OLD TESTAMENT READING: Numbers 10- 11:23
For almost two full years the people of Israel have gone nowhere. They have been camped in the plains of Sinai. God is using this time to prepare them for the journey ahead.
The Book of Genesis was a gripping narrative. The first half of the Book of Exodus continued the dramatic story of the descendants of Jacob and their emergence as a great nation from their captivity in Egypt.
The action stopped in Exodus 19. The second half of Exodus, the entire book of Leviticus, and the first 10 chapters of Numbers until the tenth verse record the words of the Lord – the Law of God, His Testimony in the Tabernacle, and the Preparations for the March into the Promised Land.
PREPARATION FOR THE JOURNEY
During this extensive stop on the plains of Sinai the LORD has made it known that He is a holy God. He binds Himself to His people, Israel, in a holy covenant. Israel is to be a holy nation (Exodus 19:5). Through them and their Seed, His promise of redemption will extend to all nations.
Exodus 19:5 (NASB) 5 ‘Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine.’
The first part of the Law spoke of the demands of God’s Holiness (Exodus 20-24). The second part of the Law spoke of how those demands will be fulfilled in the service of the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-31:18; 35:1-3). The Law points us to our need for grace. The Tabernacle points us to the provision of God’s grace, where the law is fulfilled through the perfect life and perfect sacrifice of our Great High Priest, Jesus Christ.
The Tabernacle represents the perfect life and ministry of Christ. In Him, God finds the Holy Place He is looking for in humanity. In Him God finds a man in whom He is well pleased. God’s favor rests on His holy Son who fulfills the Law. The glory of God, which is God’s verdict upon perfection, is beheld in Him.
John 1:14 (NASB) 14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt (tabernacled) among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Tabernacle in the Wilderness is set up on the first day of the first month of the second year. Offerings for the altar are received for 12 days (Numbers 7:78). On the 14th day the nation celebrates the Second Passover in history, the first Passover as a memorial to the actual event.
On the first day of the second month, God initiates a plan to organize and prepare His people to advance through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The first census begins with the numbering of the fighting men (Numbers 1:1). The second census numbers the Levites, organizing them according to the households of the sons of Levi, Gershon, Kohath and Merari (Numbers 3:16). A third census was taken of the firstborn males of the people of Israel to assure that there would be an appointed substitute from among the Levites to stand in for them (Numbers 3:40).
God is able to mold the mob into a well-organized congregation, with each member knowing their place and duties when the time came for the march. Particular duties for the dissembling, portage, and assembly of the Tabernacle were assigned to the tribes of Kohath, Gershon, and Merari. The Tabernacle was to be central and first in their considerations, especially when the time came to set up, break down or move camp. No one would camp until the Tabernacle was assembled. In the procession through the wilderness into the Promised Land, the Ark, carried on the shoulders of the Kohathites, would lead the way as they followed the cloud (Numbers 10:33).
The Ark was the chest made of acacia wood (representing uncorrupted humanity) and was covered with gold (representing deity). Inside the ark were items directly linked to the Testimony of God- the Unbroken Tables of Stone (representing the revelation of God’s righteousness kept intact, Matthew 5:17.) Also in the Ark was the pot of Manna (the testimony of God’s faithfulness to sustain them with His provision – the Bread from heaven- John 6:35), and later, the Rod that budded (a prophetic picture of The Resurrection and the Life – John 11:25.)
Unlike the other sacred items of the Tabernacle which had the blue cloth underneath and other coverings piled on top, the Ark of the Covenant had the veil and goatskin underneath and the blue cloth on the outside. Blue represents heaven. Jesus is the only man since Adam with an open heaven. (We have an open heaven ‘in Him’.) Like the Ark in the wilderness procession, He leads us as the Pioneer of the Heavenly Way.
THE LAST DETAIL: THE SILVER TRUMPETS
Clear communication is important in every community. More than 600,000 men, plus women and children and some others, known as “a mixed multitude,” who had come from Egypt (Exodus 12:38) were to be mobilized quickly and in an orderly fashion.
To assure that they would understand their marching orders and the intended purpose of their movements, clear signals were to be given on silver trumpets.
“Make yourself two trumpets of silver, of hammered work you shall make them; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for having the camps set out.”
(Numbers 10:2; NASB)
The word for ‘trumpets’ here is ‘chatsotrah’- which indicated a long straight narrow trumpet with an expanded mouth. (There is another word for ‘trumpet’ in the Old Testament, ‘shofar’, which is a ram’s horn. It is not the ram’s horn that is used here.) These trumpets were to be made of beaten silver. Silver, as we have seen, is a consistent symbol of redemption in the Bible. It was the silver shekel that was used “to redeem” the sons of Israel (Numbers 3:46).
If only one trumpet sounded, the leaders would assemble.
If the two trumpets sounded together, all the people would assemble.
All the children of Israel were instructed to distinguish the different meanings of the trumpet blasts.
The trumpet alerted the people for the following redemptive purposes:
- TO ASSEMBLE together as a congregation (Numbers 10:2) (Hebrews 10:25).
- TO ADVANCE; Setting out under the leadership of the cloud (Numbers 10:2) (Matt 28:19-20).
- TO BATTLE The trumpet sounded the alarm that they were under attack and they were to rally for warfare “against the adversary who oppresses” them (Numbers 10:9, ESV) (Eph. 6:18).
- TO CELEBRATE. The trumpet also could sound forth a call to show joyful gratitude to God. It was used as a call to praise and worship God. It is a call to remember who God is and His Redemptive work (highlighted in the appointed feasts and regular festivals) (Numbers 10:10).
THE STORY CONTINUES AND THE PEOPLE ADVANCE
With the last instruction pertaining to the trumpets given to the people, the cloud finally moves on the twentieth day of the second month of the second year after the Exodus. After two years camping in the wilderness of Sinai, the people set out for the first time with the tabernacle!
Numbers 10:11-12 11 Now in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month, the cloud was lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony; 12 and the sons of Israel set out on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai. Then the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. 13 So they moved out for the first time according to the commandment of the LORD through Moses.
THE SETTING OUT (Numbers 10:11-28)
It could have been a chaotic mess if it had not been for the law of God and the specific instruction pertaining to tribal leadership, banners, signals, encampments and a prescribed procession order.
However, because of obedience to Divine Instruction, when the time came to set out, the procession went smoothly. The tribe of Judah set out first, with the rest of the encampment on the eastern side following: the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun. Then, the tabernacle fabrics and framework were packed up by the Gershonites and Merarites who carried their cargo on the carts that had been given them by the other tribes’ leaders (Numbers 7:1-8). The Southern flank under the standard of Reuben followed, with the tribes of Simeon and Gad behind them. Then came the Kohathites carrying the sacred objects of the Tabernacle on wooden staves covered with gold. (It was forbidden to carry them any other way but on the shoulders of the Kohathites (Numbers 7:9).
The marching of the Kohathites with the sacred objects of the Sanctuary on their shoulders is a picture of the privilege and responsibility of believer-priests to personally shoulder the cross of Jesus Christ. We are to daily recognize our identification with Christ. When he died, we died. When He was buried, our old man was buried. When He rose, from Divine Viewpoint, we are in union with Him in His resurrection. When He ascended to the right hand of the Father, we ascended ‘in Him’. Through the ascension, the gift of the Holy Spirit has descended into our hearts. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. We bear His presence and His testimony in the wilderness of this world— We bear the significance of the altar -His exchanged life makes us a living sacrifice! We bear the laver (the cleansing of His Word), we bear the Lampstand, (He has made us lights of the world). We bear the table of showbread (His fellowship with and in His people) and the Altar of Incense (His testimony of perfect worship and prayer before the Father). We joyfully carry the testimony portrayed in the Ark of the Covenant -the merits of His perfect finished work of redemption, no condemnation. He is our daily bread and resurrection life.
The Camp of Ephraim on the West followed the Levites, with the tribes of Manasseh and Benjamin following them. Finally, the rear guard for all the units set out, the northern flank under the standard of the tribe of Dan, with tribes of Asher and Naphtali following them.
The Kohathites, carrying the Ark of the covenant, must have made their way to the front.
Thus, they set out from the Mount of the LORD three days’ journey, with the Ark of the covenant of the LORD journeying in front of them for the three days, to seek out a resting place for them. (Numbers 10:33; NASB)
The ark is given the position of headship. The procession follows the leadership of that which represents Christ. Preeminence must be given to the pioneer of our faith and the captain of our salvation.
In verse 35, the Ark is identified with the movement of the cloud. Whenever the Ark set out, Moses said,
“Rise up, O LORD! May your enemies be scattered!”
Whenever the ark came to rest, Moses said,
“Return, O LORD to the countless thousands of Israel.” (Numbers 10:36)
We will hear these phrases repeated in future generations as we travel through the Old Testament.
1 Let God arise, let His enemies be scattered, and let those who hate Him flee before Him. (Psalm 68:1 (NASB)
HOBAB, MOSES’ BROTHER IN LAW
Moses invites his Midianite brother-in-law, Hobab, to join the journey. At first, Moses invites him to come with him and assures him that he would do him good, for that is what the Lord has promised Israel. But Hobad refuses, preferring his own land and people. Moses repeats the invitation challenging Hobad to put his knowledge to good use. Hobad was familiar with the land and could tell them where to camp and function “as eyes” for them. It was a call to service, to sacrifice, and to use his gifts to help others, more akin to the call of Jesus to His disciples. Hobad finally responded to this call and joined the journey, for we read of his descendants in Judges 4:11.
The wisdom of Moses extending this invitation is debated. Was Moses forgetting that it was the Lord who would be the eyes of Israel and that it was the cloud that would determine where to camp?
THE TABERAH FIRE- THE MURMURING THAT CAUSES GOD’S ANGER TO BURN
Some people don’t travel well. The children of Israel were complaining within three days after miraculously crossing the Red Sea. They had complained about the water at Marah (Exodus 15:22- 26). Two years later, they are found complaining once again. On the heels of a triumphant march with the supernatural manifestation of the Presence of the Lord in the pillar of cloud and fire, the Lord detects their “heart murmur”.
It is important to note that all our complaints, no matter how private, are within the Lord’s hearing (Numbers 11:1). Our words reflect our thoughts, preoccupations and perspectives.
The Lord mercifully warns them of His anger at their unbelief by consuming the outskirts of the camp.
The rabble (mixed multitude, those foreigners who came with them from Egypt- Exodus 12:38) who had “greed desires”, and the sons of Israel, stirred up strife with their complaints. These become the “rabble-rousers” in the community. Sins of the tongue spread like wildfire. God’s warning of the wildfire did not curtail the complaining. Instead of setting their affections and minds on things above and the miraculous provisions and sure promises of God, they fantasied about Egypt. Saying nothing of the slavery, the lashes and beatings they endured under their task masters there, they reflected on the salad bars in the slaves’ canteen with free fish, and a choice of five sides: cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic!
The manna is a picture of Christ, the living bread from heaven (John 6:51). But the people were griping about God’s provisions. “Now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna (Christ) to look at” (Numbers 11:6).
How sad it is to know that we can become familiar with the miraculous presence of Christ in our lives. Hearts can turn cold. They look at the manna and refer to it, but their diseased appetites no longer hunger to partake of it. Does this reflect our attitude towards Christ? How is it with our spiritual thirst and hunger to know Him more?
It is when our strength is dried up that we need to look to Christ, our bread from heaven, and partake of Him. We should remember where our strength comes from.
The heart murmuring now turns to a roar with people weeping at the doors of their tents (11:10). Moses is so discouraged by the burden of leadership that he asks the Lord to either help him or kill him (11:15).
THE PROPHESYING OF THE SEVENTY
How was Moses to encourage the troops whose minds were set on things below and could not see the good of what God had done or was doing in their midst?
The Lord asked Moses to gather seventy elders so that they could encourage the people with their words which would come from the same Spirit that inspired Moses. As soon as the Spirit rested on them, the seventy began to prophecy which must have provided some encouragement to the people. Sadly, the seventy did not continue doing it (Numbers 11:25). The Scriptures do not tell us why, but the overall message of the remaining chapters hint that it was a resistance in their hearts to believe the Word of God. You cannot prophecy the Spirit-wrought encouragement of the Lord through the spoken word for very long, if you don’t have a heart to believe it.
NEW TESTAMENT READING: MARK 14
SHE HAS DONE WHAT SHE COULD
Jesus said that “wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world”, the story would also be told of what Mary did when she was with Jesus in the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany. She broke the alabaster box of perfume and anointed His head with the costly ointment of spikenard.
This statement is amazing as we consider that Jesus prophesies with confidence that His message would be preached “in the whole world” and that Mary of Bethany would be spoken of in the context of telling His story. Her act, so highly praised and considered a suitable adjunct to the gospel, is not one of contributing to some social work among the needy, or even a display of love for neighbor, as admirable as that might be. It is an act of pouring out all that she had, while given the opportunity, in devotion to Christ. It must have been her most costly possession (it was a hope chest of sorts) and she voluntarily expended it all upon Jesus. No other day in her life, no other person, no other work, no other cause or investment was more worthy than this one. She honored Jesus with utter devotion and abandonment.
Jesus’ own disciples were indignant at her deed. They scolded her. But Jesus saw it as a praise-worthy act of worship reflecting true spiritual discernment. The disciples protested: “To what purpose is this waste?” (Mark 14:4; 26:8). The Gospel of John tells us that it was Judas who said, “Why was this perfume not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” The apostle John indicates that Judas said this not because he was concerned for the poor, but because he was in charge of the money and helped himself to it as he pleased (John 12:6). But Mark and Matthew point out that ALL the disciples were bewildered and bothered by Mary’s extravagant worship and thought it ‘excessive’.
Jesus does not discourage us from giving to the poor. He explains:
“For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them; but you do not always have Me. 8 She has done what she could; she has anointed My body beforehand for the burial” (Mark 14:7-8, NASB).
We don’t know how many opportunities we will have to show our love to Jesus in this world. Let’s seize the moment and give Him our all while we can.
Jesus announces that one of His disciples would betray Him. You can feel a heaviness of sorrow come upon each disciple as you read Mark’s brief account of the Last Supper. We can understand. Our own hearts are capable of treachery. “Lord, is it I?” (Matthew 26:22)
But Jesus would go to the cross to deal with treacherous hearts.
“For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him.” Jesus rests in what the Word says about the necessity of His atoning sacrifice to bring a rescue to the human race.
The next line is a sober reminder of the reality of hell. If hell did not exist, this sentence would not make sense:
“But woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been good FOR THAT MAN if he had not been born.” (Mark 14:21)
If there were nothing beyond this life it would not make sense that it would be better FOR JUDAS himself, had he not been born.
PSALM 51- THE PSALM OF REPENTANCE
Psalm 51 is a good psalm to read on your knees. It is David’s psalm of repentance.
There is no real joy without repentance.
Blessed are those who mourn (their sin), for they shall be comforted. The poor in spirit will put all their trust in the One who bore their sins upon the cross and offers them a new life, with a new heart, through the gospel.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit.
Psalm 51:10-12 (NASB) 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Psalm 51:17 (NASB)
Proverbs 10:31-32 (NASB) 31 The mouth of the righteous flows with wisdom, But the perverted tongue will be cut out. 32 The lips of the righteous bring forth what is acceptable, But the mouth of the wicked what is perverted.
PRAY FOR THE NATIONS – from the Prayer Guide- ‘OPERATION WORLD’
Area: 22,965 sq. km
A Caribbean coastal enclave bordering Guatemala and Mexico. It has the world’s second-largest coral barrier reef.
Population: 312,928 Annual Growth: 2.08%
Belize is Central America’s most sparsely populated country.
Most of the population is of mixed descent: 46% Mestizo/Ladino- Guatamalean and Honduran background. 25% Belize Creole; 10.6% Amerindian – the indigenous people of Belize with 3 main languages- Ketchi, Mopan and Yacatec; 6% Garifuna (Black Caribbean) descendants of African slaves and Arawakans forcibly relocated from the Caribbean.
Politics- formerly British Honduras; independent from Britain in 1981 as a stable parliamentary democracy and member of the Association of Caribbean States and the Caribbean Community.
Challenges for Prayer
Many missions, especially short-term, have saturated this small nation. Much has been positive, particularly in the areas of medicine/health care (especially in the remote and poorer areas), literacy and training. But the never-ending presence of mission-trippers creates dependency, which actually undermines the national Church. Pray for fruitful partnerships that empower and require true sacrifice by all for Kingdom purposes.
Belizeans are largely professing Christians, but syncretism is common. The Spanish speaking immigrants with their superstitions, the Mayans with their underlying paganism and the Garifuna with their black magic all need a culturally relevant and sensitive presentation of the gospel.
HIV/AIDS is a serious threat. The 2.4% (and rising) infection rate is the highest in Central America.
There is a great need for discipleship training.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You are our appointed head, our leader and faithful Lord and Savior. We desire to set out this day following You. Give us wisdom for our daily decisions. Bridle our tongues from all complaints. Help us to believe Your Word and respond to Your provisions with thankful hearts. Thank You for highlighting the example of Mary who lavished all that she had upon You. All our hopes are in You. Heavenly Father, may our lives be a worshipful expenditure of devotion. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
So, naturally, we proclaim Christ! We warn everyone we meet, and we teach everyone we can, all that we know about him, so that, if possible, we may bring every man up to his full maturity in Christ. (Colossians 1:28, J.B. Phillips paraphrase)
New Life Community Church, Concord, MA 10742