Thursday, June 10, 2010

Why Should I Study Numbers?

The book of Numbers is one which rarely falls into the “books of unimportance”, but at the same time it rarely makes it into the list of books that needs to be deeply studied by the Bible student. This book picks up after the Law of Moses has been given from the top of Mount Sinai. The Israelite nation has begun its journey once again and reaches Kadesh-Barnea. It is here that, in fear, they refuse to enter into the promised land of Canaan and are punished by God forcing His people to wander through the desert for forty years.

The book of numbers is primarily a book about faith in God. Just as Exodus was a continuation of Genesis, Numbers is a continuation of Leviticus. Leviticus recorded the law given by God and Numbers teaches the reader about God’s expectation of His people after He reveals His law. Throughout the book of Numbers we see God’s expectations for His people, and what results when His own fail to put their trust in Him and act in obedience.

The book of Numbers, as mentioned above, show the consequences of disobedience more clearly than any book. We mentioned the rebellion at Kadesh when the people refused to enter Canaan (Ch.13-14), but we also see the rebellion of Korah when he led 250 princes of the congregation against Moses (Ch.16) and the disobedience of Moses and Aaron at Meribah (Ch.20). Those that refused to enter Canaan were forced to wander the desert for forty years. Those who followed Korah were swallowed up into the earth and Moses and Aaron were forbidden from entering into the Promised Land. Early in the scriptures we are given a clear picture about how sin affects and hurts the people of God.

The book of Numbers also shows, in all clearness, the connection between faith and obedience almost two millennia before James ever did. Numbers shows that disbelief and disobedience are interchangeable words. The Hebrews author notes that the wandering Israelites, “could not enter in because of unbelief” (Heb 3:19) and were an “example of disobedience” (Heb 4:11). Moses disobeyed God, and God said, “Because you did not believe Me” (Num. 20:12). There is no real difference between faith and works or belief and obedience. Saving faith is one that always has works to accompany it.

Another great lesson from this book is connected to the last lesson and that is that faith alone never saves. Numbers 21 begins with the Israelites rebelling and murmuring against God. In response to this, God sends poisonous serpents amongst the nation of Israel. Many deaths occur because of the snake bites, but God gives a solution. He tells Moses to build a bronze serpent and place it on top of a tall pole. Anyone who looks at this pole will be healed from their snake bite. Moses does this and as the people look, they are healed. Christ uses this as an illustration in John 3:14-16 to make point that man’s part of salvation includes a belief that includes obedience to God’s standard. Believing in the power of the bronze serpent would do nothing if they refused to look, just as believing in Christ will do no God if we do not obey His word.

We can finally be reminded of the pilgrimage that is a Christian’s life. We are always wandering for that promised land of heaven, and must endure the trials here on earth as we seek God for guidance.

We cannot afford to overlook the book of Numbers. It is a book that teaches us very much about the nature of faith and what God expects out of those who believe in Him. It also reminds us of the consequences of our disobedience to Him.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for this. Numbers is a book that I do have difficulty with, and I often skip over it without even realizing it. This is a wonderful assessment.