Let me ask you a question and I want you give me an honest answer.
When you hear the word “numbers”, what comes to mind?
The first thing that pops into my mind is a boring list of accounting records.
For me, numbers represent a kind of cold objective reality I don’t want to deal with.
A while ago when I was working in sales, I alway hated it when my boss would say “Well, let’s take a look at the numbers!“
I always preferred the subjective warmth of ambiguity.
I think in general, people don’t like the harsh obligations numbers impose on us.
That’s why we don’t like to receive bills, or step on the scale to find out how much weight we’ve gained and that’s why April 15th is one of the most dreaded days of the year.
However, in ancient times, numbers were not viewed in such a negative fashion.
Quite the contrary, numbers were considered magical things!
They symbolized deep and awesome secrets.
The Israelites intensely studied and discussed numbers and this fascination continues to this very day.
What I find quite ironic is that although your average Christian has probably never even read the Book of Numbers, the New Testament makes abundant use of this book and the Apostle Paul in one of his greatest epistles to the Corinthians referred to this book often.
Check out these references.
“They have left the straight way and wandered off
to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer,
who loved the wages of wickedness.”
-2 Peter 2:15
“But I have a few things against you:
you have some there who hold the
teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak
to put a stumbling block before the sons
of Israel, so that they might eat food
sacrificed to idols and practice sexual immorality.”
“Woe to them, in that they have
walked the road of Cain,
they have given themselves over for money
to the error of Balaam,
they have been destroyed in
the rebellion of Korach.”
For, brothers, I don’t want you to miss the significance
of what happened to our fathers.
All of them were guided by the pillar of cloud,
and they all passed through the sea,
and in connection with the cloud and with the sea
they all immersed themselves into Moshe,
also they all ate the same food from the Spirit,
and they all drank the same drink from the Spirit —
for they drank from a Spirit-sent Rock which followed them,
and that Rock was the Messiah.
Yet with the majority of them
God was not pleased,
so their bodies were strewn across the desert.
Now these things took place
as prefigurative historical events,
warning us not to set our hearts
on evil things as they did.
Don’t be idolaters, as some of them were
— as the Tanakh puts it,
“The people sat down to eat and drink,
then got up to indulge in revelry.”
And let us not engage in fornication, as some of them did,
with the consequence that 23,000 died in a single day.
And let us not put the Messiah to the test,
as some of them did,
and were destroyed by snakes.
And don’t grumble, as some of them did,
and were destroyed by the Destroying Angel.
The truth is the Book of Numbers is one of the most exciting and action-packed books in all of Scripture filled to the brim with awesome teachings and warnings for our growth and edification.