Numbers 9-10 • The Assembly & Working of the Body


Although we are saved individually, and although ultimately held individually accountable, we are nonetheless often described in Scripture as belonging to and engaging in something much larger than our self, whether it be the House of God, the Temple, the Church, the Bride of Christ or the Body of Christ. We are individuals assigned roles and responsibilities within a much larger organization who are expected to not just support it, but operate in harmony and submission to it. This “chain of command” does not simply end with a fellowship, congregation, denomination or formal organization, but like army battalions belonging to regiments who belong to divisions, are all ultimately God-directed by His Word and ways.

Read verses 1-14

Q: What is the greater purpose of regularly observing Passover? Of what is it a constant reminder?

A: It is a regular reminder of the fact that redemption—that is, salvation, depends on the power of God through the blood of the Lamb.

Q: What does it mean that it was observed “according to all its statutes and all its ordinances”? (v.3) What do these specific terms refer to?

A: A “statute”—in Hebrew “choq” or “chuqqah”, is a prescribed task of a permanent nature, most often used in regard to strict rules for holy days, sacrifices, and limits on marriage. But an “ordinance”, sometimes also translated from the Hebrew “mishpat” as “judgment”, is what we might call “case law”. It is the application of God’s Word not specifically addressed word-for-word in Scripture. It often comes through God’s prophets and messengers after some aspect of God’s Word is first established.

Point: God is establishing that His people do not simply follow the letter of the Law, but will properly and equally apply it in all situations. One part of the Law never invalidates or nullifies another.

Q: In this case, what wasn’t specifically covered as a “statute” which required an “ordinance”?

A: What to do when someone is found ritually unclean according to the standards of one part of the Law, when at the same time they are required to observe Passover as ritually clean participants. There appeared to be a conflict.

Q: Carefully observe Moses’ response. What is particularly powerful about his approach to finding the solution?

A: He said, “Wait, and I will listen to what the Lord will command concerning you”. (v.8) He does not issue an immediate answer from his own wisdom, but seeks for God’s Word to be the final interpreter of God’s Word.

Application: This should be our first and foremost principle of scriptural interpretation.

Q: What is the greater spiritual meaning afforded this additional ruling?

A: Without it, there may be those who become so fixated on the strict letter of the Law that they will think it permissible to forgo doing anything for anyone in the name of serving God. They would see themselves as exempt from obedience to other parts of the Law, particularly when it comes to the needs of others.

Q: What is an actual New Testament example of this in action?

A: We see that it was at Passover when Joseph and Nicodemus became ritually defiled themselves by taking Christ’s corpse from the cross and burying Him in the tomb. (Jn. 19:38-42) The Gospels mention other figures at that time who went to extremes to keep themselves ritually clean, such as when the Sanhedrin would not enter Pilate’s house—a living person but being a Gentile considered “unclean”, but as we can see, neither Joseph nor Nicodemus were violating the Law by doing so.

Q: Which party does God hold responsible when it comes to observing Passover?

A: According to v.13, the word used of such a person is “neglects”. This term, “chadal” in Hebrew, seems to be describing not just a one-time act of forgetfulness, but regularly ceasing the observance.

Point: This would explain the seemingly harsh penalty, “that person shall then be cut off from his people” (v.13), because they are choosing to permanently cut themselves off from God.

Q: Is it specified that every “alien” must observe Passover?

A: The phrase “sojourns among you” (v.14) describes those who have permanently taken up residence, not those who are merely on their way passing through. It is actually using the opposite example of the ethnic member of Israel who “neglects” the Passover, showing that all those under the umbrella of Israel are to be held to the same standard regardless of ethnicity. There is no loophole here either.

Application: God’s people do not simply follow the strict letter of the Law, but the spirit of the Law in all situations. God gives wisdom to resolve all issues.

Read verses 15-23

Q: What is the very first training which new military recruits receive?

A: How to form into basic units such as platoons, companies and battalions upon command, and then to uniformly move out as directed and to where directed. Soldiers learn quickly that they are no longer individually in control, but exclusively subject to authority.

Q: What is the greater message behind v.21?

A: God not only led them in the daytime, but in the nighttime as well. As long as God is leading, the conditions are irrelevant.

Application: We are to follow God’s leading under any and every condition.

Q: What is the greater principle being taught in v.22?

A: Because it was never known if the cloud would remain for a day, a month or even a year, it was impossible for man to make a calculated forecast of God’s intentions.

Application: We cannot predict, much less dictate, parameters to God; we must continually walk by faith regardless.

Q: How might v.16, that God was present “continuously”, be understood in the New Testament model of God’s people?

A: We not only have the Holy Spirit in both the Church at large and each of us individually, but the Spirit’s continual guidance through the whole Word of God.

Application: God gives daily direction and guidance to our walk

Read verses 10:1-10

Q: What are the things specified for the silver trumpets?

  1. Summoning the whole congregation. (v.2-3)
  2. Summoning the leaders only. (v.4)
  3. Sounding an alarm to set out. (v.5-6)
  4. When going to war. (v.9)
  5. During feasts, the first day of each month, and along with sacrifices. (v.10)

Q: What might be significant about the fact these trumpets are made of silver?

A: Silver in Scripture is a representation of redemption.

Q: Why would it be very practical for the priests to operate the trumpets?

A: Being the chief operators of the Tabernacle, they would be the first to notice changes in the cloud or pillar of fire and could thus inform everyone of God’s intentions and leading. And as the designated leaders, they should be the most sensitive to God’s leading.

Q: How do we see the silver trumpets used in a New Testament setting?

A: They are used to call the Church together, both the resurrected and the raptured.

“And He will send forth His angels with a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other

— Matthew 24:31

Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality

— 1 Corinthians 15:51-53

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.

— 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

Application: God not only leads, but gives warning when needed.

Read verses 11-28

Q: How might we draw an additional inference to life in the military? What is the role and identity of every individual solider?

A: Every individual soldier not only recites the precise name and number of his assignment—“I belong to 3rd platoon of Bravo Company of the 2nd Battalion of the 31st Infantry Regiment”—but they have been trained for their individual role both in that unit and the army at large.

Q: How might this be implemented in New Testament terms?

A: We all have individual gifts and responsibilities where we are “assigned” in the Body of Christ, but for the leading and direction by God in course of carrying out the work and mission of the overall Church. We are simultaneously individually directed in carrying out the greater work of the Church as directed by Christ.

Q: How and when did God’s people know when to move out?

A: By the specific sounding of the trumpets which the priests—the leaders closest in service to God in the center of God’s people.

Application: God’s leading of His people is controlled and orderly.

Read verses 29-36

Q: What is the precedent which seems to be taking place here?

A: That one does not have to be an ethnic Jew to follow God or become a member of Israel.

Q: What does Moses’ brother-in-law represent?

A: He represents all those who leave the old life behind.

Q: Why might some infer that Moses is making a mistake?

A: To some expositors, this is interpreted as Moses relying on the flesh instead of God.

Q: Why would that be a wrong interpretation? What is this actually addressing?

A: When people sin or make big mistakes in Scripture, the text always documents it. The absence of any such correction more likely indicates that God will use Hobab’s abilities for His own purposes and glory since he is leaving his old life in the world for the new in God.

Q: But what do we see will be the primary guide for God’s people?

A: The Word as represented by the Ark of the Covenant.

Application: God will use man’s abilities to accomplish His greater purposes, but His first and foremost leading will be by His Word.

Overall Application

The working of God’s Word in both the Church collectively and each individual believer: