Last week we learned the death of Miriam, Moses’ sister and the death of Aaron, Moses’ brother. We saw how God made Aaron’s son, Eleazor the new high priest to take Aaron’s place. There was to always be a high priest. This was essential and anticipates the coming of the only true high priest, Jesus.
Numbers 21:1-3 – The Vow to God
The Israelites needed to conquer the country of Canaan before they could occupy it as their Promised Land. This took them about 7 years. There were several kings who ruled their territories within the country. The Lord delivered these Canaanite territories into the hands of Israel.
The first victory was at Arad. The king of Arad heard about the Israelites and attacked them as they traveled and captured some of the people. The Israelites didn’t try to free the captives. Instead they went to God. Finally they took their concerns and problems to God. They made a vow to God saying, “If you will deliver these people into our hands, we will totally destroy their cities.” - Num 21:2. God listened and gave the Canaanites over to Israel. So they completely destroyed them and their cities.
What promise have you made to God?
Do you depend on Him to keep His promises?
When should you have depended on God, but did not?
What were the results?
God is faithful and keeps His promises.
Trust and dependency on God results in victory.
Numbers 21:4-20 – The Bronze Snake
They continued to travel around Edom. Remember in our last lesson Edom wouldn’t let them pass through their land. The Israelites didn’t want to fight with them because they were relatives. Also God had instructed them not to make war with them. Now, Israel became impatient since their travels were taking longer than they expected so they began to complain again. They complained against God and Moses about having no bread and no water. (Num. 21:4-5)
Impatience usually brings trouble. The fruit of the Spirit is patience. God wants us to slow down and grow at His pace, not ours. We are to “wait on the Lord”. God provided daily manna and water for the Israelites. Jesus gives us the water that gives life. In the Bible water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Everyone who believes in Jesus receives the Holy Spirit that guides us in the way we are to live.
God had provided all they needed, but they weren’t grateful for it. They rejected God’s blessing of manna. So God punished them by sending poisonous snakes. The snakes bit some of the people and many died. The people then came to Moses and confessed their sin and asked him to pray for God to take the snakes away. Faithful Moses again interceded for the people.
When has your impatience and complaining led you to sin?
Are you grateful for how God has provided for you?
How do you show that gratitude?
Impatience can lead to sin.
God provides all we need.
God did not remove the snakes. Instead he told Moses to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole so when those who were bitten looked on it, they would live. In John 3:14 Jesus referred to this when talking about His death. “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal.” ”
I am sure Moses didn’t understand why God told him to make a bronze snake. God commanded the people not to make images. Wasn’t a snake associated with Satan? The snake was the cause of Adam and Eve’s fall in Genesis and sin entered the world. A serpent is a symbol of sin and evil. Moses was to lift the serpent or sin on a pole and all who had been bitten by sin would not die. All the world has been bitten by sin and every person is dying. “For the wages of sin is death ...” – Rom. 6:23. God didn’t remove the snakes, and He doesn’t remove sin from the world. Instead He provided a way to cure every person of sin. All we have to do is to look at the cross and believe Jesus died on our behalf. Sin is like a serpent’s bite. It is deadly poison within us. We can’t heal ourselves. We can only be healed by the blood of Jesus.
Principle: Look on Jesus to save you and give you eternal life.
Have you realized that you have been bitten by the deadly snake of sin?
When you look at the cross, what do you see?
What do you believe about Jesus?
Have you let Jesus heal you of your sin?
Do you believe he died for you?
Numbers 21:21-35 – The Victory Over Sihon and Og
The Israelites continued on their journey to the Promised Land and came to the territory of the Amorites. They sent messages to Sihon, the king of the Amorites asking him if they could pass through the land. Sihon would not let them and sent his entire army out into the desert against Israel. They fought and Israel won. They captured all the cities and the surrounding settlements. Israel then settled their in the land. They also defeated the Amorites in the city of Jazer. This battle would be important. God would use this victory to shake up Israel’s future enemies.
Then they traveled toward Bashan and king Og marched out to battle with them. Og was a giant, but God was bigger. God told Israel not to be afraid and that He had handed him over to them. King Og and his army were defeated leaving no survivors. They took possession of his land.
What fear do you face? We should not be afraid, because God loves us and in on our side. He is much bigger than our enemies. “… If God is for us, who can be against us?” – Rom 8:31
God uses victories in our past to build and prepare us for future battles.
You can rely on God for spiritual victories.
When have you ever been attacked for no reason?
How has God come to your rescue?
All this destroying and killing may sound harsh, but today we don’t think it’s wrong to kill innocent unborn babies. Remember the Promised Land belonged to God before the Canaanites established residency there. It was God’s plan to give this land to Abraham’s descendants. “In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here.” - Gen. 15:16. The Canaanites were wicked and rebellious people. They worship gods with crude sexual practices and human sacrifices. So God used the Israelites to bring His judgment on them. Also God didn’t want the Israelites to be influenced by this sinful Canaanite civilization.
Was it fair for the Canaanites to be destroyed? If God were fair, none of us could see His perfect heaven someday. We are all Canaanites in some way, but because of Jesus our sins have been forgiven. Thank God that he is not fair.
Note: The Book of the Wars of the Lord mentioned in verses 14-16 is a collection of odes of the time of Moses containing the early history of Israel’s battles. It probably contained stories, songs, and poems about war. We don’t have any copies of this book today.
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