Friday, June 29, 2012

Taking another Census

Numbers 26:1-65

“And it came to pass after the plague, that the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying,  Take the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, from twenty years old and upward, throughout their fathers' house, all that are able to go to war in Israel. 

And Moses and Eleazar the priest spake with them in the plains of Moab by Jordan near Jericho, saying, Take the sum of the people, from twenty years old and upward; as the LORD commanded Moses and the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt.” (Numbers 26:1-4)

While at mount Sinai in Numbers 1, God had directed Moses to take a census of the men of military age and record their lineage.  At that time there had been a total of six hundred three thousand five hundred fifty men, not including the Levites.  It was done in preparation for them to enter the land of Canaan, but they refused to go.  God had said that every man who had refused to go would die in the wilderness.  Forty years later, God told them to take another census, preparatory to going into the land.  This time it was conducted by Moses and Aaron’s son Eleazar.

"Reuben, the eldest son of Israel: the children of Reuben; Hanoch, of whom cometh the family of the Hanochites: of Pallu, the family of the Palluites: Of Hezron, the family of the Hezronites: of Carmi, the family of the Carmites. These are the families of the Reubenites: and they that were numbered of them were forty and three thousand and seven hundred and thirty.  And the sons of Pallu; Eliab.  And the sons of Eliab; Nemuel, and Dathan, and Abiram.

 This is that Dathan and Abiram, which were famous in the congregation, who strove against Moses and against Aaron in the company of Korah, when they strove against the LORD: And the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed them up together with Korah, when that company died, what time the fire devoured two hundred and fifty men: and they became a sign.  Notwithstanding the children of Korah died not.” (Numbers 26:5-11)

In Genesis 49:3-4 Jacob had prophesied, “Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel; because thou wentest up to thy father's bed; then defiledst thou it: he went up to my couch.”  It was Reuben’s descendants, the families of Dathan and Abiram who supported Korah in his effort to take over the priesthood in Numbers 16.

“The sons of Simeon after their families: of Nemuel, the family of the Nemuelites: of Jamin, the family of the Jaminites: of Jachin, the family of the Jachinites: Of Zerah, the family of the Zarhites: of Shaul, the family of the Shaulites.  These are the families of the Simeonites, twenty and two thousand and two hundred.” (Numbers 26:12) 

With only twenty two thousand two hundred men. Simeon was even smaller than the tribe of Levi.

The children of Gad after their families: of Zephon, the family of the Zephonites: of Haggi, the family of the Haggites: of Shuni, the family of the Shunites: Of Ozni, the family of the Oznites: of Eri, the family of the Erites: Of Arod, the family of the Arodites: of Areli, the family of the Arelites.  These are the families of the children of Gad according to those that were numbered of them, forty thousand and five hundred.” (Numbers 26:15-18)

“The sons of Judah were Er and Onan: and Er and Onan died in the land of Canaan.  And the sons of Judah after their families were; of Shelah, the family of the Shelanites: of Pharez, the family of the Pharzites: of Zerah, the family of the Zarhites.  And the sons of Pharez were; of Hezron, the family of the Hezronites: of Hamul, the family of the Hamulites.  These are the families of Judah according to those that were numbered of them, threescore and sixteen thousand and five hundred.” (Numbers 26:10-22)

The deaths of Er and Onan are described in Genesis 38.  Pharez was the result of Judah‘s sexual affair with his daughter-in-law.  Later Judah would become the most powerful tribe, and already they were the largest, with seventy six thousand five hundred men.

“Of the sons of Issachar after their families: of Tola, the family of the Tolaites: of Pua, the family of the Punites: Of Jashub, the family of the Jashubites: of Shimron, the family of the Shimronites.  These are the families of Issachar according to those that were numbered of them, threescore and four thousand and three hundred.” (Numbers 26:23-25)

“Of the sons of Zebulun after their families: of Sered, the family of the Sardites: of Elon, the family of the Elonites: of Jahleel, the family of the Jahleelites.  These are the families of the Zebulunites according to those that were numbered of them, threescore thousand and five hundred.” (Numbers 26:26-27)

“The sons of Joseph after their families were Manasseh and Ephraim.” (Numbers 26:28) 

The other sons of Jacob each formed one tribe, but Jacob told Joseph that his two sons were to be considered a Jacob’s sons in Genesis 48:5. And now thy two sons, Ephraim and Manasseh, which were born unto thee in the land of Egypt before I came unto thee into Egypt, are mine; as Reuben and Simeon, they shall be mine.”  As a result Ephraim and Manasseh each formed their own tribe, giving Joseph a double portion as Jacob promised in Genesis 48:22.  “Moreover I have given to thee one portion above thy brethren, which I took out of the hand of the Amorite with my sword and with my bow.”

“Of the sons of Manasseh: of Machir, the family of the Machirites: and Machir begat Gilead: of Gilead come the family of the Gileadites.  These are the sons of Gilead: of Jeezer, the family of the Jeezerites: of Helek, the family of the Helekites: And of Asriel, the family of the Asrielites: and of Shechem, the family of the Shechemites: And of Shemida, the family of the Shemidaites: and of Hepher, the family of the Hepherites.  And Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters: and the names of the daughters of Zelophehad were Mahlah, and Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah.  These are the families of Manasseh, and those that were numbered of them, fifty and two thousand and seven hundred. 

These are the sons of Ephraim after their families: of Shuthelah, the family of the Shuthalhites: of Becher, the family of the Bachrites: of Tahan, the family of the Tahanites.  And these are the sons of Shuthelah: of Eran, the family of the Eranites.  These are the families of the sons of Ephraim according to those that were numbered of them, thirty and two thousand and five hundred. These are the sons of Joseph after their families.” (Numbers 26:35-37)

One of Manasseh’s descendants had no sons but God made special provision in the next chapter to ensure that his descendants got their fair share.

"The sons of Benjamin after their families: of Bela, the family of the Belaites: of Ashbel, the family of the Ashbelites: of Ahiram, the family of the Ahiramites: Of Shupham, the family of the Shuphamites: of Hupham, the family of the Huphamites.  And the sons of Bela were Ard and Naaman: of Ard, the family of the Ardites: and of Naaman, the family of the Naamites.  These are the sons of Benjamin after their families: and they that were numbered of them were forty and five thousand and six hundred.” (Numbers 26:38-41)

“These are the sons of Dan after their families: of Shuham, the family of the Shuhamites. These are the families of Dan after their families.  All the families of the Shuhamites, according to those that were numbered of them, were threescore and four thousand and four hundred.” (Numbers 26:42-43) 

“Of the children of Asher after their families: of Jimna, the family of the Jimnites: of Jesui, the family of the Jesuites: of Beriah, the family of the Beriites.  Of the sons of Beriah: of Heber, the family of the Heberites: of Malchiel, the family of the Malchielites.  And the name of the daughter of Asher was Sarah.  These are the families of the sons of Asher according to those that were numbered of them; who were fifty and three thousand and four hundred.” (Numbers 26:44-47)

This is the only Sarah mentioned in the Bible besides Abraham’s wife.  Nothing more is known about her.

“Of the sons of Naphtali after their families: of Jahzeel, the family of the Jahzeelites: of Guni, the family of the Gunites: Of Jezer, the family of the Jezerites: of Shillem, the family of the Shillemites.  These are the families of Naphtali according to their families: and they that were numbered of them were forty and five thousand and four hundred. 

These were the numbered of the children of Israel, six hundred thousand and a thousand seven hundred and thirty.” (Numbers 26:48-51)

The original census had counted six hundred three thousand five hundred fifty.  Forty years later, they had a thousand eight hundred twenty less men of war.  No numbers are give as to how many of the mixed multitude of other races were still with them but it is probable that many had died as no mention of them occurs later.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Balak Acts On Balaam’s Information

Numbers 25:1-18

“And Israel abode in Shittim, and the people began to commit whoredom with the daughters of Moab.  And they called the people unto the sacrifices of their gods: and the people did eat, and bowed down to their gods.” (Numbers 25:1-2)

Israel was occupying land once owned by the Moabites that they had taken from the Amorites, and there were still a lot of Moabites living in the land.  As descendants of Lot, they were distant relatives of  the Israelites.  After their defeat of the Amorites, the King, Balak was terrified that Israel would conquer Moab.

Balaam had said, “He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.  God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought!”

Remembering that Balak used the familial relationship, and the proximity to encourage Israel to participate in their religious practices and customs.  Some of these sexual perversions had been learned by Lot’s daughters in Sodom.  Many Israelites went along with it.

“And Israel joined himself unto Baalpeor: and the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel.  And the LORD said unto Moses, Take all the heads of the people, and hang them up before the LORD against the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may be turned away from Israel. 

 And Moses said unto the judges of Israel, Slay ye every one his men that were joined unto Baalpeor. ” (Numbers 25:3-5)

God had given a specific command about worshipping other Gods in Exodus 20:3-5.  “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.  Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me.”  Their participation in worship of Baalpeor was a deliberate breaking the covenant with God.  Later in Deuteronomy 8:19-20, God would warn, “And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish.  As the nations which the LORD destroyeth before your face, so shall ye perish; because ye would not be obedient unto the voice of the LORD your God.”

God had also specifically warned them of the consequences of sexual sin in Leviticus 20:10.  “And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.”  Israel had also ignored and violated this part of their agreement with God.  That a large number of people were involved in the sin did not change the penalty.  Moses’ command to execute the guilty was simply fulfilling the commandment in an effort to turn away God‘s wrath.  He had already set a plague in motion that was killing people.

“And, behold, one of the children of Israel came and brought unto his brethren a Midianitish woman in the sight of Moses, and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel, who were weeping before the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. 

And when Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose up from among the congregation, and took a javelin in his hand; And he went after the man of Israel into the tent, and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her belly. So the plague was stayed from the children of Israel.  And those that died in the plague were twenty and four thousand.” (Numbers 25:6-9) 

Right in the middle of the whole thing, one man came dragging in a Middianite woman to entertain his brothers, publicly defying them to do anything about it.  There was no question of his guilt, and Phineas fulfilled the Law’s demand by killing both the man and the woman.  The plague had already killed twenty four thousand, and the man’s action made a mockery of their deaths.

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Phinehas, the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, hath turned my wrath away from the children of Israel, while he was zealous for my sake among them, that I consumed not the children of Israel in my jealousy.  Wherefore say, Behold, I give unto him my covenant of peace: And he shall have it, and his seed after him, even the covenant of an everlasting priesthood; because he was zealous for his God, and made an atonement for the children of Israel.” (Numbers 25:10-13) 

In Leviticus 18 God gave specific instructions about sexual sin, warning that if allowed, it would defile the land and cause the inhabitants to lose it,  Leviticus 18:24-25 warns, “Defile not ye yourselves in any of these things: for in all these the nations are defiled which I cast out before you: And the land is defiled: therefore I do visit the iniquity thereof upon it, and the land itself vomiteth out her inhabitants.”  This is true of any country, not just Israel.

Numbers 35:31-33 makes a similar statement about allowing murderers of those guilty of manslaughter.  “Moreover ye shall take no satisfaction for the life of a murderer, which is guilty of death: but he shall be surely put to death.  And ye shall take no satisfaction for him that is fled to the city of his refuge, that he should come again to dwell in the land, until the death of the priest.  So ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: for blood it defileth the land: and the land cannot be cleansed of the blood that is shed therein, but by the blood of him that shed it.”

Because of our acceptance of sexual sin and even murder the frequency is on the rise in modern America.  As Ecclesiastes 8:11 states, “Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”  In essence, our allowing such sin to be unpunished, we tacitly approve it.  We thus expose ourselves to God’s judgment.  I Corinthians 11:31 promises,  “For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged.”

In the church, we are commanded to separate those who are in deliberate sin to prevent it’s spread.  I Corinthians 5:4-6 instructs, “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when ye are gathered together, and my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.  Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?”

Though it may seem harsh, Phineas’ action spared the lives of a great many people.

“Now the name of the Israelite that was slain, even that was slain with the Midianitish woman, was Zimri, the son of Salu, a prince of a chief house among the Simeonites.  And the name of the Midianitish woman that was slain was Cozbi, the daughter of Zur; he was head over a people, and of a chief house in Midian.” (Numbers 25:14-15)

The man who was slain had considerable prestige and probably figured he could get off as a result, especially as they would not want to antagonize the Midianites by killing one of the indianite leader’s daughters.  God is no respecter of persons, and the same rules are to apply to everyone.  James 2:9 warns, “But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.”

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Vex the Midianites, and smite them: For they vex you with their wiles, wherewith they have beguiled you in the matter of Peor, and in the matter of Cozbi, the daughter of a prince of Midian, their sister, which was slain in the day of the plague for Peor's sake.” (Numbers 25:16-18)

Rather than avoiding antagonizing the Midianites, God instructed Israel to punish them for their part in causing Israel to sin in worshipping other Gods and sexual misconduct.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

He Finally Yielded

Numbers 24:1-25

Finally convinced that God was not going to change his mind and let him have Balak’s rewards, Balaam didn’t waste the time trying to get God to change his mind although he still asked Balaam to build altars and offer sacrifices.

"And when Balaam saw that it pleased the LORD to bless Israel, he went not, as at other times, to seek for enchantments, but he set his face toward the wilderness.  And Balaam lifted up his eyes, and he saw Israel abiding in his tents according to their tribes; and the spirit of God came upon him. 

And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: He hath said, which heard the words of God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! 

As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign aloes which the LORD hath planted, and as cedar trees beside the waters.  He shall pour the water out of his buckets, and his seed shall be in many waters, and his king shall be higher than Agag, and his kingdom shall be exalted. 

God brought him forth out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn: he shall eat up the nations his enemies, and shall break their bones, and pierce them through with his arrows.  He couched, he lay down as a lion, and as a great lion: who shall stir him up? Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee.” (Numbers 24:1-8)

Rather than trying to get the message Balaam wanted, Balaam  let God speak through him this time.  He gives a prophecy about what God will do Israel, that they wil have a king more powerful than the Agag, the title of the Amalekite king who was at that thime the most powerful of the local kings.  He reviewed how it was God who would cause this and no earthly power could successfully prevent it.  Please note the pride that seeps in stressing Balaam's knowledge and understanding.  He is still focused on promoting himself.

“And Balak's anger was kindled against Balaam, and he smote his hands together: and Balak said unto Balaam, I called thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast altogether blessed them these three times.  Therefore now flee thou to thy place: I thought to promote thee unto great honour; but, lo, the LORD hath kept thee back from honour.” (Numbers 24:10-11) 

Baslak got mad this time and ordered Balaam leave if he wanted to survive because he hadn’t done what he wanted.  Because he obeyed God instead of Balak, he was going to miss out on the honor he could have had.

II Peter  2:15 warns against following following “the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness.”  Early in our marriage, my wife made it clear that if I didn’t satisfy her, she was going to divorce me.  I spent a number of years trying to make her happy, even when I knew my actions were not what God wanted me to do.  Finally it reached a point where I could no longer convince myself that pleasing her was worth continuing to disobey God and she left me.  Looking back, I realize that had I not put her demands ahead of God‘s, she might never have become so determined to have her own way.  Like Balaam, the effort to balance both sides resulted not only in the loss of what I was trying to get, but  the loss of her respect and of several years of ministry.  It eventually cost Balaam his life.  How much better to have simply committed to God from the first.

“And Balaam said unto Balak, Spake I not also to thy messengers which thou sentest unto me, saying, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the commandment of the LORD, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; but what the LORD saith, that will I speak?  And now, behold, I go unto my people: come therefore, and I will advertise thee what this people shall do to thy people in the latter days.” (Numbers 24:12-14)

Finally, Balaam made a full commitment that he would serve God, and stop trying to please Balak.  Before he left he was obligated to warn Balak of the consequences of his sin and that of his people.  It didn’t make Balak any happier.

“And he took up his parable, and said, Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eyes are open hath said: He hath said, which heard the words of God, and knew the knowledge of the most High, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling into a trance, but having his eyes open: I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth.  And Edom shall be a possession, Seir also shall be a possession for his enemies; and Israel shall do valiantly.  Out of Jacob shall come he that shall have dominion, and shall destroy him that remaineth of the city.” (Numbers 24:15-19)

Balaam’s prophecy concerning Moab and Balak had partial fulfillment under various kings and Judges, but will be fully fulfilled whit Christ when he establishes his earthly kingdom.  It was given about seventeen hundred years before Christ was born.  The prophecy included several other nations which opposed Israel as well as the Moabites.   The domination of the Assyrian Empire and its defeat by the Medo-Persian Empire are foretold.

“And when he looked on Amalek, he took up his parable, and said, Amalek was the first of the nations; but his latter end shall be that he perish for ever.  And he looked on the Kenites, and took up his parable, and said, Strong is thy dwellingplace, and thou puttest thy nest in a rock.  Nevertheless the Kenite shall be wasted, until Asshur shall carry thee away captive. 

And he took up his parable, and said, Alas, who shall live when God doeth this!  And ships shall come from the coast of Chittim, and shall afflict Asshur, and shall afflict Eber, and he also shall perish for ever.  And Balaam rose up, and went and returned to his place: and Balak also went his way.” (Numbers 24:20-25)

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Still Trying For Earthly Reward

Numbers 22:36-23:30

“And when Balak heard that Balaam was come, he went out to meet him unto a city of Moab, which is in the border of Arnon, which is in the utmost coast.  And Balak said unto Balaam, Did I not earnestly send unto thee to call thee? wherefore camest thou not unto me? am I not able indeed to promote thee to honour?” (Numbers 22:36-37) 

Most peoples moral standards seem to be governed by self advantage rather than by real conviction.  When Balaam showed up after first saying God had forbidden him, it supported Balak’s belief that “everyone has his price.”  Basically he asked why Balaam didn’t just name the price the first time instead of wasting his time.

“And Balaam said unto Balak, Lo, I am come unto thee: have I now any power at all to say any thing? the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.” (Numbers 22:38) 

Balaam already knew God had forbidden him to do what Balak wanted, but his ambition led him to try to satisfy Balak without going against God.  He didn’t tell Balak he couldn’t curse Israel, just that he would only say what God said.  He was like most people, trying to obtain what he wanted without making God upset.

“And Balaam went with Balak, and they came unto Kirjathhuzoth.  And Balak offered oxen and sheep, and sent to Balaam, and to the princes that were with him.  And it came to pass on the morrow, that Balak took Balaam, and brought him up into the high places of Baal, that thence he might see the utmost part of the people.

And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven oxen and seven rams.  And Balak did as Balaam had spoken; and Balak and Balaam offered on every altar a bullock and a ram.” (Numbers 22:39-23:1)

Balak was familiar with the religious practices of his day, so he had no qualms about offering the sacrifices to try to obtain God’s favor.   Like many today, Balaam hoped that special offerings or service would persuade God to change his mind so he could get what he wanted.  In effect, he was trying to bribe God, because he doesn’t dare just ignore God’s command and speak without permission.

“And Balaam said unto Balak, Stand by thy burnt offering, and I will go: peradventure the LORD will come to meet me: and whatsoever he showeth me I will tell thee. And he went to an high place. 

And God met Balaam: and he said unto him, I have prepared seven altars, and I have offered upon every altar a bullock and a ram. 

And the LORD put a word in Balaam's mouth, and said, Return unto Balak, and thus thou shalt speak.  And he returned unto him, and, lo, he stood by his burnt sacrifice, he, and all the princes of Moab. 

And he took up his parable, and said, Balak the king of Moab hath brought me from Aram, out of the mountains of the east, saying, Come, curse me Jacob, and come, defy Israel. 

How shall I curse, whom God hath not cursed? or how shall I defy, whom the LORD hath not defied?  For from the top of the rocks I see him, and from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations.  Who can count the dust of Jacob, and the number of the fourth part of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his! ” (Numbers 23:3-10) 

Because he was still willing to listen to him, God gave Balaam a message for Balak and the nation of Moab.   The message God gave was clearly not what Balak wanted, but Balaam still gave God the credit.

“And Balak said unto Balaam, What hast thou done unto me? I took thee to curse mine enemies, and, behold, thou hast blessed them altogether. 

And he answered and said, Must I not take heed to speak that which the LORD hath put in my mouth?” (Numbers 23:11-12) 

When Balak remonstrated with him, Balaam insisted he had to do what God told him, but Balak wasn’t convinced.  After all he’d come that far, so he’d probably go a little farther under the right conditions.

“And Balak said unto him, Come, I pray thee, with me unto another place, from whence thou mayest see them: thou shalt see but the utmost part of them, and shalt not see them all: and curse me them from thence.  And he brought him into the field of Zophim, to the top of Pisgah, and built seven altars, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar. 

And he said unto Balak, Stand here by thy burnt offering, while I meet the LORD yonder. 

And the LORD met Balaam, and put a word in his mouth, and said, Go again unto Balak, and say thus. 

And when he came to him, behold, he stood by his burnt offering, and the princes of Moab with him. And Balak said unto him, What hath the LORD spoken?” (Numbers 23:13-17)

Still wanting the rewards, Balaam was willing to try again, rather than telling Balak he was wasting his time.  Again, God gave Balak a message.

“And he took up his parable, and said, Rise up, Balak, and hear; hearken unto me, thou son of Zippor: God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?  Behold, I have received commandment to bless: and he hath blessed; and I cannot reverse it.” (Numbers 23:18-20) 

God’s message was that God was not a human who could be swayed to do wrong by bribes and that he had commanded Balaam to bless Israel and Balaam had no power or authority to change it.  Unfortunately, he continued with his own understanding about God.

“He hath not beheld iniquity in Jacob, neither hath he seen perverseness in Israel: the LORD his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.  God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn. Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob, neither is there any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! 

Behold, the people shall rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion: he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.” (Numbers 223:21-24)

Balaam explained that Israel was to be blessed because they lived righteously before God and thus no curse or spell could affect them.  While he had no intention of going against God, Balaam had just given Balak the key to destroying Israel by getting them to sin.  It is what Revelation 2:14 refers to.  “But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication.”  God had told him to say nothing but what God said, but he had said a little more, but in saying a little more he gave information that could be used against Israel.

“And Balak said unto Balaam, Neither curse them at all, nor bless them at all. 

But Balaam answered and said unto Balak, Told not I thee, saying, All that the LORD speaketh, that I must do? 

And Balak said unto Balaam, Come, I pray thee, I will bring thee unto another place; peradventure it will please God that thou mayest curse me them from thence.  And Balak brought Balaam unto the top of Peor, that looketh toward Jeshimon. 

And Balaam said unto Balak, Build me here seven altars, and prepare me here seven bullocks and seven rams.  And Balak did as Balaam had said, and offered a bullock and a ram on every altar.” (Numbers 23:25-30)

Not realizing the importance of what Balaam had told him and still wanting Israel cursed, Balac tries again, and Balaam went along with him, although he no longer hoped to satisfy Balak.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Conversing With A Donkey

Numbers 22:1-35

“And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in the plains of Moab on this side Jordan by Jericho.” (Numbers 22:1)

God had told Israel not to attack Moab as Moses informed the people in Deuteronomy 2:9.  “And the LORD said unto me, Distress not the Moabites, neither contend with them in battle: for I will not give thee of their land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession.”  However, when they asked permission to cross their land, the Moabites were quite aggressive in refusing permission, and Israel had gone out of their way to avoid conflict.  After defeating the Amorites and the giant king, Og of Bashan, Israel no longer feared conflict, although they had no intention of attacking the Moabites.  They camped in an uninhabited part of Moab just across the Jordan river from Jericho.

“And Balak the son of Zippor saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites.  And Moab was sore afraid of the people, because they were many: and Moab was distressed because of the children of Israel.  And Moab said unto the elders of Midian, Now shall this company lick up all that are round about us, as the ox licketh up the grass of the field. And Balak the son of Zippor was king of the Moabites at that time.” (Numbers 22:2-4) 

The Moabites had been quite threatening when Israel asked permission to cross their land, but after the defeat of Sihon, they were afraid to engage them in battle without help and enlisted the aid of the Midianites, who had previously offered no opposition..

“He sent messengers therefore unto Balaam the son of Beor to Pethor, which is by the river of the land of the children of his people, to call him, saying, Behold, there is a people come out from Egypt: behold, they cover the face of the earth, and they abide over against me: Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.

And the elders of Moab and the elders of Midian departed with the rewards of divination in their hand; and they came unto Balaam, and spake unto him the words of Balak.” (Numbers 22:5-7) 

Balaam was a prophet of God, much like Moses father-in-law, Jethro.  Knowing that he had the power of God, Balac sought to get Balaam to side with him so he could use that power to accomplish his goals.  If Balaam would curse those people, he believed he could then defeat them despite their superior numbers.  He offered what he would have given his own prophets as an enticement.

“And he said unto them, Lodge here this night, and I will bring you word again, as the LORD shall speak unto me: and the princes of Moab abode with Balaam.” (Numbers 22:8) 

His emissaries probably assumed Balaam was preparing his potions and curses, and did not consider his request unreasonable, having no understanding of God.

“And God came unto Balaam, and said, What men are these with thee? 

And Balaam said unto God, Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab, hath sent unto me, saying, Behold, there is a people come out of Egypt, which covereth the face of the earth: come now, curse me them; peradventure I shall be able to overcome them, and drive them out. 

And God said unto Balaam, Thou shalt not go with them; thou shalt not curse the people: for they are blessed.” (Numbers 22:9-12)

God was very specific.  Balaam was not to go with them or curse those people because they were blessed of God.

“And Balaam rose up in the morning, and said unto the princes of Balak, Get you into your land: for the LORD refuseth to give me leave to go with you.  And the princes of Moab rose up, and they went unto Balak, and said, Balaam refuseth to come with us. 

And Balak sent yet again princes, more, and more honourable than they.  And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me: For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.” (Numbers 22:13-17) 

Balak assumed that Balaam’s refusal was just a negotiating tactic to get more money, and increased his offer, because he was desperate.  He would pay whatever Balaam asked if he’d just come.  Satan will often up the ante if we reject his initial offer.

“And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the LORD my God, to do less or more.  Now therefore, I pray you, tarry ye also here this night, that I may know what the LORD will say unto me more.” (Numbers 22:18-19)

Balaam knew God had said he was not to go or curse the people, but he wanted the money, so he offered to try again to see if God would change his mind.  He still wasn’t willing to go directly against God.  It is rather typical of human nature to try to convince God to allow us to do what we want.

“And God came unto Balaam at night, and said unto him, If the men come to call thee, rise up, and go with them; but yet the word which I shall say unto thee, that shalt thou do.” (Numbers 22:20)

Because of Balaam’s insistence, God agreed to allow him to go if the men came and woke him up the next morning, even though it was not what God wanted.  This is what is known as the permissive will of God.  He may allow us to do what is not pleasing to him because we insist.

“And Balaam rose up in the morning, and saddled his ass, and went with the princes of Moab.” (Numbers 22:21) 

Balaam didn’t wait for them to come for him, hurrying down to tell them he could go.  He knew that they wanted him to curse Israel, and that God had told him not to, but he was still going to go with them.  His desire for the money makes him willing to ignore even the fact that God had told him he could only go if they came for him.  Like most people, he went even beyond the permissive will of God.

“And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him. 

And the ass saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and the ass turned aside out of the way, and went into the field: and Balaam smote the ass, to turn her into the way.”  

But the angel of the LORD stood in a path of the vineyards, a wall being on this side, and a wall on that side.  And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she thrust herself unto the wall, and crushed Balaam's foot against the wall: and he smote her again. 

And the angel of the LORD went further, and stood in a narrow place, where was no way to turn either to the right hand or to the left.  And when the ass saw the angel of the LORD, she fell down under Balaam: and Balaam's anger was kindled, and he smote the ass with a staff.” (Numbers 22:22-27)

God was angered by Balaam’s deliberate disobedience and sent his angel to stop him.  Like most people, Balaam became quite angry about the obstacles to accomplishing his goals and more determined to have his way.  It’s bad when a donkey or an unsaved person is more spiritual than a Christian, but it frequently happens when we are determined to have our own way.

“And the LORD opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam, What have I done unto thee, that thou hast smitten me these three times? 

And Balaam said unto the ass, Because thou hast mocked me: I would there were a sword in mine hand, for now would I kill thee. 

And the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.” (Numbers 22:28-30)

This astounds me!  Balaam was so consumed with his anger over being thwarted in his purpose he never even realized what was happening.  His donkey was carrying on a conversation with him and all he could think about was his desire to kill her for interfering with his plans.  He had allowed Satan to control his mind.

“Then the LORD opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the LORD standing in the way, and his sword drawn in his hand: and he bowed down his head, and fell flat on his face.” (Numbers 22:31)

It took an act of God to regain control of Balaam’s mind.  When he finally regained control, he fell to the ground in fear.

“And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Wherefore hast thou smitten thine ass these three times? behold, I went out to withstand thee, because thy way is perverse before me: And the ass saw me, and turned from me these three times: unless she had turned from me, surely now also I had slain thee, and saved her alive.” (Numbers 22:32-33) 

The very thing Balaam was so upset about had saved his life three times.  How often the things we see as frustrations may be protecting us, but because we are so concerned with our own goals we get angry.

“And Balaam said unto the angel of the LORD, I have sinned; for I knew not that thou stoodest in the way against me: now therefore, if it displease thee, I will get me back again.” (Numbers 22:34) 

Finally Balaam recognized his sin and offered to go back, if God wanted him to.  He still excused himself as not having known he was going against God, ignoring the fact God had told him not to go and not to curse Israel.  Balaam is typical of a great many Christians today.

“And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.” (Numbers 22:35) 

At this point, Balaam was committed to go and God permitted him to go on, but not to say anything except what God told him to say.  He was to add nothing.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Victories Over the Amorites and Bashan

Numbers 21:21-35

“And Israel sent messengers unto Sihon king of the Amorites, saying, Let me pass through thy land: we will not turn into the fields, or into the vineyards; we will not drink of the waters of the well: but we will go along by the king's high way, until we be past thy borders.” (Numbers 21:21-22)

Six hundred years before, the Amorites had had a treaty with Abraham, as we learn from Genesis 14:13.  “And there came one that had escaped, and told Abram the Hebrew; for he dwelt in the plain of Mamre the Amorite, brother of Eshcol, and brother of Aner: and these were confederate with Abram.”  Israel hoped their history would result in cooperation when they wanted to cross their land toward Syria.  They made the same commitment they had made to Moab, to stick to the highway and not even stop for water on the way.

“And Sihon would not suffer Israel to pass through his border: but Sihon gathered all his people together, and went out against Israel into the wilderness: and he came to Jahaz, and fought against Israel.” (Numbers 21:23) 

Like the Moabites, the Amorites refused permission to cross their land.  In fact, Sihon actively attacked Israel, making it clear the previous alliance no longer mattered.  In Genesis 15:16, God had stated that eventually Israel would posses the land of the Amorites.  “But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.”  During the intervening years, they had turned entirely away from God.  The attack freed Israel from any lingering sense of obligation to them.

“And Israel smote him with the edge of the sword, and possessed his land from Arnon unto Jabbok, even unto the children of Ammon: for the border of the children of Ammon was strong.  And Israel took all these cities: and Israel dwelt in all the cities of the Amorites, in Heshbon, and in all the villages thereof.  For Heshbon was the city of Sihon the king of the Amorites, who had fought against the former king of Moab, and taken all his land out of his hand, even unto Arnon.” (Numbers 21:24-26) 

Israel defeated Sihon’s army and occupied all the Amorite cities including what they had taken from the Moabites on the north side of the Arnon, establishing themselves as powerful new neighbors.

“Wherefore they that speak in proverbs say, Come into Heshbon, let the city of Sihon be built and prepared:  For there is a fire gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon: it hath consumed Ar of Moab, and the lords of the high places of Arnon.   Woe to thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh: he hath given his sons that escaped, and his daughters, into captivity unto Sihon king of the Amorites.  We have shot at them; Heshbon is perished even unto Dibon, and we have laid them waste even unto Nophah, which reacheth unto Medeba.  Thus Israel dwelt in the land of the Amorites.” (Numbers 21:27-31)

The Amorites had been far more powerful than the Moabites, so Israel’s defeat of Sihon clearly established them as a force to be reckoned with.  Moab was especially fearful of their power.

“And Moses sent to spy out Jaazer, and they took the villages thereof, and drove out the Amorites that were there.  And they turned and went up by the way of Bashan: and Og the king of Bashan went out against them, he, and all his people, to the battle at Edrei.” (Numbers 21:32-33)

The Amorites had also occupied the region of Jaazer but were driven out by the Israelites.  From there they also turned into the land of Bashan.  Og, the king, tried to stop Israel’s progress, engaging them in battle at Edrei.

Genetic giantism had been introduced as a result of cross breeding of the of  the races in Genesis 6:4, but had largely disappeared by this time.  Og was the last of his particular line of giants according to Deuteronomy 3:11.  “For only Og king of Bashan remained of the remnant of giants; behold, his bedstead was a bedstead of iron; is it not in Rabbath of the children of Ammon? nine cubits was the length thereof, and four cubits the breadth of it, after the cubit of a man.”  While he was extremely large, since his bed was over thirteen feet long and six feet wide, he was not nearly so large as depicted in most fairytales.  All of the later giants appear to have been smaller, and none today are more than about eight and a half feet tall as a result of genetic dilution.

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Fear him not: for I have delivered him into thy hand, and all his people, and his land; and thou shalt do to him as thou didst unto Sihon king of the Amorites, which dwelt at Heshbon.  So they smote him, and his sons, and all his people, until there was none left him alive: and they possessed his land.” (Numbers 21:34-35)

Israel had originally refused to go into Canaan because the spies had seen the three giant sons of Anak there.  God specifically promised and gave victory over an even larger giant when they fought Og, the king of Bashan.  It must have been a tremendous morale booster.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Digging A Well At Beer

Numbers 21:10-20

During the forty years in the wilderness, Israel moved from place to place, staying varying amounts of time in the different places.  Only the most significant camps are listed, with many of the transitional camps simply ignored.  While Deuteronomy 2 and 3 and Numbers 33 give additional details, an exact schedule is never given. Such information, while interesting, is not critical for our understanding of God’s workings.

“And the children of Israel set forward, and pitched in Oboth.  And they journeyed from Oboth, and pitched at Ijeabarim, in the wilderness which is before Moab, toward the sunrising.” (Numbers 21:10-11)

Moab was on the south east side of the land of Israel, just north of Edom, near the Dead Sea.  While many believe that the time in the wilderness took place in what we call the Sinai Peninsula, the record would seem to indicate otherwise, especially as we read Numbers 33.  It is clear that Israel camped on the east side of Moab, in what is present day Jordan, out in the desert area.  The record supports the belief that the crossing of the Red Sea was on the Gulf of Aqaba, rather than on the Gulf of Suez as is commonly believed.  

“From thence they removed, and pitched in the valley of Zared.  From thence they removed, and pitched on the other side of Arnon, which is in the wilderness that cometh out of the coasts of the Amorites: for Arnon is the border of Moab, between Moab and the Amorites.  Wherefore it is said in the book of the wars of the LORD, What he did in the Red sea, and in the brooks of Arnon, And at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth upon the border of Moab.” (Numbers 21:12-15)

The Arnon river flows into the Jordan, and served as the boundary between Moab and the Amorites.  Because Moab had denied them passage, Israel camped on the Amorite side of the Arnon, and came into conflict with the Amorites.  These conflicts were recorded in the book of the wars of the Lord, but most are not included in scripture.  The next passage gives only limited detail.

Just because a book is referred to in scripture does not mean it should be included.  Unfortunately, many today would equate all ancient writings with scripture.  As Solomon warns in Ecclesiastes 12:12, “…by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end;”  Not all of them are “given by inspiration of God,” and are “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” like the scriptures are, according to II Timothy 3:16.

“And from thence they went to Beer: that is the well whereof the LORD spake unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give them water. 

Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing ye unto it: The princes digged the well, the nobles of the people digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves. And from the wilderness they went to Mattanah: And from Mattanah to Nahaliel: and from Nahaliel to Bamoth: And from Bamoth in the valley that is in the country of Moab, to the top of Pisgah, which looketh toward Jeshimon.” (Numbers 21:16-20)

In Exodus 15, God had shown Moses a tree to cast into the water to purify it so the people could have water.  At Meribah, he twice caused water to come out of the rock.  At Beer, he instructed the children of Israel to dig a well.  In each case, he provided water using a different means.  Jesus did not always use the same approach in doing the various miracles.  There is a tendency to think God can only do things a certain way.  We need to understand that he does not always do things the same way.  In each case it was God who provided the water, but the results depended on the people following God’s command.  Significantly, it is stressed that the princes and nobles were the ones who did the actual digging, not the common people.  

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Brazen Serpent

Numbers 21:1-9

“And when king Arad the Canaanite, which dwelt in the south, heard tell that Israel came by the way of the spies; then he fought against Israel, and took some of them prisoners.” (Numbers 21:1)

Israel had refused to go into the land because of the spies’ report.   When God told them they would spend the next forty years in the wilderness because of their lack of faith, they tried to go into the land anyway, and were attacked by the Amalekites and Canaanites.  The description in Numbers 14 did not mention any prisoners being taken although it almost always happens in a battle.  It galvanized Israel.

“And Israel vowed a vow unto the LORD, and said, If thou wilt indeed deliver this people into my hand, then I will utterly destroy their cities. 

And the LORD hearkened to the voice of Israel, and delivered up the Canaanites; and they utterly destroyed them and their cities: and he called the name of the place Hormah.” (Numbers 21:2-3) 

After their victory over the Cananites, Israel had requested permission to cross Edom’s land and been refused.  They were forced to go back south along the Gulf of Aqaba, through the land of Midian to avoid conflict with the Edomites.

“And they journeyed from mount Hor by the way of the Red sea, to compass the land of Edom: and the soul of the people was much discouraged because of the way.  And the people spake against God, and against Moses, Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread.” (Numbers 21:4-5) 

Romans 14:23 declares, “…for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  Israel had refused to trust God and go into the land of Canaan.  Now they refused to take the responsibility for the consequences of that sin, blaming Moses and God for the problems.  Once again the repeat the same old complaints that there is no food or water and they are sick of having to always eat manna.

Albert Einstein is credited with saying “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.”  Unfortunately, it seems most people are stupid enough to do the same thing repeatedly, and Israel was no exception.  Sure enough, it produced the same results.

“And the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.  Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD, and against thee; pray unto the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us. And Moses prayed for the people.” (Numbers 21:6-7)

In Numbers 11, when they complained, God had sent a fire that killed many of them, then when they complained again, he gave them so much quail they couldn’t eat it all before it spoiled and thousands died as a result.  This time God sent poisonous snake among them that caused many of them to die.  We have no way of knowing what kind of snakes these were, but the poison produced by pit vipers such as the rattlesnake consist of a protein that dissolves and digests the proteins of other animals, literally digesting them while still alive.  People who have been bitten describe the pain as feeling like their limb was on fire, and it is probable this is what is meant by the fiery serpents.

Having seen the swarms of frogs, lice, and other plagues in Egypt, Israel recognized God’s hand in this and acknowledged that they had sinned against both God and Moses, and asked for prayer.

“And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. 

And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” (Numbers 21:8-9)

God did not take away the snakes, nor did he heal everyone instantly.  Instead he provided a means whereby any one could be healed if they would take positive action.  All that was required was that they look at the brass snake Moses put up on the pole, but if they chose not to look, they would still die.  Life or death depended on their action.

In John 3:14-18, Jesus referred to this incident as portraying what man needed to receive salvation.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  

While they might believe that he would save them, failure to act on the belief would result in death.  The same is true of salvation.  James 2:17-18 states, “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.”  Romans 10:9-10 describes the action needed for salvation.  “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.”  We demonstrate our belief by confessing our need for a savior and our belief in his promise.  Failure to do so leaves us condemned as John 3:18 warns.  “But he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”  Like the person who had been bitten by the snake, he is going to die if he doesn’t take action, but it is his choice.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Taking God’s Credit

Numbers 20:14-29

“And Moses sent messengers from Kadesh unto the king of Edom, Thus saith thy brother Israel, Thou knowest all the travail that hath befallen us: How our fathers went down into Egypt, and we have dwelt in Egypt a long time; and the Egyptians vexed us, and our fathers: And when we cried unto the LORD, he heard our voice, and sent an angel, and hath brought us forth out of Egypt: and, behold, we are in Kadesh, a city in the uttermost of thy border: Let us pass, I pray thee, through thy country: we will not pass through the fields, or through the vineyards, neither will we drink of the water of the wells: we will go by the king's high way, we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed thy borders. 

And Edom said unto him, Thou shalt not pass by me, lest I come out against thee with the sword.” (Numbers 20:14-18) 

The Edomites were descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother.   Encamped on the border of Edom at Kadesh, Moses requested permission to cross Edomite territory in an effort to prevent conflict.  He offered assurances they would not leave established roadways, or even stop for water to drink on their way across.  Rather than granting the request, the king of Edom responded that any effort would be regarded as an invasion and met with force.

“And the children of Israel said unto him, We will go by the high way: and if I and my cattle drink of thy water, then I will pay for it: I will only, without doing any thing else, go through on my feet. 

And he said, Thou shalt not go through. And Edom came out against him with much people, and with a strong hand.  Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his border: wherefore Israel turned away from him.  And the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh, and came unto mount Hor.” (Numbers 20:19-22) 

Israel made a second appeal that was rudely rejected.  The king of Edom came out aggressively to confront them.  Israel then returned to mount Sinai and the wilderness where they had spent so much time.  They would spend thirty eight more years traveling around from the upper Arab peninsula north to present day Syria.  Numbers 33 lists the various camps.

“And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron in mount Hor, by the coast of the land of Edom, saying, Aaron shall be gathered unto his people: for he shall not enter into the land which I have given unto the children of Israel, because ye rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah.  Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up unto mount Hor: And strip Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son: and Aaron shall be gathered unto his people, and shall die there. 

And Moses did as the LORD commanded: and they went up into mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation.  And Moses stripped Aaron of his garments, and put them upon Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there in the top of the mount: and Moses and Eleazar came down from the mount.  And when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, they mourned for Aaron thirty days, even all the house of Israel.” (Numbers 20:23-29)

Because they took the credit for giving Israel water, rather than giving it to God, when they said, “must we fetch you water out of this rock?”, neither Moses or Aaron would be allowed to enter the promised land.  Moses was commanded to publicly make Eleazar high priest in Aaron’s place on mount Hor.  Aaron then died there and Moses and Eleazar returned to the camp, where a thirty day mourning period was observed.  Aarons death occurred in the fortieth year after their deliverance from Egypt, according to Numbers 33:38-39.  “And Aaron the priest went up into mount Hor at the commandment of the LORD, and died there, in the fortieth year after the children of Israel were come out of the land of Egypt, in the first day of the fifth month.  And Aaron was an hundred and twenty and three years old when he died in mount Hor.”  

This was about six months before Moses spoke to the nation of Israel in Deuteronomy, according to Deuteronomy 1:3.  At the conclusion of his message to them, Moses himself died and a little over a month later, after a month long mourning period, Israel would enter the Promised Land.

Aaron’s death is recorded out of historical order here to emphasize the seriousness of failing to give God his just credit and glory.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Back To Meribah

Numbers 20:1-13

“Then came the children of Israel, even the whole congregation, into the desert of Zin in the first month: and the people abode in Kadesh; and Miriam died there, and was buried there.” (Numbers 20:1)

After refusing to obey God in crossing into Canaan, Israel returned to the wilderness around Mount Sinai, two years after their escape from Egypt.  Kadesh means a place of safety.  While they were there, Miriam died.  Since she was quite a bit older than Moses and he was eighty two, it is probable she was in her mid to late nineties.

“And there was no water for the congregation: and they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron.  And the people chided with Moses, and spake, saying, Would God that we had died when our brethren died before the LORD!  And why have ye brought up the congregation of the LORD into this wilderness, that we and our cattle should die there?  And wherefore have ye made us to come up out of Egypt, to bring us in unto this evil place? it is no place of seed, or of figs, or of vines, or of pomegranates; neither is there any water to drink.” (Numbers 20:1-5) 

At least two years before, Israel had come to the same place, in Exodus 17:1-3 with the same complaints.  “And all the congregation of the children of Israel journeyed from the wilderness of Sin, after their journeys, according to the commandment of the LORD, and pitched in Rephidim: and there was no water for the people to drink.  Wherefore the people did chide with Moses, and said, Give us water that we may drink. And Moses said unto them, Why chide ye with me? wherefore do ye tempt the LORD?  And the people thirsted there for water; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou hast brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and our cattle with thirst?”

During the intervening years they had seen God’s provision repeatedly, as well as his judgment for their complaining.  As David said in Psalm 106:13, “They soon forgat his works; they waited not for his counsel:”  Remembering is a crucial part of learning.  Moses and Aaron remembered what had happened before, how God had given water, and how he had punished the people for complaining, and they began to pray.

“And Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they fell upon their faces: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto them.  And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.” (Numbers 20:6-8)

The first time, God had instructed Moses to strike the rock, resulting in a stream of water sufficient for all the people.  This time God said just to speak to the rock and they would cause water to come out.

“And Moses took the rod from before the LORD, as he commanded him.  And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said unto them, Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?  And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.” (Numbers 20:9-11) 

Take note of Moses’ comment, “must we fetch you water out of this rock?”  Obviously, he was frustrated that the people were angry at him again.  In his frustration, he struck the rock twice to emphasize his anger.  The water poured forth just as before.

“And the LORD spake unto Moses and Aaron, Because ye believed me not, to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore ye shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them.” (Numbers 20:12) 

I have no idea how many times I have read or heard that Moses was punished for striking the rock twice.  God was very specific that Moses and Aaron were not going to be allowed to enter the land because they failed to sanctify the Lord before the people, taking the credit for what God would do.   II Corinthians 10:17-18 advises, “But he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.  For not he that commendeth himself is approved, but whom the Lord commendeth.”  

God had not chosen to use Moses when he was known as Pharaoh’s son, but when he was an unknown fugitive from justice.  He had not chosen him for his education or skill with people, but for his meekness, his willingness to allow others to have their way.  I Corinthians 1:27 states, “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence.”

By taking the glory, Moses lost part of his rewards.  It is a pretty dire warning to us as to what will happen if we begin to glorify ourselves rather than God.  If it could happen to a man as clearly called of God as Moses was, we are not immune.

“This is the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel strove with the LORD, and he was sanctified in them.” (Numbers 20:13)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Preparation And Use Of The Water Of Separation

Numbers 19:1-22

While Leviticus focuses specifically on the Law itself, and was almost certainly written by Moses himself, Numbers focuses on the day to day life of Israel during this period and may have been recorded by others, based on what they experienced and observed.  Since death was a common occurrence, some as a result of plagues, guidelines for preventing the spread of disease would become generally known.  The preparation and use of the water of separation was an important element of these guidelines.

“And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, This is the ordinance of the law which the LORD hath commanded, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, that they bring thee a red heifer without spot, wherein is no blemish, and upon which never came yoke: And ye shall give her unto Eleazar the priest, that he may bring her forth without the camp, and one shall slay her before his face: And Eleazar the priest shall take of her blood with his finger, and sprinkle of her blood directly before the tabernacle of the congregation seven times: And one shall burn the heifer in his sight; her skin, and her flesh, and her blood, with her dung, shall he burn: And the priest shall take cedar wood, and hyssop, and scarlet, and cast it into the midst of the burning of the heifer. 

Then the priest shall wash his clothes, and he shall bathe his flesh in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp, and the priest shall be unclean until the even.  And he that burneth her shall wash his clothes in water, and bathe his flesh in water, and shall be unclean until the even.” (Numbers 19:1-8)

A healthy young red colored cow was to be killed outside the camp.  The priest was then to dip his finger in her blood and sprinkle it seven times in front of the Tabernacle.  The entire body of the heifer was then to be burned outside the camp, saving the ashes.  In the process, cedar wood, hyssop , and scarlet, the bodies of the insects from which the dye was obtained were to be burned as well.  Both the priest, and the man who burned the body were to bathe and remain in quarantine for the remainder of the day.

“And a man that is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and lay them up without the camp in a clean place, and it shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for a water of separation: it is a purification for sin.  And he that gathereth the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until the even: and it shall be unto the children of Israel, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among them, for a statute for ever.” (Numbers 19:9-10) 

Another person, who had had no contact with death or other potential source of contamination was to then gather the ashes and store them so they would not be contaminated.  When mixed with water, a mild lye solution would result, suitable for use as a disinfectant.  The person responsible for gathering the ashes was to wash his clothing and remain in quarantine until evening as well.  While les stringent, the process resembles modern procedures to prevent contamination in production of medical supplies, protecting both the product, and the workers who produce it.  The standard was to be applied whether produced by an Israelite or one from another country.

“He that toucheth the dead body of any man shall be unclean seven days.  He shall purify himself with it on the third day, and on the seventh day he shall be clean: but if he purify not himself the third day, then the seventh day he shall not be clean.  Whosoever toucheth the dead body of any man that is dead, and purifieth not himself, defileth the tabernacle of the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from Israel: because the water of separation was not sprinkled upon him, he shall be unclean; his uncleanness is yet upon him.” (Numbers 19:11-13)

Regardless of the cause of death, anyone who touched a dead person was to be considered unclean and avoid public contact for seven days. On the third day of isolation his clothing and skin were to be cleansed with the water of separation.   Failure to apply the disinfectant meant that they could not be sure no pathogens were still carried, and the person was to be isolated for refusing to protect others.

“This is the law, when a man dieth in a tent: all that come into the tent, and all that is in the tent, shall be unclean seven days.  And every open vessel, which hath no covering bound upon it, is unclean.  And whosoever toucheth one that is slain with a sword in the open fields, or a dead body, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days.” (Numbers 19:14-16) 

Since some diseases do not require actual contact, and some may be infectious without yet having caused symptoms in a person, provision was made to prevent the spread of such pathogens.  Those who had possibly been exposed to such pathogens were also considered unclean, and open containers were to be considered contaminated.

“And for an unclean person they shall take of the ashes of the burnt heifer of purification for sin, and running water shall be put thereto in a vessel: And a clean person shall take hyssop, and dip it in the water, and sprinkle it upon the tent, and upon all the vessels, and upon the persons that were there, and upon him that touched a bone, or one slain, or one dead, or a grave: And the clean person shall sprinkle upon the unclean on the third day, and on the seventh day: and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, and wash his clothes, and bathe himself in water, and shall be clean at even. 

But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD: the water of separation hath not been sprinkled upon him; he is unclean. 

And it shall be a perpetual statute unto them, that he that sprinkleth the water of separation shall wash his clothes; and he that toucheth the water of separation shall be unclean until even.  And whatsoever the unclean person toucheth shall be unclean; and the soul that toucheth it shall be unclean until even.” (Numbers 19:17-22)

When disinfection was needed, the ashes were to be mixed with pure, not stagnant water, and sprinkled on everything which may have been contaminated including the skin of those who had come in contact with the dead person and allowed to remain for four days, after which everything was to be washed.  If mixed in advance, the solution might well be contaminated, and since it was corrosive it could cause damage, so any one who came in contact with it was to be considered unclean and clean themselves.  Refusal to apply the water of separation isolated one from the congregation of Israel.

Following these sanitary measures protected Jewish communities from most of the plagues of the Middle ages.  As a result, many European leaders blamed the Jews for the severity of the plagues and the pogroms resulted.  Some of the hatred remains today.  Antiseptics and disinfectants were not widely used in European medicine until Joseph Lister began using them in the late 1800’s.

Just as the water of separation was required to be clean, cleansing by Christ is essential for Christian lives to be clean.  Refusal to accept his cleansing makes us unfit to come into the presence of God and requires isolation from the church, as described in I Corinthians 5 and Matthew 18.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Support of the Ministry

Numbers 18:20-32

“And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.  And, behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tenth in Israel for an inheritance, for their service which they serve, even the service of the tabernacle of the congregation. 

Neither must the children of Israel henceforth come nigh the tabernacle of the congregation, lest they bear sin, and die.  But the Levites shall do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation, and they shall bear their iniquity: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they have no inheritance. 

But the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer as an heave offering unto the LORD, I have given to the Levites to inherit: therefore I have said unto them, Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.” (Numbers 18:20-24) 

The Levites were to receive the tithe or one tenth of what the other tribes produced for their service in the tabernacle, for taking the responsibility and preventing the others from facing God’s judgment.  They were not to inherit a land of their own because they received the tithe.

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,  Thus speak unto the Levites, and say unto them, When ye take of the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them for your inheritance, then ye shall offer up an heave offering of it for the LORD, even a tenth part of the tithe.  And this your heave offering shall be reckoned unto you, as though it were the corn of the threshingfloor, and as the fulness of the winepress.  Thus ye also shall offer an heave offering unto the LORD of all your tithes, which ye receive of the children of Israel; and ye shall give thereof the LORD'S heave offering to Aaron the priest. 

Out of all your gifts ye shall offer every heave offering of the LORD, of all the best thereof, even the hallowed part thereof out of it.  Therefore thou shalt say unto them, When ye have heaved the best thereof from it, then it shall be counted unto the Levites as the increase of the threshingfloor, and as the increase of the winepress.  And ye shall eat it in every place, ye and your households: for it is your reward for your service in the tabernacle of the congregation.  And ye shall bear no sin by reason of it, when ye have heaved from it the best of it: neither shall ye pollute the holy things of the children of Israel, lest ye die.” (Numbers 18:25-32)

The Levites were then to take a tenth of what they had received, a tithe, and give it to Aaron for the specific purpose of obtaining materials needed for maintenance of the tabernacle.  It was to be treated just as if they had earned it at any other occupation.  Ten percent of what each of the other twelve tribes received would give them about twenty percent more than the average of the other tribes income, but they were to provide the animals for the morning and evening sacrifices and the national feasts out of their own herds, after tithing what they had received and providing the daily sacrifices, they would have about the same amount to live on as any other tribe.  They would not get richer than the other tribes.

Matthew, Mark and John record Jesus driving out the money changers and sellers of livestock out of the temple.  The Levites were no longer willing to settle for the tithes and offerings the people gave and had begun to sell sacrificial items in the temple as a way of raising additional money.  It was this practice that Jesus condemned in John 2:13-16.  “And the Jews' passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem, And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: And when he had made a scourge of small cords, he drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers' money, and overthrew the tables; And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not my Father's house an house of merchandise.”  I wonder what he thinks about the selling of books and tapes or CD’s in modern churches?

Unfortunately many modern churches never become fully autonomous because they do not follow the example given by God for supporting the church.  Any Church with twelve wage earners should be able to support the pastor at the same level as the average of his members, with enough to pay the church expenses.  Unfortunately, many are never taught to take the responsibility for tithing.  Many pastors are not willing to live at the same level as their people, and many insist on having fancier and larger buildings than their people can support.  The problem will undoubtedly continue until we return to following the example God has set.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Responsibilities And Provisions For The Priests

Numbers 18:1-20

“And the LORD said unto Aaron, Thou and thy sons and thy father's house with thee shall bear the iniquity of the sanctuary: and thou and thy sons with thee shall bear the iniquity of your priesthood.  And thy brethren also of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of thy father, bring thou with thee, that they may be joined unto thee, and minister unto thee: but thou and thy sons with thee shall minister before the tabernacle of witness. 

And they shall keep thy charge, and the charge of all the tabernacle: only they shall not come nigh the vessels of the sanctuary and the altar, that neither they, nor ye also, die.  And they shall be joined unto thee, and keep the charge of the tabernacle of the congregation, for all the service of the tabernacle: and a stranger shall not come nigh unto you.  And ye shall keep the charge of the sanctuary, and the charge of the altar: that there be no wrath any more upon the children of Israel. 

And I, behold, I have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel: to you they are given as a gift for the LORD, to do the service of the tabernacle of the congregation.  Therefore thou and thy sons with thee shall keep your priest's office for every thing of the altar, and within the veil; and ye shall serve: I have given your priest's office unto you as a service of gift: and the stranger that cometh nigh shall be put to death.”  (Numbers 18:1-7)

Aaron and his sons were to bear the iniquity of their priesthood and the sanctuary.  Literally, they were to be responsible to see that the rules were followed exactly.  The word translated iniquity means to deliberately do wrong and comes from a word meaning to bend or crook.  The other Levites were to assist them and follow their instructions, ministering to them, but they were responsible for the actual sacrifices on the brazen altar and the ministry inside the holy place.

Allowing some one else, even one of the Levites to handle the sanctified vessels or perform the sacrifices exposed both the priest and person who had done it to the risk of death, and could bring the wrath of God on the entire congregation.    The Levites were to care for the physical tabernacle, making repairs, transporting it, and assisting with the bringing in sacrifices and whatever else might be needed at the priests direction.

The priest’s office was given to them as a service of gift, literally a work of gift.  The meaning is the same as the gifts to the church described in I Corinthians 12:28.  “And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.”  They have a particular job to do, and they are responsible for how it is done.  Unfortunately, many today do not recognize their responsibility in these areas, either doing things their own way, or allowing others to.

 “And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Behold, I also have given thee the charge of mine heave offerings of all the hallowed things of the children of Israel; unto thee have I given them by reason of the anointing, and to thy sons, by an ordinance for ever.” (Numbers 18:8) 

The priests were to be responsible for all the offerings of the children of Israel because of their calling.  We have made spiritually unqualified men pastors of churches, resulting in abuse of finances in our day.

“This shall be thine of the most holy things, reserved from the fire: every oblation of theirs, every meat offering of theirs and every sin offering of theirs, and every trespass offering of theirs, which they shall render unto me, shall be most holy for thee and for thy sons.  In the most holy place shalt thou eat it; every male shall eat it: it shall be holy unto thee.” (Numbers 18:9-10) 

Certain parts of each offering made by fire reserved for the priests.  The reserved parts were to be eaten in the tabernacle by the priests while they were ministering and as part of the ministry.  They were to be most holy, and every priest was to partake.

“And this is thine; the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel: I have given them unto thee, and to thy sons and to thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: every one that is clean in thy house shall eat of it.  All the best of the oil, and all the best of the wine, and of the wheat, the firstfruits of them which they shall offer unto the LORD, them have I given thee.  And whatsoever is first ripe in the land, which they shall bring unto the LORD, shall be thine; every one that is clean in thine house shall eat of it.  Everything devoted in Israel shall be thine.” (Numbers 18:11-14)

All of the offerings that were not to be burned were given to the priests for the support of their families.  Even these things were not to be shared with outsiders according to Leviticus 22:10-13.  “There shall no stranger eat of the holy thing: a sojourner of the priest, or an hired servant, shall not eat of the holy thing.  But if the priest buy any soul with his money, he shall eat of it, and he that is born in his house: they shall eat of his meat.  If the priest's daughter also be married unto a stranger, she may not eat of an offering of the holy things.  But if the priest's daughter be a widow, or divorced, and have no child, and is returned unto her father's house, as in her youth, she shall eat of her father's meat: but there shall no stranger eat thereof.”

This standard kind of raises a question about many of the things churches donate money to today, doesn’t it?  I Timothy 5:1-16 give some very precise directions about charitable giving.  Too often we have ignored these instructions, enabling sin and damaging the church‘s testimony.

“Every thing that openeth the matrix in all flesh, which they bring unto the LORD, whether it be of men or beasts, shall be thine: nevertheless the firstborn of man shalt thou surely redeem, and the firstling of unclean beasts shalt thou redeem.  And those that are to be redeemed from a month old shalt thou redeem, according to thine estimation, for the money of five shekels, after the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs. 

But the firstling of a cow, or the firstling of a sheep, or the firstling of a goat, thou shalt not redeem; they are holy: thou shalt sprinkle their blood upon the altar, and shalt burn their fat for an offering made by fire, for a sweet savour unto the LORD.  And the flesh of them shall be thine, as the wave breast and as the right shoulder are thine.” (Numbers 18:15-18) 

The Levites were taken by God as substitutes for lives of the firstborn of Israel according to Numbers 3:12-13.  “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; 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.”

The redemption money was given in payment for fulfilling the firstborns responsibilities.  no sacrificial domestic animals had to be redeemed or killed.  The fat of sacrificial animals was to be burned and the meat given to the priests like the specified parts of any other burnt offering.

“All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the LORD, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the LORD unto thee and to thy seed with thee.” (Numbers 18:19)

The covenant of salt is referred to just three times in scripture.   Leviticus 2:13 commands, “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.”  Salt was a valuable commodity in many areas of the world and seemed to indicate a permanent commitment.

II Chronicles 13:5-6 states, “Ought ye not to know that the LORD God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?  Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, is risen up, and hath rebelled against his lord,” again making it clear God’s covenant is sure.  The covenant with the priests, that they were to receive the heave offerings, was equally sure.

“And the LORD spake unto Aaron, Thou shalt have no inheritance in their land, neither shalt thou have any part among them: I am thy part and thine inheritance among the children of Israel.” (Numbers 18:20)

The priests were never to have any property or inheritance among Israel, only what was given to God.  They were not to be distracted by Earthly possessions. As priests of God, Christians are to be equally devoted and focused on him as Jesus described in Matthew 6:19-34.  “Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. 

The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light.  But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!  No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. 

Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?  Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? 

Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?  And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.  Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? 

Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.  But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Reaffirmation of Aaron’s Priesthood

Numbers 17:1-13

Korah and his supporters had decided to take the priesthood for themselves although God had specified that Aaron and his sons were to be the priests.  Hebrews 5:1-3 describes the importance of the priest’s job.  “For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: Who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way; for that he himself also is compassed with infirmity.  And by reason hereof he ought, as for the people, so also for himself, to offer for sins.”  

The priest’s job resembled the foreman or crew chief’s job, in that he works directly with the workers and deals with their day to day problems as one of them , while representing the management.  To be effective he needs to be skilled at the work to be done himself.   Since he represents the management, he is chosen by management.  It cannot just be left to whoever decides they want the job.  Since the priest represents God, he must be chosen by God.  Hebrews 5:4 states, “And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron.”

When one of the employees decides he’ll run things his own way, it causes confusion as to who is in charge and what is to be done, and can throw the entire project into disarray.  The rebellious employee and his cohorts may be either reprimanded or fired.  God executed Korah and his supporters.  God will reaffirm who is actually the priest.

“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and take of every one of them a rod according to the house of their fathers, of all their princes according to the house of their fathers twelve rods: write thou every man's name upon his rod.  And thou shalt write Aaron's name upon the rod of Levi: for one rod shall be for the head of the house of their fathers. 

And thou shalt lay them up in the tabernacle of the congregation before the testimony, where I will meet with you.  And it shall come to pass, that the man's rod, whom I shall choose, shall blossom: and I will make to cease from me the murmurings of the children of Israel, whereby they murmur against you.” (Numbers 17:1-5)

The leaders of each tribe were to take a tree limb and write their name on it.  Aaron’s name was to be the name on the stick representing the tribe of Levi.  They were then to place them in the tabernacle overnight, and God would demonstrate who he had chosen by causing that man’s rod to bloom overnight, taking away any claims that Aaron or Moses were just pretending to be called of God.

“And Moses spake unto the children of Israel, and every one of their princes gave him a rod apiece, for each prince one, according to their fathers' houses, even twelve rods: and the rod of Aaron was among their rods.  And Moses laid up the rods before the LORD in the tabernacle of witness. 

And it came to pass, that on the morrow Moses went into the tabernacle of witness; and, behold, the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi was budded, and brought forth buds, and bloomed blossoms, and yielded almonds.  And Moses brought out all the rods from before the LORD unto all the children of Israel: and they looked, and took every man his rod.” (Numbers 17:6-9)

Most nut trees produce the blossoms in early spring, followed by leaves and finally, several months later, produce nuts.  Aaron’s almond branch produced buds, and had blossoms, leaves and almonds all at the same time.  There was no possible way Moses and Aaron could have faked this, even by grafting on branches from other trees.  Clearly, only God could cause such a departure from the normal.  None of the other sticks produced even a bud overnight.

 “And the LORD said unto Moses, Bring Aaron's rod again before the testimony, to be kept for a token against the rebels; and thou shalt quite take away their murmurings from me, that they die not. 

And Moses did so: as the LORD commanded him, so did he.” (Numbers 17:10-11) 

Aarons stick was placed in the Ark of the Covenant, alongside the record of God’s covenant with Israel, as a reminder any time they should consider rebelling against letting Aaron serve as priest, to prevent more people dying like Korah and his followers.

“And the children of Israel spake unto Moses, saying, Behold, we die, we perish, we all perish.  Whosoever cometh any thing near unto the tabernacle of the LORD shall die: shall we be consumed with dying?” (Numbers 17:12-13)

Three thousand were killed as a result of the sacrifices to the golden calf.  No record is made of the number who died from the fire when they complained or from the plague after their demand for meat in Numbers 11.  The spies who spoke against entering the land died of another plague, and there is no record how many may have been killed when they tried to go into the land after being told to turn back, but almost fifteen thousand died as a result of Korah’s rebellion and the people’s complaining about God’s judgment.  Finally, they began to understand that God wouldn’t just let them do as they pleased.

Like some today, they began to feel there just wasn’t anything but suffering and death to look forward to if they served God.