Numbers & Joshua – Dare to Believe
– Presented on 15 Jul 07 by the Adult ‘F’ Class (Teacher: Leong Peng Cheong)
1. The Pentateuch
- The Pentateuch consists of Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. It is important to have an overview of these 5 books in order to better understand and study what God has to tell to us in the book of Numbers and in Joshua – the two books the senior Sunday school will be studying for the next few months. The Pentateuch is also known as the “five scroll” or the Torah to the Israelites.
- The author of Pentateuch is none other than Moses and it is written through the sole inspiration of God Himself. In Exodus 24:4, we are told that Moses recorded all in writing. Thus another name for the Pentateuch is “the books of Moses”. It was written after the Exodus and before his death on Mt Nebo in the plains of Moab. Base on calculations, the time of writing is estimated at 1445 BC.
- It is through the Pentateuch that God revealed Himself, His former works and sole author of the Creation of the world, Israel’s family history, and its role in His plan of redemption for mankind. It is an unbroken unity in content and historical sequence. At several points throughout the Pentateuch, we are able to see God’s plan for the salvation of mankind and also the second coming of Christ.
- The whole duration of events, starting from the time just after the Flood right up to the time of Joshua’s conquest of the promised land of Canaan can be estimated around 800 years (782). This can be seen from the above timeline.
- We believe that in order to understand Numbers and Joshua, a synopsis of what actually happened in Genesis and Exodus is crucial. The first section, that is from the beginning of the creation of the world right up to the time when God punishes the people for building the Tower of Babel brings us to around 2165BC, this is actually from Gen 1-11. Just after this point of time, God makes His promise with Abraham and the milestones to note come one after another: Abraham’s faith confirmed when he is willing to offer his only son as a sacrifice to God, right up to Joseph being in Egypt and then followed by Jacob and his family’s migration to it.
- This then leads us to the Book of Exodus which ends around 1446BC. The book of Joshua begins in 1405 BC but we can see that the actual military campaigns to conquer Canaan start much earlier. An example of the underlying connection throughout the Pentateuch if not the whole Bible is the relationship between a Creator God and His creation, Sin and Redemption, Covenant and Promise, Law and Judgement, Offering and sacrifice … as will be highlighted in the next paragraph.
2. The Importance of the Pentateuch
Thus we should not read the Pentateuch just as a series of events happening to God’s people – no doubt this does help any Christian coming to the Bible for the first time – however the deeper truths and understanding of he Pentateuch come from realizing the Importance of God’s covenants and Promises, His Laws for His people, and the place and significance of Sacrifices and offerings. We want to ask “Why did God give His Laws through Moses & His People?” It was for them to know of their sins when they did not live up to the laws. If we refer to Romans 5:20-21 we will understand why the law was given … in that grace will increase as the people will realize that even with the law, they keep on sinning … it is not the law that will save them but grace from God … thus Galatians 3:24. All these were (1) Covenants and Promises, (2) The Laws of God and (3) Sacrifices and Offerings, were all initiated or instituted by the Lord himself for the Israelites – and on a larger scale, how these very same issues are meant for us too as Christians today. I will touch on their significance:
- Covenants & Promises – God in His undying love for man, initiated several covenants with His people. One of the most important being the covenant of redemption promising us a way back to Him in spite of our sinful nature. This is the agreement made between members of the Holy Trinity in order to bring us salvation while in the covenant of works (also known as the Covenant of Creation), where Adam, in his failure to obey God, brought sin and curse to this world. Our God also made the covenant with Abraham promising to multiply his seed and also to bring him to a promised land. As Christians we should be able to see the link that God has made a covenant with us that through Christ we will one day reach the Promised land that is heaven itself. To further elaborate … the next slide shown:
here … traces the essential covenants & promises and the fulfillments of them accordingly: Thus in Gen 17:2, God makes a covenant with Abraham promising to increase the number of his offspring, his descendants. Thus true to His promises, in Exodus 1:7 the promise of that covenant is fulfilled such that in spite of their hardship and suffering in the land of Egypt, the Israelites multiply, and multiply exceedingly …
The map traces the various milestones in Exodus where God fulfills His Promises through Moses and as you can see, there are several of them here as shown in the white rectangular boxes …
Similarly when God made His Covenant with Abraham in Gen17:7, the promise is not only for the Israelites but for all men who believe, as in the verse: for the generations to come … and “to be your God and the God of your descendants” … More crucial is the fact that God promises to be our God … and this is possible not only for the Israelites but also for us, if we follow His commandments which He has written out for us in detail … In this verse is also God’s promise that His presence is always with us. In Gen 15:18 the promise of the land is fulfilled when Joshua is able to conquer the land of the Canaanites.
The Laws of God – For the Israelites, the Torah was the Law or Instructions for them. The Torah was their Bible and they were to meditate on it night and day. The Law or laws established by God for His people were not just a set of rules – it was for the people to live spiritually close to God – they were to observe His statutes so that all would be well with them and more importantly that through their obedience in following the laws He would be their God and they His people. Thus the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mt Sinai sets out a basic ethical norm applicable to all people for all ages. The first four commandments concern the Israelite’s relationship to God and the remaining six of how the people should live and relate to one another.
In the Pentateuch, the Levitical laws are for life and worship, one pertinent statement in the Book of Leviticus is God’s reminder and assurance to His chosen people: “You must be holy, because I, the Lord your God am Holy”.
The Laws of Deuteronomy are a reinstatement and reaffirmation of the Sinai Covenant God made. Although the Leviticus and Deuteronomy Laws do not apply to us in terms of practice, their underlying spiritual application can never be ignored, that is: We ought to be Holy and obedient to God.
- Sacrifices & Offerings – Anyone reading the Pentateuch will quickly see the importance God places in Sacrifices and offerings. In fact, the first offering starts with Cain and Abel, where only Abel’s sincere and obedient offering through animal sacrifice is found pleasing to God.
The main aim of sacrifice was for the atonement of sins – and in any sacrifice offered to God, the offering must be something valuable to God, in its essence, an offering represents the self-offering of the worshipper himself.
By studying the flow chart shown:
We can see that in the Old Testament it was the sacrifice of animals which was required by God. Yet this was pointing to God’s ultimate redemption plan of sending us His Only begotten Son to be offered (to die) on the cross for our Sins. Christians today need not offer any physical sacrifices but we are to present ourselves/our bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.
The Pentateuch is evidence of the faithfulness of our God, a God who keeps His covenants and His promises. What he had initiated in the past in His covenants and promises has been fulfilled through the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection with the sole purpose of providing us a way back to God … another promise is yet to be fulfilled, that is the 2nd coming of Christ … it is now our duty, a duty of love and obedience to pursue holiness …
Therefore as we study the Book of Numbers and of Joshua, we can say that the theme, “Dare to Believe”, poses both a challenge for us to walk closely with the Lord, as well as an assurance that our God is a faithful God and one who keeps His Promises …