|BIBLE STUDY SERIES #338, 339 and 340|
17 May, 1998
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our sequence of Bible Studies, beginning at Genesis 12 several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, has led us down the generations of his progeny to the Sinai Wilderness camp of the Tribes of Israel, directed by God, and with Moses as the national leader. Today we will be concluding Numbers 9. I would like to introduce today's thoughts with a question.
Have you ever seen some motion picture production, perhaps some colourful "spectacular" out of Hollywood, showing an ancient or far-off kingdom of some kind wherein a leading character, (it could be a pharaoh, a Caesar, a pirate captain of a sea raider, a mafia boss, a plantation slave owner, or some other dominant personality), occupies the dramatic position of an evil king or tyrant? Near the beginning of the film, it is usual to see a setting of something like a king's court which includes the service of many slaves and servants who are fearful of displeasing the master, and whose plight at once draws feelings of sympathy towards the downtrodden, and excites audience revulsion against the powerful dominator.
One of the aspects I have noted, which usually sets the stage of such a drama, so to speak, is the failure of some slave, right at the start of the unfolding plot, to do exactly as required by the potentate, and who suffers, in consequence, an immediate and gory end before many minutes have passed. A situation like that which I have described is generally initiated early as the drama unfolds, and often involves an act wherein the king beckons a silent signal to vigilant servants to which an immediate and subservient response, by those catering to his every whim, is mandatory but which, on this particular occasion results in some blunder which arouses the unforgiving martinet to fury and immediate condemnation. By this device, the audience is immediately informed of the villainous character to be ascribed to the tyrant, and at once they will surmise that this villain is likely, before the show is concluded, to have either a remarkable conversion to a socially constructive lifestyle, or else a totally predictable judgment and gory end amidst expressions of universal execration and condemnation.
Long ago, and perhaps even today in some lands, slaves had restricted rights, and few opportunities outside of those which were imparted by a tyrant or ruler of some kind. Doubtless, although exaggerated in some ways, this situation has existed in many forms, in real life, and throughout all history from the establishment of the first city or national grouping in which some despotic leader took total control and proceeded to dominate everyone in the area.
In the context of today's lax moral approach to some things which would receive divine condemnation, and rigid disapproval of others, called "politically, or socially, incorrect", we have a distorted sense of that which will eventually be termed "right" and "wrong" in God's Kingdom, for His laws have been set aside by the leaders of this humanistic generation, together with reverence for the power of His majesty and the right of His authority. The Prophet Isaiah writes of such a situation in Isaiah 5:20-21, stating "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe unto them that are wise in their own eyes, and prudent in their own sight!" The Prophet then goes on to write of men "which justify the wicked for reward, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him!" and says in verse 24, "Therefore as the fire devoureth the stubble, and the flame consumeth the chaff, so their root shall be as rottenness, and their blossom go up as dust: because they have cast away the law of the LORD of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel."
Now God's Own Kingdom is not like these which Hollywood portrays. His Kingdom is based on love, and respect for the needs of others less favoured than ourselves, it is true, and Monarchy under such conditions is of a different stripe. However there is something which forms a common characteristic of all situations wherein people are lead or directed by another and must follow directions which another imparts. We have previously read and considered the Scriptural passages of Numbers 9 to the end of verse 14, and read a preview of succeeding verses of that chapter. That passage had given us some insight into the consecration of the tribal nation. As we are about to make comment further upon those last verses, perhaps we ought to review them briefly, beginning at verse 15:
15. And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning.
16. So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.
17. And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents.
18. At the commandment of the LORD the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the LORD they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents.
19. And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the LORD, and journeyed not.
20. And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the LORD they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the LORD they journeyed.
21. And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed.
22. Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed.
23. At the commandment of the LORD they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the LORD they journeyed: they kept the charge of the LORD, at the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.
The multitudes who are led must have their eyes and ears open, lest they be careless and blunder in their relationship with the leader. What manner of servant would you think he was, who when called upon by a silent signal, normally used to indicate that, for example a guest must be served, was seen to have his eyes wandering after some maid or gazing out the window instead of keeping his eyes fixed upon the king or master at all times?
Psalm 141:8 says "But mine eyes are unto thee, O GOD the Lord... ." Such had to be the case in the Israelite encampments in their journey through the Wilderness of Sinai, for they did not know the way which they would travel, beyond what signal was conveyed by the pillar of cloud and fire, and the directions which were transmitted through one aged man, the leader, Moses. Such attentive continual looking towards the same God Who led Israel in old time must be done in our own case, with God's directions. Just as a child does well to keep eyes upon its mother when in a department store, so that there will not be a panic search after it becomes lost in the milling crowds, so we must ever be mindful of the direction afforded to us by the near presence and the quiet word of Our Almighty God. He can speak to us, ourselves as we wander afield in strange circumstances towards momentarily interesting curiosities for such, as with a child, is dangerous for those who lack knowledge of the overall plan and picture of God's design.
Next week, we shall be reading some of the recognized commentaries upon the subject matter covered in today's reading, so I hope that you can use what has been said today as a form of suitable meditation during the coming week ahead, as a preparatory lead in to the study of such comments as may be found to apply insights to our understanding of the intent of the Scripture which we are presently considering. Not one of us knows what the hour will bring forth, nor at what point Our LORD will engage our attention with a silent command to pack up our tent and prepare to follow Him to some future encampment which He has prepared for us. Perhaps the thought of having to await the signal is irritating or worrying to some, perhaps it is a conveyance of peace to the hearts and minds of others, knowing that, as The Almighty did so long ago to those in the encampment of the tribes of the children of Israel, He can, and indeed has promised, to do again for all His people, wherever they are found on the earth. I would remind new listeners that the thrust of our Bible Studies is towards the thought that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples today are the actual genealogical descendants of these same Israelite tribes, and so these promises ought to bear an especial importance to such peoples today. May your meditations this week be blessed by what you have heard today.
24 May, 1998
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our sequence of Bible Studies, beginning at Genesis 12 several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, has led us down the generations of his progeny to the Sinai Wilderness camp of the Tribes of Israel, directed by God, and with Moses as the national leader. Today we will be continuing our concluding remarks about Numbers 9. I would like to summarise that passage of Scripture at this time. We had already read the verses in their entirety, so a summary may be sufficient.
The cloud covered the Tabernacle on the day that it was reared up, and continued there as a cloud by day and fire by night, all the while that the children of Israel were to continue their encampment in that spot. However, when the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night was taken up, removing from the Tabernacle, it was then immediately time for the Israelites to break camp and prepare to form up in marching order, for the journey to the next place of encampment.
So the latter portion of the chapter had dealt with the general picture of the camp of the children of Israel in the wilderness, having the Tabernacle at its centre, and all the twelve tribal encampments in their designated defensive allotments forming a square camp. If we were to climb a nearby mountain, we might look upon it and note, at its centre, hovering above the Tabernacle tent, a glorious shining towering figure of fire by night, and by day, a great column of cloud which doubtless hid the fire within, so that its glory did not blind all who dwelt nearby. If we took note that at some moment the great glory of the fire, or the towering column of cloud had arisen from off the Tabernacle tent, it was a silent signal to everyone in the nation that the time had come to break camp, in immediate preparation to travel onward, moving on towards a new encampment somewhere else, the location of which, they did not know, for they had not been this way before. However, with the general signal given, the Tabernacle must be taken down in the process stipulated, by the persons assigned, and packed on the ox-wagons to take up the journey as part of the long column of march which was led by that signal of fire and cloud. Where the fire or the cloud hovered, there they must draw up, take down their tents and other household items in the prescribed pattern of organized life, amidst their own tribe, and make a new home for themselves and their families. The tabernacle must be re-erected, and the sacrifices begun again.
Of this Biblical passage, and under the heading "The Divine Provision for Direction and Guidance, ix. 15 - x. 10", and the sub heading "a. The pillar of cloud and fire (ix. 15-23)", The New Bible Commentary has this to say: "As the beginning of the new journey comes nearer, the divine leadership is re-emphasized. When the tabernacle was erected, a month before the events described in Nu. i 1 (cf. Ex. xl. 1 with Nu. i. 1), the pillar of cloud had covered it (Ex. xl. 34). Our present passage adds nothing to the information given at that time, but lays increased stress upon it, since the journey is about to commence and it is vital that all the people have the divine guidance in mind. Accordingly, the information given there in five verses is repeated here in nine. The vital facts of our personal relation to God, who is the true leader of the wilderness journey of every Christian, needs often to be brought into consciousness, and particularly at each turning point of our lives. If we keep our eyes fixed upon Him, many of our uncertainties and perplexities automatically disappear. The facts stated in these two passages (Ex. xl and Nu. ix) were not new when the tabernacle was set up. God had led the people in this way ever since they left Egypt (Ex. xiii. 21-22)."
The Commentary goes on to state: "These passages place such great emphasis upon the divine leadership that we might almost think that Moses and the people had no use for their own intelligence, but needed only blindly to follow a divine leading which would answer all questions. Such a conclusion would be contrary to the general teaching of the Bible and to the experience of every Christian. There are two sides of the matter, and neither can safely be left out of account. Our present passage stresses the faith aspect, and this aspect is extremely vital. Unless we see God's hand leading us and are ready to follow wherever He leads, we cannot expect success in our wilderness journey. Yet God has not made us automatons. He does not desire puppets, which jump whenever He pulls the cord, but have no mind of their own. He desires His people to learn to use their intelligence, and to follow Him because they love Him. Our earthly life is a period of training, in which He has many things to teach us. The very next portion of this section shows that extreme conclusions must not be drawn. If it had been sufficient that all the people should see the guiding pillar, x. 1-10 would not have provided a method of signalling, so that the leaders could tell the people when to start and how to proceed. Later in chapter xi, we find Moses urging his brother-in-law, who was familiar with the wilderness, to stay with the people and give them the benefit of his experience in selecting their camping places. In chapter xiii we learn that God commanded that spies be sent to search out the land of Canaan. When Joshua planned to attack Jericho, he first sent spies into the city. It is God's will that His people should use ordinary foresight, and do their best to plan wisely. This side of the matter was stressed by the Lord Himself in Lk. xiv. 28-32. It is the Lord's will that all human means be utilized, but that His overruling control be constantly kept in mind."
Keil and Delitzsch add their contribution to further understanding in their discussion concerning the precise meanings of variations of the words in which the Tabernacle is mentioned, as for example, when they use the words "the dwelling of the tent of witness" in place of "tent of the meeting of Jehovah" because the ark contained the tablets of the Ten Commandments, and the decalogue "formed the basis of the covenant of Jehovah with Israel, and the pledge of the gracious presence of the Lord in the tabernacle." They further draw attention to the term in Chapter 10:11 "tabernacle of the testimony" or "dwelling of witness" to show that the whole tent, and not merely the Holy of Holies was being involved when the cloud covered the Tabernacle. They further declare that when on the march, that the cloud visibly descended from the height at which it ordinarily soared above the ark of the covenant during the march ... for a signal that the Tabernacle was to be set up there; and when this had been done, it settled down upon it."
We may think of situations in which love combines with oversight and command, and in which it is important to have an immediate response to those directions, when imparted either by voice or silent signal. We can all think of situations on the battlefield wherein it is extremely important that an enemy not be apprised of the plan of attack or defence which must therefore be transmitted by some silent method. We can think of other situations in which a response must be immediate for critical loss of time can nullify the best direction in the world. Perhaps we have all heard the old story of more than a century ago, of the loss of a nail, a horse-shoe, a horse, a rider, a message, a battle, a war, a kingdom, a country, each loss the outcome of the apparently less important one which led to it. It is important to keep our eyes towards God. In Psalm 32:8, God replies "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." In the human sense, a guide or leader cannot guide a person "with His eye", unless the person seeking guidance is constantly watchful of the direction taken by the eye movement as an indicator signal. Psalm 123:1-2 says "Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God, until that he have mercy upon us." There are times when we don't quite see the way ahead, and we wonder if our choices are those which The LORD would have us to make. If we don't look towards His guiding signal, we might very well find ourselves being left behind when the camp breaks up and moves on! Let us all consider our own relationship with Israel of so long ago, and also the significance of the discovery, as we of the British-Israel-World Federation constantly attest, that the generally Anglo-Celto-Saxon and kindred peoples in particular are the modern descendants of those ancient tribesmen who looked for God's signal for their departure and their arrival at each encampment along the way.
May you have as part of this week's meditation the prayerful seeking of the mind of The Almighty through His word, and by looking in the direction He would have us to face, may you receive the blessing of His guidance in your daily choices and your course of actions.
31 May, 1998
By Douglas C. Nesbit, B.A.
Our sequence of Bible Studies, beginning at Genesis 12 several years ago with the Call of The Almighty God to Abram in Ur of the Chaldees, has led us down the generations of his progeny to the Sinai Wilderness camp of the Tribes of Israel, directed by God, and with Moses as the national leader. Today we will be continuing with the study of Numbers 10, beginning at verse 1.
1. And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2. Make thee two trumpets of silver; of a whole piece shalt thou make them: that thou mayest use them for the calling of the assembly, and for the journeying of the camps.
3. And when they shall blow with them, all the assembly shall assemble themselves to thee at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.
4. And if they blow but with one trumpet, then the princes, which are heads of the thousands of Israel, shall gather themselves unto thee.
5. When ye blow an alarm, then the camps that lie on the east parts shall go forward.
6. When ye blow an alarm the second time, then the camps that lie on the south side shall take their journey: they shall blow an alarm for their journeys.
7. But when the congregation is to be gathered together, ye shall blow, but ye shall not sound an alarm.
8. And the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall blow with the trumpets; and they shall be to you for an ordinance for ever throughout your generations.
9. And if ye go to war in your land against the enemy that oppresseth you, then ye shall blow an alarm with the trumpets; and ye shall be remembered before the LORD your God, and ye shall be saved from your enemies.
10. Also in the day of your gladness, and in your solemn days, and in the beginnings of your months, ye shall blow with the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; that they may be to you for a memorial before your God: I am the LORD your God.
Under the sub-heading "b. The silver trumpets (x. 1-10)", the New Bible Commentary says this: "After explaining the general rule for guidance, God provides a means by which the leaders can order united action by the entire host. Two trumpets of silver are to be made for use in calling an assembly and for the journeying of the camp. Trumpet (in verse 2, is) Heb(rew) ha-sose-rah, a tube about 18 inches long with a flared end; not a curved tube like the more extensively used shophar, or ram's horn (Ex. xix. 16, 19, xx. 18; Lv. xxv. 9). There are three ways in which the trumpets may be used. The blowing of both trumpets summons all of the assembly to come together at the door of the tent of meeting (3, 7). The blowing of but one trumpet calls the heads of the various sections of all the tribes to come to Moses (4). In both these cases there would probably be one loud note on the trumpet, perhaps repeated at intervals. The third way, designated in English by the words blow an alarm, means a long continued peal of the trumpets, and indicates that the tribes on the east side are to break camp and start forward. At a second peal the tribes on the south are to start (5-6). Use of the trumpets is to be continued after they reach the Promised Land, both in war and in peace (8-10). God desired His people to work unitedly for carrying out His purposes. 'If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?' (I Corinthians xiv. 8)."
Keil and Delitzsch have some interesting additional comments which ought to be included in our study. They state "Although God Himself appointed the time for removal and encampment by the movement of the cloud of His presence, signals were also requisite for ordering and conducting the march of so numerous a body, by means of which Moses, as commander-in-chief, might make known his commands to the different divisions of the camp. To this end God directed him to prepare two silver trumpets of beaten work (mikshah, see Ex. xxv. 18) which should serve 'for the calling of the assembly, and for the breaking up of the camps,' i.e. which were to be used for this purpose. The form of these trumpets is not further described. No doubt they were straight, not curved, as we may infer both from the representation of these trumpets on the triumphal arch of Titus at Rome, and also from the fact, that none but straight trumpets occur on the old Egyptian monuments... . With regard to the use of them for calling the congregation, the following directions are given in vers. 3, 4: 'When they shall blow with them (i.e. with both), the whole congregation (in all its representatives) shall assemble at the door of the tabernacle; if they blow with only one, the princes or heads of the families of Israel shall assemble together.' -Vers. 5, 6. To give the signal for breaking up the camp, they were to blow ... a noise or alarm. At the first blast the tribes on the east, i.e. those who were encamped in the front of the tabernacle, were to break up; at the second, those who were encamped on the south; and so on in the order prescribed in chap. ii., though this is not expressly mentioned here. The alarm was to be blown... with regard to their breaking up or marching. - Ver. 7. But to call the congregation together they were to blow, not to sound an alarm. (The Hebrew) signifies blowing in short, sharp tones. (Another Hebrew word, meaning) 'blowing' in a continuous peal. -Vers. 8-10. These trumpets were to be used for the holy purposes of the congregation generally, and therefore not only the making, but the manner of using them was prescribed by God Himself. They were to be blown by the priests alone, and 'to be for an eternal ordinance to the families of Israel,' i.e. to be preserved and used by them in all future times, according to the appointment of God. The blast of these trumpets was to call Israel to remembrance before Jehovah in time of war and on their feast days. -Ver. 9. 'If ye go to war in your land against the enemy who oppresses you, and ye blow the trumpets, ye shall bring yourselves to remembrance before Jehovah, and shall be saved (by Him) from your enemies'." Here Keil and Delitzsch explain that the Hebrew phrase "to come into war", or "go to war" is to be distinguished from the words meaning "to make ready for war, to go out to battle. They continue "-Ver. 10. 'And on your joyous day, and your feasts and new moons, ye shall blow the trumpets over your burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, that they may be to you for a memorial (remembrance) before your God'." Here they explain that the Hebrew words mean "any day on which a practical expression was given to their joy, in the form of a sacrifice." They further continue "In accordance with this divine appointment, so full of promise, we find that in after times the trumpets were blown by the priests in war (chap. xxxi. 6; 2 Chron. xiii. 12, 14, xx. 21, 22, 28) as well as on joyful occasions, such as at the removal of the ark (I Chron. xv. 24, xvi. 6), at the consecration of Solomon's temple (2 Chron. v. 12, vii. 6), the laying of the foundation of the second temple (Ezra iii. 10), the consecration of the walls of Jerusalem (Neh. xii. 35, 41), and other festivities (2 Chron. xxix. 27)."
The technology used in making a great variety of musical instruments in the earlier Biblical times was apparently quite competent for the purpose. In Genesis 4:21, Jubal, son of Lamech is noted as being "...the father of all such as handle the harp and organ." His half-brother, Tubal-cain, was "...an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron." An assortment of various kinds appear as illustrations in wall drawings and some have been found in Egyptian tombs. However, of the tunes we do not have any written documents. It seems that percussion, stringed and wind instruments were all widely used for expressions of mirth and to accompany the dance, for expressing a state of mourning for the departed or lamenting the defeat of a nation, for worship in the temple and triumph in war, and for partying, for the entertainment of rulers and the diversion of the lonely.
The New Bible Dictionary has over four pages of most interesting information under the item "Music And Musical Instruments." One there learns diverse facts such as, for example, that the "bag" mentioned in John 12:6 and 13:29, which was used by Judas in order to keep the money was actually a box made to contain a supply of reeds used with a wind instrument possibly like an oboe, and used by him as a money-box. Likewise, we find that the "dulcimer" listed in the orchestra of Nebuchadnezzar, and mentioned in Daniel 3:5 as being assembled to play in order to signal the worship of the golden image, is now generally supposed to have been, not a stringed instrument, but a form of bagpipe! Here we also read descriptions of the sophar, a long animal horn curled at the end, which was the national trumpet of the Israelites, and the ha-sose-ra, the silver trumpet of which, as we have read in our present study, two were ordered to be made by the command of God which was transmitted through Moses.
We shall have to close for today. However, let me leave with you the thought of the thrill which a trumpet can impart to each person who hears one sound a well-known tune of military or religious significance connected to one's cultural background or sense of religious assurance. On the next study we will look again at this aspect before moving ahead to the succeeding Scripture passages. Even the Psalms would be sounded to music, and in the Temple, those silver trumpets were called upon to sound on especial occasions before The LORD.
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