The suitcases are all loaded, and it’s time to turn the thermostat back, shut off the lights, pack the snacks and start the car. Just a few more details, and Israel is ready to pull up stakes and leave the Wilderness of Sinai.
It might be helpful to go over the timeline since their journey began.
Remember in Exodus 12, when the LORD told Moses, “This Month, for you, shall be the beginning of months.” By their counting, the Passover occurs on Year 1, Month 1, Day 14.
By Exodus 16, it’s Month 2, Day 15, when they head for the Wilderness of Sinai. They are there for at least nine months, while Moses receives the law on Mount Horeb. On the first day of Year 2, in Exodus 40, they dedicate the Tabernacle.
One month passes as Leviticus unfolds, and Numbers opens on Year 2, Month 2, Day 1. Twenty days later, in chapter 10, they set out for Canaan.
During these three weeks, there are just a few more chores to attend to. At the beginning of chapter 8, listen to how the lampstand is made by “hammered work of gold.” A product, surely, of Bezalel, Oholiab, or an apprentice, this finely personal work mirrors the directions of Exodus, and boldly contrasts the production of the golden calf.
After this, the Levites are cleansed and consecrated for the LORD’s service, and chapter 9 looks back one month to the first anniversary of the Passover. We’re then reminded in detail of the cloud and fire that would lead Israel forward. Silver trumpets “of hammered work” are procured, and the nation of Israel, finally, pulls up stakes.
Our verse for this week is Ephesians 5:2: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
Numbers chapters 8 through 10. Now let’s read it!
Numbers 8 - 10
8:1 Now the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and say to him, When you set up the lamps, the seven lamps shall give light in front of the lampstand.” And Aaron did so: he set up its lamps in front of the lampstand, as the LORD commanded Moses. And this was the workmanship of the lampstand, hammered work of gold. From its base to its flowers, it was hammered work; according to the pattern that the LORD had shown Moses, so he made the lampstand.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the Levites from among the people of Israel and cleanse them. Thus you shall do to them to cleanse them: sprinkle the water of purification upon them, and let them go with a razor over all their body, and wash their clothes and cleanse themselves. Then let them take a bull from the herd and its grain offering of fine flour mixed with oil, and you shall take another bull from the herd for a sin offering. And you shall bring the Levites before the tent of meeting and assemble the whole congregation of the people of Israel. When you bring the Levites before the LORD, the people of Israel shall lay their hands on the Levites, and Aaron shall offer the Levites before the LORD as a wave offering from the people of Israel, that they may do the service of the LORD. Then the Levites shall lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, and you shall offer the one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering to the LORD to make atonement for the Levites. And you shall set the Levites before Aaron and his sons, and shall offer them as a wave offering to the LORD.
“Thus you shall separate the Levites from among the people of Israel, and the Levites shall be mine. And after that the Levites shall go in to serve at the tent of meeting, when you have cleansed them and offered them as a wave offering. For they are wholly given to me from among the people of Israel. Instead of all who open the womb, the firstborn of all the people of Israel, I have taken them for myself. For all the firstborn among the people of Israel are mine, both of man and of beast. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt I consecrated them for myself, and I have taken the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel. And I have given the Levites as a gift to Aaron and his sons from among the people of Israel, to do the service for the people of Israel at the tent of meeting and to make atonement for the people of Israel, that there may be no plague among the people of Israel when the people of Israel come near the sanctuary.”
Thus did Moses and Aaron and all the congregation of the people of Israel to the Levites. According to all that the LORD commanded Moses concerning the Levites, the people of Israel did to them. And the Levites purified themselves from sin and washed their clothes, and Aaron offered them as a wave offering before the LORD, and Aaron made atonement for them to cleanse them. And after that the Levites went in to do their service in the tent of meeting before Aaron and his sons; as the LORD had commanded Moses concerning the Levites, so they did to them.
And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.”
9:1 And the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the first month of the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, “Let the people of Israel keep the Passover at its appointed time. On the fourteenth day of this month, at twilight, you shall keep it at its appointed time; according to all its statutes and all its rules you shall keep it.” So Moses told the people of Israel that they should keep the Passover. And they kept the Passover in the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, at twilight, in the wilderness of Sinai; according to all that the LORD commanded Moses, so the people of Israel did. And there were certain men who were unclean through touching a dead body, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day, and they came before Moses and Aaron on that day. And those men said to him, “We are unclean through touching a dead body. Why are we kept from bringing the LORD's offering at its appointed time among the people of Israel?” And Moses said to them, “Wait, that I may hear what the LORD will command concerning you.”
The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, If any one of you or of your descendants is unclean through touching a dead body, or is on a long journey, he shall still keep the Passover to the LORD. In the second month on the fourteenth day at twilight they shall keep it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. They shall leave none of it until the morning, nor break any of its bones; according to all the statute for the Passover they shall keep it. But if anyone who is clean and is not on a journey fails to keep the Passover, that person shall be cut off from his people because he did not bring the LORD's offering at its appointed time; that man shall bear his sin. And if a stranger sojourns among you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, according to the statute of the Passover and according to its rule, so shall he do. You shall have one statute, both for the sojourner and for the native.”
On the day that the tabernacle was set up, the cloud covered the tabernacle, the tent of the testimony. And at evening it was over the tabernacle like the appearance of fire until morning. So it was always: the cloud covered it by day and the appearance of fire by night. And whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, after that the people of Israel set out, and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the people of Israel camped. At the command of the LORD the people of Israel set out, and at the command of the LORD they camped. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they remained in camp. Even when the cloud continued over the tabernacle many days, the people of Israel kept the charge of the LORD and did not set out. Sometimes the cloud was a few days over the tabernacle, and according to the command of the LORD they remained in camp; then according to the command of the LORD they set out. And sometimes the cloud remained from evening until morning. And when the cloud lifted in the morning, they set out, or if it continued for a day and a night, when the cloud lifted they set out. Whether it was two days, or a month, or a longer time, that the cloud continued over the tabernacle, abiding there, the people of Israel remained in camp and did not set out, but when it lifted they set out. At the command of the LORD they camped, and at the command of the LORD they set out. They kept the charge of the LORD, at the command of the LORD by Moses.
10:1 The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Make two silver trumpets. Of hammered work you shall make them, and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for breaking camp. And when both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the entrance of the tent of meeting. But if they blow only one, then the chiefs, the heads of the tribes of Israel, shall gather themselves to you. When you blow an alarm, the camps that are on the east side shall set out. And when you blow an alarm the second time, the camps that are on the south side shall set out. An alarm is to be blown whenever they are to set out. But when the assembly is to be gathered together, you shall blow a long blast, but you shall not sound an alarm. And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow the trumpets. The trumpets shall be to you for a perpetual statute throughout your generations. And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who oppresses you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and you shall be saved from your enemies. On the day of your gladness also, and at your appointed feasts and at the beginnings of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings. They shall be a reminder of you before your God: I am the LORD your God.”
In the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth day of the month, the cloud lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony, and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai. And the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. They set out for the first time at the command of the LORD by Moses. The standard of the camp of the people of Judah set out first by their companies, and over their company was Nahshon the son of Amminadab. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Issachar was Nethanel the son of Zuar. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Zebulun was Eliab the son of Helon.
And when the tabernacle was taken down, the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari, who carried the tabernacle, set out. And the standard of the camp of Reuben set out by their companies, and over their company was Elizur the son of Shedeur. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Simeon was Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Gad was Eliasaph the son of Deuel.
Then the Kohathites set out, carrying the holy things, and the tabernacle was set up before their arrival. And the standard of the camp of the people of Ephraim set out by their companies, and over their company was Elishama the son of Ammihud. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Manasseh was Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Benjamin was Abidan the son of Gideoni.
Then the standard of the camp of the people of Dan, acting as the rear guard of all the camps, set out by their companies, and over their company was Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Asher was Pagiel the son of Ochran. And over the company of the tribe of the people of Naphtali was Ahira the son of Enan. This was the order of march of the people of Israel by their companies, when they set out.
And Moses said to Hobab the son of Reuel the Midianite, Moses' father-in-law, “We are setting out for the place of which the LORD said, ‘I will give it to you.’ Come with us, and we will do good to you, for the LORD has promised good to Israel.” But he said to him, “I will not go. I will depart to my own land and to my kindred.” And he said, “Please do not leave us, for you know where we should camp in the wilderness, and you will serve as eyes for us. And if you do go with us, whatever good the LORD will do to us, the same will we do to you.”
So they set out from the mount of the LORD three days' journey. And the ark of the covenant of the LORD went before them three days' journey, to seek out a resting place for them. And the cloud of the LORD was over them by day, whenever they set out from the camp.
And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.” And when it rested, he said, “Return, O LORD, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.”