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May 2017 Issue

Faith and Faithlessness in the Desert

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Devotion for Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Setting Out from Sinai

Read Numbers 10

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You will be remembered by the Lord your God and rescued from your enemies. Numbers 10:9

Silver spoons have represented status and safety for centuries. In the Korean Joseon Dynasty, silver spoons were used to detect poisons, since silver tarnishes on contact with arsenic sulfides. In the Middle Ages, having a silver spoon could distinguish a landholding farmer from a serf or peasant. Even today, families prize their heirloom collections of silver spoons and place settings.

With everything organized and dedicated, the nation established and the Law given, and the primacy and presence of the Lord made clear in this theocracy, today’s chapter begins to narrate Israel’s actual journey from Sinai to Canaan. When they set out, they thought they were just a few months away from entering the land.

The silver trumpets embody the repeating community events (vv. 1–10). Even more valuable than silver spoons, these trumpets were a sign of Israel’s lasting ordinance with the Lord (v. 8). They were to be blown by the priests to call meetings or as a signal to begin marching. Later, they were to be blown for going into battle, so that the Lord would remember and rescue them. They were also to be blown at festival and sacrifice times, as a memorial before God (vv. 9–10). Centuries later, silver trumpets were still part of the nation’s worship (1 Chron. 16:6).

Moses asked Hobab—presumably his brother-in-law, since he was a son of Reuel, or Jethro—to accompany them as a guide (vv. 29–32). The implication is he said yes, an inference supported by the fact that his descendants, the Kenites, appear in the book of Judges (1:16; 4:11). His Midianite clan accepted Moses’ offer and threw in their lot with the people of God, a choice forever altering their destiny, since the rest of the Midianites later chose to be Israel’s enemy and fell under God’s judgment (Num. 25, 31).

Apply the Word

Starting and stopping their journey became sacred rituals for the Israelites (vv. 35–36). The repeated prayers or watchwords on these occasions signaled their dependence on the Lord. We can also begin and end our own trips with prayer. Even better, begin and end every day with prayer, in the same spirit of faith and trust.

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