The book of Numbers continues the history of the people of Israel after they escaped from Egypt, and it tells what happened during the forty years when the Israelites lived in the desert on their journey from Mount Sinai to Canaan, This bookis named "Numbers" because it begins with Moses counting the Israelites to find out the number of people in each of Israel's twelve tribes.
Numbers can be divided into three parts. In the first part (1.1 - 10.10) the Lord has Moses count the people, and then he gives Moses instructions for setting up Israel's camp and for assigning the Levites their duties. This part ends with everyone celebrating Passover and offering sacrifices to the Lord.
The second part (10.11 -21.20) includes events that happened while the Israelites were on their way to Moab, a nation living east of the Jordan River. This was a very difficult journey through the desert, and the people often complained and even rebelled against Moses and against God. The Israelites refused to enter Canaan after hearing about the nations that lived there, and so the Lord punished the Israelites by making them remain in the desert for forty years. This part of Numbers ends with the people camped in Moab near Mount Pisgah.
The third part of the book (21.21 -36.13) begins with the Israelites conquering the land just east of the Jordan River from the border with Moab in the south to Lake Galilee in the north. Then the King of Moab hired the foreign prophet Balaam to curse the people of Israel. But the Lord told Balaam to bless the Israelites, and Balaam obeyed.
The Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan River and conquer the land of Canaan, although some of the people decided to settle east of the Jordan River. The Israelites were counted a second time, then the Lord appointed Joshua to be Israel's next leader and chose other leaders to help Joshua divide the land among the tribes. The book concludes with the Lord givingthe Israelites more laws.
Numbers is about people who were rebellious and discouraged and who refused to believe that the Lord would take care of them. But the book also shows how the Lord protected them in war and gave them food and water in the barren desert. The Lord wanted the Israelites to realize that he did not want them to be destroyed; he wanted to bless them, just as Aaron prayed:
I pray that the LORD will bless and protect you,
and that he will show you mercy and kindness.
May the LORD be good to you and give you peace. (6.24-26)
Here are 14 Lessons from The Book of Numbers
A God of Order
1 # Short Commentary & Lesson From Numbers 9.15-23
When the cloud that covered the scared tent moved, the Israelites packed up camp and followed it. When the cloud stopped, the people stopped and set up camp again. This provides a simple, but important, lesson for our relationship with God. When God moves, we should move; when he stops, we stop.
Today, God does not usually guide us by clouds, but he does guide us with his Word, prayer, and the counsel of his ministers and other believers. When we follow God's guidance, we know that we are where he wants us to be.
The question we should ask is, "What does God want me to learn from my current situation?: The answer is there if we look for it.
Complain, Complain, Complain!
2 # Short Commentary & Lesson From Numbers 11.1-35
Only three days into their renewed journey, the Israelites began complaining again. They whined about how much better life had been in Egypt, apparently forgetting all the misery they had suffered as slaves. Incredible as it may seem, they also forgot about the many miracles the LORD had already performed to help them during their travels.
How easily we, too, become discouraged when life does not go our way. We often overlook the many good things God provides for us. God did not tolerate grumbling from the Israelites and he does not want us to waste our time complaining either. Instead, we should be thankful for the way God is taking care of us, day by day.
Jealousy in the Family
3# Short Commentary & Lesson from Numbers 12.1-16
Aaron and Miriam resented Moses' leadership. Their complaints about his wife were simply a smoke-screen to hide the real problem. The Lord quickly let Moses' brother and sister know that they were not on the same terms with him as Moses was. Although the Lord rebuked both Miriam and Aaron, Miriam alone was struck with leprosy.
This passage shows that we should be very careful about Criticizing our spiritual leaders. Just like us, they are imperfect people who sometimes say and do foolish things. While they must be held accountable for their actions, we should be sure of our motives before we point an accusing finger at spiritual leaders. What does God see in our hearts? Are we acting out of true concern for someone else, or because we are jealous?
Notice that Moses did not hold a grudge but prayed for Miriam to be healed. When someone wrongly criticized us, we can be as forgiving as Moses when we let God guide our hearts.
God Does Not Play Games
4# Short Commentary & Lesson from Numbers 14.11-38
Our Patient God never quits loving his people. He mercifully forgives us again and again. But when his people refuse to trust and obey him, the Lord allows them to go their own way ... Which always leads to destruction.
God forgave the Israelites when Moses prayed for them, but that did not change the consequences for their sin. They had refused to trust him one time too many. Of the more than 600,000 men who came out of Egypt, only Joshua and Caleb were allowed to enter Canaan.
Today we must be careful about presuming the Lord will be kind. If God has disciplined us for sins, we should learn from our mistakes and recommit ourselves to trusting God for a great future.
5# Short Commentary & Lesson from Numbers 15.22-31
When God's people sinned accidentally, the Lord promised to forgive them if they admitted their errors and offered sacrifices. Deliberate sin, however, was dealt with much more severely.
Although God hates all sin, there is a big difference between unintentionally and willfully wanting to do what is wrong. God sees not only what we have done, but he knows why we have done it.
God knows that his children are not perfect; we all sin. But he expects us to think carefully about our actions and get in the habit of choosing right over wrong.
With All Your Heart!
6# Short Commentary & Lesson from Numbers 17.12, 13
How could the Israelites have complained again after God had been so good to them? Apparently, they were divided between wanting to obey God and worrying about their own physical needs.
Most of us have experienced a similar tug-of-war. We know we should do one thing, but we do the opposite. Besides, many people consider complaining to be normal in this world of "looking out for Number One." Complaining, though is a sign of ingratitude and it separates us from God. When we feel like complaining, let's stop and thank God for what he has done for us and given us.
Be Careful with God's Gifts
7# Short Commentary & Lesson from Numbers 18.32
The Priests were instructed to treat the gifts and sacrifices that were brought by the people with respect. Today, we offer gifts to God when we give our time and money to our churches.
Those responsible for handling these gifts should do so with great care. They must be thoughtful in how they handle the church's money and resources, and ask for God's guidance Someday, we will all have to answer to God for what we have done with his resources. He deserves the very best from us.
Why did Moses Get So Mad?
8# Short Commentary & Lesson from Numbers 20.12
Moses lived with the stress of leading people who often complained and rebelled. We cannot blame him for getting angry and frustrated. When Moses hit the rock with his walking stick, the people for their water, and Moses got some relief.
But Moses' end result did not justify his means. god had instructed Moses to speak to the rock and command water to come out of it. Instead, Moses struck the rock, which was against what God commanded. Was God too harsh with Moses? As the leader of the Israelites, Moses had the responsibility to set a good example for them. He did not do this here.
God's instructions are never to be taken lightly. Yes, he is merciful and loving, but he also means what he says. The Bible tells us that God is always working for our good. We hurt him and ourselves when we disobey him.
Winning with God
9# Short Commentary & Lesson from Numbers 21.21-35
After the had lessons the Israelites had recently learned, they were due some encouragement. In this passage, King Sihon and King Og may have assumed that this ragged band of nomads would be a pushover, but they were in for a big surprise. Their opponent wasn't Israel - It was the Lord of all the earth!
These battles are wonderful examples of how God continually fights for his people in all circumstances. We can be assured that he will do no less for us.
The Promised Christ
10#Short Commentary & Lesson from Numbers 24. 1-25
Even a donkey (ch. 22) seemed to have had more sense than Balaam, a prophet who sold himself for money (see Jude 11). Yet, God's Spirit "took control of him" (24.2) and used Balaam to speak a message to the Israelites.
The first part of the message is a blessing for the people, but an even more promising message follows in verses 17-19. Balaam tells of the coming Messiah, who is described as "a star" (v. 17). This coming Christ would a blessing to all nations.
When is Anger Appropriate?
11# Short Commentary & Lesson from Numbers 25. 1-15
When Zimri worshiped a Moabite god, he directly opposed the Lord. Phinnahs knew about Zimri's sin and was angry, so he did what God had said to do to those who had committed this sin. He killed Zimri.
Does this mean all anger and our resulting actions are justified? If God's name is at stake then anger is the power response. Rarely, though, is violence the power reaction for our anger. We must be careful about how we express anger. Let's pray that God will show us how to respond with calm wisdom rather than violence when we confront sin.
Times of Renewal
12# Short Commentary & Lesson from Numbers 29.1
The celebrations mentioned in this chapter provided specific times for the people to be refreshed spiritually, mentally, and physically. Occasionally we may feel like we are far from God. Taking some time out of our busy schedules and spending it with God will help renew our physical energy as well as our commitment to the Lord. When we set aside a special time to spend with God, we will be amazed at how he renews us, from the inside out.
13# Short Commentary & Lesson from Numbers 30. 1-16
Someone once said that promises were made to be broken. In biblical times, though, a person's word carried a lot of weight. Keeping a promise demonstrated an honest and devoted heart that pleased the Lord. Breaking a promise could ruin a person's relationship with God, as well as his or her peers.
It is easy for us to offhandedly promise something and then break the promise. Perhaps excitement has caused us to say more than we meant to, but that's no excuse.
Number 30. 1-16 shows us that we must be especially careful about making rash promises. If we make a commitment, God expects us to keep it.
14# Short Commentary & Lesson from Numbers 36.13
The Israelites were finally done wandering throught he desert. They had arrived near the banks of the Jordan River. the land God promised them may actually have been within their view.
God's people had learned some hard lessons since their parents had crossed the Red Sea forty years ago. They had seen the results of not believing in God. They knew that disobedience and complaining would bring trouble.
The Israelites would follow God's instructions, and keep their faith in him. These are good lessons for God's people to remember today.
Promises For Us
I don't get mad; I get even," proclaimed a particularly nasty bumper sticker a few years ago. The bumper sticker may be gone, but the attitude is still around. Run for political office, and watch your opponent try to destroy your reputation. Struggle through medical school, and practice fear that a patient will sue for malpractice.
We live in a difficult world, and some people even claim that God is vengeful. But the book of Numbers, tells us that God may get mad, but he isn't out to get even. He is out to bless and protect us until we can make him gladwithour faith and love.
Numbers gives hope to all of us, especially those who are prone to discouragement in the face of opposition. If you've been known to complain when things don't go your way, read this book. God doesn't give up on us when we are at our worst. He may knock off some rough edges, but he'll stick with us through our roughest hours.
- What are the greatest personal struggles facing you now?
- When a difficult time occurs, how do you tend to respond?
- What positive lessons have you learned through hardship that you probably couldn't have learned any other way?