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Numbers 16-20

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Continued wanderings through: The Book of Numbers.

Let’s pray:
We will be picking up our study of the Book of Numbers this evening in Chapter 16. You may remember last week we began with Moses’ sister and brother coming to him and asking, does the Lord only speak through you Big Guy? I’m sure we don’t have to remind you Moses, but God has also spoken through us! Moses didn’t really have to defend himself, because the Lord did, and confirmed the anointing that He had placed on Moses as the leader of the people. His sister was instantly stuck with leprosy. If you weren’t with us, you can go back and read about it.
Tonight, we are starting from a similar place. With a guy named Korah and a few others, Dathan, Abiram, and a guy named On who was a little off in his thinking. These guys started an uprising among the people against Moses and his family. And that was basically the position of Korah. Moses, what’s with the nepotism around this place? I see that ministry is the family business. Look at chapter 16 with me…starting in verse 2...
Numbers 16:2–5 NKJV
2 and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. 3 They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?” 4 So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face; 5 and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him.
Moses then instructs them to take censors, and to put fire in them and to come to him the following morning to see what the Lord would do. He says you guys are of the family of Levi and have been chosen from among all of the people to serve and to be close to God, and that’s not enough for you. You need to be in the priesthood as well. And they basically say, Moses, you’re not the boss of us, we’re not coming…verse 12..
Numbers 16:12–13 NKJV
12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, but they said, “We will not come up! 13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you should keep acting like a prince over us?
Moses, who was the humblest man in all of the earth, gets angry and asks the Lord to not receive their offering…look at verse 15...
Numbers 16:15 NKJV
15 Then Moses was very angry, and said to the Lord, “Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt one of them.”
The uprising continued to complain and murmur against Moses. Saying it is not small thing that you led us out of Egypt, but you haven’t taken us into the promised land, you’ve gotten us stuck in this wilderness where we’re going to die. God heard Moses and He tells Moses and Aaron to separate themselves from the 250 men leading this rebellion so He can instantly consume them. Moses appeals to God…verse 22
Numbers 16:22–24 NKJV
22 Then they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?” 23 So the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’ ”
Moses instructs the people to get away from the rebellion. These guys are wicked and are leading you astray. By this you’ll know whether or not God has called me to lead, and this isn’t just something I came up with in my head. If they live to be a ripe old age and die of natural causes, you’ll know I’m a fraud, but vs. 30...
Numbers 16:30–33 NKJV
30 But if the Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the Lord.” 31 Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. 33 So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly.
Themselves, their wives, and all of their children that stood in the doors of their tents and mocked what God was doing, they all perished. The people that witnessed it begin to freak out a bit…verse 34...
Numbers 16:34–35 NKJV
34 Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up also! 35 And a fire came out from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.
God then speaks to Moses and tells him in verse 37...
Numbers 16:37 NKJV
37 “Tell Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, to pick up the censers out of the blaze, for they are holy, and scatter the fire some distance away.
God says the censers are holy because they have been set apart for service to me. So crawl through the mess, and redeem what is holy, pound the censors out flat and put it as a covering over the alter as a reminder to all those that would ever see it or hear of it, that the Priesthood was not a place of self promotion. God didn’t want men to be able to elevate themselves into positions of ministry, particularly the priesthood, where they could consider themselves a priest over others, the spiritual one that stood between them and God.
Now in the New Testament, Jesus wiped out the necessity of a priesthood, when He became our great High Priest, dying so that nothing would ever again separate you and you and you, and me from being able to talk to God directly through Jesus who has given us all free access to the Father.
SO today, you and I have the same access to the Father. He hears your prayer, or your cry, just as he does mine. There’s no special privilege or backstage pass for pastors that’s not freely given to you in Jesus.
I’m not to be your priest, or Shepard over you in the sense that if you want to do something major in life, you need to come run it buy me. Pastor Brian I think I want to sell my house, or change jobs, what should I do? This is a practice that’s done in a bunch of churches, but your pastor isn’t suppose to be your Priest, I’m to be your servant. A messenger from God to remind you of how much He loves you and to teach you the Word and to Disciple you in your faith, but you should be seeking God yourself to lead you in those other things.
Now these three families and the rebels fall into the earth and then are consumed by fire…and you would think the people would have taken a second and thought, now how did that happen, and how can I avoid that happening to me? Is this perhaps a great opportunity to learn a lesson through someone else? Let see how they did, verse 41
Numbers 16:41 NKJV
41 On the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord.”
Wait, what!?! It even angered God and He tells Moses and Aaron to step back so He can finish the job and consume the people. But Moses tells Aaron to grab a sensor, to put fire and incense in it and to make atonement for the people because the wrath of God was being poured out....verse 47...
Numbers 16:47–50 NKJV
47 Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people. 48 And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped. 49 Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident. 50 So Aaron returned to Moses at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, for the plague had stopped.
What an incredible picture of an intercessory ministry, or intercessory prayer for the lost or for a prodigal child. Part of the reason the Lord still has us here, as He is slow to anger and full of mercy, and doesn’t just consume the world or come back today and say, it’s too late guys it’s over. Our ministry in the world today is this to stand between the living and the dead, praying for mercy and interceding on their behalf.
Numbers 17:1–2 NKJV
1 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and get from them a rod from each father’s house, all their leaders according to their fathers’ houses—twelve rods. Write each man’s name on his rod.
Write the name of the Father of the tribe on the rod and write Aaron’s name on the rod for the tribe of Levi...
Numbers 17:4–5 NKJV
4 Then you shall place them in the tabernacle of meeting before the Testimony, where I meet with you. 5 And it shall be that the rod of the man whom I choose will blossom; thus I will rid Myself of the complaints of the children of Israel, which they make against you.”
So every man did as he was instructed…look at verse 8
Numbers 17:8 NKJV
8 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds.
So this was a testimony that the Lord had chosen the family of Aaron to serve as the priesthood and the rod was taken and put into the Ark of the Covenant as a testimony to all.
In chapter 18 we see an important principle...
Numbers 18:1 NKJV
1 Then the Lord said to Aaron: “You and your sons and your father’s house with you shall bear the iniquity related to the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity associated with your priesthood.
All of these people in the tribes were desiring to be the head, to assume the role of leadership and priesthood to the people. God points something out here that they, and many today have no concept of. People that chose ministry as a career when it’s not really their calling. The iniquity related to the sanctuary, and bearing the iniquity associated with your priesthood. God never gives authority without accountability and responsibility. Yes, Aaron and his family had authority and with that there came a cost. Look down to verse 6...
Numbers 18:6 NKJV
6 Behold, I Myself have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel; they are a gift to you, given by the Lord, to do the work of the tabernacle of meeting.
The rest of the chapter if you go through each of the verses speaks of the offerings that are to be made by the people. From those offerings, Aaron, and the priests are to be paid. Each of the families are to give a tenth of what they have, and from the amount that is collected a 10th of that is to be given to Aaron and his family for their support a tenth of the meat and so on. In verse 19 God calls this a salt offering which back then, salt was considered pure, it preserved, it had value and was used as wages… it was considered unchangeable and incorruptible… let’s look at verse 19...
Numbers 18:19–20 NKJV
19 “All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer to the Lord, I have given to you and your sons and daughters with you as an ordinance forever; it is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord with you and your descendants with you.” 20 Then the Lord said to Aaron: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.
So they were instructed to give a tithe of 10% here under the law, we are no longer under the law and can give lots more today, if that’s how the Lord directs you…which well talk about more when we get to 2 Corinthians as Paul talks about New Testament giving. We’re still to do it, but as the Lord directs.
When we get to chapter 19, we read about this ordinance that they are to do involving a red heifer, I’m thankful our worship today isn’t this complicated. But there are many that teach that there are pictures here for us of the cleansing that is available to us through the blood of Jesus, and how the water washes us. Being symbolic of both the Word of God and the Holy Spirit. Let’s begin reading in verse 2...
Numbers 19:2–4 NKJV
2 “This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come. 3 You shall give it to Eleazar the priest, that he may take it outside the camp, and it shall be slaughtered before him; 4 and Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of its blood seven times directly in front of the tabernacle of meeting.
Numbers 19:5–7 NKJV
5 Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight: its hide, its flesh, its blood, and its offal shall be burned. 6 And the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet, and cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer. 7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes, he shall bathe in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp; the priest shall be unclean until evening.
Eleazar the Priest was the one to burn it, but then one that was declared ceremonially clean would gather up the ashes and mix them with water to make this water used to anoint and make things clean and purified like we need to be now through Christ.
Chapter 20 begins with the death of Miriam, the sister of Moses while they were back in Kadesh. This was a great reminder to them and to us that God is no respecter of persons or that He doesn’t show partiality. God said that with the exception of Caleb and Joshua, all those who were age 20 and above when they departed Egypt were not going to make it into the promised land. Moses and his family didn’t get a special pass on that. It’s important to us today, because the Bible tell us that there is only one way to Heaven.
John 14:6 NKJV
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
No exceptions, no special passes.
Numbers 20:2–3 NKJV
2 Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron. 3 And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: “If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!
Moses, we’re thirsty! We wish we were dead, sucked up into the earth and consumed with fire like our brothers, that would be way better than being thirsty!
Numbers 20:6–9 NKJV
6 So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them. 7 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.” 9 So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him.
The verse isn’t up here so you’re going to have to look at your Bibles, what did God tell Moses to do with the rod (take it) and what did God tell Moses to do to the rock? (Speak to it) Let’s see how he did...
Numbers 20:10–13 NKJV
10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. 12 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” 13 This was the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel contended with the Lord, and He was hallowed among them.
vs. 10 - God told Moses to speak to the rock, not to the nation! He would have been so far better off keeping his mouth shut and only doing what God instructed him to do. Look what else he does in verse 10, look what he says…Must we? WE! Who’s he talking about? Moses and Aaron? No, Moses and God! Think the humblest man on the face of the earth has over stepped his boundaries a bit? I also, no longer see that description of him in this passage. Moses gets personally offended by the people’s complaints against God and steps way out of bounds. God has bigger shoulders than you, and can defend Himself.
The one and only time I met Pastor Chuck Smith, was at a conference and he was speaking to a group of us pastors and he said if someone speaks against God, He has big shoulders, let it go. If someone speaks against you, your life is no longer your own, let the Lord defend you and like Jesus, as a lamb before the slaughter keep your mouth shut. Only when the sheep are being attacked should you as an under-Shepard step in. God wanted Moses’s obedience not his defense.
If you remember a few weeks ago on Sunday morning, we learned why this was such a big deal. In 1 Corinthians 10:4
1 Corinthians 10:4 NKJV
4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
That rock that Moses struck was a picture of the life giving Jesus. Who was once smitten for our salvation, and Moses hit the rock twice, and misrepresented God and the sacrifice of Jesus. In the Gospel of John Jesus says of Himself...
John 4:14 NKJV
14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
That may seem like a pretty stiff penalty for Moses, I mean he’s taken nothing but garbage from these people that he has been serving on behalf of God, but it speaks of what we read about in chapter 18, the inequity of the priesthood, the responsibility and accountability that comes with authority in ministry. You never represent yourself in there is both a cost and a blessing in representing God.
Think about that for a minute, Moses was just told to speak to the rock and water would come forth, but he was angry with the people and yelled at that, condemning them, that was not God. If you are ever in a position of speaking forth for God, or representing Him in any way....what does looking at you, cause people to think about God. When they see you serving in ministry, what is their impression of Jesus? Now in verse 14…Moses sends messengers to the King in Edom...
Numbers 20:14–15 NKJV
14 Now Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom. “Thus says your brother Israel: ‘You know all the hardship that has befallen us, 15 how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians afflicted us and our fathers.
Will you let us pass through your land. Hey Cuz, the Edomites were descendants of Esau and Moses was a descendant of Jacob, so Moses is saying we’re cousins, we’re family, are you ok with it if we cut through your yard? The King basically says stay off my lawn, in verse 18 it says....
Numbers 20:18 NKJV
18 Then Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.”
So Moses and the children of Israel had to take the long way around the land of Edom. Then a little further down in the chapter, starting in verse 23 we read about the death of Aaron, Moses’ brother, the High Priest.
Numbers 20:23–26 NKJV
23 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor by the border of the land of Edom, saying: 24 “Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah. 25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor; 26 and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; for Aaron shall be gathered to his people and die there.”
Numbers 20:27–29 NKJV
27 So Moses did just as the Lord commanded, and they went up to Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. 28 Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. 29 Now when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days.
The next chapter is a long one, so I’ll end with a reminder here from our recent study in Corinthians that tells us why we should bother studying the book of Numbers on a Wednesday night…Speaking of these Old Testament examples 1 Corinthians 10:6
1 Corinthians 10:6 NKJV
6 Now these things became our examples, to the intent that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.
These examples have been recorded for us and preserved for thousands and thousands of years, for us to learn from the examples of others, so that we would not suffer the same fate as those before us. That we would lust after things that would destroy us. That we would follow the leading of God and to look for it, rather than run ahead of Him or lag behind, getting lost in our own stuff. That when God makes promises to us, and says He is for us, that we wouldn’t let our fear, our circumstances, or our limited perspective keep us from entering into the very best that He desires for us.
Grace and Peace
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