Thursday, September 27, 2012

Using Cross-referencing and repeated words together

Numbers 11:1 Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the LORD; and when the LORD heard it, His anger was kindled, and the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some of the outskirts of the camp.

Two days ago we looked at Hebrews 3 and noted how we can use cross referencing, as well as a couple other Bible-study related tools.  In that chapter we noted that the author cross-referenced Numbers 12 and Psalm 95.  It was for the reason of Psalm 95 that we looked yesterday at the Bible Study tool of "repeated words".  Today I want to consider Numbers 11-12, the other text referred to in Hebrews 3, and explore it through the two tools we have learned in the past two blogs: namely "cross-referencing" and "repeated words".

1. Finding repeated ideas or words in Numbers 11-12
The immediate tone one finds in studying Numbers 11-12 is that of "complaining" or "murmuring":

a. The people are complaining. Numbers11:1,4,5,6
b. Moses is complaining. Numbers 11;10,11-15,21-22
c. Miriam and Aaron are complaining. Numbers 12:1-2

We also see God granting undeserved provisions of grace:

a. The manna. Numbers 11:7-9
b. His Spirit upon the seventy elders to advise Moses 11:24-26
c. Communication of His Word 11:23; 12:6-8, 14
d. His sparing of Miraim 12:15-16

So we see God's grace.  We see murmuring. 

Clearly we see examples to avoid.  We also see the need for God's grace to hang onto.

Which leads us to see the repetition of God and/or His attributes in these chapters:

a. God's provision of Manna, hence His Grace, unmerited favor
b. His Holy Spirit.  The Spirit of God gifting selected people was taught in the Old Testament.
c. God's Special Revelation by His Word
b. God's mercy, or not giving that which is deserved, as in the case of Miraim
e. God's judgment, which is seen in giving the people what they want, the quail.  In scripture the worse form of judgment is when God gives the sinner what he or she wants, since the sinner has in their heart exchanged God for created things. (Romans 1:20-25)

2. Cross referencing in Numbers 11-12
Cross referencing to previous passages can provide fascinating insights and surprises in one's study of God's Word.  A prime example of this is in the people's murmuring over not having meat, and hating the manna that God gave to them in Numbers 11:1-9. 

Have we seen this type of complaining before? We have.1   Some 12-14 months before, the people had just been redeemed out of Egypt and were camped at the wilderness of Sin in Exodus 16.  There the people complained about not having any food.  God responds in Exodus 16 by doing the following:

a. He first supplies them quail in Exodus 16:13 on the evening of the day they had murmured against Him.
b. The next morning he then supplies them with manna to eat in Exodus 16:14-20, with the text stating in Exodus 16:21 that every man had as much as he could eat.
c. They were not judged to death.  God showed mercy.

Thus we see the pattern: Complaining--->The word spoken---> they looked and saw the glory of the Lord-->Quail provided-->Manna provided-->Mercy

Not hardly over a year later the people are complaining in Numbers 11 about the manna they had been receiving.  They were accusing God of short changing them.  They chose to forget that He had supplied them quail, then manna. Notice the reverse response in this second incident:

a. God kept supplying them manna.  It is described again and mentioned first in the Numbers 11 text. 
b. The provision of quail is given by the Lord in Numbers 11:31-35.  The text tells us that while the meat was in their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the Lord had kindled. (Numbers 11:33).  They could had spit it out.  They should have remembered how He first supplied them quail, and then bread in Exodus 16.  But alas, they spurned the grace of God, revealing they had never received it to begin.
c. Therefore God struck the people with a very severe plague. (Numbers 11:33)

Thus we see the opposite pattern: They complained--->Mention of Manna--->the word spoken--->they did not look at the Lord's glory--->Quail--->Plague--->Death

From these two incidents we see the crazy but true nature of repeating sin.  In cross referencing, we can note similarities, and also stark contrasts.  Most noteably I find that the people did not look to the Lord's glory in the second incident like they had in the first.  Their rebellion was more willful and deep than the first.2

It is from these patterns in Numbers 11 that we find the murmuring continuing in Numbers 12.  No doubt the Psalmist in Psalm 95 and the author in Hebrews 3 draws from these patterns. 

Conclusion from  cross referencing and repeated thoughts in Numbers 11-12
Thus from cross referencing and repeated thoughts in Numbers 11-12 we can draw a general conclusion about the text:
Namely, The Holy Ghost in all three texts is weaving together the pattern of prescriptions needed to strengthen one's faith and to avoid the peril that comes from murmuring against the Lord. 

End Notes______________

1. Numbers 33 gives an overview of all the journeyings of the Israelites from Mount Sinai to the plains of Moab some 40 years later.  In Numbers 33:12 we see the record of the people encamped at the wilderness of Sin, the location of the first quail and manna incident of Exodus 16.  Then in Numbers 33:17 we see the people camped at Kibroth-hattaavah, the scene of the second manna/quail incident in Numbers 11-12. 

2. The Preacher's Homiletical Commentary on Numbers gives this insight: "They had murmured aforetime, and the Lord gave them quails, and did not punish them (Exodus 16:2-13).  But now, after additional proofs of His power and goodness, they murmur again and more wickedly, and He sends them quails and smites them in anger."

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