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Numbers 1 - 14

Numbers 1:1-4:49
God spoke, Israel obeyed (Numbers 1:1,54). This is the constant pattern of the life of faith - hearing and obeying the Word of God. The names of God's people differ from place to place. The pattern of their life remains the same. This pattern is also emphasized in Numbers 2, which begins with God speaking (Numbers 2:1) and ends with the people obeying (Numbers 2:34). This pattern is repeated in Numbers 3-4, which begin with God's Word (Numbers 3:1; Numbers 4:1) and end with our obedience (Numbers 3:51; Numbers 4:49). In Numbers, we read so much that is unfamiliar to us. We must learn to look for the Word that comes to us, in our time, as a Word from the Lord who is "the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8). Hear and obey. Listen to what God is saying. Do what He has said.

Numbers  5:1-6:27
We must take sin seriously. It can lead to a withdrawal of God's blessing. This is the important and challenging message of Numbers 5. We must not lose sight of God's purpose for our lives. We are to be "dedicated to the Lord" (Numbers 6:6). It is God's intention to bless. In His love for us, He continues to speak to us His Word. His promise of blessing is still His Word to us. It is a Word which never ceases to be relevant to His people: "The Lord will bless you and watch over you. The Lord will smile on you and be kind to you. The Lord will look on you with favour and give you peace" (Numbers 6:24-26).

Numbers 6:22-27 
These are more than words spoken about God. They are words spoken by God. They are spoken to Moses before they are spoken by him. They are not spoken in the name of Moses. The are spoken in the Name of the Lord. He is the One who speaks His Word to us. This is real blessing, God's blessing.

Numbers 7:1-8:26 
From each tribe, the gifts came. The Levites had a special ministry. For this ministry, they needed to be made "clean" (Numbers 8:5). Through cleansing, they were made "ready to do the Lord's work" (Numbers 8:11). In a very special sense, God said of them, "the Levites will be Mine" (Numbers 8:14). Between the gifts from the tribes (Numbers 7) and the preparation of the Levites (Numbers 8:5-26), there are the seven lamps on the lampstand, giving "light in front of the lampstand" (Numbers 8:1-4). The lamp stand was made of "gold."  This is the precious light of God's Word, shining like gold, which is greater than all the other metals. God's Word is the light which inspires the giving of the tribes and the ministry of the Levites. Without God's Word at the centre, everything else means nothing.

Numbers 9:1-10:36
The Israelites were travelling towards the promised land. As they travelled, they were to celebrate the Passover (Numbers 9:1-14). In their journey, they were being led by the Lord (Numbers 9:15-23). In the course of their journey, they faced opposition from their enemies, the enemies of the Lord. In this situation, they looked to the Lord for victory: "the Lord your God will remember you and rescue you from your enemies", "Arise, O Lord! Scatter Your enemies! Make those who hate You, run away from You!" (Numbers 10:9,35). Our journey is from the past (for which we give thanks to God), through the present (in which we look to the Lord for victory), to the future (towards which we are being led by the Lord.) In every part of our journey, we are journeying with God.

Numbers 11:1-35
There were problems among God's people. The spirit of complaint had spread among them. This brought the "fire" of judgment (Numbers 11:1). The spirit spirit of complaint comes when people don't like what God is doing among His people.We see this in Numbers 11:26-28. The words of prophecy are described as the result of the working of "the Spirit" (Numbers 11:26), yet Joshua said, "Stop them, sir!" (Numbers 11:28). Note Moses' response - "I wish all the Lord's people were prophets and that the Lord would put His Spirit on them" (Numbers 11:29). What we need is not the quenching of the Spirit, but the release of God's Spirit among God's people.

Numbers 12:1-13:33 
In his leadership of God's people, Moses faced problems. It was not an easy pathway towards the promised land. There was opposition from Miriam and Aaron (Numbers 12:1). There was an unbelieving report, brought back from the land of Canaan by most of the spies (Numbers 13:31). Alongside these problems, there was the encouragement, which came from Caleb's words of faith: "Let's go now and take possession of the land. We should be more than able to conquer it" (Numbers 13:30). By faith, we shall overcome the problems.

Numbers 14:1-45
The problems continue. The problems increase (Numbers 14:1-4). Again, there is the Word of encouragement - "this time from Joshua, as well as Caleb" (Numbers 14:5-9). The people bring judgment upon themselves. They will not enter the promised land. Of the older generation, only faithful Caleb and Joshua were to enter the land. They would lead the next generation into the land of promise, thus fulfilling the Lord's promise of grace, which is always free grace - but it's never cheap grace. Grace is freely given by the Lord - but it can never be taken for granted by us. This point - not taking God's grace for granted - becomes clear in Numbers 14:39-45.

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Leviticus 15 - 27

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