As we have need to encourage, to bind up, to humble. But in all these things that you would turn our eyes to you, that we would see you as the great, faithful promise keeper. And you would teach us to trust in you this day. We pray this in Jesus’ name and for his sake, Amen. To you to work our way through numbers, we’ll be looking at chapters 26 and 27 this morning. Printed in your bulletin is a medley from those chapters. This is the word of the Lord. After the plague, the Lord said to Moses and to Eliezer, the son of Aaron the priest, Take a census of all the congregation of the people of Israel from 20 years old and upward by their father’s houses, all in Israel who are able to go to war. This was the list of the people of Israel 601,730. The Lord spoke to Moses saying, among these, the land shall be divided for inheritance according to the number of names. Chapter 27, Then drew near the daughters of Zalaphahad, and they stood before Moses and before Eliezer the priest, and before the chiefs and all the congregation at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, Our father died in the wilderness.
He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Corah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan? Because he had no son. Give to us a possession among our fathers’ brothers. Moses brought the case before the Lord. And the Lord said to Moses, The daughters of Zalifah are right. You shall give them possession of an inheritance among the fathers’ brothers and transfer the inheritance of their father to them. The Lord said to Moses, Go up into this mountain of a Beoram and see the land that I have given to the people of Israel. And then Moses, speaking, says, Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall come shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd. And so the Lord said to Moses, Take Joshua, the son of nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.
The word of the Lord. You may be seated. We pray for the preaching of God’s word. Father, as my words are true to your word, may they be taken to heart. If my words should stray from yours, may they be quickly forgotten. I pray this in the name and in the power of Jesus Christ, Amen. Perhaps you’ve heard it said, no man steps into the same river twice. For it is not the same river and he is not the same man. Heraclitus, an ancient poet, first penned those words, and it seemed appropriate for us this morning as we look at the 26th and 27th chapters of numbers. Israel, we read, is poised at the Jordan opposite of Jerico. And they are in the final stages of the preparation for entry. 40 years have passed since they were last there. But they are not the same people, and it’s not the same river. And yet, while there are certainly new dynamics, there’s something familiar as well. As we look at what’s familiar and what’s new, hopefully we’ll notice God’s faithfulness to his covenant promise. That should give us confidence to live for his glory. It was after the plague of Chapter 25 that this census, the second full census recorded in the Book of numbers, was taken.
And at its conclusion, one would read in verses 63 and following that, these were those listed by Moses and Eliezer the priest who listed the people of Israel in the Plains of Moab by the Jordan at Gerakau. But among these, there was not one of those listed by Moses and Aaron the priest, who had listed the people of Israel in the wilderness of Sinai. For the Lord had said of them, They shall die in the wilderness. And so not one of the older generation was left except Caleb, the son of Jiffunah, and Joshua, the son of none. The census is familiar. The tribes listed, the names mentioned, the numbers recorded, all familiar. The reference by the Jordan at Cherokee hints to the upcoming military campaign. Again, a familiar thing, this familiar charge to number the men from 20 years and up by their father’s house, all in Israel, who were able to go to war, all familiar language. And then as the numbers roll in in the count, 43,730 for Ruben, 40,500 for Gad, 76,500 for Judah, and so on, we’re struck by both the familiarity and also the reality of God’s faithful provision for his children.
These were the children of the disobedient and complaining parents. They had rose up again and again in rebellion against the Lord and his anointed leaders. These were the ones of whom God said, You will not enter the promised land. You will die in the wilderness. Now, with the census, we see that promise of God fulfilled. Not one left but Caleb and Joshua. On this, Kelvin writes, Thus in the awful judgment, wherewith God punished his sinful people, the truth of his promise still shone forth. God, faithful to his promise to both judge and preserve. For Israel was his children. And his promise to Abraham of Genesis 12, for instance, I will make you a great nation. His promise in Genesis 26, 24 to Isaac, I am the God of Abraham, your father. Fear not, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your offspring for Abraham’s sake. The promise to Jacob himself, also known as Israel in Chapter 46 Verse 3. In Genesis, I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for there I will make you into a great nation. God had made them into a great nation.
And even in the midst of that judgment, preserved a great nation to bring in to the promised land. And when the numbers are added up after 40 years of white and wandering in the wilderness of rebellion and judgment, the children of Israel number 601,730. But just about 1,500 less than they did coming out of Egypt. God had prepared for them and for their every need. And this Old Testament scholar, Ian Dugod, writes, God’s faithfulness to carry through to completion, the things he has promised in spite of our sin, is good news for us too. This younger group, for the oldest now among them, would not be quite 60. They would have seen and felt the familiar care from a faithful God through all of these desert wanderings, perhaps seeing for themselves God’s patience with his people. They noticed that in the midst of their parents’ failures. It may be that as we see God’s patience of his people, we would be encouraged to consider our own patience with one another. I was encouraged. One of the elders regularly asks me, Do you love others as you’ve been loved by God? And here in the midst even of his judgment, we see beautiful glimpses of his mercy.
Another one of God’s promises comes to fulfillment here as well in Chapter 27. There we read in Verse 12, that the Lord said to Moses, Go up into this mountain of Abram and see the land that I have given to the people of Israel. And when you have seen it, you will be also shall be gathered to your people as your brother Aaron was. Because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin. You likely remember that promised punishment to Moses for his failure at Miriq, where in disobedience and apparent frustration, he chided the people, claimed some part of the miracle when he declares, Here now, you rebels, shall we bring water out of this rock? And he struck the rock instead of simply speaking to it. We’re told in a couple places that in doing so, he dishonored the Holy God, ignoring God’s word. And that cost Moses his entry into the promised land. Truly, all along the people have been learning the wages of sin is death. For Nadav and Abih, with their strange fire. For Corah, Dathan, and Abiram, at their rebellion, for all of the grumblings and complainings, for the refusal to trust God 40 years ago on the banks of Jordan, and now here with Moses, the wages of sin is death.
Within the census itself, there are some familiar stories as well, briefly recounted or alluded to helping the reader or in its initial, the listener of this, the stories of old. For instance, in Rubin’s census, we’re reminded of the rebellion in chapter 16, which we’ve already referred to Nathan or Dathan, rather in a Beard. They’re listed there as the sons of Eliab, and they and their families were completely killed in the rebellion. But again, even in the midst of that judgment, there’s a glimpse of mercy. We read in Chapter 26, verses 10 and 11, that when the fire devoured the 250 men with quora, the sons of quora did not die. It’s a picture of mercy in the midst of judgment. And we’re not surprised or ought not to be surprised that the numbers of Rubin dropped by nearly 3,000 in this second census. The tribe most decimated was Simeon, now numbering only 22,200, down from over 59,000 in the first census. Many scholars equate their demise with the flagrant sexual sin of Zimri of the tribe of Simeon, as recorded in chapter 25. Surely the wages of sin is death. But most of the tribes actually increased in size from the first census.
And now they were gathered at the Jordan to enter into the land that the Lord had promised to give them. The familiar ring of the promise echoing in their ears. They knew the story of their parents rejecting that opportunity to enter, and they appeared determined to obey in this respect. It’s the familiar setting with this massive gathering waiting and ready to enter. And yet while there was much familiar, there was much new as well. One of the new aspects of this second census is that while there was a military reason for the census, it wasn’t its sole purpose. Chapter 26, Verse 53 makes the point, while speaking of the census, he writes, among these, the land shall be divided for inheritance according to the number of names. To a large tribe, you shall give a large inheritance. To a small tribe, you shall give a small inheritance. They weren’t simply coming to conquer, but to dwell, to inhabit, and to enjoy this promised land. And God had orchestrated a system of both dividing by size to each tribe, and then drawing lots for each family, each clan unit within that tribe. Well, one family unit quickly recognized the terrible problem with the system.
And with both great boldness and great faith, we see them make their case. Chapter 29 starts with the statement, Then drew near the daughters of Zalaphahad, the son of Heffer, son of Gilead, son of Micur, son of Manasse, of the clan of Manasse, the son of Joseph. Five daughters named Mala, Noah, Huggla, Milca, and Tirste. They stood before Moses and Eleazer and noted that their father had no sons. They declare in Chapter 27, Verse 3, Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord and the company of Corah, but died in his own sin, and he had no sons. Here, the scholars agree that his own sin, that references to his refusal to enter into the promised land 40 years ago. There was no grand rebellion in his life, just the ordinary variety of not trusting God, not obeying his word. And even there we learn the wages of sin is death. And then they asked these daughters, asked the crucial question, Why should the name of our father be taken away from this clan because he had no son? And here we see a couple of new things.
One, in this first census in chapter 1, there were no women listed at all. While here in this second census, we see several women listed. Women are mentioned with the tribe of Manasaw, with the tribe of Asher, and in multiple cases with the tribe of Levi. This inclusion has led several scholars to note the expansive roll out of the gospel. Truly, the message of God’s faithfulness is expanding to all the nation’s tongues and tribes. One scholar, Peter Lightheart, mentions it’s a progression from Adam to Eve, even from Adam to the bride of Christ, the picture of the church. Here we get a brighter glimpse that in God’s eyes, he sees all of his children in need of salvation, and there is no male nor female. All can find the promised rest. All can enter the promised land in Christ. This seems to be the point that the daughters are making. And Moses quickly and wisely realizes that this is a new situation. And instead of trusting in his own wisdom and strength, we read in 27, 5, Moses brought the case before the Lord. And it seems the Lord was quick to answer. For in verse 6, we read, The Lord said to Moses, The daughters of Zalifahad are right.
You shall give them a possession of the inheritance among their father’s brother. That decision is elaborated in verses 8 through 11 and comes back into play in chapter 36, when during more detailed distribution discussions, other members of Manassas tribe asked the question, But when they get married, will they take their father’s land into another tribe? And that brings out the whole conversation of the provisions of the year of Jubilee in which debts would be canceled, lands returned to the original tribe, showing, as Old Testament scholar Timothy Ashley notes, families, clans, and tribes to the land were only sojourners in it. The land belonged to God. Indeed, when one reads through the Old Testament or even the newer testament, with eyes to see, we realize that God truly is the owner and author of all. He turns the heart of the Kings in the palm of his hands, whichever way he pleases, we read in the Psalms. He raises and puts down nations. He used kingdoms and nations to both pure and purify and prosper his children. And yet it’s easy for us and all of us to see what we have as ours. After all, we may think we worked pretty hard for it.
And yet even if we were honest about that, we’d realize that most of the time, other people were involved. There were others who trained us, pushed us, encouraged us, and helped us, and still others who helped them. Even humanly speaking, what is really, we must further realize that everything we have has been given to us. Our heavenly father is the great provider, and all of the earth is his. How might that understanding impact our perspective on our possessions? What might we need to loosen our grip on? What of our possessions has become or is in danger of becoming a distracting idol for us? Each of these, we must remember that God has called us to be stewards of his creation. And it seemed that this is the role that the daughters of Zelleve had looked forward to. Indeed, they wanted to be stewards, and so they petitioned Moses, who sought the Lord. And in their request, these five daughters also showed a beautiful picture of strong faith. Remember, the army is still encamped on the outside, the wrong side of the River Jordan. And yet these women spoke as an act of faith, Give to us a possession as if it had already been achieved in the power of the Lord.
And so doing these five women showed more faith than the ten spies of 40 years ago. And that conviction, many scholars admit, was likely a great source of strength to all those around. And one of those who was around was Joshua, who, along with Caleb, had seen the land, its bounty, its fortified cities. But they were unafraid for they trusted that the Lord could overcome all adversities. And now, as Moses is led up into the hills to look into the promised land to see with his eyes this land flowing with milk and honey, again, a picture of mercy in the midst of judgment. Moses, in 2715, speaks to the Lord. And he says, Lord, let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over this congregation who shall go before them and come in before them, who shall lead them and bring them out, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep without a shepherd. It seems that Moses gets a glimpse of what a tragedy it would be for the people to be leaderless. He sees perhaps what Mika’a prophesied to King Ahab in 1 Kings 22.17. I see all Israel scattered on the mountains like a sheep without a shepherd.
Or perhaps he could feel Ezequiel’s lament against the faithless shepherds. And note, so they were scattered, the people became food for the beasts because there was no shepherd. Ezequiel 34, 35. Perhaps Moses could see even Jesus himself. Matthew 9, 36, we get his reaction. When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them for they were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd. Moses functioned as an advocate for the people until the end. He served as a mediator as well. And in both of those cases, he stood as a foreshadow of the coming savior, who was the perfect advocate, the sufficient mediator. And though perhaps disappointed, Moses persevered until the end, caring for God’s people. And the Lord answered his request. Take Joshua, verse 18, the son of nun, a man in who is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him. In the remaining verses, we see a picture of the order of the ordination of Joshua as Moses’ successor. In verse 20, Moses is to invest in Joshua some of his authority. And we recognize again that authority itself is a gift from God. The hear, the leader, even of God’s people, only has the authority that has been given to him from God.
Joshua, in and of himself, was likely ordinary like you or I. But as he trusted in the Lord, he had confidence, and the Lord sustained him in spirit and in strength. Joshua, as a name is the Hebrew form of Jesus, both meaning savior. The older savior will now function as a foreshadow of the true conquering king. For while the wages of sin is death, which this newer generation would have seen so powerfully in the lives of the death of all their parents. Now, led by one named salvation, they will enter the promised land. Salvation in this respect will only come as they trust in God’s word. And so Joshua is given a portion of Moses’ authority that was something familiar. But here it’s a little different. Well, Testament scholar Gordon, when he remarks, whereas God spoke to Moses face to face, Joshua will be instructed by Eliezer, who will use the Urim and the Thimam, that sacred lot to discover God’s will. They would cast lots and the Lord would declare through that process. The days of Moses were indeed unique, and subsequent generations would need to rely on the priest, authoritative teachers of the law, and the prophets with whom God would speak in visions and in dreams.
But with this new approach, there was the familiar continuity of the laying on of hands. And so in Moses, we were reminded that the laying on of hands we’ve seen in the older testament to be both a time of blessing and the time of transfer of the sins of the people. The patriarchs would transfer blessings to their sons. And in the sacrificial system, sins were transferred on to the scapegoat, for instance. Gordon remarks that when sins are transferred, the one on whom the hands were laid becomes the substitute, the representative for the other. And so Joshua would lead the people into the land. But his role as representative was limited. And yet in this way, Joshua points us to the one who truly became a substitute for our sins, not symbolically, but actually taking upon himself our sin as he was hanged on a cross. Our true savior, Christ Jesus, is the fulfillment of all the shadows, all the hints, all the forte of the Old Testament. Joshua leads with a portion to borrow authority while Christ declares that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. And he, with all authority, has declared that anyone who calls upon his name will be saved.
Trust, then, in the faithful provisions of this savior. And through this journey, now standing at the brink of Jordan, Israel, the new generation was in familiar territory, nearly the same size, at the same river, awaiting to enter the same land. But again, this time with a new leader, a new high priest, and some new rules to guide them. But still, God, in his faithfulness, has shown once again his provision for him. His faithfulness displayed has given them confidence to live for his glory. And their calling is our calling to trust in the faithful provisions of this savior. Let us pray. Father, thank you again for your word that you give us something familiar and something new. Father, that you are our heavenly father and that you are faithful to your promise. Even in your judgment, even when justice is brought down, there are glimpses of mercy and of love. You are truly a holy God. Father, we rejoice in your goodness. Recall to us your faithfulness to the past generations. Let us record and capture your faithfulness and share that with the future generations. Father, through it all, would we see in your faithfulness, work in us an ability to trust in you now?
Father, we look forward to entering that final promised rest. Teach us to trust you. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen. I invite you to.
Disclaimer: Automated Sermon Transcription