Numbers – He Remains Faithful
This is a trustworthy saying:
If we die with him,
we will also live with him.
If we endure hardship,
we will reign with him.
If we deny him,
he will deny us.
If we are unfaithful,
he remains faithful,
for he cannot deny who he is. 2 Timothy 2:11-13
The book of Numbers, the fourth book of the Law, is a story about the wilderness. The wilderness is always a proving ground that separates who you think you are from who you really are. You can't hide from yourself in the wilderness. The wilderness divides what you think from what you know, belief from unbelief. This is as true today as it was for Moses, Aaron and the people of Israel.
Israel had been miraculously delivered from bondage in Egypt when God parted the Red Sea and literally baptized them all through the water, swallowing Pharaoh in the wake, and giving God's people what they had been crying out to Him for on the other side – freedom.
But it wouldn't be a freedom of selfish anarchy. It would be freedom under the Lordship of their true King, God. And God gave them instructions for how to live and details for how to honor Him in worship. He dwelt in their midst and they were safe, free, guided, governed and on their way to the promised land, the place of God's promise and rest.
But they never made it.
At least the first generation didn't. Because of their unbelief. The wilderness will do that. When physical, mental and emotional pressure come from change or people or difficult circumstances, people sometimes want to turn around and run back. They would rather return to bondage than walk forward in a difficult victory. So they murmur, they complain, they undermine and grumble.
So God told Moses, “I will pardon them as you have requested. But as surely as I live, and as surely as the earth is filled with the Lord’s glory, not one of these people will ever enter that land. They have all seen my glorious presence and the miraculous signs I performed both in Egypt and in the wilderness, but again and again, they have tested me by refusing to listen to my voice." Numbers 14:20-22
So God reserved the Promised Land for the next generation, the youngsters whose faith was not spoiled, those who believed in the impossible. The ones who knew God was certainly who He said He was. While the first generation perished in the desert.
But God still loved them, that never changed, even in the midst of nearly universal unfaithfulness, God remained faithful. His presence remained in the Tabernacle and He provided for Israel daily, even in small, personal details, like their shoes never wearing out. Little glimpses of the loving provision that would remind anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear that He was with them and He was for them.
The writer of Hebrews recounts the wilderness story of Numbers and uses it to encourage us to remain faithful to the end. He writes:
"Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. Remember what it says:
“Today when you hear his voice,
don’t harden your hearts
as Israel did when they rebelled.”
And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt? And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness? And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest? Wasn’t it the people who disobeyed him? So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest." (Hebrews 3: 12-19)
Dear one, if you are in the wilderness right now, take heart, God is near to you. He will never leave you or forsake you. Remain faithful. If you are murmuring, complaining, even wishing you could go back to bondage. Stop. Repent. Those feelings are lies. Keep your heart tender. Because up ahead is the land of promise, the place of rest. Satan wants to rob you of your destiny through unbelief. But God is faithful. Let Him take you there.
P.S. Hebrews chapter 3 & 4 provide amazing new testament context to the book of Numbers. I'd encourage you to read these two chapters before you start Numbers and immediately after you finish. You'll find how beautifully this book relates to our life in Christ.