With God’s judgements for the people’s rebellion over the last few chapters, there are a lot of dead bodies within the camp. This makes it a perfect opportunity to talk about what to do when the camp or individuals are contaminated by touching dead bodies.
Think back to Leviticus and that particular way of thinking of clean/pure vs unclean/impure. The process is broken down into specific offerings and washing yourself with water.
So the people set off once again. Miriam, Moses’ sister, dies during this period of travelling. They eventually find themselves in a land without water, so the people start complaining again. They never learn.
Except this time, it’s Moses that messes up. God tells him to speak to the rock and tell it to bring forth water. Instead, Moses talks to the people as though this is something he is doing, and then bashes the rock with a stick, disobeying God and taking the credit for himself. So God tells Moses that he also will no longer enter the Promised Land either.
As they continue to travel the Israelites face some opposition from the people of Edom. These guys are descendants of Esau, Jacob’s brother. In many ways, these nations are siblings. Then Aaron, Moses’ brother, dies.
Still moving forward, Israel begins to win victories over the nation that fight against them, with God’s support of course. They defeat their first Canaanites, the king of Arad. The Canaanites were the descended from Canaan, the grandson on Noah that may have been born from Ham sleeping with his own mother back in Genesis 9:18-28.
But even after this first win, the people start complaining again. These people never learn. God sends serpents to poison the people and then gets Moses to lift a bronze serpent in the air. When the people look at the bronze serpent, they will be healed.
Exactly why God gets Moses to use a bronze snake is unclear. What’s interesting is that Jesus picks up this imagery in the New Testament to describe himself. Just as this bronze snake was lifted up to heal the people, Jesus was lifted up on the cross to save all (John 3:14-15).
But from here the people start doing well. They continue to march on through the wilderness, and we get some of the songs they wrote during this period. Then they fight with the Amorites, who were a different group of Canaanites, and win. Except this time they decide to settle in this land.
This psalm is attributed to the sons of Korah and falls into the category of praise psalm. Each section of the psalm ends with selah which is likely a musical term to pause.
Psalm 46:1-3 - God’s protection against natural disasters
Psalm 46:4-7 - God’s protection against enemy nations
Psalm 46:8-11 - Be confident in the Lord for he will be exalted
The psalm opens with the theme of the psalm, God is our protection and refuge. Because of this, we do not need to fear. The first thing we do not need to fear is the natural order of the world.
Even if the embodiment of order and stability, the mountain, is thrown in the embodiment of chaos and destruction, the sea. In other words, even if the world seems turned upside down, and everything feels chaotic, even then we do not need to fear, because we can rest in God.
In the next section we get mention of Gods city, that’s fed with rivers, which were often seen as sources of life. But while God’s city is secure, there are nations that would try to rage against it.
But we need not fear what nations and governments do. Even against these, God needs only speak and they melt away. God is with us and he will protect us.
The last section is a call to the listener. See for yourself the might of God. See how he is able to put an end to all wars, and defeat the might of men. All that’s needed of you is to be still and trust that God is in control. Then you will see God rule over all the earth.
The psalm reminds us of the confidence we have 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.
This Bible study devotional covers Numbers chapters 20-21. Here we read about Moses and Aaron disobeying God, the start of the younger generation's success, and the story of the famous bronze serpent.
As always, we are committed to showing you how Jesus fulfills these specific passages. In Numbers 20-21, we see that Jesus is the rock that was struck to provide us with living water and the one who was lifted up like the bronze serpent to save our lives.
Understanding the context of your passage is always important. BibleProject always do an incredible job of breaking down each book so you can see how your passage fits into the wider story.
BibleProject have done an animated recap of Leviticus to help you fit today's passage into the overarching story of Numbers.
Spoken Gospel outlines the book of Numbers and point out some of the key themes, all in the medium of spoken word.