Trumpets, Blood, Cloud and Fire
(Numbers 9 & 10)
Introduction: Would you like to be more confident? Confident that you will do well in life. Confident that God is with you. Confident that you have a right understanding of God and His role in your life? Years ago, I spoke with a Christian who told me that when he was a young man he wanted to do God's will. Problem was that God never showed up to tell him what to do. Do you sometimes feel like that? If so, let's plunge into our study of Numbers to see how God interacted with His people then!
- Read Numbers 9:1-3. God says to celebrate Passover. What was Passover about? (Exodus 12 recounts how the Jews, while they were still in Egypt, sacrificed a lamb, and put its blood on the top and side of the doorframes of their homes. As a result of doing this, they protected their first born from being killed that night.)
- Who was killing all of the firstborn? (Read Exodus 12:12. God said He did it.)
- Why should we, the followers of God, have to be protected from God? Can't God tell His people from the Egyptians? (It seems odd, doesn't it? The illogic of this suggests that God was making a point to His people. A point which suggests they have some (small) role in being delivered.)
- Why not just draw a star on the door? Blood is messy. (God was beginning to show these slaves His plan for eradicating sin and for saving them from death.)
- What does this say about God? (He is not to be trifled with. He is looking out for His followers, but it is dangerous business not to obey Him.)
- Read Luke 22:15-20. Why was Jesus able to change the Passover?
- How were Jesus' actions consistent with the Passover? (God's original purpose in setting up the Passover was to point to Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of the "lamb" whose death saves us from death for disobedience.)
- Does this help to give you confidence that Christianity is the "correct" religion? (No world religion which believes in the inspiration of the Old Testament sacrifices a lamb today for the forgiveness of sins. That seems odd and inconsistent. Only Christianity offers a logical answer. It teaches that Jesus was the fulfillment of the sacrificial system and says "This is the way we still obtain forgiveness of sin in accord with the teaching of God.)
- Is there still a logical problem? Passover presented a threat to the first born. We believe sin presents a threat to everyone regardless of birth order. (Read Colossians 1:15. It seems odd that only the firstborn were in peril then. The mystery of the symbolism becomes clear when we see that Jesus is the "firstborn" of all creation. God set up Passover with Jesus' sacrifice clearly in mind. God the Father "lost" His firstborn Son at the cross to sin. Jesus' victory over sin and death, if we accept it, gives us victory over sin and death.)
- Read Numbers 9:6-8. What is the problem? (We learned from Numbers 5 that ceremonially unclean people should be outside the camp. To be ceremonially unclean was inconsistent with worship.)
- What does Moses do? (He consults with God.)
- What lesson does this teach us when we run into a theological problem? (God's word is the Bible. We need to study our Bible and ask for the leading of God's Spirit.)
- Read Numbers 9:9-10. Does God's decision make sense to you? If so, why? (Passover pointed to God's ultimate solution to the sin problem. God would die for us. It makes logical sense to bring in all the sinners you can find! Unclean? Welcome to this ceremony!)
- The Fire and Cloud
- Read Numbers 9:15-22. Have you ever said "I feel like I have a black cloud over me?" Is that a good or bad thing? (Generally, we think of it as a bad thing.)
- What main purpose did this cloud serve? (It was the tour guide!)
- Were the movements of the cloud predictable? (No. Sometimes it would stay in one place overnight. Sometimes it would stay a month or a year.)
- Remember we started out talking about confidence, especially with regard to God's role in our life. What does this cloud teach us about how God's leadership works in our life?
- Could the people leave the cloud? (Sure.)
- Why would you want to leave the cloud? (It was going through the desert - a terrible place. It was unpredictable. It did not ask the people about their preferred time schedule.)
- What would happen to the people if they decided to forget about following the cloud? (The fire meant they could see at night. They did not have to stumble over rocks. The desert is cold at night. Fire provides warmth. During the day the shade of the cloud made the temperature much more bearable. It would not be pleasant to leave the cloud.)
- Let's assume you were a couple of strangers just hanging around an oasis and you saw this vast horde of people (perhaps a million) following a cloud. What would you think? (Now you get an idea of why pagans do not understand Christians.)
- Do you wish you had a "cloud" in your life that would allow you to look up and know what to do?
- Do you read your Bible to learn God's will? If not, why do you think you would have any interest in a cloud?
- How specific was the cloud's information about life? (The cloud did not control all aspects of life. God gave Moses rules for much of life. The cloud gave general direction and timing.)
- Is it significant that the cloud gave general information? Do most people get "cloud" instructions from God - He gives us the general direction and leaves the details to us?
- Numbers 10 reveals that in addition to the cloud, God put in place a "signaling" system to guide the orderly movement of His people. It was a cloud/trumpet, God/human leadership partnership.
- Let's look at one aspect of the trumpets in more detail. Read Numbers 10:8-9. Would God's people have a cloud to determine when they should go into battle? (It is not mentioned here.)
- Does this text seem to indicate that God is even aware of the specific battle? (We can say that God generally authorized the battle because it was on the Israelites' "own land" and it was against an oppressor. But, the way this is written it appears God is not part of the original attack.)
- What does God promise to do for His people when they get into a battle on their own? (Give God a "toot" and He will rescue you.)
- Does this apply to us today? Let's say that you are in some sort of problem. You cannot say God led you into it, perhaps you led yourself into it. Does God invite us to "call" Him? To let Him know you could use some help? (I love this picture. God invites us to send Him a "blast." To send a distress signal that you could use some help right about now.)
- Friend, the Passover gives us confidence that Jesus is the promised Savior. He is the only One who fulfills the Old Testament symbolism. He is the only One who makes the logic of the sacrificial system complete. Looking at God's "cloud" system gives us confidence that God wants to give direction to our life. He may not be micro-managing your life, but He wants to lead. Best, when we get into a problem, we can know He is just a "trumpet blast" away. How about making God the Lord of your life today?
- Next week: From Complaints to Apostasy.