Numbering God's Warriors
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Note:  All Scripture passages are from the NIV unless otherwise noted.

Numbering God's Warriors
the Defeats and Victories of God's Soldiers.

The defeat and victory of God's warriors in Moses' time has a way of repeating itself.  A warning to the believer of today for a close walk with Him and obedience to His word.  The book of Numbers is so called from the LXX gk, arithmoi meaning arithmetic.  It comes from the two main numbering of the able-bodied men to establish Israel's fighting force for military protection of Israel during their travels in the wilderness and eventual conquest of the promised land.  The army of Israel that came out the first numbering met defeat - not because of their lack of military skill but because of their lack of faith in Jehovah and thus, disobedience to Jehovah as Commander-in-Chief of the Hosts of Israel.  This defeat, as recorded in Numbers

Travel in the Wilderness was to be Organized
and under the Direction of Jehovah.

chart_of_camp.jpg (12306 bytes)

Here is a graphic of the way Israel was to be organized while traveling in the wilderness.  Note that the center of this organization was to be the Tabernacle.  Note also that this organization was to be under the headship of the men of the families of Israel. 

Numbers 1:2-16
"Take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. [3] You and Aaron are to number by their divisions all the men in Israel twenty years old or more who are able to serve in the army. [4] One man from each tribe, each the head of his family, is to help you. [5] These are the names of the men who are to assist you: (My emphasis)

from Reuben, Elizur son of Shedeur;

[6] from Simeon, Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai; [11] from Benjamin, Abidan son of Gideoni;

[7] from Judah, Nahshon son of Amminadab;

[12] from Dan, Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai;

[8] from Issachar, Nethanel son of Zuar;

[13] from Asher, Pagiel son of Ocran;

[9] from Zebulun, Eliab son of Helon;

[14] from Gad, Eliasaph son of Deuel;

[10] from the sons of Joseph: from Ephraim, Elishama son of Ammihud; from Manasseh, Gamaliel son of Pedahzur;

[15] from Naphtali, Ahira son of Enan."

[16] These were the men appointed from the community, the leaders of their ancestral tribes. They were the heads of the clans of Israel.

Not Numbering the tribe of Levi.

Last week we learned that the tribe of Levi was not included in the numbering of the army of Israel because they were to be the caretakers of the Tabernacle.   This tribe was given to Aaron and Moses and as such the tribe of Levi pre-figured the church of Christ - a tribe of priests who are wholly given to the Great High Priest Jesus Christ.

"Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him. [7] They are to perform duties for him and for the whole community at the Tent of Meeting by doing the work of the tabernacle. [8] They are to take care of all the furnishings of the Tent of Meeting, fulfilling the obligations of the Israelites by doing the work of the tabernacle. [9] Give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to him.    Numbers 3:6-9

The First Numbering.

So then, we see from 1:3 that all males 20 year and older were to be numbered with the hosts of Israel.  From chapter 4 we learn that the men were numbered for service to the Tabernacle were to be from 30 to 50 years old.

The purpose of all this numbering was so that every man would eventually be in service to the Lord - no matter what tribe he might be in.  If he did not belong to the tribe of Levi - then he served in the Lord's army.

We are all in the Lord's army.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. [11] Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes. [12] For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. [13] Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.   Ephes. 6:10-13

The key to understanding why Israel's first generation failed to take the promised land was that they did not recognize that they were solders the invincible army of Jehovah.  Because of this they were always fearful that they were going perish in the wilderness.  They had always on their minds that they were going to run out of water, food or that some renegade band of Bedouins would overtake them.  Their whole mindset had them set up for failure.  The point of Paul's passage in Ephesians was that God supplies everything the child of God needs to be victorious in the battle over sin and over Satan's claim of defeat in his life.

Not so with that first generation:

Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, [22] not one of the men who saw my glory and the miraculous signs I performed in Egypt and in the desert but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times-- [23] not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their forefathers. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.   Numbers 14:21-23.

When Jehovah reveals Himself to us in His glory, He expects a response.   Without exception, the LORD never expected anything from His people unless He gave them the ability to do it.  Joshua summed it up in the 13th chapter:

Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had explored the land, tore their clothes [7] and said to the entire Israelite assembly, "The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. [8] If the LORD is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. [9] Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will swallow them up. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them."   Numbers 14:6-9.

Notice Joshua's comment in verse 9:  "Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them."  The issue has never been our intrinsic abilities but - rather - our willingness to seek the LORD's will in every matter of our lives and to rely on Him for the ability to carry it out.

An Outline of Numbers

Note:  This outline is based on one given by J. Vernon McGee.

  1. Fitting out the Nation Israel for the Wilderness March (1-8).

    1. First Numbering: 1-4

    2. Cleansing of God's Army. (5-8)

  2. Marching Orders (9, 10)

    1. Celebrating the Passover in the wilderness (9).

    2. Marching Orders (10).

  3. From Sinai to Kadesh-Barnea - getting ready for defeat.  (11, 12).

    1. The sin of Griping (11)

    2. The sin of Jealousy (12).

  4. Israel's defeat - the rebellion of Kadesh-Barnea (13, 14).

    1. Spying out the Land of Canaan shows great obstacles. (13).

    2. Failure to enter Canaan because of Unbelief. (14).

  5. The Defeats and Victories of Israel (15 - 25).

    1. God's blessing delayed but not thwarted (15).

    2. Relating to the Priesthood (16 - 19).

    3. Rephedim revisited (20).

    4. Of Victory and defeat - God is our Health (21).

    5. A glimpse behind the scenes - God will have His way with His people (22 - 25)

  6. The final preparation to enter Canaan (26 - 36).

    1. The Second Numbering (26).

    2. Moses is told he will not enter Canaan - Joshua is chosen to be the new leader (27).

    3. Final details before the conquest of Canaan (28 - 36).

In the following section I will cover some of the highlights of Numbers based on our outline.

We need to be cleansed by the water of God's Word and His Holy Spirit (chapter 8).

The cleansing of the Laver.

"Take the Levites from among the other Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. [7] To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes, and so purify themselves. [8] Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.   Numbers 8:6-8

Our preparation for service to the LORD is pictured here in the 8th chapter of Numbers by the preparation of the Levites.  Actually, this was a natural progression from the entrance of the Tabernacle by the brazen altar in sacrificing an innocent animal to the Lord.  the next progression was the presentation of the grain offering - a mixture of find, ground flower mixed with oil - a picture of the purity and suffering of our Lord, Jesus Christ along with the intermingling of the olive oil - a picture of the Holy Spirit.

From there the Levite is led to the Laver where he is to gaze into the mirror-like finish of the Laver and see his own inadequacy and then be cleansed by its water.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;    Titus 3:5, KJV

Service to the Lord goes back to that time we all put our trust in the Lord to save us - but it doesn't stop there.  The issue of our relationship with the Lord doesn't stop with our salvation.  No.  We are to be prepared for service to Him.   Paul wrote this to one of his favorite "sons" in the Lord - one who was already serving the Lord.  But Titus and Paul need a reminder - as do we that we are entirely dependent on Him for effective service.  A mind that has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit and that is renewed every day by Him is absolutely necessary.

The Shed Blood of Christ is applicable in every area of our lives - we are led in every area of our lives by the Holy Spirit (chapter 9).

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.   1 John 1:9, KJV

Chapter 9 of Numbers starts off with the observance of the Passover.   Here the Passover is observed a little differently than in the Exodus account.   The Jews, in fact, make a distinction between the Egyptian Passover and all the Passovers that followed.  The difference was that the Passover in Egypt was observed entirely within the home of the families.  The rest of the Passovers included the Tabernacle / Temple in its observance.  The important point of the Passover is that we never run out of the need of the applied Blood of Christ in keeping our lives clean before Him.  We need to keep short accounts of our sins and confess them before him in order to be effective in serving Him.

because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. [15] For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father."    Romans 8:14-15

Paul makes a connection between our relationship with our Lord and the relationship with a son with his father.  The leading of the Holy Spirit is not just theological concept where  we are to rely on some sort of  emotional / religious experience for each decision we are to make.  the issue is our sonship. with the Lord.   So it was with the  camp of Israel.  in Numbers 9:15 - 23 the pillar of cloud by day and of fire by night was above the Tabernacle unless Israel was to break camp and move.

Israel's defeat - the rebellion of Kadesh-Barnea (13, 14).