Text: Numbers 8-10
"My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you..." - Psalm 42
Aaron sets up the seven lamps according to God’s instructions to Moses.
The Levites are consecrated as a substitute for all the firstborn males and are made ceremonially clean by the priests so they can work at the Tent of Meeting and make atonement for the Israelites.
The first memorial celebration of Passover occurs but some of the people were unclean at the time and missed the celebration. These people approach Moses and ask how they too may celebrate the Passover. Moses takes their question before the Lord and God makes provision for them to celebrate a month later.
The Israelites follow the manifestation of God’s presence (the cloud) wherever it goes. If the cloud lifts, they know it is time to move, when it settles over the tabernacle, they camp around it until it moves again. Trumpets are made to signal the people so they collectively know when to assemble and when to move. These trumpet sounds are also to help the people remember that the Lord rescues them from their enemies and they are to sound at various special festivals as a memorial.
Leaving the Desert of Sinai, the Israelites follow the Lord into the Desert of Paran and Moses invites his wife’s relative, Hobab, to stay with them and share in the good things coming to them in the Promised Land.
After celebrating the Passover and reflecting on all that God has done for them so far, it’s time to get moving towards the Promised Land! We hear Moses’ anticipation for what’s ahead as he begs his father-in-law to stay with them and share in “the good things the Lord gives us”.
There is a systematic way the people are to move forward. If the cloud rises, the Israelites know it’s marching time. If the cloud stops, they set up camp. All this is communicated through the camp as various sounds are blasted by silver trumpets. In this way, it is the Lord who will lead and guide Israel through the wilderness.
What would have been going through the minds of the people as they celebrated the first memorial Passover? Perhaps they reviewed all that had happened since they left Egypt 12 months earlier. It’s been a transformational year as the people learned (the hard way) about what it meant to belong to the God who rescued them out of slavery. Essentially starting from nothing, it was a year to build and establish a new identity for these people. They have received the rules and regulations for how they are to live in proximity to Holy God and they have constructed the tabernacle so that His presence can be with them wherever they go. God has given them a way of life that sets them apart from all the other nations so that when they enter the Promised Land, they will have a strong identity that will distinguish them from all other peoples.
Before the people could move forward towards the Promised Land, God gave them the opportunity to look back and remember. This was supposed to help solidify their trust in the God who miraculously rescued them from slavery so that they would have the strength and courage to face what was ahead: 1. the harsh conditions of the rough terrain as they travelled through the desert, and 2. war as they were about to conquer the land and claim it for themselves.
SPOILER ALERT: The people of Israel aren’t able to trust God as they move forward and instead of entering the Promised Land, they end up wandering for 40 more years in the desert--a major consequence rooted in the distrust the people have in the God who miraculously brought them out of slavery.
God prepared the Israelites for the Promised land with a year in the wilderness.
Let’s overlay some of this story with our own lives. We have been living in a worldwide pandemic for about a year now. For a lot of people, the year 2020 was perhaps a “wilderness” time. Old ways of living were done away with and new systems were set up for life moving forward. Take some time to reflect on the last 12 months of your life. How have you seen God moving during that time? How has He been there for you? How have you learned to trust Him more? If God was to take you somewhere new, what truths would you like to hold on to? By choosing to learn the lessons of the wilderness, you can avoid 40 years of wandering and accelerate into the promises God has for your life.
Song: Red Sea Road By Ellie Holcomb
We bury dreams
Lay them deep into the earth behind us
Said our goodbyes
At the grave but everything reminds us
God knows we ache
When He asks us to go on
How do we go on?
We will sing to our souls
We won't bury our hope
Where He leads us to go
There's a Red Sea road
When we can't see the way
He will part the waves
And we'll never walk alone
Down the Red Sea road
How can we trust
When You say You will deliver us
From all of this pain
That threatens to take over us
Well, this desert's dry
But the ocean may consume
And we're scared to follow You
Oh help us believe You are faithful, you're faithful
When our hearts are breaking
You are faithful, You're faithful
You'll grant us eyes to see
You are faithful, You're faithful
Teach us to sing
You are faithful, You're faithful, You're faithful
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.