Numbers 1-4; Psalm 40
As we begin the book of Numbers, let’s have a recap of the story so far. We start of with God creating the world and a perfect garden for people to live in.
But the people decide to do their own things and we see a Fall in humanity, till eventually God is disowning the nations and putting other spiritual beings in charge of them.
He then picks a family out of whom he will build a new nation. This nation will be God’s representatives on earth, leading the rest of humanity back to him. We watch as that family grows and relocates to Egypt, where it multiplies and becomes slaves.
God then brings those people out of Egypt, using Moses, and then makes a commitment to them to be their God. He lays out the rules for them and gives them instructions on how to build a home, a tabernacle, for him to dwell in.
Unfortunately, the sin of the people continues to contaminate them and the land, so God gives them a load of rituals and instructions to keep them clean and pure.
Then we get to Numbers, which opens up with some practical instruction on how to organise the camp of the people. The different tribes are counted up and organised, with each tribe being given a place in the camp.
The tribe of Levi is then given responsibility for the tabernacle. They are further organised into three smaller tribes, which will each be responsible for different parts of the tabernacle.
A key feature of the organisation of all the tribes was to prepare them for war. They would be travelling through hostile land where they would be attacked.
This is why they counted how many able-bodied young men, and why the camp is laid out defensively, with the most important part of the camp, the tabernacle, in the centre. It also had a spiritual role.
By being in the centre, everyone was daily reminded that the tabernacle, the presence of God, was the most important thing in their lives. It was the thing that they were to guard. As Christians, are we guarding the presence of God in our lives? Is it the most important thing to us?
This psalm is attributed to king David, and can fit into two categories. The first half is a thanksgiving psalm, while the second half is a lament psalm.
Psalm 40:1-3 - You saved me from the pit
Psalm 40:4-5 - Blessed are those who trust in you for your deeds are great
Psalm 40:6-8 - You desire obedience over sacrifice
Psalm 40:9-11 - I will not hold back my praise as you do not hold back your love and mercy
Psalm 40:12-17 - Deliver me from evil
The psalm opens with a reminder of how God has delivered in the past. He drew the psalmist out of a difficult situation and gave him firm ground to stand upon.
The psalmist is able to say blessed are those who trust in the Lord, because of the good things that the Lord has done. In return, the best way to please the Lord is not through offerings and sacrifices, but through obedience.
The psalmist’s confidence in God reaches a point where they cannot contain it. They have to share it with other people, and tell them about God’s faithfulness and love.
Having given thanks for the Lord, and spoken his praise, the psalmist now turns to the issue at hand. They have built themselves up and reminded themselves of all that God has done, so now they can address their current struggles with confidence.
Just as God has shown he will not withhold his mercy, or his faithful love, the psalmist now asks God to intervene in this situation. It feels like the psalmist is surrounded by their enemies and their own sin.
They ask the Lord to deliver them and put to shame all those who would seek them harm. But may God bless those who have supported the psalmist.
The psalm then end with a declaration of trust, while the psalmist may be poor and needy, God will always be their help and deliverer.
This psalm shows us the benefits of encouraging ourselves in who God is and what he has done for us, before we bring our troubles to him. This allows us to come to God in confidence.
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.