The Second Numbering - The Pilgrim Way
One Bible student likened the book of Numbers to that of John Bunyan's Pilgrim's
Progress. We could look at Numbers from the point of view of wandering in the
wilderness but there is much more to learn from this book than that. Numbers is a
book of struggling. Israel didn't just have a battle to face with the inhabitants of
Canaan. They had a battle within. They had to resolve the issue of their
new-found relationship with Jehovah and their old self-reliant struggle to survive in the
midst of an oppressive rule by a cruel Pharaoh. They also had to struggle with the
seen and the unseen. Let me explain what I mean by that. Israel had for
centuries been used to dealing with circumstances. At first, they had prosperity
under the hand of a Pharaoh who honored Joseph's influence in Egypt. Then came the
oppressive slavery of the new Pharaoh. Here they had to survive the threat to their
very existence (read Exodus chapter 2). Now, Jehovah was expecting them to step out
into the unknown, by faith. There is a frequent reminder that they missed
their leeks and garlic and all the other food that they had grown accustomed to.
This was no small matter in the minds of the Israelite. At least they could see the
crops growing - they could see the sheep - slaughter them for food. Now they
had to, by faith, wait for the manna to fall and to gather just enough for the day, except
for the day before the Sabbath when they could gather enough to last them over the Sabbath
as well as the preceding day. So there was a struggle and this is how Numbers should
be viewed. Not a wandering in the wilderness but a pilgrimage while they were trying
to sort out their new way of life. Tragically, the first generation didn't sort
things out with the exception of Joshua and Caleb (and perhaps a few others who are
unnamed in the biblical account).
The Book can be divided into two basic section The first numbering and
the second. The first generation failed - not because they lacked in military experience
but because of rebellion against God. The second generation succeeded because they, being
led by Joshua, had faith in Jehovah to win the victory - and they did. There is much in
parallel with Pilgrim's Progress because it show a people who were struggling with their
relationship with the Lord and their own bent for evil.
When leaders stumble - 12
Read 12:1 - 15. Leaders do stumble in sin. Commonly the
sin is pride but not necessarily pride alone. Sexual sin can be the culprit in the
stumbling of a leader in the church. Note the contrast between Aaron, Miriam and
Moses. Note also that the "trigger" that brought this incident on was
seemingly a legitimate criticism of Moses. He had married an Ethiopian woman -
that made him a polygamist for he had also the daughter of a Midianite priest, Zipporah
(Ex 2:21) for a wife.
"an Ethiopian woman--Hebrew, "a Cushite woman"--Arabia was
usually called in Scripture the land of Cush, its inhabitants being descendants of that
son of Ham ... and being accounted generally a vile and contemptible race..." (Commentary
by ROBERT JAMIESON)
So this was, in the eyes of Aaron and Miriam (I suspect mostly Miriam for I suspect
that Aaron had a large "wimpy" streak in him) justification for their criticism.
So we see that there is a pattern here that can be repeated by those who would lift
up their voices in pride - take what seems to be a legitimate criticism and use it for an
occasion for usurping the plan of God - in this case Jehovah's selection of Moses as the
leader of Israel. Note the commentary of Moses conduct in his leadership:
(Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of
the earth.) Numbers 12:3, NIV.
The contrast is stark. Humility, almost to a fault, on Moses side and pride on
Aaron's and Miriam's side (is wimpiness by the father of a household a sin?).
Jehovah acts quickly to correct the situation and disciplines Aaron and Miriam.
Interesting that Miriam is the one who comes down with leprosy and not Aaron. Some
have suggested that this is because there would have not been a high priest which is true
- but does this not lend some credence to my suggestion that Miriam was the instigator and
Aaron just tagged along in this rebellion? Aaron is forced to act as head of his
household and asks Moses to intercede for them and as a result they are both forgiven and
cleansed (Miriam has to stay outside the camp for seven days as an unclean leper who had
By way of application: when leaders fall it is frequently pride that is the
culprit - although not the case here sexual sin can be involved also. Leaders who
fall should be rehabilitated after they humble themselves and submit to church discipline
- see 12:11 - 14. Jehovah could have rejected Aaron as high priest and replaced him
but He accepts Aaron's plea for forgiveness and allows him to return to the priesthood.
Moses was quick to forgive them as should the church their fallen, repentant
leaders but as Moses goes to Jehovah for guidance so should the church seek guidance for
rehabilitating fallen, repentant leaders.
Impossible dreams - 13
Israel was poised to enter Canaan - the problem was there
were giants in the land (vs' 28, 32, 33). Israel was faced with an impossible dream
- to possess a land that they were, obviously, ill-prepared to conquer. This was a
reasonable problem on the face of it - but they had again failed to recognize that Jehovah
was going to be their shield and protector and give Canaan to Israel - only the voice of
Joshua, the minority report, reflected the proper attitude (see Gen 15:1; Num 14:8).
The dream was impossible but with God all things are possible - that was the
challenge to Israel that fateful day
Defeat from rebellion - 14
|It is necessary to note that Israel's defeat was not from their lack of
military prowess but from their rebellion. On one hand, Jehovah said that He was
going to give Israel Canaan, but on the other hand they rebelled against the suggestion
that Jehovah was going to do that very thing - they rebelled against the faithfulness of
God and as a result that generation was shut out from Canaan. When they realized
that Jehovah was not going to give them Canaan because of their rebellion - they rebelled
yet again - this time against Jehovah's discipline - and tried to take Canaan in their own
strength and were soundly defeated. Many lives were needlessly taken that day
because rebellion against Jehovah's sovereignty in their lives.
God's Sovereignty in the Pilgrim way - 15
God's plan will not be thwarted by man's shortcomings, 15:1-4,
|In spite of Jehovah's discipline, He goes on, in His mercy, to give hope
to the next generation and spells out the manner of conduct when they shall have entered
Canaan. Remarkable. And so it is in the Christian's life - in the deepest and
most profound of circumstances - even in Divine Discipline the Lord will hold out hope to
His erring yet repentant child that His plan will not be thwarted - even by the rebellious
heart of the believer.
The Blue Tassels and cords - the heavenly connection, vs' 37-41
|The LORD said to Moses,  "Speak to the
Israelites and say to them: 'Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on
the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel.  You
will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD,
that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by going after the lusts of your own
hearts and eyes.  Then you will remember to obey all my commands and
will be consecrated to your God.  I am the LORD your God, who brought
you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.' " Numbers
Interesting how visual the Lord was in dealing with Israel - the same
is true for their language, By the way. The heavenly connection is this.l God
is sovereign over His people. He will not be put off from His plan for them in spite
of their rebellious nature. We can receive comfort in this for if we do rebel - we
know that God will not give up on us - rather He will discipline, sometimes severely, but
will not reject us. Israel did not wander in the wilderness - they were disciplined
and were constantly reminded of the Lord's sovereignty over them. Eventually when
that generation died off He did lead His people into Canaan and give it to them just as He
The Price of Rebellion - 16
The Resurrection of Christ - God's validation of
ministry - 17, 18
|Moses placed the staffs before the LORD in the
Tent of the Testimony.  The next day Moses entered the
Tent of the Testimony and saw that Aaron's staff, which represented the house of Levi, had
not only sprouted but had budded, blossomed and produced almonds. (NIV)
remarkable passage from Numbers tells of Jehovah's validation of the Aaronic priesthood by
commanding the head of each tribe to put their staffs in front of the tabernacle. The next
day Aaron's staff had grown buds, blossomed and was bearing fruit of the Almond tree. Life
from the dead! Jehovah commanded His people to never question the priesthood of Aaron
again. This, Aaron's staff, was placed in the Ark of the Covenant as a final validation of
his priesthood along with a jar of manna and the decalogue.
Most Bible students apply Aaron's budding staff to resurrection of Jesus Christ. Think
if it! Of all the religions of the world (if I may call Christianity a religion) all the
founders of them are dead except for Christianity. Jesus Christ, the Head of all
Christianity, is alive! He and He alone can make this claim
" ... 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.  I
am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the
keys of death and Hades.'" Rev. 117b-18, NIV
Jesus Christ is alive today and because of this He can make you and me alive in Him.
All sinners who come to Him in true repentance, believing in Him as their Savior, can be
freed from sin's death-grip to a life and a life of Hope in the resurrection. Hallelujah
what a Savior.
Just as the LORD validated Aaron's priesthood by giving life to a dead staff - so God
validates Jesus Christ's Priesthood and Lordship over all by the fact of His resurrection.
As the song writer has written
I serve a risen Savior, He's in the world today;
I know that He is living whatever men may say
I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him, He's always near
He Lives, He Lives, Christ Jesus lives today
He walk with me and talks with me
along life's narrow way
He Lives, He Lives salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He live? He lives within my heart.
And so it is - only Christianity offers a living hope because Jesus Christ is alive! It
is this Jesus Christ who changes the hearts of men today as He has always done down
through the centuries.
The Offering and ashes of the red heifer -
cleansing for service to the Lord - 19
|Interesting the order and manner of this sacrifice. First is the
slaying of the heifer and the application of it's blood. This is typical of the
sacrifice of Jesus Christ for the believer's sin. Next is the reduction of the
sacrifice to ashes - the total consuming of the sacrifice and its retention for later
application. This is to represent the application of Christ's sacrifice to the
believer after salvation for the removal of the guilt and uncleanness of his sin
in service to the Lord.
The priest is to take some cedar wood, hyssop and
scarlet wool and throw them onto the burning heifer. Numbers 19:6
Interesting combination - the cedar represents the strength and beauty of Jesus Christ
(Hos 14:5) - the Hyssop represents the bitterness of the cross and the scarlet thread
represents the shed blood and that lineage that lead up to Christ's sacrifice on the
cross. All this is applied to the believer who has defiled himself and is not fit
for service to the Lord - 1 Jn 1:9.
"A man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer and put them
in a ceremonially clean place outside the camp. They shall be kept by the Israelite
community for use in the water of cleansing; it is for purification from sin. Numbers
Note that these ashes are outside the camp. A source of comfort to the
believer who is in unconfessed sin that there is provision for his return to the
Lord even if he has wandered far from the Lord.
Revisiting Meribah - Kadesh - 20 (Compare with
Consequences of The sin of complaining
| Now there was no water for the community, and the people
gathered in opposition to Moses and Aaron. ...  Moses and Aaron
went from the assembly to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting and fell facedown, and the
glory of the LORD appeared to them.  The LORD said to Moses,
 "Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly
together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will
bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink."
Numbers 20:2, 6 - 8, NIV.
Here we go again! You would think that
Israel would remember all the times that Jehovah had provided for them but, as usual, circumstances
dictate reaction in sin rather than a response in faith and they are grumbling
against not only Moses but against the Lord. Yet He in graciousness provides the
water they need - in spite of Moses sin (20:12). So now not only are the rebellious
first generation not to enter the promised land but Moses also because of his lack of
faith and presumptuousness in disobeying God by striking the rock instead of speaking
to It (Christ). Instead he spoke in heated anger to the people and in so doing took
his eyes off the Lord.
The Victory of Prayer - 21:1 - 3
|Then Israel made this vow to the LORD: "If you will deliver
these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities." 
The LORD listened to Israel's plea and gave the Canaanites over to them. They completely
destroyed them and their towns; so the place was named Hormah. Numbers
This was an example of corporate prayer. God answers such prayer and we are
remiss to not take this kind of prayer as an important means to discern His will in church
matters and to gain the victory in our own lives. I strongly recommend that everyone
in the church come to prayer meeting and to actively participate in corporate prayer.
. Interlude, The Serpent of
Brass - 21:4-9.
|Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of
Man must be lifted up,  that everyone who believes in him may have
eternal life. John 3:14-15, NIV.
In the Numbers account the
reference is to Israel dying because of the disease of sin. Jesus has become sin for
us that we might not suffer the venomous bite of sin.
. The Victory of Praise
- 21:16 - 33.
|Then Israel sang this song: "Spring up, O well! Sing about
it,  about the well that the princes dug, that the nobles
of the people sank-- the nobles with scepters and staffs." Then they went
from the desert to Mattanah, Numbers 21:17-18, NIV.
There is yet another
means of victory. Worshipping the Lord for who and what His is is a sure reminder
and aid in faith that He will bring it to past. Right after this Israel had another
Israel, however, put him to the sword and took over his land from the Arnon to
the Jabbok, but only as far as the Ammonites, because their border was fortified.
The Temptation of Baalam - 22 - 25.
The Second Numbering - 26 - 36, Israel's Inheritance Realized.
Preparation for Battle - The next generation, God's
Warriors numbered - 26.
|These are the ones counted by Moses and Eleazar the priest when
they counted the Israelites on the plains of Moab by the Jordan across from Jericho.
 Not one of them was among those counted by Moses and Aaron the priest when
they counted the Israelites in the Desert of Sinai.  For the LORD had
told those Israelites they would surely die in the desert, and not one of them was left
except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun. Numbers 26:63-65
God's people are ready to possess the land. All the people in the first generation
had died off except for Joshua and Caleb. God's warriors are numbered - there are no
exceptions - all are enlisted in His army for battle against the enemy.
God provides for all of His people's inheritance-
|This is an unusual passage - but it points out the interest that Jehovah
has in His children. These women were fatherless and had no inheritance.
Jehovah says that He will be a Father to the fatherless (Psalm 68:4 - 6) and so He agrees
with these women that they should be provided. A fitting note for the end of this
study - there is victory for all in our pilgrimage. As Psalm 68:6 says only those
without faith will live in a parched land.