Numbers • Sermon • Submitted • Presented • 46:35
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The Passing of the Guard
Good evening everyone, finally a Wednesday evening without weather issues! It is our hopes to complete the book of Numbers this evening. A reminder to you all that we won’t have a midweek Bible study here or online next week as our winter session of Growth groups begins next week and I and I hope you, will be with my Growth Group. So, let’s begin with prayer, and then pick up our study in chapter 32.
1 Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of livestock; and when they saw the land of Jazer and the land of Gilead, that indeed the region was a place for livestock, 2 the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spoke to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the leaders of the congregation, saying,
4 the country which the Lord defeated before the congregation of Israel, is a land for livestock, and your servants have livestock.” 5 Therefore they said, “If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan.”
So what we have here is that after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness they get to the promised land, or really next door to the promised land. And the Tribes of Reuben, Gad, and half of Manasseh say, yeah, Good enough! This land right here is pretty sweet for raising cattle and livestock, and that’s what we do. So just dump us off here, we’re good with that, and once you get into the land, there will be more for all of you.
I’m not sure how well you can see this, but this map shows the ultimate distribution of the Tribal allotments of Israel. You can see to the East of the Jordan river, not in the promised land, actually all of the area that is present day Jordan, our map shows on the right side bottom, the tribe of Ruben, then north of them, we have the tribe of Gad, and then the northern most portion east of the Jordan river is East Manasseh.
No sense in us all crowding in together, we’ve got the spoils of war, this land is perfect for us, so see ya later. Now Moses is about ready to blow a gasket. They’ve been wandering for 40 years! They were right at the gate once, and they got spooked after some of the spies they sent in gave a bad report, and refused to enter and now this is like Deja vu. Let’s look at his response in verse 6...
6 And Moses said to the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben: “Shall your brethren go to war while you sit here? 7 Now why will you discourage the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord has given them? 8 Thus your fathers did when I sent them away from Kadesh Barnea to see the land.
Don’t you guys remember this!!!! Verse 9...
9 For when they went up to the Valley of Eshcol and saw the land, they discouraged the heart of the children of Israel, so that they did not go into the land which the Lord had given them. 10 So the Lord’s anger was aroused on that day, and He swore an oath, saying,
Do you guys remember what the Lord did and said when his anger was aroused. He swore an oath saying all that left Egypt that were age 20 and up would not make it into the promised land except for Caleb and Joshua, who went in to spy it out and encouraged Israel to enter into the land the Lord had given them. We were right there and the fear of your fathers cost us 40 years of wandering in this miserable desert. You know what, you guys are just like your fathers!
That probably stung a little, so they reconsidered, thought on it and came to Moses with another plan. Let us build cities here for our wives, our children, and our livestock, so they can stay and be safe. Then we will arm ourselves and go into the land with you to take the land, and once things are settled, we will return here to be with our families, this land is our inheritance.
Moses considers what they offered, he repeats it back to them to clarify their commitment to him and Israel and then says in verse 23...
23 But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.
I just want to remind you guys of what we recently read in our Sunday morning study of 1 Corinthians. chapter 10 vs. 11…says
11 Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
There’s another verse in Romans chapter 15 vs. 4...
4 For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
There is a spiritual picture here in the book of Numbers that is important for us to get. These people are content with good enough, to get out of captivity wander around a bit, and then get close, but not enter into the fullness of the promises God had for them. They were content to stay on the other side of the Jordan.
If you back up even further, the Bible often pants a picture of Egypt as being that old life of bondage in the world, our life of sin before coming to Christ. As Israel was given their freedom by God escaping Egypt, they passed through the waters of the Red Sea, many say that is a foreshadow of salvation, it was a literal salvation to Israel on that day. It could be symbolic of passing through the waters of baptism, showing a new relationship with God. And then they were on their way to the promised land, free from their chains of bondage, as we are when we get saved.
But then somehow for many of us, instead of having a heart of gratitude and servitude for all that God has delivered us from. Instead of seeking all that He has for us, we want to know, what is good enough? Where is the line, the border. How far can I go, how much can I do, and still be a Christian. I’m looking for just barely good enough!
There are so many old spiritual song and hymns about the Jordan river, crossing the Jordan river, often times it is pictured as the crossing over point from life to death, or the old life and the new. Sadly, for so many that profess to be Christians, they want to hang out in that in between spot, somewhere between the full life of victory in Jesus, truly walking in the Spirit, surrendered to the will of God, where Jesus is not just our Savior but is truly Lord of our lives, where old things have passed away, and all things have become new…they want to live in the land of in between. One foot in the church and one in the world, and they are quickly defeated.
As you read on further into the history of ancient Israel at the time that the northern 10 tribes go into Babylonian captivity, guess what tribes were the first to fall and be taken into captivity? Those that hadn’t fully entered in. Those that didn’t have the protection of the boundaries, the Jordan river, the fellowship and protection of the full gathering of Israel, they were the first to fall.
It is such a dangerous spot for us to be in, that land of in between spiritually, where we just don’t feel like we fit in either place. We don’t! We were made in the image of God, the God who is sickened by lukewarmness.
I think we are also delusional in forgetting that what Moses says here in verse 23 still applies to us today...
23 But if you do not do so, then take note, you have sinned against the Lord; and be sure your sin will find you out.
There is no such thing as secret sin…we read in Hebrews "...all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." - Hebrews 4:13 NKJV
Jesus said, "That which is done in secret shall be shouted from the housetop". The Bible says, "Everything is open and naked before Him with whom we have to do" (Hebrews 4:13). Sin cannot be hidden from God, they can be removed by Jesus, but there is no hiding on our own.. So they commit to Moses that they will follow through, remember Moses isn’t going to be allowed to enter in either, God has already told him that. Chapter 33 begins, well let’s look at verse 3...
3 They departed from Rameses in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the day after the Passover the children of Israel went out with boldness in the sight of all the Egyptians. 4 For the Egyptians were burying all their firstborn, whom the Lord had killed among them. Also on their gods the Lord had executed judgments.
Chapter 33 goes through and reviews the entire journey of Israel from the time they left Egypt until the present time where they are now in their journey. If you read down through it, it is sort of like reviewing their Google timeline of all the places that they’ve traveled. Some will be familiar to us if you’ve read through the book of Exodus and some are new, but it is a review of their wanderings until you get to verse 50...
50 Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho, saying, 51 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you have crossed the Jordan into the land of Canaan, 52 then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, destroy all their engraved stones, destroy all their molded images, and demolish all their high places; 53 you shall dispossess the inhabitants of the land and dwell in it, for I have given you the land to possess.
KJV actually says destroy their picture, here it is engraved stones and molded images…God is saying throw Verse out their trash! Their pictures are pornographic, their molded images are of their false gods, their high places are an abomination, utterly destroy it all. I’m giving you this land and it is to be holy. Verse 54...
54 And you shall divide the land by lot as an inheritance among your families; to the larger you shall give a larger inheritance, and to the smaller you shall give a smaller inheritance; there everyone’s inheritance shall be whatever falls to him by lot. You shall inherit according to the tribes of your fathers. 55 But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall be that those whom you let remain shall be irritants in your eyes and thorns in your sides, and they shall harass you in the land where you dwell.
God says the land is yours, but you need to drive out all that don’t belong and separate yourselves from them completely. Anyone here know what Galvanic Corrosion is?
Galvanic corrosion (GC) occurs when two or more metallic materials having different reversible electrode potentials are coupled together and exposed to a corrosive solution or the atmosphere. What in the world does that mean? When you take two different metals like carbon steel and then say aluminum or copper, and put them together, especially in the presence of moisture, corrosion appears. Something similar happens in our fruit bowls…what happens if you have a bowl full of apples and there is one on the bottom that is rotten? It spreads?
Does that happen with people? Of course it does! Lots of times we think we are safe or that we can handle it, but in the next chapter we get to in 1 Corinthians, chapter 15 we read this warning, don’t be deceived, bad company corrupts good character. Moving on…in chapter 34, the borders of the land are described.
Important to recognize a couple of things here…lets look at the first couple of verses…
1 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Command the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When you come into the land of Canaan, this is the land that shall fall to you as an inheritance—the land of Canaan to its boundaries.
Make note of the shall fall to you as an inheritance, a gift from God. They would have to go in and drive the Canaanites out but it was to be understood that this was land given to them by God. Not land that they fought for and earned or deserved, the same with the land for the other tribes, look down to verse…13
13 Then Moses commanded the children of Israel, saying: “This is the land which you shall inherit by lot, which the Lord has commanded to give to the nine tribes and to the half-tribe. 14 For the tribe of the children of Reuben according to the house of their fathers, and the tribe of the children of Gad according to the house of their fathers, have received their inheritance; and the half-tribe of Manasseh has received its inheritance. 15 The two tribes and the half-tribe have received their inheritance on this side of the Jordan, across from Jericho eastward, toward the sunrise.”
So all of this land belongs to Israel as an inheritance, a gift from them to God. It is so important to understand this, especially when we listen to people talk about peace in the middle east and different countries try to get involved and renegotiate land boundaries with the Palestinians by what they think is fair. God has made covenants with His people Israel. The promises He made to Abraham, that we now call the Abrahamic covenant promised more than just a great people, but also land, and the Palestinic covenant expanded that land even further and won’t be fulfilled completely until the millennial age. But make no mistake, they will be fulfilled!
So the promised land was theirs, given to them by God, all they had to do was to enter in and claim it. Man, that’s our life. God wants fullness of life for us with love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. A life where the passions and desires of our flesh have been crucified and we are living and walking in the Spirit.
God then assigns two men to help divide the land among the tribes and establishing their borders, in verse 17 we see that it is Joshua and Eleazar the Priest. And the rest of the chapter just lists out the heads of each of the tribes for us. In Chapter 35 God tells Moses that he wants cities set up for the Levites and God wants to establish cities of refuge. Look at verse 2…in chapter 35
2 “Command the children of Israel that they give the Levites cities to dwell in from the inheritance of their possession, and you shall also give the Levites common-land around the cities. 3 They shall have the cities to dwell in; and their common-land shall be for their cattle, for their herds, and for all their animals.
So if you remember from our earlier studies, the Levites aren’t to get any huge chunks of land as an inheritance. The land was the inheritance of the rest of the tribes, but God told the Levites that He Himself was their inheritance, that they received the better portion. So in chapter 35 among the land that was given to Israel small cities were to be divided up and given to the Levites. 48 of them in total.
42 of them to dwell in and then as a border around each of the cities going out another 2,000 cubits, that land would be common land common-land shall be for their cattle, for their herds, and for all their animals.
But there were 6 special cities to be set up as cities of refuge. Culturally you need to understand that they had some very deep traditions. One of them was to take what they saw as justice into their own hands. If someone in your family was killed, then who ever did the killing, was hunted down and killed. The one sent out to find them and kill them was called the avenger of blood. You spilled the blood of my brother, or my father, or my third cousin, so I’m assigned as the avenger of blood to kill you out of revenge.
When I find you, you give me some sad story that it wasn’t on purpose. You were walking by my brothers house on your way to go feed starving widows and orphans when you came across my brother who was crying. You stopped to see what was wrong and he explained that he had a leaking roof that his wife demanded be fixed right away and was afraid of heights. You offered to go up and repair it for him in exchange for just one more barley loaf to feed the poor, but when you got up there, after fixing the leak, my brother waived to him, not wanting to be rude, he waived back, slipped and fell onto my brother, accidentally crushing him to death. I say, oh, I’m sorry I didn’t realize it was an accident, off with your head, and still kill him, because I am the avenger of blood, and we kill for revenge as tradition.
This didn’t please the Lord, so he said to set up 6 cities of refuge, three on one side of the Jordan and 3 on the other, spaced out so they can be reached by anyone within a day, just in case the death was an accident or unintentional. Look at verse 11...
11 then you shall appoint cities to be cities of refuge for you, that the manslayer who kills any person accidentally may flee there. 12 They shall be cities of refuge for you from the avenger, that the manslayer may not die until he stands before the congregation in judgment.
See if you just appear before the avenger of blood, you’re not going to get a fair trial, or any trial at all, just street justice. If you were a manslayer, but you killed accidentally, you could flee to a city of refuge and be protected until you were given the opportunity for a fair trial where evidence could be examined. If you were not guilty of killing intentionally, you could safely stay within the city of refuge, if you left on your own, the avenger of blood would find you and kill you, or if you stood before the congregation and were found guilty of killing intentionally, you would be put to death.
But there was another provision in there, that if you left your family to flee to a city of refuge because the death was accidental, you weren’t necessarily stuck there for the rest of your life unable to return to your family…vs. 26
26 But if the manslayer at any time goes outside the limits of the city of refuge where he fled, 27 and the avenger of blood finds him outside the limits of his city of refuge, and the avenger of blood kills the manslayer, he shall not be guilty of blood, 28 because he should have remained in his city of refuge until the death of the high priest. But after the death of the high priest the manslayer may return to the land of his possession.
So you can root for the high priest to die, so you can go back home and not loose hope!
When you had your trial it had to be more than I said so, it couldn’t just be your word against mine. Verse 30...
30 Whoever kills a person, the murderer shall be put to death on the testimony of witnesses; but one witness is not sufficient testimony against a person for the death penalty. 31 Moreover you shall take no ransom for the life of a murderer who is guilty of death, but he shall surely be put to death. 32 And you shall take no ransom for him who has fled to his city of refuge, that he may return to dwell in the land before the death of the priest.
Vs. 31 the rich can’t buy their way out of justice...
Vs. 32 nor could they buy their freedom outside of what God had allowed.
If you were found guilty, you would be put to death by the avenger of death.
Now in chapter 36, do you guys remember the daughters of Zee-low-fee-had? I probably called him Z. Zee-low-fee-had had 5 daughters but no sons. These ladies went to Moses and said, not fare! Our father died in the wilderness and he had no sons, why shouldn’t his land go to us? Moses went to God and the laws of inheritance were established. Tradition had it that the eldest son would receive the greatest portion of land, but if there were no son, the land would go to the daughters, if no daughters to his brothers, if he didn’t have brothers, then to his uncles, if no uncles, the closest of next of kin.
Well when we get to chapter 36 we see that some of the others that were from the same tribe as them, the tribe of Manasseh, had some concerns that God may not had thought things through on that one. They go to Moses and say so now that things are divided up. And yeah we gave a portion to the daughters of Zee-low-fee-had as the Lord commanded, but what if they get married, and it’s to a dude that’s not from our tribe?
In the year of Jubilee, the seventh year when all debts are forgiven and stuff goes back to where it belongs, what is going to happen then? We don’t want part of the inheritance of our tribe ending up going to a different tribe and messing up the territories and further dividing things just because these ladies decide they want to marry someone from a different tribe.
Moses says, that makes sense, you guys are right…verse 5 in chapter 36...
5 Then Moses commanded the children of Israel according to the word of the Lord, saying: “What the tribe of the sons of Joseph speaks is right. 6 This is what the Lord commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying, ‘Let them marry whom they think best, but they may marry only within the family of their father’s tribe.’ 7 So the inheritance of the children of Israel shall not change hands from tribe to tribe, for every one of the children of Israel shall keep the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers.
This doesn’t just go for them, but any daughters from any of the tribes that receive an inheritance. If they want to keep it, they need to marry from within their own tribe.
The daughter’s hear that, their cool with it and find some cute guys in the tribe of Manasseh and marry them, retaining their inheritance. That becomes the law, so the lands and the boundaries wouldn’t become all confused and we end in verse 13...
13 These are the commandments and the judgments which the Lord commanded the children of Israel by the hand of Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan, across from Jericho.
Sadly, they have not yet entered in, but this is then end of the leadership of Moses as he can’t enter in. In your chronological reading when you get here it will take you next to the book of Deuteronomy. That name of that book means second law, so it will be a review and summary of some of the things you will have already been through, it just fills in some of the details. When you get to the last book of Deuteronomy you’ll read about the death of Moses, so this timeline picks up there and then transitions to the leadership of Joshua who takes them into the promised land.
Great job church! This is the first time we have made it all the way through the book of Numbers as a church. Grace and Peace.