“In the Wilderness”
Torah: Numbers 1:14–4:20
PROPHETS: Hosea 1:10–2:20 [2:1–22 Heb]
APOSTOLIC WRITINGS: Romans 9:22–33
These devotionals are designed to supplement, not replace, your Bible reading.
Torah 1 & 2
Israel is camped at the foot of Mt. Sinai (cf. Exodus 19:1 for arrival at Mt. Sinai). The Mishkan (Tabernacle) has been built and inhabited by God Himself (cf. Exodus 40:2, 17 for its building and Exodus 40:34 for its habitation). Now God instructs Moses, with the help of tribal leaders (Numbers 1:4 and 44), to count all Israelite males (except Levites) who are at least 20 years old and thus eligible for military service.
The military is counted (vv. 20–46). The Levites, however are excluded from the count (vv. 47–53). Why? For what purpose (see especially v. 53)?
Read Exodus 32:26–29, where Levites distinguish themselves after the Golden Calf incident. What is the reason that the Levites are singled out as God’s special servants?
Now read Matthew 10:37. Just as Levi’s offspring demonstrate faithfulness to God even at the expense of family and community relationships, so too do God’s children demonstrate an equally exclusive faithfulness.
Remember that just as God told Moses to count the Israelites, God already knew each one. He knows you too. Why not converse with God now, remembering that He has counted you, knows you better than you know yourself, and loves you more that anyone else ever could! In what ways does your exclusive faithfulness to God become defiled by self-interest, self-protection and pursuit of self-glory? (See 1 John 1:9 to handle this sin redemptively.)
Torah 3 & 4
God At The Center
God instructs Israel to “set up camp” around the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting, vv. 1–2). As you read the tribal arrangement, imagine it, or even draw it, kind of like a “target” with the outer ring consisting of Israelites (vv. 3–16 and 18–31) and the inner ring consisting of Levites (v. 17). On a target, attention is drawn to the “bull’s-eye.” In the community of Isreal, God resides in the center of the camp, within the heart of the community. At His command, and in this prescribed order, God will lead the community in a tribal caravan during all their travels (v. 34; cf. 10:11–13; Exodus 40:36–38).
In what ways is God at the center of your life? In what aspect of your life do you keep God on the periphery or out of the equation all together? Are other people’s attention drawn to God, His glory and His redemptive power, by looking at your life? What can you do today to put God first and bring Him glory?
Surrounded By His Servants
In the r’vi’i (fourth section of the Torah portion), God explains much about His special Levitical servants: Moses and Aaron. It starts with some details of their family history (3:1–4; cf. Exodus 6:16–25 which traces Jacob’s son Levi down through Moses and especially his brother Aaron, who will become the priestly prototype). Next, God provides us a basic Levitical job description (vv. 5–10; cf. 1:49–53). Lastly, God’s word provides an explanation of the spiritual role of Levite first-borns who replace the blood-bought firstborns of the nation (vv. 11–13).
Read Exodus 13:2, where God instructs Moses about firstborns during the first Passover. Now read Numbers 8:15–19. What is the rationale for God’s ownership of firstborns according to Numbers 8:17? What is the rationale for God’s special claim on all the Levites according to v. 18? If you belong to Yeshua, then you too have been bought with blood (cf. Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 6:20).
When we come together for corporate worship, do you know what we are doing? We are not just having a nice religious service, nor are we merely fulfilling our religious duty. Instead, we are blood-bought kohanim (priests) practicing for heaven. The Levites—who surround the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and serve God who resides within—are a picture for us of our heavenly destiny where as God’s own, we will be His servants surrounding Him and praising Him forever (Revelation 5:9–14)! How does this image challenge your own understanding and experience of relating with God through our times of corporate worship?
torah 5 & 6
Levitical Firstborn Census
While the first count was of Israelite males twenty years or older (cf. 1:2–3), the second count is of Levite males who are one month or older (v. 15). After reminding us of Levi’s family tree (vv. 17–20), God tells us more details about Levi’s three sons: Gershon (vv. 21–26), Kohath (vv. 27–32), and Merari (vv. 33–37).
Each son’s “household” is
b) stationed around the Tabernacle
c) given a more specific job description.
Notice that the Tabernacle’s entrance faces east. Which Israelite tribe camped eastward and led the way in the caravan (cf. Genesis 49:10 and Micah 5:2)? Which of the three Levitical family lines (“households”) has primary responsibility for caring for the sanctuary in general? Who among the Levites was stationed eastward in front of the Tabernacle entrance, but behind the leading tribe (v. 38)?
Israelite Firstborn Census (Switcheroo)
The third count is of Israelite male firstborns who are one month or older (v. 40). Redemption, either by human (22,000) or financial (273) replacement, is mandatory. Not just firstborn people but firstborn animals must also be redeemed.
Where does all the money go (v. 51)? What is the purpose of this money, as well as all the Israelite tithes and offerings, according to Numbers 18:21–24?
How can we relate and apply these instructions regarding money to us, according to 1 Corinthians 9:7–14?
torah 7 &
The fourth count begins a second counting of Levites. Each of Levi’s sons' “households” is counted, beginning with Kohath. This time, however, the focus is not firstborn redemption (cf. yesterday’s study) but eligibility for Miskan ministry.
What are the responsibilities of Kohathites (vv. 4, 15)? Aaron’s line is the anointed priestly line within the larger household of Kohath (cf. Exodus 6:18–20). What are anointed priestly responsibilities (vv. 5–14)? God cannot be approached by just anyone at any time (vv. 17–20). Not even Kohathites, who are Levites, are allowed to even see the most holy “furniture” in the Ohel Moed (Tent of Meeting)! Only Aaron’s sons who are the anointed priests can approach such holiness.
Contemplate Hebrews 9:7 and 10:19–22, and let your spirit rejoice in the great privilege we have as new covenant kohanim (priests) with unlimited access to God’s holy Presence! “O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (Psalm 34:8)
Hosea 1:10–2:20 [2:1–22 Heb]
Israel, a holy and priestly kingdom (Exodus 19:6), was renewed during her years b’midbar (in the wilderness). Unfortunately, however, the nation underwent spiritual decline and even divided in two separate kingdoms! Hosea was a prophet in the northern kingdom of Israel when Assyria was gaining dominance in the region. His life was an object lesson of God’s faithfulness in that he was totally committed to an unfaithful and adulteress wife Gomer. God used Hosea to sternly rebuke Israel (2:1–13). He also promised renewal akin to the one b’midbar (2:14–15), but far exceeding it (1:10–11; 2:16–20)!
How is this promised renewal fulfilled by your “betrothal” to God (vv. 19–20) through relationship with His son Yeshua? What did you commit to when you said, “I do”? How are you doing living up to that commitment? Ask God to show you how you are doing (cf. Psalm 139:23). Ask Him also to reaffirm to your heart how profound and transforming is His love for you (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:5).
Paul was consumed by the grace of God in keeping covenant promises. He wanted Jews to recognize God’s grace in saving a remnant (v. 27). He wanted Gentiles to recognize God’s grace by adding them into His covenant community!
How has God’s grace been shown to you this week? Begin now preparing your heart to come together tomorrow and worship our great God, through knowing His merciful Son, by the illumination and empowerment found only through His Holy Spirit!
Rest. Fellowship. Discussion.