And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” – Numbers 20:12
In Numbers chapter twenty we find what seems to be a shocking and seemingly unfair punishment for Moses. Moses has been God’s appointed leader for Israel for many years at this point. He went before Pharaoh and asked for Israel to be released from their slavery in Egypt. He led the people in their journey from Egypt to the Promised Land, even though the people rebelled and were afraid to enter the land. Moses then leads the people for another forty years of wandering in the desert because of their disobedience in not entering the land. Moses has seen it all with his fellow Israelites. Moments of great worship and joy to the Lord, but also great rebellion against the Lord by the people.
Once again here in chapter twenty the people rebel against God and complain to Moses about the lack of water. Have these people learned nothing about how God has provided for them? Yet, again they complain and come to Moses for help. Moses at this point must feel like a parent that deals with the same problems with their kids over and over and over again. Moses finally snaps and has had it with his people. Moses goes before God and gets instruction to “speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water.” However, Moses, out of frustration, calls the people rebels, hits the rock with his staff twice, and then takes credit for the water that flows. Moses has not followed God’s instruction and as punishment God tells Moses that he will not enter the Promised Land. Israel’s great leader will not enter the land that he has been leading to people towards. This must have been a terrible disappointment for Moses. Moses did not listen and acted on his own out of his frustration with the Israelites.
We can become frustrated with many things in life. Life has a way of throwing things in our path; often times we just want to deal with it in our own way instead of taking it to God and seeking His wisdom. I think we will find that the more we try and do things our way, the more and more frustration will end up growing. When we take the time and bring things before God and seek His wisdom, and then follow His wisdom, we can see the bigger picture in life. Moses took his own path and it ended up costing him the chance to see the great Promised Land; what will it cost us when we try to handle things our way and not God’s way?
The Lord spoke to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man
or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of separation to the
Lord as a Nazirite.” – Numbers 6:1-2
In the book of Numbers we get introduced to a specific vow that either a man or woman of Israel could make. This is a vow of commitment to the Lord that could either be made by the person themselves or by their parents when the child was young. In Scripture we see three examples of this vow in Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. This is a vow that could be a commitment of 30 days or up to a lifetime. There were three requirements for someone who would take this vow: (1) they must abstain from wine and fermented drink, (2) their hair could not be cut, and for a man his beard could not be shaved, and lastly, (3) touching a dead body was prohibited. These vows were to raise up a group of people that would be totally committed to God. This was a public commitment that would be known not just to the Nazirite but also to the people around them. The length of their hair and beard would draw attention and the Nation would know the commitment they had made.
Today we do not take quite the same vow to God. However, much like our call to be holy, we are expected to have a certain level of commitment to God and be different in the same way as a Nazirite. As mentioned before, these people stood out as different. We can apply this to our lives in the sense that we, as believers, should be dedicated, set apart, committed and separated to God. Do we stand out as different to the community around us because of the commitment to God that we have?
The Nazirites were willing to give up something in order to better commit their lives to God. Paul in Philippians 3:8 says, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.” Paul wanted to be closer to Christ than to anything else in this world. Our desire should be the same; this world has nothing to offer us, while Christ has everything to offer us. All He wants is a commitment from us to live differently and as those with hope in this dark world.
“Be holy because, I, the Lord your God, am holy.” – Leviticus 19:2
Leviticus can be one of the hardest books to read when reading through the Bible. All the instructions, rules, and standards being mentioned can be hard to keep up with and follow. However, it is important to remember that the things mentioned in Leviticus play a large role in the story of redemption that flows throughout the Bible.
The call to be holy first causes us to think about what being holy means. In the Hebrew, holy is defined by being pure, set apart, and free from defilement and unclean things. God is holy; He is pure and set apart from sin. God cannot be around sin. God is calling His people now to be holy just as He is holy. That is why as you read through Leviticus over and over you will see phrases that say, “don’t touch this because it is unclean, or don’t do this because it is unclean.” If the Israelites do happen to touch or do something that is unclean, then there is a purifying process one must go through in order to make them clean again.
Sacrifices also play a large role in the regulations of Leviticus. God knows that His people will sin and fall short of the rules and standards He is setting. The various sacrifices allow the people to make an offering to the Lord to acknowledge how they have failed to be holy because of their sin. The death of animals would serve as a sign to remove the guilt and punishment from the individual. These sacrifices showed that the cost of sin is death and that people were unable to redeem themselves. Over and over, day after day, sacrifices would be offered for the people’s failures.
However, Christ would put an end to this practice. God knows that mankind will never be able to keep His holy standards. Reading through Leviticus reminds us of this difficulty. Christ comes to earth to live the holy, clean, and pure life that we cannot live. He is the perfect Lamb of God for a sacrifice. The sacrifice of Christ on the cross is the one final sacrifice that removes the power and guilt of sin. It is in the death of Christ that true forgiveness is found. The death that comes with sin is defeated in Christ, and now when God looks at us He sees believers as holy because of Jesus Christ. The message of the cross flows through Leviticus and the entire Old Testament. The Bible is God’s story of redemption for His imperfect people.
Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them. Make this tabernacle and all its furnishings exactly like the pattern I will show you. – Exodus 25:8-9
If you are up-to-date on the Bible Reading Challenge, you have just finished up a rather large section in Exodus. Starting in chapter twenty-five God speaks His instructions for the place of worship for the Israelites, the tabernacle. He describes the Ark, table, lamp stand, the outer curtains, the altar, the courtyard, the basin, inner curtain, the holy of holies, and much more. It can seem very tedious as you read through it all, but I encourage you to take note of all that God is describing to the people.
The Nation of Israel will now have a place to worship and make their sacrifices to the Lord. This is also the place where God will dwell with His people. God would show Himself as a cloud over the tabernacle. This was a sign to the people that God was with them. They could look toward the tabernacle and find strength in the Lord. The tabernacle was built to move from place to place as Israel wandered through the wilderness. It wouldn’t be until the time of Solomon that God would have the people build a permanent building for worship. In Jerusalem they would build the temple, which would become God’s dwelling place among the people again.
Within the tabernacle, and the eventual temple as well, there was the holy of holies, or the most holy place. This place was where God dwelled. Only once a year a priest would enter the holy of holies and offer a sacrifice for the sins of the people. This place was separated by a great curtain. If you remember, during the death of Jesus on the cross, Scripture mentions that this curtain was torn in two. God wouldn’t be kept just inside the holy of holies; His Spirit was now going to be inside His people. That is why Paul tells the Corinthians, “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” The barrier (curtain) that was between God and man has been removed; we have His Spirit inside us and we can boldly approach Him. We don’t need a priest to go before God for us. We have His Spirit and we can bring our requests and cares before our loving God who dwells among us and in us. As the Israelites found strength in seeing the cloud above the tabernacle, we find strength and encouragement in knowing that we have God’s Spirit living within us.