Each family stand and be counted.
This is effectively how the book of Numbers begins. With a census – a counting – of all God’s people. These families were given the task of bringing God’s kingdom to the earth. They entered a covenant with God and promised to trust Him, to serve Him and to love Him, and then they marched out, clan by clan, family by family to enter the Promised Land.
Sounds great – BUT – the people rebelled against God. しかし人々は神に逆らいました。
Spies were sent out into the Promised Land to bring back reports. Instead of believing Joshua and Caleb, the only two spies who said Israel could conquer Canaan, the people did not trust God, got scared and refused to cross into the Promised Land. For their lack of faith, they wandered for 40 years in the desert until all but a few of that generation had died. Rebellion against God brings bad consequences.
They could have had this [image] but instead they got this [image] because they couldn’t trust God.
So the fourth book of the Pentateuch presents a sobering reality:
The God – who had entered a covenant with Abraham (Ge 15;17),
– who had delivered his people with great power out of Egypt (Ex 14-15),
– who loved Israel as his “treasured possession” (Ex 19;) and
– who had revealed his holiness and the way to draw near to Him(Lev 1-7)
was also: a God of wrath. 神は怒りの神でもあるのです。
His wrath extended to his wayward children as well as to the enemy nations of Egypt and Canaan.
Even Moses was not exempt from God’s wrath when he disobeyed God and struck the rock to bring water out of it. Because of his sin, his sister Miriam and his brother Aaron died before they even saw the Promised Land. Here was the passing of the old guard. Those whom God used to establish the nation were dying before the nation had come into its own.
Now here’s the big question: Is God finished with the nation as a whole (cf.Ro 11:1) like He was finished with people at the time of the flood?
Yes or no?
Are God’s promises a thing of the past? This is an important question because it relates to the church today. When we sin, are God’s promises to us annulled or inapplicable?
Yes or no?
No! The promises of God always remain true.
The answer to these questions in Numbers comes in an extraordinary way. Balak, the King of Moab (an enemy), gets a great prophet – Balaam – not one of God’s prophets but one of his own prophets – to pronounce a curse on the Israelites to scare them and encourage his own people. So he gets the prophet Balaam and says – Go on , tell them!
Balaam agrees but ends up blessing the Israelites and cursing the Moabites! King Balak tells him he’s got it all wrong and to try again but he comes back with the same word, acknowledging that the God of Israel is the true God!
Balaam ends up giving seven prophetic oracles, proclaiming God’s great blessing for his people (see23:20).
So God’s promises always remain true. God is faithful even if we are not.
2 Tim 2:13 “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.”
Here’s what’s key though: the immediate enjoyment of blessing will always depend on the faithfulness of his people, but the ultimate realization of God’s blessing is sure — because of the character of God (see23:19).
The teaching of the book has lasting significance for Israel and for the church (cf.Ro 15:4;1Co 10:6,11). God does not toleratesin. God, who is holy, let time and the desert take the lives of those who disobeyed him. The next generation, free of the influence of Egypt, were prepared to be a separate, holy people, loyal to God. Today,Jesus Christ saves, but God expects us to be a holy people, loyal to God, and make every effort to drive sin from our lives.
At the end of Numbers, there is a second census taken and the people of Israel finally reaffirm their commitment to God. Under this new commitment they prepare to finally, after 40 years, enter the Promised Land.
Let me finish with the challenge for us today:
Are we, as God’s people, charged with bringing the Kingdom of God to the earth, willing to overcome our fears, our doubts, our weaknesses and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to following God, to loving God, to loving our neighbours, to going into our communities to preach the word of God and share God’s ultimate provision – our salvation through His Son Jesus Christ? Does that sound too daunting, too hard? Are you okay to spend the next forty years of your life in a spiritual wilderness because you can’t quite trust God with all of your life? I’m not! Let’s enter the full blessing of God by fully committing our lives to God. No holding back, no delaying, no wavering, no doubting, but rather, surrendering all, trusting completely and with a sense of urgency. To stand and be counted. If we follow God like that then we will experience the fullness of God’s blessing and God’s Kingdom will come.
Let’s stand, family by family and say together the Apostles Creed.
I BELIEVE in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit
and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting.
This is what we believe. This is what we live.