Read Numbers 33, Isaiah 56, and Acts 19.
This devotional is about Numbers 33.
This chapter is an overview/review of all the places Israel went in their journey from Egypt (vv. 1-5) to the edge of the Promised Land (v. 48: “…by the Jordan across from Jericho”). It is a factual account. Each place they camped is mentioned but the (mostly sinful) events that happened in each one are not recorded. Consider:
- After they leave the area around Mt. Sinai (v. 16a), they go to Kibroth Hattaavah (v. 16b). According to Numbers 11, God consumed some complainers there (11:1-3), commissioned elders to help Moses (11:16-30), and provided quail and some more judgment (11:31-35) before they left Kibroth Hattaavah (11:35). None of that is mentioned here in Numbers 33:16.
- From Kibroth Hattaavah, Israel went to Hazeroth (33:17). According to Numbers 12:1-16 that’s where Moses’s brother Aaron and sister Miriam complained about Moses and were confronted by God about it. Miriam contracted leprosy (12:10) until Moses prayed for her (vv. 13-15). But here Numbers 33:16, none of that is mentioned.
I could go on, but you get the idea. This list of places here in Numbers 33 doesn’t even mention Israel’s rebellion when God commanded them to take the land (Numbers 14). Instead, here in Numbers 33:36 we’re told they “camped in Kadesh” (where the rebellion happened, among other things) and then, in verse 37, we’re told, “They left Kadesh.” Aaron died at the next stop (vv. 38-39), and that’s the only significant thing we’re told about each of these places.
Israel went from place to place to place after verse 37 through verse 47 because they were wandering under God’s judgment. All those over age 20, except for Joshua and Caleb, lived out their lives wandering in the desert and died out there (15:28-30).
So, when we get to verse 48 in today’s reading from Numbers 33, all the disobedient people have died. Only Moses, Joshua, and Caleb are left and Moses will died, too, before Israel enters the land.
Having cataloged every place where God’s people camped along the way, God spoke through Moses and gave instructions (vv. 50-51). He commanded the people to (1) “drive out all the inhabitants…(v.52a). (2) “Destroy all their carved images and cast idols” (v. 52b). (3) “…demolish all their high places (v. 52c). (4) “Take possession of the land and settle it…” (v. 53) and (5) “Distribute the land by lot…” (v. 54).
Then, verse 55 warns that failure to obey God’s commands would cause them “trouble” (v. 55c) which would lead to God’s judgment (v. 56).
So, in this summary chapter, we have two responses to God subtly contrasted. God delivered everyone (vv. 1-4) but then most of God’s people sinned and rebelled against him (vv. 3-49). A new generation is given a fresh opportunity to obey the Lord and receive his blessings (vv. 51-54) or disobey him and receive his judgment (vv. 55-56).
A big factor in whether or not the new generation would succeed was whether or not they drove the Canaanites out of the land and destroyed their idols (v. 52). If they allowed godless people to stay, and let their idols linger, they would fall into sin and find God’s judgment (vv. 55-56).
This warning corresponds to our lives as Christians, too. Our growth and joy in Christ will be hindered by sinful people who linger in our lives and idols from our culture that we refuse to eliminate. Are you holding on to, and secretly worshipping sinful things in your life? Ruthlessly remove them in obedience to God’s word so that they do not become “barbs in your eyes and thorns in your sides” (v. 55).