Introduction: How are you at math? Did you know that mathematical
formulas govern much of our physical world? Scientists are still
trying match the things they observe to the math they know. They
have a very long way to go to figure it all out, assuming they can.
Imagine then, a book of the Bible called “Numbers.” Would the
Creator of the Universe, the one who created things “by the numbers”
have a book about order? It seems so. If you are like me, I have a
lot to learn about math and God’s order, so let’s dive right into
our new study on the book of Numbers!

  1. The Census

    1. Read Numbers 1:1-5. Do you sometimes wonder whether God
      is involved in your life? What level of involvement do we
      see here? (God gives them specific instructions, down to
      naming the helpers!)

      1. What is the reason for this census? (It is for the

      2. Thinks about what you know about the Bible,
        especially the Old Testament. Does God win battles
        “by the numbers?” Is He a “I’ve got more men than
        you” kind of God?

      3. We know that God has an odd way of winning battles.
        When God worked with Gideon (Judges 7), God kept
        reducing the number of men in the army. In the
        battle of the valley of Beracah (2 Chronicles 20)
        God had the choir lead the soldiers into battle. Why
        would God rely on conventional army order here? (The
        important point is that God is God and we are not.
        However God wants to do it, we should just follow in
        faith. However, order is something that is
        characteristic of God.)

    2. Read Numbers 1:44-46. What do you think about the size of
      this army? (It is huge!)

    3. Read Numbers 1:47-51. What is the role of the Levites?
      (To be in charge of the Tabernacle of God.)

      1. What does this say about the idea of organized

      2. Why not number the Levites? Would it not be good to
        know how many temple helpers you had? (The point of
        the census was to organize for the army. God’s
        order was that the Levites were not to be part of
        the army.)

        1. Why did God make this distinction? Why not have
          warrior priests?

      3. Read Numbers 3:14-16. Here we see God does take a
        census of the Levites. What is different in this
        census? (They counted all the boys from a month of
        age, not just those who were 20 or older who could

        1. Why this distinction? (Again, under God’s
          organization the Levites are not part of the
          battle class.)

      4. My father was drafted into the army and fought in
        Europe in World War II. When he was in college,
        fellows who were religion/theology majors were
        exempted from the draft. I remember my father
        suggesting that the draft, rather than an allegiance
        to God, might have motivated the choice of some in
        their college majors. Do you think this exemption
        was based on Numbers? If so, why would it make any
        sense in modern times?

  2. Holy God

    1. Read Numbers 1:51-53. If anyone other than a Levite went
      by the tabernacle, they would die. If their tents got too
      close to the tabernacle, “wrath” would fall on them. Why
      is that?

      1. Read Numbers 8:19. How does this explain the “wrath”
        problem with approaching God?(God was holy. They
        were sinners. When a sinner approached a Holy God he
        would die.)

      2. Let’s start with me. I always wore a suit and tie
        to church. I did this from when I was a teen to when
        I was in my 40’s. Maybe even longer. Today I do not.
        I always wear a coat, but I wear things to church
        that I am not allowed to wear in a courtroom. Am I
        neglecting the distinction between sinners and a
        Holy God?

      3. In my church, children regularly run in front of the
        platform during the sermon. Adults, who could walk
        out of the sanctuary through the back doors,
        regularly walk right in front of the platform to
        exit the sanctuary. Is this inconsistent with what
        we have read in Numbers?

      4. Read Colossians 1:19-20. Is it now safe to approach
        a Holy God? (Yes. I’m am still concerned about a
        lack of “respect” in the sanctuary and I’m open to a
        debate about whether wearing a suit and tie should
        be required or does more harm than good. But, the
        line that separated the regular Israelite from God
        has been erased by Jesus. Praise Him!)

        1. Should we be concerned about completely
          ignoring the separation between the holy and
          the common?

  3. God’s Order

    1. Read Numbers 2:1-7. The text goes on to list each tribe,
      the leader, and the place of encampment. In the middle
      are the Levites and the tabernacle (Tent of Meeting).
      Imagine someone saying “What difference does it make
      where my group camps?” What would you say?

      1. Would it really make any difference if, say, two of
        the tribes swapped places? What if the tribe of
        Reuben voted that they would rather not be on the
        south side, but would like to be on the west. The
        tribe of Manasseh would rather be south than west.
        Would God care if Reuben and Manasseh traded places?

      2. What about today? If God says to worship Him on
        Saturday ( Exodus 20:10)are we free to swap with
        another day?

      3. If the answer is “we are under a new covenant,” then
        does this mean God’s will no longer matters? God is
        some person in the attic who we can ignore?

    2. Do you think that God’s order was purely arbitrary? Why
      did He select the Levites for such an important role?

      1. Read Exodus 32:19-20. What is the background story
        here? (When Moses was on the mountain receiving the
        Ten Commandments from God, the people were making a
        golden calf and worshiping it!)

      2. Read Exodus 32:25-26. Tell me whether the choice of
        the Levites as God’s special workers was arbitrary?
        (They were the tribe that was faithful during the
        golden calf insurrection.)

    3. Read Numbers 3:11-13. Whose place did the Levites take?
      (The first born sons.)

      1. Is the selection of the first born son as special to
        God purely arbitrary, while the selection of the
        Levites a merits-based decision? (It sure seems that

    4. Read Numbers 3:2-6. We learned that the Levites were
      selected because they stood for God when all others
      failed Him. What do we learn about the selection of
      Aaron and his family to be the High Priests?

      1. Let’s go back to our golden calf story and look at
        Aaron’s role. Read Exodus 32:21-24. In light of this
        history, would you select Aaron and his sons as your
        high priests?

      2. Why do Nadab and Abihu fall dead for using
        “unauthorized fire” and Aaron lives when he led (or
        at least facilitated) the people in worshiping the
        golden calf? (It makes no sense on the surface.)

      3. What lesson do we find in this? (Sometimes when it
        comes to God’s decisions we say, “I get it. I
        understand.” Sometimes the decision appears to be
        arbitrary (and may be). As a mere human, I just do
        not know. The lesson for me is that I must just obey
        God. Whether the reason is obvious or not, God
        requires obedience and I owe it to Him.)

    5. Friend, we have seen that God is not only interested in
      order, He is interested in the smallest details of our
      life with Him. If you think God does not care about you,
      or does not care whether you obey Him, Numbers tells us
      otherwise. Will determine today to obey God, regardless
      of whether you understand all of God’s reasoning?

  4. Next week: Preparing a People.