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Year 1, Week 16, Day 5

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Numbers 8-9.

Today’s reading is connected to the previous day’s reading, but today’s reading also readies us for subsequent days’ readings. Numbers 8 is related to Numbers 7 in that both are a look back at the preparations that occurred for getting the Tabernacle operational. Whereas Numbers 7 shows the preparations that the people made, Numbers 8 records preparations pertaining to the priests. Numbers 8 opens with information concerning the Lampstand, which illuminated the Table of Bread and thus, symbolized the continued provision that came through the light of the LORD’s presence. Numbers 8 also notes the cleansing needed for the priests in carrying out their purpose of offering atonement for sin. Numbers 9 describes the second Passover that Israel celebrated but adds information on how unclean Israelites can participate in the Passover. Numbers 9 concludes with a preview of how Israel would journey through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, by following command of the LORD.

What struck me in today’s reading was the LORD’s use of the Passover as the means of encouraging His people to press on: “The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. Glad songs of salvation are in the tents of the righteous: “The right hand of the LORD does valiantly, the right hand of the LORD exalts, the right hand of the LORD does valiantly!” (Psalm 118:14-16). Israel is about to depart from Mt. Sinai. They have resided at the base of Mt Sinai for almost two years. In Numbers 10, they will begin making their way through the wilderness: “And the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, “Let the people of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time” (Numbers 9:1-2). The celebration of the Passover, which was the rehearsal of the LORD’s saving act of Israel from Egyptian captivity, was meant to provide Israel with the perspective they needed to move forward. The Passover celebration was a look back: "And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the LORD'S Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” And the people bowed their heads and worshiped.” (Exodus 12:26-27). But the celebration remembering the past was very much about the future. Israel was to reflect on the Passover as a means of interpreting their future prospects with the LORD’s saving work in view. Israel was to see their future in light of God’s saving work in the past.

The New Covenant’s emphasis upon the Lord’s Supper parallels the significance of the Passover. Christian’s are not required to celebrate the Passover, but the Lord’s Supper was instituted during Passover, and like the Passover, it a celebration rehearsing the past as it defines the future: “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.” (1 Corinthians 11:26). The Lord’s Supper reminds us of the sacrificial death of the Lord, which will sustain us until the Lord returns. This commemoration provides us the opportunity to renew our present lives to the Lord “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons.” (1 Corinthians 10:21). The Lord who saved us will sustain us to the end.

With the Passover celebrated, moving day was upon Israel. Reminiscent of Exodus 40:36-38, Israel would be lead by the manifestation of the LORD’s presence: “And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped. At the command of the LORD the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the LORD they camped.” (Numbers 9:17-18). Israel would just need to follow the cloud, which operated in harmony with the LORD’s command to them. While it was the visible presence of the LORD (which was connected to the Ark of the Covenant as we will seen in the next chapter), that gave Israel a measure of assurance as to when they should more forward or say put, it was the Word of God that gave the actual command for what they would need to do (seven times this section states, “at the command of the LORD,” see Numbers 9:18,20,23). Israel’s journey in the wilderness will be directed by the Word of the Lord and confirmed by the cloud. The cloud confirmed their need to obey what the LORD told them to do.

The Lord Jesus Christ leads His people, not with a cloud, but with the indwelling of His very presence: “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14). Thus, in light of this guidance, we are told: “walk by the Spirit…let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16a,25b). But the Spirit’s guiding work does not replace, but reinforces the directions stated in God’s Word. The Spirit guides through the Word, not without it, as He helps us believe what the Word says, understand what it means for us, inclines our hearts to love its truth, and strengthens us to carry it out in our daily lives.

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe