NUMBERS: DIVISION III
THE FORTY LONG YEARS OF WILDERNESS WANDERINGS: A PICTURE OF THE BELIEVER'S PILGRIMAGE THROUGH THIS WORLD AS HE PREPARES TO ENTER THE PROMISED LAND, 15:1-25:18
(15:1—25:18) DIVISION OVERVIEW—Wilderness Wanderings—Desert Journeys—Israel, Wilderness Wanderings of—Israel, Second Generation, Preparation of: "the Wilderness Wanderings"—"the Desert Journeys": this is the all-important subject of this division of Numbers. One of the most fascinating, captivating, and intriguing subjects in all of Scripture. The first generation of Israelites have just committed the final, tragic rebellion that dooms them to wander about in the desert wilderness until they die (Numbers 13-14). Now, Numbers 15 begins as though nothing has happened. Why? One reason: the second generation—the children twenty years old or younger—now have to be prepared to conquer and claim the inheritance of the promised land. They have to be taught the laws of the land, strengthened, disciplined, and toughened. They must become the best soldiers possible: strong enough to endure the march and to defeat and conquer all the enemies who will oppose them.
God takes the forty years of wilderness wanderings and uses them for good. He takes these years of chastisement against the first generation and uses them to prepare their children to claim the inheritance the parents had forfeited by their evil unbelief and rebellion.
Immediately after the final, tragic failure of the first generation, God gave the laws covered in Numbers 15. The laws were to help govern the second generation of believers after they entered the promised land. This is surprising; most of these laws would not be needed for about forty years. Why give the laws now, forty years ahead of time? To encourage the parents—who had just failed so miserably—and the children who were the hope of the future. God was encouraging them all, declaring that the promised land was real, so real that He was going to begin training the children in the laws of the land now—immediately. The parents were not to live defeated lives, spending the rest of their days depressed, angry, and discouraged. They were to place their hope in their children. About forty years from then, the children would march into the promised land. Here were laws they would need to govern them during those days. This is exactly what God says in Numbers 15:2: "After you come into the land I am giving you," you are to do this and that.
As one reads through the wilderness wanderings, a surprising fact emerges: little is really said about the long, hard years of suffering. A few events are shared, but only a few. Considering that the time frame of the wilderness wanderings covers about thirty-eight years, we are left wondering what happened during all the silent, unrecorded time.
The point that must be kept in mind during the reading of the wilderness wanderings is this: the events that were recorded are for us. They stand as a warning to us: that we must escape the evil of the Israelites. We must not wallow around in unbelief, grumbling, and complaining against God. We must not curse God nor rebel against Him. This fact is the clear declaration of Scripture:
"For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4).
"Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (1 Cor. 10:6-11).
THE FORTY LONG YEARS OF WILDERNESS WANDERINGS: A PICTURE OF THE BELIEVER'S PILGRIMAGE THROUGH THIS WORLD AS HE PREPARES TO ENTER THE PROMISED LAND 15:1-25:18
A. Event 1—God Gave Various Laws to Help Govern His People: Being Reassured and Prepared for the Promised Land, 15:1-41
B. Event 2—A Dangerous Rebellion by Korah and His Allies: God Judges All Grumbling and Unbelief, All Rebellion and Unauthorized Approaches, 16:1-50
C. Event 3—The Budding of Aaron's Staff: The Test to Vindicate God's Priest and His Ministry (a Symbol of Christ or the Minister), 17:1-13
D. Event 4—God Spelled Out the Service of the Priests and Levites: The Duties, Support, and Tithing of God's Ministers, 18:1-32
E. Event 5—God Gave the Law to Govern the Offering of the Red Heifer and the Cleansing Water: A Symbol of Christ, His Sacrifice and Cleansing Power, 19:1-22
F. Event 6—the Last Year of Israel in the Wilderness: Five Sad Events, 20:1-29
G. Event 7—the First Military Victories and the Bronze Snake: A Picture of Desperate Vows, of Christ the Savior, and of God's Protection and Victory, 21:1-35
H. Event 8—the Story of Balaam, His Donkey, and His Three Encounters with God (Part 1): A Picture of the Unseen, Unknown Attempts by the Powers of Darkness to Defeat God's People, 22:1-41
I. Event 9—the Story of Balaam and the Seven Startling Oracles or Prophecies Pronounced by Him: The Blessings of God and a Glimpse into the Future, 23:1-24:25
J. Event 10—The Ultimate Rebellion of God's People and the End of the Forty Years of Wilderness Wanderings: Apostasy—Turning to Worldliness, to the Worship of Sex and Other Gods, 25:1-18