Chapter 1.
Lessons from Numbers

The book of Genesis is the book of Beginnings. Within its pages we are briefed on the details of the commencement of our universe, the human race, the sin of mankind, civilization, the Hebrew race, the nations, and God's plan of redemption through the bloody, sacrificial death of the innocent. It shows us that God is the Creator, not man, and that we have a definite time of beginning.

The book of Exodus is the book of Redemption. In Genesis we see man's downfall, flop, and failures, but in Exodus we see the Lord taking care of our failures and lifting us up, giving us hope by His wonderful grace and redemption. The curtains of Exodus open in gloom and doom. At the close of the book, they fold in glory and delight. What was ruined by sin in Genesis, was redeemed by the blood in Exodus. Genesis shows us that the nation of Israel is chosen to be God's peculiar people. Their redemption is revealed in the book of Exodus.

The focus of Leviticus is Worship. One of the key phrases is "worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness." The emphasis of this book is on purity. Va-Vich-Ra is the title of this book in the Hebrew language which means "And He called." Leviticus deals with God's call to worship. Issues such as access to the Lord, communion with Him, separation from sin and holiness of life are addressed in this book. This book teaches us how to draw near to God in worship.

We come now to the book of Numbers, written around 1450 b.c. The book of Numbers deals with the walk and warfare of the believer as they are pilgrims going through the wilderness of life. It is a handbook for pilgrims. In Numbers, Israel is walking, wandering, and wayward. It is a book about an unfortunate pilgrimage where a group of people who knew better did not live better lives. They suffered the consequences of a bad decision that was made at the crossroad of their lives.

Numbers is about God's direction and man's rejection of God's leading and guidance. The Septuagint or Greek Old Testament calls this book Arithmoi which means "arithmetic." It was given this name because of two counts taken of the people in this book. The counts were taken to determine the strength of the army and the identity of the people. Only true Israelites that were twenty and older were allowed to fight the battles of the Lord. The Hebrews called this book Bemidbar which means "In the Wilderness." The rebellion and stubbornness of Israel led to their wandering in the wilderness for almost 40 years. This book has been called "The book of Murmuring" because of the complaining of the people.

Psalm 95:10—Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, It is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways:

The key verse out of the 36 chapters and 1288 verses is Numbers 14:22, 23.

Numbers 14:22-23—Because all those men which have seen my glory, and my miracles, which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have tempted me now these ten times, and have not hearkened to my voice; [23] Surely they shall not see the land which I sware unto their fathers, neither shall any of them that provoked me see it:

Because this is a book for pilgrims, the lessons we find within it are valuable for us since, we too, are pilgrims.

1 Peter 2:11—Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul;

Now what are some of the lessons from this book? God's Word has been given to us to teach us lessons.

1 Corinthians 10:11—Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

Romans 15:4—For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

A. Lesson 1—God's People Are Not Always in God's Will.

God's people tend to get out of place and out of bounds. God wanted His people in the Promised Land, but disobedience, rebellion, and doubt led to their wandering in the wilderness for forty years. The will of God is to be a priority in our lives. God wants us to realize that He has a plan for every person. We are to run our course or race for Christ.

Hebrews 12:1—Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,

2 Timothy 4:7—I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith:

The Bible teaches several truths about God's plan for our lives.

1. God wants us to KNOW His course for our lives.

He doesn't want us to be ignorant of His will.

Acts 22:14—And he said, The God of our fathers hath chosen thee, that thou shouldest know his will, and see that Just One, and shouldest hear the voice of his mouth.

2. We are to pray about His will.

Psalm 143:8—Cause me to hear thy lovingkindness in the morning; for in thee do I trust: cause me to know the way wherein I should walk; for I lift up my soul unto thee.

Psalm 143:10—Teach me to do thy will; for thou art my God: thy spirit is good; lead me into the land of uprightness.

The "land of uprightness" in the Hebrew reads "on level ground."

3. God's plan for us is personal.

Psalm 32:8—I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.

4. God's plan is detailed.

Psalm 37:23—The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.

It is the Lord who delights in our way that has been established, arranged, or directed by Him. This is the meaning behind the word "ordered" which comes from the Hebrew word kuwn (koon).

5. God's plan for us is continual.

Isaiah 58:11—And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

6. God's plan is specific.

Isaiah 30:21—And thine ears shall hear a word behind thee, saying, This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and when ye turn to the left.

7. God's plan is good, acceptable, and perfect.

Romans 12:2—And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is thatgood, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.

The Bible teaches that God's will or plan includes certain factors or elements.

1. Separation from sinful living.

1 Thessalonians 4:3—For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

2. Supplication or Satisfaction.

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18—Pray without ceasing. [18] In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

3. Service to the Lord.

1 Peter 2:15-16—For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: [16] As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.

The liberty we have in Christ is not for the purpose of living sinfully, but living holy lives that glorify Him.

4. Soberness about Life.

James 4:15—For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.

5. Surrender of your whole heart.

Ephesians 6:6—Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart;

We are not to serve the Lord only when someone is watching us. We are not to serve Him to please men or be recognized by men. We are to serve Christ from the heart because of our love for Him.

How can we know God's plan or will for our lives?

1. Scripture

2. The Spirit of God

3. The Sovereigns or authorities over us.

This would include parents, pastors, a husband, government officials, etc.

4. Situations or circumstances in our lives may reveal His plan.

B. Lesson 2—We Are to Be Prepared to Fight the Lord's Battles.

Scriptural warfare is part of being a soldier for Christ. This is what we are to be. We are in the Lord's army.

1 Timothy 6:12—Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.

2 Timothy 2:3-4—Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. [4] No man that warreth entangleth himself with the affairs of this life; that he may please him who hath chosen him to be a soldier.

Beloved, the Christian life is not a playground, but a battleground. Many churches are offended by the thought of spiritual warfare because they have become too much like the world. The result of their worldliness is a loss of spiritual power and effectiveness for Christ. Some churches have removed confrontational songs from their song books such as "Onward Christian Soldiers."

We are in a battle whether we admit it or not. The prize of the battle is the souls of men.

Ephesians 6:12—For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

The weapons for our battle are powerful ones.

2 Corinthians 10:4—(For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

Unwillingness to serve in the Lord's army leads to wandering and a wasted life. The phrase "able to go forth to war" is used fourteen times in Numbers chapter one. Are you able to wage spiritual war in your life right now or are you listening to the drum beat of a different drummer? Are you following another master other than the Lord Jesus Christ?

Matthew 12:30—He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.

God's people were counted, but could not be counted upon to do His will, except for two men. Can the Lord count upon you?

C. Lesson 3—Life is a Wilderness. Therefore We Need God's Direction and Guidance and Must Follow Him Lest We Fail.

We are to go forward in faith, following Christ.

John 14:6—Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

John 8:12—Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

D. Lesson 4—Complaining is Contagious and Doubting God is Disastrous.

It does not take long for a negative spirit to spread. Grumbling, griping, complaining, and doubting ruined Israel. It will ruin you too.

Ephesians 4:30-31—And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. [31] Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

E. Lesson 5—The Importance of Spiritual Instruction.

We need the instruction of God's Word because we tend to be immature and ignorant of His truth.

Hosea 4:6—My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.

Ephesians 4:14—That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;

We need to grow spiritually.

2 Peter 3:18—But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

God's original plan for Israel was that the eldest son would act as the priest of the family.

Exodus 13:1-2—And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, [2] Sanctify unto me all the firstborn, whatsoever openeth the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and of beast: it is mine.

Because of the continual wickedness of Israel, the Lord limited the priesthood to the Levites.

Numbers 3:11-13—And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, [12] And I, behold, I have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of all the firstborn that openeth the matrix among the children of Israel: therefore the Levites shall be mine; [13] Because all the firstborn are mine; for on the day that I smote all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I hallowed unto me all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast: mine shall they be: I am the Lord. (God gave His firstborn too.)

When Israel was numbered, the Levites were not included in the count because they were to be exempt from military duty. In Numbers 4:48, we find about 8580 priests, which was about 233 people per priest. Their job was to make sure people worshiped correctly. Worship and warfare go together. If worship is not right, then warfare is weakened. This is a key reason why many Christians are not serving the Lord Jesus Christ.

F. Lesson 6—God Does Things Decently and Orderly. He is Not the Author of Confusion.

In order to move this crowd, they had to be organized. The census showed that there were 603,550 men that were twenty and older. The grand total with women and children was probably about 2 1/2 to 3 million people. The number was confirmed in the ransom offering. A half-shekel was given for each person.

Exodus 38:25-26—And the silver of them that were numbered of the congregation was an hundred talents, and a thousand seven hundred and threescore and fifteen shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary: [26] A bekah for every man, that is, half a shekel, after the shekel of the sanctuary, for every one that went to be numbered, from twenty years old and upward, for six hundred thousand and three thousand and five hundred and fifty men.

When God leads your life, He does not lead you into confusion. We do this when we don't follow Him. The Lord gives us focus in frustration, calm and clarity in confounding circumstances, and sensibility and stability in shaky situations. If you are confused, get on your knees and get into the Word.

G. Lesson 7—God Will Supply All Your Needs.

Philippians 4:19—But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

The food needed to feed 2 1/2 to 3 million people required fifty railroad box cars of manna per day, plus food for thousands of animals. They would need 12 million gallons of water per day. It is possible that the manna had a quantity of moisture in it to give the people the water they needed for their bodies. God miraculously supplied their needs in a barren desert. He can supply your needs too. He can fulfill your most important need, forgiveness and cleansing of your sin. He can give you eternal life through Jesus Christ. These seven lessons are vital in maturing and growing in Christ and being what God intended you to be.