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Through the Bible: Numbers

Through the Bible (Prayer Meeting)  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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The English title “Numbers” is from the name of the book in the Septuagint based on the censuses found in chapter 1-4 and 26.

Again the Hebrew title, “in the wilderness”, is from the first verse in the book and probably is a better title.

Why would this be a better title? It is the focus of the book.

Time Frame: 40 years. From leaving Mount Sinai to the arrival at the Jordan.

Content: The Israelites’ extended time in the desert as they go from Mount Sinai to the plains of Moab, with some additional covenant laws.

Emphasis: Preparing the nation to conquer the promised land through military efforts; the covenant loyalty of God toward Israel with regard to the land; the repeated failure of the people to obey the covenant with God; God’s leadership of his people and affirmation of Moses’ leadership; preparing to enter and worship in the promised land; settling in the land east of the Jordan River by conquest.

Primary Focus: The journey to the edge of the promised land.

We can break down the book geographically.

Chapters 1-10 are about packing up at Sinai.

Chapters 11-12 are about the journey to Kadesh where the people rebel.

Chapters 13-19 explain the wanderings in the wilderness.

Chapters 20-21 describe the journey to the plains of Moab.

Chapters 22-36 Israel is camped on the eastern bank of the Jordan River.

There are two thematic ideas juxtaposed against each other.

The present problem of the unbelief, rebellion, and disobedience of the people.

Over against Yahweh’s faithfulness to his past promises - his patience and grace.

Major Theme: Past promises will prevail in spite of present problems.

This theme plays out in 3 sections of the book.

In chapters 1 to 10 we see God preparing his people for the fulfillment of his promises.

Chapters 11 to 16 we see God punishing his people for their great unbelief and lack of trust in his promises being fulfilled.

Constant complaining and disobedience. When we disobey the word of God it is because we don’t believe God and don’t trust him. If we trust God we obey him because he knows what is best.

Chapters 17 to 36 we see God’s patience with his people. Perhaps most importantly, we learn that his promises will be fulfilled in spite of everything that has taken place.

God is patient with his people despite them grumbling against him and his appointed leader, Moses.

Why study Numbers?

1 Corinthians 10:6–12 ESV
6 Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” 8 We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, 10 nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. 11 Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 12 Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.

Summary: The message of Numbers is this: God prepares his people for the fulfillment of his promises, but the people are punished since they do not believe his promises. Nevertheless God’s patience sees that his promises will prevail and will come to pass.

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