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12th February

Numbers 11-13; Psalm 43

Bible in a Year
5 minutes
In this article
12th February

Numbers 11-13; Psalm 43

Bible in a Year
5 minutes


So far in Numbers we've read as God gave his final instructions to Israelites to prepare them as they leave Sinai. These instructions are carefully gathered together in Numbers to be a retelling of Genesis 1-9. An answer to what went wrong before as God begins a new creation with the Israelites.

We read as God brought order to the camp just as he brought order to creation. He charges the Levites just as he charges Adam and Eve. We then got a series of, seemingly random instructions, they target a different mistake humans made in Genesis 3-9.

From Adam and Eve not repenting, from remaining loyal to God and not adulterous like the woman that slept with other divine beings, to avoiding alcohol which was the mistake that Noah made.

From there we get final preparations, like the an offering to consecrate the tabernacle, the cleansing of the Levites, and instructions for how to follow the cloud of God and guide the people with trumpets.

In the midst of this we got the first time the instructions from God fail in certain contexts. We read how all Israelites must gather to share in Passover, but unclean Israelites have to be outside the camp unable to gather.

Rather than twist themselves in knots coming up with a solution, they went back to the source to get an answer, much like we can today.

And so the Israelites set off with their new creation camp. Everything is on the up. This is where we pick up today.

Numbers 11-13

Yesterday we saw the Israelites fully prepared and finally setting off from Mount Sinai. Now, literally in the next chapter things start to go wrong. The people complain, showing their ungratefulness at what God has done for them. 

God is angered and punishes them by raining down fire. Then Moses prays to God for relief and God stops.

Remember when the people complained in Exodus? God had mercy on them. They didn’t know better. But now the people have spent a year at Sinai. They’ve heard his instructions and committed themselves to him. They now have a greater responsibility to stay loyal to God, and the consequences for not are going to be greater.

To remind themselves of this moment, the Israelites name the place where it happened. This all happens in the first 3 verse of Numbers 11 and is a condensed version of what happens almost every time the people complain.

But as soon as God stops, the people start complaining again. This time it’s because there isn’t enough variety in their food. Back in Egypt they had meat and a wide range of vegetables. Here they just have manna. 

It goes to show how selective our memory could be. The Israelites were beaten and enslaved in Egypt, yet now all they can remember was how good it was to have cucumbers. 

All this time the Israelites are showing their lack of faith in and appreciation for God. This time the pressure of the situation becomes too much for Moses, and he cries out to God to either give him help or kill him. 

Even as Christians, in church we can focus on the things we don’t like and complain, forgetting that God is faithful, but also that our leaders are human and can only do so much. 

Back to Moses, God gets him to get a team around him of seventy elders who can lead the people with him. He then puts some of his spirit into each of the elders. But God is generous with his spirit, and it spills over to two more in the camp. At first the people are concerned but Moses points out that they should all seek to be filled with God’s spirit.

After that, he turns round and gives the people what they wanted, meat. But he punishes them as well, hitting them with a great plague.

But still the people don’t learn. This time it’s Moses’ own family, Aaron and Miriam, that start complaining and challenging Moses. As we’ll see, the rebellion of the people affects every area of the nation, from the people right up to the high priest and hist sister.

Moses being humble doesn’t fight back, but God defends him. He gives Miriam leprosy to show that he really is for Moses and then forces her to wait outside the camp for seven days before he removes it from her. The people are not doing well.

As they begin to approach the promise land, Moses sends out some spies to see what the situation is like. Who currently lives there? What are the resources like? 

Twelve spies go out and then come back with their report. The land is flowing with milk and honey. It’s a great place to live. The problem is the people there are strong. One spy, Caleb, stands up and encourages everyone, saying they can do it. But the other spies are scared and tell everyone that they can’t.

“And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

Numbers 13:33

If you can remember all the way back to Genesis 6:1-4, we saw some spiritual beings, Sons of God, sleep with human women who then gave birth to the nephaiim, giant warrior men.

Somehow these nephilim survived the flood. Or maybe more spiritual beings came after the flood and made some more. The Bible doesn’t specify. But what it says here is that these nephilim went on to have children of their own.

One of them was likely a guy called Anak. And just like over time, we saw Abraham become a nation of people, the descendants of Anak become a nation of people. Sometimes called the Anakites other times just called the descendants of Anak. As descendants of a nephilim, these guys were much larger and stronger than normal people.

I mention this to say here we’ve got a people that are a result of evil spiritual beings, standing in the way of God’s people. The war that these two sides eventually fight is as much a spiritual war as it is a physical war. So store this up in your head for later.

Because of these spies, it’s going to be a while before Israelites come to defeat these enemies, and so you’ll find this information useful later.

Psalm 43

Many believe Psalm 42-43 were originally one psalm, as they both share the same refrain. We’ve mentioned multiple times that Biblical lament involved bringing God your complaint and struggles, ask God to intervene, and declare your trust in God.

In Psalm 42 the psalmist shared their struggles and made declarations of trust, but they never asked God to intervene. That request appears here in Psalm 43.

Psalm 43:1-4 - A prayer for deliverance

Psalm 43:5 - Why are you downcast my soul  

Having worked through their emotions in Psalm 42, the psalmist is now ready to ask God to break in to their situation. They ask God to defend them and protect them from those who would wish them harm.

They also begin to interrogate God. Why is that God seems far? Why is that the psalmist is suffering at the hands of their enemy? We may feel scared to ask God these kinds of questions, but he would much rather us bring the questions to him than let them sit inside us chewing away at our faith.

The psalmist asks God to send out his light and truth. They are drawing on God’s character, asking him to be faithful to who he is. The psalmist’s desire? To once again be brought into God’s presence. That’s all they want. To experience the joy they know comes from God.

So one last time the psalmist speaks to themself, to encourage themself to continue to hope in God.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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