TODAY’S READING: Numbers 18–20
As Levites, Moses and Aaron were given the priestly honor of representing the purposes of Jehovah and the responsibility of acting out those purposes in Jehovah’s manner. They were given the priesthood as “a gift for service” (Num. 18:7). Fulfilling Jehovah’s mission, however, their service was never to replace intimacy with Jehovah Himself. Jehovah reminded Aaron: “I am your portion and your inheritance among the children of Israel” (v. 20). No part of the Levite tribe was to inherit land. Their inheritance was to be something much more meaningful—the Lord would be their portion and their inheritance. Service that took priests away from intimacy with God was a service in which God was not pleased. That was true then; it is true now.
The Numbers story now heads to a conclusion and the drama therein is whether or not the new generation would believe God, would they believe what their fathers believed. Miriam died (20:1) and Aaron soon followed (v. 28). Moses was not far behind. Neither Moses nor Aaron nor Miriam (The Big 3) would set foot in the promised land because they did not believe God, they did not hallow Him in the eyes of the children of Israel (v. 12). In one way that was harsh, but in another way, it made complete and justified sense. The Big 3 dying in the wilderness is only sad when we misunderstand the biblical narrative—it’s not about land for a particular people, it’s about the glory of God in all the lands of earth. What is most important to God concerning His people is whether or not they walk with Him faithfully in the world. He knows that in being like Him and with Him, we have a far greater satisfaction than any accomplishment. He knows that His presence is our great reward.
We can’t fall on our faces before the glory of God in private (v. 6) and then misrepresent Him publicly before our people or any people. It’s not about a physical inheritance of property and possessions; it’s about a request to the Father for the grand inheritance of all nations (Psalm 2:8). It’s not about being busy and successful for Jehovah; it’s about being so intimate with Him that others desire that same intimacy. This was why Jehovah was angry with Moses. In disobedience, Moses broke faith. He did not represent His Lord well, and he misused the spiritual power that his intimacy with God provided. Moses’ service moved God away from who He is because Moses was doing in a carnal manner what God wanted. The water still came from the well, and the problem was solved, but it was not solved in a way that Jehovah was glorified. Therefore, in winning, there was loss. In a way, God had mercy on Moses by taking service away, for service was not what delighted Moses most—God was.
The peoples of earth are never far from the drama. They are ever being thought of (Num. 19:10) and we are ever to be a display for how to interact with and obey God (20:14). The king of Edom followed all that happened to Israel and knew all that God did to deliver them. What God does in His people, He does as an example for all the nations to see, whether that is blessing or punishment. The greatest thing we can do as missionaries among the unreached Maranao of the Philippines is to live among them in such a way that it’s evident Jesus is our great reward and inheritance—and not service or land. The greatest thing we can do as followers of Jesus in our home society is to live in such a way that demonstrates to the watching unsaved that lasting satisfaction is found only in intimacy with God Himself. God is so dedicated to His glory among all peoples that He will use both our rise and fall, our blessing and cursing, to glorify His name. We will be a witness to all the nations. If that witness is sweet or bitter depends on whether or not we hallow God before their eyes (v. 12).