In Leviticus we see a people of worshippers around a sanctuary in the presence of God. In Numbers we see a people in the wilderness in the presence of enemies. It is a people of warriors to defend the sanctuary. This is also our task, to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 1:33Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.). “The faith” means the content of faith, that which is believed. Here we must think of the truths about the Lord Jesus and His work and its consequences.
There are different types of fight, both in terms of the area where the fight is fought and the nature of the fight:
1. We see Israel fighting in the wilderness, but also in the land.
2. We see Israel fighting an offensive battle, but also a defensive battle.
3. We see them fighting a fight to which they are called, but we also see them fighting a fight in which they have ended up through their own fault.
All these aspects of the struggle are reflected in our lives as believers. The struggle in the wilderness is that of daily life. In this we may have to deal with struggles that we have to avoid, but sometimes take on voluntarily and a kind of struggle that we cannot avoid.
For example, if we first join the world and then try to get rid of it, or read books and watch films that capture our thoughts and feelings, we have to struggle to get rid of it and be freed from it. We could have avoided that battle by keeping ourselves separated from the world. In order to avoid this battle, the Lord Jesus teaches us to pray: “Do not lead us into temptation” (Mt 6:1313‘And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
There is also a kind of struggle that we cannot always avoid, for example when we do our work. Then we come into contact with things that can give rise to conflict, for example a question to participate in something that you, as a Christian, know that you cannot participate in. We often notice that the enemy attacks us on our weak spot. We see that enemy represented in Amalek (Deu 25:17-1817“Remember what Amalek did to you along the way when you came out from Egypt,18how he met you along the way and attacked among you all the stragglers at your rear when you were faint and weary; and he did not fear God.; Exo 17:8-138Then Amalek came and fought against Israel at Rephidim.9So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose men for us and go out, fight against Amalek. Tomorrow I will station myself on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”10Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought against Amalek; and Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.11So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.12But Moses’ hands were heavy. Then they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it; and Aaron and Hur supported his hands, one on one side and one on the other. Thus his hands were steady until the sun set.13So Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword.).
The Israelites must consciously seek out and engage in the struggle in the land. We read about this in the book Joshua. For us, this battle speaks of conquering the values of Scripture in connection with the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places, which we find above all in the letter to the Ephesians. We must also defend these blessings and not allow that they are robbed from us. For this God gives us His armor (Eph 6:10-1810Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.11Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.12For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual [forces] of wickedness in the heavenly [places].13Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.14Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness,15and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace;16in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil [one].17And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.18With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,).
It is also important to know which battle we should not fight and that is the fight against sin within us. This battle is presented to us in Romans 7. It is the struggle of one born again to accomplish in his own strength, the power of the flesh, the law of God. This battle the born again always loses. He will only be freed from this battle when he sees the accomplished work of the Lord Jesus.
Numbers describes the walk and service of the people of God during their journey through the wilderness. In Exodus, we read about the beginning of the people who travel through the wilderness here. In Exodus 15-18 we also have a part of the wilderness journey. There is still everything under grace. After the law is giving at Mount Sinai the relationship between God and the people changes (Exodus 19-20). In Numbers we see how God immediately punishes when the people transgress and fail, because now the law is the foundation of God’s dealings with them. In this book, the enemy is not so much the personal enemy, but rather the influences that causes murmuring and revolt, for example. Evil does not penetrate, but breaks out.
The journey through the wilderness is a history of failure. Instead of a rapid advance to Canaan in the “eleven days’ [journey]” it takes (Deu 1:22It is eleven days’ [journey] from Horeb by the way of Mount Seir to Kadesh-barnea.), it takes them forty years. This book teaches us the lesson of the believer’s trial, in which his failure becomes clear and in which it also becomes clear how much he depends on the grace of God. The grace of God does not fail.
God remains the God of grace. He shows this in the tabernacle, in which the way to Him is drawn out. In Leviticus the priests and their service are in the foreground (the name Leviticus does not do justice to the book). Numbers is the book of numbers (hence the name). In Numbers, the Levite service is in the foreground.
The wilderness journey is not part of God’s counsels, but is an example of His ways with us. It shows the spiritual journey of the believer through the world – the wilderness – where the flesh is being tested. Everything that happens to the people in the wilderness are lessons for us, for it has happened “as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved” (1Cor 10:66Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved.; 10:1111Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.). There the people get to know themselves and there they get to know God (Deu 8:22You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.). We will thank God not only for the redemption from Egypt, but also for His tolerance of us in the wilderness, for all His love and care, His upbringing. We learn that in the wilderness of life.
Numbers is not a ‘quick bite’ reading. It is not for people who are unwilling to devote time and energy to the study of God’s Word. However, those who are prepared to study this book will find much of the Lord Jesus in it and will discover rich lessons for his life of faith.
Finally an outline of the book:
1. The encampment of the people and the preparations for the journey (Numbers 1-10:10).
a. The order (Numbers 1-2).
b. The Levites isolated (Numbers 3-4).
c. what to do in case of infidelity (Numbers 5).
d. loyalty of the individual in case of general infidelity (Numbers 6).
e. the travel aids (Numbers 7-10:11).
2. The journey (Numbers 10:11-21:20).
3. The people in the plains of Moab (Numbers 21:21-34:13).