People on the Move: The Book of Numbers
In the book of Exodus, the Lord described the birth of a nation. Exodus and
Leviticus detailed the rules and laws for this nation. In the book of Numbers
(the topic for our quarter) we see another dimension of this nation, that
of God's people on the move.
But not just moving anywhere. They are to go and take possession of the land
promised them-promised not because of their inherent holiness, not because
of their inherent goodness but because of God's words to their father Abraham
centuries earlier: "For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give
it, and to thy seed for ever. And I will make thy seed as the dust of the
earth: so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then shall thy
seed also be numbered. Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and
in the breadth of it; for I will give it unto thee" (Gen. 13:15-17).
Directly tied to this promise is another aspect of this nation: that of the
nation as an army, a mighty army of God, a conquering army that cannot be
defeated by external enemies because the Lord, the Creator of heaven and
earth, is in their midst.
And because of God's presence, they were not only an army, they were a holy
army, and thus were expected to act like one, as well.
Unfortunately, that isn't exactly what happened. This mighty, powerful, and
conquering army, hovering on the edges of the Promised Land, was defeated,
not by the Canaanites but from within. Satan knew that as long as they obeyed
the Lord, as long as they trusted in God and lived by faith and obedience
to His commandments, he would be helpless against them. All he could do,
therefore, was use them against themselves.
And it worked. No wonder Ellen White's warning: "We have far more to fear
from within than from without. The hindrances to strength and success are
far greater from the church itself than from the world."--Ellen G. White,
Selected Messages, book 1, p. 122.
Hence, it should be obvious that, as a people on the move, as a people seeking
to reach the Promised Land, as a people called out by God, we can learn from
the book of Numbers. We can learn from how God organized the camp and assigned
duties to the priests and the Levites. We can learn from the festivals and
ordinances of the sanctuary service. We can learn from their cries about
returning to Egypt, which they called "a land that floweth with milk and
honey" (Num. 16: 13). We can learn from Miriam's leprosy, from the
12 spies, from Caleb's faith, from the intercession of Moses, from Korah's
rebellion, and even from Balaam's recalcitrant donkey.
And we are supposed to learn too. "These things happened to them as an example,
and they have been written down as a warning to us, upon whom the end of
the ages has come. Therefore, whoever thinks he is standing secure should
take care not to fall. No trial has come to you but what is human. God is
faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the
trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it"
(1 Cor. 10:11-13, NAB). These words contain not just a warning, but a
promise as well.
Despite the setbacks, the delays, and the devastating judgments, perhaps
the most important lesson in Numbers is that God will fulfill His promises.
Whether He will fulfill them through us, despite us, or without us at all
is, indeed, another question entirely. But they will be fulfilled, and that's
Read in the context of the Cross and the new covenant, the book of Numbers
reveals that God already has made His choice regarding us. The only question
left is What will be our choice regarding Him?
The late Frank Holbrook was from 1981 to 1990 an associate director of
the Biblical Research Institute at the General Conference of Seventh-day
Adventists, in Silver Spring, Maryland, U.S.A.
(all lessons may
School Study Helps
Jerry Giardina of Pecos, Texas, assisted by his wife, Cheryl,
prepares a series of helps to accompany the Sabbath School lesson. He includes
all related scripture and most EGW quotations. Jerry has chosen the "New
King James Version" of the scriptures this quarter. It is used with permission.
The study helps are provided in three wordprocessing
RTF for our MAC friends (this is now a
zip file); and HTML (Web Pages).
Last updated on September 26, 2009
12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904.
Frank B. Holbrook
Clifford R. Goldstein
Soraya Homayouni Parish
Lea Alexander Greve
Pacific Press Coordinator
Paul A. Hey
Art Director and Illustrator:
Copyright © 2009 by the Office of the Adult Bible Study
Guide, General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. All Rights Reserved.
SSNET Web Site Home page
Directory of Sabbath School
Bible Study materials
Archive of previous Adult
Sabbath School Bible Study Guides
Prepared for the Internet by the
SSNET Web Team.