Numbers 9 Part 2–Following the Cloud

The Israelites always knew what God wanted them to do about travel.  It was simple, When the Tabernacle and Tent of Meeting were set up, God descended over the tent in a cloud.  The cloud looked like fire at night. As long as the cloud was over the tent, Israel knew to stay put. When God lifted the cloud, however, that was the signal that it was time to move.  The cloud was also the signal to the people that God was present and leading them.

The Israelites followed God’s lead, flawlessly.  Whether the cloud was over the tent for a day or a month, they stayed put.  If they woke up and the cloud had lifted, they knew to pack up and move.  The Israelites followed that lead the entire time that they were wandering in the desert. It must have been amazing to see the cloud every day and every night, and be reminded that God was right there with the people.

In our lives, we look for the same leadership from God.  We simply want him to descend upon our tent of meeting, and show us when and where to go.  We want God to be as real and present in our lives as He was in the lives of the Israelites.  In reality, that is what the Holy Spirit does in our lives. He leads, guides and directs us.  We simply have to trust in God’s leading. Like the Israelites, we have to trust God and wait for Him to guide us to the next step. We have to believe that God loves us, and will direct us–if we listen and watch for His direction. We must study God’s word, lean on Him in prayer and wait patiently as He guides us through this desert we call life.  As the old hymn says, “Trust and obey, for there is no other way to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”

God Bless You

On the day the tabernacle, the tent of the covenant law, was set up, the cloud covered it. From evening till morning the cloud above the tabernacle looked like fire. 16 That is how it continued to be; the cloud covered it, and at night it looked like fire. 17 Whenever the cloud lifted from above the tent, the Israelites set out; wherever the cloud settled, the Israelites encamped. 18 At the Lord’s command the Israelites set out, and at his command they encamped. As long as the cloud stayed over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. 19 When the cloud remained over the tabernacle a long time, the Israelites obeyed the Lord’s order and did not set out. 20 Sometimes the cloud was over the tabernacle only a few days; at the Lord’s command they would encamp, and then at his command they would set out.21 Sometimes the cloud stayed only from evening till morning, and when it lifted in the morning, they set out. Whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud lifted, they set out.22 Whether the cloud stayed over the tabernacle for two days or a month or a year, the Israelites would remain in camp and not set out; but when it lifted, they would set out. 23 At the Lord’s command they encamped, and at the Lord’s command they set out. They obeyed the Lord’s order, in accordance with his command through Moses.

Numbers 9–The Passover

God was clear, the Passover celebration was to be considered a vital part of the culture.  Those that traveled with Israel, foreign or native, needed to celebrate.  Even those that were unclean needed to celebrate Passover.  The Passover was a critical reminder of God’s rescue of the people of Israel.  Pharaoh refused to release the Israelites despite the pleas and promises by Moses. God had to take drastic measures to liberate the people.  The Passover celebration was the reminder of not only God freeing the Israelites, but also that God avenged the deaths of the 1st born males of Israel.

God desires that we know and remember the truth in our relationship with Him. The Lord uses the Bible, fellowship with other believers, and prayer to draw us closer to him.  He also uses occasions like Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and Passover to help us remember the things He has done to be in relationship with us.

When we encounter these days, we need to do so with reverence and gratefulness.  It is not about the trappings or presents–it is about God freeing us from our slavery and sin, just like He freed the Israelites from their slavery. We must never forget the lengths God went to to free us and to save us from eternal separation from Him.

God Bless You

The Lord spoke to Moses in the Desert of Sinai in the first month of the second year after they came out of Egypt. He said, “Have the Israelites celebrate the Passover at the appointed time. Celebrate it at the appointed time, at twilight on the fourteenth day of this month, in accordance with all its rules and regulations.”

So Moses told the Israelites to celebrate the Passover, and they did so in the Desert of Sinai at twilight on the fourteenth day of the first month. The Israelites did everything just as the Lord commanded Moses.

But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body. So they came to Moses and Aaron that same day and said to Moses, “We have become unclean because of a dead body, but why should we be kept from presenting the Lord’s offering with the other Israelites at the appointed time?”

Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the Lord commands concerning you.”

Then the Lord said to Moses, 10 “Tell the Israelites: ‘When any of you or your descendants are unclean because of a dead body or are away on a journey, they are still to celebrate the Lord’s Passover, 11 but they are to do it on the fourteenth day of the second month at twilight. They are to eat the lamb, together with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They must not leave any of it till morning or break any of its bones. When they celebrate the Passover, they must follow all the regulations. 13 But if anyone who is ceremonially clean and not on a journey fails to celebrate the Passover, they must be cut off from their people for not presenting the Lord’s offering at the appointed time. They will bear the consequences of their sin.

14 “‘A foreigner residing among you is also to celebrate the Lord’s Passover in accordance with its rules and regulations. You must have the same regulations for both the foreigner and the native-born.’

Numbers 8 Part 2–The Temple Retirement Plan

God recognized the value and precision of the Levitical priesthood to the nation of Israel.  He wanted the best and the strongest to perform the duties that would define the relationship between God and His people.  So God set parameters for the time of active service for the Levites.  The men form the tribe of Levi who worked in the actual tent of meeting, were only eligible to do lead in the duties of the tabernacle from age 25 to age 50. After that they were to retire.  They could still assist, but they were no longer supposed to do the actual work involved.

So what did the Levitical seniors do to fill their days after age 50? In actuality, this passage speaks to the Temple Guard of the Levitical priesthood. The men that  being described are warriors that are to guard and protect the Tent of meeting.  The treasures that were housed there were significant and precious.  God wanted the best and the brightest to be ready to fight to protect it.  So God’s first retirement really was for his warrior priests and they were to be ready for a span of 25 years and then, they were to step back and let others fill the role.

God knows the best plans for our lives. Like the Levites, God calls us to be ready to go and willing to stand firm. But, God also knows our limitations and never wants us to be put in a position we cannot handle.  We have to be ready to meet the challenges He sets in front of us, but, also know that He will not put us in something we are not ready for.  Even if we may be  too old to be temple warriors, it does not mean we are no longer able to serve.  We simply fill other roles and serve in other ways. God really never calls us to retire; He simply calls us to refocus our energies, talents and experience to serve God and others.

God Bless You

From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work.This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

Numbers 8–The Levites Will Be Mine, Set Apart

Unless one has ever been pledged to the service of another, it is difficult to understand the mixture of honor and grief that becomes the heart of those set apart.  The Levites were made God’s firstborns…They knew from an early age that they would always be used as God’s intermediaries to the people of Israel.  What an honor, but the honor had a price–there would never be a Levitical land. Their would be places within each tribe for the Levites, but never a place to call their own.  They would always be under scrutiny–they were God’s own, after all.  They had to be ceremonially set apart, which also meant they always remained set apart, they could never be just one of the crowd.

As the Levites were to Israel, So was Israel to the world.  The same honor and pressure the Levites felt within the nation; the nation that was to become a “Nation of Priests” was feeling as well.  Throughout history, Israel has always been treated as “different”. They have been persecuted, attacked, minimized and killed all in the name of being God’s chosen people.  But, God has preserved them as a nation, and set them apart as His own–Just like the Levites.

God calls us also to be set apart. 1 Peter 1:16 says, “Be holy as I am holy!” That simply means set apart! We are to look, walk and act like our Father; selfless, faithful and strong.  We are not called or expected to be perfect, but, we are asked to trust and follow the Lord that loves us and is preparing an eternity for us.  Sure, there is pressure to be set apart, but it is an honor and a gift to walk as one of God’s children called to be in relationship for now, and  forevermore!

God Bless You

The Lord said to Moses: “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

Numbers 7 Part 2–Chatting with God at His House!

The final verses in Numbers 7 are amazing. When Moses went into the tent of meeting to talk to God; the Lord spoke to him from the Ark of the Covenant.  It is difficult to grasp the import of the fact that Moses literally would walk into the tent and have chats with God. He did not go in to seek a sign; instead, he had full-on talks with God!  What an amazing time. Consistently, through the chapters, it says the Israelites did everything that the Lord commanded. As they followed God’s command, God blessed them, and prepared them to receive the blessing He promised and prepared for them.

These verses are a great picture of the kind of relationship God wants with us!  As we trust and follow him, God wants nothing more  to reveal Himself to us.  As He does, we need to take what we are shown, and use it to prepare for an eternity with the Lord–just as He promised.  While we no longer enter a tent of meeting and face an Ark of the Covenant, We now have His spirit dwelling within us comforting, guiding and teaching us to be more like God. The critical fact, however, is that then and now, God has always wanted His children to realize He wants to be in and among us. God will always be protecting and preparing us for eternity with Him. It is a personal relationship for which God longs to have and make special.  All we have to do is trust God and follow His leading.

God Bless You

These were the offerings of the Israelite leaders for the dedication of the altar when it was anointed: twelve silver plates, twelve silver sprinkling bowls and twelve gold dishes. 85 Each silver plate weighed a hundred and thirty shekels, and each sprinkling bowl seventy shekels. Altogether, the silver dishes weighed two thousand four hundred shekels,[e] according to the sanctuary shekel. 86 The twelve gold dishes filled with incense weighed ten shekels each, according to the sanctuary shekel. Altogether, the gold dishes weighed a hundred and twenty shekels.[f] 87 The total number of animals for the burnt offering came to twelve young bulls, twelve rams and twelve male lambs a year old, together with their grain offering. Twelve male goats were used for the sin offering. 88 The total number of animals for the sacrifice of the fellowship offering came to twenty-four oxen, sixty rams, sixty male goats and sixty male lambs a year old. These were the offerings for the dedication of the altar after it was anointed.

89 When Moses entered the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the covenant law. In this way the Lord spoke to him.

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Numbers 7–The Dedication of the Tabernacle

Each of the tribes within the nation of Israel brought offerings to be given for the dedication of the Tabernacle–the meeting place for Israel and God.  To understand the import of both the offerings and their use–one first needs to understand the amazing thing it was for Almighty God to dwell in a tent. We all know the vastness of the universe the nearest star to us, our sun is 93,000,000 miles away. The nearest star after that, Alpha Centauri is 4.25 light years away which is roughly 26 trillion miles away. There are literally billions of stars. God created and spread them all.

That same God that spread stars trillions of miles apart all over the universe, was willing to dwell in a tent with the people He loved.  That is what made the dedication of the Tabernacle so important. Each gift was a sign of gratefulness, and, each offering a recognition of God’s love and commitment to Israel. These same folks  were, only a short time before, wondering if God truly existed; and now, to see Him everyday as a pillar of smoke or fire–truly amazing. 

The dedication of His Tabernacle was as much an offering of submission to God’s authority, as it was a gift of thankfulness.  These people had done all that God said to do in preparation, and now, as they were ready to get going; it was time to say thanks, and line up to do the mission.  The Levitical tribe processed and used everything they were presented to further their efforts to honor God. And at this point, things could not be brighter.

We need to take as serious our thankfulness and submission to God.  He dwells within us. He walks beside us. He hears our prayers and wants to have a personal relationship with us. Like the Israelites, we see God’s hand in our lives daily. We see the God that created the universe intercede on our behalf in a variety of ways.  So, like the tribes, we need to come forward with our gifts daily.  a heart of gratefulness, an attitude of selflessness and a spirit of submission are truly treasures for God.  Let’s live a life that is worthy of the calling and dedicate all we have and all that we are to the completion of that mission.

God Bless You

When Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed and consecrated it and all its furnishings. He also anointed and consecrated the altar and all its utensils. Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of families who were the tribal leaders in charge of those who were counted, made offerings. They brought as their gifts before the Lord six covered carts and twelve oxen—an ox from each leader and a cart from every two. These they presented before the tabernacle.

The Lord said to Moses, “Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work at the tent of meeting. Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires.”

So Moses took the carts and oxen and gave them to the Levites. He gave two carts and four oxen to the Gershonites, as their work required, and he gave four carts and eight oxen to the Merarites, as their work required. They were all under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. But Moses did not give any to the Kohathites, because they were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible.

10 When the altar was anointed, the leaders brought their offerings for its dedication and presented them before the altar. 11 For the Lord had said to Moses, “Each day one leader is to bring his offering for the dedication of the altar.”

Numbers 6 Part 2–God’s Blessing to His Own

God instructed Moses on how He wanted to bless His people. Aaron and the priests had a specific blessing to speak to God’s chosen. As one looks at the blessing, three things stand out.  First, May the Lord Bless you and keep You–God blesses His chosen, but, what’s more the Lord protects them and keeps them safe.  He does not abandon His own, nor let them be taken away by the enemy.  He holds fast to them, and never under any circumstance abandons them.

Second, The Lord make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you. Like any proud dad, God beams with joy as He looks at His kids. He is always seeking ways to improve the lives of His kids.  Full of grace and committed to us, God literally shines as we follow and trust Him.

Finally, The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace.  God is committed to His own, focuses on them; and grants them the one thing this world cannot–peace. The gracious and focused attention God gave Israel and gives His chosen today, is really what sets us apart from the world and its system. Men look far and wide for peace, but, it is always an elusive quarry–at least it is apart from the Lord.

God calls us to trust and follow Him–if we will, He will grant us grace, keep us for eternity and give us peace amidst the chaos that has so engulfed the world.  God’s blessing is a true blessing! Help me, Lord to be grateful for Your blessing in my life.

God Bless You

The Lord said to Moses, 23 “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

24 “‘“The Lord bless you
    and keep you;
25 the Lord make his face shine on you
    and be gracious to you;
26 the Lord turn his face toward you
    and give you peace.”’

27 “So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”