Notes from Numbers - Chapters 26-30
E. L. Lovering, Ilfracombe
The concluding chapters 26-36 reiterate Jehovah's promises and plans for His people, and include: Numberings, 26. 1-65; Laws, 27. 1 to 30.16; 36. 1-13; and Instructions, 31. 1 to 35. 34.
Numberings, 26. 1-65. Thirty-eight years previously, Moses and Aaron had taken the first census at Mount Sinai. They were now shortly to enter Canaan, and it was necessary to ascertain those with ability to fight, v. 2, and to allot the division of the land among the tribes, vv. 52-56. The Levites were numbered separately because they were the Lord's, 3. 45, and had no inheritance allotted to them. Of six hundred thousand men of war at first, only Caleb and Joshua were to pass over into Canaan, "there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun", 26. 65, and so was fulfilled the prediction of 14. 29-32. In this is seen the catastrophe of unbelief, the continuity of divine purpose and the conquest of faith. The divine commentary in Hebrews 3. 7 to 4. 2 is a serious warning lest the word should not be mixed with faith, and men should fail to enter into the promised rest.
Laws, 27. 1 to 30. 16; 36. 1-13. The Law of Inheritance . . . The Daughters of Zelophehad, 27. 1-11; 36. 1-13. Zelophehad, of the sons of Manasseh, had died leaving no sons, 26. 33, and his daughters, fearing that they would be left without inheritance, requested that they and their sons should succeed to their father's inheritance and thus perpetuate his name. For this situation there was no existing law, so Moses "brought their cause before the Lord", 27. 5. The Lord judged that "the daughters of Zelophehad speak right" and a new law assured them of the possession, and their faith was rewarded. As to the inheritance of "the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus" there is "neither male nor female: ye are all one in Christ Jesus . . . and heirs according to the promise", Gal. 3. 26-29. Lest the inheritance of the daughters should pass to another tribe and confusion arise in the division of the land, they were commanded to marry within their own tribe. Thus the claims of the fathers and the faith of the daughters were regarded as equally important in the divine purpose, Num. 36. 1-13. God's children have been called unto liberty, but that liberty must not be used "for an occasion to the flesh", Gal. 5. 13. Liberty is never a ground for licence. The Loss through Transgression . . . Moses, 27. 12-14. In view of his impending death, Moses was called to the mount from which he could behold the land into which he was forbidden to enter on account of his rebellion, 20. 12; Deut. 32. 49. Even God's most faithful servants are not exempt from the consequences of their failures, for the divine government is as unerring as divine grace is abundant. Though shut out from Canaan in his lifetime, Moses was privileged to share with Elijah holy converse with the Son of God, and to witness His excelling glory on the mount of transfiguration, Matt. 17. 3. The law might bring men to the borders of Canaan, to see and greet the promises from afar, Heb. 11. 13, but it could not bring them in. This was to be reserved for another, Joshua, a type of the Lord Jesus.
The Leader, Chosen and Commissioned . . . Joshua, 27. 15-23. Instead of indulging in grief and remorse, Moses is concerned for the welfare of the nation. He asks for a leader who shall be a true shepherd, at whose word the people shall go out and come in, v. 17. If the work goes on, he is content that God should bury the workman. Of Timothy, Paul wrote "For I have no man likeminded who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's", Phil. 2. 20, 21.
Law of Offerings, 28. 1-15. The sacrificial laws, already given at Sinai, had been to a great extent neglected during the wanderings in die wilderness. It was, therefore, necessary that they should be repeated before entrance into the land of Canaan, especially as the generation to whom they had been given had passed away. It is still the responsibility of the older generation to acquaint the younger with the principles of divine truth.
"My oblation, my food for my offerings made by fire, of a sweet savour unto me, shall ye observe to offer unto me in their due season", v. 2 R.V. These words express the delight which God finds in the presentation of that which speaks of Christ. Every day, week, month and year the fragrance of Christ is precious to God. We should not confine our thoughts to the sin-offering aspect of the cross, that which Christ has done for us, but, in contemplation of the burnt-offering, meal-offering and drink-offerings, appreciate that Christ is continually "a sweet savour of rest" to God.
Law of Feasts, 28. 16 to 29. 40. "These ye shall offer unto the Lord in your set feasts, beside your vows, and your freewill offerings", 29. 39. R.V. Associated with the year were the set feasts. In the spring was the Passover, 28. 16-25, and Pentecost, vv. 26-31, and in autumn, the Trumpets, 29. 1-6, Atonement, vv. 7-11, and Tabernacles, w. 12-38. See also Lev. 16 and 23. These expressed the Lord's dealings with His people throughout then-nation's history. As the periods of time increased, so did the number of the sacrifices offered. One lamb morning and evening each day; weekly on the Sabbath two he-lambs in addition to the continual burnt-offering; monthly two young bullocks, one ram and seven he-lambs again in addition to the continual burnt-offering. We should never begin a day, week, month or year apart from the recognition by faith of the perfect sacrifice of Christ.
Law of Vows, 30. 1-16. Two kinds of vows are enunciated, the one a vow of performance, the other a vow of abstinence. They were both conjugal and parental in their application, relating to man and wife, and father and daughter; they are described as "the statutes, which the Lord commanded Moses", v. 16. We shall not explore these vows in detail, but note their importance in the divine intention for the maintenance of family life and the consequent impact upon the life of a nation. In no family could there be two positions of authority, for headship was vested in the husband and father. These principles are projected in the New Testament, and the relative positions of authority in church and family are clearly expounded. In days of so-called "liberalism", the relevant scriptures on this subject might well be pondered with profit, special reference being made to 1 Cor. 11. 3-16 and Eph. 5. 22-33.