Scripture: And whenever the ark set out, Moses said, “Arise, O LORD, and let your enemies be scattered, and let those who hate you flee before you.” And when it rested, he said, “Return, O LORD, to the ten thousand thousands of Israel.” Numbers 10:35-36 ESV
Observation: Having addressed the needs of the Levites, the Lord reviews with Moses the protocol for the Passover celebration (9:1-14) and then descends on the tabernacle in a cloud cover (9:15-23). Yahweh then directs Moses to fashion two silver trumpets for the priests to blow: the blast of one trumpet to summon the congregation to break camp or two trumpet blasts to congregate the tribal chiefs (10:1-10). So with all instructions of the tabernacle worship, celebration of feasts, and signaling in order, Israel leaves Sinai to begin their journey toward the Promised Land (10:11-34). And from that day forward, Moses petitions the Lord to go ahead of his ark when Israel moves out and return to Israel when the cloud rests (above verses).
Takeaway: In contrast to Moses’ lament in the next chapter, theologian Ronald Allen calls this invocation the “Battle Cry of Moses” (Expositors Bible Commentary, Numbers, p.784). Indeed, the presence of the Lord would ascend in the cloud and lead the nation into conquest. And when it settled, Israel would find rest. Thus, Moses would call out: “Arise, O Lord!” and “Return, O Lord!” The implication? The words of verse 35 curse all who would impede Israel’s journey, while those of verse 36 would bless their safe arrival.
So what does this mean to you and me? First, our battles are not against fellow humans but against the powers of evil (Ephesians 6:12) and our propensity to sin (Romans 6). Secondly, Christ has risen from the grave and goes before us as he intercedes from heaven (Romans 8:34). Thirdly, as the author of Hebrews contends, we will enter into Christ’s rest in our life journeys if we follow the path of obedience to his commands (Hebrews 4:3). Lastly, while this is impossible outside of the grace of God, thankfully, the Holy Spirit administers to us the word of God that is living and active and exposes our lies and blind spots (Hebrews 4:12), leading us to repentance, restoration, and rest. And one day, we will safely arrive at the final destination that Jesus has prepared for us (John 14:3), where the presence of our glorious king rests on us. Hallelujah!
Prayer: Father God, thank you for defeating our enemy through the death of your Son and leading us safely through your kingdom on earth by his resurrection power. Would you please help to do our part and cooperate with your Holy Spirit in obeying your Son’s commands so that we might find rest along the way to our final destination in your heavenly kingdom? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling