29 January 2016

Stone 4 - Numbers

Numbers is a book that is not for the mathematician as the name might imply. There are, however, a great deal of numbers found here due to the taking of a census.

Now - as a military guy, I could not help but notice a resemblance to some military activity so here is an 'armed forces' take on the events in the book of Numbers.

Company... Attention!
I was a part of OIF I, the first wave to go over back in 2003. As such, when we arrived, there was nothing there. We had to build it. At the Tallil Air Base we dug in and created Camp Badger.

Okay, so I am comparing the Israelites digging in and building camp at Mount Sinai to us building camp at Tallil. We were a group around 500 and I recall taking up quite a bit of space which means that this group of Israelites was massive. The group of able-bodied men age 20 or older came to over 600,000 (Num 1:20 and 1:46). This did not include any women and children and it did not include the Levites (Num 1:47-49). That means that this group was likely well over a million people if not two or three million! Can you imagine them all moving en masse? WOW. Just wow. I thought the mall was crowded.

So you have Moses and Aaron pretty much leading a couple million people through the wilderness under the divine leadership of God. The Lord basically gave the instructions to Moses and Aaron and it was up to them to disseminate the information and carry out the orders.

When I was serving, it was not uncommon to hear something along the lines of "In war you follow orders or people die". This certainly seemed to be the case here too (Num 1:51) God doesn't play games. He is just, fair, and merciful. We see all of this come out.

We have quite a bit of detail about how this enormous group of people were to be organized around the tent of meeting as well as what the responsibilities of several groups of people were.

Drill and Ceremony and the UCMJ
What organization would be complete without some policies, procedures, and a little direction on how to handle insubordination? God shares how the unclean were to be handled, how people were to be compensated, how to make vows, and how to prepare the tent of meeting.

Forward... March!
After all of the logistics are taken care of, we find it is time to break camp and move out. The ensemble was to head to an area known as Paran (Num 10:12).

Well, you would think they were doing a doubletime out to Paran with full battle rattle because they did not take long to start complaining (Num 11:1 and 11:4-6). Remember Moses who was basically the human representative here? Imagine if a couple million people started complaining to you...

Well, Moses, under considerable stress cries out to God (Num 11:11-14) for some help. What I find interesting is that Moses increased his staff not by a couple more guys to share the load but by 70 people (Num 11:16-17)!

If it wasn't bad enough that a couple million are whining about stuff to you - how about having two who are very close to you start complaining about your position of leadership in a sort of jealous way (Num 12:1-2)? God nips that in the bud right away (Num 12:5-11).

Reconaissance Missions
Twelve guys get sent out on a recon mission to check out the land of milk and honey (Num 13:17-20). They came back to report that it was indeed the land of milk and honey (Num 13:27). However, 10 of the guys were pretty negative and pessimistic about the possibility of taking the land from the powerful group currently there.

Oh - c'mon - you know how easy it is for us to latch on to the negative things people say... That is exactly what happened, and of course they griped about Moses and Aaron some more, (Num 14:1-2) despite the pleas of the other two guys who were optimistic about doing it with the help of the Lord (Num 14:8).

As stated before - God doesn't play games and he grants them their rebellious desire (Num 14:28-30). So a trip from Sinai to the promised land that should not have taken a super long time ended up taking 40 years until the generation died off (Num 14:34).

More Bad Morale
Later on, 250+ guys gathered to confront Moses and Aaron, accusing them of going too far (Num 16:1-2)
Challenge accepted.
In the end, this uprising ended up taking many thousands of lives (Num 16:49). God does not tolerate rebellion.

Roll Out, Men!
Finished in Paran, it was time to head out towards the promised land to Moab - only this leg of the journey was going to take a while. Again the people rise up and complain to Moses and Aaron about food and water (Num 20:2). God gives them a plan but Moses, however, makes the mistake of placing himself and Aaron on too high a plane (Num 20:10-11). he should have given God the credit for bringing water to the people. As a result, they will also not be able to enter the promised land (Num 20:12)

The Israelites seem to have been slow to learn as they continued to complain and incur the wrath of the Lord (Num 21:5-6).

The Israelites won a number of battles during their time in the wilderness and sort of developed a reputation (Num 22:2-3). Balak was the king in Moab so he thought he might hire this guy named Balaam to curse the Israelites and try to gain an advantage (Num 22:5-6). Balaam tried to warn him that he could only say what God says to say (Num 22:38) but Balak didn't listen.

So Balak's plan backfires and Balaam ends up blessing the Israelites three times rather than cursing them.

Divine Defenses and Divine Rules
Early on we mentioned that we would see aspects of God being just, fair, and merciful. he punishes those who deserve it, feeds them and provides water, and even has this guy blessing them without their knowledge. He prepares, punishes, provides, and protects his people. Who better to have in your corner?

They aren't getting it though... the Israelites end up worshipping Baal (Num 25:3). Remember that God doesn't play games. This was a commandment that was being blatantly broken. What do you suppose happened...? Yup (Num 25:5)

Field Promotions
Remember that Moses lost his opportunity to enter the promised land so he appeals to God for a new leader that can take them in (Num 27:15-17). Also recall that there was two guys that went out on the recon missions to the land of milk and honey who were optimistic while the other ten were not - well, joshua was one of the two and he gets the field promotion (Num 27:22-23). I bet he was not expecting that.

Next we have a pretty big battle with the Midianites. Since the Lord is on their side, the Israelites win pretty handily and take a pretty huge plunder - including over half a million sheep and goats - that can only be messy...(Num 31:32-35)

Now Chapters 33 thru 36 gives a movement log from when the Israelites left Egypt followed by some directives for when they cross the Jordan. Who gets what and how it is to be divided up amongst the people. Pretty detailed. We will get to see how this part of history plays out in Deuteronomy.

Here is the overview of Numbers by the Bible Project.