NUMBERS 1:1 – 3:51 and MARK 2:1–28
The Tabernacle has been completed and the order of offerings and priestly duties put in place as we now proceed into the Book of Numbers. As the title suggests, there is an immediate numbering of the males from 20 years and upward, excluding the males from the tribe of Levi. The total amounted to 603,550 males who could go to war (Num 1:45-46). The Lord gave clear instruction that the Levites were not to be counted as they would have a different service with regard to the sanctuary. This is the priestly line and they are distinguished from the other tribes going back to Exo 32:26. (“Who is on the Lord’s side) This was a determining factor as to what constitutes a priest. This declaration was made within the church of Moses’ day. It is a question that will be put to the church in these last days.
After the census was taken there was the positioning of the camps (by tribes) around the Tabernacle. This is covered in chapter 2. The Levites were not part of this numbering and assembling. The whole of chapter 3 is devoted to the Levites. The charge of the sanctuary was given to them and there was the warning to anyone who was a stranger or not a priest in drawing near to the Holy Things (3:10). In verses 14-39 we have a listing of the sons of Levi and their families. The Lord gives specifics regarding their positioning and their respective responsibility in the Tabernacle service. At this time we know that Aaron, as high priest has only 2 remaining sons (Eleazar and Ithamar). Nadab and Abihu perished in their offering of strange fire before the Lord (Lev 10). Eleazar is given the prominent role in the keeping of the charge of the sanctuary (3:32). This is significant because it will be through his lineage that the true priesthood will come forth. In many ways this is a prophetic placement as the work of the sanctuary commences. Here is a brief overview of what is to come regarding the two remaining priestly lines. This subject will be revisited often.
The two priestly lines (Ithamar and Eleazar) ran concurrently up until the reign of Solomon. When Solomon later comes to the throne there will be two priests who would have faithfully served David, his father (Zadok and Abiathar). David was near death and there was much discussion as to who would be the next king. Would it be Solomon or Adonijah? We see that Adonijah asserted himself and presumed the taking of the king’s office (1 Kin1:5). Among those who assisted and aligned with Adonijah were men like Joab and the priest Abiathar. We see that Abiathar sided with the wrong man. This is critical because Adonijah serves as a type of the future antichrist.
We need to note that Abiathar, a priest who served David well throughout his life made a wrong alliance at a most critical time (1 Kin 1:7). We also find that another priest by the name of Zadok was not part of this conspiracy but rather chose to align himself as a priest to Solomon. It is at this point of time where the one remaining son of Aaron and his linage stands out. From the line of Zadok we will later see priests like Ezra ( Ezr 7:1-2) and Joshua the high priest. (Zech 3) Zadok is a priest who can be traced to Eleazar. Abiathar is a priest that can be traced from the lineage of Ithamar. It would be helpful to look at some of the priests that came forth from these two lineages so as to have added perspective. Phineas was the priest who executed God’s judgment during the period of Balaam’s dreadful counsel to Balak which resulted in immorality amongst God’s people (Num 25). God honored Phineas and his lineage by giving the promise of an “everlasting priesthood” (Num 25:13). He sided with God in this matter and put the sword into action in much the same way the Levites did in Exodus. (Who is on the Lord’s side?” Phineas can be traced to Eleazar. Later on during the latter period of the Judges we are introduced to a priest by the name of Eli. This priest had two sons named Hophni and Phineas. These sons were wicked and vile. This resulted in a prophetic word being given to Eli.
1Sa 2:32 And thou shalt see an enemy in my habitation, in all the wealth which God shall give Israel: and there shall not be an old man in thine house for ever.
This signified that there will come a time when the office of priest will be taken away from his lineage. It did not happen right away. This verse later found its fulfilment at the commencing of Solomon’s reign.
1Ki 2:27 So Solomon thrust out Abiathar from being priest unto the LORD; that he might fulfil the word of the LORD, which he spake concerning the house of Eli in Shiloh.
The fulfilment of this prophecy was when Abiathar was banished from the priesthood. He sided with the wrong man at a critical time. I cannot stress enough how this scene will be re-enacted in these last days. The lessons from Abiathar are most sobering. He was faithful to David during his years fleeing from Saul. He also stood by David during the time when Absalom was looking to usurp the throne. (2 Sam 15). Yet when it counted Abiathar aligned with the usurper. Abiathar can trace his lineage to Ithamar.
This is why Num 3:32 has a prophetic sense to it. Eleazar had the primary charge of the sanctuary and it will be his seed, through the sons of Zadok that will keep the charge (Eze 44:15-31).
The study of the Book of Numbers will cover a period of about 39 years. There are many lessons and truths that can be gleaned from these 36 chapters. We will see many of the testing’s that God presented to Israel. We will see examples where God makes a clear distinction even amongst His own leaders. We will see a man with a powerful prophetic ministry who will seek to undermine God’s purpose and plan. The ministry of Balaam became prominent right at the time when God was about to bring Israel into their inheritance under a new leader. This too is very instructive for today.
The Book of Numbers for Today
The first three chapters delve into the numbering of the tribes and of the Levitical order of priests. Not the most exciting chapters but this is not indicative of the overall thrust of the Book. There are so many keys of interest to learn; nuggets of Truth that can be uncovered to help give perspective and instruction in how we are to live. Here is a brief overview in what we can look forward too:
The subject of ATTITUDES will be prominent throughout. We will see how the Lord qualified Israel through day to day testing’s. They failed big tests, like the going in to possess to the land due to failing day to day opportunities (little tests) for grace. This will help us to live each day as an opportunity to grow in grace so that we will be ready for the bigger challenges to come.
There will be periodic challenges to authority. We will see how God views and responds to these matters. The children of Israel will further divide based on vision and their confession. Joshua and Caleb will confess what God is telling them to do but the rest of Israel will be burdened by their vision of giants. Their circumstances will govern their confession (Num 13:30-31).
There will be separation amongst God’s people in the area of Doctrine (Num 16:1-3). The standard of holiness will be rejected by many of the leaders. The strong prophetic ministry of Balaam will be examined in detail. The governing spirit over Balaam is functioning in many of today’s prophetic circles. We saw in Leviticus the strong warning against engaging in witchcraft. This was Balaam’s downfall and we will see how the prophetic ministry of our day can be vulnerable to these same tendencies.
The functioning of a faithful priest (Phineas) will be examined. He pacified the wrath of God by executing judgment upon sin in the camp that resulted from Balaam’s ministry. There is a very strong emphasis on the prophetic ministry today and rightly so however it must be balanced with a true priestly role. There was a certain exclusivity seen in Balaam’s ministry. He had genuine power and authority with God but he also was drawn to the wages of Balak’s offer. The danger of an uncircumcised heart is that it can become activated at any given time. In looking at Moses Tabernacle and its 3 divisions in conjunction with the Levitical order of priests we cannot help but conclude the needed role of the priest. The end result was that Balaam delved into witchcraft to achieve a self-serving objective. All of this took place at a critical part of Israel’s history.
Have we ever stopped to consider the privilege and responsibility we have in living in these last days? We have so much to draw from by way of Biblical History. As we go through the Book of Numbers let us seek to apply modern day parallels while allowing the Spirit of God to examine our own walk. The move of God to come is unlike any other move in history. The revivals, the glory and the presence of God seen in times past will pale in comparison to what is coming. Lord, please help us to hear, to prepare and to respond to that which you are about to speak and do.
Jesus continues his fast paced ministry as recorded by Mark. There are several accounts in this chapter to consider.
1) The man who was sick of the palsy (vs 1-12). The Lord was in Capernaum at this time and once again is found to be with a huge following. There were 4 men who brought this sick man to Jesus but they found no way to get near Him so as to draw His attention. They resorted to lowering him down from the roof. Think what this must have looked like. In the midst of His teaching a bed is lowered from the ceiling. Jesus cited their faith. I am reminded of the woman with the issue of blood. She did not allow the crowd to dissuade her from attempting to touch Jesus. That touch drew His attention in the midst of a crowd. The same is evidenced here.
Luk 18:8 I tell you that he will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless when the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?
The Lord cited these men for their faith. The Lord then makes the unusual statement that this man’s sins were forgiven. He did not yet heal the man of his palsy. Jesus cited the faith of those who brought in the man for healing but zeroed in on the sins of that man. The words that Jesus spoke stirred up some of the scribes in their hearts regarding the forgiveness of sins; charging the Lord with blasphemy. Jesus discerned their heart and addressed their reasoning by asking two questions. “Is it easier to say thy sins are forgiven or to say Arise and walk?” The physical demonstration of a healing is undeniable and Jesus demonstrates that power to validate His authority in being able to forgive sins as the Son of God. Jesus is being clear in stating His identity as the Son of God in this account.
2) The Lord calls Mathew, a tax collector to follow Him as one of His disciples (vs 14-18). We see the Lord calling out someone who does not fit the typical understanding of a minister. In addition, He is seen mingling with sinners and publicans. Mark really fleshes out the “controversial aspects” of Christ’s ministry. Can you imagine how the so called “religious” people would respond to all of this? Once again the Lord came to know their heart and followed up by making this statement.
“They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (vs 17).
This was a huge indictment the Lord was making towards this group. A mindset of thinking that one does not need a physician (in this case Jesus) is a mindset that will not allow the Lord to work in one’s life. We are all sinners, in need of the great physician. If we do not see our need then we will not experience the healing of forgiveness for the sin in our own life. In these last days we should not be surprised whom God may use for His kingdom work. Though we need to be careful in making sure we do not live like the world we still have to be able to be salt where we learn to engage the world for the Kingdom work. There are some in the church who go overboard by immersing themselves into the world without proper foundations being established in their lives. We must never forget that Jesus was hidden and prepared for a number of years in preparation for His ministry work (Isa 49:2). We cannot be premature in our being thrust forth into ministry work. There must be a season of being prepared so that foundations can be established within us.
3) Becoming New Wineskins. (vs 18-22) We addressed this account when we surveyed Math 9. What is important to note here is that the disciples of John are now being linked with the Pharisees as opposed to the Disciples of the Lord (vs 18). This is the danger in not being able to be poured out from vessel to vessel (Jer 48:11-12). There has to be an ability to flow with what the Lord is doing at any given time. The Galilean demeanour or mindset allowed for this adaptability. If we do not change our “scent and old nature will not be poured out but remain. It appears that many of the disciples of John did not make this transition. The result was that they began to align with the Pharisees who increasingly grew in opposition to Christ and His mission. God is doing a New Thing and it is important that we are able to “let go” of the former things (Isa 43:18-19). This does not mean we forget the former things but rather that we not hold onto an experience at the expense of what God is doing today.
4) The Lord again addresses the subject of the Sabbath (vs 23-28). When we go into chapter 3 we will see this theme continue. The Lord is really shaking the mindset of the people, particularly the religious scribes and Pharisees. Mark has an ability to bring their hypocrisy to light. Mark helps us to see Jesus in action, not just in the demonstrations of the power of God but in how He challenged mindsets, in presenting Himself as the Son of God. Each of the Gospel writers has their unique way of conveying their respective accounts. It helps us to appreciate our own uniqueness. May God allow His message to flow freely through each of us in a way that brings glory to Him.