What two applications can be drawn from the arrangement of the tribes God prescribes in Numbers 2?
- First of all, it is helpful to remember that the Tabernacle represented the presence of God in Israel. God’s first instruction was that the Tabernacle should be in the middle of the camp, with the tribes ordered on each side. The presence of God was visible to the people as they stood outside of their tents. So, at every moment, they had a visual reminder that the presence of God was to be at the center of their lives & their existence.
- Secondly, the tribes were gathered all around on each side, forming the symbol of a cross. While not too much weight should be placed on this (because the first application above is the most important), it is still incredible to consider Balaam looking down upon the cross-shaped camp & prophesying about Jesus in his final oracle.
The Israelites complained against the Lord in the book of Numbers. How can complaining lead to worse sins? What steps should we take to fight against our own complaining hearts?
- There are two ways to live:
- First, we can live with a negative perspective, always looking at what is wrong, what is lacking, & what isn’t the way we want it to be. Since we are all worshippers by design, because we are made in the image of God, complaining is the composition of a song of worship to our own flawed perspective.
- Secondly, we can live by the hymn “Count Your Blessings.” Knowing the struggles that come upon us all, a man named Johnson Oatman wrote, “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done. Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your blessings, see what God hath done! Count your blessings, name them one by one, And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.”
- We live by the thoughts we nurture. This is the essence of worship & this is the practice of those who take captive every moment to the glory of God.So, to answer the first question, complaining can most definitely lead to worse sins. Negativity, faithlessness, & fear breeds more negativity, faithlessness & fear. Plus, since all behavior is rooted in belief, consistent unbelief will breed a godless & unChristlike lifestyle.
- In order to fight the spirit of complaining that we are all tempted with, we must fix our minds & our hearts on the blessings that God has given us instead of on what doesn’t seem to be going our way. We must preach truth to ourselves that He is working all things together for our good & for His glory. Even when suffering comes unexpectedly, we should remain faithful, hopeful, & focused on the truth of God’s purpose versus the perception of our situation.
What application can be drawn from the bronze serpent being lifted up as a remedy for God’s judgment?
- God sends fiery serpents on the people of Israel because of their complaining & their continual rebellion. tells Moses to put a bronze snake on a pole and whoever looks at the snake will be healed from its poison.
- It’s a strange symbol, but it speaks to His faithfulness.
- God is right to bring justice and judgment on His people because of their evil and sin, but even God’s justice gets transformed into a source of life for those who will look to God for healing.
The book fo Numbers largely follows the consequences of Israel’s rebellion & unbelief. What lessons can you learn from this story about your own disobedience & unbelief?
- God is patient, but there are always consequences to our choices. When God calls me to do something, the only way to worship is through obedience. Even delayed obedience is disobedience. God is sovereign & His timing is perfect. When He calls, there is a reason He is calling at that moment. If I want the satisfaction of being used by Him & seeing His promises come to fruition in my life, then I need to trust & obey. As the hymn writer said, “Trust & obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus than to trust & obey.”