Meditations of Old Testament Highlights: 7. Numbers (1)
Num 9:8 Moses answered them, “Wait until I find out what the LORD commands concerning you.”
Consider first the context for these words of Moses. The Lord has told Moses to get the people to observe the Feast of the Passover while they are in the desert at Mount Sinai (Num 9:2). They have received the bulk of the law and parts of it are about keeping the Feasts and parts of it are about cleanliness. Certain states or touching certain things rendered a person temporarily ritually unclean. This was not to do with physically being dirty, but was an expression to highlight a point, often to do with death and often to highlight the concept that Israel were to be a holy and sanctified (set apart to God) people. The variety of these laws is about to clash. Observe.
First comes the instruction from the Lord to celebrate Passover on the 14th of the first month of their year (9:3). But then comes the problem: “But some of them could not celebrate the Passover on that day because they were ceremonially unclean on account of a dead body.” (9:6) So they go to Moses and Aaron and point this out and ask what they should do (9:7) because earlier (Num 5:2) touching a dead body rendered one ceremonially unclean, and while they were like that, did it mean they could not take part in the celebration? Excellent! (Dead bodies? Either a person or animal has died) Which brings us to our verse above. So we have two parts of ‘the Law’ that seem to clash and this is the first time since leaving Egypt that it has cropped up. So how do you deal with part of God’s word that you don’t understand? “find out what the LORD commands.” (v.8) How do you do that? Talk to the Lord, listen to what He has to say.
Now it is pretty obvious that I am going to try to apply this to our modern circumstances but here we encounter a problem. I have conducted a number of mini schools of prophecy or of listening to God and invariably I will ask a group to be honest and let me know, first of all, “How many of you regularly ‘hear’ from the Lord?” and the way I get them to demonstrate that is it suggest an imaginary line across the floor of the room and at one end the score is zero and at the other end is ten. Zero indicates I have never ever heard from the Lord. Ten indicates I hear from Him every day. I ask them to then get up an go and stand on this imaginary line where they think their experience suggests.
Most people will put themselves somewhere between say 2 and 5 and a few faith filled optimists between five and nine. When we go on to explain the various ways we are likely to ‘hear’ God – through studying His word, in prayer, in worship, through prophecy given, through the quiet inner witness of the Spirit, through another believer sharing wisdom for us – people start realizing that ‘hearing from God’ is a more common thing than they had originally thought and a second go on the ‘line of experience’ usually results in them putting themselves from 1 to 3 points higher.
If I teach listening to God in prayer meetings, I will usually suggest we spend the first quarter of an hour or so before we move into prayer-proper, tuning our spirits. This involves quietening our hearts and handing over to the Lord any worries or personal concerns, then focusing on him in either reflective meditation exercises or worship. Only then do I suggest we listen to the Lord to catch the sense of direction or purpose that He might have for our time of praying together. I adopt the adage, ‘Focus on God, unfocus on answers’, because so often we come into prayer times looking for answers and even bringing our own preconceived ideas about what the answers should be, which is not a good way to objectively seek God’s will.
These words of Moses are magnificent in that they clash with so much of our desires to ‘do’, to work out, to reason through what we think should be the answer, especially in a day when we are better educated than any previous generation before us. We know how to get answers! Well, yes, but they may not be the right ones. So Moses basically says, “I don’t know what the answer to this clash is, but I’ll find out, I’ll ask the Lord.”
What an example to any and every generation. Ask the Lord. For the record, the Lord’s answer is, yes, they may celebrate it but a month later (v.9-11). You aren’t excluded from the celebration but you can still uphold the laws of cleanliness. There are those who maintain that the inspired word of God, the Bible, is applicable for any and every situation (to which I would initially agree) except there is the problem of interpretation and of application. The fact that we have so many modern Bible versions says to us that working out of the original languages – Hebrew, Aramaic or Greek – is not always as straight forward as we might like it to be, and then once we have it in our own language, it still often needs interpretation.
I came across such an example in my earlier pre-meditation readings and prayer times this morning. I will not elaborate on it, but the word is like that, often needing us to just go back to the Lord, saying, “I will find out” and asking Him perhaps, “Father will you grant me understanding of this please. Lord Jesus, will you tell me what you think about this, Holy Spirit, will you teach me.” And then listen. The challenge is when the problem occurs, when a difficulty arises, when circumstances appear to go down hill and we are left perplexed, will I follow Moses’ beautiful example, “I will find out” and turn to the Lord? It’s very simple isn’t it!