The Book of Numbers tells the story of how the nation of Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, how they sinned and were punished, and how they prepared to enter the Promised land for the second time. This book was written by Moses approximately 1450 BC-1410BC.
As the book of Numbers opens, the Israelites have been camped near Mount Sinai for more than a year. While there, they had received all the Laws and Statutes as recorded in the Book of Leviticus. Now they were ready to move out and receive their land. In preparation, Moses and Aaron were directed by God to number all the fighting men.
Taking a census was long and tedious, but it was an important task. The fighting men had to be counted to determine Israel’s military strength, before entering the Promised Land. Next, the people were ‘sanctified’ (set apart for God). By doing so God was preparing the nation both spiritually and physically, ready to receive their inheritance.
But then the complaining began. First, the people complained over the food. Next, it was over Moses authority. The nation then arrived at Kadesh, and spies were sent into Canaan to asses its strength. Ten returned with fearful stories of giants. Only Caleb and Joshua encouraged the Israelites to ‘go up at once and possess’ the Land. The minority report fell on deaf ears, and because of their unbelief, God declared that the present generation would not live to see the Promised Land. Thus the ‘wanderings’ began.
“Because of all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it. But My servant Caleb, because he has a different spirit in him and has followed Me fully, I will bring into the land where he went, and his descendants shall inherit it.” (Numbers 14 v 22-24)
The book of Numbers covers 39 years and closes with the nation of Israel camped near the banks of Jordan River with the Promised Land in sight. The wanderings in the wilderness have come to an end, and the people are preparing for the conquest of the land.
What Lessons Can We Learn From Reading This Book?
1. God’s people must trust Him, moving ahead by faith if they are to claim His Promised Land.
2. God abundantly provided for Israel on their journey, and will likewise supply all that we need for our journey today through this life too.
3. God gave strict guidelines regarding purity in the camp. Believers today also need to concern themselves with Holiness and Righteousness as members of the body of Jesus Christ.
4. When Israel complained and criticised Moses, they were severely punished. Likewise Christians must guard against complaining and criticising their Leaders and each other.
5. The Israelites were prevented from entering the Promised Land because of their unbelief. Followers of Jesus Christ similarly must prevent unbelief from gaining a foothold in their lives, for it will prevent us from enjoying the blessing which God has promised.
The events described in Numbers should warn and help Christians avoid repeating the Israelites mistakes. If we choose to follow God, we must be aware that unbelief is disastrous; avoid complaining; stay away from all forms of compromise and sinful pleasures!