The Fourth book of the Bibles, Numbers, gets its name from the two numberings of the people (Numbers 1 and Numbers 26). In this book, we pick up where Exodus left off, and get the story of the wilderness wanderings. It is a sad tale of a people who refuse to act on faith and enter the Promised Land at Kadesh-Barnea.
When the book begins we get the picture of a people who have been separated to God (Exodus) and instructed how to be holy and right with God (Leviticus). The natural and normal step for them would be to walk in service and obedience to God, but unfortunately we see time and time again that Israel failed at this important task.
The book could be divided into three categories:
2. Chapters 11-21 – Into the Wilderness Here we begin to see the major failures of the people as they complain and doubt God. Even Miriam and Aaron turn on Moses for a time in chapter 12! The people reject God’s instruction to inhabit the land by assigning 12 men, of whom 10 were lacking faith. Even the rebellion of Korah is recorded in this section. It was a sad and dark day for Israel when their short journey turned into forty years of wilderness wanderings.
3. Chapters 22-36 – Encampment in the Plains of Moab
Through this section we see Balaam and his wicked attempts to curse God’s people. The failure of the people at Peor when they worshiped Baal prompted God to once again reaffirm His instructions and commandments with Israel in the final chapters of the book.
Once again, Moses the author of this book, and the events recorded cover a period of about forty years. Numbers could have been a book about faith, trust, and God’s provision, but instead the Israelites trek is marked by failure, doubt, and STILL God’s provision in spite of their failures. There is a consistent truth that God will take care of His people even in their failure in Numbers. Each failure is marked with an aspect of God’s mercy and grace, and He continually is patient with His people as they fail time and again at becoming the nation God wanted them to be.
The key verse of the book is numbers 33:1 – “These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron.”
Enjoy this book as God takes His people through failure, and prepares them to be a nation that can conquer and possess the Promised Land. See the amazing grace of God in the midst of massive failures of man. Enjoy this book of the Numberings.