Study Notes and Personal Bible Study Activities
for the Book of Numbers.
God's grace is emphasized in Numbers through several types, or symbols, of Jesus' ministry. The bronze serpent (21:4-9) is a picture of the crucifixion (John 3:14). The rock that quenches the thirst of the multitudes is also a picture of Jesus (1 Corinthians 10:4). The daily manna pictures the Bread of Life who later comes down from heaven (John 6:31-33). Balaam foresees God's grace in the kingship of Jesus: "I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near. A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will rise out of Israel" (24:17).1
Today we join with the Israelites in preparing to continue on the journey to the promised land. In Numbers, we see how the Lord organizes His people for the journey and teaches them how to relate to one another on the way. As you read the statistics, consider the amazing thought that the Lord had these people “over for dinner” every day! What a feat of grace and power!
Imagine in your mind, each of the tribes of Israel camped around the Tent of meeting, each under his standard with the banner of his family. Similarly, C.S Lewis pictured the holy Christian church in this way, “spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.” We are Christ’s army and we enter the battle assured of victory because He has already won it for us. He has hung his banner of love over us. Listen to this song: The Father’s Song by Matt Redmond.
The Tribe of Levi had a prominent place and an important purpose in God’s plan for His people. Can you see a two-fold purpose for them? -- How would they represent the Lord? How would they represent His people?
In Chapter 4, we again see the important role of the tribe of Levi, the priests, had as mediators between God and the people. Note that their ministry was one of pure grace and needed to be done in reverence and purity.
A Nazirite was to be totally dedicated to the Lord, His God. Our “Nazarene” was! What connection does the Lord make between His blessing in Chapter 6:24-26 and verse 27? How can we apply this to our lives as His people each week? Spend some time meditating on His blessing:
The Lord bless you and keep you (preserve your body and soul with every good and perfect gift you need for your total well-being.) The Lord make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you (smile in love and forgiveness toward you and show you His compassion for all your distresses and hurts.) The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace (give you His peace, the sum-total of all the good things He establishes for His people, especially in Christ, our Savior. 2
Israel is almost ready to march but first final preparations for their priestly spiritual leaders are given and the Israelites celebrate their status as God’s redeemed people on the first anniversary of the Passover.
Take note of the absolutely beautiful and gracious way in which the Lord will assure His people of His continual presence and power to guide and lead them (Chapter 9:15-23). How does He still do that every day for us? Listen to the song Turn Your Eyes by Sovereign Grace.
Note how the Lord takes care of His people and uses the gifts of various people to do that. It’s still that way today. Pray fervently asking God to help each of us personally to see our daily lives in the light of Chapter 11. Ask God to show each of us how (to our shame) we are the same; and how (to His Glory and our good) we can be different.
(Chapter 11:24-30) How did the Lord indicate that “the seventy” helpers He supplied to Moses were really His representatives? What was Joshua’s concern? What was Moses desire?
(Chapter 11:31-35) To what will an attitude of complaining and craving (instead of contentment) lead?
(Chapter 12:1-16) While all God’s people are gifted, He has given different roles to be respected by others. What happened when Moses’ very own brother and sister forgot that?
(Chapter 13) While the spies could have remembered promises and recognized their God-given prosperity, instead the deepest impression upon them was perceived problems. What lesson/warning is there in that for us?
Do you see any resemblance between the grumbling, rebellious Israelites and yourself? How can you avoid following their example? What lessons from Chapters 14 & 15 can be applied to our own personal and congregational lives? (1 John 4:18) With humility and sincerity, pray for a soft heart, open to God’s guiding hand.
Notice how Moses and Aaron still love the people of God even though those people have jealously challenged and insulted them. Notice also that the Lord is incensed when His people do not respect His representatives. God condescends (Chapter 17:1-11) to a dramatic demonstration of his selection of Aaron and the Levites as His spiritual leaders.
Notice in Chapter 18 how generously the Lord, though His people, takes care of the spiritual leaders and how they in turn are to be generous to the Lord from the things that He graciously gives them.
Chapter 20 presents a moment of great weakness in Moses’ ministry. Moses’ unbelief expressed in his angry disobedient striking of the rock instead of speaking to it, dishonored the Lord. While forgiven, that disobedience resulted in a painful consequence, Moses would not be permitted to set foot on the promised land toward which he had been leading God’s people for forty years.
Be certain to take time to ponder these passages. The story of the bronze serpent, the defeat of the mighty Sihon and powerful Og, are repeatedly referred to in the Scriptures. They tell of God’s grace toward His people and His power for His people. We need to remember both. Inspired by these examples, and especially by our salvation in Christ, we can fearlessly and confidently go about living for Him and serving Him assured of His blessing upon our lives.
Nothing. Nothing, not a thing can successfully stand in the way of the people of God as they carry out the task he assigned. Even the foolish prophet, Balaam, is wise enough to know that he cannot overcome the God of Israel’s desire to bless His people.
When asked to curse Israel, Balaam had no other choice but to bless Israel and foretell the coming of the Messiah. Man has their ideas how things should go, God’s will always triumphs. The people of Israel harmed themselves however by their evil behavior.
Genealogies, in general, may not interest us, but this one does for it has to do with our salvation.
(Numbers 26-28) We have another reminder of the importance that daily and other regular sacrifices had in the religion of the people of Israel – all pointing to the Ultimate Sacrifice. A powerful reminder that all the blood of beasts, no matter how much, or how often offered, could never remove sin. Only Christ’s could and did.
Why is violent holy war called for against the people of Midian? Remember we are dealing with salvation history here. The Midianites (and others) by war and their worship practices threatened God’s plan of salvation – God would not stand for it. The officers of the army also bring an offering as a practical expression of thanks for the fact that they lost no soldiers in the war. In what ways and for what blessings have we reason to bring such offerings to God?
Moses exhibits wisdom in how he responds to the request of several tribes to have land other than in the Promised Land. And the people travel on. The details are again important because this is part of salvation history.
God gives instructions about how to deal with those who kill another, whether by accident or on purpose. Capital punishment – why does God take a person’s time of grace (time to come to faith) so seriously and not want it to be ended before God’s time? What does this say to us about spreading the Gospel? Abortion? “Mercy-killing”?
1 Concordia Study Bible