Strength for the Journey: “Defensive Posture” – Numbers 10

CelloAs with most of you, I have come to deeply love music. I am moved, in particular, by the deep and rich sounds of the cello in the hands of a master. I love the intricate structure of Bach’s orchestral works, and especially the beauty and elegance of the resolutions in each piece. When I think of music, I think of the peaceful respite in my loft office, as an orchestra plays in the background to the sound of my typing. I spend many hours each week in my old well-worn chair, with the sounds of gentle classical artists without a word spoken or sung. The instruments are calming to me – and they help my attitude and demeanor as I write. The truth is, though, that not all musical instruments were made for sounds of pleasure. Some horns were deliberately created and shaped to make the signals of impending danger, directive attack, and even the deep sorrow over fallen warriors. Some bugles only play “taps”. We sometimes forget that music wasn’t only given to soothe – it is sometimes given to signal.

The same reality must be soberly applied to looking into the Bible’s pages. Talk about happy passages of Scripture, and you will draw a crowd.

Everyone wants to hear about peace, prosperity, Heaven, and hope. I know that I do! These are deep truths, and motivating realities of the Word. The problem is, they aren’t the whole picture. Along with the needed preaching of affirmation and encouragement – we need the bugle tones of caution. I am assured this is true – because the Word has major sections given to offering warning and preparatory counsel. There are significant glimpses in the Word that we are living in the time of a bitter conflict, fought in unseen places by ruthless foes. Ignoring that reality won’t help – and it will in fact place people in the middle of a “fire-fight” with little or no understanding concerning what they are facing.

Yes, because of the conditions of the spiritual war, we desperately need the whole counsel of God’s Word – with all its encouragement saddled beside the bugle bursts of warning. Why do I mention this? I am concerned as I watch and listen in our current day – because far too many followers of God are insufficiently dressed for battle, and inadequately prepared for the reality of the spiritual war zone. I am not qualified to know the complete sense of why this may be, but I truly believe at least some of the fault can be placed in pulpits, where we have not sufficiently reminded our people that we are in a time of elaborate and complex warfare. An over-simplified Bible and an ignorant Christian will do little to advance the Kingdom, and is more likely to be a casualty than a key asset in the day of battle. I say this with a heavy heart, beloved friend, for I know too many casualties.

Key Principle: God wants His followers to be diligent to watch for the enemy’s work, and to constantly acknowledge our need of His hand of protection – because we forget how much we NEED God.

Look back into the record of Numbers 10. Just as Moses and the people cleared the moorings of the various issues of direction, God addressed their specific need for preparation before movement – especially in the areas of communication and defense:

Though God is always with us, He has called upon believers to be diligent in setting up defense (10:1).

Numbers 10:1 The LORD spoke further to Moses, saying, 2 “Make yourself two trumpets of silver, of hammered work you shall make them; and you shall use them for summoning the congregation and for having the camps set out.

God understands perfectly what believers are up against, and called Moses to be prepared (10:1). Notice the passage opened with the now familiar “the Lord spoke further…” Don’t overlook that God specified the defense methods, plans and arms for the believer to be ready for attack – and they are all found in His Word. If you are young in your faith, it may do well to remind you that the opening chapters of the Bible (1-11) outline what some of my friends calls the “five major story lines of Scripture” (my thanks to James C. Martin; Doug Greenwold and Preserving Bible Times):

God: Who He is, What He cares about.
• Adversary: Who he is, how he works, what his agenda is.
• Mutiny: What broke in man and why.
• Human Condition: Why things are the way they are now.
• Rescue: How God is taking back what the enemy has stolen away in deception.

The Bible opens with these stories not to explain the science of Creation or the methodology of how God works – but to explain that we are born into a war. Anyone who wishes to follow God must recognize that our connection to Him was broken in the Garden, and it must be re-established. The sin of the Garden is the reason for the Cross at Calvary. The Bible teaches that Jesus did NOT primarily come to be an example of self-sacrifice, but to be the one and only Lamb of God that would satisfy the mutiny of man in God’s judicial system. Though a believer has trusted in Christ, the war is not over – he just switched sides. God then reveals tools and defenses He has provided for the believer – but they must be understood, appropriated, and worn consistently. This passage is about the call to physical defense, but the physical attack is a mere echo of the truth of spiritual warfare – a relentless battle between mutineers and the God that made them.

God recognized the need to be able to call the people together without stirring the people to panic (10:2). Wise Pastors are instructing believers about warfare in a time when they are not being slammed. The believer must be ever ready to face the world, fight,] and deny the flesh, and resist the Devil. The two trumpets were fashioned by God’s plan to distinguish between the sound of muster to fight and the sound of assemble for instructions and movement. When believers don’t know how to hear the trumpets, they don’t know what to do. Either they will panic each time, assuming battle is imminent, or they will gather to assemble and show up without their arms. In many cases, they will count on their neighbor and ask what the signal means – not accepting for themselves the proper responsibility for discernment. We have whole churches today that cannot distinguish what the Word says concerning the war – and they blame Satan for acts in which he was in no way involved. They confuse irresponsible behavior with Satanic attack, and cannot really discern one trumpet from the other. They are no danger to the enemy and little asset to the Kingdom, because they cause as much confusion as they offer assistance. They don’t use the Word and the Spirit to bring them along to maturity. They remind me of the story Zig Ziglar used to tell (from See You at the Top):

Oil was discovered on some Oklahoma property belonging to an elderly Indian. All his life he had been poverty stricken, just eking out a living. But the discovery of oil had suddenly made him a very wealthy man. The first thing he bought was a very big Cadillac. He wanted the longest car in the county, so he added four spare tires on the trunk. He would dress up in his new clothes and everyday he would take his Cadillac into the hot dusty little town nearby. He wanted to see everyone and he wanted everyone to see him. He was a friendly old soul. so when he was riding through town he would turn in all directions to wave at all the people as he rolled by. Interesting enough, he never ran into anybody nor into anything. The reason for this was that directly in front of that big beautiful auto was two horses harnessed to it and pulling it. There was nothing wrong with the car’s engine. It was because the old Indian had never learned to drive it. He had never learned how to insert the key into the ignition switch and turn it on. Under the hood was 100 plus horsepower ready and willing and raring to go, but the old Indian was content to use the two horsepower hooked to the front of the car…The devil gets really happy (or as happy as a devil can get) when he can keep the believer chugging along in their Christian life on a two horse power faith level. At that rate, the spiritual progress is slowed down to a crawl, and this is what the devil is after in his warfare with us.

God set up a clear system to assess the meaning of the Warning Signals (10:3-7)

Numbers 10:3 “When both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the doorway of the tent of meeting.

One essential signal was set to call believers together – because God’s intent was that they hear from Him as a group – not just individually (10:3). The design of God always included individual responsibility before Him – as in the deliberate obedience to His Word and seeking of Him in individual prayer. At the same time, there was the requirement of corporate responsibility among believers. We were never allowed – not in the old economy or in the present one – to simply follow God without attaching ourselves to others. Israel was to worship together, share in festival life together, and seek God’s blessing together as a nation. In that same way, God’s church was called to assemble, learn, serve, and grow together. Weak believers walk alone. The enemy knows how easily they can be knocked out of service. It is for no less than this reason that the early writer to the Messianic followers of the first century wrote in Hebrews:

Hebrews 10:19 Having therefore, brothers, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 By a new and living way, which he has consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; 21 And having an high priest over the house of God; 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) 24 And let us consider one another to provoke to love and to good works: 25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.

Did you see the progression of the thought?

We have new boldness because Jesus paid for our entrance to the Holy of Holies with His blood – and there is no fear of separation from God anymore (10:19-20). We have a High Priest that bids us blessing (10:21).

What should we do with this?
• We must draw near to God – walk in with hearts clean and hungry to be near Him (10:22).
• We must be bold about what God has done in us and for us (10:23).
• We must help EACH OTHER with prompting, encouragement and service (10:24).
• We must be diligent about assembling together – especially as the day of Jesus’ return gets close (10:25).

Our call is STILL to assemble together, and to learn, serve, encourage, and walk through life together. With the many churches available to us, in many cases what it has done is water down the ability of believers to hold each other accountable, and expect Christian behavior from one another. If people misbehave in one church, they simply go to another, with no desire to reconcile what they have done to the cause of Christ – and both churches are weakened – the one he left AND the one he brought himself into.

Sometimes God wanted just the leaders to get together to handle issues – so they had their own assembly signal.

Numbers 10:4 “Yet if only one is blown, then the leaders, the heads of the divisions of Israel, shall assemble before you.

From Genesis to Revelation, we have seen that God calls, raises, nurtures, and protects leaders. They have different responsibilities that the followers. They are charged with greater demands to be both right with God and an example to the flock. The warning of James rings in my ears in the old King James language I learned as a child…”Stop being so many teachers, for theirs is the greater condemnation.” James argued the responsibility of Godliness is heavier on the teacher of God’s truths – and I have often thought about that. It haunts me. I sometimes want to drop the pretense of being any different and punch someone who makes me mad. That’s the truth! The problem is that my name is not my own. My name is tacked on to YOUR name at Grace, and onto Jesus’ name in Heaven. If I punch someone, you will pay some of the price, and that isn’t right. So, for the moment, I won’t punch you.

Here is my point: it isn’t wrong to hold leaders to a higher standard than we hold followers. God has made it clear in His Word that leaders must be circumspect, and can be disqualified. We should not be hungry to tear apart anyone, but we cannot gloss over leadership responsibilities to walk with special care. None of us are perfect – I assure you – but leaders are more culpable than followers.

Recently, a fellow minister was counseling someone and crossed an emotional line – and later a physical one – in the counseling relationship. Not only is the action wrong, but the crossed lines show a misunderstanding of the role of a true counselor. The flawed view of the ROLE is also part of the problem (in addition to other sin issues more familiar). Let me caution you: Don’t go to a counselor for emotional support – that is what we are to get from friends and family. Counselors – I know this may sound crazy – are where we go for COUNSEL. The client may not be clear on this, but the COUNSELOR must be clear on this. We aren’t emotional supports, our proper role is informational and reflective (helping the person see where they are and are not living in harmony with their accepted standards). When the counselor confuses the role, they endanger the effectiveness of the role, and confuse the person seeking help. Leaders must sharpen other leaders, and there are times the call to assemble is just for them.

Because the enemy wants to destroy, God established emergency signals that were also essential for God’s people.

Numbers 10:5 “But when you blow an alarm, the camps that are pitched on the east side shall set out. 6 “When you blow an alarm the second time, the camps that are pitched on the south side shall set out; an alarm is to be blown for them to set out. 7 “When convening the assembly, however, you shall blow without sounding an alarm… 9 “When you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets, that you may be remembered before the LORD your God, and be saved from your enemies.

God instructed believers how to face a crisis so that they would be prepared and not confused (10:5-6). He worked on such a detail level that He placed an ASSEMBLY ORDER into the text. If they didn’t follow the instructions, confusion and defeat would follow. God wasn’t just wasting His time blowing off steam – there is a point to every instruction. Why do I mention this? Because many believers and many churches – whole denominations and fellowships – seem to miss the detailed nature of the Almighty. When God said believers should only marry believers – He had a reason. When God said that marriage disputes should be healed by both parties kneeling before the Cross and making things right with God and each other – He wasn’t just suggesting things. When God said not to put people into responsible positions of ministry too quickly, He had something in mind. We live in the time of cutting corners… but God’s commandments cannot be discounted. They must be understood, and when the enemy tries to move in to the thinking of the church, he should be spotted and identified.

Pastor Wayne Field noted: “General Peter Cosgrove is the recently retired Chief of the Australian Defense Force. In his autobiography he tells about his first tour of duty as a young lieutenant in Vietnam. His first posting was at a base near the village of Dat Do. The purpose of the base was to house army engineers. These Aussie soldiers would use giant bulldozers with a huge chain dragged between them to rip down vegetation. The purpose of this was to deny the enemy any possibility of concealment in the jungle. Huge tracts of jungle were just ripped down and burnt – that way no one could hide (p71). The Aussies were removing any camouflage that might possibly be used for evil purposes. In dealing with our spiritual enemies we have to pull down and lay flat the jungle in order to identify them. Once they have been identified we can better deal with them.” (sermon central illustrations).

The church simply cannot truly be the church without opening the fields around, and putting out spotters that will call sin what it is. Enough toleration of all things evil in the name of love!

I don’t know why America’s pulpits are aflame against the vicious killing of our unborn. I don’t know why we don’t hear insistence in the face of routine divorce. I cannot fathom what we are waiting for, when our children are being indoctrinated by pagan thinkers to follow after anti-god and anti-truth thinking. I am not on the war path – but I have pledged to seek God, teach His Word, and stand against the enemy’s cruel attacks on God’s church. It comes with the job. Frankly, some need to surrender the holy calling and go into politics if what they want to do is keep everyone happy – since it is working so well for our current Congress.

I plead with you to hear me from the heart I intend this… If you ARE divorced, if you DID have an abortion, if you have really violated God’s Word in your life in ways that cannot be undone – I am not here to beat you down. I want you to leave with GOD, not GUILT. What I am addressing is the growing flagrant violation of God’s Holy Word IN HIS MODERN CHURCH that is being caused by MISFORMED TOLERANCE and rampant BIBLICAL IGNORANCE. If you have done these things, don’t be hurt by my words, fall into the powerful and gentle hands of a Loving God! He didn’t stop loving you when you took a life any more than He stopped loving Moses, King David, or Saul of Tarsus when THEY took the life of another. God used them for great things, and He can and will use your life as well – if you give it to Him.

My words are to those who HAVE NOT done these things, BE WARNED. God is not swept up in the desire to be popular, and He is not concerned if His “tweets are trending”. He tells the truth, and He knows the end from the beginning.

Did you notice why God said to the children of Israel to blow the trumpet when the attack comes? (10:9) The purpose of the trumpet wasn’t just for people to get busy, but for God to come to their defense. He knew exactly when to come – when they ASKED HIM. We often “have not because we ask not”. We simply think that because God “already knows”, we shouldn’t really worry about informing Him. The fact is, we don’t cry out to God with our needs because we are informing Him – but because by our obedience to remember to call Him we are INVITING Him to help.

Not everyone was qualified to determine the danger and blow the trumpet.

Go back for a moment to a verse we skipped in Number 10:8 “The priestly sons of Aaron, moreover, shall blow the trumpets; and this shall be for you a perpetual statute throughout your generations.

God selected specific people who were to learn when it was appropriate to blow the trumpet (10:8). This wasn’t everyone with a strong opinion and an hour’s study – it was done by qualified men who were selected by God. I have to admit that one of the richest blessings in my life is to be involved in some small way, in the training of those God has called to lead in the next generation. I cannot tell you how exciting it is to watch them, through struggle and celebration, come to conclusions about their future and God’s call. Just keep this in mind: In ministry – too quickly appointed means too easy defeated. God selected and men trained – then as now.

Don’t’ forget! Not all the blasts were BAD either! Some were to call people to a feast, and remember that the Lord is their God!

This has seemed like such a tough message, that I am happy to tell you that there are some wonderful reminders of happy things! God said:

Numbers 10:10 “Also in the day of your gladness and in your appointed feasts, and on the first days of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings; and they shall be as a reminder of you before your God. I am the LORD your God.”

The signals were not all heavy – sometimes they were blessings and promises that all the people could share! Some were for GLADNESS and feasting and SHELMIM offerings (called “peace”) – where you expressed incredible thankfulness for all that God had done! The trumpet was not just calling upon God to protect, but blessing God for provision! What a joyful blowing of the trumpet on a day like that!

Once the people were ready and defense was set, God called “Wagons Ho!” and off they went.

He moved them with the sign of His presence (10:11-13): 11 Now in the second year, in the second month, on the twentieth of the month, the cloud was lifted from over the tabernacle of the testimony; 12 and the sons of Israel set out on their journeys from the wilderness of Sinai. Then the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran. 13 So they moved out for the first time according to the commandment of the LORD through Moses.

They followed Him in strict order (10:14-28): 

• First out of the camp was Judah, then Isaachar, and then Zebulun (10:14-16).

• As the third tribe moved, the Tabernacle’s disassembly was completed – with Gershonites and Merarites carrying in order.

• Next came the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, and Gad (10:18-20)

• The Kohathites took the holy objects next, allowing the Gershonites and Merarites to set up the Tabernacle in the next place in advance of their arrival with the objects.

• On came Ephraim, Manasseh, Benjamin, and Dan (as rear guards), along with Asher and Nphtali (10:22-28).

Moses invited a good camping guide (Hobab, his brother in law the Midianite 10:29-32).

Every movement of the people had a second sound – beside the trumpet. Anyone standing near to Moses would hear him: 33 Thus they set out from the mount of the LORD three days’ journey, with the ark of the covenant of the LORD journeying in front of them for the three days, to seek out a resting place for them. 34 The cloud of the LORD was over them by day when they set out from the camp. 35 Then it came about when the ark set out that Moses said, “Rise up, O LORD! And let Your enemies be scattered, And let those who hate You flee before You.” 36 When it came to rest, he said, “Return, O LORD, To the myriad thousands of Israel.”

Moses knew that God wanted to move the people, and that God was committed to lead the people – but they needed to CONSTANTLY be called to remember they weren’t to CHOOSE THEIR OWN PATH. God would defend them, but they must FOLLOW Him.

God wants His followers to be diligent to watch for the enemy’s work, and to constantly acknowledge our need of His hand of protection – because we forget how much we NEED God.

Be careful, church. Be watchful. Be vigilant. “The attack [of Pearl Harbor] took place [December 7, 1941] on a sunny Sunday morning. A minimal contingent of soldiers was on duty at the time. Most offices on the base were closed and many servicemen were on leave for the weekend. New technology, including the new radar mounted on Opana Point, were in place, manned and functioning at the time of the attack. The incoming Japanese attack planes were detected by the radar and reported, but were mistaken for an incoming group of American planes due from the mainland that morning. While on practice maneuvers outside the harbor that morning, an American destroyer spotted a Japanese submarine attempting to sneak into the harbor. The submarine was fired upon, immediately reported — and ignored.” (