Hello! Welcome to Episode 7 of the Faith Chase Podcast. I’m Heather Tabata, and this podcast is about making faith real in everyday life. (If you landed here on the blog and want to hear the post instead of reading the transcript, click here.)
Numbers 1 begins with the direction for Moses and Aaron to take a census of the Israelites. They were supposed to count all the men who were 20 years old or older except for the tribe of Levi. God wanted them to count all the people who were able to go to war, and the Levites didn’t fight in battle. Their job was to take care of the tabernacle and provide people to be priests. There were 603,550 men counted in the census. This nation came from just one family, remember? Jacob’s twelve sons grew into a huge group of people.
Chapter 2 gave instructions on how the Israelites were supposed to camp. They didn’t make one big unruly group. God divided them by their tribes and gave them each a space to the north, south, east, or west of the tabernacle, which stayed in the center. From above, the whole group would have looked like a cross.
God told the Levites to let Aaron give them jobs to help with the tabernacle in chapter 3. They also counted the Levites, but this time the males a month old or older were counted, and there were 22,000. God chose to have the Levites dedicated to Him rather than the firstborn from every family. So they counted the firstborns, and there were 22,273. They dedicated five shekels each for the 273 who were more than the number of the Levites.
Numbers 4 told the sons of Kohath how to prepare the tabernacle for traveling. They were to disassemble the building and cover all of the furnishings. They weren’t allowed to touch the holy objects.
Eleazar’s duty was to oversee the oil for the lamp, the incense, grain offering, the tabernacle, and the furnishings.
The family of Gershon was to carry the curtains, the tabernacle, the screen for the door, and the furnishings.
The descendants of Merari were to carry the tabernacle’s boards, bars, pillars, and sockets.
All the Levites between the ages of 30 and 50 were counted, and there were 8,580.
Chapter 5 began with instruction to quarantine people who had leprosy, any kind of discharge, or who had come in contact with a corpse.
The laws continued with what to do if a person sinned against another. They were supposed to repay whatever had been taken plus 20%.
Taking a Nazarite vow is explained in chapter 6. People could do this for a time frame when they wanted to be set apart for God. During that set time, the man or woman wasn’t supposed to drink wine or anything like it or eat anything with grapes in it. They also weren’t supposed to cut their hair during that time. When the period was finished, they were supposed to make an offering to God.
God also told Moses what Aaron should say to bless the people:
The LORD bless you and keep you; The LORD make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; The LORD lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace. – Numbers 6:24-26
Once the tabernacle was finished, the Israelites brought offerings by tribes in chapter 7. Together, they brought twelve silver platters, twelve silver bowls, and twelve gold pans. Moses went into the tabernacle and heard God’s voice speaking from above the mercy seat.
Chapter 8 gave instructions about how to purify the Levites so that they could serve in the tabernacle. They were to be sprinkled with water, shave themselves, wash their clothes, and be offered like a wave offering. They could serve in the tabernacle between the ages of 25 and 50.
When the Israelites had been in the wilderness for a full year, God commanded them to keep the Passover for the second time in chapter 9. This was a memorial of how God spared their eldest children and brought them out of slavery in Egypt. When the tabernacle was put together, a cloud covered it. That’s how it was from then on; during the day it was covered by a cloud, and at night it looked there was fire above it. When God wanted them to travel, He would lift the cloud, and when He wanted them to camp, He lowered it again. Sometimes they stayed in place for a day and sometimes a year, but God always guided them by the cloud.
In chapter 10, God told Moses to make two silver trumpets. They would be used to call the people together, to organize their moving, when they went to war, and during feasts. God promised that when they blew the trumpets before war that He would remember them and save them from their enemies. So the Israelites started traveling.
The people complained in chapter 11 because they missed the food they ate in Egypt. They said that they’d eaten plenty of fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions, and garlic, and now all they had was manna. God was not pleased, and He killed some of them. Moses prayed on the people’s behalf, and God relented.
I think this is a good lesson in gratitude. It’s so easy to focus on the little things we want, like being able to eat what we want when we want it. The people complained against God about their food. God was working directly with them and showing them miracles, and they lost sight of what was important. We can easily do the same thing today.
It wore Moses down to the point that he asked God why He was putting this on him. Moses said he wasn’t the one who gave birth to the people and now he was supposed to be taking care of them.
I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for me. – Numbers 11:14
Taking responsibility on himself for these people was more than Moses could handle. He recognized this and told God, and God adjusted the situation. God told him to take 70 elders and bring them together. God would let them share Moses’ burden.
It’s easy to get in a rut of feeling like we have to take care of everything ourselves, but that’s not what God expects of us. He’ll give us help, too, if we ask Him.
But God didn’t let the people get by with it that easily. He was very upset. He told the people to consecrate themselves and the next day they would have meat.
…but for a whole month, until it comes out of your nostrils and becomes loathsome to you, because you have despised the LORD who is among you, and have wept before Him, saying, “Why did we ever come up out of Egypt?” – Numbers 11:20
So basically the people were saying they never should have left Egypt, where they were slaves, after God literally moved the earth to set them free. It’s strange for me to think about the holy God as being anything but dignified, but He used some pretty plain language. He was going to let the Israelites eat meat until it came out their noses and they were sick of it. God can be very direct.
After that, Moses asked if they were going to have to kill the herds of animals or take all the fish in the sea to give the people this meat God just promised. God didn’t much appreciate that either. He told Moses that His power wasn’t limited and to wait and see what happened. God sent a wind that brought quail from the sea to the camp. There were so many the ground was covered with quail three feet deep.
Chapter 12 tells about how Miriam and Aaron talked about Moses because he married an Ethiopian woman. They said, “Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also?” God wasn’t happy with that.
He told Moses, Aaron, and Miriam to come to the tabernacle. Then God came to the door in a cloud. He called Aaron and Miriam to come toward Him. God told them that He spoke to prophets in visions and dreams, but that He spoke to Moses plainly face to face. Then God asked why they weren’t afraid to speak against Moses?
God expects a lot from the people who follow Him, but He watches over them too. He was angry with Aaron and Miriam, and He left the tabernacle. Miriam suddenly had leprosy. Aaron asked Moses to not hold them responsible and said that they had done foolishly and sinned.
Moses asked God to heal her, and God told them to put her outside the camp for seven days. After that she’d be allowed back in. The people didn’t travel again until she was allowed back in the camp.
In chapter 13, God told Moses to send spies into Canaan, the land He was going to give them. They sent one leader from each tribe. Moses told them to go see what the land was like, whether the people were strong or weak and how many there were, what their cities were like, and if there were forests or not. He told them to be brave and to bring back some fruit from the land.
They went and scouted the land. They brought back a cluster of grapes so big they had to carry it on a pole between two men. The men told the people that the land was good, but the people were very strong with large, fortified cities.
Caleb told the people that they should go into the land immediately and claim it because they were able to. But the other spies said they wouldn’t be able to, and they were like grasshoppers compared to the people living there.
Chapter 14 begins with the people saying they should have just died in Egypt or in the wilderness. They asked why they’d been brought to Canaan just to die in battle, and they wanted to pick a new leader and go back to Egypt.
Caleb and Joshua, two of the spies, told the people that with God, they could take the land. And the people wanted to stone Caleb and Joshua. Stoning meaning that the people got together and threw rocks at someone. It was a method of execution. The people were ready to kill them for saying God was strong enough to take care of them.
Then the LORD said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” - Numbers 14:11-12
So God was ready to just wipe the people out and start over with Moses. Imagine Moses hearing that God would like to start a nation beginning with him. But Moses didn’t want that. He told God that the Egyptians would hear about it and say that God wasn’t able to give the Israelites the land so He killed them. Moses asked God to remember that He was patient and to forgive the people again.
God said that He would forgive them, but because they had seen all these miracles and still wouldn’t listen to Him, they wouldn’t be allowed to go into Canaan. Of the people twenty years and older, only Caleb and Joshua would be allowed into the land. They would wander in the wilderness for forty years, a year for each day the spies were in Canaan. Just like today, God will forgive us if we ask, but it doesn’t mean we won’t have to deal with the consequences of what we do.
Then the Israelites said that they had sinned, and that they would go on into the land. Moses told them not to try it because God wouldn’t be with them, but they didn’t listen. They tried to go in and take Canaan, and the natives drove them back out.
In Chapter 15, God gave the Israelites instructions in how to offer sacrifices. Verse 14 is really interesting to me. God said that if there was someone living with them who wasn’t an Israelite, and that person wanted to make an offering, that they could make one the same way the Israelites did. The offerings were part of worship. In the Old Testament, the Israelites were God’s chosen people, but He accepted worship from other people who wanted to follow Him. The thought of God having one group of people that He picked and they were the only ones who could be saved at that time used to bother me. But that’s not how it was.
The chapter ends with directions to put tassels on their clothes. The purpose of this was so they would see them and remember what God commanded them to do. It sounds like the equivalent of tying a string around your finger as a reminder. God wanted the people to always have Him and His word in the front of their minds.
In chapter 16, there’s a bad incident with an almost rebellion. Korah and On got a group of well-respected men together and confronted Moses and Aaron. They told them they were taking too much on themselves and asked why they exalted themselves above the rest of the people.
Moses told them to offer incense in their censers the next day and they would let God choose. At first God was going to strike down the whole group of people, but Moses pleaded for them. God did punish the leaders of the rebellion: the earth opened up around them so that they fell down into the ground, and it closed back up over them.
The next day the people complained that Moses had killed the people of the LORD. Personally, I think I would have been too afraid to say anything, but… So God sent a plague on the people. Over 14,000 of them died.
In chapter 17, God told Moses that He was going to get rid of the complaining. Moses was supposed to take a rod from each of the twelve leaders and write their names on them and put them in the tabernacle. God would make the rod of the man He chose blossom. The next day, Moses went to the tabernacle, and Aaron’s rod had blossoms and ripe almonds.
That’s it for this episode! Thanks for joining in. Head over to the Instagram, Facebook, or chime in here on the website and let me know your thoughts on the reading from this episode. What stood out to you? What questions do you have? If you want to stay up to date on events and get a little regular pick-me-up, you can sign up for my newsletter by clicking right here. If you’re enjoying the podcast, don’t forget to subscribe so the next episode can come straight to you, and tell a friend about it. On to the next reading!