Today we begin Numbers Chapter 16.
For the Complete Jewish Bible, click here.
For the King James Version, click here.
By way of an introduction to Numbers 16 and the two chapters to follow (Numbers 16, 17, and 18 should actually be treated as one unit), I want to introduce the primary themes we should keep in mind as we work our way through this chapter and the two to follow.
The first thing you need to know is that this chapter is all about the uncompromising position the priesthood was to hold in Israel’s national life.
The contents of this chapter will serve to remind us of the superior status the tribe of Levi possessed as well as the supreme holiness the Priesthood, a sub-group within Levi, held.
All of this will be demonstrated in the story of a group of rebels who decided to go against the established God-ordained holiness hierarchy.
Understand that when HASHEM through Moses first gave His Torah to the people of Israel, it was nothing but abstract concepts to them.
They had received a bunch of do’s and don’ts, rituals and festival observances, and a list of consequences and punishments for disobeying, but they had never learned how to practically apply them to their daily lives.
It was all just a bunch of theories to them.
What made things even more difficult is that the people were still living in the desert and a good portion of the instructions the Lord had given them would not even be possible to observe until Israel entered the Promised Land.
This is evident when one sees that immediately following many commands, there is the conditional phrase “After you enter the land…“.
To this ancient Middle Eastern society that had just left Egypt, a lot of the instructions they received about how to live a Godly life seemed downright strange and impractical to them.
Their viewpoint was probably quite identical to how the gentile church views the Torah today.
The notion they harbor is that it’s just an old book containing a bunch of antiquated instructions that have no relevance for the modern believer who is under the New Covenant.
I’ll never forget the time I got my first parking ticket.
I was in a rush to pick something up at the supermarket and I found a nice little spot behind the store where I could park my vehicle.
The only problem was that area was a prohibited parking zone.
I said to myself, ‘Heck, I’ll only be here for 10 minutes and then I’ll be gone“.
After my little sojourn to the supermarket, I returned to my car to find that universally dreaded white rectangular slip of paper dangling from my windshield.
And then, at that moment, it struck me.
The laws governing where I could and could not park were not some theory but very real.
And I would now have to pay real consequences for violating these laws.
In fact, a fresh realization came over me that everything I had studied in the traffic guide book to prepare to get my Driver’s License was not just for my intellectual entertainment.
Those rules were very, very real and that I had best obey all of the them or pay the consequences whether it be suffering a comparatively light punishment for a misdemeanor such as speeding or paying a heavy price for something much more serious such as drunk driving, which puts other lives in danger.
Here’s what we have to know about God’s Torah or instructions.
The only way to grow and strengthen our faith is to put God’s commands into practice in real life.
If Israel had never left the foot of Mount Sinai and decided to just blissfully gather manna every day and do nothing but tend to their animals in peace and quiet, most of the Torah would have remained mere head knowledge to them.
The only way Israel was going to grow was to experience life raw and uncensored with all of its temptations and difficulties.
That is why God was going to having them battle to take the Promised Land.
It is only by applying God’s principles and commands in challenging situations that His Torah becomes very practical and real to us.
You can’t just sit in a classroom all day.
You’ve got to step out into the battlefield of life and take some risks.
That’s where the REAL learning begins.
And yes, you will stumble and fall and you will endure hardship but you will also grow tremendously because of your struggles.
There is no better way to solidify your faith than to apply God’s Torah in the arena of life.
One other point.
We’re going to be studying about a series of rebellions by the people of Israel against Moses and Aaron.
But here’s the thing.
The people weren’t really rebelling against Moses and Aaron.
They were rebelling against God.
That was a big mistake the rebels made.
They thought they were rebelling against mere men but they were really rebelling against God.
That mistaken perception was going to cost them their lives.
Moses and Aaron were God’s Chosen Mediators.
In fact, I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say that Moses was the Old Testament equivalent of Yeshua the Messiah.
He held a special status in his day that no other men held.
In this sense, Numbers Chapter 16 is very informative in that it teaches us the proper response to God’s appointed mediators.
For example, there are many liberal scholars both Jews and gentiles who view Yeshua as a great religious leader or teacher but deny the special role he held as God ‘s chosen Mediator and Savior.
Well, those men who rebelled against Moses made the same mistake.
They may have had respect for Moses as a human leader but they failed to grasp his divinely superior status as God’s Chosen Mediator.
The failure to understand this superior position that Moses held was going to cost them their lives.