Just Looking for a Home, Part 5 (The Covenant & the Cross #86)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Numbers 16:1-3 which reads: “Now Korah, the son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and Dathan and Abiram, the sons of Eliab, and On, the son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took men: And they rose up before Moses, with certain of the children of Israel, two hundred and fifty princes of the assembly, famous in the congregation, men of renown: And they gathered themselves together against Moses and against Aaron, and said unto them, Ye take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them: wherefore then lift ye up yourselves above the congregation of the Lord?”

Today’s Covenant & the Cross quote about the Bible is from John Newton. He said: “I know not a better rule of reading the Scripture, than to read it through from beginning to end and when we have finished it once, to begin it again. We shall meet with many passages which we can make little improvement of, but not so many in the second reading as in the first, and fewer in the third than in the second: provided we pray to him who has the keys to open our understandings, and to anoint our eyes with His spiritual ointment.”

Our topic for today is titled “Just Looking for a Home (Part 5)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

Moses, Aaron, Joshua, and Caleb expressed sorrow at this state of affairs and tried to sway the people back to seeing God at work. But the people refused to listen and attempted to stone their leaders. At this point, God intervened, showing forth His glory from the tent of meeting. In front of the people, He told Moses to stand back so that He could destroy them, but Moses interceded on their behalf, pointing out that the issue was God’s honor. I am sure it was humiliating for the people to hear directly from God that the only reason He was not destroying them was that the leader they had just rejected had put in a good word for them. But the next words were even more sobering. Every adult in the camp who had observed God’s works and had refined to believe God’s words would indeed die in the desert. The only exceptions would be Joshua and Caleb.

With this judgment, the nation was to turn south and begin wandering. The people had not yet understood the seriousness of their continued disobedience. The next morning they decided that they would go on up and begin the now forbidden conquest—without God. While Moses warned them not to disobey once more, they were resolved to try to rectify the situation. Instead, they ran into the Amalekites and the Canaanites and were beaten soundly, being driven back to Hormah. So they began their period of wandering.


Just Looking for a Home, Part 4 (The Covenant & the Cross #85)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Numbers 13:17-20 which reads: “And Moses sent them to spy out the land of Canaan, and said unto them, Get you up this way southward, and go up into the mountain: And see the land, what it is, and the people that dwelleth therein, whether they be strong or weak, few or many; And what the land is that they dwell in, whether it be good or bad; and what cities they be that they dwell in, whether in tents, or in strong holds; And what the land is, whether it be fat or lean, whether there be wood therein, or not. And be ye of good courage, and bring of the fruit of the land.”

Today’s Covenant & the Cross quote about the Bible is from Dietrich Bonhoeffer. He said: “The deceit, the lie of the devil consists of this that he wishes to make man believe that he can live without God’s Word. Thus he dangles before man’s fantasy a kingdom of faith, of power, and of peace, into which only he can enter who consents to the temptations; and conceals from men that he, as the devil, is the most unfortunate and unhappy of beings, since he is finally and eternally rejected by God.”

Our topic for today is titled “Just Looking for a Home (Part 4)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

God now directed Moses to begin the march to the land that had been promised. It had been more than four hundred years since the ancestors of the people had gone down to Egypt, and they were finally fulfilling the promise made to Abraham in Genesis 15.5 The direction of the march seems to have been almost due north—the most direct route into the land.

We might think that the people, after a year of sitting at Sinai, would have been excited to advance under the promises of God. Not everyone was enthusiastic, however. Very quickly many, if not most, of the people began to murmur and complain about the manna’ Moses became despondent about the whole situation and took his complaints to God. God provided help in leadership and quail for the people. But because of their greed, God also sent a plague on the people, killing an unknown number.

Just Looking for a Home, Part 3 (The Covenant & the Cross #84)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Numbers 12:1-3 which reads: “And Miriam and Aaron spake against Moses because of the Ethiopian woman whom he had married: for he had married an Ethiopian woman. And they said, Hath the Lord indeed spoken only by Moses? hath he not spoken also by us? And the Lord heard it. (Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth.)”

Today’s Covenant & the Cross quote about the Bible is from John Adams in a letter to his son. He said: “I have myself for many years made it a practice to read through the Bible once every year. I have always endeavored to read it with the same spirit and temper of mind which I now recommend to you; that is, with the intention and desire that it contribute to my advancement in wisdom and virtue… My custom is, to read four or five chapters every morning, immediately after rising from my bed. It employs about an hour of my time, and seems to me the most suitable manner of beginning the day.”

Our topic for today is titled “Just Looking for a Home (Part 3)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

Before we continue with the main narrative of the book of Numbers and this period in the Israelites’ journey through the wilderness, let’s deal with three “sidebar” issues that occur in the text.


The term Nazirite comes from a Hebrew verb meaning “to consecrate” or “to separate.” The Nazirite normally made a vow or promise associated with a request from God. There is no reason given for the specific requirements on the part of the Nazirite. An example of this type of vow is the case of Hannah, mother of Samuel. While most vows lasted for a limited period of time, some Nazirites were under life-time vows, including Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. A noted New Testament example of a person taking short-term vows is the apostle Paul.

Just Looking for a Home, Part 2 (The Covenant & the Cross #83)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Numbers 1:1-3 which reads: “And the Lord spake unto Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tabernacle of the congregation, on the first day of the second month, in the second year after they were come out of the land of Egypt, saying, Take ye the sum of all the congregation of the children of Israel, after their families, by the house of their fathers, with the number of their names, every male by their polls; From twenty years old and upward, all that are able to go forth to war in Israel: thou and Aaron shall number them by their armies.”

Today’s Covenant & the Cross quote about the Bible is from St. Jerome. He said: “I beg of you, my dear brother, to live among the Scriptures, to meditate upon them, to know nothing else, to seek nothing else.”

Our topic for today is titled “Just Looking for a Home (Part 2)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.


The first census, at the beginning of Numbers, was directed by God. It served not only to count the people but also to organize them. The census went one step further when it numbered the tribe of Levi, which was not given an inheritance among the twelve tribes but was to be a tribe of priests. Actually, as the text points out, the tribe of Levi was also the substitute for the firstborn of the rest of the nation. This description refers back to the first Passover, when the firstborn of the Israelites were spared as the death angel passed through the land of Egypt. Now God asked for a reckoning by the substitution of the Levites for the firstborn. Thus, the men of Levi who were one month old and older were numbered. This number fell short of all the firstborn of Israel by 273, who were then “ransomed” by the payment of five shekels each. The Levites were also divided into family groups for purposes of assigning the jobs of ministry.

Beyond this, the sacred nature of the national mission was emphasized by further explication of the high standards God expected. This section seems to be preparing the nation for the first celebration of the Passover after the Exodus, commemorating one year of freedom from Egypt.

Just Looking for a Home, Part 1 (The Covenant & the Cross #82)

Numbers 33:1-2: “These are the journeys of the children of Israel, which went forth out of the land of Egypt with their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron. And Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys by the commandment of the Lord: and these are their journeys according to their goings out.”

Today’s Covenant & the Cross quote about the Bible is from Andrew Murray. He said: “A readiness to believe every promise implicitly, to obey every command unhesitatingly, to stand perfect and complete in all the will of God, is the only true spirit of Bible study.”

Our topic for today is titled “Just Looking for a Home (Part 1)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

After organizing the nation for a year, God told Moses to count the people in preparation for the move to the land He had promised. This event opens the book of Numbers, and this is often about as far as we get into the book. The numbers get tedious, and there seems to be little purpose to them. For the original audience, however, these lists served as an organizing structure. The figures given are supposed to be the number of men who were able to go to war, and they reflect major military fighting units. The census would also provide a basis on which to divide the land. The nation was organized around the twelve tribes. We have already observed how this was a mixed company. Apparently, then, those who had been outsiders were now “adopted” into specific tribes, and their families would be counted as part of those tribes from here on out.

The census also helped impress the original audience with the great work of God’s sustenance. While it is possible that some of the people planted gardens during the long stay at Sinai, the text clearly points out that the primary source of food for the entire people was from God’s provision of the manna. At this point, they were not aware that they would be eating it for almost forty years, but the fact that God had been faithful for the previous year would have been encouraging. Another purpose of the census would be to validate God’s sustaining for the entire forty-year period of wandering, but that would not be seen until after the period was over and a second census showed how the nation had maintained its strength. This final purpose, however, would be one of the key points for later generations, including ours.

Making a Nation Out of a Mob, Part 9 (The Covenant & the Cross #81)

Deuteronomy 16:13-17: “Thou shalt observe the feast of tabernacles seven days, after that thou hast gathered in thy corn and thy wine: And thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, thou, and thy son, and thy daughter, and thy manservant, and thy maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within thy gates. Seven days shalt thou keep a solemn feast unto the Lord thy God in the place which the Lord shall choose: because the Lord thy God shall bless thee in all thine increase, and in all the works of thine hands, therefore thou shalt surely rejoice.”

Today’s Covenant & the Cross quote about the Bible is from A.W. Tozer. He said: “The Word of God well understood and religiously obeyed is the shortest route to spiritual perfection. And we must not select a few favorite passages to the exclusion of others. Nothing less than a whole Bible can make a whole Christian.”

Our topic for today is titled “Making a Nation Out of a Mob (Part 9)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.

— Pentecost

The second festival that all the people were to attend was the Feast of Ingathering, celebrated on the fiftieth day after the offering of the sheaf at Passover. It is also known by other names, such as the Feast of Weeks and Pentecost (a later term derived from the Greek word for “fifty”). This feast took place when the harvest began, and the people brought symbolic loaves of bread (made with leaven) to present to God as a thanksgiving for the harvest. Later this festival was associated with the founding of the church.

— Tabernacles

The third festival at which the people were to gather was called Tabernacles or Booths. This festival was to remind the people of the period they spent in the desert. They were to live in a booth for one week It was to be a period of no work, so it would be a great social time.

Making a Nation Out of a Mob, Part 8 (The Covenant & the Cross #79)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Leviticus 8:6-10 which reads: “And Moses brought Aaron and his sons, and washed them with water. And he put upon him the coat, and girded him with the girdle, and clothed him with the robe, and put the ephod upon him, and he girded him with the curious girdle of the ephod, and bound it unto him therewith. And he put the breastplate upon him: also he put in the breastplate the Urim and the Thummim. And he put the mitre upon his head; also upon the mitre, even upon his forefront, did he put the golden plate, the holy crown; as the Lord commanded Moses. And Moses took the anointing oil, and anointed the tabernacle and all that was therein, and sanctified them.”

Today’s Covenant & the Cross quote about the Bible is from Patrick Henry. He said: “The Bible is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed.”

Our topic for today is titled “Making a Nation Out of a Mob (Part 8)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.


The nation of Israel was to be “a kingdom of priests”. That is, they were to be God’s representatives on earth and to represent the people of the world to God. As such, they were to have a distinct lifestyle. In some respects, we clearly see that their lifestyle was held to higher standards. In other respects, we can say only that it was distinct. In a similar way, the tribe of Levi had a special position within the nation, for it was the priestly line. The priests represented God to the people of Israel, and also represented the people of Israel before God. As such, they were to have an even more distinctive lifestyle.This section gives aspects of both groups, and they are somewhat intertwined.

The priesthood was inaugurated with the consecration of Aaron. A key word that shows up in this process is anoint. Beginning in Leviticus 8:10, we see that the tabernacle was anointed. The altar and all the items of the sacrificial system were anointed. Aaron was anointed. The Hebrew verb used is the one from which we get the word Messiah, the Anointed One. The idea is that through this dedication ceremony, the priesthood and tabernacle system were established as working entities.

This entire process was serious business. That fact was pointed out sharply in the tragic incident of Nadab and Abihu, Aaron’s sons. We are told only that they “offered strange fire before the LORD.” Apparently this means that they took coals from an unconsecrated fire, not the brazen altar. From our perspective, this irregularity seems somewhat trivial, but from God’s perspective, it was an act demeaning to His position as God and as suzerain. To illustrate the seriousness of the situation, the two died, consumed by fire from God. Moses then warned Aaron that he needed to continue with the dedication process—worshiping God was more important than mourning two sons who had disobeyed.

Making a Nation Out of a Mob, Part 6 (The Covenant & the Cross #77)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Leviticus 1:1-4 which reads: “And the Lord called unto Moses, and spake unto him out of the tabernacle of the congregation, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, If any man of you bring an offering unto the Lord, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock. If his offering be a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish: he shall offer it of his own voluntary will at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord. And he shall put his hand upon the head of the burnt offering; and it shall be accepted for him to make atonement for him.”

Today’s Covenant & the Cross quote about the Bible is from Chip Brogden. He said: “One way the God-Man reveals Himself to us, of all ways, is not in a glorious vision or supernatural event, but in the pages of this thing we call the Bible. Imagine that. How odd. A book. Why not just appear to the one who seeks Him and speak face to face. No! Why? It would kill us. It would absolutely blow us away to be confronted with the Real Jesus, because the Jesus we have come to believe in is a fairy tale, a jolly elf, a fantasy character. The Bible prepares us for Him, does it not? Using types, shadows, stories, just to whet your appetite and get you accustomed to Him and His dealings so you are not totally shocked when you do meet Him.”

Our topic for today is titled “Making a Nation Out of a Mob (Part 6)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin.


Most of us, when we think of the sacrificial system, think of offerings to atone for sin. While these offerings were part of it, in reality the system was much more complex.” Sacrifices were performed also to show consecration or to give thanks to God. While the fundamental concept of the sacrificial system in its entirety was ‘atonement,” this notion seemed to carry several nuances in the general context of the Old Testament law. The basic idea of atonement is a harmonious relationship brought about by bridging a gap between two parties.’ There seem to have been three general categories of offerings. We will look at them in the order they are presented in the text.”

The Idea of Canon (Part 1) (The Covenant & the Cross #16)

Today’s passage of Scripture is Matthew 28:19-20 which reads: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Patrick Henry. He said: “The Bible is worth all other books which have ever been printed.”

Our topic for today is titled: “The Idea of Canon (Part 1)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin

Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus became the first “canon.” This concept is crucial. The word canon (referring to a group of writings regarded as authentic) is used to describe the body of literature we call the Bible or Scripture. This English term is a transliteration from the Latin, which borrowed it from the Greek, which in turn had taken it from a Semitic language, probably from Hebrew “ga-neh,” meaning “reed” or “measuring stick.”

As we look over the following fifteen hundred years of biblical history, we see that the canon as we have it today developed gradually. What we mean is that various books were added to the three given at Sinai as God deemed necessary. Most of the material was written in Hebrew. The Hebrew text of the original three books was very close to (but not exactly) what we have today. At times editorial comments were added. (For example, Gen. 26:33 states that the city of Beersheba was called by that name “to this day,” and Josh. 7:26 notes that a great heap of stones stands “to this day.”) Moreover, at times some elements of the Hebrew language were apparently updated, as is done with modern translations, though very often the community retained even archaic linguistic features. Such revisions, however, were apparently no longer being made by New Testament times.

If the book of Job was composed at an early date, it was likely included in the first canon, along with Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus. The first actual new book added to this initial canon would have been Numbers, a travelogue that records how the fledgling nation journeyed from Sinai to the Trans-jordan. Numbers was followed by Deuteronomy, which records the renewal of the covenant (the treaty between God and the nation) across the Jordan River from Jericho just before Moses died. The rest of the books of the Old Testament were added over the next thousand years, as we shall trace in the following chapters.

Near the end of the process, parts of some books were written in Aramaic. This language, which is closely related to Hebrew, became the lingua franca (the international trade language) of the Ancient Near East as early as the eighth century BC, and it was adopted by the Jews at the time of the Exile. The Aramaic segments of the Old Testament are confined to three passages that apparently deal with issues of primary relevance to the Gentiles.

After the time of Ezra and Nehemiah and the Israelites’ return from the Exile, the Old Testament canon was completed. This does not mean that the Jews stopped writing books. The community of God-fearers, however, did not consider the books written after this time as measuring up to the original standard. Some of these later writings constitute what we today call the Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha.

The Recording of God’s Word (Part 2) (The Covenant & the Cross #15)

Today’s passage of Scripture is 1 Peter 2:1-2 which reads: “Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.”

Today’s quote about the Bible is from Michael Phillips. He said: “The Bible is the greatest example of the whole being greater that its parts.”

Our topic for today is titled: “The Recording of God’s Word (Part 2)” from the book, “The Promise and the Blessing” by Dr. Michael A. Harbin

With all of the mighty acts that God had performed for the Israelites still fresh in their minds, God was going to speak directly to them. What an awesome day! The morning came, and the people had purified themselves sufficiently. They waited anxiously behind the roped-off area, and Moses stood there with them. Then they heard God’s voice. It was like thunder. “I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” This was followed by the rest of the Ten Commandments. The people backed away in terror from the awesome scene. When the voice stopped, they asked Moses himself to speak God’s word—it was too scary for them to hear it directly from the Lord.

So that was what Moses did. Over the next several months, he wrote down, at God’s direction, the books we call Genesis, Exodus, and Leviticus. Genesis gave the background to the overall situation, explaining why humankind was in trouble and what steps God had already taken to resolve it. After recounting God’s creation, Genesis cited seven key failures of humankind, followed by God’s call of Abraham. The rest of the book traced the line of Abraham to the point where it became an embryonic nation—which was taken to Egypt to incubate.

In Exodus the account quickly jumped four hundred years to the current generation. It focused on the birth of Moses because he was the next individual God spoke to. The people recalled vividly the following events: the plagues and the Exodus. They certainly would have raised an uproar if Moses had gotten it wrong. Exodus ends with an account of how the Israelites built the various items God had commanded in order to provide a focus for their religious ritual.

The book of Leviticus describes the ritual processes and the implementation of what we might call early Israelite religion, the precursor to Judaism. The whole purpose of these three books (or this three-part book) was to explain to the nation why God had intervened so mightily on their behalf and what He expected from them in response. As we will see, the purpose of God’s intervention was to set into motion a process that would profoundly affect world history by setting the stage for the coming Messiah. But that would be hundreds of years later. In the interim, God had a purpose for this group of people camped on the plains of Sinai.