One year has passed since Israel’s exodus from Egypt when the book of Numbers opens. Numbers recounts Israel’s wilderness journeys. It takes its name from the 2 censuses/numberings of the Israelites – the first at Mt. Sinai (Num. 1) and the second on the plains of Moab (Num. 26). Most of the book, however, describes Israel’s experiences as they wander in the desert. In the Bible, we see that God often takes His people through wilderness experiences. They are meant to be a testing of our faith so that we can journey on to spiritual maturity and stability. The LORD doesn’t want us to keep living in the wilderness but He wants us to move on and live in the blessing of His promises.
In the book of Numbers, we see an entire adult generation, with the exception of Joshua and Caleb, fail in their wilderness testings. An eleven-day journey became a forty-year agony.
The adult-generation which are counted in the census of Numbers 1 has seen 1st-hand the power and glory of God’s deliverance from bondage to Pharaoh. They saw with their own eyes God’s miraculous plagues upon the Egyptians and God’s powerful and gracious hand in separating the waters of the Red Sea. But in the desert, on the other side of the Red Sea, the Israelites put God to the test over and over again. As soon as they got hungry or thirsty, they complain against God and against Moses.
This generation of Israelites is without excuse. They not only saw 1st-hand God’s miraculous workings in delivering them from Egypt and providing for them in the desert through manna and water, but they were also provided excellent leadership by Moses and Aaron. As we read the 1st few chapters of Numbers, it is hard not to be impressed by how well organized the huge population of the Israelites were. A census was taken to number each tribe of the 12 tribes of Israel (Num. 1). They were arranged in their tribal camps around the Tabernacle in a precise manner (Num. 2). The Levites were arranged like a well-drilled team in the setting up and bringing down of the Tabernacle’s furnishings and structure (Num. 3,4). Yet, most of the adult generation that left Egypt did not take advantage of all these divine blessings. The stubbornness and sinfulness of their own hearts sabotaged their walk of faith with the LORD.
It is not uncommon to hear the refrain: “If there is a God why doesn’t He reveal more of Himself to people.” It’s as if this reluctance on God’s part to reveal Himself is the main issue why people don’t believe and worship Him. But one only has to remember the testimony of the 1st generation of Israelites who left Egypt through God’s mighty hand. They had great revelation from God but they refused to humble themselves before God and refused to trust Him.
We also need to remember what happened in the 1st coming of Christ. Christians believe the incarnation of God’s Son was the greatest revelation of God. The Word, who was with God, and was God (John 1:1), became flesh and made His dwelling among us (Jo. 1:14). What did they do to Jesus? Jew and Gentile crucified Him on the cross and the religious leaders, who were entrusted with the oracles of God, accused Jesus of being empowered by the power of the devil (Mt. 12:24). The issue in our worship of God is the state of our heart and whether we will submit ourselves to God and learn to walk in faith and obedience. In Christ’s love & service, Pastor John