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.”

Numbers 6–The Nazirites, God’s Special Ops.

God allowed certain members of the people to be set apart to serve him at the highest level.  They were called Nazirites.  They would be the spiritual version of Special Ops.  In order to be a Nazarite, one needed to commit to living a holy life and a life of service to God.  The symbol of service was their long hair. While a person was a Nazarite, they could not cut their hair, could not drink wine or even eat anything associated with grapes or wine vinegar. Additionally, They were not allowed to be in the presence of dead people. The idea was that they were set apart for special service.

Nazirites could be men or women–they simply had to commit to following the Lord closely.  During their time, the rules applied. to end their time as a Nazarite, they would go through a very public ceremony to announce their ending the commitment. It was only at that point, that they would cut their hair and be allowed to drink wine.  Clearly, the commitment to be a Nazirite was not one to be taken lightly. It was one the person made willingly, and could end by choice. But, while committed, God used the Nazirites to  to be spiritual leaders and warriors. Samson was the most famous,both as a warrior and as a person that lost sight of his commitment to God.

In our walk, God calls us to honor our commitments as well.  He holds us in a special place as His adopted kids.  He simply asks us to follow humbly and trust Him.  The Lord then does the work to transform us into His image.  It is a lifelong process that allows us to walk and live in a manner that honors God and blesses us.  We must simply trust God to do his work in his time.  Help me Lord, to honor you with my life and my commitment–Just like a Nazirite!

God Bless You

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.

“‘During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long.

“‘Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body. Even if their own father or mother or brother or sister dies, they must not make themselves ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of their dedication to God is on their head. Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to the Lord.

“‘If someone dies suddenly in the Nazirite’s presence, thus defiling the hair that symbolizes their dedication, they must shave their head on the seventh day—the day of their cleansing.

Numbers 5 Part 1–Purity, Path to God’s Best

God had some pretty strict standards. He was going to be dwelling with the Israelites while they were headed to Canaan, so He needed things to be right. After ordering the tribes and setting out the Levitical duties, God knew it was time to set some standards.  So thing one–no unclean folks in camp.  What made people unclean? Skin diseases, bloody discharges, dealing with dead bodies…So for a time after that, those people would have to live outside the camp.  While it seems harsh, it was the simple fact that God wanted to keep his people pure and healthy.  But, there was more.

In addition to the health of the people, God wanted Israel to understand the importance of purity.  They were in a land where people mixed everything–religions, tribes, marriages, food–what ever felt good was the mission of the day.  The total lack of discipline was a destructive force among the peoples; and the difference for why Israel would take the land and keep it.  God knew that discipline was a learned trait.  It needed to start with basic things and then infiltrate all areas of life. So God set rigorous standards for His people that would make them strong and united.

God calls us to be pure as well.  We do not have the same rigorous standards that God gave Israel, but, He does ask us to be holy; like He is holy.  The way we do life needs to be pure and honoring to God.  How we do business, how we treat others and how we worship; all give us the ability to become like the Lord, and have Him dwell in our lives.  As we examine our lives we need to ask–what is unclean, what is keeping us from God’s best.  Once we have made the determination, get separated from it. Help me, Lord, to live a life that is pure in Your sight.

God Bless You

The Lord said to Moses, “Command the Israelites to send away from the camp anyone who has a defiling skin disease[a] or a discharge of any kind, or who is ceremonially unclean because of a dead body. Send away male and female alike; send them outside the camp so they will not defile their camp, where I dwell among them.” The Israelites did so; they sent them outside the camp. They did just as the Lord had instructed Moses.

The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way[b] and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty and must confess the sin they have committed. They must make full restitution for the wrong they have done, add a fifth of the value to it and give it all to the person they have wronged. But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the Lord and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for the wrongdoer. All the sacred contributions the Israelites bring to a priest will belong to him.10 Sacred things belong to their owners, but what they give to the priest will belong to the priest.’”

Numbers 4 Part 2–Here’s to the Gershonites

Some Jobs do not seem nearly as sexy as others. The Kohathites were charged with the care and protection of all God’s tabernacle treasures.  The Gershonites, conversely, were charged with caring for the tent. It was not nearly as noble sounding, but just as critical to the mission of God.  Without the Tabernacle tent, the treasures would be left out in the desert. The priests would have no place to worship and God would have no designated place to meet the people.

The Gershonites had a very important role.  Their care and protection of the Tabernacle itself would literally keep the people for the next 40+ years.  God is like that. He charges many with duties that do not seem substantial, but are in fact critical to God’s plan.

In our lives, we often forget that many that serve in ministry, do so as volunteers. They pray, do childcare, bring meals, care for the grounds; usually with little or no recognition. Still, each one serves with a heart to please God and simply do the mission he has given them.  It may not be the center stage ministry–but often it is the ministry that allows the center stage to happen.  So here is a shout out for the Gershonites, the keepers of the tent.  Without them, then and now, ministry simply would not happen!

God Bless You

 The Lord said to Moses, 22 “Take a census also of the Gershonites by their families and clans. 23 Count all the men from thirty to fifty years of age who come to serve in the work at the tent of meeting.

24 “This is the service of the Gershonite clans in their carrying and their other work: 25 They are to carry the curtains of the tabernacle, that is, the tent of meeting, its covering and its outer covering of durable leather, the curtains for the entrance to the tent of meeting, 26 the curtains of the courtyard surrounding the tabernacle and altar, the curtain for the entrance to the courtyard, the ropes and all the equipment used in the service of the tent. The Gershonites are to do all that needs to be done with these things. 27 All their service, whether carrying or doing other work, is to be done under the direction of Aaron and his sons. You shall assign to them as their responsibility all they are to carry. 28 This is the service of the Gershonite clans at the tent of meeting. Their duties are to be under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest.