God's work among His people was directed toward the future - "Once you're settled in the land I'm giving you" - and it was grounded in the past - "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God" (Numbers 15:2,41). Our present obedience draws strength from our past redemption - "It is finished" - and our future hope - It is still to come.
In this chapter, we read about the judgment of God upon those who sinned against Him. God is perfectly holy. He calls us to be holy. This is not to be a pretence. It is to be real. Those who came under God's judgment claimed to be holy (Numbers 16:3). God saw what they were really like. This very challenging. It's a reminder that we must not take God lightly: "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." Alongside this, we should also remember that Christ's hands were pierced for us. He waits to welcome all who return to Him, fleeing from "the wrath to come."
Moses, the priests, the people - All of them were to honour the Lord in everything. (i) "Moses did exactly what the Lord commanded him to do" (Numbers 17:11). (ii) The priests were "a gift, given by the Lord, to do whatever work is necessary at the tent of meeting" (Numbers 18:6). (iii) The people were to "contribute the best and holiest parts to the Lord" ("out of all the gifts they had received" (Numbers 18:29). Whoever we are, whatever our place in God's Work, we are to be dedicated to the Lord, committed to doing His will and being faithful in the work He has given to us to do for Him.
When we read about being made clean, we must look beyond what we read in the Old Testament. From the sprinkling of the blood of "a red cow that is perfect, with no defects", we must look on to the New Testament, where we read of "the blood of Jesus Christ which cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). Jesus Christ is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
Neither Moses nor Aaron were to enter the land, promised by God to His people (Numbers 20:12,24). This is a reminder to us that we dare not presume on God's continued blessing. The fact that He has blessed us in the past does not mean that He will always bless us. We can lose out on His blessing. The blessing of God is to be treasured. It is not be taken lightly. It must never be taken for granted.
The Israelites are journeying with the Lord. He is leading them from victory to victory. Salvation fro Israel, salvation from the God of Israel, the true and living God, meant "destruction" (Numbers 21:3) for those who opposed God and His people - "How horrible it is for you, Moab! You are destroyed, you people of the god Chemosh" (Numbers 21:29). If there is to be real blessing among God's people, we must face conflict and overcome opposition from God's enemies.
The story of Balaam concerns the challenge of speaking God's Word in truth. God is the God of truth (Numbers 23:19). His messengers must speak the Word of truth.. Before we can speak God's Word in truth, there needs to be a confession of sin, an acknowledgment of how far we have deviated from the way of truth. This confession of sin is to be accompanied by a fresh commitment to walking in the way of truth (Numbers 22:340. Speaking the Word of truth involves looking beyond ourselves to the One who is the Word of truth - our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ (Numbers 24:17).