“They camped by the Jordan”

Today’s chapter 33 in Numbers shows that the people had completed their wilderness travels and “they camped by the Jordan” (verse 49). The chapter lists all the places where they had camped in those 40 years. The chapter starts by telling us, “These are the stages of the people of Israel, when they went out of the land of Egypt … under the leadership of Moses and Aaron. Moses wrote down their starting places, stage by stage, by the command of the LORD” (verses 1,2). So the LORD saw it was necessary to have a record of their wanderings.

In the New Testament the third and fourth chapters of Hebrews are devoted to drawing lessons from those 40 years. They are lessons drawn from the failure of faith of almost all the adults who had left Egypt, those 20 and over in the 12 tribes, except for the two ‘good’ spies and most of the Levites. The writer, almost certainly Paul, quotes from God’s words in the Psalms, “your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways’” (3:9). Humans can ‘see’ but not ‘know’ – like those who believe in evolution today.

But they had seen! They had seen God’s judgements on the Egyptians and trembled in awe at Mount Sinai and been feed and watered in the wilderness. With this example the message to the Hebrews about 1,400 years later is, “Take care, brothers (and sisters) lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (verses 12-14).

Numbers details all the places they had camped at – by the Jordan was the thirty-eighth time! Little more than every twelve months they had had the big task of moving camp. Imagine it! They number some 600,000 adults (26:51). Now the faithful remain, those who had come out of Egypt as children and those born in the wilderness. Apart from the faithful Levites, Joshua and Caleb and Moses, no-one was older than 59, the fleshpots and relatively ‘soft’ life in Egypt were a fading memory that had no appeal. That is not so with us!

In today’s Proverbs there are appropriate verses, “If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small” (24:10). “My son, eat honey: for it is good, and the drippings of the honeycomb are sweet to your taste. Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off” (verses 13,14). The word of God provides the ‘honey’ for us, let us make sure we take some every day.