Orwell Bible Church

Patience, Part 2

Tonight’s second message on Patience is available here!

Numbers 20

Some thoughts for meditation following our daily devotional Scripture reading that is provided each week.

This begins at the first month of Israel’s 40th year of wilderness wandering (cf. 33:36-38). Israel arrived at Kadesh, where 40 years earlier upon the 10 spies’ bad report Israel disbelieved God and refused to enter Canaan. That generation was thus condemned to die in the wilderness.

Upon arriving at Kadesh they were without water. Sadly, after 40 years of discipline Israel’s discontent and complaining ways remained the same. They blamed Moses and Aaron, doubted God’s ways, and didn’t believe his promises. They judged and evaluated God’s ways by their present circumstances.

Moses and Aaron went to the tabernacle and brought the matter before the Lord. God told Moses to speak to the rock and water would come out of it. However Moses angrily hit the rock twice with his rod, yet water came out. God thus forbade Moses and Aaron from entering the promised land because of their unbelieving, public disobedience (cf
Psa 106:32-33).

As Israel approached Canaan they asked permission of Edom to pass through their land but were denied. This required Israel to travel around Edom to enter Canaan.

Four months after Miriam’s death (33:38) God had Moses take Aaron up to Mount Hor, along with Aaron’s son Eleazar. There Aaron’s position and responsibility as high priest were transferred to Eleazar, and Aaron died because of his rebellion against the Lord at Meribah.

By the end of the year, just seven to eight months later, Israel would arrive at the Jordan, Moses would go up on Mount Nebo and see the promised land, and would then die there.


  1. Discipline requires faith for it to be profitable. Israel had 40 years of both the Lord’s supernatural presence and provision, yet because of their unbelief they were still the same.
  2. God will be hallowed, regardless whether it was unbelieving Israel or her leaders, Moses and Aaron. Our tendency is to acquit Moses and Aaron, sympathizing with them having to endure 40 years of Israel’s complaints, but such never excuses publicly dishonoring a holy God, the Savior and King of Israel.
  3. Leaders bear greater responsibility and judgment (Jas 3:1).
  4. A rash impulse can affect a lifetime of faithful labor. Scripture commends Moses’s faithfulness and lists him as Israel’s greatest prophet, but it also records his failure and disappointment. Great prospects, position, and advantages still require faithfulness and obedience.
  5. Disobedience is unbelief and dishonors God. The more public the disobedience, the more publicly God is dishonored.

Numbers 19

Some thoughts for meditation following our daily devotional Scripture reading that is provided each week.

At the center of Israel’s life was the Lord, and this was so in their very living conditions while and camped and traveling in the wilderness, for the Lord’s tabernacle was always in the middle. Between that and Israel were the Levites (1:53; 2:17). Indeed, another name for tabernacle used here and elsewhere in Scripture is sanctuary, a holy place. Thus God’s absolute holiness was always evident among them.

In the course of events people would die, especially during the 40 years in wilderness. Whoever was around the person at death and whoever took care of the dead body became “unclean.” Everyone who had contact with the dead body was unclean for a week.

We tend to equate “unclean” with sin such as cursing God’s name, lying, etc. But the assessment of “unclean” applied to many things such as eating certain animals (Lev 11) and even childbirth (Lev 12). It is better to see this as emphasizing God’s holiness in every aspect of life (cf. Lev 11:44-47). So, as Israel lived these decades in the wilderness with the Lord’s presence in their very midst via the sanctuary and the effects of sin regularly evident with continual death, God’s holiness in the theocratic nation had to be maintained in every situation of life, even death.

God’s provision for cleansing defilement associated with death was through the ordinance of the red heifer. A perfect red heifer would be entirely burned outside the camp. Its ashes would be collected. Whenever a death occurred the heifer’s ashes would be mixed with water. A clean person would take a hyssop branch, dip it in the mixture, and sprinkle anything and anyone that had contact with a dead body twice during that week.


  1. The central focus of Numbers 19 is not the red heifer, but the sanctuary of the Lord, the very presence and holiness of God.
  2. A holy God demands a holy people. Every aspect of Israel’s life was to be characterized by holiness, from the cradle to the grave, because Israel’s God was holy and dwelt among them.
  3. Only God can define what is unclean and how to become clean. Defilement always comes from sinners and can only be dealt with by God. Israel’s only provision for uncleanness and sin before a holy God was from a holy God. The unclean could not make themselves clean (cf. Isa 64:6).
  4. Rejecting God’s gracious provision results in death. Those who remain in and refuse to partake of God’s provision for defilement receive God’s judgment of death.
  5. Neither church buildings nor any part of them should be called sanctuaries. There was only one sanctuary, the tabernacle/temple in OT theocratic Israel.
  6. The Holy Spirit indwells Christians thus demanding holiness of life. If you’re a Christian contact with a dead body or eating a hotdog does not render you unclean, but are you striving to be holy as the God who lives in you is holy? 1 Cor 6:18–20

Numbers 18

Some thoughts for meditation following our daily devotional Scripture reading that is provided each week.

Aaron and his descendants were alone responsible for “the work of the tabernacle of meeting.” The rest of the Levites attended to their and the tabernacles needs, but neither they nor any other Israelite were to enter the tabernacle.

The Aaronic priests and Levites were to be entirely devoted to the work of the tabernacle. Consequently, to enable them to do so they and their families’ food and income were provided for through the various sacrifices and tithes of the people. They in turn were to give 10% of such to the Lord as their tithe.


  1. Israel’s offerings were both acts of worship and needed provision for the Levites.
  2. God graciously provided for the Levites’ temporal needs.
  3. The Levites were to honor the Lord from their income and not just to be receivers. They were not the end of Israelite life in worship, God was.

Numbers 17

The people would not believe until it was too late the Lord’s warning that anyone other than Aaron’s line approaching the Tabernacle as a priest would die. They complained, they rebelled, and thus they died.

Following Korah’s rebellion which incited Israel to rush the Tabernacle, both of which events led to their deaths, God instructed each tribe to give Moses a rod from their homes. Moses was to put these before the ark of the covenant, and the rod that budded would indicate which tribe God chose to serve as priests.

Aaron’s rod not only budded but grew ripe almonds, and was placed in the ark. Thus the Lord indisputably proved that he chose Aaron as priest, putting down complaints that Moses exalted himself.

  1. The contrast between Moses and the people of Israel centered on believing obedience to the Word of the Lord.
  2. Disobedience to God’s Word is characterized by complaint, false assertions, rebellion, and death.
  3. God’s ordinances and institutions are not determined by majority vote but his declared will. Had occupying the priesthood been by ballot, the result would have been 11 to 1 in favor of the people and against the Lord.
  4. God’s ordinances and institutions are established for right living and worship, and are the way of life. The Levites camped around the Tabernacle, which rested in the center of the camp (8:18-19), thereby protecting the nation from drawing near and experiencing certain death. God’s people must not thus complain and rebel but obey, rejoice, and give thanks.

Lord’s Day Service, May 10, 2020

Today’s message from Romans 15:33 can be viewed on our YouTube page or listened to and downloaded in mp3 format. Please contact us if you have questions or something we can pray for!

A basic outline of the message and Psalms 127 and 131, read at the beginning, can be downloaded here.

Information about giving offerings is here.

Numbers 16

Some thoughts for meditation following our daily devotional Scripture reading that is provided each week.

Korah and 250 other Israelites accused Moses and Aaron of wrongly restricting the priesthood to themselves. Korah and co. believed any and every Israelite could serve as priests because they were all holy and God was among them without distinction.

Moses said that God chose who would be priests and they were thus discontent and rebelling against God. To that end they all were to bring incense in their censers and God would make clear whom he chose.

God judged Korah, Dathan, and Abiram by causing the earth to open so that they and everything of theirs fell alive into hell. God also caused fire to burn up the 250 other offenders. Their censers were made into a covering for the altar, a perpetual reminder that only Aaron and his descendants were to serve as priests. God indisputably and publicly made his choice.

Sadly, this did not convince the rest of Israel, for the very next day they blamed Moses and Aaron for killing “The people of the Lord.” They rushed toward the tabernacle, presumably to carry out the work Korah initiated, that any and every Israelite could be a priest. Immediately the tabernacle was covered by the Lord’s cloud, a plague broke out against the offenders, and 14,700 died before Aaron atoned for them on the altar.

Numbers 15

Some thoughts for meditation following our daily devotional Scripture reading that is provided each week.

The Lord gave instruction about offerings to be made when they entered the land. Should anyone in Israel (weather Israelite or gentile) sin “unintentionally” (that is, not in a deliberate, conscious act of rebellion against God) provision for forgiveness was provided. There was no such forgiveness available for “presumptuous” sins: brazen, defiant, deliberate rebellion against the Lord, the God, Savior, and King of Israel.

An example of such defiant sin aimed at showing public contempt for the Lord (akin to “calling God out”: “Hey God, see what I’m doing? What are you going to do about it?”) occurred when a man was picking up sticks on the Sabbath. God explicitly told Israel that no work was to be done on the seventh day of the week. The Sabbath was a continual sign between God and Israel of God’s setting them apart from every other nation (Exodus 31:13-17). God legislated the death penalty for Sabbath breakers in Israel, for doing so was to act like the pagan nations, thus an act of open defiance of the Lord, the God, Savior, and King of Israel. This Sabbath-breaking stick-gatherer was thumbing his nose at God for all to see, and thus was stoned to death.

Lastly, Israelites were to have tassels with a blue thread on the corners of their garments. When they daily saw those tassels–from putting their garments on at the day’s beginning to removing them at bedtime–they were to remember and obey God’s commands. By remembering and obeying God’s commands they would not follow their sinful hearts but the Lord. Note, merely having the tassels did not make them righteous and holy, but believing the Lord and demonstrating such by their obedience.


  1. There is only one true God and he dictates how he should be worshiped. Worship must be regulated and directed by revelation, not innovation. The One worshiped, not the worshiper (whether believer or unbeliever), dictates worship.
  2. God’s commands are to be submissively obeyed, not disregarded or flaunted. The command upon all today is repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 17:30; 1 John 3:23). More on God’s commands with #5…
  3. The Sabbath is a distinctly Israelite ordinance. Efforts to transfer its continuance–much less enforce it–depend on a faulty hermeneutic and exegesis. The church does not need to go to that length to faithfully live, worship, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ in this day and age.
  4. Unrepentant disobedience has no place among God’s people, whether in the OT theocratic nation, the coming kingdom (Gal 5:19-21), or the church (1 Cor 5).
  5. Believing obedience is essential for faithful living. God calls his people to absolute faithfulness to him, yet there is the innate tendency to be unfaithful by pursuing sinful desires and ends. God graciously gave his Word to live by and thereby resist sinful desires and aims. Thus God is pleased and life in him enjoyed (Psalm 119:1-3). For this to happen one must be born again (1 John 3:9; 5:18) and live by the Spirit (Gal 5:16-18).

Numbers 14

Some thoughts for meditation following our daily devotional Scripture reading that is provided each week.

Following the 10 spies’ bad report, Israel’s near unanimous response and decision was fear, expectation of defeat, condemnation of the Lord, and complete rejection of God’s plan. Only Caleb and Joshua urged them to trust the Lord and follow him, but the people responded by calling for their deaths.

The Lord told Moses the people deserved nothing less than total annihilation, but Moses prayed for mercy on the basis of God’s character and fame. God told Moses he would not destroy them all then, but would destroy everyone who disbelieved and rebelled over the course of 40 years wandering in the wilderness (one year for every day they spied out the land). Only Joshua and Caleb would live to see the promised land. Immediately the 10 spies who brought the bad report died of the plague.

The next day many Israelites, instead of obeying the Lord to return to the wilderness, presumptuously disobeyed the Lord’s command and determined to attack the Canaanites. They received no support from Moses, and the ark of the covenant did not go with them. They were consequently defeated and driven back.

  1. Determined disobedience against the Lord brings God’s righteous judgment. Such is fueled by doubt of God and guided by unbelieving men’s assessment. It is rebellion against God, a rejection against God, disbelief of him, testing him, complaining against him, gathering together against him, transgressing his command, turning away from the Lord, and acting presumptuously. “Because you have turned away from the Lord, the Lord will not be with you.”
  2. Israel’s sins against the Lord, despite his presence and blessing, serves as a lesson throughout Scripture against unbelief, disobedience, testing God, and presumption. Cf. 1 Corinthians 10:1-13.
  3. God’s glory will be universally evident: “All the Earth shall be filled with a glory of the Lord,” (v. 21). His every promise will be accomplished, enjoyed only by those who believe him.
  4. The believer’s hope of success lies with God’s promised presence and his gracious favor (vv. 8-9). Such compels and enables trusting obedience in the face of impossible circumstances.
  5. Believing prayer appeals to God’s unchanging character and unqualified glory (vv. 13-19). Such prayer is directed by God’s Word (v. 17) and depends on his great mercy (vv. 18-19).


The notes for tonight’s lesson on Patience are available here!

Numbers 13

Some thoughts for meditation following our daily devotional Scripture reading that is provided each week.

Deuteronomy 1:19-22 gives some helpful backstory. Israel arrived at the southernmost part of Canaan and was told to go and possess it, for the Lord had given it to them. Israel, however, wanted to see the land first, to which Moses agreed to. This brings us to Numbers 13.

Twelve men were chosen to spy out the land, one from each tribe. Moses instructed them what to note for their report, encouraging them to be strong. For 40 days they spied out the land and returned to camp testifying and providing examples of the land’s abundant fruit.

Most of the report, however, focused on what would oppose them. From that they assumed only destruction if they followed God’s commands to go and conquer it. Only two spies urged Israel to go forward, trusting God’s Word: Caleb (v. 30) and Joshua (14:6). The other spies were determined against going, for their conclusion (“we are not able”) was based on their assessment (“they are stronger, the land of ours all, the people are like giants, we are nothing in their sight”).

Consequently, despite the land’s abundance and the Lord’s presence and promise of success, the 10 spies’ report so influenced the people that they charged God with bringing them there to be destroyed (Deut 1:26-28).


  1. The Lord’s patience does not justify independent analysis and assessment. God showed his patience by allowing spies to be sent. God’s patience calls for more thorough reflection from God’s perspective, not evaluating his actions and promises.
  2. There is no such thing as independent, unprejudiced analysis. Every “fact” is only rightly assessed from God’s point of view. Doubt and “independent” thought is sinful.
  3. When sinful man’s judgment prevails, doubt and disobedient result. A negative outlook will draw negative conclusions and make negative recommendations.
  4. Nothing keeps an omnipotent and sovereign God from fulfilling his promises, no matter how contrary the circumstances may appear.
  5. Believers must stand for truth even when the majority is against them.
  6. God-appointed leadership must always obey God. They must look at things from God’s perspective and lead God’s people to trust and obey God.
  7. Doubt has a short memory when it comes to the Lord’s promises and provisions. Just one year had passed since they saw God destroy Egypt. Doubt and denial would rather choose the wilderness or even Egypt over faith in God’s promises in the land of Canaan.
  8. This is a classic illustration of living by sight rather than by faith. God promised Israel that five of them would chase a hundred, and a hundred of them would put ten thousand to flight (Lev 26:8), but they did not believe that.