My wife and I have been having a daily devotion together for close to two years. One of us reads a Bible chapter aloud and then the other prays. It’s the highlight of our day and I wonder why we waited so long to do it. We alternate between Old and New Testament books and we recently just started in Numbers.
Reading parts of the Old Testament can be difficult. Our previous Old Testament book was Leviticus, which details the priestly sacrificial system with daunting precision. But the Old Testament sacrificial system was a foreshadowing of the sacrifice of our Lord on Calvary. As I’ve mentioned before, it really helps to have some resources that illuminate Old Testament typology. Jesus is foreshadowed throughout the Old Testament and if you keep that in mind you’ll “get a lot more out of it.”
Anyway, the first several chapters of Numbers are as challenging as Leviticus, with the census of the Israelite warriors, the arrangement of the Israelite camp, and the duties of the Levites. After reading chapter three, my wife turned to me and said, “This is some really dry stuff.”
So, are there actually any lessons and applications that today’s believers can take away from the “dry” preciseness of the first several chapters of Numbers? Of course! Here’s just a few that I could think of:
Every believer counts
Our God knows us. He numbered and knew every Israelite warrior who would follow behind His Ark into battle, just as He knows every believer who carries His Gospel into the world. No outsiders were allowed to fight for Israel, only those who were members, by birth, of the twelve tribes. Likewise, only those who are born again spiritually by God’s grace through faith in Christ alone are in the family of God. Our spiritual genealogy is that of adopted children of God through Christ. The Lord knows us intimately. He numbers every hair on our head, although that’s a much quicker job in my case than it was thirty years ago.
God is a God of order
The Israelite camp was ordered precisely with each tribe assigned a position around the Tabernacle. The tribe of Judah was given a position to the east of the Tabernacle, a place of honor. When the Israelites traveled to the next encampment or into battle, Judah was positioned in front. Yes, Judah’s prominence foreshadowed the supremacy of our Lord, Jesus Christ, Who descended from that tribe. Jesus is the Head of the Body and we members of the Body are positioned where He would have us. God is not a the author of confusion, of the kind we see in some churches today, but He is the God of order, reason, and peace.
No work for the Lord is insignificant.
Each clan of the Levite tribe had specific duties regarding the Tabernacle. Some were more showy than others. The Kohathites carried the Ark of the Covenant and the other important altars, tables and vessels of the Tabernacle. The Gershonites and Merarites attended to the less glamorous tent coverings, curtains, frames, stakes, and cords. But every task was essential for the proper functioning of the Tabernacle. Every Christian has an important function within the Body of Christ.
Although all of us struggle through some of these challenging, “dry” passages of the Old Testament and wonder what they have to do with us, the Holy Spirit can illuminate some real gold that we can apply to our lives if we’re receptive to His teaching. My wife doesn’t like to study Bible chapters in-depth as I do, so I try to share a few of the major things I pick up.