How do God’s people follow his will in situations where there are no explicit rules or laws given? At the conclusion of the third movement of Numbers, the Israelites don’t know how God wants them to respond to a situation. Join Tim and Jon as they explore Numbers 6-9 and how followers of Jesus today can learn to understand the will of God.
The story of the Bible is trying to shape God’s people into men and women who assume that there’s always more to learn, that they can always gain more wisdom and insight to navigate life’s complexities, and that they have to keep returning to the Torah to discover greater insight so that they trust that they’re living by God’s will.
In part one (00:00-19:22), Tim and Jon bring us up to speed with what we’ve already covered in the Numbers scroll. Up to this point, Yahweh has been working with the people of Israel, transforming them into a community that mirrors the blessings of Eden in the midst of the wilderness (Num. 1-6). The narrator of Numbers communicates all of this by cycling through the repeating melody of the Hebrew Bible, the themes and patterns from Genesis 1-9.
At the end of Numbers 6, the Genesis 1-9 refrain begins again to prepare Israel to move in the direction of the promised land.
Numbers 6:22-27 (NIV) The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them: “Yahweh bless you and keep you; Yahweh make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; Yahweh turn his face toward you and give you peace.”’ So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”
This famous blessing is rich with echoes of Eden. A priestly representative is chosen to mediate God’s presence and blessing to other people. Yahweh’s presence shines light and creates shalom, and a group of people bear Yahweh’s name and identity.
In part two (19:22-32:42), Tim and Jon dive into Numbers 8, which continues the theme of light that started in Numbers 6 with the light of Yahweh’s presence. Now, Yahweh gives additional instructions regarding the lampstands within the tabernacle. The lamps in the tabernacle were lit every morning and evening so that the tabernacle was perpetually filled with light (Lev. 24).
The rest of Numbers 8 contains instructions for how the Levites were to purify themselves to enter Yahweh’s presence. Numbers 6:22-8:4 is a subsection within the first movement of Numbers designed to remind us of the ways the tabernacle mirrors Eden. In Genesis 1-2, Yahweh is the generous giver of life and good things to humans in the garden. Now, as the light within the tabernacle shines upon Israel’s offerings, the story picks up with humans generously offering their best to Yahweh in return as they take care of this new Eden space.
In part three (32:42-45:40), the guys move ahead into Numbers 9, where all of Israel is preparing to celebrate the Passover (except for those who were ritually impure). Those who are unable to celebrate ask Moses, “What do we do?” (Num. 9:7).
Moses asks Yahweh what the answer is to their question, and Yahweh says that anyone prevented from celebrating Passover because of ritual impurity, or simply because they’re out of town, can celebrate Passover a month later. However, whether on time or at a later date, every one of God’s people was to celebrate Passover. This celebration reaffirmed their identity as a nation formed by God’s justice and mercy.
Stories like this are important for our own understanding of the Torah. While God’s laws are good and right and cover a lot of topics ancient Israelites dealt with on a daily basis (and some we do too), there were and always will be situations that aren’t explicitly mentioned among God’s laws. Here, we see that being caretakers of Eden and images of God means humans have a responsibility to evaluate and seek wisdom from God in situations where there is no law. In this case, Moses sought a word from Yahweh directly. Today, we have an even better mediator than Moses: Jesus the Messiah. Followers of Jesus can seek wisdom from God’s Spirit of wisdom and consult the wisdom of the Torah.
In part four (45:40-01:06:50), Tim and Jon continue to explore the process of utilizing the Bible to live wisely and understand God’s will.
The story of the Bible is meant to shape God’s people—from all times and places—into men and women who assume there is always more to learn about how to navigate the complexities of life. And we learn more by returning repeatedly to the Bible to gain greater insight into God’s will. This is exactly what Jesus does in his famous Sermon on the Mount. He calls on the laws of the Torah to derive greater wisdom and deeper meaning, showing his disciples that outward actions come from inner motives that are just as important to God.
Show produced by Cooper Peltz. Edited by Dan Gummel, Tyler Bailey, and Frank Garza. Show notes by Lindsey Ponder. Podcast annotations for the BibleProject app by MacKenzie Buxman.
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