If you ever want to strike fear into the mind of the average church member or Bible student, tell them you are about to study the book of Numbers with them. The very name sends shudders as people think of list after list, mathematical equations with endless sets of numbers and groups, and comparisons that cannot possibly be of any real value to people today.
Notice I said that’s what people think… the reality of this wonderful book is very different. Everyone is so concerned about the title that they are scared away from its actual contents. Of the 36 chapters in this book, only 3 deal with the numbering of the people. In fact, the book’s original name was not Numbers, but carried a much more insightful title: In the Wilderness. The titling of this book as Numbers, which was done by the translators of the Greek Septuagint, is one of the greatest misnomers in man’s dealings with God’s Word. Calling this book”Numbers”because the first chapter deals with the numbering of the people makes about as much sense as naming the book of Matthew, “The Genealogy of Jesus” because of its beginning chapter; but such is what we currently have with this book, and generations have been scared to study it because of that singular fact.
However, this book is far more than census data for the Israelite nation; it is THE account of the 40-year wanderings in the wilderness. Without a study of the book of Numbers there is a vast gap in the knowledge and understanding of how the children of Israel came to possess the land of Canaan. The book’s record of the things that happened to the Israelites during those 40 years are intriguing, enlightening, and provide great applications for God’s people today. Unfortunately, most people do not have a clue the treasures that are found in this book, because they have never truly taken the time to study it.
Have you ever wondered how God dealt with those who tried to usurp the authority of Moses and Aaron? Read chapter 16.
Have you ever wondered why the children of Israel had to spend 40 years wandering in the wilderness? Read chapters 13-14.
Have you ever wondered why Moses was not allowed to enter the promised land? Read chapter 20.
Have you ever wondered why Jesus compared himself to a snake on a pole (John 3:14)? Read chapter 21:1-9
Have you ever wondered where you can find Balaam and that talking donkey? Read chapter 22.
Have you ever wondered why 2 and 1/2 tribes wound up on the other side of the Jordan River, when that land wasn’t actually part of Canaan? Read chapter 32.
Have you ever wondered who replaced Aaron as high priest? Read chapter 20:22-29
Have you ever heard God get so exasperated he said he would give Israel quail until it came out their noses? Read chapter 11.
Have you ever taken the time to really read the book of Numbers? It is not the type of book you think it will be. Yes, there are passages that deal with the numbering of the people and the travels of Israel, but there are also many timely and valuable lessons that the church needs to learn in today’s world. There are also the answers to many of the questions about the 40 years Israel spent in the wilderness. If only it wasn’t the book nobody wants to read…