June 20, 2024

Let's Find Jesus in Our Bibles

“What brings the wrath of God?” Number 1 & 2

Author
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Jackson Wilson

Executive Students Pastor

“The Book of Numbers might be called, without any impropriety, ‘Moses’s Pilgrim’s Progress.’ It contains a full account of the progress of the pilgrims through the wilderness until they came to the promised land. And, like Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrim’s Progress,’ it is not alone a history of any one person or nation, but it is the picture of the life of all God’s people.” - Charles Spurgeon

The Book of Numbers is what takes place between Exodus and Leviticus. It is a portrait of God’s people wandering in the wildness and is broken up into two different sections. Chapters 1 through 26 consist of the dying off of the older generation of Israelites that were freed from Egypt but unable to trust God’s plans and ways, and chapters 27 through 36 consist of the preparation of the next generation who will then inherit the promised land.

This book is a historical narrative of the ancient roots of our faith that can easily be written off as being inapplicable or not relatable for us today as New Testament believers. The opening of Numbers consists of a MASSIVE census, seemingly random numbers of people from different ancient tribes, and then a warning about the wrath of God. If we’re not careful, it’s passages like these that cause people to think that the God of the Old Testament is completely different than the God of the New Testament. Or, that God was angry in the Old and Jesus talked Him into being nice to us in the New.

The typical approach for believers tends to be one of two things. First, we simply gloss over all the details and write them off as being important for different people during a different time, and in a different place than us. This can lead us to completely avoid reading and studying the Old Testament and cause us to almost treat it as a separate religious text altogether. Second, we can dive DEEP into our commentaries, and online blogs, and research everything we need to know to get the context and understanding for the audience of the day. This is a step in the right direction but many people find themselves stopping here at a right understanding contextually without recognizing the “Christological” foreshadowing that is taking place in the Old Testament; the underlying thread holding all of scripture together. I believe there’s a third approach we can take and we should learn to read the WHOLE of God’s word in this light... What is that third option?

“LET’S FIND JESUS IN OUR BIBLES”

This is a phrase that is spoken over and sown into the littlest of children in our very own children’s ministry every week. Every child in our church at one point has been handed a torn and tattered, blue or pink Bible with a little sticker of Jesus placed on some random passage of scripture. The children are then encouraged to “find Jesus” in their Bibles. This is something that I have seen going back to my high school years of serving in children’s ministry, but the deeper I grow in my walk with the Lord the more profound of a reality this has become for me. At the end of the day, I think this is THE GREATEST KEY for Christians to grasp when reading God’s word. Rather than thinking, “How in the world does this apply to my life?,” or “How in the world will I be a doer of THIS word today?” we should ask the question, “Where is Jesus in this text?” When we do this a WORLD of revelation is opened up to us that does apply to us because Jesus applies to EVERYONE.

The census

Why did a census matter? What’s up with all of these in-depth numbers and geologies in the Bible? There are a few reasons. On a practical note, this specific census was done to gather a number of all of the men of Israel who were fit for battle. The reality at this point in the story is that Israel is now a nation among other dangerous nations and would be required to protect itself from outside threats. On a more spiritual note, taking a thorough inventory of people and even specific families was crucial because God’s promise to bless the whole world was meant to be delivered through a specific family; Israel. Keeping records of families and tribes and genealogies was paramount because it is how we know Jesus came from the tribe of Judah and was a true Israelite!
I love what theologian J. Vernon McGee says on this topic.
“Can you imagine a young man of that day being called up and asked, ‘Are you an Israelite?’ If he answered, ‘Well, I hope I am an Israelite, but I can’t be sure until I die,’ what do you think would have happened? They would have pushed him aside. Suppose another young man stepped up and they asked, ‘Are you an Israelite?’ What do you think they would have to him if he answered, ‘Well, I try to be an Israelite, I’m working real hard at it, and I hope to become one’? Would that have been acceptable? Do you see how important it was for them to declare that they were Israelites? Each one must know that he was the son of Abraham. Now I have a question for you. Can you declare your pedigree as a Christian?”

The arrangement of the tribes

While this is a little more of an interpretation that is up for debate, I think it’s really cool. It is interesting and worth noting. The arrangement of the tribes was centered around the presence of God resting in the Tabernacle which is a perfect picture of the life of a believer. Our lives should be centered around us, and the movement of our families should be dictated by the leading of God and His presence.
We are also told that the tribe of Judah is the first tribe placed on the east side of the opening of the Tabernacle. Jesus finds His own lineage in the tribe of Judah. This is a picture of Jesus who is THE DOOR and THE WAY into the tabernacle.
Not only that but when you put the numbers and arrangement of the tribes together on paper, many scholars have concluded that the shape you would see of Israel from a bird’s eye view would have been the shape of a cross.

“Coincidence?! I think not!”

The wrath of God

Finally, we get to the somewhat strange decree from God at the end of chapter one...
53 But the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the testimony, so that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the people of Israel.
Numbers 1:53

Why did it matter that the Levites were camped around the Tabernacle? The answer is simple. Sin. The Levites were the only people in all of Israel who functioned as priests. They were a representative of God to the people, and the people to God. They were the ones who took care of God’s house, hosted His presence, prayed for the people, and offered sacrifices for the covering of sin. The answer is simple. Sin had to be dealt with first before the people of God could live a life of relationship with God. The same is true for us today.

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

John 3:36 (NIV)
In the same way that the Levites HAD to be the bridge between the presence of God and the people of God, Jesus IS our bridge. In the same way that the tribes of Israel couldn’t neglect the Levites, go around the Levites, or try to make themselves holy apart from the Levites; we can’t neglect, go around, or make ourselves holy apart from Jesus.

Friends, Jesus is THE WORD-made flesh and is the thread holding all of God’s word together.

“LET’S FIND JESUS IN OUR BIBLES”

The Camp of Israel

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