NUMBERS 19:1 – 21:35 and MARK 6:1–29
This chapter has a title that is known in many circles as the “Water of Separation”. One of the common themes seen throughout the study of Moses Tabernacle and the Levitical offerings is the thought of Separation. It is a theme that can be seen throughout the whole of Scripture, right up to the very end. “Come out of her my people” (Rev 18:4).
There are some verses I would like to highlight from chapter 19. In verse 4, Eleazar, is seen sprinkling the blood of a red heifer before the tabernacle of the congregation a total of 7 times. We also see in this chapter that Eleazar had to do this offering “without the camp”. Once this offering was done, Eleazar had to wash his clothes while he bathed in water. He was also “unclean” till the evening. This was something that Aaron, as the functioning high priest could not do. He was the one who would go into the holy of holies to make an offering on behalf of the people. What is this all about?
I believe we are being shown the work of justification and sanctification in this account. Let us use Romans chapter 4 and 5 to help illustrate this point. Paul shows us that the work which was accomplished by the last Adam (Christ) is the work of justification. It is a gift that comes by faith. It cannot be earned. Jesus took upon Himself the sin of all mankind. As we believe and accept this gift we become justified. Still, we have a sin nature that must be dealt with. As we look at Romans chapters 6-8 we see a deeper work that God looks to establish in our lives. Here we see the message of the Cross, the Law, Sin, Grace and Choice. It is here where the sin nature can be dealt with as the work of the Cross is applied and appropriated. It is a choice that each believer has to make. This is the work of sanctification. We learn to die daily to the flesh and its desires.
Eleazar, by going outside the camp is demonstrating the message of sanctification; he is showing that there is a way whereby one can be clean and made whole. He sprinkled the blood of the red heifer 7 times. Remember, the people already experienced the Passover Lamb so this is more than just a “salvation” experience. Eleazar is meeting the people where they were at and is actually showing us the opportunity where we can become “true priests” of the most High God. In Lev 16:19, we see Aaron, as the High priest going into the holiest of all to make atonement for the people. This was done on the Feast of Atonement. Can you notice that he too sprinkled the blood around the Mercy Seat 7 times? This message is more for the New Testament church due to the fact that only Levites could enter in the Holy Place and beyond. It is a message for the church of our day. Also remember that it was the Sin offering (Lev 4) that addressed the sin nature of man.
There must be a clear understanding that there are different groups or level of believer’s in eternity. We are called to reign with him as kings but this will never be realized until we have an understanding and appropriation of the priesthood. In the Millennium, the ones who reign with Christ are the priests of God.
“Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years” (Rev 20:6).
A primary key in living a righteous life and being a candidate for holiness is one’s ability to separate. The world’s allurement has made great inroads into the church. This was the downfall of Demas, who once served Paul faithfully for a time (2 Tim 4:10). The love for the world was like a growing plant that entangled Demas into its deceitful clutches. It continues to entangle many today. When you begin to see the Laws of God being watered down you know that danger is at the doorstep. It begins so subtly at first; oftentimes through emotional and soulish reasoning that usually has good intent. It is here where a true priest seeks God for His opinion and judgment on a matter. God always has the big picture, long term interest at heart for those who come before Him in humility with their petitions. The answer that comes from the throne of God is many times rejected because we cannot reconcile God’s viewpoint in light of today’s cultural voice. Standing for truth today is becoming increasingly difficult. One who does is mocked and maligned by very powerful spiritual voices that can be found through media avenues. These voices are increasingly gaining sway in the church resulting in pulpits compromising on God’s absolute standards.
The congregation arrangement we viewed in Exo 32 is alive and well (sadly) where churches exist on the basis of people’s wants and desires. To me, the gist of Numbers 19 is two-fold. First, the Lord re-emphasizes the point on the need for separation. There is a distinction to be made both in the level of believers and amongst the priests as well. Secondly, we see the means in how people who experience justification by faith can transition into sanctification through grace.
The appropriation and sprinkling of the blood via Eleazar in Numbers 19 outside the camp is a token and sign for us. We who are justified can become sanctified. The picture of Aaron as the high priest on the Feast of Atonement (Lev 16:17-19) where there is the sprinkling the blood 7 times around the Mercy Seat is the promise of its future fulfilment for us. A picture of where we too can gain access into the Holy Place and Holy of Holies. Christ fulfilled this when he died. He fulfilled both aspects of what we see here in Eleazar and Aaron. The message of Num 19 is for the church. It demonstrates the power of the blood of Christ which saves us and justifies us at Salvation. The blood of Christ also purifies, sanctifies and cleanses as it is appropriated by faith in our walk. It is a choice. Will we choose to walk in the light as He is in the light (1 John 1:7)? Will we open the door of our heart when he knocks (Rev 3:20)? In the end we are a product of the choices we make or do not make in life.
A period of about 37 years has elapsed as Israel is now coming into the final stages of its 2nd opportunity to possess the land of Canaan. There are not many recorded events during this period. The old generation had been dying off since no person of age 20 or older could enter the land at the time when the Lord spoke to them to go in and possess. We see that Miriam dies at Kadesh and is buried there (vs 1). This speaks to the consequences of disobeying the command to possess the land as seen earlier in Num 13. Their window of opportunity came and went. The consequence of that one day was a waiting period of about 38 years for the generation of those 20 and older to die off (With the exception of Caleb and Joshua). The verses again come to mind in Luk 19:41, 44 where Jesus wept over Jerusalem because they missed the day of His visitation. We do not want to miss those limited window of opportunities. Can you imagine being one of those who were of the older generation knowing that you are living out your years to die in not being able to enter into God’s promise? Can you imagine the eternal regret of missing that one day of opportunity? We should ponder over these questions.
The children of Israel, as has become the norm, were again complaining to God. This time it was again over the issue of having no water. Notice the bitter tone in verse 3. They went so far to say that it would have been better if they died with the others. Remember, this is a new generation that is arising up and they are now displaying the same tendencies of their fathers. Once again, Moses and Aaron had to come before the Lord to both plead for water and to intercede due to their rebellion. The Lord speaks to Moses as to what to do as seen in the following verse:
“Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink” (Num 20:8).
Moses took his rod in anger and spoke to the rebels (not the Rock) and said here is your water while striking the Rock twice with his rod. This was a significant event on many fronts. First, one could easily understand the frustration that Moses would have in putting up with this people for nearly 40 years. Secondly, it must be stated that Moses violated and disobeyed what God had told for him to do. He was to speak to the Rock for the water to flow.
There is significant typology in the Rock. Moses did not sanctify or honour God in this incident. He allowed his anger to overrule his spirit and as a result had to suffer the consequence of not going into the land of inheritance. Why would God exact such a punishment upon a man who endured so much; a man who had been faithful throughout his life? God jealously guards certain types and institutions in Scripture due to their representation and meaning of greater significance. In this case the Rock was a picture of Christ. When he died on the Cross His once for all sacrifice satisfied the requirements of the Father for man’s sins. Jesus Himself, made reference to the Rock as speaking of Himself
“…Upon this Rock, I will build my church” (Math 16:18).
The death of Jesus satisfied the thirst in man for everlasting life in much the same way the thirst of Israel was met at Meribah (Num 20). The Father did not smite Jesus in anger while He was upon the Cross; it was an act of love (John 3:16). It may be easy in identifying with Moses in seeing why he was angry but he failed in this incident. He did not honour and sanctify God. He violated a TYPE that was precious to God. He was motivated by anger when striking the Rock which still resulted in the water flowing forth. This type was a picture of Christ. We noted earlier some other types that are highly esteemed in scripture. Moses almost lost his life while in Midian over the matter of CIRCUMCISION. One other type we need to appreciate is that of MARRIAGE. It is an institution that God is also very jealous about yet we have seen how it has been violated and now even perverted in the most objectionable of ways.
Why is this type (marriage) so highly esteemed by God? It was meant to be a beautiful portrayal of the love relationship that Christ as the bridegroom has for his church (the bride). It was something that God instituted from the beginning as seen in Genesis 2. He also gave very clear guidelines regarding the upholding of this institution. This needs to be examined a bit due to its being violated in church circles today. If God went so far as to prevent Moses from entering into the promise of the inheritance due to one moment of anger and rage over the violation of the type of the ROCK don’t you think there would be ramifications for violating the God ordained type of MARRIAGE? This section needs to be studied carefully when seeking to understand God’s viewpoint regarding the damaging consequences of Divorce and re-marriage. This represents one of the primary areas where the church will divide in the last days. It is so important that right doctrine is taught and observed; especially true as we enter the period of the last days. Moses the seasoned man of God violated a “type” and paid a great price.
In verses 14-21 we see Moses making a request on behalf of Israel to make safe passage through Edom. The root of bitterness that was at work in Esau back in the days of Jacob is now manifesting its fruit in its fullness. They refuse them passage resulting in Israel having to take a much more difficult path in heading towards Canaan. This all could have been avoided if they would have earlier hearkened to God’s Word. “Today if you hear His voice…” is a verse that should ever be before us (Psa 95:7, Heb 4:7). A hardened and indifferent heart carries with it severe consequences. The sins of Edom are not yet ripe so battling against them was not part of God’s agenda at this time. We must be able to hear what God is saying and not make automatic assumptions.
We see that Aaron is now to prepare for his death in verse 24-29. He suffered the consequence of Moses action at Meribah seeing that he too was not able to go into the inheritance. We see that he is to prepare his son Eleazar to assume responsibility as the new high priest. This is yet another indicator that the future promise of an eternal priesthood will come forth from his lineage. We also have a truth here concerning priestly succession. The garments that were upon Aaron were to be removed and placed upon Eleazar in front of the congregation (vs 28). We will later see priests like Phineas, (Num 25) Zadok, Ezra and Joshua come from this family line of Eleazar.
Interestingly, during the reign of the Judges we see the family line of Ithamar as the primary priests. The eternal priesthood was to be established at the end of King David’s life. Up till the end of his life King David was served by two primary priests; Abiathar, who was of the family line of Ithamar and Zadok who was of the family line of Eleazar. The final issue that separated and distinguished these two family lines was the matter of Adonijah, who sought to assume the throne after David’s death. Abiathar sided with Adonijah while Zadok sided with Solomon (1 Kings 1:7-8). This scenario will again play out in the last days. Adonijah is a very real type of the antichrist.
As Israel was navigating their way towards Canaan they began to encounter enemies that opposed them. We already saw how Edom was not accommodating to them. Here we have a Canaanite King who fought against Israel and took some spies. The Lord is now allowing Israel to learn to fight battles. Up until this time they had little recorded problems with any enemy but now that they are making a move toward their destination the enemy is stirred. This is a key in understanding spiritual warfare. They (the enemy) contest when their territory and ground is threatened. The Lord does not immediately bring a people into an inheritance because He wants them to learn how to fight battles.
When we are born again we are saved into the kingdom by faith. We soon discover that there are internal battles that need to be waged against the flesh. It does not happen right away but over a period of time. The physical battles that Israel will be fighting have a spiritual meaning for us. In this account the people seek the Lord by making a vow that they would utterly destroy King Arad’s cities if God would deliver them into their hand (vs 2). We see that the Lord did so and Israel followed through on their vow. They continued their journey, which was a difficult one in light of not being able to pass through the land of Edom which would have been direct and much easier. In many ways they seemed to be moving in a direction that was the opposite of their destination. This is oftentimes true in the journey of a believer. We would love to walk in a straight line. It would seem to be the quickest and most efficient way to go. The Lord allows for a circuit which may not make sense in the natural but in the long term works out to be the best route. These times of sojourning can often be testing periods where God see what is truly in our heart.
It should surprise no one that Israel again complains to both God and Moses (vs 5-6). The Lord quickly judged this act of defiance by allowing fiery serpents to torment the people resulting in many deaths. It provides a bit of a glimpse as to what will be seen in the last days. There will be tremendous judgments released into the earth which will affect believers and non-believers alike. Israel is about to enter a significant transitional period and God, in my view, is serving a reminder to not step out of line with His divine purpose and plan. The judgement was harsh, swift and of great consequence.
God was on the move and though the route was a difficult and challenging one it yet was God’s plan. The judgements of God are of a seeming higher nature when He is moving. We have seen this on a number of occasions already. The people immediately acknowledged their sin due to the severity of the judgement (vs 7). What was the remedy for this transgression? It was the Cross as seen in the fiery serpent that they were to place on a pole for viewing. When a person was bitten by one of these serpents he would have to look at the serpent on the pole and be healed. In portions of the wilderness wanderings we have seen the Cross on a number of occasions. The tree that was thrown into the waters at Marah (Exo 15:23) was a picture of the work of the Cross. The Rock that Moses was told to speak onto was a picture of Christ. The fact that Moses smote the Rock twice was saying that Christ could die twice on the Cross which of course was not true. The Cross will be seen in many other places as we make our way through the Old Testament. Its message must never be minimized.
Israel continued their travels toward Canaan. They were now coming close to the borders of the Amorites. Israel comes to a place named Beer and was told by the Lord that they would be given water. (vs 16) The water did not automatically appear but it had to be dug and supplied by wells. Interestingly, they sang around the ground where the wells were to be dug. What a beautiful illustration this presents to us. We each have a well within us and one of the keys in being able to unlock it is to sing and praise the Lord.
Pro 17:22 A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones.
How important it is to have a cheerful and joy filled heart. It allows for our inner being to be free from bitterness, strife and unforgiveness. We do see that there was instruction on where to dig by the nobles and lawgivers. (vs 18) David understood the secret of embracing the Law and statutes of God.
Psa 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
Psa 19:8 The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
Remember, it was Ezra, the lawgiver, who spoke on the Law in Neh 8. The Law brought repentance and conviction but it also led to the verse about joy that everyone knows.
Neh 8:8 So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
Neh 8:9 And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.
Neh 8:10 Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength.
In verses 21-35 we see Israel coming upon the land of the Ammonites and Amorites. In both instances the Lord delivers them into their hands with great victories. The Ammonites refused them passage and in this case God allows them to fight and prevail over them. Israel is now garnering a reputation as fighters and their reputation is gathering steam. The Lord led them in a peculiar path, but it was a path where they began to learn how to fight, a path where they could see the hand of the Lord provide water and other provisions all the while gaining a reputation that others were beginning to take note of. A modern day believer has similar experiences. His or her journey may not make sense in the natural however if God is allowed to lead many precious treasures can be realized, many of which would have eternal significance. It is so important to allow the Lord to lead, guide and direct our path. What may look right to us could in fact frustrate the plan and purpose of God. In these last days we must have a sensitive ear. We must not allow our soul and emotions to govern our judgment. The Spirit man must be strong. We will see why this is important in the dramatic chapters to come.
Jesus comes forth from Capernaum into Nazareth. We saw earlier in Math 13:58 that Jesus was limited in His ability to do any mighty works due to their unbelief. This does not suggest that Jesus was unable to do miracles but He limited Himself in conjunction to their level of faith, or lack thereof. Remember, without faith, it is impossible to please God (Heb 11:6). Faith is the currency of the kingdom. It is obtained by the reading, studying and meditation of His Word. It then needs to be applied. In Nazareth, there was an atmosphere of unbelief which prohibited God’s ability to work. Faith is a fruit of the Spirit; it is what God hungers for.
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?
We will look at this truth in more detail when we look at Mark 11.
In verses 7-13 the Lord empowers the 12 to be sent forth, two by two, to go forth and demonstrate the kingdom. They were given authority over devils and were able to anoint many for healing. I would like to zero in on another commandment that the Lord gave in verses 8-9. They were told to take nothing for their journey except a staff, sandals and two coats. It is a bit reminiscent of what the journey was like at the time of the Passover.
Exo 12:11 And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD’S Passover.
At the time of the Passover they were under the covering (coat) of the Passover Lamb. As they embarked on their journey there was the total dependence upon God for the meeting of their needs. There was no pre-conditions established; they had to fully trust God. This is very true today. Oftentimes, we need several conditions to be met before we commit to serving God. We have seen this on so many occasions in our own Mission experience. People who have had the call of God upon their lives laying down a series of conditions (oftentimes concerning children) before they commit to going forth.
My wife and I have personally been close to two such examples. One ended tragically and the other is currently playing out where the family is outside the will of God for their lives. These are cases where people of very high quality were presented with callings that were initially responded to. One of these examples involved a family who paid a significant price in preparing for the sending forth to a nation. A professional practice had been sold, the house and many of its goods being sold as the family moved to a Bible School for further preparation. In the end the issue as to how the children would be raised in a foreign field became a stumbling block. In short, they were saying that God could not be trusted in looking after these needs. The family presented several conditions before ultimately committing to the field. They forfeited their opportunity. In this example and the other referred to above there were other opportunities that were given to them but again the pre-conditions were too high. I share these examples with a heavy heart because these were families that were very close to my wife and I. In the sending forth, Jesus wanted His disciples to always trust in the Lord for their provisions. It was the standard seen at the time of the Passover in Exodus and it still applies for our day. God can be trusted!
In verse 14-20 we see that King Herod is made aware of the growing fame of Jesus. He is convicted over the incident of Herodias where he assented to the beheading of John the Baptist. It is another one of those examples where we see the enemy working his wiles through manipulation and treachery. Herod was an evil man but did not personally despise John the Baptist, even after he spoke against his marriage to Herodias, who was the wife of his brother Philip. Herodias however was indignant and sought to kill John for this. She used her daughter to solicit from the king the granting of the wish to behead John. The fact that Herod could be seduced in this manner speaks volumes concerning his heart.
Contrast Herod with that of Darius from Daniel chapter 6. He had great respect for Daniel and succumbed to the enactment of a law that forced him to place Daniel in the lion’s den. His situation cannot be compared to that of Herod because his heart was very different. I am becoming increasingly mindful that in these last days we will be accountable for what is within our heart. Herod seemed to actually like John but felt forced to follow through in beheading him due to an evil heart. The last thing Herod anticipated on his birthday was to consent to the death of John. He did so because he had an evil heart that could be manipulated and used by the enemy. The admonition of guarding (keeping) our heart with all diligence rings louder by the day (Pro 4:23). Beware of the Absalom’s who will work to steal the hearts of the people (2 Sam 15:6). This will be the method employed by the soon coming antichrist. We again need to ask a question asked earlier. Which of the two streams will characterize us in these last days?