Preparing to Enter Our Promised Land – Part 1
Numbers 1 begins the culmination of God’s main purpose for the Exodus: entering the Promised Land. Hebrews 4 tells us we are still headed for the Promised Land, calling it our Sabbath rest. Numbers 1-14 are the last few weeks before His grand plan is finally realized. The first 10 chapters provide an outline of how to prepare to enter the Land – for the Israelites, and for us today. These are the last few instructions for following God’s presence into our land of blessing and abundance.
Where We’ve Been
God clearly stated his plan back in Exodus 3:8, where the Israelites’ wilderness journey began:
“So I have come down to rescue the Israelites from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites.”
This is the land God promised to Abraham back in Genesis 12:4-7, 400 years prior.
By Numbers 1, the story has progressed through the book of Exodus, in which God has:
- Called Moses to lead the Exodus and reunited him with Miriam and Aaron
- Brought the ten plagues on the Egyptians and brought the Israelites out of slavery
- Had them cross over the Red Sea on dry land and see the Egyptians drown behind them
- Made his glory appear to them on Mt. Sinai
- Made them hear his voice
- Given them the ten commandments (twice)
- And taught them a whole set of instructions for how to live with Him and with each other.
The Israelites have:
- Committed idolatry with the Golden Calf
- Repented, then gave generously for the building of the tabernacle
- Built the tabernacle equipment and furnishings
- Moses assembled the tabernacle on the first day of Nisan, just one month prior to the events in the book of Numbers.
The book of Leviticus explains:
- Instructions for sacrifices
- The ordination of the priests for work in the tabernacle
- Clean and unclean
- God’s appointed times
- How to live in holiness
Then we arrive at Numbers, just 13 months after the Israelites have left Egypt.
This whole year has focused on preparation for entering and taking over the Promised Land. It’s finally time! God has arranged everything, so that He can fulfill his promise to Abraham with these people – the people He’s brought out of Egypt. The plan is to be in the land in the next few months. (It is springtime, the month of Zif, now called Iyar on the Hebrew calendar. They could be celebrating the Fall Feasts in the Promised Land!) This is a really big deal for God.
So what else needs to happen before they can enter? That’s where we’re at in the story. Numbers 1-10 tells us the last few things that have to happen before they can enter and take the Promised Land.
But These Israelites Didn’t Make It
At this point, some might rightly say, “This generation of Israelites never enters the Promised Land. Why don’t we just skip ahead and look at what the second generation did, since they actually did enter the land?”
Here’s why: Because of what happens now in Numbers 1-10, that second generation is already doing some of these things. God doesn’t cover all of them again. This first generation got the complete instructions, just as if they were entering the land. At this point, God is full steam ahead. He’s forgiven all that’s gone before and is still set on fulfilling his plan with this generation.
In Numbers 1 God counts the men for military battle. In Numbers 2 He organizes them as to how they are to camp and move. By Numbers 10 they are moving. These are our bookends. Everything in between are the last minute instructions before they can move. The census takes place on the first day of the month of Zif. The day they move out in chapter 10 is the 20th day of Zif. So all this takes place in those 20 days.
In chapter 11 the complaining starts and continues through chapter 14:
- They complain about hardships of the wilderness
- They grumble about eating manna all the time
- Miriam and Aaron start questioning Moses’ leadership and choice of wife
- They decide to send scouts into Canaan and 10 of them come back with reports that scare the people
- The people refuse to go into the Promised Land
By the end of chapter 14 God determines that this generation will not enter the Land.
So you see that chapters 1-10 is a complete set of last minute instructions preparing them to enter. In God’s mind, by the end of chapter 10, they are now ready to move forward, ready to finally reach the destination that He’s been preparing for 400 years.
What’s This Got to Do with Me Today?
This is exactly where we’re at today in the last days. You can feel that God’s plans are coming to culmination. The last minute preparations in how to enter our Promised Land in these last days are the same for us as they were for the Israelites then. These are our instructions for what else is required in order for God to fulfill His promises to us. That’s what we’re looking at in this study: our preparation to enter the Promised Land.
Quoting David from Psalm 95, Paul makes this connection for us in Hebrews 3:7-4:13.
7 So, as the Holy Spirit says:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
8 do not harden your hearts
as you did in the rebellion,
during the time of testing in the wilderness,
9 where your ancestors tested and tried me,
though for forty years they saw what I did.
10 That is why I was angry with that generation;
I said, ‘Their hearts are always going astray,
and they have not known my ways.’
11 So I declared on oath in my anger,
‘They shall never enter my rest.’”
6 Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience,7 God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest,God would not have spoken later about another day.9 There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;
We are still headed for the Promised Land – our Sabbath rest – in the sense of our eternal destiny with God. Some think of it as the Millennium. It can refer to our rest in YHVH even now in our lives.
Reviewing Numbers 1-10
First let’s look at the major themes that are covered in Numbers 1-10:
- Census – counting men old enough for military service (1:2-3)
- The tribes positioned around the tabernacle (2:1-31)
- Census of the Levites and defining their roles(chapters 3-4)
- Redeeming the firstborns (3:40-51)
- Additional laws for righteousness (5:1-6:21)
- The Priestly Blessing (6:22-27)
- Consecration of the tabernacle and the altar(chapter 7)
- Consecration of the Levites for the priesthood (chapter 8)
- The Second Passover (9:1-12)
- Following the Cloud (9:15-10:8)
- Marching order of the camps (10:11-28)
By the end of chapter 10 they start moving toward the Promised Land!
Numbers 1-10 is God’s instruction for any generation to enter the Promised Land. So, what are we to learn from the Israelites’ preparation? In Part 2, I’ll discuss what these 11 instructions mean to us today and how they continue to prepare us to enter God’s Promised Land today.