Our Scripture portion for last week was Numbers 25:10 – 30:1. When I started looking it over my first thought was “Oh boy, another list of names and numbers for a census and a repetition of the sacrifices, what can I learn from it this time?” But, when I started studying, something jumped out at me that I would like to share with you. Something that by itself may not be all that remarkable, but when seen in relation to other Scriptures begins to paint a picture that helps us see God’s plan.
The Israelites have arrived at the Jordan River across from Jericho and have setup camp. The first thing I should have realized was that they were again at the border of the Promised Land and this time they are going in, so this passage is probably going to be about their preparation to enter into the Land. But I didn’t, all I could see was all the names and numbers and sacrifices and I let it cloud my mind and color my thinking. But after wading through all the names and numbers in Chapter 26 we come to the selection of Joshua as the next leader of Israel in verses 12 – 23 of Chapter 27.
While those verses did get my attention, it was the first 11 verses of Chapter 27 dealing with the “Laws of Inheritance”, sandwiched in between the census and Joshua’s inauguration as leader, which got me thinking. The purpose of the census was to get a list of names and the sizes of the families so they could properly divide up the Land. So this particular event fits in with the verses that go before it but there just seemed to be something special about it. Whatever it was I felt there was more to it than meets the eye and that it needed some special attention.
A descendent of Joseph, Zelophehad, had five daughters but no sons. Now, since the usual practice at the time was to pass an inheritance on to the eldest son, this meant that he would not be included in the division of the Land. This meant that his family inheritance would be lost and in time so would his name. So his daughters, desiring that they be given their fathers inheritance so their fathers name not be lost, come to Moses and tell him “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the LORD in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons.” (Num 27:3) They go on to ask him, “Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.” (Num 27:4) It was a legitimate question, but a bit out of the ordinary since in that society women generally were not eligible to receive an inheritance. So Moses went to God to ask what should be done. God told Moses that the daughters were right and gave Moses instructions on what is to be done in these kinds of cases so that a man’s inheritance is passed on within the family line, so that his inheritance is not lost and that his name will not be forgotten.
On the surface this appears to be just taking care of some housekeeping chores and tying up some loose ends so the division of the Land can go smoothly. But as I read this a Scripture came to mind, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) As I thought about the connection between the two I realized that through these few verses God was revealing another aspect of Himself. Using these events in the lives of His people He is painting a picture for those of us coming many thousands of years later. It starts out with the census, yes, all those names and numbers are important and have eternal value, for each one of them reveals a family and individuals whom God has created and dearly loves. Not just the big names or the important people were listed, for God was concerned and wanted to make sure that down to the last individual they received their promised inheritance, their part of the Land flowing with Milk and Honey. He didn’t want anyone to be left out, no one to be lost.
We should take comfort in this and be encouraged for through the Prophet Malachi God said, “For I the LORD do not change…” (Mal 3:6), and the writer of Hebrews wrote, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” God does not change, what is true in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Scriptures, is true in the New Testament, the Apostolic Scriptures. The Apostle Paul wrote, “But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.” (1 Cor 15:46) So if there is any difference it is that in the Old Testament the principle or concept is often taught through a physical example, while the New Testament teaches the spiritual application of the same principle or concept. For a complete picture and a clear understanding we need both, the Old and the New Testaments, the physical picture and spiritual application. Jesus reminded us of God’s care and concern for each of us as individuals when He taught in the Sermon on the Mount that, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered.” (Mt 10:29-30)
God’s desire is so strong that no one misses out on their eternal inheritance and their place in that eternal Promised Land that He gave His best to make it possible. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him”. (John 3:16-17) Jesus clearly stated His purpose for coming to earth when He told Zacchaeus, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:10) Now the choice is up to us. How will we respond to what God has done to make sure we don’t miss out on our eternal inheritance? Will we have the courage like Zelophehad’s daughters had, who were willing to go to great lengths and go against the norms of the day in order to make sure they got their share of the promised inheritance, their piece of Land flowing with Milk and Honey?