A few more things from Numbers…
On a distant journey
The Lord speaks implicitly of the acceptability of not observing the Passover due to being on a distant journey:
“Speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘If any one of you or of your generations becomes unclean because of a dead person, or is on a distant journey, he may, however, observe the Passover to the LORD. ‘In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight, they shall observe it; they shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. ‘They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break a bone of it; according to all the statute of the Passover they shall observe it. ‘But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and yet neglects to observe the Passover, that person shall then be cut off from his people, for he did not present the offering of the LORD at its appointed time. That man will bear his sin.”
– Numbers 9:10-13 NASB
It was not clear to me from the record of the original giving of the Law that the Lord would countenance such exceptions. Surprising! Instructive. The Lord looks at the heart, doesn’t He? He knows when we truly love and reverence Him despite not being able to celebrate the Passover due to travels and when we’re making excuses to avoid obeying Him because we don’t love Him.
Whether it was two days or a month or a year
Fascinating insight into the Lord’s step-by-step guidance all through the years in the wilderness:
Now on the day that the tabernacle was erected the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony, and in the evening it was like the appearance of fire over the tabernacle, until morning. So it was continuously; the cloud would cover it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. Whenever the cloud was lifted from over the tent, afterward the sons of Israel would then set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the sons of Israel would camp. At the command of the LORD the sons of Israel would set out, and at the command of the LORD they would camp; as long as the cloud settled over the tabernacle, they remained camped.
Even when the cloud lingered over the tabernacle for many days, the sons of Israel would keep the LORD’S charge and not set out. If sometimes the cloud remained a few days over the tabernacle, according to the command of the LORD they remained camped. Then according to the command of the LORD they set out. If sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning, when the cloud was lifted in the morning, they would move out; or if it remained in the daytime and at night, whenever the cloud was lifted, they would set out.
Whether it was two days or a month or a year that the cloud lingered over the tabernacle, staying above it, the sons of Israel remained camped and did not set out; but when it was lifted, they did set out. At the command of the LORD they camped, and at the command of the LORD they set out; they kept the LORD’S charge, according to the command of the LORD through Moses.
– Numbers 9:15-23
Is this not how the Lord leads us today? How good He is, never leaving us alone but guiding us each day.
For the first time
The cloud lifts from over the tabernacle for the first time, and the children of Israel set out. Think of the excitment among the kids. Think of the bright eyes among the adults!
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; 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. So they moved out for the first time according to the commandment of the LORD through Moses.
– Numbers 10:11-13
(Yet any such excitement was short-lived, because in the very next chapter they’re full of compainings and lack of faith. How patient the Lord is with us, His people!)
Leadership is hard
“Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they weep before me, saying, ‘Give us meat that we may eat!’ “I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me. “So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once, if I have found favor in Your sight, and do not let me see my wretchedness.”
– Numbers 11:13-15
Miriam gets a timeout
God does use the rod different ways:
But the LORD said to Moses, “If her father had but spit in her face, would she not bear her shame for seven days? Let her be shut up for seven days outside the camp, and afterward she may be received again.” So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again. Afterward, however, the people moved out from Hazeroth and camped in the wilderness of Paran.
– Numbers 12:14-16
Who have seen My glory, yet have put Me to the test
This is one of the most terrible warnings in all of Scripture.
“Pardon, I pray, the iniquity of this people according to the greatness of Your lovingkindness, just as You also have forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.” So the LORD said, “I have pardoned them according to your word; but indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the LORD. “Surely all the men who have seen My glory and My signs which I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness, yet have put Me to the test these ten times and have not listened to My voice, shall by no means see the land which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who spurned Me see it.”
– Numbers 14:19-23
Talent ain’t salvation
A striking example of those who saw God’s glory yet did not believe, is found in Bezalel and Oholiab.
Bezalel and Oholiab were the skilled craftsman who made the holy articles for the tabernacle. Over four chapters of Scripture are devoted to a description of the skilled work they did for the LORD (Exodus 35:30–39:43) — yet they did not enter the promised land. Of that generation, only Joshua and Caleb entered. (Really?! Yes, see for yourself: God’s curse in Numbers 14:30; the fulfillment in Numbers 26:63-65; repeated by Moses in Numbers 32:6-13)
Let us see and fear, lest we become like them in skill of hand but unbelief of heart!