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.
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
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
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 for sure.
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 not
Sabbath School Study Helps
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He includes all related scripture and most EGW quotations. Jerry has chosen
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