MEMORY VERSE: “And he led them forth by the right way, that they might go to a city of habitation” (Psalm 107:7).
TEXT: Numbers 33:1-56
In our previous study in the book of Numbers, we learn about the settlement of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and half tribe of Manasseh on the eastern side of Jordan. They requested for the land which Israel had already conquered because it was ideal for their cattle and sheep, and Moses granted their request with a proviso. In our text, at God’s command, Moses gives a record of the itinerary and encampments of the children of Israel from Egypt to the plains of Jordan near the Promised Land. From the record, the journey can be divided into three main segments. The first, from Rameses in Egypt to the Sinai Peninsula, consists of eleven encampments (verses 1-15). The second, from Sinai to Kadesh-barnea, including the wilderness wanderings, consists of twenty-one encampments (verses 16-36). The third segment, from Kadesh to the plains of Moab consists of eight encampments (verses 37-49). Altogether, there were forty encampments between Rameses in Egypt and the plain of Moab.
Question 1: What attributes of God can believers see in the itinerary of the children Israel?
The record of Israel’s itinerary from Rameses to the plains of Moab portrays God’s goodness, mercy and faithfulness. In His goodness He led them from the house of bondage to a land flowing with milk and honey. Through His mercy, they were not destroyed when they sinned but He forgave them, and in His unfailing faithfulness, He went with them even during the almost forty years that they wandered in the wilderness. Because of their unbelief and rebellion, God had to discipline them but He did not cast them away altogether. This teaches us that God chastises His children not to destroy them, but in order to correct and perfect them.
THE IMPORTANCE OF RECORD-KEEPING (Numbers 33:1,2; Ezra 5:13-17; 6:1-12; Esther 2:21-23; 6:1-3; John 1:45; 20:30,31).
The Lord commanded Moses to record Israel’s journey from their departure from Egypt till they came to the border of the land of Canaan. This shows that it is very important for believers to keep records of notable events in their personal lives, and in the church. Such personal diary, journal or church record will serve as reminder of God’s faithfulness in later years, especially for up-coming generations. Besides, it will show whether the individual believer or church is making progress or not. By looking at the itinerary of the children of Israel one could easily see their progress from Rameses to Sinai. But on the other hand, it could be seen that though they had a record of so many encampments between Sinai and Kadesh-barnea, they did not make much progress because this segment coincided with the period they wandered in the wilderness.
Question 2: Mention some instances in the Scripture when God commanded men to write important records.
On several occasions in the Bible, God commanded different people to write down records of specific events or instructions. Moses was commanded to write a memorial concerning the destruction of Amalek (Exodus 17:14); the ten commandments (Exodus 34:1); the terms of the Mosaic covenant (Exodus 34:27) and a song to teach Israel (Deuteronomy 31:19,22); God also commanded that a copy of the book of the law should be written for the kings of Israel to remind them of God’s demands (Deuteronomy 17:18). The acts of the kings of Israel and Judah (1 and 2 Kings, 2 Chronicles 26:22) were written by different people. The prophets were directed to write prophecies and specific instructions from God (Isaiah 8:1; 30:8; Jeremiah 30:2; 36:2,28). In the New Testament, Luke recorded all that Christ began to do and teach (Luke 1:3; Acts 1:1). The Gospels and the Epistles of the New Testaments were all writings which God inspired for the benefit of generations of men. John the beloved was also commanded to write...