Numbers 1-2: A Journey in the Wilderness
March 1, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
The Book of “Numbers” describes how God’s people journey in the wilderness, first to the border of the Promised Land, and then, because of their disobedience, in the wilderness another forty years instead of entering the Promised Land. The Hebrew title, then, for the book is in many ways more exact: “in the wilderness.” (The English title “numbers” comes from the prominent censuses in the book.)
That said, the book begins with a lengthy census of the tribes and clans of Israel (1:1-46), and a description of how they are to be organized according to each clan (2:34). Evidently, Moses had an extraordinarily large responsibility in taking care of this number of people, this congregation being a massive group of individuals, families, and children. There is the necessity of organization, and they set out in clan groups together according to the logistical setup so constituted and recorded here. This numbering takes place according to God’s commission, a numbering that David later attempted without God’s commission and paid for his presumption (2 Sam. 24, 1 Chron. 21).
The Levites are given especial honor and set apart; having distinguished themselves in the matter of the golden calf, they are now honored here in the numbering of God’s people, and are given the special task of preventing any from unintentionally infringing on the holy presence of God (1:47-54). In the midst of God’s people, God is a holy God, and God’s ministers are to proclaim his glory and awesomeness.
All this order makes it clear that God is a God of order, and that his people are to be ordered according to his instructions—for the New Testament church, similarly and most prominently in 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. Chaos is no virtue, and order reflects the order of God. We humbly serve in our ways according to God’s calling and his arrangement. This journey in the wilderness requires discipline, forethought, and good arrangement. Israel, by God’s command, gets ready for a journey.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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