Numbers for the Church Today
Numbers is a book for people living in the tension between the "now" and the "not yet". Israel has been redeemed from Egypt, just as Christians are redeemed by Christ's work, but the promises are not yet complete. In the meantime, we are called to be faithful and obey God's instructions as we wait for the fulfillment of his promises. "The author calls upon the generation of his day to assume the future of the promise in the light of the past of God's people and the divine response to it" (Leder 164). The past and the future call us to be faithful today because God is present with us and has taught us how to live in light of His holiness. We are held accountable to the knowledge of God we do possess. In Numbers, "Israel threatens her identify and promised future in ways unavailable to the nations, eerily anticipating her descendants' apostasy in the Promised Land" (Leder 159). Yet while God does judge the disobedience of His people now, He also remains a God of mercy and preserves His people until the day He returns. "God does not destroy all the people. In His mercy, He provides for the descendants of this rebellious generation, so that they will know of His blessing" (Hess 120). We obey, not to avoid God's judgment, but out of love for the God who hassaved us and who has promised to culminate our salvation in the future.
Hess, Richard S. The Old Testament: A Historical, Theological, and Critical Introduction. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016.
Leder, Arie C. Waiting for the Land: The Story Line of the Pentateuch. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2010.