The book of Numbers bridges the gap between the exodus from Egypt and the entry into the promised land, when God’s people were in transit between past and present, slavery and freedom, as they passed through the Sinai desert. It is about the church in the wilderness, on a journey from promise to fulfilment. As such it has much to teach us on a practical level about trust in God in the face of difficulties, about the temptations we face and the faithfulness of God who remains true to his promises in spite of all our waywardness and mistrust of him. What was fulfilled for Israel in the possession of Canaan also looks ahead, on a deeper level, to its true fulfilment in the advent of Jesus Christ and the New Testament era. Rightly understood, Numbers is a milestone to Calvary, a stretch of the road that leads to Christ and ultimately to heaven itself.
The modern church needs the message of Numbers. Like Israel of old, the church today has compromised the claims of God’s Word to a fearful degree and is reaping the inevitable consequences of apostasy. Numbers shows with uncomfortable clarity why so many churches are sterile shells of what they might have been, but also holds out the brilliant prospects of divine blessing for all who will commit their way to the Lord, according to his promises in the gospel of his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.