Numbers (Program #32) – A Vital Sketch of the Divine Revelation (2)
Apparently, the Old Testament has nothing to do with the church. After all, the church didn’t even come into being until the book of Acts. Actually however, the history of Israel recorded in the Old Testament is a picture of the church and the church life. If we have this view, this understanding, we will see that the divine revelation in the Old Testament books such as Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers give us a picture and a full type of the church in the mystical union with the all-inclusive Christ.
Numbers (Program #31) – A Vital Sketch of the Divine Revelation in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers (1)
Most serious readers of the Bible recognize there are unmistakable portraits of of Christ in the Old Testament, among these of course are the Passover Lamb and the brass serpent. If our understanding has been enlightened we can see not only Christ but God’s eternal purpose and plan in picture forms throughout the Old Testament. The key to this understanding is what apostle Paul called the economy of God. God’s economy is His plan, His purpose and all that He has arranged to work it out. This life study of the Bible has this economy as its focus. The result is that book after book, including the obscure and seldom spoken of books such as Numbers in the Old Testament all become a rich treasury of light and truth unveiling Christ and God’s purpose in marvelous details.
After 40 years of experiences in the wilderness, God is ready to fulfill His promise to His people Israel to give them the good land. But there are some requirements that He places upon them because this land has been occupied even polluted by various people apart from Israel; people with other gods and idols. So before Israel can inherit the land, they must first drive out all these inhabitants, destroy their idols and tear down the high places. If they don’t, they will be troubled by these things throughout their days. Once again, the Old Testament provides us with a rich profound illustration of how we must possess our good land, the all-inclusive Christ.
We all familiar with the Old Testament principle calling for “an eye for an eye”. This implies the penalty for serious crime was very severe in the dispensation of the law and surely it was. Though ‘an eye for an eye” speaks of the righteous nature of God, it doesn’t fully reflect His mercy and grace. As the children of Israel preparing to enter into the good land, they were given a much different provision to deal with offenders and that was the six cities of refuge in which a guilty person can flee and be protected from his avenger. Here is another aspect of our God being displayed and we all as guilty ones have benefited from taking safe refuge in God’s place of refuge; today our Savior Christ.
One of the great moments in all of the Old Testament history was when the children of Israel finally participated in the distribution of the good land. In principle, it was to be distributed not according to their choice, but according to God’s direction. Yet two of the tribes, Reuben and Gad and later joined by the half-tribe of Manasseh. Because of their own particular situation thought they knew what they needed, so they made request of Moses and the high priest to give them the land just before the Jordan river on the east side. God agreed and these tribes got what they had chosen and what they had asked for. But as we will see, our own choice, if we take it before the Lord’s choice most often carries a big price.
After 40 years of journeying through the wilderness of Sinai, the children of Israel had finally arrived at the gate of the good land and the end of their long and difficult journey. By now they had experienced a wide range of things from God’s mercy, many of His miracles and the number of wars fighting against a variety of enemies and a great number of their own failures and setbacks as well. But through it all, God remained faithful to His promise to bring them into the land that He had given to their father Abraham. He was also faithful to remind them of His need and He would never let them forget the necessity of offering sacrifices there were satisfying to Him. We will review some of these marvelous point on today’s program and we will see some new things facing God’s people.
Forty years of wandering, of fighting against enemies and of learning to live by depending on God are near an end. God’s people Israel are about to enter the land that He has promised to their fathers. By this time Jehovah God had prepared the people and everything they would need to go in and possess this land. But it is here, at this critical juncture that He comes to them to remind them not of their need but of His need. From His people, God requires something that He will not provide for Himself – food. Hard to imagine isn’t it? God needs to be fed. He can only be fed by His people. Quite a story we have before us.
For more than forty years the children of Israel follow one clear leadership. Despite the occasional challenge to his leadership, Moses was the undeniable selection of Jehovah; as the unique one that was to lead them through the wilderness and to the good land. But at 120 years of age, the Lord came to Moses to let him know that he was about to be gathered to his people and that he will not be entering into the land with the people. We might think especially with all of things that Moses had done with and for the Lord, his concern would have been why he was being denied the opportunity to gain an entrance for himself. But to the contrary, his only concern and care was for the people. Who would be there to go in and come out before the people? This is the story of a man according to God’s heart and it is an inspiring story for us to consider, as we will on this life study from the book of Numbers.
In the Old Testament, inheritance is based on genealogy, according to family and tribe. It was also ordained by God that only males could inherit the property and possession of one who die. So what happen when a man die and had no male heir or successor to the family name? In Numbers chapter 27, this question was raised to Moses and ultimately to Jehovah by five daughters of a man named Zelophehad. The Lord’s consideration of their request has a major application even for us, as we will see today.
Numbers is a book that records many wonderful items related to God’s people Israel and their journey through the wilderness on their way to the good land. But it also records some of their greatest failures. Perhaps the greatest among these was that spoken of in chapter 25 where many among Israel committed fornication and adultery with some of the idolatrous and pagan people dwelling in the land. This brought in God’s judgment as seen by the plague that fell upon Israel consuming 24,000. But this judgment served as kind of purifying of the people and it enabled them eventually to go in and possess the land that they have been 40 years journeying toward. The renumbering of God’s people for the possession of the good land is our topic today.