Have you ever been lost? Really lost? It’s a sinking feeling – to wander aimlessly. It’s especially frustrating when you know you are in the vicinity of your destination. All the more troubling when your own foolish stubbornness is the reason for your disorientation. Such is the context for Numbers, the fourth book of the Pentateuch about the spiritual and geographical wanderings of the people of God.
The point of the book of numbers was to prepare God’s people to enter the Promised Land – Canaan. It’s a book about generational lessons. In this case, Moses was urging the second generation of liberated Israelites to not make the same mistakes as the generation that preceded them. We would do well to heed this warning in our day. The Christian church is far from having arrived. A’ la Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day, we seemingly keep stepping in the same puddles with each successive generation. We continue to harbor cultural blind spots, exhibit missional lethargy, and generally possess a lack of zeal for the cause of Christ in the Kingdom of God. Unfortunately for us twenty-first century Americans, the 20 and 30-somethings of our day are the most historically illiterate people… ever. We know far less about our forefathers than our forefathers knew about theirs. As a result, we are more likely not to learn from their mistakes due to our ignorance.
The book of Numbers picks up the story from the closing chapters of Exodus. The story begins with God taking an inventory of Israel’s warriors, arranging the people’s camp, and orienting their travel plans. Then, in Numbers 10, the people of God depart from Sinai on their way to the land of promised rest – Canaan. Along the way, however, they must deal with the consequences of their own rebellion. But where the first generation stumbled, the second generation would regroup to conquer the Promised Land.
The spiritual wanderings and rebellion of the people of God in the book of Numbers echoes the human condition of our day as well. It’s a tremendously relevant book. One of the only things that all human beings are universally good at is failing. But be encouraged! The book of Numbers is also full of hope, calling all faithful followers of God (of every generation) to start anew and trust God’s provision, protection, and promised peace. In Christ, Christians are made new (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) – the old has gone, the new has come. In the midst of our wandering, those who claim Christ are indelibly tethered to the One who finds the lost, rescues the destitute, and heals the sick. He is our Great Redeemer and the One in whom our aimless wandering, hopelessness, and rebellion is answered.
As always, please feel free to ask questions. You can either email me directly (firstname.lastname@example.org) or, if you’d like to start a broader conversation, you can post a public comment/question here on the blog. Thanks for reading.