In the wilderness
“The God of Order and Authority”
by Mark Huey
As we turn to the Book of Numbers in our weekly readings, a noticeable shift is seen. The Torah focuses less on giving us commandments about the holiness of God, and we instead pick up the narrative of events witnessed in the second year of Ancient Israel’s wilderness sojourn. After receiving specific instructions from God about how the people are to conduct themselves, the practical application of implementing these commandments in the community is described. Bamidbar opens with the statements,
“Then the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, in the tent of meeting, on the first of the second month, in the second year after they had come out of the land of Egypt, saying, ‘Take a census of all the congregation of the sons of Israel, by their families, by their fathers’ households, according to the number of names, every male, head by head from twenty years old and upward, whoever is able to go out to war in Israel, you and Aaron shall number them by their armies’” (Numbers 1:1-3).
This opening parashah of Numbers describes how the God of Israel is concerned about the proper order and conduct of His chosen people. We are given the description of the leadership of the twelve tribes of Israel, a census of some of the men, how the camp of Israel is arranged, and the specific duties and responsibilities of the tribe of Levi as it is divided according to various family groups.
As the Holy One coordinated the intended march to the Promised Land, He focused on the necessity for the people to become organized for the commencing sojourn. We see that the God of Creation, who placed the cosmos in perfect order, is a God of order and not the author of confusion. When Paul writes to the Corinthians, is he perhaps reflecting on some of the organization that we see in Numbers?
“[F]or God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the [assemblies] of the saints” (1 Corinthians 14:33).
The Lord is a Sovereign who operates on principles and practices which are reflected in the remotest parts of the vast universe, down to the sub-atomic structure of matter. Within these two extremes, influenced by the precision of time, the Creation, its creatures, and all of its associated components must operate. Since God chose one man, Abraham, and his descendants, to bring the knowledge of who He is to the rest of the world—it is imperative that His people function in a manner which embodies His attributes and perfect character.
The principle of order has been on my heart and mind for the past few weeks leading up to Bamidbar, coupled with some daily devotional readings of other Scripture passages. As I have been contemplating a wide variety of thoughts from God’s Word, what I have discovered is that when you discipline and order your time, devoting a portion of it to Him, the reception of His blessings are overwhelming. All of a sudden, you become synchronized with the Creation and your cup overflows with His favor (cf. Psalm 23:5)!
Experiencing God’s presence through the confirming unction of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) is beyond description. Amazingly at times, you sense the Lord giving you profound understanding about the minutest detail of common daily occurrences. His presence in your walk is so profound, as He illuminates your limited mind about how He sees the world, that demonstrating a great fear or awe for Him is the obvious by-product. When you perceive that everything you see or hear has His sovereign hand upon it in some way, you are compelled to simply pause and give Him all the glory, praise, and honor for choosing you as a vessel for His usage. When God starts orchestrating events and conversations that require your participation, you are required to turn to Him for His wisdom and guidance on how to react or respond. Without much hesitation, you start applying the principle of loving your neighbor as yourself, by placing another’s needs ahead of yours. You slow down enough in your thought processes to tap into His wisdom, as conversations may elicit responses of Divine counsel, knowledge, and understanding. The joy and satisfaction you experience, because you have been used by Him, is indeed inexpressible!
In your heart, mind, soul, and spirit—when you are directed by the Lord in all of your activities—you should be constantly affirming that there is a God who is intimately concerned about your life. It is quite humbling to know that God is concerned with you, because human beings tend to have a self-centered nature that is often at odds with His will for us. And yet, as you bring forth heartfelt confessions of your limitations, and through repentance change your ways—the attainable, but sometimes elusive, sanctification process becomes real. As you turn yourself over to the Lord, the Holy Spirit transforms your attitudes and actions to be oriented toward Him and His service.
God’s order for His Creation is extremely foundational for our lives, even for the unredeemed to recognize. After all, does not the sun rise and fall, every morning and evening? Is Planet Earth not placed the correct distance close to and away from the Sun? Is not the Moon in the correct orbit around the Earth? Are we not placed on the proper axis so that the tectonic plates shift in the proper way, so that we do not have massive earthquakes or violent volcanic eruptions every day?
To a degree, even those who do not acknowledge the Creator God of Israel have to agree that finely-tuned laws of physics and cosmology control Planet Earth and the Solar System. But for those of us who submit to God’s Instruction, and recognize Him as our Savior and Redeemer, the understanding of His intelligent design is much more profound.
Consider the basic principle of reaping what one sows. This need not be deep theology, because the essence of cause and effect is realized by the scientific community—even though for the most part, they tend to focus on physical manifestations and not spiritual ones. For us as God’s people, though, who have been called to be a light to the world, the understanding is far more substantial. We can read Scripture and see that obedience to God results in blessing, while disobedience generates curses (or at least penalties)—meaning that sin has consequences. If you read Deuteronomy ch. 28, you will find an extensive list that is provided as a springboard for the related blessings and curses seen throughout the balance of the Holy Scriptures.
Without getting into the minutiae of the order that God directs Moses to articulate to the Levites, and then to the people of Israel this week, I was drawn to consider the profundity of the orderliness of God and how He desperately wants to shower the faithful with His blessings. Pondering this reality, I remembered a sermon illustration that I heard preached to me back in 1987. Since we had an unusual week of rain this week in sunny Florida (2005), the reminder of rainfall was a constant image crossing my mind. Then, in a conversation with a pastor friend, the words of Jonah 2:8 came into focus:
“Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness” (Jonah 2:8).
I recollected an analogy that was used in this short sermon years ago that illustrates what the Prophet Jonah communicated. Jonah was chosen for a specific assignment to proclaim repentance to the citizens of Nineveh. Yet by the time he recollected these thoughts, he had spent three days in the belly of a large sea monster, having had an experience that none of us can even imagine! In Jonah’s moments of distress, he cried out to the only One he knew could save him: the Lord:
“Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the stomach of the fish, and he said, ‘I called out of my distress to the LORD, and He answered me. I cried for help from the depth of Sheol; You heard my voice. For You had cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the current engulfed me. All Your breakers and billows passed over me. So I said, “I have been expelled from Your sight. Nevertheless I will look again toward Your holy temple.” Water encompassed me to the point of death. The great deep engulfed me, weeds were wrapped around my head. I descended to the roots of the mountains. The earth with its bars was around me forever, but You have brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. While I was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to You, into Your holy temple. Those who regard vain idols forsake their faithfulness, but I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving. That which I have vowed I will pay. Salvation is from the LORD.’ Then the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah up onto the dry land” (Jonah 2:1-10).
What Jonah communicates is that those who regard or embrace “vain idols,” hav’lei-shav literally being “lying vanities” (YLT), forsakes the faithfulness that they should demonstrate toward God. Our required fidelity to the Lord can be interrupted when we put something ahead of Him. One’s personal idols can include just about anything that is placed before our reliance upon the God of Creation. If someone relies upon his or her intelligence, good looks, personality, resources, talents, or natural abilities—rather than relies upon the Almighty—then is such a person somehow forsaking God?
As the illustration I heard in 1987 goes, imagine the blessings and lovingkindness that the Lord is showering down upon His Creation, like raindrops falling from the sky. Now picture someone taking an umbrella, and then opening it up over his head. While God’s blessings are falling all around, the person who trusts in a vain idol has chosen to let whatever that idol might be, prevent His blessings from falling down upon him. The challenge for any person is to cast away whatever created elements we may trust in other than God—and instead raise our hands and receive whatever blessing He is trying to bestow upon us!
This is all related to God’s perfect order, because we can see it appear in our own personal lives, in our marriages and family, in our neighborhoods, cities, state and national governments, our businesses, and just about every aspect of our lives. God is a God of order, and He has providentially let these various institutions materialize to provide for civil well being, but they are all ultimately subject to His Divine providence, whether they choose to acknowledge it or not. When these institutions are out of order, then they block God’s ability to guide the affairs of humanity.
For the most part, since fallen humanity is generally ignorant, or widely blinded about how all of this works from an eternal perspective, the failure to consider God’s place in running things can result in confusion at best, and chaos at worst. But for those of us who are His children, the call to live in alignment with His Word so that we might accomplish His mission is imperative. Our general problem is that we often resort to falling back upon our mortal abilities or inabilities, and grab various umbrellas for different occasions. We limit God’s ability to bless us.
But another aspect of tapping into the order of God can be realized when we understand that His authority goes hand in hand with respecting and honoring His proper order for the Creation. In the Gospels, we find a great example of a God-fearing Roman centurion who somehow understood the principle of order, and the complimentary principle of authority. The centurion somehow comprehended that Yeshua was walking in such an orderly fashion that He had authority to heal the sick, by simply speaking a word:
“When Yeshua came down from the mountain, large crowds followed Him. And a leper came to Him and bowed down before Him, and said, ‘Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.’ Yeshua stretched out His hand and touched him, saying, ‘I am willing; be cleansed.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Yeshua said to him, ‘See that you tell no one; but go, show yourself to the priest and present the offering that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.’ And when Yeshua entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.’ Yeshua said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, “Go!” and he goes, and to another, “Come!” and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this!” and he does it.’ Now when Yeshua heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel. I say to you that many will come from east and west, and recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven; but the sons of the kingdom will be cast out into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ And Yeshua said to the centurion, ‘Go; it shall be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed that very moment” (Matthew 8:1-13).
We have a significant instance where someone outside the First Century Jewish community actually benefited from his observation that Yeshua walked in an orderly manner. He recognized by Yeshua’s proper conduct that He had the authority to make things right and heal people of deadly diseases. The centurion might have thought that it would be inappropriate for a teacher of Israel’s Law, and a healer, to come into his house because he was a Roman. But that did not deter him from beseeching the Lord to heal his servant. Yeshua was very impressed with the faith of the centurion, and made some rather laudatory remarks, by contrasting the centurion’s faith in Himself with the lack of faith among His own Jewish brethren. In this case, the pleadings of the centurion were answered, and his slave was healed.
How much more should we today, who have the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, be able to walk in the order of God and receive His authority to have dominion and power over the decaying world we occupy? Will our Heavenly Father raise us up as a people, who by faith will be able to execute the spiritual authority that has always been there, but has not necessarily been used? I hope that many of us will be empowered by the Lord to do so some mighty deeds in the days ahead. By obeying Him, will we receive not only His blessings, but also the ability to witness miracles?
My friends, I ask you to cast aside any idolatrous umbrellas you may have, and cling to the Rock. Allow our Heavenly Father to bless you from on high. He is the Rock of our Salvation, and in Him are the perfect peace, order, and the authority that go along with it. May we be those who understand this and apply it to every aspect of our lives!
 Numbers 1:4-16.
 Numbers 1:17-46.
 Numbers 2:1-34.
 Numbers 3:1-39; 4:1-20.
 Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 19:19; 22:39; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8.
 Philippians 2:3-4.
 2 Corinthians 9:6; Galatians 6:7-8.
 Grk. egō anthrōpos eimi hupo exousian, echōn hup’ emauton stratiōtas.
For a useful discussion on how the preposition hupo is used in the Apostolic Scriptures, consult the article “What Does ‘Under the Law’ Really Mean?—A Further Study” in The New Testament Validates Torah by J.K. McKee.