Stand Up and Be Counted

The Wilderness Wanderings of the Book of Numbers

To the Promised Land: Called and Confirmed Leaders Numbers 16-20

As we study through the book of Numbers it seems as though we move from one crisis to another. In this section we will encounter a crisis in leadership. The question at the root of this problem is found in Numbers 16:3 where it states:

·         Numbers 16:3 - They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”

That last phrase, “Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the LORD?” might also be expressed as, “Who put you in charge?” or “What gives you the right to be leader over us?” These questions express one basic question which is what is the basis of the authority of God’s leaders? This question in the early stages of Israel’s journey through the wilderness is just as important for the church.

This question is important since churches need leaders. A church without a leader is like a ship without a rudder, a car without a steering wheel, or a missile without a guidance system. Jesus Christ is the supreme and preeminent Head of the Church (Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18). All God ordained leaders therefore, submit to the Headship of Jesus and should lead as Jesus leads (John 13:1-20; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).

But there is something about the position of leadership that makes it difficult to lead as Jesus led. Because leadership Jesus’ way requires serving before people, some who have a fleshly craving to be recognized seek to attain the position.

The Bible tells us that the Spirit is “distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11). The apostle Paul verified that there are distinctive calls to specific gifted roles in the Body when he was inspired to write:

·         1 Corinthians 12:29-30 - Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

·         Ephesians 4:11-12 - 11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,

This tells us that it is the Holy Spirit which determines who will serve and how they will serve. It also tells us that not everyone is called to a position of leadership. There are genuinely God-called Leaders and there are Self-called Leaders. In this section these two kinds of leaders will be contrasted.

Self-called versus God-called Leadership

In this section we will contrast the God-called with the Self-called leader.

Numbers 16:1-2 - Now Korah the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, and On the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men; 2 and they rose up before Moses with some of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty leaders of the congregation, representatives of the congregation, men of renown.

First, the self-called leader exalts self (16:1-2). Korah confronted Moses proudly in a display of carnal power. He didn’t bother to go and address his concern with Moses privately and with respect for Moses’ authority. Instead, Korah led and uprising.

Numbers 16:3 - 3 They gathered together against Moses and Aaron, and said to them, “You take too much upon yourselves, for all the congregation is holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them. Why then do you exalt yourselves above the assembly of the Lord?”

Second, the self-called leader is self-reliant (16:3a). It states, “They gathered together.” They acted in their own strength and fleshly power. Previous chapters of Numbers have conveyed the inevitable outcome of such self-reliant rebellion.

Third, the self-called leader is divisive (16:3b). It states they acted, “against Moses and Aaron.” Actions done in the flesh always lead to division (1 Cor. 3:3; James 4:1-7).

Fourth, the self-called leader promotes themselves (16:3c). It states, “All the congregation is holy.” Korah didn’t say this to lift up the congregation but to bring Moses down to his level. By saying “all” the congregation was holy they were attempting to remove the position God had given to Moses.

They also were giving the impression that they were on the side of the people when they were really out for themselves. The self-called leader disregards God’s word or manipulates the interpretation of it in order to promote their desires and themselves. The apostle Paul spoke against such behavior (Gal. 1:10; 6:11-13; 2 Thess. 3:1-7).

4 So when Moses heard it, he fell on his face;

First, the God-called leader is humble (16:4). Moses responds by falling on his face before the Lord in prayer. This is an act of humility and dependence on God. It wasn’t the first or the last time Moses would act in such a humble way (14:5; 16:4, 22, 45; 20:6).

A God-called leader will always respond to problems in faith, entrusting God with the situation. This is because God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. Peter was inspired to write:

·         1 Peter 5:5-6 - 5 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for  “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time,

It is only by humbling ourselves before God with our problems that He will exalt us in due time. God-called leaders do not take things into their own hands; they don’t act in their flesh.

5 and he spoke to Korah and all his company, saying, “Tomorrow morning the Lord will show who is His and who is holy, and will cause him to come near to Him. That one whom He chooses He will cause to come near to Him. 6 Do this: Take censers, Korah and all your company; 7 put fire in them and put incense in them before the Lord tomorrow, and it shall be that the man whom the Lord chooses is the holy one. You take too much upon yourselves, you sons of Levi!”

Second, God-called leaders depend on God (16:5-7). It states, “the LORD will show.” Moses did not stoop to Korah’s level of the flesh. He was willing to trust in God to sort things out.

8 Then Moses said to Korah, “Hear now, you sons of Levi: 9 Is it a small thing to you that the God of Israel has separated you from the congregation of Israel, to bring you near to Himself, to do the work of the tabernacle of the Lord, and to stand before the congregation to serve them; 10 and that He has brought you near to Himself, you and all your brethren, the sons of Levi, with you? And are you seeking the priesthood also?

Fifth, the Self-called leaders are guided by dissatisfaction (16:8-10). It says they said, “is it a small thing to you.” A self-called leader calls himself because he feels he is bigger and better than the “small thing” God has assigned them to do. They feel too good for the job God has them in.

This disregards God’s order of sanctification for use. Jesus said a person needed to be proven faithful in “a small thing” before a larger thing would be entrusted to them (Mat. 25:20-23). We need to honor and respect God’s sovereign call and decisions (Rom. 12:3). We need to persevere and trust God (Gal. 6:9).

11 Therefore you and all your company are gathered together against the Lord. And what is Aaron that you complain against him?” 12 And Moses sent to call Dathan and Abiram the sons of Eliab, but they said, “We will not come up!

Sixth, the Self-called leaders oppose God’s will (16:11-12, 14). Moses assessed Korah and his group’s actions as “against the LORD.” Korah’s response to God ordained instruction was “we will not come up!” They were rebelling against God, His will, and His leader.

13 Is it a small thing that you have brought us up out of a land flowing with milk and honey, to kill us in the wilderness, that you should keep acting like a prince over us? 14 Moreover you have not brought us into a land flowing with milk and honey, nor given us inheritance of fields and vineyards. Will you put out the eyes of these men? We will not come up!”

Seventh, the Self-called leader is perverted by impatience (16:13-14). They reversed the truth. They saw Egypt as the land flowing with milk and honey instead of the Promised Land. They were drunk with self and this warped their perspective.

15 Then Moses was very angry, and said to the Lord, “Do not respect their offering. I have not taken one donkey from them, nor have I hurt one of them.” 16 And Moses said to Korah, “Tomorrow, you and all your company be present before the Lord—you and they, as well as Aaron. 17 Let each take his censer and put incense in it, and each of you bring his censer before the Lord, two hundred and fifty censers; both you and Aaron, each with his censer.” 18 So every man took his censer, put fire in it, laid incense on it, and stood at the door of the tabernacle of meeting with Moses and Aaron. 19 And Korah gathered all the congregation against them at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. Then the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.

Third, God-called leaders have the courage to confront those in opposition (16:8-19). Moses was no Millard Milk-toast. He confronted and dealt with the opposition to his leadership. God-called leaders have the grace and power to do the hard tasks involved in leadership.

20 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying, 21 “Separate yourselves from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” 22 Then they fell on their faces, and said, “O God, the God of the spirits of all flesh, shall one man sin, and You be angry with all the congregation?”

23 So the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “Speak to the congregation, saying, ‘Get away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.’ ”

25 Then Moses rose and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 And he spoke to the congregation, saying, “Depart now from the tents of these wicked men! Touch nothing of theirs, lest you be consumed in all their sins.” 27 So they got away from around the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram; and Dathan and Abiram came out and stood at the door of their tents, with their wives, their sons, and their little children.

28 And Moses said: “By this you shall know that the Lord has sent me to do all these works, for I have not done them of my own will. 29 If these men die naturally like all men, or if they are visited by the common fate of all men, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord creates a new thing, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them up with all that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the pit, then you will understand that these men have rejected the Lord.”

31 Now it came to pass, as he finished speaking all these words, that the ground split apart under them, 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the men with Korah, with all their goods. 33 So they and all those with them went down alive into the pit; the earth closed over them, and they perished from among the assembly. 34 Then all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up also!35 And a fire came out from the Lord and consumed the two hundred and fifty men who were offering incense.

Fourth, God-called leaders are true to God’s word (16:28-35). What Moses said God would do, God did. This is the test of a true prophet (Deut. 18:20-22).

36 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 37 “Tell Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, to pick up the censers out of the blaze, for they are holy, and scatter the fire some distance away. 38 The censers of these men who sinned against their own souls, let them be made into hammered plates as a covering for the altar. Because they presented them before the Lord, therefore they are holy; and they shall be a sign to the children of Israel.” 39 So Eleazar the priest took the bronze censers, which those who were burned up had presented, and they were hammered out as a covering on the altar, 40 to be a memorial to the children of Israel that no outsider, who is not a descendant of Aaron, should come near to offer incense before the Lord, that he might not become like Korah and his companions, just as the Lord had said to him through Moses.

Eighth, Self-called leaders will be judged by God (16:15-40). God’s wrath is on self-called leaders.

An interesting observation can be made from the censers that had been used by Korah and his fellow rebels. This is the only place where censers where spoken of as being “bronze.” Later we are told that the censers are made of “gold” (1 Kings 7:50; 2 Chron. 4:22; Heb. 9:4). Why is this significant? Well, if the censers were to be made of gold and the ones used by Korah were made of bronze the question arises why weren’t Korah’s and his fellow rebels’ censers made of gold? It may be that they didn’t have any gold to make the censers. Why didn’t they have any gold? Didn’t the people come out of Egypt with a great deal of gold? Yes they did. They had gold to make donations for the Tabernacle and its instruments (Exodus 25). But what gold they had left was given to Aaron to make the golden calf! (Exodus 32). If Korah and these rebels didn’t have gold to make their censers, perhaps it is evidence that they had been a part of the idolatrous rebellion of making the golden calf god. This would reveal a pattern of rebellion. Those who rebel usually have a spirit of rebellion or a history of being a rebel.

We may not be leaders or even want to be leaders in the church. But we can still have a spirit of rebellion; a Korah spirit. Maybe you have a problem submitting to authority. Watch out for that. And watch out that this does not become a pattern in your life. It can lead to destruction.

41 On the next day all the congregation of the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, saying, “You have killed the people of the Lord.” 42 Now it happened, when the congregation had gathered against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tabernacle of meeting; and suddenly the cloud covered it, and the glory of the Lord appeared. 43 Then Moses and Aaron came before the tabernacle of meeting. 44 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 45 “Get away from among this congregation, that I may consume them in a moment.” And they fell on their faces. 46 So Moses said to Aaron, “Take a censer and put fire in it from the altar, put incense on it, and take it quickly to the congregation and make atonement for them; for wrath has gone out from the Lord. The plague has begun.” 47 Then Aaron took it as Moses commanded, and ran into the midst of the assembly; and already the plague had begun among the people. So he put in the incense and made atonement for the people. 48 And he stood between the dead and the living; so the plague was stopped. 49 Now those who died in the plague were fourteen thousand seven hundred, besides those who died in the Korah incident. 50 So Aaron returned to Moses at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, for the plague had stopped.

Fifth, God-called leaders are prayerful intercessors (16:22, 41-50). In verse 48 is states Aaron stood before the dead and the living so that the plague stopped. That is a type of intercession (e.g. “incense” is symbolic of prayer – Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4). God-called leaders have the welfare of the people (not themselves) at heart.

To review:

Korah - The Self-Called Leader:

1.      Exalts self – 16:1-2

2.      Is self-reliant – 16:3a

3.      Is divisive – 16:3b

4.      Is self-promoting – 16:3c

5.      Is dissatisfied with “small things” – 16:9-10

6.      Opposes the will of God – 16:11, 14

7.      Has a perspective perverted by impatience – 16:13-14

8.      Will be judged by God – 16:15-40

Moses and Aaron – The God-Called Leaders:

1.      Are humble – 16:4, 22, 45; 20:6; 14:5

2.      Depend on God – 16:5

3.      Have courage to confront – 16:8-19

4.      Are prayerful intercessors – 16:22, 41-50

5.      Are true God’s word / proven prophets – 16:28-35

The Confirming Evidences of God’s Calling

Chapters 17-20 depict the evidences that confirm the God-called leader as well as what does not confirm God’s call on a leader. Let’s look at these confirming factors.

The first evidence of God-called leadership was seen toward the end of the previous chapter. In Numbers 16:28-35 the God-called leader is seen as one who is in line with God and His word. When he speaks on God’s behalf God his leadership is confirmed by God’s word coming true (e.g. Deut. 18:20-22). The God-called leader is a man of the word of God.

Numbers 17:1-5 - And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and get from them a rod from each father’s house, all their leaders according to their fathers’ houses—twelve rods. Write each man’s name on his rod. 3 And you shall write Aaron’s name on the rod of Levi. For there shall be one rod for the head of each father’s house. 4 Then you shall place them in the tabernacle of meeting before the Testimony, where I meet with you. 5 And it shall be that the rod of the man whom I choose will blossom; thus I will rid Myself of the complaints of the children of Israel, which they make against you.”

The call of God is confirmed by being chosen by God (17:1-5). God separates the one called by God from the crowd. A leader of God is chosen by God. They are not self-called or self-appointed. They are not motivated by selfishness or the flesh and its desires. The Bible states:

·         Hebrews 5:4 - 4 And no man takes this honor to himself, but he who is called by God, just as Aaron was.

Adonijah is an example of a self-called leader. God thwarted his efforts and installed Solomon (1 Kings 1).

6 So Moses spoke to the children of Israel, and each of their leaders gave him a rod apiece, for each leader according to their fathers’ houses, twelve rods; and the rod of Aaron was among their rods. 7 And Moses placed the rods before the Lord in the tabernacle of witness. 8 Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses went into the tabernacle of witness, and behold, the rod of Aaron, of the house of Levi, had sprouted and put forth buds, had produced blossoms and yielded ripe almonds. 9 Then Moses brought out all the rods from before the Lord to all the children of Israel; and they looked, and each man took his rod. 10 And the Lord said to Moses, “Bring Aaron’s rod back before the Testimony, to be kept as a sign against the rebels, that you may put their complaints away from Me, lest they die.” 11 Thus did Moses; just as the Lord had commanded him, so he did. 12 So the children of Israel spoke to Moses, saying, “Surely we die, we perish, we all perish! 13 Whoever even comes near the tabernacle of the Lord must die. Shall we all utterly die?”

The call of God is confirmed by fruitfulness (17:6-12). The budding of Aaron’s rod symbolizes God’s anointing of His chosen leader with fruitfulness. The God-called leader is anointed to abide in God and produce spiritual fruit (John 15; Gal. 5).

The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed. The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed. The greatest commentary on the Old Testament is the New Testament. And so we turn to the New Testament for some additional insight into leadership.

John the Baptist was called by God to prepare the way for Jesus. When it came time for his ministry to be completed he humbly stepped aside so that Jesus would increase and he would decrease. John knew that a man could not receive anything, any position or purposeful calling “unless it has been given him from heaven or from the Lord Jon 3:27). His spirit of humility and desire to prepare the way for people to receive Jesus is the spirit every leader should have (John 3:22-36).

Later in the Gospel of John, the night of Jesus betrayal, the night before He was to go to the cross, He gave the disciples His most detailed teaching on the Holy Spirit. In John 14-16 Jesus elaborates that once He departed He would pray to the Father that “another Helper,” the Holy Spirit would come. It is significant that the term “another” here means another of the same kind (John 14:16). Jesus was speaking of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is a Person as evidenced by Jesus’ use of personal pronouns throughout His references to the Holy Spirit.

In John 15 Jesus likens Himself to “the true vine.” His basic point is that the disciple can only be fruitful when they abide or are attached to Jesus. The one attached or abiding in Jesus will bear lasting fruit. This fruit is closely associated with His love (John 15:1-14). Such fruit producing love comes from the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22-24). This is the love that never fails (1 Cor. 13:8a). This love is powerful and is the prime ingredient in the power of the Spirit received in the Baptism with the Holy Spirit seen in Acts.

There is a connection between Jesus as the True Vine and Aaron’s budding rod. Only when we abide in the True Vine will our rod bud. And this rod tells us something more. The rod, made of wood, is a type of the cross. Jesus said those who desired to follow Him must deny themselves, take up his cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23). The leader, or anyone who desires to be used by the Lord, needs to die to self. Jesus demonstrated servant leadership (John 13). John the Baptist exemplifies this in his willingness to “decrease” or to shrink into obscurity (John 3:30). Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ live in me; and the life which I not live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). The one who seeks to be God’s leader or to be used by Him in any way must begin at the cross. First they must trust in the cross work of Christ for salvation and then to be used by Him they must surrender to His Lordship; they must crucify their flesh, their self to the Lord. If you are going to serve the Lord you MUST surrender to Him. That means you are willing to serve where, when and how He desires for you to serve. He always directs us to serve within the parameters of His word. We serve and lead on His terms not our own. That means, if He so desires, we are willing to serve in what we may consider menial things. It means we are willing to serve in obscurity. It means we won’t get between those we serve and their sight of Jesus. We won’t proudly steal attention or try to steal attention that is due God. We won’t be glory hounds but step aside for God to get ALL the glory for the work He does in and through us. Only then will the leader and servant of the Lord bear lasting fruit.

One last thing, the value of abiding in the Vine Jesus as a leader is essential for staying power. The leader will inevitably run into difficulties that will try their soul. In such times the leader needs to abide and rely on the Vine like a branch. Hudson Taylor expressed this ably when he wrote:

The branch of the vine does not worry, and toil, and rush here to seek for sunshine, and there to find rain. No; it rests in union and communion with the vine; and at the right time, and in the right way, is the right fruit found on it. Let us so abide in the Lord Jesus.[1]

 

If we want to persevere and survive as leaders and servants of the Lord, we need to lean on or abide in the Vine Jesus. He is our source of strength and nourishment.

A leader must be God-called. The God-called leader’s fruitfulness is a “sign” (17:10) that God has called him and that God is at work in and through him. Where God guides, God gifts.

Numbers 18

18     Then the Lord said to Aaron: “You and your sons and your father’s house with you shall bear the iniquity related to the sanctuary, and you and your sons with you shall bear the iniquity associated with your priesthood. 2 Also bring with you your brethren of the tribe of Levi, the tribe of your father, that they may be joined with you and serve you while you and your sons are with you before the tabernacle of witness. 3 They shall attend to your needs and all the needs of the tabernacle; but they shall not come near the articles of the sanctuary and the altar, lest they die—they and you also. 4 They shall be joined with you and attend to the needs of the tabernacle of meeting, for all the work of the tabernacle; but an outsider shall not come near you. 5 And you shall attend to the duties of the sanctuary and the duties of the altar, that there may be no more wrath on the children of Israel. 6 Behold, I Myself have taken your brethren the Levites from among the children of Israel; they are a gift to you, given by the Lord, to do the work of the tabernacle of meeting. 7 Therefore you and your sons with you shall attend to your priesthood for everything at the altar and behind the veil; and you shall serve. I give your priesthood to you as a gift for service, but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”

The call of God is confirmed by God’s particular calling to service. This entails the following:

1.      Responsibility - Bearing the iniquity related to the sanctuary and priesthood (18:1-7) – Aaron had just been confirmed by the budding of his rod (17:8). Aaron may have been tempted to be smug toward those not chosen. But God here instructs that he, as a minister of the sanctuary, along with his sons who help him, are responsible for what happens in connection with the sanctuary. Here is a very important aspect of the ministry. In the NT James says that people shouldn’t casually aspire to be teachers for teachers will be held to a higher or stricter judgment by God (James 3:1-2). Even though Korah and his crew had rebelled against Moses and Aaron, Moses and Aaron bore some of the blame. We can almost always look back and find something we could have done differently to avoid problems.

 

We can apply this more broadly with those who we have problems with. If we correct someone, it should be with humility understanding that we could stumble too (Gal. 6:1). We should never rejoice in the failings of others (Prov. 24:17-18). Instead we should look to see what we might have done differently to have avoided the problem, e.g. prayed more; spoke differently; counseled or instructed differently; etc.

 

2.      Grace - You are also responsible for those the Lord gives you to help you; to disciple them and oversee them.  You need to understand they are a gift to you from the Lord (18:6-7). Ministry is not a reward it is a gift of God’s grace.

 

3.      No outsiders (18:4) – Not just anyone can serve the Lord. And you can’t just serve where you want to serve. You must be called by God to serve and serve where He calls you to serve.

 

8 And the Lord spoke to Aaron: “Here, I Myself have also given you charge of My heave offerings, all the holy gifts of the children of Israel; I have given them as a portion to you and your sons, as an ordinance forever. 9 This shall be yours of the most holy things reserved from the fire: every offering of theirs, every grain offering and every sin offering and every trespass offering which they render to Me, shall be most holy for you and your sons. 10 In a most holy place you shall eat it; every male shall eat it. It shall be holy to you. 11 “This also is yours: the heave offering of their gift, with all the wave offerings of the children of Israel; I have given them to you, and your sons and daughters with you, as an ordinance forever. Everyone who is clean in your house may eat it. 12 “All the best of the oil, all the best of the new wine and the grain, their firstfruits which they offer to the Lord, I have given them to you. 13 Whatever first ripe fruit is in their land, which they bring to the Lord, shall be yours. Everyone who is clean in your house may eat it. 14 “Every devoted thing in Israel shall be yours. 15 “Everything that first opens the womb of all flesh, which they bring to the Lord, whether man or beast, shall be yours; nevertheless the firstborn of man you shall surely redeem, and the firstborn of unclean animals you shall redeem. 16 And those redeemed of the devoted things you shall redeem when one month old, according to your valuation, for five shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, which is twenty gerahs. 17 But the firstborn of a cow, the firstborn of a sheep, or the firstborn of a goat you shall not redeem; they are holy. You shall sprinkle their blood on the altar, and burn their fat as an offering made by fire for a sweet aroma to the Lord. 18 And their flesh shall be yours, just as the wave breast and the right thigh are yours. 19 “All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer to the Lord, I have given to you and your sons and daughters with you as an ordinance forever; it is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord with you and your descendants with you.”

The call of God is confirmed by the provision of God. The Levites were to be supported with the offerings of the people given to God. God supported the Levites with His offerings. Where God guides God provides.

20 Then the Lord said to Aaron: “You shall have no inheritance in their land, nor shall you have any portion among them; I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel.

The call of God is confirmed by simplicity toward the things of the world. While there are times when the one called by God needs to work for financial support, they are not to be caught up in the things of this world but keep their focus on God.

21 “Behold, I have given the children of Levi all the tithes in Israel as an inheritance in return for the work which they perform, the work of the tabernacle of meeting. 22 Hereafter the children of Israel shall not come near the tabernacle of meeting, lest they bear sin and die. 23 But the Levites shall perform the work of the tabernacle of meeting, and they shall bear their iniquity; it shall be a statute forever, throughout your generations, that among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance. 24 For the tithes of the children of Israel, which they offer up as a heave offering to the Lord, I have given to the Levites as an inheritance; therefore I have said to them, ‘Among the children of Israel they shall have no inheritance.’ ” 25 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 26 “Speak thus to the Levites, and say to them: ‘When you take from the children of Israel the tithes which I have given you from them as your inheritance, then you shall offer up a heave offering of it to the Lord, a tenth of the tithe. 27 And your heave offering shall be reckoned to you as though it were the grain of the threshing floor and as the fullness of the winepress. 28 Thus you shall also offer a heave offering to the Lord from all your tithes which you receive from the children of Israel, and you shall give the Lord’s heave offering from it to Aaron the priest. 29 Of all your gifts you shall offer up every heave offering due to the Lord, from all the best of them, the consecrated part of them.’ 30 Therefore you shall say to them: ‘When you have lifted up the best of it, then the rest shall be accounted to the Levites as the produce of the threshing floor and as the produce of the winepress. 31 You may eat it in any place, you and your households, for it is your reward for your work in the tabernacle of meeting. 32 And you shall bear no sin because of it, when you have lifted up the best of it. But you shall not profane the holy gifts of the children of Israel, lest you die.’ ”

The calling of God does not exempt the God-called leader from giving to the Lord. The God-called leader gives an offering in worship to the Lord like everyone else.

Numbers 19:1-2 - Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying,

The calling of God is the granting of the privilege of speaking on God’s behalf (19:1-2). Over and over again God speaks to Moses and Moses relays the message to the people. The criteria for God’s spokesperson are:

1.      Represent God accurately through obedience to His word (16:28-35; 20:1-13, 27). Moses later failed to accurately present God to the people. Moses presented God to the people as angry. He did not speak (20:8) to the rock. He struck (20:11) the rock in frustration and anger. An angry presentation of God and His word grieves the Holy Spirit (Eph. 4:30-32).

2.      God gives instructions to those who would minister in His Names:

 

a.       Be a diligent workman of the word – 2 Tim. 2:15

b.      Be a gentle servant – 2 Tim. 2:24-26

c.       Be truthful not deceptive – 2 Tim. 3:10-15

d.      Be reliant on God’s word – 2 Tim. 3:16-17

e.       Be prepared to preach the word always – 2 Tim. 4:1-2

The Red Heifer Sacrifice

The sacrifice of the Red Heifer is a unique sacrifice: It was introduced decades after the other sacrifices; it was to be offered outside the camp instead of in the Tabernacle; and an entire chapter is devoted to this sacrifice. The sacrifice of the Red Heifer is a type of Christ.

2 “This is the ordinance of the law which the Lord has commanded, saying: ‘Speak to the children of Israel, that they bring you a red heifer without blemish, in which there is no defect and on which a yoke has never come.

Like Jesus, the Red Heifer was to be without blemish, or defect and to have never been under a yoke – 1 Peter 1:18-19;  John 10:18

3 You shall give it to Eleazar the priest, that he may take it outside the camp,

Like Christ the Red Heifer sacrifice was offered outside the camp – Heb. 13:11-15

and it shall be slaughtered before him; 4 and Eleazar the priest shall take some of its blood with his finger, and sprinkle some of its blood seven times directly in front of the tabernacle of meeting.

The Heifer was to be slaughtered before not by the priest. Why? Because while Caiaphas the High Priest ordered Jesus’ execution, it was the Romans who carried it out. 

5 Then the heifer shall be burned in his sight: its hide, its flesh, its blood, and its offal shall be burned.

The Heifer was to be burned just as Jesus was burned by the wrath of God for our sins.

 6 And the priest shall take cedar wood and hyssop and scarlet, and cast them into the midst of the fire burning the heifer.

Some commentators believe the cross was made of cedar wood. Jesus was offered hyssop to deaden the pain on the cross (John 19:29). He shed scarlet blood on the cross for you and for me.

7 Then the priest shall wash his clothes, he shall bathe in water, and afterward he shall come into the camp; the priest shall be unclean until evening. 8 And the one who burns it shall wash his clothes in water, bathe in water, and shall be unclean until evening. 9 Then a man who is clean shall gather up the ashes of the heifer, and store them outside the camp in a clean place; and they shall be kept for the congregation of the children of Israel for the water of purification; it is for purifying from sin.

The ashes of the Red Heifer were to be used for purification from sin. Jesus died to sanctify us (Heb. 13:12).

10 And the one who gathers the ashes of the heifer shall wash his clothes, and be unclean until evening. It shall be a statute forever to the children of Israel and to the stranger who dwells among them. 11 ‘He who touches the dead body of anyone shall be unclean seven days. 12 He shall purify himself with the water on the third day and on the seventh day; then he will be clean. But if he does not purify himself on the third day and on the seventh day, he will not be clean. 13 Whoever touches the body of anyone who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord. That person shall be cut off from Israel. He shall be unclean, because the water of purification was not sprinkled on him; his uncleanness is still on him.

If this sacrifice represents Jesus, then why is it a heifer and not a bull? Jon Courson explains:

The one who came into contact with a dead body was to wash on the third and seventh days with water into which the ashes from the red heifer had been sprinkled. If the red heifer pictures Jesus, why was it a red heifer rather than a red bull? I suggest it was for the same reason that Jesus was betrayed for thirty pieces of silver—the price a woman paid for dedication rather than for fifty pieces, the price for a man (Leviticus 27), and for the same reason Aceldama, the name of the field purchased with the thirty pieces of silver is in the feminine form (Acts 1:19). That is, Jesus is not only the Son of Man, the perfect Man, but He also has qualities of the woman that make Him so complete.

 

You see, Adam was at one time complete as well, but when God took a rib from his side and from it fashioned a woman, he not only lost a rib, but the tenderness, the ability to communicate, the sensitivity, the intuition which went to the woman. That’s why when man and woman come together, there is oneness, unity, dependency, and completion. Enter the second Adam, the Last Adam, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:45). He’s not only the bull of the burnt offering—the epitome of strength, but He is also the red heifer—the essence of sensitivity. When a wife realizes her husband will always be missing something, and when a husband realizes his wife has qualities he will always lack, they no longer put pressure on each other to be what they’re not, but instead log in time with the One who is altogether lovely, the One who is perfectly complete, and find their deepest needs met.[2]

 

14 ‘This is the law when a man dies in a tent: All who come into the tent and all who are in the tent shall be unclean seven days;

We might not be directly involved with the death in this world. But simply being in close proximity to it requires cleansing with the blood of Jesus.

15 and every open vessel, which has no cover fastened on it, is unclean. 16 Whoever in the open field touches one who is slain by a sword or who has died, or a bone of a man, or a grave, shall be unclean seven days. 17 ‘And for an unclean person they shall take some of the ashes of the heifer burnt for purification from sin, and running water shall be put on them in a vessel. 18 A clean person shall take hyssop and dip it in the water, sprinkle it on the tent, on all the vessels, on the persons who were there, or on the one who touched a bone, the slain, the dead, or a grave. 19 The clean person shall sprinkle the unclean on the third day and on the seventh day; and on the seventh day he shall purify himself, wash his clothes, and bathe in water; and at evening he shall be clean. 20 ‘But the man who is unclean and does not purify himself, that person shall be cut off from among the assembly, because he has defiled the sanctuary of the Lord. The water of purification has not been sprinkled on him; he is unclean. 21 It shall be a perpetual statute for them. He who sprinkles the water of purification shall wash his clothes; and he who touches the water of purification shall be unclean until evening. 22 Whatever the unclean person touches shall be unclean; and the person who touches it shall be unclean until evening.’ ”

God was privy to the medicinal dangers that death and decay can lead to. Therefore He instituted particular instructions that would assure hygiene and prevent disease from spreading.

The call of God on God-called leaders is confirmed by a heart to help God’s people be holy. The words “purify” or “purification” are mentioned repeatedly in this chapter (19:9, 12, 13, 17, 20, and 21). The Red Heifer purification was a provision to purify the people as they were on the march.

God calls ministers to be used to purify the people by:

1.      Teaching the word – John 17:17; 2 Tim. 3:14-17

2.      Praying for the people – Num. 16:4, 22, 48; 20:6; cf. also Eph. 1:15-23; 3:14-21

God Called Leaders Need to Finish Well

Numbers 20:1- Then the children of Israel, the whole congregation, came into the Wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh; and Miriam died there and was buried there.

In this chapter we come to the end of the wilderness wanderings. About 38 years of wandering are accounted for in six chapters. When you refuse to follow the leading of the Lord, not much happens. Miriam the older sister of Moses dies here and little is said of her. She rebelled against Moses her brother’s leadership (Num. 12:1 ff.). Those who rebel against God and His leaders have little lasting notoriety. That is the message emphasized in this relatively short account of the years of wandering. On the other hand, that done in the will of God has eternal weight of glory (e.g. Mat. 6:19-21; 19:21; 2 Cor. 4:17).

We all should seek to finish well the race marked out by God before us. We want to be able to say like Paul said:

·         2 Timothy 4:7-8 - 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

We need to follow the inspired exhortation of Paul:

·         1 Timothy 6:11-16 - 11 But you, O man of God, flee these things and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 I urge you in the sight of God who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus who witnessed the good confession before Pontius Pilate, 14 that you keep this commandment without spot, blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ’s appearing, 15 which He will manifest in His own time, He who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone has immortality, dwelling in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see, to whom be honor and everlasting power. Amen.

 

·         2 Timothy 2:3-10 - 3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier. 5 And also if anyone competes in athletics, he is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. 6 The hardworking farmer must be first to partake of the crops. 7 Consider what I say, and may the Lord give you understanding in all things. 8 Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, 9 for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained. 10 Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.

Unfortunately, Moses did not finish well. In the later stages of the wilderness wanderings he misrepresented God to the people and allowed his frustration to boil over into anger toward God’s people. As God’s representative he portrayed God as angry toward the people when He was not angry. Consequently God punished Moses with not allowing him to lead the people into the Promised Land.

2 Now there was no water for the congregation; so they gathered together against Moses and Aaron. 3 And the people contended with Moses and spoke, saying: “If only we had died when our brethren died before the Lord! 4 Why have you brought up the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we and our animals should die here? 5 And why have you made us come up out of Egypt, to bring us to this evil place? It is not a place of grain or figs or vines or pomegranates; nor is there any water to drink.” 6 So Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and they fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them.

God has brought His people full circle now. The first time they had come to Kadesh they did not put their faith in God but chose to be weak in their own understanding (cf. Num. 14:2-3). But the people are still in that fatal attraction with dissatisfaction spirit of earlier years. Age or time does not necessarily change us. We have to walk by faith in the Lord and His word in order to grow spiritually.

Moses and Aaron were opposed or faced with problems at nearly every step in the wilderness. Being a God-called leader involves being faced with attacks: attacks of the enemy (Luke 22:31; Eph. 6:12; 1 Pet. 5:8-9), attacks from the world (Col. 2:8; 1 John 2:15-17), and from within the church itself (e.g. 1 Cor. 3; Gal. 2). Problems and difficulties aren’t necessarily a sign that someone is not God-called. But how a leader handles those attacks can make all the difference in the world.

7 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 8 “Take the rod; you and your brother Aaron gather the congregation together. Speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will yield its water; thus you shall bring water for them out of the rock, and give drink to the congregation and their animals.” 9 So Moses took the rod from before the Lord as He commanded him. 10 And Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock; and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels! Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” 11 Then Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock twice with his rod; and water came out abundantly, and the congregation and their animals drank. 12 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe Me, to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land which I have given them.” 13 This was the water of Meribah, because the children of Israel contended with the Lord, and He was hallowed among them.

In the Psalms it states of this incident:

·         Psalm 106:32-33 - They angered Him also at the waters of strife, So that it went ill with Moses on account of them; 33 Because they rebelled against His Spirit, So that he spoke rashly with his lips.

Moses sinned by taking credit for what God had done (v. 10). Moses said, “Must we bring water for you out of this rock?” He said “we” when he should have said “He.” In striking the rock it was as though Moses was saying, “I gave you water from the rock before and now you complain again instead of trusting me for water this time?” God will not share His glory with another (Is. 42:8). He is jealous for His glory, as Herod found out the hard way in the New Testament (Acts 12:23). Our works are to give glory to God (Mat. 5:16). Moses sinned in this regard.

Moses sinned in his harsh words to the people (v. 10). Moses called the people “rebels.” They were rebellious but his words and lack of discretion exposed a lack of kindness and gentleness necessary for a leader of God (e.g. Ps. 106:33; Gal. 6:1). We will give an account of every word we speak, including the harsh ones (cf. Mat. 12:37).

Moses sinned by being resentful instead of loving toward the people (v. 10). He said “must we” indicating that he felt their request was unreasonable. A parent doesn’t treat the requests of their child with resentment. The Lord’s bondservant must be guided by love (Lev. 19:18, 34).

Moses sinned by unbelief (v. 12). He didn’t believe in God to provide as the words “did not believe Me” stated by God indicates. Moses’ actions were not in faith but in his flesh.

Moses sinned by a failure to properly represent God before the people (v. 10). He struck the rock in anger portraying God as angry with the people when He was not. The Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome or misrepresent God as such (cf. 2 Tim. 2:24-26). Man’s anger, in his flesh, does not achieve the righteousness of God (James 1:19-20). Because of Moses unbridled anger, he was barred from leading the people into the Promised Land. There are times when God-called leaders err or fall short of the mark. This may lead to God putting them on a shelf.

Why was this such a big deal to the Lord? Because Moses angry action of striking the rock defiled one of His types of His Son Jesus Christ. In 1 Cor. 10 it states that Jesus is the “rock” in the wilderness. The striking of the rock is a type or symbol of the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus atoning work involved one and only one crucifixion or striking for the sins of the world (“once for all” – Rom. 6:10; Heb.7:27; 9:12; 10:10). Moses striking the rock a second and third time defiled this typology and the once and for all completed work of Christ (e.g. John 19:20). When we allow our flesh to overwhelm us and direct our actions it leads to misrepresenting God. Our objective should be to properly represent God as His ambassadors (2 Cor. 5:14-21).

Moses sinned by disobeying God (v. 11). God said “speak” to the rock and Moses struck the rock. AS indiscriminate as that might see to us at first glance it was outright disobedience to a command of God. Jesus said that love and obedience are inextricably linked so when Moses disobeyed it became an obstacle in his relationship with God (cf. John 14:21).

Moses sinned against God by not hallowing God in the presence of the people (v. 12). God said Moses had failed “to hallow Me in the eyes of the children of Israel.” God’s leaders must be mindful of the holiness of God (e.g. Is. 6).

14 Now Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom. “Thus says your brother Israel: ‘You know all the hardship that has befallen us, 15 how our fathers went down to Egypt, and we dwelt in Egypt a long time, and the Egyptians afflicted us and our fathers. 16 When we cried out to the Lord, He heard our voice and sent the Angel and brought us up out of Egypt; now here we are in Kadesh, a city on the edge of your border. 17 Please let us pass through your country. We will not pass through fields or vineyards, nor will we drink water from wells; we will go along the King’s Highway; we will not turn aside to the right hand or to the left until we have passed through your territory.’ ” 18 Then Edom said to him, “You shall not pass through my land, lest I come out against you with the sword.” 19 So the children of Israel said to him, “We will go by the Highway, and if I or my livestock drink any of your water, then I will pay for it; let me only pass through on foot, nothing more.20 Then he said, “You shall not pass through.” So Edom came out against them with many men and with a strong hand. 21 Thus Edom refused to give Israel passage through his territory; so Israel turned away from him.

Now Moses leads the people on a march from the wilderness toward the Promised Land. When they come to the Edomites and requests permission to pass through, the Edomites refuse. This is a sin that will haunt the Edomites forever. The book of Obadiah tells how evil the Edomites were.

Just as the Edomites prevented Moses from passing through their land, the God-called leader will not always be successful at every move. But God’s leaders are to press on.

22 Now the children of Israel, the whole congregation, journeyed from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. 23 And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron in Mount Hor by the border of the land of Edom, saying: 24 “Aaron shall be gathered to his people, for he shall not enter the land which I have given to the children of Israel, because you rebelled against My word at the water of Meribah.

Moses sinned by rebelling against God (v. 24). God’s indictment of Moses was that his actions were rebellious against Him. The Lord evidently spoke to Moses in his heart about how to respond to the people but Moses, in rebellion, disregarded God’s instruction. This is a serious and sinful act. Aaron and Moses were to be disciplined by God for this rebellion.

25 Take Aaron and Eleazar his son, and bring them up to Mount Hor; 26 and strip Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; for Aaron shall be gathered to his people and die there.” 27 So Moses did just as the Lord commanded, and they went up to Mount Hor in the sight of all the congregation. 28 Moses stripped Aaron of his garments and put them on Eleazar his son; and Aaron died there on the top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain. 29 Now when all the congregation saw that Aaron was dead, all the house of Israel mourned for Aaron thirty days.

The death of Aaron marks the end of the wilderness wanderings. From this point on the people of God will march and periodically halt, but they will no longer wander in the wilderness.

The human priesthood was manned by people who died. It was limited. What a blessing it is that Jesus, our great High Priest, will never die and perpetually intercedes on our behalf (Heb. 13:8; 7:25). Jesus priesthood is perpetual an eternal.

At the onset of WWII England soon found itself the last bastion of hope against Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. At one point when Germany had overrun Europe and England stood alone Winston Churchill the Prime Minister of England summoned his countrymen to endure and press on in the fight at all costs. These were some of his words:

 

I would say to the House, as I said to those who have joined this Government: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.” We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say; It is to wage war, by sea, by land and air, with all our might and with all the strength God can give us: to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory – victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival.”

                    

The Bible says we are in a war of even more momentous proportions than the one Churchill and England faced. It is a battle against principalities and powers and rulers of this dark age, a demon hoard (Ephesians 6:12). Quitting is not an option. If we quit the demons of hell will ravish us and smear the name of the Almighty. That is unacceptable. We are called to endure and we must endure.

 

Oscar Hammerstein II once wrote:

Give me some men who are stouthearted men
Who will fight for the right they adore.
Start me with 10 who are stouthearted men
And I'll soon give you 10,000 more. [3]

If we are to reach the Promised Land of the fullness of life in the Spirit, we must be stouthearted people fully surrendered to God and filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit.

 



[1] Hudson Taylor (1832-1905, British Christian missionary to China, and founder of the China Inland Mission [CIM, now OMF International]. Taylor spent 51 years in China.).

 

[2]Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary : Volume One : Genesis-Job. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2005, S. 502

[3] The New Moon © 1927