Stand Up and Be Counted
The Wilderness Wanderings of the Book of Numbers
Preparations for the Wilderness Journey –
The first ten chapters of Numbers involve God’s preparation for His people for the journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. Before a child can walk they must progress through a series of stages of development: propping their head up; turning over; crawling; standing; stepping; falling; toddling; and finally walking. The same is true in our spiritual walk with the Lord.
God has a plan for His people (e.g. Jer. 29:11). His plan for us is that we arrive at, enter into, and live victoriously in the Promised Land; the place where we walk victoriously in the Spirit. The path to the Promised Land brings us through a wilderness. Before we start our journey through the wilderness we must be prepared by the Lord.
Numbers 1-10 includes God’s preparations for this journey through the wilderness. In these chapters we will find foundational spiritual preparatory principles that God uses to mold His people and get them ready for this journey. These are the first and foundational principles that will help us to stand and then walk. There are ten preparatory principles laid out for us here that we need to know that will get us ready for the journey God has for us. These principles are:
· Principle #1 – Know Who You Are (Numbers 1)
· Principle #2 – Know Where You Belong (Numbers 2)
· Principle #3 – Know Who You Belong To (Numbers 3)
· Principle #4 – Know How to Serve (Numbers 4)
· Principle #5 – Know How to Be Separate (Numbers 5)
· Principle #6 – Know How to Be Devoted (Numbers 6)
· Principle #7 – Know How to Give to God (Numbers 7)
· Principle #8 – Know Who Lights Your Way (Numbers 8)
· Principle #9 – Know Who Goes With You (Numbers 9)
· Principle #10 – Know to Be Ready to Go (Numbers 10)
Let’s take a look at these principles.
Principle #1 – Know Who You Are (Numbers 1)
Numbers chapter one includes the first census of the people ordered by God to be taken. This may at first glance seem pretty boring material. However, if we ask the right questions it opens some great truth for us. Those questions are:
1. Why does God order a census?
2. What does this tell us about God?
3. What does it tell us about ourselves?
Let’s answer these questions.
Numbers 1 - Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of meeting, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying: 2 “Take a census of all the congregation of the children of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, every male individually, 3 from twenty years old and above—all who are able to go to war in Israel. You and Aaron shall number them by their armies. 4 And with you there shall be a man from every tribe, each one the head of his father’s house.
Why does God order a Census?
God takes a census to convey to His people that there are wars and battles ahead of them. This was not going to be a picnic. Even when the Promised Land is entered, there are wars and battles to be fought. God wants us to realize we are in a war! He therefore makes provision for us to be prepared for battle.
In the New Testament we see this vividly portrayed in the inspired words of Paul who states:
· Ephesians 6:10-18 - 10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. 14 Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; 16 above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. 17 And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; 18 praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints—
· 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 - 3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, 6 and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.
This also tells us there is a time when God’s people need to stand up and be counted. There is a time when we need to get in the fray and put personal desires and interests aside and make God and His purposes our top priority. The first principle step in our wilderness journey is to know who we are but the second step is to know where we belong, to know where we fit in on God’s battle lines.
We need to receive and put on the equipment God provides for us to serve as His troops in this spiritual war. If we fail to do so we will be an easy mark for the enemy and fall in the journey to the Promised Land.
Jon Courson gives the following four reasons for the census ordered by the Lord:
Verification. God promised Abraham that he would one day be the father of a great nation (Genesis 12:2). This numbering would verify that God does what He promises. Even at this early point of their history, Israel was a big nation, an impressive group of people.
Identification. In referring to Himself as the Good Shepherd, Jesus said He calls His sheep by name (John 10:3). God cares about each and every individual. That is why He instructs Moses to number the people. Some people say, “I’m not into numbers with regard to church life.” While I understand that we are not to be puffed up about numbers, I also know that we are to care about individuals, and sometimes that cannot happen without a numbering of the flock. After all, it was only after the Good Shepherd numbered the ninety-nine that He knew one was missing (Matthew 18:12). In the Book of Acts, we see that 3,000 were saved (Acts 2:41), which later grew to 5,000 (Acts 4:4). Admittedly, there can be a danger, a downside. David erred greatly when he numbered the people (2 Samuel 24:10). Is this a contradiction? No. David numbered the people not out of concern for them but in order to see how strong he had become. Numbering the people out of pride is wrong. But refusing to number them out of a reverse pride is also wrong, for it shows a lack of care.
Separation. There were those traveling with the Israelites who were not children of Israel. As we will see in verse 18, those not sure of their pedigree couldn’t be used in the army. And the same thing is true for you and me. We must know our pedigree. We must know if we’re part of the family. We must know whether or not we’ve been born again. If you’re not sure of this, don’t even think about going to war, about mobilizing for ministry. Romans 8:16 tells us that God’s Spirit bears witness with our spirits that we are the sons of God. On this basis, I don’t generally try to talk people into assurance of salvation. Instead, I’ll say to them, “If you’re not sure where you stand, wait on the Lord until you have the witness from His Spirit in your spirit that you are indeed His child.”
Organization. We’ve been called to be soldiers in an army. We’re involved in a war. Thus, there must be order. Anyone serious about serving God who is not part of any local church, who is not in submission to anyone, not linked with anyone, not accountable to anyone will sooner or later be a casualty. God is not into a lone ranger mentality.
5 “These are the names of the men who shall stand with you: from Reuben, Elizur the son of Shedeur; 6 from Simeon, Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai; 7 from Judah, Nahshon the son of Amminadab; 8 from Issachar, Nethanel the son of Zuar; 9 from Zebulun, Eliab the son of Helon; 10 from the sons of Joseph: from Ephraim, Elishama the son of Ammihud; from Manasseh, Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur; 11 from Benjamin, Abidan the son of Gideoni; 12 from Dan, Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai; 13 from Asher, Pagiel the son of Ocran; 14 from Gad, Eliasaph the son of Deuel; 15 from Naphtali, Ahira the son of Enan.” 16 These were chosen from the congregation, leaders of their fathers’ tribes, heads of the divisions in Israel.
17 Then Moses and Aaron took these men who had been mentioned by name, 18 and they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month; and they recited their ancestry by families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, each one individually. 19 As the Lord commanded Moses, so he numbered them in the Wilderness of Sinai.
20 Now the children of Reuben, Israel’s oldest son, their genealogies by their families, by their fathers’ house, according to the number of names, every male individually, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war: 21 those who were numbered of the tribe of Reuben were forty-six thousand five hundred.
22 From the children of Simeon, their genealogies by their families, by their fathers’ house, of those who were numbered, according to the number of names, every male individually, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war: 23 those who were numbered of the tribe of Simeon were fifty-nine thousand three hundred.
24 From the children of Gad, their genealogies by their families, by their fathers’ house, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war: 25 those who were numbered of the tribe of Gad were forty-five thousand six hundred and fifty.
26 From the children of Judah, their genealogies by their families, by their fathers’ house, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war: 27 those who were numbered of the tribe of Judah were seventy-four thousand six hundred.
28 From the children of Issachar, their genealogies by their families, by their fathers’ house, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war: 29 those who were numbered of the tribe of Issachar were fifty-four thousand four hundred.
30 From the children of Zebulun, their genealogies by their families, by their fathers’ house, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war: 31 those who were numbered of the tribe of Zebulun were fifty-seven thousand four hundred.
32 From the sons of Joseph, the children of Ephraim, their genealogies by their families, by their fathers’ house, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war: 33 those who were numbered of the tribe of Ephraim were forty thousand five hundred.
34 From the children of Manasseh, their genealogies by their families, by their fathers’ house, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war: 35 those who were numbered of the tribe of Manasseh were thirty-two thousand two hundred.
36 From the children of Benjamin, their genealogies by their families, by their fathers’ house, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war: 37 those who were numbered of the tribe of Benjamin were thirty-five thousand four hundred.
38 From the children of Dan, their genealogies by their families, by their fathers’ house, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war: 39 those who were numbered of the tribe of Dan were sixty-two thousand seven hundred.
40 From the children of Asher, their genealogies by their families, by their fathers’ house, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war: 41 those who were numbered of the tribe of Asher were forty-one thousand five hundred.
42 From the children of Naphtali, their genealogies by their families, by their fathers’ house, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war: 43 those who were numbered of the tribe of Naphtali were fifty-three thousand four hundred.
44 These are the ones who were numbered, whom Moses and Aaron numbered, with the leaders of Israel, twelve men, each one representing his father’s house. 45 So all who were numbered of the children of Israel, by their fathers’ houses, from twenty years old and above, all who were able to go to war in Israel— 46 all who were numbered were six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty.
47 But the Levites were not numbered among them by their fathers’ tribe; 48 for the Lord had spoken to Moses, saying: 49 “Only the tribe of Levi you shall not number, nor take a census of them among the children of Israel; 50 but you shall appoint the Levites over the tabernacle of the Testimony, over all its furnishings, and over all things that belong to it; they shall carry the tabernacle and all its furnishings; they shall attend to it and camp around the tabernacle. 51 And when the tabernacle is to go forward, the Levites shall take it down; and when the tabernacle is to be set up, the Levites shall set it up. The outsider who comes near shall be put to death. 52 The children of Israel shall pitch their tents, everyone by his own camp, everyone by his own standard, according to their armies; 53 but the Levites shall camp around the tabernacle of the Testimony, that there may be no wrath on the congregation of the children of Israel; and the Levites shall keep charge of the tabernacle of the Testimony.”
54 Thus the children of Israel did; according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so they did.
What does this tell us about God?
God ordered everyone to be counted “individually” (1:2, 18, 20, and 22). This tells us God takes an individual interest in each of us. Each of us is important to God! This is beautifully conveyed in Psalms where it states:
· Psalm 33:13-15 - The Lord looks from heaven; He sees all the sons of men. 14 From the place of His dwelling He looks On all the inhabitants of the earth; 15 He fashions their hearts individually; He considers all their works.
God fits each of us into the Body of Christ individually (1 Cor. 12:11, 27). We all have a purpose. We are all important to God.
What does this tell us about ourselves?
Numbers 1:18 - 18 and they assembled all the congregation together on the first day of the second month; and they recited their ancestry by families, by their fathers’ houses, according to the number of names, from twenty years old and above, each one individually.
It states, “. . . they recited their ancestry by families . . .” God wanted them to know who they were. They were His children. When God brought His people through a land filled with pagans and idols, He wanted them to be sure of who there were; His children!
God instructed them to guard against intermarriage. This assured the messianic line would be preserved. God also made this a criteria for eligibility to be a priest (Neh. 7:63-64).
God wanted His people to know who they were so that if they were asked, “Are you an Israelite?” their response would be more than, “I hope I am,” or “I try to be . . . I work hard at it.” The same is true for us. If someone were to ask you, “Are you a Christian?” Or “Are you going to heaven when you die?” Do you know what it means to be a Christian? Do you know you’re going to heaven? Some might say, “I hope so, but I won’t know until I die.” Or, “I try to be.” Or I work hard at it.” That’s not an adequate response.
God’s word says we should know for sure who we are in terms of our being a Christian and our eternal destiny. We see this in the following verses:
· John 1:12 - 12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:
· Romans 8:15-16 - 15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.” 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
· Romans 10:9-10 - 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
· 2 Corinthians 13:5 - 5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
· 2 Peter 1:10 - 10 Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble;
· 1 John 2:3-5 - 3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
· 1 John 3:14-24 - 14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world’s goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth. 19 And by this we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him. 20 For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God. 22 And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. 23 And this is His commandment: that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment. 24 Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
· 1 John 4:8 - 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love.
· 1 John 4:13 - 13 By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.
· 1 John 5:13 - 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.
The first principle of preparation for us is to teach us to know who we are in Him.
Principle #2 – Know Where You Belong (Numbers 2)
In the second chapter of Numbers we have the arrangement of God’s people in the camp. It is estimated that by now here were between 2.5 and 3.5 million people in the camp. Orderliness was essential for them to move.
God is orderly. We see evidence of this in creation (Gen. 1-2), in His systematic disassembling of Egypt with plagues that showed the emptiness of their gods (Exodus 5-12), His detailed instructions for the Tabernacle (Exodus 25-30), and this systematic census and arrangement of His people with the Tabernacle at the center of the camp.
In the New Testament it states:
· 1 Corinthians 14:33 - For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.
· 1 Corinthians 14:40 - Let all things be done decently and in order.
God works in orderly ways. When the Spirit works He does not work through confusion and disorganized ways. This would be contrary to the Spirit’s divine nature as Third Person of the Trinity. God is orderly.
Numbers 2 - And the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: 2 “Everyone of the children of Israel shall camp by his own standard, beside the emblems of his father’s house; they shall camp some distance from the tabernacle of meeting.
God should be in the center (2:1-2). The people were arranged in proximity to the Tabernacle which was at the center of the camp. The Tabernacle was a symbol of God’s presence among His people. It symbolized that God should be at the center and most important part of their lives. A nation, people and church will be strong, vibrant and healthy in proportion to them having God at the center of their lives.
3 On the east side, toward the rising of the sun, those of the standard of the forces with Judah shall camp according to their armies; and Nahshon the son of Amminadab shall be the leader of the children of Judah.” 4 And his army was numbered at seventy-four thousand six hundred.
5 “Those who camp next to him shall be the tribe of Issachar, and Nethanel the son of Zuar shall be the leader of the children of Issachar.” 6 And his army was numbered at fifty-four thousand four hundred.
7 “Then comes the tribe of Zebulun, and Eliab the son of Helon shall be the leader of the children of Zebulun.” 8 And his army was numbered at fifty-seven thousand four hundred. 9 “All who were numbered according to their armies of the forces with Judah, one hundred and eighty-six thousand four hundred— these shall break camp first.
10 “On the south side shall be the standard of the forces with Reuben according to their armies, and the leader of the children of Reuben shall be Elizur the son of Shedeur.” 11 And his army was numbered at forty-six thousand five hundred.
12 “Those who camp next to him shall be the tribe of Simeon, and the leader of the children of Simeon shall be Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai.” 13 And his army was numbered at fifty-nine thousand three hundred.
14 “Then comes the tribe of Gad, and the leader of the children of Gad shall be Eliasaph the son of Reuel.” 15 And his army was numbered at forty-five thousand six hundred and fifty. 16 “All who were numbered according to their armies of the forces with Reuben, one hundred and fifty-one thousand four hundred and fifty— they shall be the second to break camp.
17 “And the tabernacle of meeting shall move out with the camp of the Levites in the middle of the camps; as they camp, so they shall move out, everyone in his place, by their standards.
18 “On the west side shall be the standard of the forces with Ephraim according to their armies, and the leader of the children of Ephraim shall be Elishama the son of Ammihud.” 19 And his army was numbered at forty thousand five hundred.
20 “Next to him comes the tribe of Manasseh, and the leader of the children of Manasseh shall be Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur.” 21 And his army was numbered at thirty-two thousand two hundred.
22 “Then comes the tribe of Benjamin, and the leader of the children of Benjamin shall be Abidan the son of Gideoni.” 23 And his army was numbered at thirty-five thousand four hundred. 24 “All who were numbered according to their armies of the forces with Ephraim, one hundred and eight thousand one hundred— they shall be the third to break camp.
25 “The standard of the forces with Dan shall be on the north side according to their armies, and the leader of the children of Dan shall be Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai.” 26 And his army was numbered at sixty-two thousand seven hundred.
27 “Those who camp next to him shall be the tribe of Asher, and the leader of the children of Asher shall be Pagiel the son of Ocran.” 28 And his army was numbered at forty-one thousand five hundred.
29 “Then comes the tribe of Naphtali, and the leader of the children of Naphtali shall be Ahira the son of Enan.” 30 And his army was numbered at fifty-three thousand four hundred. 31 “All who were numbered of the forces with Dan, one hundred and fifty-seven thousand six hundred— they shall break camp last, with their standards.”
32 These are the ones who were numbered of the children of Israel by their fathers’ houses. All who were numbered according to their armies of the forces were six hundred and three thousand five hundred and fifty. 33 But the Levites were not numbered among the children of Israel, just as the Lord commanded Moses.
34 Thus the children of Israel did according to all that the Lord commanded Moses; so they camped by their standards and so they broke camp, each one by his family, according to their fathers’ houses.
The people had a place (2:3-34). It says, “They camped by their standards” (2:34). They were required by God to know where they fit in God’s camp. We are to know where we fit into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12-14).
There is an interesting image we find when we examine the layout of the camp from above. When we look at the camp we see that at its center is the Tabernacle of God symbolizing the presence of God as central to the life of God’s people. But there is more. When we look at how the tribes were situated around the camp we find something interesting. When we look at the proportions of the size of the tribes in relation to each other and their positioning around the camp there is a distinct image that is made, the image of a cross. (See graphic below).
Not only is God to be central to the lives of His people, but the cross of Christ is the best representation of that central presence. In light of the New Testament the message illustrated here is:
· 1 Corinthians 2:2 - 2 For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
· Galatians 2:20 - 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
· Galatians 6:14 - 14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Do you know who you are in Christ? Is He at the center of your life? You belong at the foot of the cross in the shadow of His glory and grace (1 Cor. 15:10; Gal. 6:14). That is the greatest preparation for the wilderness journey.
Principle #3 – Know Who You Belong To (Numbers 3)
Numbers 3 - Now these are the records of Aaron and Moses when the Lord spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai. 2 And these are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab, the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. 3 These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he consecrated to minister as priests. 4 Nadab and Abihu had died before the Lord when they offered profane fire before the Lord in the Wilderness of Sinai; and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar ministered as priests in the presence of Aaron their father.
5 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 6 “Bring the tribe of Levi near, and present them before Aaron the priest, that they may serve him. 7 And they shall attend to his needs and the needs of the whole congregation before the tabernacle of meeting, to do the work of the tabernacle. 8 Also they shall attend to all the furnishings of the tabernacle of meeting, and to the needs of the children of Israel, to do the work of the tabernacle. 9 And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are given entirely to him from among the children of Israel. 10 So you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall attend to their priesthood; but the outsider who comes near shall be put to death.”
11 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 12 “Now behold, I Myself have taken the Levites from among the children of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the children of Israel. Therefore the Levites shall be Mine, 13 because all the firstborn are Mine. On the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I sanctified to Myself all the firstborn in Israel, both man and beast. They shall be Mine: I am the Lord.”
The Lord originally intended for all firstborn males of the tribes to serve Him as priests. However, when Moses was up on Mount Sinai receiving the Ten Commandments and the people and Aaron below made the Golden Calf idol and worshipped it this changed everything. When God determined there needed to be strong discipline the only Tribe to step forward to serve the Lord in administering that discipline was the Tribe of Levi (Exodus 32:29).
Jon Courson gives some excellent insight on these verses saying:
The men of Reuben, Gad, and Naphtali backed away, knowing they would have to deal with their friends and neighbors. The men of Judah, Benjamin, and Zebulun knew that they would have to inflict pain in order to save the nation. In the end, only one tribe was willing to say, “It’s not a pleasant task, not an easy thing to do, but we’re on the Lord’s side and this needs to be done. So we will do it.” And, as a result, they were blessed (Exodus 32:29).
In this, I understand why oftentimes we are not used to the degree we would like to be or think we ought to be. Hebrews 4:12 tells us the Word of God is quick and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword. Am I willing to unsheathe the sword of the Word and deal with situations which are detrimental, dangerous, or diseased in the lives of friends, neighbors, or family members? Or will I be like Simeon, Issachar, and Asher and shy away?
It’s one thing to say, “I’ll take the sword and deal with the Jebusites, the Philistines, the Canaanites.” But will you deal with your own family, your own friends, your own coworkers? Proverbs 29:25 says the fear of man is a snare. It will trip me up. At any given moment, I am living in fear. So are you. The question is, who do I fear? I will either be walking in the fear of God—not wanting to disappoint Him or disobey Him—or I will be walking in the fear of man—concerned about what others think of me.
The fear of man says, “I care more about you liking me than I do about you doing well.” The fear of God, on the other hand, says, “You might not like this, but I’m going to tell you the truth because I care more about you doing well than I do about you liking me.” 
14 Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, saying: 15 “Number the children of Levi by their fathers’ houses, by their families; you shall number every male from a month old and above.”
16 So Moses numbered them according to the word of the Lord, as he was commanded. 17 These were the sons of Levi by their names: Gershon, Kohath, and Merari. 18 And these are the names of the sons of Gershon by their families: Libni and Shimei. 19 And the sons of Kohath by their families: Amram, Izehar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 20 And the sons of Merari by their families: Mahli and Mushi. These are the families of the Levites by their fathers’ houses.
21 From Gershon came the family of the Libnites and the family of the Shimites; these were the families of the Gershonites. 22 Those who were numbered, according to the number of all the males from a month old and above—of those who were numbered there were seven thousand five hundred. 23 The families of the Gershonites were to camp behind the tabernacle westward. 24 And the leader of the father’s house of the Gershonites was Eliasaph the son of Lael. 25 The duties of the children of Gershon in the tabernacle of meeting included the tabernacle, the tent with its covering, the screen for the door of the tabernacle of meeting, 26 the screen for the door of the court, the hangings of the court which are around the tabernacle and the altar, and their cords, according to all the work relating to them.
There were 7500 Gershonites who cared for the covering materials for the Tabernacle. The Gershonites were not priests but served in an important role nonetheless. Not everyone can be a pastor or leader in the church. But it is the church that is equipped for ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). It is the church that is the body of Christ in the world.
27 From Kohath came the family of the Amramites, the family of the Izharites, the family of the Hebronites, and the family of the Uzzielites; these were the families of the Kohathites. 28 According to the number of all the males, from a month old and above, there were eight thousand six hundred keeping charge of the sanctuary. 29 The families of the children of Kohath were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle. 30 And the leader of the fathers’ house of the families of the Kohathites was Elizaphan the son of Uzziel. 31 Their duty included the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the utensils of the sanctuary with which they ministered, the screen, and all the work relating to them.
32 And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest was to be chief over the leaders of the Levites, with oversight of those who kept charge of the sanctuary.
There were 8600 Kohathites and they were assigned to care for the furniture of the Tabernacle.
33 From Merari came the family of the Mahlites and the family of the Mushites; these were the families of Merari. 34 And those who were numbered, according to the number of all the males from a month old and above, were six thousand two hundred. 35 The leader of the fathers’ house of the families of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail. These were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle. 36 And the appointed duty of the children of Merari included the boards of the tabernacle, its bars, its pillars, its sockets, its utensils, all the work relating to them, 37 and the pillars of the court all around, with their sockets, their pegs, and their cords.
The family of Merari was 6,200 strong. They were responsible for the framework of the Tabernacle.
38 Moreover those who were to camp before the tabernacle on the east, before the tabernacle of meeting, were Moses, Aaron, and his sons, keeping charge of the sanctuary, to meet the needs of the children of Israel; but the outsider who came near was to be put to death.
The east speaks of the coming of the Lord. When Jesus returns He will come from the east (Ezek. 43; Mat. 24:27).
39 All who were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron numbered at the commandment of the Lord, by their families, all the males from a month old and above, were twenty-two thousand.
40 Then the Lord said to Moses: “Number all the firstborn males of the children of Israel from a month old and above, and take the number of their names. 41 And you shall take the Levites for Me—I am the Lord—instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the livestock of the children of Israel.” 42 So Moses numbered all the firstborn among the children of Israel, as the Lord commanded him. 43 And all the firstborn males, according to the number of names from a month old and above, of those who were numbered of them, were twenty-two thousand two hundred and seventy-three.
44 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 45 “Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites instead of their livestock. The Levites shall be Mine: I am the Lord. 46 And for the redemption of the two hundred and seventy-three of the firstborn of the children of Israel, who are more than the number of the Levites, 47 you shall take five shekels for each one individually; you shall take them in the currency of the shekel of the sanctuary, the shekel of twenty gerahs. 48 And you shall give the money, with which the excess number of them is redeemed, to Aaron and his sons.”
49 So Moses took the redemption money from those who were over and above those who were redeemed by the Levites. 50 From the firstborn of the children of Israel he took the money, one thousand three hundred and sixty-five shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. 51 And Moses gave their redemption money to Aaron and his sons, according to the word of the Lord, as the Lord commanded Moses.
Just as the Levites were given to Aaron to care for the Tabernacle and the needs of the people (3:6-9), we are given to Jesus and belong to Him (John 17:6; 1 Cor. 6:19-20).
Principle #4 – Know How to Serve (Numbers 4)
Numbers 4 - Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: 2 “Take a census of the sons of Kohath from among the children of Levi, by their families, by their fathers’ house, 3 from thirty years old and above, even to fifty years old, all who enter the service to do the work in the tabernacle of meeting.
4 “This is the service of the sons of Kohath in the tabernacle of meeting, relating to the most holy things: 5 When the camp prepares to journey, Aaron and his sons shall come, and they shall take down the covering veil and cover the ark of the Testimony with it. 6 Then they shall put on it a covering of badger skins, and spread over that a cloth entirely of blue; and they shall insert its poles.
7 “On the table of showbread they shall spread a blue cloth, and put on it the dishes, the pans, the bowls, and the pitchers for pouring; and the showbread shall be on it. 8 They shall spread over them a scarlet cloth, and cover the same with a covering of badger skins; and they shall insert its poles. 9 And they shall take a blue cloth and cover the lampstand of the light, with its lamps, its wick-trimmers, its trays, and all its oil vessels, with which they service it. 10 Then they shall put it with all its utensils in a covering of badger skins, and put it on a carrying beam.
11 “Over the golden altar they shall spread a blue cloth, and cover it with a covering of badger skins; and they shall insert its poles. 12 Then they shall take all the utensils of service with which they minister in the sanctuary, put them in a blue cloth, cover them with a covering of badger skins, and put them on a carrying beam. 13 Also they shall take away the ashes from the altar, and spread a purple cloth over it. 14 They shall put on it all its implements with which they minister there—the firepans, the forks, the shovels, the basins, and all the utensils of the altar—and they shall spread on it a covering of badger skins, and insert its poles. 15 And when Aaron and his sons have finished covering the sanctuary and all the furnishings of the sanctuary, when the camp is set to go, then the sons of Kohath shall come to carry them; but they shall not touch any holy thing, lest they die.
“These are the things in the tabernacle of meeting which the sons of Kohath are to carry.
16 “The appointed duty of Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest is the oil for the light, the sweet incense, the daily grain offering, the anointing oil, the oversight of all the tabernacle, of all that is in it, with the sanctuary and its furnishings.”
17 Then the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, saying: 18 “Do not cut off the tribe of the families of the Kohathites from among the Levites; 19 but do this in regard to them, that they may live and not die when they approach the most holy things: Aaron and his sons shall go in and appoint each of them to his service and his task. 20 But they shall not go in to watch while the holy things are being covered, lest they die.”
God is orderly and God and His things are to be revered. The Kohathites were put in charge of gathering the Tabernacle items and given very specific instruction on how they should proceed in there transportation.
Years later after the Tabernacle had been lost in battle to the Philistines the time came for it to be returned under the reign of David. There is a great lesson to be learned in how the work of God is to be done. Let’s pause a moment to consider this. What follows is an excerpt from the final chapter in my book Stay the Course and Stick with the True Gospel.
The Philistine Cart
Why is it that Christians think that living like the world is acceptable to God? The church at large blatantly ministers in worldly ways. Throughout the Bible God repeatedly expressed His desire that His people would be distinct from the world. God’s people are to be holy. Why is this so critical to God? It’s important to God because His children are living epistles, a letter for the lost of the world to read and see Christ (2 Cor. 3:2-4). Before unsaved people read God’s Word, they usually read His people. The unsaved are drawn by what they see or read in God’s people. God uses the beauty of holiness to attract the lost (Ps. 29:2; 96:9).
When I speak of “holiness,” I’m not talking about maintaining a set of rules. Holiness is loving the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and loving your neighbor as you already love yourself (Mark 12:29-31). Holiness is a way of life; it is life lived for the Lord in His love. Such love is the product of the indwelling Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). Remember, the fruit of the Spirit is love. There is a beauty to that love that attracts the lost. The beauty of holiness in a child of God communicates otherworldliness. It manifests love’s joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. It proclaims liberation to the one shackled in the sins of this world.
When a Christian or the church lives or ministers in a worldly way, it’s like spray-painting graffiti on a Picasso. You can’t love the world’s system and love God at the same time. Loving the things of the world is diametrically opposed to the love of God (1 John 2:15-17). The worldlier you are, the less in love with Jesus you are. Even the unsaved sense the contradiction between Christianity and worldliness. Worldly ways are unacceptable to God.
The answer to all these questions is illustrated in the Old Testament history of a Philistine cart. The account of this cart is a fitting conclusion to this book. One of the lowest points in the history of Israel occurred when Eli was the high priest. He served in the tabernacle of God with his two sons Hophni and Phinehas. So low had the nation sunk spiritually that the sons of Eli were openly pilfering the sacrifices of God and having sex with women at the threshold of the tabernacle. When all of this was happening, Eli offered only a weak rebuke to his sons (1 Sam. 2:12-26). Because of these conditions God raised up a priest and prophet named Samuel. Samuel was born in answer to his mother Hannah’s prayers (1 Samuel 1). She promised that if God would answer her prayer for a son that she would dedicate the child to God for the rest of his life. God answered Hannah’s prayer, and Samuel was born. The anointing of God was on Samuel. From a young age he ministered before the Lord with a heart wholly dedicated to God (1 Sam. 2:18-21; 3).
Before Samuel could succeed Eli and his two sons, God brought judgment on the corrupt priestly family. The perennial opponents of Israel were the Philistines. Toward the end of Eli’s life, Israel went out and fought against the Philistines. The Philistines soundly defeated Israel. When the people returned the elders asked, “Why has the LORD defeated us today before the Philistines?” (1 Sam. 4:3). Without praying for an answer, they simply presumed the reason for their defeat. They believed it was because they hadn’t brought the Ark of the Covenant with them into battle. Nothing good ever comes from proceeding without prayer.
The Ark of the Covenant was a rectangular, gold-plated box that contained holy artifacts from God’s miraculous works of the past (Heb. 9:4). It was more than just a pretty piece of furniture. The Ark of the Covenant represented the presence of God among His people. That’s a good thing. And because it was associated with God’s presence, it was also associated with God’s power. But the prayerlessness of the people demonstrated they had come to see the ark as something magical rather than something holy. To the people the Ark was merely a religious formula for success. Bring the ark into battle and you will be victorious. They weren’t thinking about the presence of the Lord at all. If they had been thinking of the presence of the LORD, they would have sought His direction in prayer. They were just interested in the bottom line—winning.
We do the same thing today. We are consumed with a lust to succeed. And that success is usually defined and pursued from a worldly perspective. We proceed prayerlessly. We try to formulate victory. But you can’t reduce ministry and life as a Christian to religious formulas. A life pleasing to God flows out of our relationship with Him and by walking in the Spirit. The Bible teaches us that God works in various ways that are higher than ours (Isa. 55:9-11). His work can’t be accomplished by humanly deduced formulations. Humanly deduced formulations don’t work.
We haven’t gotten to the Philistine cart yet, but we need to drive home a point before we do. Observing the church today, it’s pretty easy to deduce that the church is on the ropes. We have our own modern versions of Eli and his two sons. There are some deep troubles and divisions in the church today. Prayer meetings, if even held, are sparsely attended. The church is not reaching out to the lost as it should. The church is not building up believers into disciples. Souls aren’t being saved, and disciples aren’t being made. We’re off track.
The same is true of the individual in the church. Christian lifestyles aren’t very different from that of the unsaved in the world. In fact, Christians are looking more and more to the world for answers! Most Christians rarely if ever share their faith. Even when they do, they are generally ineffective. This is because they really aren’t interested in doing so. This is appalling when one takes into account the eternal destiny of the unsaved. They are rationalizing and excusing sin instead of killing it off on the cross of Christ. There is little or no victorious Christian living. (Do we even know what “victorious Christian life” is anymore?) You may object to these assertions, but they’re true. Christians starving for victory and blessing in their lives are lowering God’s scriptural standards. They then glory in a diminished definition of what victory in Jesus really is.
The Bible has been cast aside by much of the church. This discard of God’s Word came gradually. It began with laziness. We casually trusted in the preachers without confirming what they were saying. We neglected our responsibility to be Bereans (Acts 17:10-11). The disconnect from God’s Word increased as commentaries became a substitute for the direct personal study of God’s Word. (Commentaries can be a valuable tool, but they are no substitute for your own study of God’s Word.) Slowly but surely our focus shifted from personal study to relying on the words of “Christian celebrities.” Soon a weakened church didn’t have the heart or time to sit and take in a balanced meal of God’s Word. We were drawn away from the table of the Lord to live on quick TV-sermonette dinners, Christian-lite cotton candy and junk-food religion. Christians living on this unhealthy spiritual diet became confused with what true Christianity really is. They began looking outside the church for answers. Eventually the church opened its doors to all kinds of practices. These methods of “ministry” were not based on prayerful processing or scriptural assessment but on fleshly profits. This set the stage for the introduction and reliance upon what I refer to as The Philistine Cart.
Things are not always what they appear to be on the surface. Sometimes what seems alive and powerful is dead within. There are times when Christians are deceived by smoke and mirrors. Right now much of the church is all about style and woefully lacking in spiritual substance. That is why the church mimics the world and its ways. Its methods and styles are eagerly welcomed and adopted. This is a serious problem because it exposes a lack of spiritual depth. The closer a person or church is to the world, the farther away they are from God and His love (cf. 1 John 2:15-17).
The ark was brought from the tabernacle and into the camp, and we are told, “Israel shouted so loudly that the earth shook” (1 Sam. 4:5). It was pretty impressive. The Philistines thought so. The Philistines thought “God has come into the camp! . . . Woe is us! Who will deliver us from the hand of these mighty gods?” (1 Sam. 4:7-8). Reading the passage, it looks as though the Philistines were resigned to defeat. But if they were going to die, they would die “like men.” They would go down fighting (1 Sam. 4:9). Even those in the world can have honorable attitudes.
Well, the Philistines didn’t die. In fact, when they went out to battle the Israelites (who had the ark of God), they won again, and the soldiers of Israel fled away (1 Sam. 4:10). The two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died in the battle. Some may have interpreted that as good. But something unprecedented and devastating happened in this battle. The ark was captured by the Philistines (1 Sam. 4:11). This had a devastating impact on God’s people.
Hearing of the loss of her unfaithful husband was bad enough, but when Phinehas’s pregnant wife heard the ark was captured, she gave birth prematurely. And then she named her son Ichabod. Ichabod means “the glory has departed.” Eli’s heart had trembled in fear for the ark of God when it was taken into battle (1 Sam. 4:13). Even he saw that actions based on prayerless impulse never bring good outcomes. Eli withstood news of the death of his two sons. But when old Eli heard that the ark was lost in the battle, he fell over backward, broke his neck, and died (1 Sam. 4:18).
The consequence of prayerless actions is always death, even if we have the best of intentions. When we act separately from God and His Word, we are acting on our own, in our own strength. That is a dangerous thing to do. We may be able to fight off a foe or have a measure of victory in our own strength, but it won’t last for long. And God will actually allow us to experience defeat to teach us our need to depend on Him.
The ark eventually was returned to Israel. God brought plagues upon the pagan Philistines because they had His ark (1 Samuel 5 and 6). They decided it wasn’t worth it or safe to have God’s ark in their possession. But here we have an important part in the account. We need to take note of how the Philistines returned the ark. The way they sent the ark back left a lasting impression on God’s people. They made a “new cart” to transport the ark back to Israel (1 Sam. 6:7). It must have been an impressive new cart. You’ll see why this is important as we continue.
The joy of the ark’s return was short-lived. There needs to be reverence in worshipful celebration to the LORD. The men of Beth Shemesh treated the ark without the holy respect and reverence an object belonging to God deserves. God struck down around fifty thousand men as a consequence. This led the survivors of Beth Shemesh to respond, “Who is able to stand before this holy LORD God” (1 Sam. 6:20). They sought for someone to take the ark off their hands. The word went out, and the people of Kirjath Jearim welcomed the ark.
When the ark returned, the people in Kirjath Jearim were moved by the holiness of God. They repented, and a revival broke out under the leadership of Samuel. When the Philistines came up against Israel again, Israel turned to the LORD for help. This is what they should have done in the first place. This time the LORD fought for Israel and defeated the Philistines. Samuel then set up a rock between Mizpah and Shen and called it “Ebenezer,” meaning the stone of help. They remembered the source of their help and victory. From that point on, the people of Israel regained the land previously lost to the Philistines and “the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all the days of Samuel” (1 Samuel 7).
True revival comes when His people sense the holiness of God and that moves His people to repent. That is the true and substantial basis for revival. The closer we come to God, the more clearly we see our sin (cf. Isaiah 6). Coming close to God shatters our pride and humbles us. And while God opposes the proud, He gives grace to the humble (1 Pet. 5:5-6). If you want power over sin and victory in your life, you have to come closer to the Lord (1 John 3:6). That can be painful. It definitely will be humbling. But it is the only way to experience true revival.
Where is the awareness of God’s holiness today? Do we see it in the church? Do we see it in the Christian? Is it in the chaos of the flesh and worldliness we see in counterfeit revivals today? Look at what is masquerading as revival. Ask yourself, Is this the holiness of God? Does this humble me? Does this bring me to my knees in repentance? Does it lead to real and lasting life changes? Does it lead to holy living? We have settled for bells and whistles when we should be seeking the humbling presence of God. We need to return to our own Kirjath Jearim and discover the holy presence of God. We need to get back on course, the course of the true gospel of God that is based on the sound doctrine of His Word.
When genuine revivals occur, future generations may misinterpret them. Those who look back at revivals of the past sometimes draw wrong conclusions about what caused the revival. That is what happened with David. He looked back at the revival of holiness at Kirjath Jearim and associated it more with the ark of God than the impact of the holiness of God on His people. This led to some serious problems for the nation.
About fifty years after the revival at Kirjath Jearim (1 Samuel 7), the great psalmist David became king of Israel. Sometime after King David ascended to the throne, he was moved to bring the Ark of the Covenant to the City of David (2 Sam. 6:1-11; 1 Chron. 13:1-4). He was chosen by God because he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:13-14). But David was going to learn a terrible lesson. How God’s work is done is just as important to God as the end result. You can’t compromise in the way you do something just to get it done. For God the ends do not necessarily justify the means. To God the means are just as important as the end itself. David had it in his heart to bring up the ark of God to Jerusalem. The ark represented the holy presence of God among His people (Exod. 25:21-22). This was right and good. This idea came from the outflow of the close relationship between God and David. But David went about this in the wrong way, a worldly way.
The account of David’s unsuccessful attempt to bring the Ark of the Covenant to the city is given in 2 Samuel 6 and 1 Chronicles 13. Both accounts mention a “new cart”: “So they set the ark of God on a new cart” (2 Sam. 6:3) and “so they carried the ark of God on a new cart” (1 Chron. 13:7). David used the “new cart” way of the pagan Philistines to transport God’s Holy Ark. What’s the big deal about that? Why is that significant at all? In Deuteronomy 17:18-20 God gave the requirements for the king of Israel. He was to write his own copy of God’s law. He was to keep it with him. He was to read it all the days of his life so that he would honor and obey God. David, therefore, was without excuse. He had either overlooked, forgotten, or disregarded the clearly prescribed instructions God had given about how His holy ark was to be transported. The ark was not merely a piece of common furniture to be carried about in any old way. No, God’s instructions were precise. The ark should be handled with reverence (Num. 4:1-15). But David shortsightedly settled for the secular, worldly way of the Philistines.
Like David we are without excuse when we overlook, forget, or disregard the clearly prescribed instructions available to us in God’s inspired Word. Today God’s Word is available to us in unprecedented ways. God’s written Word is printed and available to more people than ever before in history. Through technology we can hear it on radio, tapes, and CDs, we can watch it on TV and DVD, we can hear and watch it on the Internet, we can even search and study it on computer in incredible ways. We have the ability to get the Word from almost any place on the planet by way of satellite. We’ve sent God’s Word into outer space. We can put the entire Bible on the head of a pin! This is the revelation of the holy, sovereign Creator God of the universe we’re talking about here! God has spoken, and He wants us to hear Him. God has made His Word available to just about everyone on planet earth. And yet too often the inspired revelation of God’s Word is set aside and even willfully excluded from our lives. And as we have seen in this book, the results are spiritually catastrophic.
It was the Philistines who introduced the “new cart” pulled by oxen as a means of transporting the ark (1 Sam. 6:7-8). The Philistines were pagan worldlings. Worldly ways are not appropriate for those seeking to live worshipfully before God. Worldliness puts us out of sync with God. David tried to create a time of holy worship with abundant music around the “new cart.” The oxen stumbled. The cart tilted. And a man named Uzza reached out and touched the ark in an attempt to steady it and keep it from falling. The consequence was death. The Bible says, “The anger of the LORD was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark; and he died there before God” (1 Chron. 13:10). The LORD is holy. There is none like Him. We need to approach Him in accordance with who He is.
David had lost sight of the holiness of God. How did he respond to what happened to Uzza? He reacted with anger and then fear, twin killers of spirituality. His proud heart was angry because his way of doing things was disrupted. But then he felt fear because he recognized his way was not acceptable to God. David felt distant from the LORD as evidenced by his saying, “How can I bring the ark of God to me?” (1 Chron. 13:12). Instead, he put the ark aside, in the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite.
It is unacceptable to the LORD to live or minister in ways not prescribed by Him. David had gotten off the course ordained by God. David’s actions showed spiritual shallowness. He didn’t care to seek guidance in God’s Word. His flesh, his sinful nature, was exposed when his parade was brought to a sudden halt. It was exposed by his angry reaction. The fear David felt was not reverential fear. He was “afraid of God” (1 Chron. 13:12). He was afraid of further consequences from God. This fear built up a wall between David and God. Failing to serve the LORD in ways the LORD had instructed led to a distancing of David from God. This is illustrated in the distance he kept the ark from his city. When you attempt to do things for God in worldly ways, the result is a host of spiritually deadening effects.
Do you see any parallels between this account and what is going on in the church and many Christian lives today? The church is using all kinds of worldly methods in an attempt to do the work of God. The church is off the course ordained by God in His Word. We have become so seeker friendly that unsaved “seekers” are ruling the church! The answer to what plagues the church is not more demographic studies, marketing research, surveys, etc.; it is, “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). How many church leaders and Christians will read that verse and pooh-pooh it away as the ranting of a “narrow-minded” writer? Well, before they make light of that verse, they should remember that those words are inspired by God. They were delivered to us through one of the greatest men of all times, the apostle Paul. And those words still apply today. The Holy Bible is still holy. There is no other book like it. The Bible is not out of date or out of touch. The Bible is God’s Word for today. That is true every day in history as long as God permits us time to share it. The answer to our ills is God’s true gospel, not the “gospel” “according to man” (Gal. 1:11).
Christian, shut off Dr. Phil and Oprah. Turn off Judge Hatchet and Judge Judy. Lay down the newest self-help book. Cast aside the latest cotton-candy fluff book from those who shy away from anything that might offend anyone. Our standard should be the whole truth of God and nothing but the whole truth of God. Unhook your Philistine cart, and stop wandering aimlessly. Go directly to God’s Word; do not stop. Follow His road map to life for life. God’s Word brings us to Jesus. It is only there at His feet that you will find what you are looking for. You need the true gospel based on the sound doctrine of God’s Word.
Today we are pulling a host of Philistine carts. Whenever we compromise and adopt worldly ways into our lives and ministries, we are pulling a Philistine cart. The deadly results will be same for us as they were with David. As we seek to fit in with the world and do things like the world, using worldly ways, human ways, the farther we move from God. Holiness is defined as separate, distinct, and unique. Holiness is to be separated to God, or unto God, in order to be used by Him. The power of God will never be released in and through us until we set aside the ways of the world. We must turn to Him and His Word. It was the worldly Philistines who lived by chance and relegated themselves to die in a manly way. It was the Philistines who thought up the “new cart” way to transport the ark of God. These “new” ways were no good as far as God was concerned. They were unholy and common. They had not been ordained by Him.
The point here is not to equate anything new with worldliness. Technology is new, but it is not necessarily worldly. The Philistine cart was not a bad idea because it was a piece of modern technology in that day. There is nothing biblically wrong with using technology to spread the Word of God. In fact, modern technology can be a great asset to ministry. Then what was the sin of David here?
David’s sin began when he failed to respect God by consulting His Word. It was irreverence. In this particular case, God’s Word had very specific instructions on how the ark was to be transported. David did not obey. He neglected God’s Word. He disregarded it. God’s holy Word should have been the first place he looked for instruction. In 1 Chronicles 13:1, “David consulted with . . . every leader” before he moved the ark. It seems the entire nation was ignorant concerning this issue or at least did not speak out. In planning the “parade,” David and his leaders apparently were more concerned with the music than God’s Word. Isn’t that like the church today? Music is important in worshipping God, but it should never take priority over the Word of God.
David treated the ark of God in a common, secular way instead of a holy way. He settled for the secular when he should have sought out the holy. At this point in time, God’s Word was apparently not a priority in David’s life. That was sinful. That is exactly what Christians and much of the church is doing today. When we neglect to check God’s Word and proceed in our own wisdom, understanding, and worldly ways, we pull a Philistine cart.
Today it’s becoming harder and harder to distinguish Christians and the church from the world. Christians are in a frenzy to keep up with the fads of the day. The church is carnal to its core. The fellowship of believers is so very fleshly. Churches package their messages in sharp-looking promotions based more on marketing than the holy manuscripts of God. We are so caught up in the package that we are forgetting the gift inside. Ministry has become more profane and common in its communication. We justify coarse language and methods that border on irreverence by saying we are just seeking to be relevant. But are we faithful to God and His Word? If we are living epistles, what is the world reading in us and hearing from us? Do they see anything substantially different, distinct, and holy? Or do they simply see something that can’t be distinguished from the world? People in the world can smell a lukewarm, Laodicean a mile away. When they look at you, are they seeing part of a parade line of Philistine carts?
The New Testament tells us that when we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, we are bought by God. We become “the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6:19-20). So let me ask you, what are you doing at the threshold of your temple? Are you following in the footsteps of Eli’s sons Hophni and Phinehas and committing spiritual adultery with the world at the door of your temple? When the world reads your life, is it cheap, common graffiti tattooed on the temple of the Holy Spirit? Or does the world see the Word of God lived out in your life? Have you given any thought or prayer to how the lost will read you? Have you gone to God’s Word for direction? Are you too weak to say or do anything? What about the Philistine carts in your life and in the lives of those around you? Have you superficially settled for the ways of this world? Are you casually pulling a Philistine cart? If so, death is working in you.
The account of the Philistine cart should cause us to consider our ways. Are you moving forward or backward in your relationship with the LORD? Are you moving closer or farther away from the LORD? Are you on or off course with the LORD? How do you tell which way you are moving? If you are moving closer to the world, you are moving away from the LORD. If you are more concerned with the things of the world than the things of God, you are moving away from the LORD. If you settle for using the ways of the world without consulting the LORD and His Word, you are moving away from the LORD. If you are moving away from the LORD, you are backsliding. But if you are moving away from the world and care more about the way God has instructed us to do things, then you are moving forward. You are moving onward and upward. You are moving closer to the LORD. You are staying the course. Which way are you going? Are you pulling a Philistine cart?
If you want to move in the right direction, you’ll have to take some decisive action. The remedy for Philistine carts in our lives is to bust them up, burn them up, and don’t build them up again (1 Sam. 6:14; 2 Sam. 6:3). The remedy is to get back on course and stay the course of God’s true gospel based on His Word. Go back and study the passages mentioned above. Study them prayerfully. Study them in context. Then ask the Spirit to search out any Philistine carts in your life. Ask God to apply His Word to your life.
David didn’t give up on bringing the ark of God to the City of David. He learned the hard lesson of trying to do the right thing for God but in the wrong way. David built up his city and “prepared a place for the ark of God” (1 Chron. 15:1). But this time He would stay on course. This time the Levites would carry the ark. David told the priests, “Sanctify yourselves, you and your brethren, that you may bring up the ark of the LORD God of Israel to the place I have prepared for it” (1 Chron. 15:12). Why this change in how the ark would be transported? David explains, “For because you did not do it the first time, the LORD our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order” (1 Chron. 15:13). David went back to God’s Word, “and the children of the Levites bore the ark of God on their shoulders, by its poles, as Moses had commanded according to the word of the LORD” (1 Chron. 15:15). The key here is the phrase, “according to the word of the LORD.” Like David, we have to get back to God’s Word as our first and only guide for our lives and ministries.
Why is it that Christians and the church at large so casually think that living or doing ministry in worldly ways is acceptable to God? It is because they are pulling Philistine carts. And that is wrong. So what should you do? Get before the Lord, and ask Him to search your heart and help you identify any Philistine carts in your life. Then ask Him to help you bust them up and burn them up, and purpose to never build them up again. Get before the LORD, and humbly ask Him to show you when and where you have gotten off course with Him and His Word. Then repent and make a personal commitment to stay the course and stick with the true gospel in the power of His Spirit. God help us in this task.
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 22 “Also take a census of the sons of Gershon, by their fathers’ house, by their families. 23 From thirty years old and above, even to fifty years old, you shall number them, all who enter to perform the service, to do the work in the tabernacle of meeting. 24 This is the service of the families of the Gershonites, in serving and carrying: 25 They shall carry the curtains of the tabernacle and the tabernacle of meeting with its covering, the covering of badger skins that is on it, the screen for the door of the tabernacle of meeting, 26 the screen for the door of the gate of the court, the hangings of the court which are around the tabernacle and altar, and their cords, all the furnishings for their service and all that is made for these things: so shall they serve.
27 “Aaron and his sons shall assign all the service of the sons of the Gershonites, all their tasks and all their service. And you shall appoint to them all their tasks as their duty. 28 This is the service of the families of the sons of Gershon in the tabernacle of meeting. And their duties shall be under the authority of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.
29 “As for the sons of Merari, you shall number them by their families and by their fathers’ house. 30 From thirty years old and above, even to fifty years old, you shall number them, everyone who enters the service to do the work of the tabernacle of meeting. 31 And this is what they must carry as all their service for the tabernacle of meeting: the boards of the tabernacle, its bars, its pillars, its sockets, 32 and the pillars around the court with their sockets, pegs, and cords, with all their furnishings and all their service; and you shall assign to each man by name the items he must carry. 33 This is the service of the families of the sons of Merari, as all their service for the tabernacle of meeting, under the authority of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest.”
34 And Moses, Aaron, and the leaders of the congregation numbered the sons of the Kohathites by their families and by their fathers’ house, 35 from thirty years old and above, even to fifty years old, everyone who entered the service for work in the tabernacle of meeting; 36 and those who were numbered by their families were two thousand seven hundred and fifty. 37 These were the ones who were numbered of the families of the Kohathites, all who might serve in the tabernacle of meeting, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the commandment of the Lord by the hand of Moses.
38 And those who were numbered of the sons of Gershon, by their families and by their fathers’ house, 39 from thirty years old and above, even to fifty years old, everyone who entered the service for work in the tabernacle of meeting— 40 those who were numbered by their families, by their fathers’ house, were two thousand six hundred and thirty. 41 These are the ones who were numbered of the families of the sons of Gershon, of all who might serve in the tabernacle of meeting, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the commandment of the Lord.
42 Those of the families of the sons of Merari who were numbered, by their families, by their fathers’ house, 43 from thirty years old and above, even to fifty years old, everyone who entered the service for work in the tabernacle of meeting— 44 those who were numbered by their families were three thousand two hundred. 45 These are the ones who were numbered of the families of the sons of Merari, whom Moses and Aaron numbered according to the word of the Lord by the hand of Moses.
46 All who were numbered of the Levites, whom Moses, Aaron, and the leaders of Israel numbered, by their families and by their fathers’ houses, 47 from thirty years old and above, even to fifty years old, everyone who came to do the work of service and the work of bearing burdens in the tabernacle of meeting— 48 those who were numbered were eight thousand five hundred and eighty.
49 According to the commandment of the Lord they were numbered by the hand of Moses, each according to his service and according to his task; thus were they numbered by him, as the Lord commanded Moses.
Verse three in this chapter states, “All who enter the service to do the work . . . .” (4:3). Just as the Levites and others were given specific tasks to perform, we are to make ourselves available to serve God. The Bible instructs us to:
1. Serve as Jesus served – John 13:15; 1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6
2. Serve according to God’s word – 2 Timothy 2:15, 24-26; 3:16-17
3. Serve the LORD – Rom. 12:1-2; Col. 3:17, 23
In the New Testament it is revealed that each born again believer is given a spiritual gift to be used in the ministry of the Lord (Rom. 12; 1 Cor. 12; 14; Eph. 4). It’s important that believers discover their spiritual gifts and put them into use that the Body of Christ can be edified. While these gifts are not directly even alluded to in Numbers we can take this opportunity to pause a moment and consider them.
Spiritual Gifts Are Important
1 Corinthians 12:1 - Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:
Paul begins this section by telling us it’s important to know about spiritual gifts. There are some who teach that spiritual gifts were only a part of the early church and were done away with when the canon of scripture was discovered. This will be discussed in greater detail further on in our study but suffice it to say that there is no definitive instruction in scripture about the termination of spiritual gifts. Quite to the contrary, as stated here by Paul, believers are exhorted to know about spiritual gifts.
Notice that in your Bibles the word “gifts” is italicized which means that it was inserted by the translators and not found in the original text of the Greek manuscript (the New Testament was written originally in Koine Greek and only later translated into English). The translators felt that on the basis of the context of the passage inserting “gifts” clarified the meaning of the passage. The literal translation of this verse is, “Now concerning spirituals, . . . .” (“spirituals” – Greek PNEUMATIKOS – Strong’s #4152). Paul is introducing a discussion of the “manifestation of the Spirit given to each one for the profit of all” (1 Corinthians 12:7). Spiritual gifts are a manifestation of the work of the Holy Spirit in each born again believer of Jesus Christ.
What are Spiritual Gifts?
1 Corinthians 12:1 - Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be ignorant:
Paul states very clearly here that the area of spiritual gifts is an area that believers should not be ignorant about. The word “ignorant” literally means, “without knowledge” (Greek AGNEO – Strong’s #50). The idea is that someone would have no understanding about something due to ignoring or not giving it the proper and appropriate attention. Therefore, given the exhortation of Paul, we should seek to understand and know about spiritual gifts.
What are spiritual gifts? Spiritual gifts are defined as supernatural extraordinary enablements of the Holy Spirit working in and through the believer to glorify God. A spiritual gift is “supernatural” because it is the work of the Spirit in a person. A spiritual gift is “extraordinary” because it transcends a natural ability and it is not something acquired by practice or learning. We are to “stir up” or learn the nature and effective uses of our spiritual gifts (2 Timothy 1:6), but we cannot force our way into certain giftings. The Holy Spirit is the one who determines our spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11).
A sad and often division producing occurrence in the church is when people become frustrated by attempting to do things they were not spiritually gifted by the Spirit to do. Division and disruption in the body of Christ can often be traced to those who are trying to force their square peg gifts into the round hole of ministries. Paul’s teaching on orderly use of spiritual gifts in the Corinthian church is likely due in part to addressing disorder and division caused by such ignorance of spiritual gifts.
Before I was a Christian I had a terrible dread of speaking in public. In school I’d play hooky or feign sickness to get out of class on the day of oral reports. There was nothing in the world I enjoyed less than standing in front of people to speak. Once saved, the Holy Spirit gave me an insatiable appetite for His word and a burning desire within my heart to teach the word of God. I know that is from God because it was diametrically opposed to my natural nature. Now teaching the word in front of a group of people is a joyful experience for me. I make sure to pray and declare my dependence on God before each and every teaching, but I don’t fear. I stir up the gift in me by studying hard and preparing prayerfully before God who has called me. I have an inner faith and confidence in God that He will equip me to do His will in teaching His word. The Spirit has given me the spiritual gift of teaching.
How Can We Discover Our Spiritual Gifts?
In Romans 12 where a list of spiritual gifts is given, the list is preceded by instruction on how to discern the will of God and in particular from the context, how to discover spiritual gifts. The passage reads:
- Romans 12:1-8 - I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. 3 For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. 4 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. 6 Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; 7 or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; 8 he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.
In order to determine your spiritual gift you need to position yourself before God with the proper attitude which is laid out for us in the above passage. Remember, the Spirit gives us spiritual gifts according to HIS WILL not ours. What is the right attitude to discern and discover our spiritual gifts?
First we need to present ourselves fully surrendered to God (12:1). A sacrifice is ready to die and we must die to self, our ambitions, our agenda, and our wants. Just like Isaac on mount Moriah (Genesis 22) we need to present ourselves to God. Full surrender says to God, “Take me and do whatever You wish to do with Me.” This is the first step to discovering not only God’s will generally, but His spiritual gifts particularly.
Second we need to remove worldly limitations and be ready for God’s transformation (12:2). God does not work the way the world works. God is not One to cut corners and take shortcuts. He is not a supporter of the worldly philosophy of the ends justify the means. Don’t get stuck in the world’s mold. If we are to discover God’s will for us we must be willing to open up to God’s supernatural transforming work in us. Nothing is impossible with God (Genesis 18:14; Jeremiah 32:17; Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37; 18:27; Philippians 4:13).
Third, we need to have a humble opinion of ourselves (12:3). Nothing is impossible for God, but that should not cause us to ignore the very practical common sense evidence that God lays out before us. We need to temper ourselves with a humble self appraisal so that we understand God is not into fulfilling worldly and carnal delusions of grandeur. We need to be thoroughly biblical and prayerful as well as practical before the Lord. God is always looking to conform you to the likeness of His only son Jesus (Romans 8:29). Don’t assume you are more than you really are. God prepares us for the task He intends to use us in. That preparation in part will be designed to bring your true motives to the surface. Are you seeking to bring glory to God or to yourself? (1 Corinthians 10:31) Humble yourself before God and He will exalt you in due time (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Fourth we need to be other oriented (12:4-5).We need to be willing to work for and together with others in the body of Christ. Gifts are not to draw attention to us, but to serve others (Galatians 5:13b). There is a certain amount of diversity and uniqueness in the bestowing of spiritual gifts. Two people may have the gift of teaching and teach in very different ways. Each is valuable. The important thing is that God is glorified. God gives gifts to edify us so that we will bring glory to Him.
Fifth, we need to be ready and willing to receive spiritual gifts and to be used wherever and however God gifts us to be used (12:6-8). A gift is something RECEIVED. You can’t earn spiritual gifts, you can only receive them. Don’t fear the spiritual gifts; be eager to receive them and use them. Whatever gift you are given, enjoy it and use it for the glory of God!
For a church to be healthy spiritually and use the power of the Spirit efficiently, it needs its people to use the spiritual gifts or tools that are distributed by the Holy Spirit. But we must never forget that these gifts are given by the Holy Spirit in grace and are to be received as He bestows them and used as he directs, otherwise the gifts will be abused.
Spiritual Gifts can be Abused –
1 Corinthians 12:2 - You know that you were Gentiles, carried away to these dumb idols, however you were led.
Paul introduces his instruction on spiritual gifts by mentioning the previous Gentile unbelieving state that many at the Corinthian church apparently were saved from. Paul mentions the previous unsaved state to mark not only what the Corinthians were saved from but what they needed to continue to depart from. They were no longer serving or worshipping “dumb idols” that were really lifeless and not divine at all (see 1 Corinthians 8:4-6). They were serving the living God and needed to adopt a mindset and perspective that was in line with the new life they had in Christ. Spiritual gifts can be abused and misused. Paul does not want the Corinthians to fall into the trap of musing spiritual gifts by using them with an unbeliever’s mindset (12:1).
A gift by nature is not something that is earned or even deserved; it is something that is received. When we speak of gifts from God we need to understand gifts from God are a product of God’s grace. Grace is unmerited or undeserved favor. In other words when God in grace gives us blessings or gifts, He does so out of His nature of love and care for us, not because we warrant or deserve such gifts or blessings (Romans 5:2, 6, 15-21; Ephesians 2:1-9).
In the book of Acts Peter encounters a sorcerer named Simon who responds to the gospel (Acts 8:9-13). But when this sorcerer sees the manifestation of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on people through the apostles, he offers them money in exchange for this “gift” of power (Acts 8:18-19). Peter sternly rebukes the sorcerer for thinking, “the gift of God could be bought with money!” (Acts 8:20). Peter tells the sorcerer, “your heart is not right I the sight of God” (Acts 8:21). He assesses the sorcerer as acting in “wickedness” and “poisoned by bitterness and bound by iniquity (Acts 8:22, 23). Peter calls the sorcerer to repent and pray to God for forgiveness (Acts 8:22; See verses Acts 8:14-25 for the full account). The gifts of God are not for sale! You can’t earn them or pay for them. Unfortunately there are many charlatans in the world hiding behind a façade of ministry position who prey on those who are ignorant of the spiritual gifts of God and think if they send in their money, they will be “blessed” or receive God’s gifts. A gift is freely given and should be freely offered (Matthew 10:8; Romans 3:24). To think otherwise is poisonous and a pollution of the heart before a gracious and giving God.
Spiritual discernment is needed to identify the spiritual gifts because there are times when Satan uses counterfeit gifts to deceive and attempt to undermine the work of God (1 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 11:13-15). One way to separate the God ordained spiritual gift and its usage from the carnal or devilish usage of spiritual gifts is that when the Holy Spirit is at work He always envelops spiritual gifting with His love (Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 13).
The Work of the Holy Spirit in Spiritual Gifts
1 Corinthians 12:3-4, 7, 11 - Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: . . . But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
From the start of Paul’s instruction on spiritual gifts we see that it is the Holy Spirit who is the one who works spiritual gifts. Jesus gives ministry spiritual gifts (Ephesians 4:11), but it is the Holy Spirit who administers these spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit is mentioned throughout this section on spiritual gifts (eleven times: 1 Corinthians 12:3 – twice, 4, 7, 8 – twice, 9 – twice, 11, and 13 – twice). What we learn from the mention of the Holy Spirit in this passage is as follows.
First, the Holy Spirit enables believers to lift up Jesus as Lord (12:3). The Holy Spirit enables Christians to speak and to especially proclaim the lordship of Jesus. If you want to know whether or not someone is speaking in the Spirit, simply ask “Are they proclaiming Jesus as Lord?”
Second, the presence of the Holy Spirit in those with diverse gifts is the source of unity (12:4, 13). Even though spiritual gifts are diverse, there remains a unity in the diversity between Christians because they have the common presence of the Holy Spirit within them. There are other cultures and pagan religions that utilize “spiritual” manifestations but because they do not have the Holy Spirit within them (i.e. they are not submitting to or proclaiming Jesus as Lord) there is no common ground or basis for unity between them and Christians (see 2 Corinthians 6). When the Holy Spirit works He unites believers into one body by a common baptism and indwelling of the Spirit.
Third, the manifestation of spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit is always “for the profit of all.” (12:7). The Holy Spirit does not work in a way that feeds into human pride or self-centeredness. The only “Star” in the work of the Holy Spirit is Jesus. The Holy Spirit is a team oriented Person in that He blesses with spiritual gifts “for the profit of all.” He does not give spiritual gifts to focus on anyone but Jesus.
Fourth, the Holy Spirit gives spiritual gifts “as He wills” (12:11; see also verses 8 and 9). Spiritual gifts are not learned, (although once we have our spiritual gift we need to learn how they are to be used). Spiritual gifts are not bestowed as the result of diplomas or education; they are a gift given by God’s grace through the work of the Holy Spirit in a person. Furthermore, we do not choose our spiritual gifts or impose our wills on the Spirit to get certain spiritual gifts. The Holy Spirit distributes spiritual gifts as He sees fit. We can desire and pursue certain gifts, but must ultimately submit to the decision of the Spirit in the bestowing of spiritual gifts. We should be glad to receive any spiritual gift and never be disappointed with the spiritual gift the Holy Spirit decides to bestow on us.
One commentator explains the work of the Spirit in giving spiritual gifts like this:
This great variety of endowments reveals: 1. The sovereignty of the Spirit. Why did he bestow any at all? Still more, why so different to different men? The only answer is because it pleased him so to do. “He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” 2. The affluence of the Spirit. All these great and varied spiritual and mental endowments came from him. He is the inexhaustible Fountain, not only of all life, but of all spiritual endowments. 3. The benevolence of the Spirit. All these varied endowments bestowed for what purpose? To “profit withal.” All for the highest usefulness; spiritual happiness is the end of the creation. Since all our endowments are the free gifts of God, there is no reason for those of the humblest to be dissatisfied, nor for those who have the most splendid to be exultant.
What a blessing God is, not only does He save our souls and transform us within, but He empowers and enables us via the giving of spiritual gifts by the Holy Spirit to play a vital role in the workings of His body the church. God is so good!
The Focus of Spiritual Gifts - Jesus
1 Corinthians 12:3 - Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.
Paul continues by setting out the focus of spiritual gifts, Jesus. When the Holy Spirit is at work Jesus will be proclaimed as Lord and Jesus will be the center of attention. The Holy Spirit seeks to direct people to Jesus; that is primary to His mission (John 15:26; 16:13-14). This is one way we can know whether or not the Spirit is in a ministry, that is, by whether or not Jesus is lifted up as Lord and is the true center of attention of the work. Spiritual gifts should never be used to draw attention to anyone other than Jesus. When spiritual gifts are used to put a spotlight on an individual, they are being misused and abused.
In his book Living Water Pastor Chuck Smith makes the following comment:
“The overarching principle concerning the gifts of the Spirit is this: The true gifts of the Holy Spirit, when manifested in a scriptural and correct way, will always focus people’s hearts on Jesus Christ. Jesus said the Spirit would not testify of Himself, but of Christ. The scriptural exercise of the gifts will always give you a fresh vision of Jesus Christ and His glory, causing you to fall in love with Him, and to be drawn to Him all over again. Your heart will almost explode with love and appreciation for what Jesus is and what He is able to do.
This is the chief way by which you can tell whether any gift is a true manifestation of the Holy Spirit. Is there a great deal of attention drawn to the person exercising the gift? . . . . A true manifestation of the Holy Spirit will always exalt the person of Jesus Christ. That’s what the Holy Spirit has come to do.” [i]
If spiritual gifts are going to be all that that they were meant to be they need to be used in the way God intends them to be used. God has given us clear teaching on spiritual gifts in His word. His desire is that the focus be kept on Jesus and so He gives us some precautions and guidelines for us to follow so that the focus does stay on Jesus and no one else.
That was the problem of the carnal Corinthians they were apparently misusing their spiritual gifts to draw attention to themselves, to exalt themselves over those around them based on the spiritual gift they possessed. Their focus was off of Jesus and on themselves and as a result there was division and dishonor to Jesus.
The Bible Speaks of a Diversity of Spiritual Gifts
1 Corinthians 12:4-7 - There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: . . .
Truly God has given Himself as a gift to us (2 Corinthians 5:18-19). But the Bible does also speak of spiritual gifts that are particular “diversities” of enablements from God. These gifts can be separated into two groups: Manifestation gifts (1 Corinthians 12:7-10; Romans 12:3-8); and Ministry gifts (1 Corinthians 12:27-30; Ephesians 4:11-16). We will discuss these various gifts as we come to them in our study but suffice it to say, there is a diversity or many kinds of spiritual gifts (12:4). There are different ways in which spiritual gifts are applied and manifested. People may have the spiritual gift of teaching, but teach in very different, yet mutually effective ways (12:5-6). The thing to remember is that it is the Holy Spirit, God who assigns and works through spiritual gifts (12:4 – “the same Spirit”; “12:5 – “the same Lord”; and 12:6 – “the same God who works all in all.”) These gifts are always given or assigned according to God’s will (1 Corinthians 12:11, 28).
Spiritual Gifts for the Profit of All
1 Corinthians 12:7 - But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:
We have already mentioned how we need to be other oriented if we are to discover our spiritual gift(s) (Romans 12:4-5 above). But here is a further emphasis by Paul. Spiritual gifts are not given to titillate or to move us to be preoccupied with self, they are given so that believers in the body of Christ can profit or bless their fellow believers. In this regard the Holy Spirit through the manifestation of spiritual gifts presents believers with an opportunity to practically experience Christ-like service. Let me elaborate.
Jesus - Lord and Example of Spiritual Gifts
Earlier we said that the Holy Spirit and His use of spiritual gifts always points people to Jesus (12:3). In the use of spiritual gifts Jesus is not only the target, but is the example. The Church is referred to as the “body of Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27; Ephesians 1:22-33). The Holy Spirit testifies of Christ through the Church to the world (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Therefore, the Church is referred to as an “epistle” (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). The world reads the Church like a book. The Church and its members by its behavior testify to the world about who Jesus is. Therefore, the gifts given by the Spirit should testify or model Christlikeness. Believers are called to be ambassadors of Christ compelled by His love in us to serve each other and reach out to a lost world like He did (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). If we want to know the proper use, definition and application of spiritual gifts, we should look to Jesus for instruction according to how they were manifested in His life. Jesus manifested all of the spiritual gifts in His life (except tongues - what tongue wouldn’t Jesus know?):
- Apostle – John 20:21; 1 John 4:10
- Word of Wisdom – Luke 20:22-26
- Word of Knowledge - John 1:45-51; 4:6-18
- Faith – John 11:1 – 12:1
- Healing – Matthew 12:15; 15:30
- Miracles – John 6:1-21
- Prophecy – Matthew 24; John 6:14
- Discernment of spirits – Matthew 16:22-23; John 2:25; 6:64
- Helps – Mark 9:35; 10:45; John 13
- Teaching – Mark 10:17; John 3:2; 13:13
- Exhortation – John 16:33
- Giving – Mark 10:45; Philippians 2
- Administration – Luke 12:41-48; John 10:1-21; 12:6; 13:29; 21:15-17
- Mercy – Mark 10:46-52; Luke 6:36; 17:13
Not only should spiritual gifts point people to Jesus, but they should be used in a way that follows the example of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6). Then and only then, will spiritual gifts bring glory to God. That is what Paul is inspired to point us to in his inspired instruction on spiritual gifts.
Much of the church of today is in sire straits. Churches may be filled with people, but it is lacking in influence. One of the primary objectives of the church is that souls would be saved and disciples made, but that is often lacking in today’s church. This is due in part to living in the last days church of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22). The church of the fist century was dynamic because of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8). What happened to the church over the centuries that it has lost its power, impact and influence? I believe the answer in part is a neglect of the spiritual gifts. If every believer would seek out and discover their spiritual gifts prayerfully and humbly and then surrender to the Lord to be used in and through the body of Christ, we no doubt would experience a revival in the church that would bring us up to the standard of that first century Spirit filled body of believers. I want to encourage you to humbly seek out your spiritual gifting and don’t stop there, but press on to be used by the Holy Spirit in applying your gift. The world needs a powerful church because most of it is on the edge of a precipice of a deep pit and needs someone to pull them back and save them through Jesus. Spiritual gifts bestowed by the Holy Spirit are the tools to make the church an effective and empowered agent of rescue and salvation all to the glory of God. Revival and your spiritual gift is only a prayer away.
Are you serving the LORD? Or are you too busy to serve Him? If we are going to be prepared for the wilderness journey we need to have a servant’s heart.
Principle #5 – Know How to Be Separate (Numbers 5)
Numbers 5 - And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Command the children of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper, everyone who has a discharge, and whoever becomes defiled by a corpse. 3 You shall put out both male and female; you shall put them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camps in the midst of which I dwell.” 4 And the children of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the Lord spoke to Moses, so the children of Israel did.
Separate from sin (5:1-4). That which defiled the camp is to be removed or “put out” of the camp. Similarly we need to remove those things from our lives that defile us. WE need to put off the “old man” and old ways of the old man (Eph. 4:17-22; Col. 3:5-11). We need to replace the old man with the “new man” and God’s new scripturally sound ways of living (Eph. 4:23-29; Col. 312-17).
5 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 6 “Speak to the children of Israel: ‘When a man or woman commits any sin that men commit in unfaithfulness against the Lord, and that person is guilty, 7 then he shall confess the sin which he has committed. He shall make restitution for his trespass in full, plus one-fifth of it, and give it to the one he has wronged. 8 But if the man has no relative to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution for the wrong must go to the Lord for the priest, in addition to the ram of the atonement with which atonement is made for him. 9 Every offering of all the holy things of the children of Israel, which they bring to the priest, shall be his. 10 And every man’s holy things shall be his; whatever any man gives the priest shall be his.’ ”
Sincere – Separate from Surface Reconciliations (5:5-10). The restitution required here was a means to assure that repentance and reconciliation was sincere. In the New Testament Jesus said we ought to be sincere in our repentance by making restitution to those offended before we come to His altar (Mat. 5:23-4; 2 Cor. 7:10).
11 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘If any man’s wife goes astray and behaves unfaithfully toward him, 13 and a man lies with her carnally, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and it is concealed that she has defiled herself, and there was no witness against her, nor was she caught— 14 if the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he becomes jealous of his wife, who has defiled herself; or if the spirit of jealousy comes upon him and he becomes jealous of his wife, although she has not defiled herself— 15 then the man shall bring his wife to the priest. He shall bring the offering required for her, one-tenth of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil on it and put no frankincense on it, because it is a grain offering of jealousy, an offering for remembering, for bringing iniquity to remembrance.
16 ‘And the priest shall bring her near, and set her before the Lord. 17 The priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. 18 Then the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head, and put the offering for remembering in her hands, which is the grain offering of jealousy. And the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water that brings a curse. 19 And the priest shall put her under oath, and say to the woman, “If no man has lain with you, and if you have not gone astray to uncleanness while under your husband’s authority, be free from this bitter water that brings a curse. 20 But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority, and if you have defiled yourself and some man other than your husband has lain with you”— 21 then the priest shall put the woman under the oath of the curse, and he shall say to the woman— “the Lord make you a curse and an oath among your people, when the Lord makes your thigh rot and your belly swell; 22 and may this water that causes the curse go into your stomach, and make your belly swell and your thigh rot.”
‘Then the woman shall say, “Amen, so be it.”
Jon Courson comments:
Of what does this illustration speak? With regard to the woman, a swollen belly speaks of turmoil internally, a rotten thigh of an inability to walk spiritually. But in a larger sense, the illustration points to Jesus.
Jesus Christ came to earth as an earthen vessel when He became like you and me. He was filled with the water of the Word and absorbed the curse that should have been ours.
It was at the Feast of Tabernacles that they brought Jesus a woman caught in the act of adultery. When His teaching, His pouring forth of the water of the Word was interrupted, He stooped down and wrote in the dust on the floor of the temple compound, eventually freeing the woman to go and sin no more (John 8).
Thus, all the components of the purification of immorality come together in Jesus. Truly, Jesus came to free us from the curse that causes our walk to be rotten and our bellies bloated. We are the woman. But Jesus came to absorb our sin, to set us free—and I’m so glad.
23 ‘Then the priest shall write these curses in a book, and he shall scrape them off into the bitter water. 24 And he shall make the woman drink the bitter water that brings a curse, and the water that brings the curse shall enter her to become bitter. 25 Then the priest shall take the grain offering of jealousy from the woman’s hand, shall wave the offering before the Lord, and bring it to the altar; 26 and the priest shall take a handful of the offering, as its memorial portion, burn it on the altar, and afterward make the woman drink the water. 27 When he has made her drink the water, then it shall be, if she has defiled herself and behaved unfaithfully toward her husband, that the water that brings a curse will enter her and become bitter, and her belly will swell, her thigh will rot, and the woman will become a curse among her people. 28 But if the woman has not defiled herself, and is clean, then she shall be free and may conceive children.
29 ‘This is the law of jealousy, when a wife, while under her husband’s authority, goes astray and defiles herself, 30 or when the spirit of jealousy comes upon a man, and he becomes jealous of his wife; then he shall stand the woman before the Lord, and the priest shall execute all this law upon her. 31 Then the man shall be free from iniquity, but that woman shall bear her guilt.’ ”
Honor marriage and family (5:11-31). Marriage is a type and picture of Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:25-33). God views infidelity and divorce as distasteful. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:14-16; Mat. 5:27-32).
The following article illustrates the casualness with which the world breaks the laws and traditions of God that hold society together:
Andrew Cuomo, Sandra Lee: In sign of times, no one really cares that they live together, unmarried
BY Frank Lombardi
DAILY NEWS STAFF WRITER
Saturday, January 1st 2011, 4:00 AM
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and girlfriend Sandra Lee have dismissed talk of marriage.
Sandra Lee is the glamorous, live-in love of Gov. Cuomo - and nobody seems to mind that they're not married.
Though some may still raise eyebrows over Cuomo's relationship with the Food Network star, it's raised nary a public whisper from political rivals - or religious leaders.
"I think it's because neither one of them is openly flaunting their relationship."
Unlike hot-button moral issues such as abortion or same-sex marriage, the heterosexual unwed living together doesn't seem to stir up puritanical fervor.
Even outspoken Catholic activist Bill Donohue of the Catholic League passed on a chance to decry what some religious conservatives would deem as "living in sin."
Donohue declined to be interviewed, saying through a spokesman, "We're not one to pass judgment" on how people conduct their personal life "or how people celebrate their religion."
It wasn't so easy for past governors.
Then-Gov. Nelson Rockefeller's divorce in 1963 and quick second marriage helped scuttle his presidential bid the following year.
Gov. Hugh Carey's romantic entanglements in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including his marriage to the thrice-divorced Evangeline Gouletas, turned him into the media-mocked "Society Carey." It contributed to his decision not to run for a third term in 1982.
"A divorced person living with a woman today is more reflective of the population than not," offered political consultant Hank Sheinkopf. "The fact that they [Cuomo and Lee] have this relationship makes them more like average people, and not less."
Cuomo and Lee have dismissed talk about marriage.
While their divorced status prevents them from marrying in a Catholic church (unless both were to get annulments) or receiving Communion, it doesn't stop them from worshiping as Catholics, said a priest who knows Cuomo well.
"He takes his Catholicism very seriously," the priest confided.
Of the Cuomo-Lee live-in relationship, the priest said, "I'm not going to condemn it, but at the same time, I'm not going to condone it."
Jesus brought attention to the “living together” state of the woman at the well (John 4:16-19). Maybe this is an area where God’s people need to walk in Jesus steps too.
Principle #6 – Know How to Be Devoted (Numbers 6)
Numbers 6 - Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, 3 he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins.
There were a number of figures in the Bible who took Nazirite vows. Samson is one example (Judges 16:14-17). His strength was not in his hair but in the consecration his long hair symbolized. Samuel took a Narrate vow (1 Sam. 1:11-28). John the Baptist took a Nazirite vow (Luke 1:13, 15). It was possible to live such a vow from birth (e.g. Judges 13:5, 7) or by making such a vow when you were older (Num. 6:2).
This vow was voluntary and involved refraining from: wine (6:3-4); shaving the hair (6:5); defilement (6:6-7); and corruption (Amos 2:11, 12). The Nazirite vow symbolized a number of things.
That we find our joy in the Lord (6:1-3). The wine was a symbol of earthly joy; an earthly stimulant. By refraining from wine it was as though you were saying, “I choose to find my joy in the Lord not the world.”
4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin. 5 ‘All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.
That we are willing to bear shame for God (6:4-5). Long hair was a shame for a man (1 Cor. 11:14). Therefore to allow your hair to grow was a way of showing humility (Eph. 4:1-2; Col. 3:12). Those persecuted for God’s sake should rejoice (cf. Mat. 5:12; 1 Pet. 2:21; 4:16).
6 All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. 7 He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head.
That we should be separate from the world (6:6-7). The world is a place of sin and death. Therefore we are to be separate from the world and not live for it or by its standards (e.g. Mat. 10:37; Rom. 12:2; Gal. 6:14; Titus 2:12; 1 John 2:15-17; 5:4-5).
8 All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the Lord. 9 ‘And if anyone dies very suddenly beside him, and he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it. 10 Then on the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting; 11 and the priest shall offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, and make atonement for him, because he sinned in regard to the corpse; and he shall sanctify his head that same day. 12 He shall consecrate to the Lord the days of his separation, and bring a male lamb in its first year as a trespass offering; but the former days shall be lost, because his separation was defiled. 13 ‘Now this is the law of the Nazirite: When the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 14 And he shall present his offering to the Lord: one male lamb in its first year without blemish as a burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish as a sin offering, one ram without blemish as a peace offering, 15 a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and their grain offering with their drink offerings. 16 ‘Then the priest shall bring them before the Lord and offer his sin offering and his burnt offering; 17 and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of a peace offering to the Lord, with the basket of unleavened bread; the priest shall also offer its grain offering and its drink offering. 18 Then the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offering. 19 ‘And the priest shall take the boiled shoulder of the ram, one unleavened cake from the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and put them upon the hands of the Nazirite after he has shaved his consecrated hair, 20 and the priest shall wave them as a wave offering before the Lord; they are holy for the priest, together with the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering. After that the Nazirite may drink wine.’ 21 “This is the law of the Nazirite who vows to the Lord the offering for his separation, and besides that, whatever else his hand is able to provide; according to the vow which he takes, so he must do according to the law of his separation.”
That a vow to God is sacred (6:8-21). We should not enter into a vow with God casually (e.g. Eccl. 5). Our relationship and the things we commit to God are sacred and to be taken seriously.
22 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 23 “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them:
24 “The Lord bless you and keep you;
25 The Lord make His face shine upon you,
And be gracious to you;
26 The Lord lift up His countenance upon you,
And give you peace.” ’
27 “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.”
That it is God who empowers us to keep a vow (6:22-27). Apart from God we can do nothing. We are to work out our own salvation but in doing so we should never forget that it is God who is working in and through us (Phil. 2:21-13; 1 Cor. 15:10).That is why we end this chapter with such a God glorifying benediction.
Principle #7 – Know How to Give to God (Numbers 7)
This is the second longest chapter in the Bible. The first longest chapter in the Bible is Psalm 119 and it is devoted to the value of Scripture. The second longest chapter in the Bible deals with giving. This is not a coincidence.
As we read it we may feel as though it is repetitive or even redundant. What we need to do is see this chapter from God’s perspective. To God, recording and noting how His people give to Him is a blessing. God loves it when we give to Him.
Numbers 7 - Now it came to pass, when Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle, that he anointed it and consecrated it and all its furnishings, and the altar and all its utensils; so he anointed them and consecrated them. 2 Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of their fathers’ houses, who were the leaders of the tribes and over those who were numbered, made an offering. 3 And they brought their offering before the Lord, six covered carts and twelve oxen, a cart for every two of the leaders, and for each one an ox; and they presented them before the tabernacle.
Leaders are Givers. Notice that those listed as giving in Numbers 7 are those particularly identified as “the leaders of Israel” (7:2). The Bible tells us to be doers of the word and not hearers only (James 1:22). Jesus said that in order for Him to entrust us with greater responsibilities His practice was to give us lesser things to do and as we were faithful with the lesser things He would then entrust us with larger tasks –
· Luke 16:10 - “He who is faithful in what is lest is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is lest is unjust also in much.”
What is interesting about this is that Jesus was speaking of our use of money:
· Luke 16:11-13 - 11 Therefore if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in what is another man’s, who will give you what is your own? 13 “No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”
Your salvation is not determined by your giving. But your spiritual maturation is closely linked to it. If you have a desire to be used by God, you need to be faithful in your giving. For instance, one of the requirements to serve as a leader in our church is that our leaders tithe. Now some refrain from tithing under the mistaken notion that it is legalistic. It is not legalistic. Abraham tithed to the Lord nearly four hundred years before the Law was given! (cf. Gen. 14:20). Jesus taught tithing (cf. Mat. 23:23). Therefore, tithing is an important indicator of spiritual maturity. And in our church, a person is not eligible for consideration as a leader unless they are faithful in their giving. That is because how you give is a good indicator of your spiritual condition. It isn’t the only valuable indicator, but it is an important one.
I like what Jon Courson comments in this regard:
Not only is giving the proof of maturity, but it is also the pathway to maturity. Each time I give, I become a little more like my heavenly Father, for He is a Giver (1 Timothy 6:17). Conversely, when I hold back, when I don’t give, I become more like the enemy, Satan, who is a thief and a robber (John 10:1).
Jesus said we should store our treasures in heaven and that the smallest act of giving kindness is noted in heaven and rewarded (Mat. 6:19-21; Mark 9:41). That is not to dismiss monetary giving but simply to show that giving doesn’t stop with our money. God is giving and He wants His followers to have a giving spirit as well. This is especially true of those called to be leaders and who want to serve Him.
4 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 5 “Accept these from them, that they may be used in doing the work of the tabernacle of meeting; and you shall give them to the Levites, to every man according to his service.” 6 So Moses took the carts and the oxen, and gave them to the Levites. 7 Two carts and four oxen he gave to the sons of Gershon, according to their service; 8 and four carts and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the authority of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. 9 But to the sons of Kohath he gave none, because theirs was the service of the holy things, which they carried on their shoulders.
10 Now the leaders offered the dedication offering for the altar when it was anointed; so the leaders offered their offering before the altar. 11 For the Lord said to Moses, “They shall offer their offering, one leader each day, for the dedication of the altar.”
12 And the one who offered his offering on the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab, from the tribe of Judah. 13 His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 14 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 15 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 16 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 17 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Nahshon the son of Amminadab.
18 On the second day Nethanel the son of Zuar, leader of Issachar, presented an offering. 19 For his offering he offered one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 20 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 21 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 22 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 23 and as the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Nethanel the son of Zuar.
24 On the third day Eliab the son of Helon, leader of the children of Zebulun, presented an offering. 25 His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 26 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 27 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 28 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 29 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Eliab the son of Helon.
30 On the fourth day Elizur the son of Shedeur, leader of the children of Reuben, presented an offering. 31 His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 32 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 33 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 34 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 35 and as the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Elizur the son of Shedeur.
36 On the fifth day Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai, leader of the children of Simeon, presented an offering. 37 His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 38 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 39 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 40 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 41 and as the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai.
42 On the sixth day Eliasaph the son of Deuel, leader of the children of Gad, presented an offering. 43 His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 44 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 45 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 46 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 47 and as the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Eliasaph the son of Deuel.
48 On the seventh day Elishama the son of Ammihud, leader of the children of Ephraim, presented an offering. 49 His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 50 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 51 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 52 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 53 and as the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Elishama the son of Ammihud.
54 On the eighth day Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur, leader of the children of Manasseh, presented an offering. 55 His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 56 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 57 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 58 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 59 and as the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur.
60 On the ninth day Abidan the son of Gideoni, leader of the children of Benjamin, presented an offering. 61 His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 62 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 63 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 64 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 65 and as the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Abidan the son of Gideoni.
66 On the tenth day Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai, leader of the children of Dan, presented an offering. 67 His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 68 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 69 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 70 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 71 and as the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai.
72 On the eleventh day Pagiel the son of Ocran, leader of the children of Asher, presented an offering. 73 His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 74 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 75 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 76 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 77 and as the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Pagiel the son of Ocran.
78 On the twelfth day Ahira the son of Enan, leader of the children of Naphtali, presented an offering. 79 His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 80 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 81 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 82 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 83 and as the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Ahira the son of Enan.
84 This was the dedication offering for the altar from the leaders of Israel, when it was anointed: twelve silver platters, twelve silver bowls, and twelve gold pans. 85 Each silver platter weighed one hundred and thirty shekels and each bowl seventy shekels. All the silver of the vessels weighed two thousand four hundred shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. 86 The twelve gold pans full of incense weighed ten shekels apiece, according to the shekel of the sanctuary; all the gold of the pans weighed one hundred and twenty shekels. 87 All the oxen for the burnt offering were twelve young bulls, the rams twelve, the male lambs in their first year twelve, with their grain offering, and the kids of the goats as a sin offering twelve. 88 And all the oxen for the sacrifice of peace offerings were twenty-four bulls, the rams sixty, the male goats sixty, and the lambs in their first year sixty. This was the dedication offering for the altar after it was anointed.
89 Now when Moses went into the tabernacle of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice of One speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the Testimony, from between the two cherubim; thus He spoke to him.
The items to be given are listed as: a silver platter; a silver bowl; one gold pan; one young bull; and one male lamb. A Living Bible version of verses 84-88 translates the weight equivalents into modern measures:
· Numbers 7:84-88 - 84-86So, beginning the day the altar was anointed, it was dedicated by these gifts from the chiefs of the tribes of Israel. Their combined offerings were as follows:12 silver platters (each weighing about three pounds);12 silver bowls (each weighing about two pounds); (so the total weight of the silver was about sixty pounds);12 gold trays (the trays weighing about four ounces apiece); (so the total weight of gold was about three pounds).87For the burnt offerings they brought:12 bulls, 12 rams,12 yearling male goats (with the grain offerings that accompanied them).For sin offerings they brought:12 male goats.88For the peace offerings they brought:24 young bulls,60 rams, 60 male goats,60 male lambs one year old.
These offerings were substantial.
Why the seemingly monotonous repetition in this chapter? The Spirit wanted them and subsequent generations, (including us) to know that what is given to God is important and God keeps a record of what is given to Him.
God doesn’t forget our giving. In Hebrews it states the following:
· Hebrews 6:10-12 - 10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
God appreciates what we give Him. When we give it should be given as a loving gift of appreciation to God (2 Cor. 5:14; 8:9; 9:8-10).
It should also be mentioned here that the amount of what is given is not as important as the heart condition of the one giving:
· We are to give in faith (Luke 21:1-4).
· We are to give willingly (1 Chron. 29:3-9).
· And we are to give cheerfully (2 Cor. 9:7).
Principle #8 – Know Who Lights Your Way (Numbers 8)
Numbers 8 - And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Speak to Aaron, and say to him, ‘When you arrange the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.’ ” 3 And Aaron did so; he arranged the lamps to face toward the front of the lampstand, as the Lord commanded Moses. 4 Now this workmanship of the lampstand was hammered gold; from its shaft to its flowers it was hammered work. According to the pattern which the Lord had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.
The lampstand represented the light of God; His knowledge, truth, and wisdom (8:1-4). Jesus is the light of the world and the lamp points to this (John 8:12). The instrument of God’s light is His word (Psalm 119:105). He shines His light into us through His word.
5 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 6 “Take the Levites from among the children of Israel and cleanse them ceremonially. 7 Thus you shall do to them to cleanse them: Sprinkle water of purification on them, and let them shave all their body, and let them wash their clothes, and so make themselves clean.
Light cleanses (8:6-7a). Light is associated with cleansing. That is why they were instructed to shave (8:7b) and clean their clothes (8:7c). This symbolized doing away with the bad habits of life. The offering required was a way to seal the deal of this (8:8). The light of God administered with His word has a cleansing effect on us (Eph. 5:25).
8 Then let them take a young bull with its grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, and you shall take another young bull as a sin offering. 9 And you shall bring the Levites before the tabernacle of meeting, and you shall gather together the whole congregation of the children of Israel. 10 So you shall bring the Levites before the Lord, and the children of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites; 11 and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the Lord like a wave offering from the children of Israel, that they may perform the work of the Lord. 12 Then the Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the young bulls, and you shall offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering to the Lord, to make atonement for the Levites.
13 “And you shall stand the Levites before Aaron and his sons, and then offer them like a wave offering to the Lord. 14 Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the children of Israel, and the Levites shall be Mine. 15 After that the Levites shall go in to service the tabernacle of meeting. So you shall cleanse them and offer them like a wave offering. 16 For they are wholly given to Me from among the children of Israel; I have taken them for Myself instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the children of Israel. 17 For all the firstborn among the children of Israel are Mine, both man and beast; on the day that I struck all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them to Myself. 18 I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn of the children of Israel. 19 And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the children of Israel, to do the work for the children of Israel in the tabernacle of meeting, and to make atonement for the children of Israel, that there be no plague among the children of Israel when the children of Israel come near the sanctuary.”
It was the Levites who were the first responders to Moses call to stand on the Lord’s side after God’s people had so grievously sinned by having Aaron make the golden calf while Moses was on Mount Sinai (Ex. 32:25-29). This first responder mentality endeared the Levites to God and resulted in God taking the Levites to serve in His Tabernacle instead of the first born of the people. Are you a first responder when the Lord calls? Are you first to answer His call or do you have to be coerced and coaxed into service? Leaders and those closest to God are first responders spiritually.
20 Thus Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the children of Israel did to the Levites; according to all that the Lord commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so the children of Israel did to them. 21 And the Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes; then Aaron presented them like a wave offering before the Lord, and Aaron made atonement for them to cleanse them. 22 After that the Levites went in to do their work in the tabernacle of meeting before Aaron and his sons; as the Lord commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did to them.
23 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “This is what pertains to the Levites: From twenty-five years old and above one may enter to perform service in the work of the tabernacle of meeting; 25 and at the age of fifty years they must cease performing this work, and shall work no more. 26 They may minister with their brethren in the tabernacle of meeting, to attend to needs, but they themselves shall do no work. Thus you shall do to the Levites regarding their duties.”
Some have seen a contradiction between the “twenty-five years old” age for service mentioned here and the “thirty years old” mentioned for service in Numbers 4:30. But all this means is that there was a five year apprenticeship for the Levites. There should always be a certain amount of training before one ventures out in to ministry or serving the Lord.
We are to be a light in the world too (8:8-26). Believers are called by God to be a light in the world (Mat. 5:14-16; Acts 13:46-47; Eph. 5:8-17).
Principle #9 – Know Who Goes With You (Numbers 9)
Numbers 9 - Now the Lord spoke to Moses in the Wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying: 2 “Let the children of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. 3 On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time. According to all its rites and ceremonies you shall keep it.” 4 So Moses told the children of Israel that they should keep the Passover. 5 And they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the first month, at twilight, in the Wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the Lord commanded Moses, so the children of Israel did.
6 Now there were certain men who were defiled by a human corpse, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and Aaron that day. 7 And those men said to him, “We became defiled by a human corpse. Why are we kept from presenting the offering of the Lord at its appointed time among the children of Israel?”
8 And Moses said to them, “Stand still, that I may hear what the Lord will command concerning you.”
9 Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 10 “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If anyone of you or your posterity is unclean because of a corpse, or is far away on a journey, he may still keep the Lord’s Passover. 11 On the fourteenth day of the second month, at twilight, they may keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. 12 They shall leave none of it until morning, nor break one of its bones. According to all the ordinances of the Passover they shall keep it. 13 But the man who is clean and is not on a journey, and ceases to keep the Passover, that same person shall be cut off from among his people, because he did not bring the offering of the Lord at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin.
14 ‘And if a stranger dwells among you, and would keep the Lord’s Passover, he must do so according to the rite of the Passover and according to its ceremony; you shall have one ordinance, both for the stranger and the native of the land.’ ”
God goes with you (9:1-14). Just as God delivered them out of Egypt He will again deliver them in the future when necessary. That is His promise (e.g. Exodus 19:4). That this points to Jesus is seen in the connection with “nor break one of its bones” (9:21) and that quoted as referring to Jesus in the New Testament (John 19:36).
15 Now on the day that the tabernacle was raised up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the Testimony; from evening until morning it was above the tabernacle like the appearance of fire. 16 So it was always: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night. 17 Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, after that the children of Israel would journey; and in the place where the cloud settled, there the children of Israel would pitch their tents. 18 At the command of the Lord the children of Israel would journey, and at the command of the Lord they would camp; as long as the cloud stayed above the tabernacle they remained encamped. 19 Even when the cloud continued long, many days above the tabernacle, the children of Israel kept the charge of the Lord and did not journey. 20 So it was, when the cloud was above the tabernacle a few days: according to the command of the Lord they would remain encamped, and according to the command of the Lord they would journey. 21 So it was, when the cloud remained only from evening until morning: when the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they would journey; whether by day or by night, whenever the cloud was taken up, they would journey. 22 Whether it was two days, a month, or a year that the cloud remained above the tabernacle, the children of Israel would remain encamped and not journey; but when it was taken up, they would journey. 23 At the command of the Lord they remained encamped, and at the command of the Lord they journeyed; they kept the charge of the Lord, at the command of the Lord by the hand of Moses.
God will lead you (9:15-23). The Shekinah glory represented the presence of God (9:15-16; Rm. 9:4-5). God was preparing them by assuring them He would guide them through the wilderness (9:18-19, 22-23). Israel had the visible presence of God to guide them. The Church has the inner presence of God to guide us (Col. 1:27).
Principle #10 – Know to Be Ready to Go (Numbers 10)
Numbers 10 - And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 2 “Make two silver trumpets for yourself; you shall make them of hammered work; you shall use them for calling the congregation and for directing the movement of the camps. 3 When they blow both of them, all the congregation shall gather before you at the door of the tabernacle of meeting. 4 But if they blow only one, then the leaders, the heads of the divisions of Israel, shall gather to you. 5 When you sound the advance, the camps that lie on the east side shall then begin their journey. 6 When you sound the advance the second time, then the camps that lie on the south side shall begin their journey; they shall sound the call for them to begin their journeys. 7 And when the assembly is to be gathered together, you shall blow, but not sound the advance. 8 The sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets; and these shall be to you as an ordinance forever throughout your generations.
9 “When you go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, and you will be remembered before the Lord your God, and you will be saved from your enemies. 10 Also in the day of your gladness, in your appointed feasts, and at the beginning of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be a memorial for you before your God: I am the Lord your God.”
Trumpets (10:1-10). God provides a clear communication signal for us to be ready to march.
11 Now it came to pass on the twentieth day of the second month, in the second year, that the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle of the Testimony.
Move out! (10:11). At some point it will be time to move. We need to be ready to answer God’s trumpet call and move out. A day is coming when Jesus will descend to the clouds and with the sound of the trump of God He will call all true believers out of this world (1 Cor. 15:52; 1 Thess. 4:16; Rev. 1:10-11; 4:1). Will you be ready to go?
12 And the children of Israel set out from the Wilderness of Sinai on their journeys; then the cloud settled down in the Wilderness of Paran.
The Ark leads the way (10:12). God is at work. He is the one who leads His people. We are to follow the presence of the LORD. The ark is also a symbol of His mercy. He knows we are but dust. Therefore He leads us in mercy. We should be thankful for that (e.g. Psalm 103).
13 So they started out for the first time according to the command of the Lord by the hand of Moses.
14 The standard of the camp of the children of Judah set out first according to their armies; over their army was Nahshon the son of Amminadab. 15 Over the army of the tribe of the children of Issachar was Nethanel the son of Zuar. 16 And over the army of the tribe of the children of Zebulun was Eliab the son of Helon.
17 Then the tabernacle was taken down; and the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari set out, carrying the tabernacle.
18 And the standard of the camp of Reuben set out according to their armies; over their army was Elizur the son of Shedeur. 19 Over the army of the tribe of the children of Simeon was Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. 20 And over the army of the tribe of the children of Gad was Eliasaph the son of Deuel.
21 Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things. (The tabernacle would be prepared for their arrival.)
22 And the standard of the camp of the children of Ephraim set out according to their armies; over their army was Elishama the son of Ammihud. 23 Over the army of the tribe of the children of Manasseh was Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. 24 And over the army of the tribe of the children of Benjamin was Abidan the son of Gideoni.
25 Then the standard of the camp of the children of Dan (the rear guard of all the camps) set out according to their armies; over their army was Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. 26 Over the army of the tribe of the children of Asher was Pagiel the son of Ocran. 27 And over the army of the tribe of the children of Naphtali was Ahira the son of Enan.
28 Thus was the order of march of the children of Israel, according to their armies, when they began their journey.
29 Now Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses’ father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the Lord said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will treat you well; for the Lord has promised good things to Israel.”
30 And he said to him, “I will not go, but I will depart to my own land and to my relatives.”
31 So Moses said, “Please do not leave, inasmuch as you know how we are to camp in the wilderness, and you can be our eyes. 32 And it shall be, if you go with us—indeed it shall be—that whatever good the Lord will do to us, the same we will do to you.”
33 So they departed from the mountain of the Lord on a journey of three days; and the ark of the covenant of the Lord went before them for the three days’ journey, to search out a resting place for them. 34 And the cloud of the Lord was above them by day when they went out from the camp.
35 So it was, whenever the ark set out, that Moses said:
“Rise up, O Lord!
Let Your enemies be scattered,
And let those who hate You flee before You.”
36 And when it rested, he said:
“Return, O Lord,
To the many thousands of Israel.”
Always pray before a move (10:35-36). Always pray before you move (Eph. 6:18). Always seek the Lord’s leading. Follow His presence.
We have looked at and hopefully learned the following preparatory principles for our wilderness journey:
· Principle #1 – Know Who You Are (Numbers 1)
· Principle #2 – Know Where You Belong (Numbers 2)
· Principle #3 – Know Who You Belong To (Numbers 3)
· Principle #4 – Know How to Serve (Numbers 4)
· Principle #5 – Know How to Be Separate (Numbers 5)
· Principle #6 – Know How to Be Devoted (Numbers 6)
· Principle #7 – Know How to Give to God (Numbers 7)
· Principle #8 – Know Who Lights Your Way (Numbers 8)
· Principle #9 – Know Who Goes With You (Numbers 9)
· Principle #10 – Know to Be Ready to Go (Numbers 10)
Are you ready to stand up and be counted? Are you ready to march? Are you ready for the great adventure through the wilderness? Let’s go in the power and might of our LORD!
Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary : Volume One : Genesis-Job. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2005, S. 451
Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary : Volume One : Genesis-Job. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2005, S. 455
The Pulpit Commentary: 1 Corinthians. 2004 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.) . Logos Research Systems, Inc.: Bellingham, WA
Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary : Volume One : Genesis-Job. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2005, S. 462
Courson, Jon: Jon Courson's Application Commentary : Volume One : Genesis-Job. Nashville, TN : Thomas Nelson, 2005, S. 466
[i] Chuck Smith, Living Water, Harvest House Pub.:Eugene, Oregon, 1996. p. 90