Let’s turn to Numbers, chapter 15.
And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them, When you have come into the land that you are to inhabit, which I am giving to you (15:1-2),
Now, this to me is really special. In that they have just been turned away from the land. They have just been told that they are going to have to wait for forty years. Their unbelief in God has denied them access into the promised land. So it is a time when they said, “Well, you know, we’ll do it, we’ll go in. We made a mistake, we’re sorry”, and Moses said, “No, God won’t be with you and the enemy came out and they had just been defeated by the inhabitants of the land, they’ve just been turned away. They’ve just been consigned by God to forty years of wandering in the wilderness.
It is at this time that God then gives to them the commands of the type of offering that they are to offer, when they come into the land. It is sort of God reassuring them that they are going to come into the land. It would be a time of tremendous discouragement. Especially if you were in that age bracket, that you know that the forty years is gonna get you. You know that the rest of your life, you’re going to be roaming in this wilderness. You’re not gonna be able to get out of this wilderness, and it’s not a pleasant, happy place to live. Now you’ve got the rest of your life, looking forward to this existence into the wilderness, you’re not going to make it into the land. It would be a time of tremendous depression and discouragement.
So God gives to them commandments at this time, that have to do, when they come into the land, so God is assuring them, “You are going to come into the land. It’s going to be a time, this generation’s gonna die off, but when you come into the land that you’re going to inhabit, that I’m going to give to you”. So He tells them then about the types of offerings that they are to offer to Him, at the time that they come into the land. That takes us through verse twenty one, the heave offerings and so forth. It doesn’t relate to us, and so we’re gonna just pass over it.
In verse twenty two, God then gives the command concerning the offerings for their unintentional sins. So often sin is unintentional, and yet it must be atoned for. Like they say, “Ignorance of the law is no excuse”. If you are unintentional in your violations, still it is a violation. So there were sacrifices and offerings that had to be made for unintentional sins. For a person who sinned presumptuously, that’s something different. Verse thirty…
If a person does something presumptuously, whether he’s a native born, or stranger, it brings a reproach on the Lord; he will be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord, and has broken his commandment, that person will be completely cut off; his guilt will be upon him (15:30-31).
The presumptuous sin. Having then given that law for the presumptuous sin, we immediately have an example of a man who was guilty of presumptuous sin.
So while the children of Israel were in the wilderness, they found a man who was gathering sticks on the Sabbath day (15:32).
A presumptuous sin. They were told the Sabbath day was to be holy unto the Lord, they weren’t to do any type of labor. This man knew the law, his gathering sticks on the Sabbath day, was a presumptuous sin.
So they brought him to Moses and Aaron, and to all the congregation. And so they put him under the guard, because it had not been explained exactly what should be done with him. They were told that he should be put to death, but they didn’t know how he was to be executed, And the Lord said to Moses, The man should surely be put to death: all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside of the camp. So as the Lord commanded Moses; all the congregation brought him outside the camp, and stoned him with stones, and he died (15:33-36).
So the severe consequences upon the person who sinned presumptuously. Then in verse thirty seven, The Lord spoke unto Moses concerning their garments. That they were to make these little tassels on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations. There was to be this blue thread, sky blue thread, in the tassel.
And you shall have the tassel so that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord, to do them, that you may not follow that harlot, to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined (15:39):
So, on their outer garment, the four corners of their outer garment, they sewed these little tassels with the blue thread in them. Every time they put on this, the blue thread would remind them of the Law of the Lord. How I am to follow after the Lord, a reminder.
Now, Jesus, in obedience to the law, had on His robe with tassels, on the corners of His robe. You read in the scripture how that He was on His way to Jairus’ house at the death of Jairus’ daughter, when a woman made her way through the crowd, and grabbed it said, “the hem of His garment”. It says, “Touched the hem of His garment in the Greek, it declares that, “she snatched, or she grasped hold of the tassel”. So this tassel on Jesus’ garment, it’s what the woman grabbed hold of. For she was hemorrhaging, had been hemorrhaging for twelve years. She had said in her heart, “I know if I can just grab hold of His garment, the tassel on His garment, I would be healed!” The moment that she grabbed hold of the tassel on His garment, the hemorrhaging ceased.
So, this was what was commanded here in Numbers, God knows our tendency to forget things. God’s will, as He said, “That we not follow after the harlotry, which is in our heart, and in our own eyes, to which we are inclined”. We’re inclined to follow after our own desires, our own wishes. God wants us to follow after His law. So, we need to be reminded, and so, even on our garments, these tassels with the blue threads, are reminders that I am to seek the law of the Lord. To fulfill and keep, the law of the Lord.
Of course, interesting to me that Jesus wore the garment with the tassels on it. Notice it’s to be throughout all their generations. So, today they wear the Talit, but they don’t wear it as an outer garment anymore. It has the little tassels on it still.
So they are to remind you to do all of my commandments, and be holy for your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.
Now in chapter sixteen, we get to the rebellion of this fellow Korah. Korah, was of the tribe of Kohath, the Kohathites, who lived on the south portion of the tabernacle, adjacent to the tabernacle. Korah, had no doubt stirred up problems with the other people, even into the other tribe of Reuben, which was camped next to the tribe of Levi, and some of the sons of Eliab, Dathan and Abiram, and on, of the tribes of Reuben.
They gathered together a bunch of men. Sort of in a conspiracy against Moses. They were upset, because they said, “Moses takes too much upon himself, in that he has set up Aaron, to offer the sacrifices before the Lord, and others of the tribe of Levi, the Kohathites, they have as much rights to offer up sacrifices, as does Moses. In fact, all of us are the people of God!, so All of us have the right to offer sacrifices. The whole congregation is holy unto the Lord, so any of us can stand before the Lord”. This was the conspiracy that, and the complaint that Korah had.
I personally believe that there was probably some envy and jealousy involved, as Korah saw the glorious robe of the high priest, as worn by Aaron. Saw the glory of the office, the way people would look upon him with awe, and he desired himself to have this glory. So he began to create this rumble, this insurrection.
It’s amazing how that a person can often create division within the body over little issues. But it begins to grow, it begins to develop until everybody is stirred up over the thing. Such a stir was created by Korah. So, finally, they got up enough nerve to come to Moses, verse three…
They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and they said to them, You take too much on yourselves, for all of the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: why then do you exalt yourselves above the congregation of the Lord? So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face: [And this is a, poor Moses, always falling on his face because they were always finding something to complain about!] And so he spoke to Korah and all of his company, and he said, Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is his, and who is holy; and he will cause him to come near to him: that one whom he chooses he will cause to come near to him. Do this; Take censers, Korah, and all of your company; Put fire in them, and put incense in them before the Lord tomorrow: and it shall be that the man who the Lord chooses, shall be the holy one: and you take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi (16:3-6).
So here they are, making their complaint, “We have a right to do it just as much as you. You’ve taken too much upon yourself, we are holy, we are part of God’s people. We have the right to do it”. Moses said, “Alright. We accept the challenge. Tomorrow you get your censers and you come stand here before the Lord”.
Then Moses said to Korah, Hear, now, you sons of Levi: is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to himself to do the work of the tabernacle of the Lord, to stand before the congregation to serve them (16:8-9)?
God has called you to this task of serving His people. You’ve been called to be a minister, to work here in the tabernacle. Doesn’t that mean something to you? Can’t you be satisfied and thrilled that God has called you to serve His people?
He has brought you near to himself. You are the closest to the tabernacle. You and your brothers the sons of Levi: are you now also aspiring for the priesthood (16:10)?
There are places in the body of Christ that seem to have a certain amount of attraction, because it places you before people in your ministry. There are those who are attracted to the ministry for wrong reasons. Not because God has called them, but there is within their heart, a desire to be recognized. To be noticed. Sad but true, there are many people in the ministry today, to fulfill a personal psychological need. They’re not really fit for the ministry.
As we read in Hebrews, concerning the priesthood, and this is where it comes from, in this chapter. Where it declares, “No man takes this office unto himself”. In other words you just don’t choose yourself, “Well that’s what I’m gonna do, that’s what I’m gonna be”. It’s not like a little boy saying, “When I grow up, I’m going to be a fireman. When I grow up, I’m going to be a preacher”. No. That’s something that you must be called of God, and it isn’t something that you choose for yourself. We do sometimes find those, who have made the choice for themselves. There’s an allurement, an attraction, and they’ve been drawn to that, to fulfill a need in their own life. Not there because of the call of God.
But I’ll tell you what, I think that the hardest thing in the world, is to try to be God didn’t make you. I think that it’s the most frustrating thing in the world, to try to do the wok of God in the energy of the flesh, or in the abilities of the flesh. Even within the ministry, there are various callings. “First apostles, then prophets, then evangelists, then pastor- teachers, for the perfecting of the saints.” If God hasn’t called you to be an evangelist, it’s awfully tough trying to be an evangelist. If God hasn’t called you to be a pastor-teacher, it’s awfully tough trying to be a pastor-teacher.
I speak by experience, because I sought to be an evangelist, for years. In the early years of my ministry, I sought to be an evangelist. God called me as a pastor-teacher, I wanted to be an evangelist. I was a total failure as an evangelist. Total failure. God didn’t call me to be an evangelist, yet I tried my best to be an evangelist. Kay tried to help me. She saw my struggle. She said, “Honey, you’re not dynamic. Watch Billy Graham. He doesn’t just stand behind the pulpit. He takes the microphone and walks back and forth. You’ve gotta be more dynamic, honey”. So I sought to be dynamic. I had a powerful point in the Sunday morning message, and I decided to really put it across in a dynamic way. So I took the mike, all of Billy Graham, walked over to the edge of the platform, propped my hand in Billy Graham’s position, really drive the point home, and I forgot the point. My mind went totally blank! Do you know how foolish you feel, standing over at the edge of the platform, your finger up in the air like this, the mike in your hand, and you can’t think of anything to say? I stood there for a moment, just thinking how foolish I must look, and then walked back and got my notes, and found out the point I was going to bring. That was my last endeavor to be dynamic. But trying to be an evangelist, when God didn’t call me to be an evangelist, was extremely difficult. I just didn’t make it, I just couldn’t make it.
The ministry is something that God calls you to do. God not only calls you, but He enables you. As a pastor-teacher, I’m extremely comfortable. I love it! People talking about burn-out and stuff like that, and I don’t know what they’re talking about. I love it! I could go seven days a week, I enjoy it! Because God has called me and anointed me as a pastor-teacher. But to try to go into an area where God hasn’t called, dangerous. As Korah found out. No man takes this upon himself. You don’t just say, “Well that’s what I’m going to do”, or “that’s what I’m going to be”. It is a calling of God. So Moses said to him, “Look! God’s called you, you’re serving the people of God, now you’re trying to promote yourself to the priesthood”!
Therefore you and all of your company are gathered together against the Lord: you haven’t gathered against Aaron and myself, you’ve gathered really against the Lord. [Because that’s where God placed you and you’re not satisfied where God has placed you in the ministry, in the service to him. You’re striving for something else, and thus you’re striving against the Lord.] and what is Aaron, that you murmur against him (16:10)?
“I mean, God placed him there.”] So Moses said, “Tell Dathan and Abiram to come on over here.” And they sent back and they said, “We’re not coming”. Open rebellion now. Then they made some very negative and nasty against Moses. They said,
Isn’t it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land that flows with milk and honey, [Now that was the promise God said, “I’m going to bring you into a land”, and they said, “Hey, you brought us out of a land that was flowing with milk and honey”.] and you’ve brought us out here to kill us in the wilderness. Now you keep acting like a prince over us? Moreover you have not brought us into the land flowing with milk and honey, nor have you given us the inheritance of fields and vineyards: and now will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up (16:13-14).
“Are you gonna try to put the wool out of these guys eyes? You’ve brought us out of the land, you’ve brought us out here to die in the wilderness, you didn’t keep your word, you didn’t bring us into the land, now you’re gonna try and pull the wool over these guys eyes? Hey! Not us man! We’re not coming up!”
So Moses was very angry, and he said to the Lord, Do not respect their offering: Because I haven’t taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt one of them. [They’re making these vicious charges against Moses, and Moses said, “Lord I’m innocent, I haven’t taken anything from them”.] And Moses said to Korah, Tomorrow you and all of your company be present before the Lord, You and they as well as Aaron. And each of you take your censer put incense in it and each of you bring a censer before the Lord, two hundred and fifty censers; you also and Aaron, each one of you with his censer. So every man took his censer, put fire on it, laid the incense on it, and they stood at the door of the tabernacle of meeting at the door, with Moses and Aaron. And Korah gathered all the congregation against them at the door of the tabernacle of meeting: [Korah had really stirred up a big group of people, standing there now at the door of the tabernacle.] then the glory [the Shekinah] of the Lord appeared to all the congregation. And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron saying, Now separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment (16:15-21).
“Stand back Moses and Aaron, and I’ll wipe them out!”
So the Lord spoke to Moses saying, and then they fell on their faces again, and they said, O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and will you be angry with all of the congregation (16:22)?
So they were laying really the whole blame back on Korah, who started the whole insurrection. Notice he is called the God of the spirits of all flesh. God formed man out of the dust of the earth, that is his body. Then God breathed into his nostrils and he became a living soul. But man basically is a spirit. The body isn’t the real me. We associate the person with the body, but the body is not the real me. This body is only a tent that I’m living in for a while. The real me is spirit. God is the Father of the spirits of all man. Man basically is a spirit, he dwells in a body, he possesses a consciousness or a soul, but man basically is spirit, living in a body, possessing a consciousness.
Now it is possible to live in a body, possessing a consciousness, your spirit being dead. For the bible speaks of a person who lives after the flesh, is dead while he’s still alive. If you live on a body conscious plane, you’re living on the animal plane. Animals do not possess a spirit, man possesses a spirit, separates us from the animal kingdom. Don’t let any evolutionists tell you that you’re just a highly evolved animal. Not so. You’re a fallen creature, you were made in the image of God, in the beginning, and we have fallen from that image.
Man is separated by a wide gap from the animal kingdom, in that God has given to us the spirit, the capacity to understand infinity exists. We don’t understand infinity, but we can think abstractly, and we can conceive of infinity. We can conceive of God, we can worship God, we’re separated by a long ways, but we are fallen from God, from the image of God, from the likeness of God in which man was first created. It is the purpose of God to restore you into that image.
For that purpose, He sent His son, to die for your sins. For that purpose, He has sent the Holy Spirit to conform us into the image of Jesus Christ. Now that doesn’t make me Jesus Christ, and this God/man concept is a heresy, but I’ve been made, into the image of Christ, or I am being made, by the work of the Spirit. I’ve got a long way to go, but He’s working on it. “So, God of the spirits of all flesh”.
And the Lord spake to Moses and he said, Speak to the congregation, and say, Get away from the tents of Korah, and Dathan, and Abiram. So Moses went up to the tent of Dathan and Abiram [They’re in Reuben, tribe of Reuben.]; and the elders of Israel followed him. And he spoke to the congregation, saying, Depart now, from the tents of these wicked men, don’t touch anything of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins. So they got away, they made some space around the tents of Korah, and Dathan, and Abiram, and Dathan and Abiram came out, and stood in the door of their tents, with their wives, and their sons, and their little children. And Moses said, By this you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works; for I have not done them of my own will. If these men die naturally, like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me (16:23-29).
“Hey, I am an imposter, I’m here on my own, if these fellows die a natural death, just like anybody else”.
But, if the Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens it’s mouth and swallows them up, and all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the Lord. Then it came to pass, just as soon as he was speaking these words, that the ground split apart right under them: And the earth opened it’s mouth, and their households, and all of the men with Korah, and all of their goods. So they, and all of those that were with them, went down alive into the pit, and the earth closed over them: and they perished from among the congregation (16:30-33).
Quite an exciting experience, I’m sure, for those standing by. Frightening experience!
And all Israel that were around them, fled at their cry: [I mean they probably were shrieking as the thing opened up, and they began to shriek.] and they fled from their cry, for they said, Lest the earth swallow us up also (16:34).
“Hey we were joining ourselves with Korah, we better get out of here! Perhaps He’ll do the same thing to us!”. People had problems that the families were involved with them, even their little children. There are ways to rationalize it, but why? I don’t have to explain God, or why God does what He does. And if I put myself in the position of defending God, then I’m sort of in a peculiar position, aren’t I? That God should need my defense.
God has His reasons for doing what He does, and really I don’t feel qualified to challenge the reasons of God, because I don’t have all the facts. Now, I don’t say that I understand why God would do that. If I were God, I’d probably say, “Take these little kids, and some of you others adopt them, and spare the little children, but let the old man go down”. But I’m not God, and I could’ve botched things up pretty thoroughly, had I been God! Because some of the things that I thought were so smart and so wise, turned out not to be so smart or wise.
Thus, it used to be that I sought to defend God. I tried to give an explanation why this could possibly be, and so forth. The Lord so spoke to my heart and said, “Hey, I don’t need you to defend me!” So, I quit. I just let Him be God, and also I quit asking for explanations. God can do what He wants, He doesn’t owe me an explanation at all. You know, “Why God did you allow this? Lord! Why did you do this?”, and I’m always asking for explanations. Used to be, I don’t anymore. God can do what He wants. What He does is the best, it’s the wisest, it’s His intelligence is in a level that is so far superior to mine, that it’s really foolish for me to challenge God, or to question God.
Best that I learn to just commit it to God. Say, “Well I don’t know what you’re doing. I’m really confused, but I trust you. I’m just trusting in you, you know what’s best. So you do what’s best Lord”. That’s the place of faith, that’s the place of faith.
Habakkuk was brought to that place of faith. He was complaining to the Lord. He said, “Lord it’s all going to pieces, and you’re not doing anything about it!” “Please Lord, I don’t want to do anything about it Lord, you know I’m not going to watch TV anymore, I’m not going to watch the news, I’m not gonna watch anything. I don’t want to know what’s going on, because it’s too frustrating to see these corrupt things happening, when you’re not doing anything about it!” And that is always frustrating, to have these things happening, and be totally powerless to do anything, and it doesn’t seem like God’s doing anything. God said, Habakkuk I am doing a work, if I told you what I was doing, you wouldn’t believe it”. Habakkuk said, “What are you doing?” God said, “Well, I’m bringing the Babylonian army, and they’re gonna punish these people for me. They’re gonna wipe them out, destroy them”. And Habakkuk said, “Lord! That’s not fair, we’re bad, true. But they’re worse than we are. Why would you use a nation that’s more sinful, to punish a godly people?” Well his tune changed. God said, “I told you wouldn’t believe it.” So Habakkuk said, “I’m gonna get into my tower and I’m just gonna wait and see what you’re gonna do. I’m just gonna wait and watch. Sit up there in the tower and watch.” While he was in the tower, the word of the Lord came to Habakkuk, and said, “Habakkuk, the just shall live by faith”. The life of faith, the walk of faith.
So in the next chapter, chapter three, “Habakkuk prayed again, and he said, Lord, I cried to you out of the reason of my distress, and you told me that you were working, and I don’t understand what you’re doing, but Lord, keep doing it. I don’t understand, but revive thy work, and in amidst the years, remember mercy”. Revive thy work is literally, keep alive your work, “Keep doing it Lord, but don’t forget to be merciful. Remember mercy”. Now that’s a position of faith. “God, I don’t understand what you’re doing, but keep doing it. Keep alive your work. Keep working Lord, though I don’t understand, don’t stop.” That takes faith. You see my understanding is being challenged. I don’t know what God is doing, but I’m satisfied to just let God continue to do it, let God be God.
In Romans, the first chapter, we are told concerning the wrath of God that is going to be revealed against the ungodly, and the unrighteous, and those that hold the truth of God in unrighteousness. For, when they knew God, they did not glorify Him, as God. How is that possible? By my challenging Him, every time He does something. That’s not glorifying Him as God. By saying, “Why God would you allow that? Why God would you do that?” That’s not glorifying Him as God. That’s really in a sense, exalting my own knowledge, and wisdom, and understanding above His. Saying Lord, “If I were you, I surely wouldn’t have made that blooper! You really blew it that time! I’m shocked!” Let God be God. Mine is just to say, “Lord, you’re God, you work. You know what’s best. I just submit to you.”
A fire came out from the Lord, [verse thirty five] and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were standing there with their little incense offerings. So the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Tell Eleazar who is the elder son of Aaron, to pick up the censors out of the blaze, [The fire came out, and these guys were burning. They were emulated on the spot!] take those brass censors out of the blaze; for they are holy. Scatter the fire that is in them, some distance away, and the censors of these men who sinned against their own souls, let them be made into hammered plates, as a covering for the altar: because they presented them before the Lord, therefore they are holy: [Anything that was given to the Lord, remained the Lord’s. It was holy, you weren’t to use it for something else. They’ve used these brass censors. They presented to the Lord, so they’re holy, so take them, but beat them into plates. Brass plates, and cover the altar with this hammered plates.] To be a reminder to the children of Israel, that no outsider who is not a descendant of Aaron, should come near to offer incense before the Lord; that he might not become like Korah, and his companions: just as the Lord hath said to him through Moses (16:35-40).
So, the altar then was covered by this brass plate, hammered brass. That was made from these two hundred and fifty little brass censors, that these guys have brought. The little incense bowls. They hammered it into the plate, covered the altar, so that anytime a person looked at the altar of sacrifice, seeing the brass plate, said, “Now hey. That belonged to Aaron and his family you know, don’t tread on that ground”. That is a place that no man puts himself in the position of the priest. That comes by the birthright through Aaron. No outsider. No man takes this office unto himself.
On the next day, all of the congregation of the children of Israel, [You’d think, repented, but instead] they murmured against Moses and Aaron, [And look at this accusation!] You’ve killed the people of the Lord. [Oh man! I don’t know how you deal with people like this!] Now it happened when the congregation had gathered against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tabernacle of meeting; and suddenly the cloud covered it, [This cloud of God’s presence.] and the glory [The Shekinah] of the Lord appeared. And Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of meeting. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment. So they fell on their faces. [So the third time in a couple days, their on their faces.] So Moses said to Aaron, Take a censer, and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation, and make atonement for them: for wrath has gone out from the Lord; the plague has begun. And then Aaron took as Moses commanded, ran into the midst of the congregation; and already, the plague had begun among the people: so he put the incense, and made atonement for the people. And he stood between the living and the dead; so the plague was stopped.
What a picture! The plague had already begun. Already fourteen thousand, seven hundred, had been killed by the plague. As God was beginning to wipe the people out, and here’s Aaron standing there now, these dead bodies on the one side, and the congregation still alive on the other. He’s there swinging his incense. The incense is a symbol of prayer in the scriptures. “The prayers rise with the incense, and they offer before the Lord the golden vials full of odours which are the prayers of the saints”, Revelation five. So, the intercessory prayers, standing between the living and the dead.
Our place, as intercessors in prayer, really standing before the living and the dead. I believe that our nation, the plague has already begun. I believe that the plague has already been started to wipe people out. We, as the priests of God in this generation, are to pray and to stand between the living and the dead. We need to pray and intercede for our nation, for our community, for our neighbors, for our children, in some cases.
So Aaron returned to Moses at the door of the tabernacle of meeting: because the plague had stopped (16:50).
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Speak to the children of Israel, and get from them a rod from each father’s house, all their leaders according to their father’s house, twelve rods: and then write each man’s name on his rod. [So they gathered the rods from the twelve tribes, and then also, Aaron’s rod beside] And you shall write Aaron’s name upon the rod of Levi: for there shall be one rod for the head of each father’s house. And you’re to place them in the tabernacle of meeting before the testimony, where I meet with you. And it shall be that the rod of the man that I choose, will blossom: and thus I will rid myself of the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against you (17:1-5).
“We’ll settle it now. Have each tribe bring a rod, and bring the name of each tribe upon the rod, the head of that tribe. On the tribe of Levi, write Aaron.”
So Moses spoke to the children of Israel, each of the leaders gave him a rod, for each leader, according to their fathers’ houses, twelve rods: and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. And Moses placed the rods before the Lord, in the tabernacle of witness. Now it came to pass on the next day, that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness: and, behold, the rod of Aaron, the house of Levi had sprouted, put forth buds, had produced blossoms, and yielded ripe almonds (17:6-8).
So, it went the whole route. There were buds, and ripe almonds, and sprouts on the thing!
And so Moses brought out all the rods from before the Lord, to the children of Israel, and they looked, and each man took his rod. And the Lord said to Moses, Now bring Aaron’s rod back before the testimony, to be kept as a sign against the rebels; that you may put their murmurings away from me, lest they die (17:10).
Unless Moses did what the Lord commanded. So, in the ark of the covenant, there in the holy of holies, there was then placed the rod of Aaron. The two tables of stone, upon which the law was written, and a jar of manna. The food that God provided for them in the wilderness. It would surely be one of the most exciting archeological discoveries ever, if they could discover the ark of the covenant. To see the rod of Aaron, two tables of stone. My that would be something fantastic! But God in His purposes, has decided to keep it.
Well, it’s probably good. Because, you know, there would be such a fight among the churches, and between the Jews of who should have the rights, you know, to display this thing. Don’t you know it would be commercialized to the hilt? You know, outside there’d be all these hawkers that are selling you little tables of stones, and little sticks, and they’ll declare that this stick came from the same almond tree, or whatever, that he originally got his rod from. So, it’s probably best, they would make it actually a, they would worship it. They would make it a shrine to worship! So God, in His wisdom, has lost the thing, as far as man is concerned.
Now in chapter eighteen we get to the duties of the priest as the Lord now is speaking to Aaron, concerning their ministry. The sons and their remuneration for their ministry. He tells them that they are to take care of the needs within the tabernacle. That the others are there to help them with the physical aspects, but they are to handle the priesthood. It was given to them as a gift, for service. But the outsider that would come near, would be put to death. Verse eight.
And the Lord spoke to Aaron, Hear, I myself have also given you the charge of my heave offerings the holy gifts; I’ve given them a portion to you, and your sons as an ordinance for ever (18:8).
So the heave offerings that were brought in, they then went to Aaron and his family. They became their inheritance. All of the offerings that were brought in, they were to go to the priesthood, and they became theirs.
The best of the oil, the best of the new wine, the grain, the first fruits which they offer, God said I’ve given them to you. [Verse twelve] The ripe fruit that they bring in is yours, and every devoted thing in Israel is yours (18:12).
Except for the sacrifices that are brought in. The first born of the oxen, the sheep and all, they had to be offered to the Lord. The first born cow, the sheep and the goat, they are not to redeem. They’re holy. But the other they could redeem them. The firstborn, and then they belonged to them.
And God said it is a covenant of salt [verse nineteen] forever (18:19).
Now, salt was known as something that was sort of imperishable. It was considered imperishable, and thus the salt of covenant was a common covenant, that means that the covenant shall not perish. And that’s the idea behind this salt covenant. It means it’s one that won’t stop. It goes on, it’s imperishable, it’s a covenant that will stand. So God made this a covenant of salt, with Aaron. Then the Lord said, and I love this, verse twenty…
I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel. [You’re not going to inherit the land, you won’t get any land there because I am your inheritance.] Then I have given the children of Levi all of the tithes in Israel, as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work for the tabernacle of meeting (18:20-21).
So the tithes were to be brought in and were to be given to support the family, or the tribe of Levi, Who were to do the service of God within the tabernacle, and it was their pay, for the service, within the tabernacle. But they themselves, interestingly enough were to tithe. And I thought that that was also interesting. Verse twenty five he begins to speak of the tithe of the Levites. They themselves were to tithe. In verse thirty two…
They are not to profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die (18:36).
The priesthood in years to come became corrupted, and they began to profane the gifts that the people brought to the Lord, and there were serious consequences.
Now, chapter nineteen deals with something that’s quite interesting. It was the law of the red heifer. And this has quite a bit of interest today because, the ashes of the red heifer were mixed with water, and they were used symbolically as a purification. And for a person who was unclean, because of the defilement of a dead body, or whatever, could not come back into the congregation of the people, until he had had this purification water, in which the ashes of the red heifer was sprinkled. Sprinkled upon him. It was the waters of purification.
So it deals with how the red heifer was to be slain, and the whole thing was to be burned. Hide and everything else was to be burned, by the priest, outside of the camp. Then he was unclean, he had to go through the cleansing rites, when he came back into the camp, he could not go back into the tabernacle, he was unclean. Then the fellows were to gather the ashes of this red heifer, and they were to keep them. Then they would take the water and they would sprinkle the ashes of the red heifer into the water, and that then became the water of purification. Whenever a person was ceremonially unclean, they would have to go through this purification. With this water they also purified the instruments of the tabernacle.
Now, according to the tradition that developed, whenever they ran out of ashes, they would always save a few of the ashes of the original sacrifice of the red heifer. They would sacrifice another red heifer, in the same manner, and they would take the few ashes that remained, of the previous sacrifice and they mixed it up with the new ashes. So you have sort of a, the perpetual, original red heifer, as the ashes would be mixed with the new ashes, and every time a new red heifer was sacrificed, the ashes from the old would be carried through for the purification.
Now, the orthodox Jews today, envision a tremendous problem in the rebuilding of the temple, before they could start sacrifices and all again, the priest would have to be purified. Well, interestingly enough, in one of the Ashbeas in the old city, young men are being trained for the priesthood right now. They are being trained in how to offer the sacrifices, and they are definitely preparing to rebuild their temple, and to begin sacrifices again. They don’t know when yet, but they figure, “Hey, we’ve gotta be ready”, and so they’re training these young men in these Ashbeas, in the old city, for the priesthood.
But, as the orthodox point out, they cannot enter into the priesthood without going through the cleansing rites, and to go through the cleansing rites, “We have to have the ashes of a red heifer”. So there is an interesting search today, for the ashes of the red heifer. So that they can offer a new sacrifice, but they can take the ashes of the last red heifer that was sacrificed, and mix it with the new; so, it might carry back to the original one sacrificed here, in Numbers.
Now there is a fellow, Bendell Jones, out at Texas, who is raising money because he thinks that down near the area of Kumron, he is found a cave and he is convinced that this cave has a false floor, and underneath of it, he’s convinced, are the ashes of the red heifer. A good thing to make money, I mean to solicit money for the expeditions. He’s been gathering money from the people, so that he can go in and make this expedition. He wants to buy the kind of equipment that they can go in, and really get down in there and find the ashes of the red heifer.
I was talking with a scholar, Dr. Kaufmann, just this last March, when I was in Israel, and Dr. Kaufmann probably has made one of the most scholarly studies in research and all for this, believes that the ashes of the red heifer are actually in a cistern on the mount of Olives. This cistern, happens to be, and the reason why he believes this is it’s position from the temple mount and all. He believes that he has ancient records that show that it was buried over there at the time of the Babylonian captivity, or rather, later on because they did purify the thing after the Babylonian captivity. But later on, but anyhow it’s in the cistern that is in now the compound of the Greek orthodox church. The bishop of the Greek orthodox church, won’t let anybody into the cistern to look. But that’s where Dr. Kaufmann thinks that they are buried. I volunteered to take a midnight foray, and go into the cistern to see if we could find them.
But, interestingly enough, as old as this is, it has a very modern significance. As they are searching diligently, to find the ashes of the red heifer, in case when they rebuild the temple, they’ll be able to start the sacrifices and all again. But they feel that they can’t do that without, first of all discovering the ashes of the red heifer, so that they could make the purification water, and purify the sanctuary and the priests and so forth, so that they can get things started. So it’s a, it’s something you’ll probably hear more and more about. The ashes of the red heifer. This is where it all comes from. So now you’ve got the background for it. So if you hear of the ashes of the red heifer, the search for it and all, you’ll, “Oh yeah! That’s back in Numbers nineteen, yeah, that’s interesting you know”, and you’ll be up on that. So that’s where that all comes from.
So it goes ahead in the nineteenth chapter, and it gives you all of the rules concerning the cleansing of the person, through the sprinkling of this water of purification. From, in which, the ashes of the red heifer have been sprinkled.
Now, in chapter twenty, we find that Miriam died, and was buried there in Kadesh. The death of the older sister of Moses.
Now there was no water [verse two] for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron (20:2).
Guys got the blame for everything. Now, it should be noted that we’ve passed over almost forty years of history. We’ve just jumped. From the gainsaying of Korah, we’ve now come towards the end of the wilderness journey. They’re just about ready now to start moving towards the promised land. They’ve been doing their wandering and now they’re going to start moving toward the land. So forty years, almost, have transpired at this point. They’ve come to the place and there’s no water for the congregation. So they gathered together against Moses and Aaron.
And the people contended with Moses, and they spoke, saying, If only we had died with our brethren, when they died before the Lord! [“If only we had died with Korah, whoa we’d have been better off if we had died back there when Korah was killed.”] Why have you brought us up to the congregation of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here (20:3-4)?
“You know, it would’ve been better to die back there than die here.”
Why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? it’s not a place where we can plant grain, or have figs, or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink. [So Moses and Aaron had been hearing this for about forty years and they were pretty tired of it.] And the went from the presence of the assembly unto the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces: and the Shekinah??? of the Lord appeared to them. And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, Take the rod, you and your brother Aaron, gather the assembly together, and speak to the rock before their eyes; and it will yield it’s water, and thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock: and you shall give drink to the congregation and their animals (20:5-8).
So, God said, “Go out before them, and speak to the rock, and it’ll bring forth water.
So Moses took the rod from before the Lord, as he commanded him. And Moses and Aaron gathered the congregation together before the rock, and he said to them, Hear now, you rebels; must we bring water for you out of this rock? Then Moses lifted his hand, and struck the rock twice with his rod: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. And then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, and he said, Because you did not believe me, to hallow me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring the congregation into the land which I have given them. This was the water of contention, strife Meribah, because the children of Israel contended with the Lord, and he was hallowed among them (20:9-12).
Now, the charge of God, against Moses and Aaron, is their failure to properly represent God, before the people. You see, Moses was God’s representative. The people developed their concepts of God, from what they saw in Moses. If Moses was angry, they figured God was angry, if Moses was smiling, they figured God was smiling. He represented God to them. Now the people are thirsty, true, they are complainers, they are murmurs, and they are saying again, the wrong things, but there is a legitimate need. If they don’t have water, they’re gonna die. God understands this!
But Moses and Aaron are upset, so when they come before the Lord, their emotions are involved. They’re upset with the people, and God said, “Now take the rod, go out and stand before the people, speak to the rock, and it will bring forth water”. And God is calm and cool, He’s not upset, He’s not shook, He’s not angry with the people. He knows they’re thirsty, He knows they need water! But as Moses goes out of the presence of the Lord, to represent God to the people. “I’ve just went in and talked to the Lord, now I’m coming out as God’s representative”. And what does he do? He starts yelling at them. Calling them names! “You bunch of rebels! How long do I have to put up with you? Do I have to strike this rock and give you water?!”, and he hit the thing twice.
God said, “Moses, Aaron, you didn’t represent me before the people. You were angry, you were upset, because of their strife, their contention. Because of your failure to properly represent me, you’re not gonna be able to lead them into the land.” It was a very serious consequence of their sin, or their mistake, or their error, whatever you want to call it. Moses’ lifelong ambition, right on the verge of fulfillment, was snatched away. Sad and tragic, but that’s how important it is to God, that He is properly represented.
You are God’s representative! How are you representing God to the world around you? What kind of a concept do your neighbors have of God, as a result of your representation? How do they view God, how do they think of God? Because you’re His representative, and people are looking at you to develop their concepts of God. It is important that we properly represent God.
The other issue involved, is the smiting of the rock twice. When they’d first come into the wilderness, before they’d come to mount Sinai, they were in an area where they were destitute, they needed water, they were thirsty, they came to Moses, God said, “Moses go out and smite the rock with your rod, and water will come forth”. And Moses went out and he smote the rock and water came forth and the people drank. But what did God tell him to do this time? “Speak to the rock.” What did Moses do? He smote the rock the second time.
We are told in Corinthians, chapter ten, that these things, the children of Israel, their wanderings in the wilderness and all, these things all happened to them as examples unto us, that we should not fall because of our own lusts. And he tells us that that rock that was there in the wilderness was Jesus Christ. Now Jesus often spoke of thirst, and the water of life flowing freely to the thirsty soul. “If any man thirsts, let him come unto me and drink, and he that drinketh of the water that I give out, of his innermost being, there will flow rivers of living water.” To the woman of Samaria, He said, “Drink of this water, but you’re going to thirst again. But if you drink of the water that I give, you’ll never thirst again. It’ll be like a spring of living water just welling up within you”.
In the last chapter of the book of Revelation, “Let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that athirst come and drink of the water of life freely”. Jesus is the water of life. Water is essential for life. Your strongest drive is your air drive, next to that is your thirst drive. Your body has to have moisture to survive. You can go without food for up to forty days, you can’t go more than nine days without moisture, without water. You’ve got to have water to survive, your body will dehydrate. Of course out in the desert, you’ll dehydrate in two days, in the hot desert sun.
That’s why if you’re ever lost in the desert, don’t hike during the day, try and get under a bush during the day, and rest. Save your body moisture, and then walk at night, because that seven percent humidity can just suck the moisture out of your body, and you can be dead within twenty four hours, just for the loss of moisture in your body. Now if any of you ever survive in the desert because of that advice, I want you to come back and thank me. But I hope that none of you ever have that experience.
So thirst. A common thing for man, but spiritual thirst is what Jesus is talking about. But that water of life, that satisfies the thirsty spirit of man, and God was setting up a beautiful pattern in the wilderness. You see, before the rock could bring forth the water of life, it had to be smitten. So, Jesus had to be smitten to bring forth the water of life to man. The cross was necessary, and there Christ was smitten, that He might bring forth life for each of us. But, once smitten, He never needed to be smitten again. He died once and for all. So that, all Moses had to do at this point, was to speak to the rock, and the water would come flowing forth.
God was setting up a beautiful example for us here in the new testament period, to realize that the rock has been smitten, the water is flowing! It never needs to be smitten again! I am thirsty, what must I do to find that satisfaction? Just speak to the rock. Just ask and you shall receive. The rock has been smitten. Jesus was smitten for you, and the water of life can come flowing forth to you tonight, by just asking, speaking to Him. Asking for Him to satisfy that thirst in your life, and He will. It doesn’t have to be smitten again. So, Moses, in smiting the rock the second time, destroyed the whole symbolism that God was creating there in the wilderness. The whole example was now wiped out, and thus it was a very serious thing that Moses did, in his failure to represent God. Not only in representing God for the people, but to represent God for the history. For he represented the rock as being smitten twice, when that is not the case, the rock was smitten once, and that was sufficient. All a man has to do is speak to the rock. So, even for us today, we can’t get the true symbolism by looking back, because Moses blew it in a fit of anger.
How many times do we blow it just because we’re upset, angry? I do things that later I am sorry for, and I feel so miserable. “How could I have done it? Oh!”, so with Moses it was a tragic thing that he did, in that he destroyed the symbol that God was creating as an example, and he failed to represent God.
Now, they are moving towards the land, and they need to pass through Edom. Edom was the descendants of Esau, the twin brother of Jacob. Of course we know that there was bad blood between Jacob and Esau, and now in the descendants, four hundred years later, actually five hundred years after Jacob and Esau had had their tiff. Moses sends to the king of Edom and says, “Hey, we’d like to pass through your land. We’ll stay right on the major highway, the king’s highway. We won’t venture into your fields, we won’t pick your grain, we won’t pick your crops, we won’t even drink your water, unless we pay for the water, but we want passage through your land, so that we can come to the land that God has promised. You know the problems we’ve had in Egypt. God’s bringing us out and all”. And the king of Edom came with his army and said, “Hey, you’re not passing through here”. Now, Edom will be taken care of by God in a time to come, but at this point, they just circumvent Edom. We get then in verse twenty three, the death of Aaron.
And God said, Take Aaron up to mount Hor, take off his royal priestly garments and put them on his son; because Aaron is gonna die here, he can’t go into the land because you rebelled against my word at the water of Meribah (20:23-24).
Moses and Aaron’s rebellion against the word of God, there at the water. Now Aaron is disqualified and he dies there on mount Hor, and Eleazar, his son, is appointed high priest in his place. So, brings us up to one of the most interesting and fascinating stories in the old testament. This story of Balaam, the prophet, and there are three references to this guy in the new testament. I mean he made an impression, and we’ll get into that next week, as we move on through Numbers in our next session.
May the Lord bless you this week in a very special way, as you grow in His grace, and the understanding of His love, and the revelation of His will, for your life. May each of you seek God for what He would have you to do, in serving Him. For as the congregation of God’s people, we’ve all been called to service. We’ve not been all called to be ministers or pastors, but each of us have our place to fulfill, in serving God, and in the functioning of a strong, healthy body. God help us this week, that we might stand between the living and the dead, that we might see revival come to our community and to our nation, as we pray and as we seek God’s face. May it be a beautiful week. May you experience the presence of God’s power in your life, and the anointing of His Spirit upon you, as you become enriched in your walk, and your relationship with Him. In Jesus our Lord.
Edited & Highlighted from “The Word For Today” Transcription, Pastor Chuck Smith, Tape #7047