Miracles of Jesus
40 Days in the Wilderness
The death of Miriam affected Moses and Aaron deeply (Number 20). It was Miriam whom God chose to save Moses’ life. She led the praises following their exodus from Egypt (Exodus 15). The only blemish on her life was when criticized Moses (Number 12).
With that burden, Moses must still deal with the whining and complaining of Israel. Again and Again they cry, “Why have you made us come out of Egypt, to bring us to this place?” Now there is no water and they begin their complaining once again (Numbers 16:1–40).
God appears to Moses and Aaron. He tells Moses to speak to the rock instead Moses strikes the rock. As a result of this one blemish on his life God said, “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.”
Further, Moses faces another disappointment, the death of Aaron. Aaron had been by his side from the beginning, when he first appeared before Pharaoh. The one blemish on his life was the event at Sinai concerning the golden calf.
Moses had to be weary from the complaining of the people. But the deaths of his two siblings had to really drain him. Further, his one blemish of striking the rock instead of speaking to the rock must have been devastating to him.
Haven’t we all in one way or the other been in the shoes of Moses? Disappointment and fatigue weaken us so that we do something in weakness we would never have done in strength. But, do not miss the mercy of God as well. In spite of the charge, “You believed me not…” God enabled Moses to see the Promised Land. He also is listed as one of the great people of faith in God’s book (Hebrews 11). One blemish on our lives does not have to destroy us. God will be merciful to us too.
Chapter 19 takes us back to the issue of defilement and the need for purity. Though Israel was to avoid contamination, it was inevitable. The 2nd half of this chapter explains how one became impure through contact with the dead (v. 11-22). God’s punishment for Israel’s rebellion in not entering the promised land was that everyone 20 and older would die (Num. 14:29), as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. With a nation populated over two million people, it was likely that hundreds died daily. This chapter provides the solution for their defilement.
This chapter began giving the solution first (v. 1-10). They were to take a red heifer with no defect, and upon which no yoke had been placed, kill it, burn it, and use it’s ashes to remove the impurity.
Something I found interesting was v. 7-10 – the priest and those who came to serve this cleansing ritual both became unclean due to their exposure to the dead heifer, and were required to wash their clothes, bathe their bodies, and would remain unclean until evening. There’s an old rabbinic saying that fits this context: “They purify the defiled and defile the pure.” While there’s certainly several lessons to draw from this, the one that stuck out the most to me was the sacrifice of the priest. He gave up his own purity/cleanliness in order to purify a people who became defiled. Not only did he perform a ritual to bring about their purity, but he then had to follow up with a ritual for his own impurity. That’s dedication. That’s compassion.
That’s Jesus. For the sake of a people so defiled by sin, Jesus acted with compassion. Jesus took on flesh – for you. Jesus lived 30+ years as a man – for you. Jesus underwent temptation in a wilderness for 40 days – for you. Jesus lived a perfect life in obedience to God, leaving a perfect example – for you. Jesus wept in the garden – for you. Jesus’ sweat became drops of blood – for you. Jesus was slandered – for you. Jesus was abused – for you. Jesus was scourged, whipped, torn open – for you. Jesus wore a crown of thorns – for you. Jesus carried a cross to Calvary – for you. Jesus was nailed to that cross – for you. Jesus stayed on that cross – for you.
Yes, Jesus died for the whole world. But He died for you. Listen to the words Jesus spoke during the Lord’s Supper: “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24). He gave His life for me. He bore my sins for my sake. As Paul would say, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Hallelujah! What a Savior!
Great Savior divine, I pray to You this 1st day of the week, the day You rose from the dead, You conquered Satan and death, You claimed the victory! In this prayer on this day I praise You. You are so loving and caring. You came to earth for me. You suffered and died for me. You took my sins upon the cross. You are such an incredible, merciful, loving Savior. I don’t deserve what You’ve done, the gift You’ve given. Thank You just doesn’t seem like enough. Were the whole realm of nature mine, that would be a present far too small. Merciful Lord You are beautiful, clothed in glory. You are perfect. You are victorious. Today I sing Your victory. I praise the God who formed and completed the wondrous redemptive plan. Thank You for Your love, Your sacrifice, for the forgiveness I have in You. All that I am and may be is by Your amazing grace. You are worthy of all honor, of all praise, because You purchased us with Your blood. What precious blood! What a wonderful gift! What an incredible Savior You are!
God’s people had been stubborn and rebellious. The Lord had chastened them for it, but in spite of their disobedience, the Lord had been faithful to care for them.
Part of God’s providing for them was Aaron and his descendants as priests to serve in the tabernacle. The responsibilities of the priests were serious. If they did not follow God’s instruction they might die. God held Aaron and his sons responsible for offenses committed against the sanctuary and the priesthood. The priesthood was God’s gift to Israel. Without priests the people had no approach to God. The Levites were God’s gift to Israel but, God relieved them from menial duties so that they could devote themselves to fully serving God and the people.
If the Levites were to have no menial job then God expected the other tribes to care for them. Both the priests and Levites were cared for means of the sacrifices, offerings and tithes of the people.
The principle is clear: Those who serve the Lord and His people should be supported from the material blessing God gives His people. “The laborer is worthy of his hire.” Paul wrote, “Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:13-14).
If the priests and Levites did not have enough food for their families then they had to leave the sanctuary and go work in the fields (Neh. 13:10). Two points: It is sad when God’s people do not love the Lord and the Lord’s house to faithfully support it. Second, those who preach the gospel are never too good to go out and work in the work a day world to be able to provide for their own and the needs of the family if required to do so.
We have a short chapter today. Moses had it rough. There seemed to be countless complaints about his leadership. As we noted yesterday, the complaint against the men God appointed as leaders was a complaint against the God who appointed them (16:11). In today’s reading God provides a way to put an end to the complaints and rebellions against Moses and Aaron (17:5). A staff is presented from each of the 12 tribes with the head of their households written on the staff. Whomever’s bloomed indicated the one God chose. This would have been a clear demonstration – this leadership of Moses and Aaron was not self-appointed, but by the will and intention of God.
And what an amazing miracle! A dead staff – cut off from its root (source of life) – now blooms and produces almonds. That’s impossible! That’s the work of God – He is the source of life. Once the people see Aaron’s rod, their response was absolute fear. They could have been thinking, “We’ve been rejecting God’s chosen leader/high priest. We’re doomed!” They just saw what happened to Korah’s rebellion that led to death. They must have been terrified that their grumbling and complaint against Moses and Aaron would lead to the same fate.
Here’s a thought I had from this chapter: DON’T COMPLAIN. How sad is it that after all this time, and all these miracles, and all that Moses had done to prove himself as God’s appointed leader, it took yet another miracle for Israel to stop their grumbling (v. 5). It’s easy to complain. We’ve got a natural knack for criticism. This is obviously a broad subject, because there’s a lot we can grumble about. We grumble about the weather. We grumble about the country. We grumble about leaders, and elected officials. We grumble about aches and pains. We grumble about people who seem to grumble a lot. Sometimes our grumbling comes into the church – grumble about worship, about the leaders, about members we don’t see eye to eye with, grumble about the young people, grumble about the old people, grumble about the kids.
Grumble…grumble…grumble…And God hears all of it (Ex. 16:7-8). What does all this complaining say to God? What does it say to those who hear me? What does it say to those who aren’t Christians? What does it say about me? Oh if we would just stop and ask ourselves these questions. Why am I complaining? What will these words show others about my God? About my heart?
Here’s a reminder for today: “Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.” Phil. 2:14-15
Remember – in the midst of hardship, difficulty, and pain - God is always good. Remember – when frustrated and disappointed by others around me – God is patient in my times of weakness, I should be too. Remember – when upset at elected officials – God is king on the throne, He never fails. Remember – when feeling worthless, empty, like what you have and where you are simply aren’t enough – you are a child of God – you’re adopted into His family.
I don’t need to grumble and complain when I stop and remember that I have all I need in God. Israel’s answer was right in front of them – just look to the tent in the middle of the camp. Just remember that even in your wilderness journeys, God is there. He always has been, and will be. When you feel like complaining – stop – and remember God. He’s always there. Stop and count your blessings. I won't need to complain when I consider all I have to be thankful for!
Merciful Father, what a blessing to know You are with us everywhere we go. We know You are good, You are loving, You are the giver of every good and perfect thing. Everything I need, You have provided. I tend to get so distracted by the aches and pains of life, and so easily find myself complaining about it, rather than turning to You in my distress, and finding my comfort and relief in You. Forgive me. I know that in You I have every reason to live a life of true joy. Help me to overcome the negative, critical attitudes in my heart. Even in life's storms, help me to turn to You rather than complain about You. Let the words of my lips be words of thanks and praise, not criticism and complaint. And let my joy and satisfaction in You become contagious in the lives of others – that I may point others to the true source of joy and satisfaction in this life – to You. Thank You for giving me reasons to be thankful, reasons to rejoice. Because of You my cup overflows. You are so good to me. Thank You Father.
Poor Moses. How did he do it? No sooner t is the issue with Miriam and Aaron settled. Now comes the challenge to his leadership by Korah and company. Unbelievable! Korah and company accuse Moses of “taking too much on himself” (Numbers 16:3). God responds to Moses, that their rebellion was not against him but against the Lord (Numbers 16:11). The rejection of Moses was a rejection of the Lord who appointed him.
The solution is that Korah and company are to take their censers, put fire and incense in them and come before the Lord. The one the Lord chooses will be the one He causes to come near. However, Dathan and Eliab did not a want to do that. They complained that it was a set up to put out the eyes of the men who complained. Dathan and Abiram accuse Moses of bring them out into the wilderness but failing to usher them into the promise land. Moses is angered at them. He had taken noting from any of them, nor hurt any of them. Oh, how soon they forget. The reason they had not entered the land was because of their own unbelief. It was not Moses fault. It was their own. Isn’t that true today. We want to blame our failings on someone else.
God consumed Korah are destroyed when the earth opens up and swallows them. Fire also consumed two hundred and fifty who were part of the rebellion when fire form the incense they were offering consumed them. Shouldn’t that have taught all who survived a lesson about rebelling against God? Well, evidently not. The next day came the complaint that Moses had f killed the people of the Lord. To those who complained the wrath of the Lord came out and they were afflicted with a plague. Those who died were 14,700.
One further little tid bit in all this. For those who perished with Korah, Eleazar was to take the censors and hammer them into plates as a covering for the altar., This was to be a memorial to the children of Israel that no outsider, who did not descend from Aaron, was to come near to offer incense to the Lord. If they did they would be consumed like Korah and company. Second, even though there was further rebellion, Aaron took the censer and put fire in it from the alter and put incense in to and ran into the midst of the assembly to make atonement for the people.
No matter how much God di for Israel they still complained and blamed their situation on Moses and Aaron, making plans to return to Egypt. Further, Korah had a cherished place as Levites. The Korathites carried the tabernacle furniture when Israel moved to a new location. Korah complained that Moss and Aaron were running things and not giving the people enough “input.” Who were Moses and Aaron to elevate themselves above all the others. The real reason for Korah’s complaint was that he was not a satisfied assisting the priests; he wanted to be the priest. The selfish desire to be in chare runs all through the Bible. Then, what is there about the human heart that makes it so easy to follow the crowd and disobey the Lord?
The Lord gave Israel three reminders to encourage them to obey His Law and submit to His will: the tassels on their garments, the brass plates on the altar, Aaron’s rod in the holy of holies. Today we have the Lord’s Supper as a reminder of the death of Christ and the promises of God. Will we remember?