Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Friday, February 10, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Feb 11, Num 1-2

Today's readings are Num 1-2.

Exodus shows us that God had delivered them from Egypt, then equipped them for their journey. Leviticus reveals that they were given the guidelines for being His people. It also established His dwelling place among them. By the end of Leviticus, they are fully prepared to depart Sinai and head for Canaan. 

This context is critical to understanding Numbers. At the end of Leviticus, the Hebrews are still at Sinai but now have the Tabernacle and the Law and are preparing for departure.

Numbers is bookended by two significant events, a census at the beginning while they’re at Sinai (Num 1:1) and another when they arrive at Moab near the border of the Promised Land (Num 36:13).

The English title of the book tells us to be mindful of those two censuses. There is something to be learned from them. The Hebrew title, "In the Wilderness", is actually more descriptive of the events detailed in the book. 

Later in the book, we will see that the first time they arrive at the Southern border of the Promised Land, they disobey God and refuse to enter the land out of fear for the inhabitants. For their disobedience, they are condemned to wander in the wilderness until that generation passes. Numbers recounts those wanderings and the struggles Israel endures while they wander. Along the way, we'll see that God incessantly asserts His holiness and His refusal to accept rebellion or unbelief. At the same time, we will consistently see His faithfulness and grace.

In Num 1 Israel gets their marching orders. Here's a partial timeline:

Num 1:1 shows us where the route originates (the Route from Mt Sinai, the purple line that starts near the bottom of the map). They are headed to where the purple line ends near the top at Kadesh Barnea:

In Num 1:2-3 we see that God commands a census of all the men "who are able to go to war!" Yes! They are going to the Promised Land. But first, they will have to prepare for battle! Obviously, God's blessings do not always come easy! Some of those blessings, perhaps the best, will require Israel to strive to earn them. As we will see when the get to Kadesh Barnea, this is not what they expected and will become a major obstacle in their receiving those blessings.

As God directs the census, notice that God knows the names of the chiefs He designates (Num 1:5-16). This tells us the census is not an act of gathering data and information for God who already knows everything. He is omniscient (Isa 46:9-10, Col 2:2-3). So, the census must be for our information and teaching.

The census reveals that Israel has an army of 603,550 men (Num 1:46), not including the Levites. Keep this number in mind! It shows that prophecy has been fulfilled and will be significant later in Numbers. For now, God has fulfilled His promise to Abraham. His offspring have grown into a great multitude. This army is large enough and powerful enough to take the Promised Land. But, they have a long way to go to get there. As we have seen so frequently in the past, God has a particular way He wants them to do it.

God organizes the entire nation for travel and encampment (Num 2:1-30). When encamped, the Tabernacle is at the center. The priests camp in between the tribes and the Tabernacle (Num 2:17). This is symbolic of the priests being mediators between God and man. The priests are the bridge between the people and their God. No one enters the Tabernacle without going through the priests so that there will be no wrath on the congregation (Num 1:53). This positioning of the Levites reveals a biblical principle. There must be an intermediary between God and His people to protect the people from the holiness and wrath of God.

As they depart from Sinai, Judah leads the way, Ephraim brings up the rear. As we will see, even the organization of the camp and the order of the march is prophetic.

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