Week Eight Devotion
Last week we started Leviticus and this week we are going to finish it up and begin to read the book of Numbers and this is going to be a welcome relief because where the book of Leviticus is about the meticulous details of sacrifices, rituals, and law; the book of Numbers is about the journey of God’s people through the Wilderness. In fact, the Hebrew name for the book of Numbers actually means In the Wilderness and this book tracks the epic journey of Israel from the base of Mt. Sinai all the way up to the border of the Promised Land.
It is also exciting because we get to see the promises that God made to Abraham coming true, at least they almost come true. By the end of the book of Numbers the people are so close to the Promised Land that they can see it. They will even send spies to check out the land and bring a report back to Moses and the elders. But we will get into that next week. For now, it’s important for us to understand the overview of this book so that we can know how it fits into the bigger picture of God’s redemptive plan.
Now, you might be asking, “What does he mean by the bigger picture of God’s redemptive plan?” and that is a great question. What I mean is that this book actually matters, not just for the details contained in it, but it matters in that it takes us a step closer to God’s plan being fulfilled. The Bible is ultimately one story that contains several key components: how God created all that exists, how rebellion entered into creation through the sin of Adam and Eve, how God promised to overcome that sin and enter back into an intimate relationship with His people.
That’s what we’ve been reading about these last 7 weeks and our reading this week takes us one step closer to seeing a large part of this promise fulfilled. You see, God is keeping His promise to crush the head of the rebellion that began in the Garden. God is keeping His promise to bless Abraham and make his descendants into a great nation that would be the source of God’s blessing on the world.
One of the key components of this was that God would give land to Abraham’s descendants and that is what the book of Numbers is all about. God has rescued Israel from Egypt. He led them to Sinai where He gave them His law. He has returned to dwell with them again in the Tabernacle and now they are on their way into the Promised Land. So that’s what we are in for as we study the book of Numbers together.
But before we jump into that let’s talk about how the book of Leviticus wraps up. Remember that Leviticus shows us what was necessary in order for God to dwell in the midst of His people. They needed to make sacrifices in order to cover their sin, they needed a priesthood that could represent them before God, and they needed to follow a system of laws to help them distinguish between what was clean and unclean. Then right in the middle of the book was the capstone for how God would atone for their sin and make it possible for His presence to dwell in their midst.
One of the questions that comes up as we read through Leviticus has to do with the purity laws and it goes like this, “Why does God want His people to live this way?” Why can’t they eat pork? Why do they have to follow all of these detailed laws? The answer to this is somewhat complex. Just because an animal is unclean does not mean that the animal is sinful in some way.
The point that God is making is not that pork is bad but that our deviation from God’s Word and what He reveals to be good is bad. These laws aren’t about hygiene, they are about God’s people following God’s Word and being set apart (holy) from all the other nations of the world. You see, being in relationship to God affects every aspect of your life and that is one of the major things we learn from this book.
I also want to point out that Israel does not become the people of God by following these laws. These laws come after God delivered them from slavery in Egypt. No these laws are intended to guide them as the people of God.
There is one phrase that appears over and over as you read Leviticus and it is this phrase, “I am the Lord your God.” This is a shorthand way of God reminding Israel that he had redeemed them, set them apart to be His people, and He wants to dwell among them and be their God. What this phrase means is that obedience to these laws should be a loving response to their loving Redeemer.
Leviticus 20:26 "You shall be holy to me, for I the Lord am holy and have separated you from the peoples, that you should be mine."
Here is something to discuss...
Let’s discuss Leviticus chapter 26 which outlines for us the blessings that God would give to Israel for their obedience and the punishment that God would pour out on them for their disobedience. I’ve always found this fascinating. It was common for ancient Near Eastern nations to establish treaties/covenants with other nations and these treaties included sections on blessings and curses. One king would covenant with his vassal in this way, “If you keep our covenant, then I will take care of you. But if you break our covenant, I will punish you or remove my protection from you.”
That is exactly what we see in chapter 26. God is the King establishing the covenant blessings and curses with His people. If they keep the covenant God will bless them above every nation on earth, but if they break the covenant God will discipline them. If they continue to break the covenant, then God promises to remove His protection from them and give them over to their enemies.
Now, the point of this is to encourage faithfulness to God. He wants to bless them but over time we will see Israel break the covenant again and again. The curses that God promises here will come to pass to the point that He removes His protection from them and they eventually become slaves again when they go into exile. But even then the story is not over.
We are all covenant breakers. We all deserve to receive the curses because of our sin. But in His love God sends Jesus to set us free from the curse and to bring us the blessings contained within a whole New Covenant. In the New Testament book of Matthew Jesus communicates a whole new set of covenant laws along with the blessings that it will bring.
So here is what I want you to do, take some time and read through Leviticus chapter 26 then read through Matthew chapters 5-7 and for discussion compare these two passages. There are many similarities but there are some striking differences as well.
Here is something to meditate upon...
Let’s turn our attention to the book of Numbers and think about what we see in the ordering of the camp. In chapter 2 we read that all the tribes are to order themselves within the camp in particular positions but every tribe is to be facing inward toward the tent of meeting. The Israelites are organized in such a way that the Tabernacle sits at the center, signifying that God is at the heart of this nation.
It’s also interesting to note that the tribe of Judah is placed on the Eastern side of the camp. And because the nation will be travelling east to the Promised Land this means that Judah will be leading the march. As one of 12 tribes, Judah has the pride of place. They will be the first to engage in battle if it comes. They will also be first to see the Land of Promise come into view. In essence, they are leading the entire nation as they strike out in obedience to God. Now why is this significant?
In Genesis 49:8-12, Jacob (Israel) gathered all of his sons together and he pronounced blessings over each of them and when he came to Judah he made something clear. Judah would stand out among his brothers. Judah would conquer his enemies and all of his brothers, the other 11 sons of Jacob, would bow down to him. Jacob went on to say that the ruling staff would not depart from Judah until all the people gave him their obedience. This blessing means that we should expect great things from the tribe of Judah. And that is what we get. King David is from the tribe of Judah and when he becomes king we will see him deliver Israel from their enemies and rule as a worthy leader of God’s people. But David is only a partial fulfillment of Jacob’s promise. In the end, Jesus is also from the tribe of Judah. He will one day conquer our enemies for good. He will also deliver and rule over God’s people forever.
Here is something to pray about...
It’s not difficult to find something to pray about as we read through Numbers. The thing that jumps out to me and probably to you as well is all the grumbling that comes from God’s people but we won’t get into that until chapter 11. So what do we see in the first 6 chapters that might lead us to pray?
One thing that stands out in the first few chapters is what we read in Numbers 5 and 6. The people are counted, they are organized and they are ready to march out but before they go there is concern over their purity. God wants to remind the people that if they are going to march out as His people they need to pay attention to His Word. They are to guard their ritual integrity, their moral purity, and their faithfulness to the law of God. They are covenant people even as they are on their way to the Promised Land.
If someone is found to be unclean or someone is found committing sin, they need to confess that sin and make restitution. This is not that different from the instruction given to Christians as we journey through this life on our way to the Promised Land of Heaven. We are to be faithful the Lord’s Word. When we stumble in sin we should recognize it, confess it to God and others (when appropriate), and we should repent of that sin, making the necessary restitution to those we’ve sinned against.
So spend some time praying about your life right now. Pray that God would lead you into greater faithfulness and obedience to His Word. Pray that God would reveal your sin to you and soften your heart so that confession and repentance comes quickly. Pray that God would soften your heart and lead you to forgive those who have sinned against you. Pray that you would be humble and seek forgiveness from those you have sinned against.
Finally, pray that God would keep Cornerstone, her members and leaders, faithful and joyful as we journey together in this world on our way to God’s Promised Land.