It was Mark Twain who said, "Don't complain about problems that you might have." Thank you Lord. He said, "Don't complain about problems you may have because 80 percent of the people that you tell your problems to don't care and the other 20 percent think you're finally getting what you have coming to you."
The whole group of the Children of Israel murmured and complained. I heard about a cowboy who was driving on a dirt road out in the middle of nowhere in the west in a pickup truck. In the back of the pickup was his dog and behind the truck, he was towing a trailer with his faithful horse in it. As they were on the dirt road, he was driving through the turns and the twists and he failed to navigate the curb and got into a terrible accident that overturned the truck and the trailer. The highway patrolman came by and saw that it was a pretty bad accident and being an animal lover himself, he went over to the horse and saw that the horse was beyond any kind of medical help and would die naturally. To put it out of its misery, he took a revolver out of his holster and decided to save the horse from a miserable several hours and he shot the horse. He walked around the accident and saw that the dog was whining and had broken several parts of his anatomy and so he decided to also put the dog out of his misery. Then he walked over to the driver and he looked down as a policeman ought to and said, "Are you okay?" The driver looking up and though he had several broken bones, saw the smoking revolver and said, "I've never felt better in all my life!"
We started to see a group of people who complained against Moses and the Lord. We've been outlining this book in this manner. The book is divided up into three parts: there is the organization of the camps of Israel; then there is the disorganization through unbelief and disobedience; and then there is reorganization. Chapters 1 through 13 are the organization and chapters 14 through 25 are the disorganization of the Children of Israel. Beginning in chapter 26 to the end of the book, chapter 36, we have the reorganization, meaning the first generation all die in the wilderness and the new generation, their sons and daughters, are the ones that enter the land. Last week the twelve had been sent out into the Promise Land to spy out the land and they came back. Ten of them had a bad report, "Don't go - there are giants; we're dead meat if we try to take this land." Only two of them, Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh said, "God has given us the land; we're well able to take it." The Children of Israel listened to whom? The ten - the majority - thinking that the majority can't be wrong; so they sided with the majority and they did not believe and they murmured and complained. They said to Moses, "We should have died in Egypt. I wish we would have died there and not even come out to the wilderness." Big mistake! God heard that and basically said, "Alright, you'll have your wish." That entire generation, except for Nun and Caleb, will all die in the wilderness and never make it to the Promise Land. So as we finish out the disorganization and the reorganization, we want to think about the failure and the future. The failure in the wilderness of the old generation (and it all speaks of death and they will all die in the wilderness) but then the future in the new land and the new generation that comes in.
We begin in Chapter 15 and it's wonderful because it begins in hope. Chapters 15 through 29 are really the failure in the wilderness. "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the Children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you have come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving to you.'" Isn't that a wonderful thing to say? It's wonderful because God doesn’t say, "If you come into the land," but He assures them that they will, even in spite of their complaints, their unbelief, and their failure. "When you get into the land." They may not all make it individually, but they will eventually make in corporately as a nation. So, not "if" but "when"; and that's very encouraging. It reminds me a little bit of Peter when he was in prison in Acts chapter 12. Herod the King saw that killing James, the brother of John, pleased some of the people, so he was going to kill Peter the next morning and he had him in prison. We find Peter chained between two guards sleeping in prison. Do you find it odd that a man, the night before he's going to be executed, is getting a good night sleep? You know why? Because Jesus Christ had told him something that a lot of us skip over. Remember when Peter was with Jesus at the Sea of Galilee and Jesus said to him in John chapter 21: "'Peter when you were young you girded yourself and you went wherever you want to, but when you are old you will stretch out your hand,'" (speaking of his crucifixion in Rome), "'others will gird you and carry you where you don't want to go.'" Did you hear what Jesus said? "When you are old." So here's Peter, a few weeks later in prison and sentenced to die the next day, but he knows he's not going to die because Jesus promised him that he would grow old, so he gets a good night sleep. Here God is saying to them, "When you get into the land," implying and stating, "You'll make it." Verse 3: "'And you make an offering by fire to the Lord, a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering or in your appointed feasts, to make a sweet aroma to the Lord, from the herd or the flock.'" Verse 22: "'If you sin unintentionally, and do not observe all these commandments which the Lord has spoken to Moses.'" (God is giving them provision for their sin.) Verse 30: "'But the person who does anything presumptuously, whether he is native-born or a stranger, that one brings reproach on the Lord, and he shall be cut off from among his people.'" So the way of dealing with sin is once again spoken about. Sin is certainly not a popular concept or subject in our modern era. It's regarded as outdated, medieval, and primitive and a lot of people will say, "Well you're not supposed to feel guilty because when you feel guilt over something you've done wrong, all it does is mar your self esteem and your self worth goes down." That's interesting to me because our culture will tolerate sin with no problem but we won't tolerate the guilt that comes as a result from sin. Our culture has basically declared war on guilt. If you go to the average psychologist or therapist they'll say, "Stop blaming yourself, it's not your fault." Well it might be your fault and maybe that's the place to begin: to call it what it is, to ask forgiveness for it, and to confess it because the Bible says that, "He who conceals his sin will not prosper but whoever confesses and forsakes them will find mercy." We live in a culture where everybody is the victim; it's the victimization of the western world; everybody is the adult child of something - alcoholic, workaholic, left-handed poker player, whatever; so we can all say, "I am the way I am not because of any choice that I've made but solely and totally - it's somebody else's fault." It might be partly somebody else's fault, but there comes a point at which we must all take ownership and the Lord knows that here.
I don't know if you remember the story of Bernard Cummings. He went out in New York City and mugged and beat an elderly New York man out in the streets of the city. In fleeing the scene after beating the old guy up, Bernard Cummings was shot and the result of the shot was that he was paralyzed. He sued the New York Transit Authority for 4.8 million dollars and won! What's wrong with this picture? The old guy that he beat up is still paying doctor bills (and by the way he's a cancer survivor) from the accident and the guy who did it is a millionaire. The Lord knew what the real problem was and said, "Here's how to deal with it."
The next four chapters form a block. Chapters 16, 17, 18, and 19 deal with the priesthood. Why? Because in chapter 16 there's a problem and it will all be fixed in these chapters. Remember that the Children of Israel are complaining and they continue to do so. There are eight different murmurings that are recorded in the book of Numbers. In chapter 16, there's a guy by the name of Korah who is in the ministry and he is a prominent Levite. He, along with 250 other leaders, rebel against Moses' leadership and authority. By the way, 1st Corinthians chapter 10 is the corollary to the book of Numbers. Paul will say over and over again in that chapter, "Don't do what they did in the wilderness." Some of the very stories we're going to look at are talked about in 1st Corinthians chapter 10 and one of them is this one. They complained a lot; it sort of became their national anthem - the whine. We have here the fifth murmuring and by the end of the chapter we'll have the sixth murmuring.
Verse 1: "Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and on the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; and they rose up before Moses with some of the Children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown. They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, 'You take too much upon yourselves.'" In other words, "Moses, you have way too much power for one guy." "'For all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?'" What did Moses do? He took the rebels and said, "We're going to have a showdown." Verse 23: "So the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the congregation, saying, 'Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.'" You know that this is a set up for some big thing that God is going to do. The complaining started with the mixed multitude, made its way through the crowds and now we have a group of prominent leaders rebelling against Moses in the wilderness.
I heard about a boy who named his new puppy, Uncle Joe. His family asked him, "Why are you calling him Uncle Joe?" The little boy said, "Because he reminds me so much of Uncle Joe; this puppy growls at everything and wants to fight everyone he sees." You all know an Uncle Joe! You might be an Uncle Joe! The Bible would take this kind of behavior in the context of an assembly very seriously. You say, "Oh, but it's just Old Testament and we don't have to worry about that." These examples are translated into the New Testament. Here is one verse in the book of Jude, verse 11: "Woe to them," those who have fallen away in the congregation, "For they have gone the way of Cain, run greedily in the error of Balaam for profit and perished in the rebellion of Korah." God says, "Tell everybody to get way back from the tents of these guys." Then Moses comes in and he says to them, "Look, here's the deal, here's the showdown, let's have a contest. If Korah, Dathan, Abiram and all these other 250 guys die of natural causes, they just get old and die, then the Lord isn't speaking through me. But if the earth opens up and swallows them alive, then I'm the guy that God sent." Let's see what happens. Verse 31: "Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly." What an interesting way to go. The sin of this group of 250 was dividing the congregation of Israel so the fitting judgment of God was to have the earth divide and swallow them up. Paul will say in Galatians, "Don't be deceived, God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows that also shall he reap." Korah the complainer but I'm also going to call him Korah the poser. He's a poser, meaning he thought that he could use this opportunity, this wave of complaint, to exalt himself and push himself into higher leadership. He was a Kohafite, a Levite, but he wanted to be in the priesthood and perform more functions and have a role of more prominent leadership. He really was a poser because God hadn't called him to that office. God had already laid down the callings previous to this.
Several years ago when Merv Griffen was alive and was interviewing people, one of the groups of people he was interviewing one night was a small group of body builders. They had big muscles, were oiled down, and were standing up there on his show flexing their muscles. Merv asked them a very simple and profound question. "What do you do with all those muscles?" One guy flexed his muscles in answer to his question and Merv said, "Well that's impressive, but let me ask you that question again; what do you do with all those well developed muscles?" Once again the answer was a pose - he asked them three times and each time he got "the pose." They were posers. That's all they did it for - not to do anything great or to find accidents and to take cars off of people who were in them - just a pose. That's Korah, he was a poser.
In chapter 17 the poser is dead and like chapter 16, God is confirming the priesthood through Aaron and his sons. God furthers the thing and says, "Let everyone of the tribes of Israel, all twelve tribes, with the name of the father's house - put that on a stick and take twelve sticks and for the tribe of Levi put the name of Aaron on a dry dead stick. Get these twelve sticks and place them before the Ark in the tabernacle." So they did that. Verse 8: "Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds." This is a picture of a resurrection; something dead comes to life. Aaron is validated; the priesthood is validated through Aaron and his lineage by a dead stick coming to life and blossoming.
Underneath the mercy seat in the Ark of the Covenant there were three things: one of them was a copy of the Law (the Ten Commandments), there was a golden pot with manna in it, and there was Aaron's rod that budded. According to Hebrews 9, these three things were kept in the Ark of the Covenant as a memorial throughout the generations of the Children of Israel to remind them of those lessons: that God provided bread, the Law that was broken, the blood that covered it, and also the fact that Aaron and his sons were called by God to be priests. Do you know where the real Ark of the Covenant is? Nobody knows. There're a lot of guesses and there're people who claim to know and there's even a church that claims to have it over in Ethiopia and I think there's another one in Egypt. But, we don't know where it is; it hasn't been found; it would be an exciting discovery to find the Ark of the Covenant but I have to tell you, seriously and honestly, I'm glad nobody has discovered it. If somebody did, it would turn into another relic that is worshiped. I'm sure that there would be vendors outside of where the Ark was selling little stone tablets or pieces of the original stone tablets or pieces of Aaron's rod that budded. Even if they sold 10,000 of them and ran out, they would have the miracle of the perpetuation of Aaron's rod that budded and they would make a lot of money off of it - so I'm glad it has never been discovered because people have a tendency to worship such things.
Chapters 18 and 19, like chapter 17, confirm the priesthood. In chapter 17, God just plainly says, "Look, this is whom I've chosen. The tribe of Levi, the house of Aaron, the Levites and the Levites alone are the ones who are to perform the ministry in the tabernacle. You might be a well meaning person from the Tribe of Issachar, or Zebulun, or Benjamin, but this is a genetic thing. You have to have "Levi genes" in order to serve in the tabernacle.
Chapter 19 details a strange ritual for cleansing those who have become defiled especially by touching a dead person. Here's the ritual: they were to find a red heifer - a heifer is a young female cow who has never given birth; a red one, that is, reddish in hue, is considered a biological anomaly. According to Jewish tradition, there have only been nine red heifers from the time of Moses to the destruction of the second Temple. The red heifer was taken, burned, the ashes collected and then kept for generations because there would be a lot of ashes. A few of the ashes would be put into a vessel, running spring water would be put into the vessel and if someone was defiled ceremonially, especially by touching a dead corpse, the priest would take a hyssop branch, dip it in the water and sprinkle the people and that would cleans them - it was the cleansing of this red heifer. It is interesting that the oral law, the Mishna, has several sections, tractates, all about the red heifer. If you were to go to Israel today you can check out the Temple Institute and ask them about the red heifer. They will tell you that in the last couple of years they have discovered two that they have declared Kosher, because they're all about rebuilding the next Temple. One has recently been declared as unfit but there's at least one that they say is declared fit and would serve for a long time in ceremonial cleansing. They are getting ready in the building of that Temple. What I want you to notice about this is that there are overtones throughout this chapter as well as other chapters. Here's the overtone, it's a theme that runs throughout the whole five books of Moses - sacrifice, offering, death of a victim, blood that has to be shed in order to atone for defilement or for sin. Blood must be shed for sin to be cleansed. That concept bothers a lot of people. Keep in mind what Paul said, "The preaching of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing." Listen to a statement by a feminist theologian named Dolores Williams. "I don't think we need a theory of atonement at all. I don't think we need folks hanging on crosses and blood dripping and weird stuff like that." Theologian? What kind of a theologian is that? Not a Biblical one. Why would she say that? Anybody would say that because they don't realize the reality and the seriousness of inward sin. It's the only reason you'd say something that lame. You would make that statement if you don't realize or believe in the concept of inward sin that people have. The cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. That's why people have problems with the doctrine of an eternal hell; because most people don't realize that sin could be that bad to warrant that kind of punishment. They don't understand the doctrine of sin and God's holiness - that is the problem.
There was a little boy who volunteered to wash windows for his mom. "Mom, can I help you wash windows?" She said, "Sure." She gave him a bucket and a sponge and he went outside and scrubbed as hard as he could until his arms were sore. He didn't seem to be cleaning the windows at all and he was frustrated and said, "Mom, what am I doing wrong?" The mom looked and said, "Why are you wasting all of your time outside? The dirt is all on the inside." What a lot of people do is try to clean the outside of their lives. "I'll work on this habit, on this issue, on that problem," but the real problem is on the inside and that's why so much detail is given in the Bible for cleansing, sacrifice, and atonement.
That's the failure in the wilderness. Now look at chapters 20 and 21; this is the failure on the way to Moab. We believe that between chapter 19 and chapter 20 is a gap of 37 years. This takes us into chapter 20 which is the seventh murmuring. The chapter begins with death and ends with death. It begins with the death of Miriam, Moses' sister, and ends with the death of Aaron; so the bookends of this chapter are death. Verse 1: "Then the Children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month and the people stayed at Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there." Miriam was that great lady with the tambourine who led the worship when they crossed over through the Red Sea and the Egyptians watched them, Exodus chapter 15. She also recently lead a rebellion against Moses and she represents this whole generation who's about to die in the wilderness; she dies. It says they were at Kadesh; that's déjà vu; they were there 37 years ago. I think Moses was going, "Oh my goodness, déjà vu, I was here almost 40 years ago with those 12 spies who I sent out;" and they came back and low and behold they had gone in a big circle for over 37 years; wandering in the wilderness.
Verse 2: "Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron. And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: 'If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord!'" That's pretty harsh; they're thinking of Korah and the 250 that died when the earth swallowed them up. They are saying, "I wish we would have died with them." I'm thinking Moses is thinking, "I do too." "'Why have you brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.' So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them." Thirty seven years ago they were there and they wandered and wandered and they came back to the entrance of the Promise Land. It will be a total of 40 years that they will wander. How many days did the twelve spies examine the land? Forty days; so you might look at it this way, the 40 year sentence was one year for every day that they had spied out the land and brought back a bad report. Deuteronomy chapter 1 will tell us that it's only an eleven day trip from Mount Hor to Kadesh. Thirty seven years later, after the first wanderings, they are there again.
Verse 7: "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.'" That sounds pretty cool, doesn’t it? "Hey, Moses, come here. See that rock? Go talk to it!" "Okay. Hey rock." That's what he was supposed to do. Do you remember the pet rocks that came out in 1975? Here's what's sad; I had one and I talked to it. I didn't have a pet and I thought, "These are pretty easy to maintain." When I came home, there was a rock smiling at me on my desk; I think I gave it a name and I talked to it but then I realized that it was lame. Then I read this Scripture and Moses was told to talk to the rock! "And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them;" (wait a minute, Moses, don't talk to them, talk to the rock!) He gets them all together and he says something to them, so you know there's a problem, "'Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?' Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, 'Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the Children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.' This was the water of Meribah," which means quarrel, strife or contention, "Because the Children of Israel contended with the Lord, and He was hallowed among them." Think all the way back to Exodus chapter 17, in the wilderness not of Zin but the wilderness of sin and they encamped at Rephidim and there God said to Moses, "Take your rod and strike the rock." It's the only time God told him to do it and now he says, "Don't hit the rock, don't hit them, just talk to the rock and it will bring forth water." Instead he talks to them and beats the rock and then God says, "You're not going into the Promise Land." I know some of you are thinking, "That's not fair, I mean think about poor Moses. He was being trained for leadership for 40 years in Egypt, 40 more years in the back side of the Medianite Desert and altogether 40 years of listening to their complaints. Give the guy a break; this is unfair." God didn't let them go in. Why? Number one: plainly and simply, he disobeyed God; he let his emotions get out of control which led to disobedience. Any emotion that you let get out of control can lead you to disobedience. He just disobeyed. Number two: he failed to represent God correctly. Moses was a representative of God. If you're a representative of the Lord, you need to represent Him correctly. God wasn't mad at that point but the way Moses represented God, would indicate to the people that God was really mad. Number three: Moses exalted himself in this situation. Notice what he says, "Must we bring water from the rock?" Who's we? You have no power to bring water out of a rock Moses. It's a miracle and only God can do that. He took too much on himself in this story. Number four: (I'm going to add this because I have a New Testament perspective) he dishonored Christ. How? Again, 1st Corinthians chapter 10, verse 4 says: "And they all drank from the same spiritual drink from the rock and the rock that followed them was Christ." Now he's speaking idiomatically. It's not like a rock was following them to different places. The idea is that idiomatically, analogously, and parabolically speaking the rock was Christ. If Moses would have obeyed God, he would have given a beautiful model of the first and second comings of Christ. At the first coming Jesus was struck and out of His death flowed life. At the second coming, you don't have to strike Him twice, you now have a relationship with Him, you speak to Him and have fellowship with Him. If he would have just spoken after the first smiting years before, it would be a beautiful picture of the rock that followed them who was Christ in the first and second coming.
Verse 29: "Now when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead," (so Miriam dies at the beginning and Aaron at the end of the chapter), "all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days." Grief is normal and there is such a thing as good grief just like there's bad grief. Bad grief is when you stuff it all in and refuse to cry because you're a man. "I'll get over it; leave me alone; I won't deal with it." Or too long or prolonged and never getting over it. There is good grief where for a period of time you mourn and you're in grief and you allow yourself to do such. In ancient cultures it was a period of one month, 30 days. They really gave full vent to their emotions and dealing with family issues.
Chapter 21 takes us to the eighth murmuring which is the last murmuring that is recorded and by now Israel had complained and murmured so much that they'd refined the art of griping. They were like Picassos at griping; they were like valued artisans; and they complained against God and Moses again. Verse 5: "And the people spoke against God and against Moses: 'Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and our soul loathes this worthless bread.'" What worthless bread was that? The Krispy Kreme donuts? They got sick of it. "So the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and many of the people of Israel died. Therefore the people came to Moses, and said, 'We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you; pray to the Lord that He take away the serpents from us.' So Moses prayed for the people." They got spiritual really quick, didn't they? Here they were complaining and grumbling against the food and against God and against Moses and then snakes bite them and they die and they go, "We have to pray; we have to have a prayer meeting." There is nothing like a little affliction to get people on their knees. I don't believe God is cruel or masochistic but sometimes I just wonder if I can't hear Him even in my own life when I haven't been seeking the Lord and all of sudden a period of affliction hits and I'm on my knees; and God is whispering saying, "Great to hear from you, it's been a while." David even said, "Before I was afflicted I went astray but now I seek the Lord." Why does God send this? Because He loved them. Remember when you used to spank your kids, or still do? They said to you, "You don't love me." Was that true? No, you spanked them because you did love them and you were worried at that time, "Oh my child, what does he think about me?" The issue isn't what he thinks about you when he's four or five as much as what he'll think about you when he's 18, 19, or 20 and out of the house because you gave him a loving and disciplined home. God loved them and wanted them to turn back to Him. Verse 8: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and it shall be that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, shall live.' So Moses made a bronze serpent, and put it on a pole; and so it was, if a serpent had bitten anyone, when he looked at the bronze serpent, he lived." I imagine some people in the camp of Israel must have thought, "This is stupid." There they are and they've been bitten by a snake and dying and somebody goes, "Hey look, I just looked at that brass serpent on a pole and I feel better. Just look this way at that brass serpent." "I don't believe in that hocus pocus stuff. You can't get me to buy into that." "Yeah, but you're dying, just look at it!" "No, not me, I'm a rationalist; I'm an empiricist; there's no logical reason for me to just look at a brass snake on a pole and think that I'm going to be healed." Here's the kicker, it worked. You know why? Because it was a look of faith. It was foolish; by the foolishness of preaching the Gospel, people today are saved. It's that simple look of faith that made all of the difference. Why? Jesus will explain it to Nicodemus in John Chapter 3; that it illustrates His crucifixion. The pole was a banner pole; like an agent flag pole but it had a vertical and horizontal stay like a cross. That's why banners were put on for the emblems of Israel. To have a brass serpent on a cross-like pole was indicative of what would happen when Jesus Christ would come. That's what Jesus said: "'For as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so the Son of man will be lifted up that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.'" That's verse 15 which is a prelude to the most famous verse in the Bible, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son," (not a serpent, a son), "That whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life." Why a brass serpent? Brass is the metal of judgment. The altar outside in the big courtyard for sacrifices was made out of brass and that's where sin was judged. The serpent was an emblem or symbol of Satan; Genesis chapter 3. It was then a symbol of sin being judged on a cross. It's a symbol of 2nd Corinthians 5:21: "God made Him who knew no sin to become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." Look by faith and you will be saved. Wait until we get to 2nd Kings and you see what Hezekiah does because they are going to save this brass pole with a serpent for generations. By the time King Hezekiah is there in 2nd Kings they will have been burning incense to this sacred icon like they would if they found the Ark. King Hezekiah broke it into pieces because people called it Nehushtan and they burned incense to it.
Chapters 22 through 25 lead us to a very weird and bizarre guy named Balaam. He's an enigma, a puzzle, a puzzlement. First of all there's more written about Balaam than the Virgin Mary in the Bible. There's more written about Balaam than any of the apostles. His name is mentioned 59 times in Scripture and he shows up here for several chapters. I'm going to sum some of them up. Chapter 22, verse 1: "Then the Children of Israel moved, and camped in the plains of Moab on the side of the Jordan across from Jericho. Now Balak the son of Zippor," (here's the king now), "Saw all that Israel had done to the Amorites. And Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread because of the Children of Israel." A king named Balak hires Balaam to do something. Verse 5: "Then he sent messengers to Balaam the son of Beor at Pethor," (that's down by the Euphrates), "which is near the River in the land of the sons of his people, to call him, saying: 'Look, a people has come from Egypt. See, they cover the face of the earth,'" (there's about three million of them), "'And are settling next to me! Therefore please come at once, curse this people for me, for they are too mighty for me. Perhaps I shall be able to defeat them and drive them out of the land, for I know that he whom you bless is blessed, and he whom you curse is cursed.'" Boy, was Balak wrong! There's only one person that fits the description of and that's God. Whoever God blesses is blessed and whoever God curses is cursed. God said to Israel, "I'll bless those who bless you and I'll curse those who curse you." What was Balaam? Balaam was a Mesopotamian Baru, which is an Acadian word that means he was an Oracle priest; a priest who would give out statements, oracles, or omens, and words from the gods, based upon things like the entrails of animals which was one of their practices. They would take the liver out of a dead corpse and they would look at the way it shines and wiggles and they would make a prediction based on the wiggle of liver, or they would read drops of oil, kind of like how people read tea leaves and they see patterns in them - it was sort of like that and they would do it with the stars and the planets, etc. He was a pagan guy but God somehow supernaturally spoke through him because God put His words in this prophet's mouth so that nobody could curse Israel and that they would be blessed because that was God's covenant with them. Verse 21: "So Balaam rose in the morning, saddled his donkey, and went with the princes of Moab. Then God's anger was aroused because he went, and the Angel of the Lord took His stand in the way as an adversary against him. And he was riding on his donkey, and his two servants were with him."
I remember as a boy seeing a sitcom on television growing up called Mr. Ed. What you are about to read is the Mr. Ed of the Old Testament, the donkey of Balaam is about to talk. It's a fun story and it reminds us that all of us who speak for the Lord shouldn't get too prideful. If God can use a donkey and speak through a donkey, don't get too puffed up and prideful, just be thankful that He uses you or me. Verse 23: "Now the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the way with His drawn sword in His hand, and the donkey turned aside out of the way and went into the field. So Balaam struck the donkey to turn her back onto the road." That's the first time. The second time they are by a vineyard and there're walls and it's very narrow the donkey sees the angel of the Lord and the donkey turns aside and crushes Balaam's foot. The third time, the angel of the Lord stands in a very narrow place and they can't turn around. Verse 27: "And when the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam; so Balaam's anger was aroused, and he struck the donkey with his staff. Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, 'What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?'" The donkey asks a very good question. "And Balaam said to the donkey, 'Because you have abused me. I wish there were a sword in my hand, for now I would kill you!' So the donkey said to Balaam, 'Am I not your donkey on which you have ridden, ever since I became yours, to this day? Was I ever disposed to do this to you?' And he said, 'No.'" First of all I'm impressed that a donkey knows the word disposed! This is an amazing story; a donkey is talking. What's more amazing is that Balaam talks back to it! He doesn't stop and go, "Wait a minute, donkeys can't talk. Are you Mr. Ed?" He didn't do any of that. He has a conversation with it. The end of the story is that the donkey finally takes him to King Balak. Verse 41: "Balak took Balaam and brought him up to the high places of Baal, that from there he might observe the extent of the people." The story goes like this. The King takes Balaam to a few different look out points to look at the Children of Israel and pronounce a curse on them and in each of the three occasions, there are beautiful prophecies that God puts in his mouth to bless the Children of Israel. As he looked down from whatever mountaintop and he saw the camp of Israel he sees all the camps of Israel laid out around the tabernacle in the form of a cross. God had made a covenant with these people.
Chapter 23, verse 8: "'How shall I curse whom God has not cursed? And how shall I denounce whom the Lord has not denounced?'" This whole story continues in chapter 24. Here's part of the prophecy. Verse 5: "'How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel! Like valleys that stretch out, like gardens by the riverside, like aloes planted by the Lord, like cedars beside the waters.'" Now, look at this, chapter 25, verse 1: "Now Israel remained in the Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab. They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal," a false pagan god, "of Peor," they worshiped there, "and the anger of the Lord was aroused against Israel." It's not until we get to chapter 31 around verse 16 that Moses will tell us what happened. Balaam did not curse the people of Israel but secretly brought Balak aside and said, "Look buddy boy, I can't curse whom God has blessed but we don't have to curse them, their God will curse them because, you see, their God is such a jealous God and doesn't like idolatry. Therefore, if you can get your pretty little ladies to walk through their camp and get these men to have a little affair with them, then they'll bring out their little gods during this little escapade, thus idol worship and because of that idolatry, God Himself will have to judge them." So that was the counsel of Balaam to them.
In chapters 26 through 36 we now have the third and final division. Remember, organization, disorganization, and this is now reorganization. This is a new generation and they're preparing to enter into the Promise Land. So this is the future. We've seen the failure of the old generation that brought death and this is now the future that brings life. Chapter 26, verse 1: "And it came to pass, after the plague." What plague? There're been a lot of them but this one is in the previous chapter. In chapter 25, 24,000 people died in a single day because of sexual immorality with this Baal worship. "That the Lord spoke to Moses and Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest, saying: 'Take a census of all the congregation of the Children of Israel from twenty years old and above, by their fathers' houses, all who are able to go to war in Israel.'" Kind of like déjà vu; kind of like chapter 1? It is. Chapter 1 was the first census taken of the older generation and they'll all die off; 603,550 fighting men above 20 years of age. Now they recomputed with the next generation and there are 601,730. So there's been a zero population increase, in fact there's been a loss of 1,820 in 38 years. That number is given in Chapter 26, verse 51: "Six hundred and one thousand seven hundred and thirty." So there's been a loss, a zero population growth.
We won't read chapter 27 but it's about inheritance laws and if your name is Zelophehad, you may want to read this chapter because it has everything to with the offspring of a guy named Zelophehad who had no sons but had daughters and a law was formulated because of them.
Chapters 28 through 30 are all of those offerings we've already covered; all of those seasonal offerings and sacrifices. You say, "Why are they repeated again?" It's a new generation, that's why. The old ones are dying off and they are bringing that into remembrance.
Chapters 31 through 36 are the land that is apportioned on both sides of the Jordan River. They crossed the Red Sea, went through the wilderness and crossed the Jordan River to get into the Promise Land. Not everybody did. There were two and a half tribes that saw how beautiful some parts of the Eastern area of the Jordan River were and they said, "Can we just stay here? We don't really want to go into the land God promised you guys. We'll stay here on this side." Their tribal names were: Reuben, Gad, and half of the Tribe of Manasseh. The other half will go west of the Jordan. You would have to see the area to appreciate it. The area up by the Golan Heights is still the favorite area of the Bedwin Tribes in that area to this day. It's where the oaks grow; the grass grows; there's more rainfall; pistachio orchards grow wild; it's just beautiful and verdant. They didn't want to go any further, so they strike a deal. Chapter 32, verse 5: "Therefore they said, 'If we have found favor in your sight, let this land be given to your servants as a possession. Do not take us over the Jordan.'" In verse 18 they strike a deal: "'We will not return to our homes until every one of the Children of Israel has received his inheritance. For we will not inherit with them on the other side of the Jordan and beyond, because our inheritance has fallen to us on this eastern side of the Jordan.'" So, they cross over and fight and then they'll go back, that's the deal.
Chapter 33 is a journal and a log of all the places they camped and a summary of their routing as they made it through the wilderness.
In chapter 34 the boundaries of the land are given: south, west, north and the east. Verse 12: "Then Moses commanded the Children of Israel, saying: 'This is the land which you shall inherit by lot, which the Lord has commanded to give to the nine tribes and to the half-tribe.'" The land is given; the cities are given including the cities of refuge, the Levitical cities which ends the book. So we're done with the book, but here's the tragedy, if you go back and you pencil out all of the land God promised them to inherit, it's about 300 thousand square miles of land. If you go back to Genesis 15 and other places where the allotment is given it comes to 300 thousand square miles. Israel, at their peak of history only occupied and enjoyed 30,000 square miles of land. God promised them this and they enjoyed one tenth of it. I just wonder if there isn't a corollary with some of us? "We're saved!" Great, are you enjoying all of your riches in Christ Jesus in heavenly places; are you grabbing a hold of all of the promises; or are you content with less? "I just want to barely make it to heaven." I don't, I want a red carpet entrance. I want to live my life to the full; save as many people as I can; have a lot of fun on the way; and do it right. I think you do to. Charles Spurgeon said this, "Most Christians, as to the river of experience, are only up to the ankles; some have waded up to their knees; a few find it breast high; but a few, and oh how few find it a river to swim in the bottom of which they cannot touch."
Moses didn't make it into the land but he will later. You'll read in the Gospels that Jesus appears on a mountain in Israel with Moses and Elijah talking about the Kingdom. He made it in a glorified state. I believe you'll also read about him in Revelation chapter 11 as one of the two witnesses because the signs of one of the two witnesses is that he calls fire down from heaven - that would be Elijah. Another one has the power to strike the waters and make them blood, like Moses, and call plagues down from heaven like Moses. Many believe (myself included) that one of the two witnesses in the future tribulation for Israel will be Moses. Are you wandering or are you walking? I pray that it's the second.