Numbers 8-10
(Everlasting Presence)
February 11th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verses

God spoke to Moses: “These are your instructions regarding the Levites: At the age of twenty-five they will join the workforce in the Tent of Meeting; at the age of fifty they must retire from the work. They can assist their brothers in the tasks in the Tent of Meeting, but they are not permitted to do the actual work themselves. These are the ground rules for the work of the Levites.”

- Numbers 8:23-26 (MSG)

Summary of Chapters

In these three chapters God gives instructions on a wide range of topics, ranging from details on the maintenance of the sacred lampstand to procedures for moving the whole camp of 2,000,000 people on his signal.

Chapter 8 covers the lampstand maintenance and also the process for ceremonially cleansing of the Levites who serve at the tabernacle. The LORD also decreed that only the male Levites between 25 and 50 years old could provide the primary service at the tabernacle. The main reason for this limit was the physical strength needed to move the tabernacle across the desert at night or during the hot, dry, dusty day. The LORD was anticipating a lot of movement in the coming years and wanted to ensure that the burden was not unreasonable for those that were too young or too old - not that 50 years should be considered old for other purposes!

In the first part of chapter 9, the LORD reminded the people of the upcoming Passover celebration date. He also issued an amendment to declare how Passover could be celebrated for those who missed it due to recent contact with a dead body or a travel schedule that kept them out of the camp at the appointed time. This Passover celebration marked the one-year anniversary of the Israelites exodus from Egypt.

In the latter half of chapter 9, the LORD explains the signal for mobilization of the entire camp. The LORD had placed a cloud of fire above the tabernacle as a sign of his everlasting presence. When the cloud lifted, the Israelites were supposed to break down the entire camp, follow the cloud, and set up camp again wherever it stopped.

    Whenever the cloud lifted from over the tent, then the Israelites would set out; and in the place where the cloud settled down, there the Israelites would camp. At the command of the Lord the Israelites would set out, and at the command of the Lord they would camp. As long as the cloud rested over the tabernacle, they would remain in camp.

    - Numbers 9:17-18 (NRSV)

The people did as they were told, sometimes staying in one place for a day or two, sometimes for a year, usually leaving one desert place to go to another desert place. It is for this reason that the strongest of the Levite men had been assigned the task of moving the tabernacle in a very organized fashion, as described in chapters 3 and 4.

In chapter 10, the LORD described additional signals to be used to spread the word around the camp. He commanded that the people should create two trumpets and have the priests blow them with different signals depending on the instructions for the day. Two blasts from both trumpets to assemble the whole camp, one from both to assemble the leaders, one from one trumpet to send the first group out, and so on. The trumpets were also to be used during times of rejoicing.

Reflection and Application

The continuous burning of the lamp and the fiery cloud were both symbols of God’s everlasting presence. However, his presence is not limited to those two places. The LORD’s presence could also be with any of the faithful who left the camp to hunt or gather food or seek trades with other nations. In the same way, God is always with us. Not just when we are in church. Not just when we pray at home, but all the time. When we drive our cars, when we take a train, when we are walking, when we are in meetings, and when we take an elevator. He is everywhere we are. Our lives change, our friends may come and go, but God never changes and never leaves us, even if we forget about him for a while.

    Where can I go from your Spirit?
       Where can I flee from your presence?
    If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
       if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
    If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
       if I settle on the far side of the sea,
    even there your hand will guide me,
       your right hand will hold me fast.
    If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
      and the light become night around me,”
    even the darkness will not be dark to you;
       the night will shine like the day,
       for darkness is as light to you.

    - Psalm 139: 7-12 (NIV)

We can call out to him anytime, and if we seek him and listen patiently, we may discern his response. If you have a tough day ahead or a tough meeting, then put on your best suit and a smile and bring God with you. You always have a senior partner on your side.

Please be assured that God needs people of all ages. The 25-50 age requirement was for a very specific and physically demanding job. People younger and older certainly are capable of hard or strenuous work. I have seen plenty of people below 25 and well above 50 working in construction, running marathons, and competing in triathlons or ironman events. However, as the designer of the human body, God knew that certain vulnerabilities creep in at 50. This knowledge has been affirmed by modern scientists. For example, a New York Times article on February 8th, 2011 noted that according to cardiologists, “men over 50 and woman over 60 should leave snow shoveling to younger folks(1).” If God and the New York Times agree then it’s hard to take an opposing view, but I welcome your opinions on this or any topic.

How much warning did God give the Israelites before they mobilized the camp? None. He told them when to move, but gave no advance warning. The lesson for us is to seek God’s guidance on what he wants us to do right now, not tomorrow, not next year, not when we reach 50 (if we are not there yet), but this year, this day, this very moment. Listen for his instructions and do it now. Note that when Jesus called the disciples to follow him they dropped what they were doing and followed him at that moment:

    Walking along the beach of Lake Galilee, Jesus saw two brothers: Simon (later called Peter) and Andrew. They were fishing, throwing their nets into the lake. It was their regular work. Jesus said to them, “Come with me. I’ll make a new kind of fisherman out of you. I’ll show you how to catch men and women instead of perch and bass.” They didn’t ask questions, but simply dropped their nets and followed.

    -Matthew 4:18-20 (MSG)

Notice that Peter and Andrew didn’t stop to clean and hang their nets. They didn’t worry about when they would be able to catch fish. They didn’t go home to wash up, change their clothes and check for messages. They "simply dropped their nets and followed.” Let us pray that we may respond to God's call with the same sense of urgency and abandon.

"Everlasting God," performed by Chris Tomlin (May 4th, 1972 - Current)

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What was it like the last time you moved all of your possessions from one place to another?
    2. What upcoming situation would be an ideal opportunity to have God by your side?
    3. How prepared are you to drop everything you are doing and follow what God tells you?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father, please help us to immediately follow what you tell us and keep you by our side always.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns


    (1) Brody, Jane E, “How to Keep Winter From Taking a Toll on Your Back,” New York Times, February 8, 2011, p.D7

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Numbers 11-13 (Ye of Little Faith)

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