Is the book of Numbers boring?

OK. Confession time. I’ve read through the whole Bible something like three times now. It might be four. I’m not counting. But each time I’ve gotten a bit bogged down in the book of Numbers. It’s all about counting and I’m really not that thrilled by it to be honest. But this year, somethings going on. Numbers seems interesting and alive. God is speaking through it as I read it. Yes through the book of Numbers!

So, yesterday morning I reached Numbers 3 where it sets out the duties of the Levite regarding the tabernacle, or tent of meeting, where Israel worshipped God in the wilderness (and in Israel itself until the temple was built). I was particularly struck by the number of times the word guard appeared. Some of the Levites were told to keep guard during worship, lest they be surprised by an enemy tribe while they were worshipping (Num 3:7). Others were told to guard the tent and it’s contents. (Num 3:8)

Which is fair enough. After all, the tabernacle contained much of Israel’s wealth in terms of gold artefacts and incredible treasures like the Ark of the Covenant. And no-one wants their worship of God to be interrupted by a screaming horde of dirty, smelly, horrible Canaanites now do they?

But then I read verse 38.

Those who were to camp before the tabernacle on the east, before the tent of meeting toward the sunrise, were Moses and Aaron and his sons, guarding the sanctuary itself, to protect the people of Israel. (Num 3:38 ESV)

Did you get that? Moses and Aaron and his sons, weren’t guarding the sanctuary to protect the sanctuary from foreigners or even from the Israelites. They were guarding the sanctuary to protect the Israelites from the sanctuary. Given that the sanctuary was the tent of meeting, the place of God’s presence with his people on earth, what does that tell us about the holiness of God? Perhaps this, that even his own people needed to be protected from coming unawares into contact with a holy place made so by the presence of a holy God.
And the thought it prompted for me was this. How awesome and wonderful is the blood Jesus shed on the cross, that through faith in him, we can pray “Come Holy Spirit”, have the Holy Spirit pour God’s love into our hearts, and not be utterly destroyed by the presence of the Holy. So is Numbers boring? Not any more.


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