BIBLE READING: Numbers 1-2
The book of Numbers takes the reader on a long and winding path through a desert of excruciating detail. The book records census results for all twelve tribes not once, but twice; it documents priestly instructions for handling the Ark of the Covenant and the tabernacle; and it even spells out the placement of the tribes when they camped. But through it all, we cannot doubt God’s unfailing direction over the nation.
As a history of the nation not yet established in the land promised them long ago, this book unveils significant events sometimes referenced later in Scripture. Joshua and Caleb alone among the twelve spies encouraged Israel to take possession of the land ( Numbers 13–14 ; Joshua 14:7 ); Moses struck a rock and water spouted forth ( Numbers 20:11 ; Psalm 106:32 ); Moses lifted up a bronze serpent on a pole so that believing Israelites might be healed of their snake bites ( Numbers 21:6–9 ; John 3:14 ); and Balaam was rebuked by his donkey ( Numbers 22:21–34 ; Revelation 2:14 ). In this book, the people of Israel tested God’s patience, and He in turn tested their endurance and faithfulness. Though the people failed many times, God showed His own faithfulness by His constant presence leading the way: through a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
More than just a history lesson, the book of Numbers reveals how God reminded Israel that He does not tolerate rebellion, complaining, and disbelief without invoking consequences. He taught His people how to walk with Him—not just with their feet through the wilderness but with their mouths in worship, hands in service, and lives as witnesses to the surrounding nations. He was their God, they were His people, and He expected them to act like it. As readers of this book today, we can not only learn a thorough history of Israel’s early days but also a renewed sense of God’s delight in obedience. He is our God, too, and He wants us to live righteously, worshiping Him through our words and works. The Apostle Paul tells is in I Corinthians 10.6 that “These things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved”. -Selected for Church Swindoll’s Overview of Numbers