus asked the lawyer, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” Notice carefully what Jesus asks the lawyer. Jesus asks him how does he read, or understand, the law. He doesn’t ask him simply to recite the law. Jesus asks the lawyer to tell him what the law means.
The lawyer answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your should and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” That is exactly the two commandments that Jesus fulfilled in his life and exactly the two commandments that Jesus told us to follow. Jesus said to the lawyer, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.”
Entering the land of Canaan is a picture of entering into eternal life. Jesus tells us that we enter life by following his two commandments of perfect love for God and neighbor and not by following Moses’ ten laws.
“FOLLOW ME”: 2 SPIES VS. 10 SPIES
Ten spies gave a bad report that caused the whole nation to grumble against God. But, two spies saw the fruit of the land. To enjoy the fruit of this land, these two spies were willing to die. These two spies knew the words of Jesus, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his for my sake will find it.”
What two tribes were these spies from?
Caleb was from the tribe of Judah. And, Joshua was from the tribe of Ephraim. Recall the sentences spoken over Judah and Ephraim when they were born.
Judah – “I will praise the Lord.”
Ephraim – “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”
Do you see what God is saying through the chiefs of these tribes that were willing to go into the land?
I will praise the Lord because he gave me life when I picked up my cross and heard his call, “Follow me.”
The chiefs from two tribes entered the promised land, eternal life, while the chiefs from 10 tribes died in the wilderness. All the people that entered the land, the wives and the children, followed the two chiefs that were willing to fall by the sword. All that people that entered Canaan, eternal life, followed Caleb and Joshua. Caleb and Joshua are a picture of Jesus.
“FOLLOW ME”: CALEB THE SON OF JEPHUNNEH
Caleb means faithful servant.
In Matthew 3:17, when Jesus was baptized “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.'”
In Matthew 17:5, when Jesus was on the mount of transfiguration and Moses and Elijah disappeared “a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.'”
Jesus, the beloved Son, is a faithful servant to the Father.
As a faithful servant, Caleb gave a good report about the land of Canaan. He was a faithful witness to what he saw.
Revelation 1:5 says that Jesus is the faithful witness. Jesus truly revealed the Father, the God who is life.
Jephunneh is an interesting name. The root word that forms the name is pane, which means face. As a verb, it means to turn to. Pane is the root word for pinnah. One of the meanings of pinnah is cornerstone. The “Je” at the beginning of the name is a syllable found in many names that means the Lord or of the Lord. So, a possible meaning of Jephunneh is the Lord of the cornerstone.
Caleb is the faithful servant, the son of the Lord of the cornerstone.
Caleb is a picture of Jesus we are to follow.
“FOLLOW ME”: JOSHUA THE SON OF NUN
The name Joshua comes from the root word sawa, which means to call for help. His name also has the prefix that means the Lord or of the Lord. So, Joshua’s name means to call to the Lord for help or the Lord saves.
Nun is both a Hebrew letter and word. It means to propagate or increase. The pictograph, the symbol, for the letter nun is a sprouting seed. One possible translation of “the son of Nun” is “the son of life.”
Joshua gives us another beautiful picture of Jesus. Here we see Jesus as the Lord that the saves, the son of life.
Notice too that Joshua was Moses’ assistant. He was always with Moses – on Mt. Sinai when he received the ten commandments, in God’s presence in the tent of meeting, etc. Moses represents the law. Joshua represents the Lord that saves. Moses dies, unable to take the people into the land of Canaan, eternal life. But, Joshua, the Lord that saves, the son of Life, leads the people into eternal life.
“FOLLOW ME”: FALL BY THE SWORD
Recall that the nation of Israel was reluctant to go into the land of Canaan because they thought that God was bringing them there to “fall by the sword.” They refused to go in because of this. But, Caleb and Joshua were willing to walk right into that sword.
What is the picture here?
Canaan is a picture of eternal life. To enter eternal life, Jesus says, “Follow me.” But, to do so we have to pick up our cross, deny ourselves, lose our lives so that we can find them.
We need to face the sword that is the land of Canaan willingly. But, that sword is Jesus. By falling under him, we can partake of all the fruit of eternal life.
In Hebrews 4, we read that Joshua actually failed to take Israel into the true rest of God. It was just a picture of what is possible for us. But, it wasn’t the true rest as there still remains a Sabbath for the people of God. Hebrews 4:11-13 says, “Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. For the word of God [Jesus] is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give an account.”
Did you notice that the writer said the word of God that divides soul and spirit is a he – “no creature is hidden from his sight?”
Jesus, the Word of God, living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, separates all that is of the earth in us from all that is of heaven. It’s a profound truth that God creates by separating. Just look at Genesis 1 and John 1.
So, let us hear the words of Jesus, “Follow me.”
Let us willingly come to Jesus, the Word of God. Let us fall under the sword so that we can lose our life to find his in us.
TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 11-13
What does it mean to be meek?
- Enduring injury with patience and without resentment
- Deficient in spirit and courage
- Not violent or strong
- Not proud or haughty: not arrogant or assertive
- Reflecting, expressing, or offered in a spirit of deference of submission
- A. ranking low in hierarchy or scale; B. not costly or luxurious
MOSES: OUR MODEL FOR MEEKNESS?
Numbers 12:3 says, “Now the man Moses was very meek, more than all people who were on the face of the earth.”
The Hebrew word translated meek is anaw. It literally means bowed. Therefore, anaw also can be translated humble.
When you read the actual definitions of meek and humble, and then you read with the help of the Holy Spirit what Moses did, can you truly consider Moses to be our model of meekness?
We should carefully read what Numbers 12:3 says. I believe the scripture that Moses was very meek. However, this statement is qualified. Moses was very meek relative to all the other people on the face of earth. When we look into Moses’ life, then what does this say about all the other people? What does this say about us?
Saying that Moses is meeker than all other people is nothing like saying Moses is meek or Moses is humble. I think many, perhaps the vast majority, of Christians have read Numbers 12:3 as if it said Moses is meek and Moses is humble. Therefore, Christians have patterned their meekness and humility after Moses.
Let’s look at just a little of Moses’ life to see how meek and humble he was. Then, let’s look at someone meeker than Moses that is here that many of us refuse to listen to him.
MOSES WAS VIOLENT
Exodus 2:12 says that Moses killed an Egyptian. We know Moses committed premeditated murder because “he looked this way and that” before striking the Egyptian.
Now, Moses fled and spent 40 years on the back side of the mountain tending sheep. Certainly, God dealt with Moses’ character during this time, which is why Numbers 12:3 can say that Moses was more meek than all other people. Moses may have been very meek, but one who is meek does no violence.
So, was Moses’ violence completely cleansed from his character by God?
Moses’ writing sure doesn’t show that. He was all for stoning to death the unclean. Moses was all for cutting the unclean off from Israel. And, Moses attributed that to God. But, did Moses accurately portray God? I wrote about this in Discerning the Voice of Jesus from that Other Voice and Moses Puts the Unclean Out of the Camp, Jesus Says “Come to Me”.
MOSES WAS PROUD, EXALTING HIMSELF
In Numbers 12, Moses wrote that God heard the complaint against Moses by Miriam and Aaron. So, God called the three of them to the tent of meeting. After the Lord came down and spoke to Miriam and Aaron, Moses wrote in Exodus 12:9, “And the anger of the Lord was kindled against them, and he departed.” According to Moses, God came down, told Miriam and Aaron off, and bailed.
When God departed, Miriam was leprous. In Exodus 12:11, Aaron said to Moses, not God by the way, “Oh, my lord, do not punish us because we have done foolishly and have sinned.” In verse 13, “Moses cried to the Lord, ‘O God, please heal her – please.'” So, Aaron thought Moses was in control of the punishment. And, Moses made it seem so when he begged God to heal Miriam. God got angry, made Miriam leprous, and left, but Moses is the one pleading for Miriam’s healing in forgiveness of her complaint against him? Sure seems like a bit of pride on Moses’ part.
Or, consider what God said to Miriam and Aaron about how he spoke to Moses. In Exodus 12:8, God said “with him I speak mouth to mouth.” After the altar of the tabernacle was dedicated, Numbers 7:89 says, “And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.” To me, this sounds like God speaking to Moses mouth to mouth. Moses could hear God’s voice, and Moses could speak back to God.
But, did God always speak to Moses this way?
No he did not. Exodus 33:11 says, “The the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” Perhaps, the context of this statement will tell us why God no longer spoke to Moses face to face.
Moses used to take the tent and pitch it outside of the camp, far off from the camp. So, whenever Moses went out to the tent to talk with God, all Israel would stand up and watch Moses as he walked through the camp to meet with God. Then, Israel would see the pillar of cloud descend on the tent when Moses entered it. Any chance that there was some part of Moses putting on a show for Israel? Any chance that Moses was proud as he walked through the camp to meet God with everyone watching?
There’s even a subtle statement at the end of Exodus 33:11 that might allude to Moses’ pride. “When Moses turned again into the camp, his assistant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.” Moses would make a show for the people and come back. Joshua stayed in the tent to talk with God.
MOSES DID NOT ENDURE INJURY WITH PATIENCE AND WITHOUT RESENTMENT
In Deuteronomy 27:1, Moses and the elders of Israel, not God, commanded the people, “Keep the whole commandment that I command you today.” Then, Moses separated the people on to two mounts. To the group that did not obey what he commanded, Moses told the Levites to pronounce 12 curses on the people. Moses, not God, pronounced those curses.
In the next chapter, Moses makes it seem like this is God. He tells the people that if they do not obey God then all the curses he had the Levites pronounce in chapter 27 would come upon them. In chapter 28, from verses 15 to 68, Moses goes on a tirade of horrific acts that he states God will to do Israel.
Was God saying these curses or was Moses? I think Moses because Your View of God Is a Reflection of You.
In Numbers 11, Moses got tired of the people complaining to him about the food they had to eat in the wilderness. In Numbers 11:11-15, Moses complained to God, “Why have you dealt ill with your servant? And why have I have not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give them birth, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child,’ to the land that you swore to give their fathers? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me and say, ‘Give us meat, that we may eat.’ I am not able to carry all this people alone; the burden is too heavy for me. If you will treat me like this, kill me at once, if I find favor in your sight, that I may not see my wretchedness.”
Was Moses enduring the complaints of the people with patience and without resentment? Hardly. He told God to kill him, otherwise his wretchedness, literally his evil or wickedness, would be seen. If God didn’t take Moses, then that old man of violence, that old man of murder, was going to come back.
Moses was more meek than all the other people on the face of the earth. But, it’s pretty clear that Moses was not the definition of meek or humble. Therefore, we need to stop looking to Moses as a model for us on how to be meek or humble. Moses is the not the image we should be conformed to.
Therefore, let’s look at someone meeker than Moses that is here – Jesus. Instead of refusing to listen to him, let’s heed God’s words through Moses, fulfilled on the mount of transfiguration, that God would raise up a prophet – “it is to him you shall listen.”
JESUS IS MEEK
Moses constantly drove away those that were unclean. But, in Matthew 11:28-29, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you fill find rest for your souls.”
The word gentle above is the Greek word praus, which means gentle, meek humble. In the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament used in Jesus’ day, praus is the Greek used to say that Moses was very meek. So, Jesus could have said, “For I am meek and lowly in heart.”
Since the name of God is I Am, I always find it very interesting when Jesus says, “I am…” I am is a statement of fact. It is a fact that Jesus is meek.
As the image of the invisible God, Jesus is the model we should use on how to be meek.
JESUS DID NO VIOLENCE
Unlike Moses, Jesus met the definition of meek that is not violent or strong. Isaiah 53 is one the clearest, most important, prophecies of the Messiah, the suffering servant, in the Old Testament. Isaiah 53:9 says that the Messiah “had done no violence.” That’s no violence – as in none, zero, zilch, nada.
Moses murdered a man, but Jesus never did. In fact, Jesus identified Satan as a murderer from the beginning in John 8:44. In John 14:30, Jesus says that the ruler of this world, Satan, is coming and that Satan has nothing in him. In other words, there is nothing of murder in Jesus.
Indeed, when Jesus himself was murdered on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them.”
JESUS HUMBLED HIMSELF AND GOD EXALTED HIM
We saw above that Moses dealt with an issue of pride. More than once, Moses made it seem as though he was more merciful, more gracious, and more forgiving than God. Not so with Jesus. Unlike Moses, Jesus met the definition of meek, or humble, that is nor proud or haughty.
Philippians 2:5-9 says, “Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name.”
When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, perhaps his greatest miracle, he gave the credit to God. In John 11:41-42, Jesus said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” Jesus could have raised Lazarus without saying those words. But, he specifically said those words so that all would know that the Father deserved the glory and not himself. Jesus came to glorify the Father not himself.
JESUS ENDURED INJURY WITH PATIENCE AND WITHOUT RESENTMENT
Moses heaped curses on those that disobeyed his commands. Jesus never did that. Unlike Moses, Jesus met the definition of meek that is to endure injury with patience and without resentment.
In Luke 6:27-28, Jesus said, “But I say to you who hear, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” Moses cursed those that disobeyed. Jesus blessed those that persecuted him. Blessings and cursings are not to come out of the same mouth according to James. But, both came out of Moses’ mouth.
In Numbers 11, we read of Moses frustration with God when the people complained about what they had to eat in the wilderness. Moses asked why “you lay the burden of all this people on me.” But, Jesus bore the burdens of all of our sins in his body on the tree.
Moses asked why God told him to “carry them [Israel] in your bosom, as a nurse carries a nursing child.” But, Jesus says in Matthew 23:37, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”
Moses asked God where he was to get meat to feed the people. Jesus gave us his body, his flesh, as the true bread from heaven that would satiate our hunger.
Moses said he was not able to carry the people alone and that the burden was too heavy for him. But, on the cross, Jesus said, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Jesus bore our sins alone.
Moses defiantly told God that if you are going to treat me like this then kill me now. In the garden, Jesus prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Instead of a defiant declaration asking God to kill him, Jesus willingly submitted himself to the Father and laid down his life for us. Jesus laid his life down. No one took it from him.
Moses may have been very meek, more meek than all the people of the earth.
But, Jesus is meek!
Jesus is the one far more meek than Moses that is here.
Let us listen to him.
TODAY’S READING: NUMBERS 8-11
The Old Testament is chock full of odd little nuggets of information that seem so random and arbitrary in the natural. But, when viewed through the lens of Jesus, the seemingly random requirements of the Old Testament take on great significance. It’s when we view everything through the lens of Jesus that we truly understand that all the scriptures bear witness to Jesus (John 5:39-40 and Luke 24:27, 44).
A great example is Numbers 8:23-26, which says, “And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘This applies to the Levites: from twenty five years old and upward they shall come to do the duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.'”
Why did a Levite start serving at 25 years old? Why did a Levite stop serving at 50 years old? But, the Levite did not stop ministering. From 50 years old on, a Levite continued ministering to his brothers but only by keeping guard. What does that mean?
Let’s first look at what the Levites did. Then, we will look to Jesus to understand the time time of service. Finally, we will see how that applies to us in the body of Christ.
LEVITES SERVE AND KEEP
In Numbers 8:23-26, God gives the Levites two basic tasks: service and keeping guard. Importantly, both functions were done in the tent of meeting. The tent of meeting was not the entire tabernacle but the tent inside the tabernacle that housed the ark of the covenant. The tent of meeting was the place where the presence of God dwelt in the midst of Israel.
The Hebrew word for service in the text is abodah, which means work, enforced labor, service which is rendered, or service of worship. Abodah comes from the root word bod, which means to serve, to till, to toil, to work, to accomplish, to do.
The Hebrew word for keeping in the text is samar, which means to keep, to watch over, to guard. Samar itself is a root word.
Interestingly, both bod and samar are used in relation to the assignment God gave the man in the garden. Genesis 2:15 says, “The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work [bod] it and keep [samar] it.” The tree of life, in a sense God’s presence, dwelt in the midst of the garden. It is important to note that the man was given this assignment after he was Spirit filled. Genesis 2:7 says, “Then the Lord God formed the man of the dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
I wrote in The Tabernacle, the Priests, and the Men of War – Part 2 that the Levites were a picture of the spiritual believer. As such, we can think of them as receiving their assignment from God after they were Spirit filled, just like the man in the garden.
DO DUTY IN THE SERVICE OF THE TENT OF MEETING
From the age of 25 on, the Levites were to come and “do duty in the service of the tent of meeting.”
The words “do duty” in the Hebrew are actually the same word, just one is the verb form and one is the noun form. The verb form, which is translated do, literally means to go to war or fight, to be on duty, to levy for military service. The noun form, which is translated duty, literally means campaign, military service, military men, troops, heavenly bodies, hosts. I believe the idea here is that at age of 25 the Levites were to come to wage war as military men. Now, I wrote in The Tabernacle, the Priests, and the Men of War – Part 2 that priests don’t make war. So, how were the Levites to come to wage war as military men?
The Levites did this “in the service of the tent of meeting.” Remember, the word service basically means work. But, in this particular context, it means service which is rendered or service of worship. This “service” took place in the tent of meeting, the specific place of God’s presence in the midst of Israel.
Specifically, what was the service that the Levites performed? Numbers 3 and 4 tells us that the Levites were responsible for taking down and setting up the tabernacle as Israel was led by the cloud and the pillar of fire through the wilderness. Numbers 7 tells us that the clans of Gershon and Merari were given wagons and oxen to help them move the fabrics and frames of the tabernacle from place to place. However, the clan of Kohath had to carry the furniture of the tabernacle on their shoulders. In other words, the Kohathites bore the burdens of the furniture themselves. Interestingly, according to Numbers 4:3, the service of the Kohathites was limited from the age of 30 years old up to 50 years old. Remember, Jesus started his ministry at 30 years old. Just keep this in mind to meditate on later.
What are we to learn from all of this? At the age of 25 years old, the Levites were called to wage war in the service of the tent of meeting. This is a picture of the spiritual believer called into spiritual warfare in the place where God dwells.
MINISTER TO THEIR BROTHERS IN THE TENT OF MEETING BY KEEPING GUARD
The Levites only waged this spiritual warfare in the place where God dwelt until the age of 50. At that time, the nature of their assignment changed. At the age of 50, the Levite would withdraw, or turn back, from waging spiritual warfare as a military man. The Levite no longer served by carrying burdens.
At age 50, the Levite was to minister to his brothers, that is the other Levites who were still young enough to wage spiritual warfare by bearing burdens in the place where God dwelt. The Hebrew word for minister means to minister, to serve, to be an attendant to, to wait on, to be in service of God. At age 50, the older Levite was to become an attendant to the younger Levite. The older Levite was to wait on the younger Levite in the service of God.
Exactly how was the Levite over 50 years old to do this? “By keeping guard.” We saw above that the word keep is the Hebrew word samar, which means to keep, to watch over, to guard. The Hebrew word for guard derives from the word samar. However, it carries with it the idea of obligation, what is to be held in trust, what is to be preserved, and responsibility.
Notice that the Levite over 50 years old didn’t change his place of service though. He still served in the tent of meeting, the specific place where God’s presence dwelt.
Therefore, the Levite over 50 years of age was relieved of the burdens of waging spiritual warfare. However, he now had the assignment of assisting and attending to the younger Levites who were still tasked with waging spiritual warfare by bearing burdens.
WHERE’S JESUS IN THIS?
John 1:14, 16-18 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the father, full of grace and truth…For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.”
Jesus is the Word. He became flesh, a man, and dwelt among us. The Greek word for dwelt literally means tabernacled. In other words, Jesus was the dwelling place of God’s presence in the midst of the people.
Jesus had glory that was the same glory as the Father. The glory of Jesus was full of grace and truth. Notice that grace is before truth. From the fullness of Jesus, we have all received grace upon grace, or grace in place of grace as some translations say. While all have received grace upon grace, not all have received the fullness of the truth of Jesus though. The law came through Moses, but grace then truth came through Jesus.
The glory of Jesus full of grace and truth are important concepts that connect back to our passage in Numbers 8. Specifically, it is John’s statement that we have all received grace upon grace from the fullness of Jesus that is the first key to connecting John 1:14, 16-18 to Numbers 8:23-26.
SERVICE BEGINS WITH GRACE UPON GRACE
Throughout the Bible, the number five represents God’s grace.
Perhaps the first place we see this is Genesis 43:34, which says, “Portions were taken to them from Joseph’s table, but Benjamin’s portion was five times as much as any of theirs.” Joseph extended grace to his brother Benjamin by giving a portion of food five times larger to Benjamin than his other brothers.
In Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah prophesies of a child being born, a son being given – Jesus. Depending on your translation, Jesus is given five names here – Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. These five names depict Jesus as full of grace.
In Leviticus 1-6, we read of five offerings – burnt, grain, peace, sin, and guilt – that symbolize Jesus’ work of grace on the cross.
We find the number five all throughout the tabernacle. The tabernacle was patterned after the heavenly reality of Jesus.
In Exodus 26:36-37, the screen at the entrance to the tent of meeting, the specific place where God dwelt, was attached to five pillars set in five bases. Grace upon grace to enter into the place of God’s presence.
In Exodus 26:1-6, the innermost covering of the tent of meeting was made of 10 linen curtains. But, five curtains were coupled together in one set and five curtains were coupled together in a second set. As the innermost covering, Jesus was full of grace. And the two sets of curtains picture that fullness of grace being received by all of us as grace upon grace.
In Exodus 27:1, the altar was five cubits long and five cubits broad. The altar was the first piece of furniture you came to in the tabernacle. You couldn’t go anywhere else in the tabernacle without first going to the altar. The altar, the place of the offering, is symbolic of the cross. The altar was five by five. The cross, where we all begin our relationship with Jesus, is the place where we all receive grace upon grace.
Grace upon grace. We all have received this. Five times five. At 25 years old, the Levite began his service to the Lord. At this age, the Levite began his spiritual warfare in the tent of meeting, the place where God dwelt.
KEEPING GUARD BEGINS WITH TRUTH
In the Bible, 50 is seen as the number of release, deliverance, freedom, and the Holy Spirit.
In Esther 5:14 and 7:9, Mordecai, Esther, and all the Jews were delivered from the plans of Haman to exterminate them when Haman is hanged on a gallows 50 cubits high.
Israel could release various things they had vowed to the Lord. Leviticus 27:3 says that a man 20 to 60 years old could be released for 50 shekels of silver.
I mentioned above that Exodus 26:1-6 tells us that the innermost covering of the tent of meeting was made of two sets of five linen curtains. But, each set of curtains had 50 loops. The two sets of 50 loops were held together by 50 clasps of gold. Gold is a symbol of divinity. Clasps bore the burden of holding the two sets of five curtains together. It is the divine nature of Christ that bears the burden of grace upon grace.
Leviticus 25:8-22 tells us of the year of jubilee. The jubilee occurred in the 50th year on the day of atonement. In that year, liberty was proclaimed throughout all the land. Everyone returned to their property as the land that was inherited went back to the original owner. Debts were cancelled.
On the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Jesus was resurrected, the Holy Spirit was poured out on the 120 disciples gathered together in the upper room.
50 is ten times five. Ten symbolizes the law, which came through Moses. Five symbolizes grace, which came through Jesus. Grace freed us from the law to walk in truth, freedom, the liberty of the Spirit.
Jesus said in John 8:31, 36, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free…So if the son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
Note that during this exchange with the Jews about freedom, in John 8:57, the Jews say to Jesus, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have seen you Abraham?” Coincidence? Keep this mind to mediate on as we go.
2 Corinthians 3:17 says, “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”
At 50 years of age, the Levite was set free from his burden of waging spiritual warfare in the tent of meeting so that he could keep guard and attend to his younger brother that was still waging spiritual warfare in the place God dwelt.
But, note 2 Corinthians 3:18, which says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” The glory of Jesus is full of grace and truth. Of this fullness, we have all received grace upon grace. But, some have received grace from the law and gone onto truth, the truth which sets free, being filled with the Holy Spirit.
THE BELIEVER AT 25 AND 50 YEARS OLD
Every single one of us that has come to Jesus has received grace upon grace from his fullness. Like the Levite, the spiritual believer begins to wage war at the age of 25.
But, this isn’t just any kind of war. It’s a war of service, bearing burdens. In Matthew 16:24, Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” The cross is borne on the shoulders, exactly the place that the Levite carried his burdens in service to the Lord.
Like the Levite, our spiritual warfare conducted by bearing the burden of our own cross is done in the place that God dwells, the tent of meeting. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:19, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?” In Luke 17:20-21, when Jesus was asked by a Pharisee when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus said, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” The kingdom of God, the place that God dwells, the place of your spiritual warfare in the tent of meeting, is within you. The spiritual believer having received grace upon grace, the Levite at 25 years old, wages war against sin in his heart and mind.
Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “For do we not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
And, Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 10:3-6, “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete.”
Again, the spiritual believer who has received grace upon grace, which all of us have, is the Levite at 25 years of age. The spiritual believer is waging a spiritual war in the heart and mind, the place that God dwells. The spiritual believer is bearing the burden of the cross, having the same mind as Jesus, humbling himself from every argument and lofty opinion against the knowledge of God, taking every thought, his own thoughts, captive, so that he can become a servant, a slave to Christ.
While all that have to come the cross of Christ, the altar of the tabernacle, have received grace upon grace, are the Levite at 25 years of age, some turn 50 years old. Some Levites receive grace from the law and receive truth. Some are completely set free from the penalty and burden of the law and sin. These spiritual believers, the Levites that have turned 50, have been filled with the Spirit.
Galatians 5:18, 22-23, 25 says, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law…But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law…If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.”
This spiritual believer is the Levite at age 50. He no longer bears the burden of waging spiritual warfare because he has learned the cost of obedience. Instead, this spiritual believer ministers to, attends to, keeps guard over his younger brother that is still waging spiritual warfare to learn obedience to Christ. This ministry, attending to and keeping guard still takes place in the tent of meeting, the place where God dwells.
Who is this spiritual believer that has become like the Levite at 50 years old? The elder of the church.
Titus 1:5-9 says, “This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you – if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must no be arrogant or quick tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
The one who desires to be an elder, to be a Levite of 50 years of age, to keep watch over, to guard, to minister to, to attend to younger believers, must have already learned obedience. This one has reached the place where he is no longer bearing the burdens of waging spiritual warfare but ministering to his brothers in the body of Christ.
1 Timothy 3 provides very similar directions to Timothy in picking elders for the church. But, here Paul provides two additional comments. Verse 6 says, “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil.” And, verse 10 says of deacons, “Let them also be tested first, then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless.” It takes testing, time waging spiritual warfare in bearing burdens, time to go from a Levite age 25 to age 50, before one is ready to be an elder, to minister and attend to his brothers in the body of Christ.
Only then is a spiritual believer ready to be a Levite of age 50, ready to serve and attend to his fellow brother. The elder has learned that he doesn’t lord his place over his younger brother. Peter says in 1 Peter 5:1-4 says, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.” Hebrews 13:17 says that elders “are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account.”
So, there we have some obscure passage of the Old Testament, with seemingly random ages of service for Levites. But, when we put Jesus in the midst of it, the connection between the obscure passage of the Old Testament and our life in the body of Christ becomes clear.