Numbers 26-27: Who Can Enter?
March 11, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
Numbers 26 is another census, but its significance should not be overlooked. Whereas when David counted God’s people, he sinned—for God had not commanded the census, and by so counting, he was, as it were, assessing or putting to the test God’s original promise that his people would be as numerous as the stars in the sky—this census was by God’s command.
What is more, it was there to teach a particular lesson. The lesson is made clear at the end of the chapter when it says that none of those from the previous census (the people who had rebelled against God and of whom God had said would therefore not enter the Promised Land) were left. “Not one of them was left, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun” (26:65). Lest anyone think that this action was callous and not due to the lack of faith of those people who perished, a story is recorded of daughters asking what would happen to their inheritance (27:1-11). And God, through Moses, assures them that their future property is secure (27:7) and issues a standing ordinance related to the same principle (27:8-11). And, again, lest anyone think that God is playing favorites, Moses himself will not enter the Promised Land because he also did not trust God in one particular testing moment, and therefore did not show God’s name as holy, special, beautiful, excellent (27:12-14).
God was teaching his people that trusting him and his Word was the path to entering the Promised Land. God’s people would not be left “like sheep without a shepherd” (27:17) (Jesus uses these same words when he had compassion on the people, Mark 6:34; Matt. 9:36), and Joshua shall succeed Moses and at this time be given some partial authority to ease the succession plan (27:20). Joshua showed himself faithful to God by trusting God’s promise regarding entering the Promised Land, he has served with Moses and learnt from him and proved himself in that regard, and therefore is the appropriate successor.
Interestingly, we are told next to nothing about Joshua’s gifts. Whereas our tendency is to look for people of ability to serve in ministry roles, God puts a premium on faithfulness of character (see 1 Timothy 3). If even Moses did not enter the Promised Land, how can any be righteous enough? The answer is no one can. If even Moses—the very human representative of the law, the one through whom the law came—if even he fell short, who is it that can live up to the standard that God sets? The answer is no one. Joshua enters the Promised Land. His name means “God Saves.” And it promises of another Joshua, Jesus, the Greek name for the Hebrew “Yeshua” which is anglicized as “Joshua.” Through faith in Christ, who entered the gates of heaven for us, who took hell in our place, through faith in him we too can tread the verge of Jordan and land safe on Canaan’s side.
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.
To receive God Centered Life devotionals directly in your inbox, as well as other resources, enter your email address in the form at the bottom of this page and click "subscribe."