Numbers- Session 1- Learning Obedience

Session 1- Learning Obedience

Numbers 9:15-23

Numbers Session 1 Notes

Numbers Session 1 Handout

Subject: Obedience

Central Theme: Obedience to God

Objective Statement:

We can pattern our lives for obedience by understanding 4 terms that describe the children of Israel in this text.

Keyword: Terms



  • One of the most frustrating things you can do as a dad is try to get your family to go somewhere by a particular time.
  • Have you ever been frustrated by differing values of time management among your family?
  • One of the most frustrating parts of the whole process is a lack of obedience on the part of your children (or dare I say your spouse!)
  • People who question authority or display disobedience create problems when you’re trying to get somewhere!
  • Discussion Question: Who in your family likes to be early?  Who in your family likes to be late?
  • Now imagine leading a nation of people, mostly on foot, into the promised land.
  • As difficult as kids in minivans can be, imagine what that would look like.
  • Over the next 13 weeks we are going to be studying the books of Numbers and Deuteronomy.
  • They are books in the Torah- the first five books of the Old Testament.
  • Numbers specifically tells the story of the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness, preparing to go into the promised land.
  • Today’s text specifically looks at how God interacted with this nation in moving them through the wilderness.
  • And we are told in scripture that God directed them the way He did to teach them obedience.
  • This is something we need to learn as well.
  • God blesses obedience, and there are consequences to our disobedience.

We can pattern our lives for obedience by understanding 4 terms that describe the children of Israel in this text.


Term #1- Presence. v.15-16

Num 9:15-16

(15)  And on the day that the tabernacle was reared up the cloud covered the tabernacle, namely, the tent of the testimony: and at even there was upon the tabernacle as it were the appearance of fire, until the morning.

(16)  So it was alway: the cloud covered it by day, and the appearance of fire by night.


  • The first 10 chapters of Numbers record the final preparations of Israel as they prepare to go from wilderness wandering to conquering Canaan.
  • When they completely finish the tabernacle of the tent of testimony, the cloud, symbolizing the presence of God with His people, covered the erected structure.
  • At night it was fire until the morning.  This was God’s regularly God’s actions towards them.  He presented himself as a cloud by day and a fire by night.
    • In Genesis 12 and 15 God covenants with Abraham that He would be his God and that through him He would have a nation that blessed the world.
    • In Genesis 15:17 he predicted what would happen in this text with the smoke and the lamp, representing the cloud and the fire.

Genesis 15:17

(17)  And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.

  • The children of Israel were somewhere between Canaan and Egypt.  They were in the wilderness, which is the Hebrew name for this book.
  • Yet, God was with them in the wilderness!
  • His presence reassured them of his promise and protection, but also of his leading.
  • God keeps his promises, and made His presence known to His people.
  • God has promised His presence to those who know Him.  Jesus told His disciples, “Lo, I am with you always…”.  He promised His indwelling Holy Spirit.  His Word and His Spirit lead me.  It is my job to submit to Him and follow Him through His Word.


Term #2- Direction. v.17-18

Num 9:17-18

(17)  And when the cloud was taken up from the tabernacle, then after that the children of Israel journeyed: and in the place where the cloud abode, there the children of Israel pitched their tents.

(18)  At the commandment of the LORD the children of Israel journeyed, and at the commandment of the LORD they pitched: as long as the cloud abode upon the tabernacle they rested in their tents.


  • It seems from this text that the cloud would move from the tabernacle.
  • This indicated the leading of the Lord.
    • Where the cloud stayed the people camped.
    • They saw the movement of the cloud as the command of God.
    • When they cloud stayed in one place, they rested.  They stayed.
    • They were prompted by the movement of God.
  • The people camped around the tabernacle as it was directed by the cloud.
  • They set up their lives for obedience to God.
  • This was important for their development because God wanted to teach them obedience.  He was preparing them for Canaan.
  • Just see Deuteronomy 8:1-6.

“All the commandments shall ye observe to do…And thou shalt remember, the way which the Lord thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments or no.”


  • Now we may think it supernatural that they had a cloud, but they would think it supernatural that we have God’s Word available to every person containing the mystery now revealed.
  • When God directs through His Word, do you obey?


Term #3- Waiting. v.19

Num 9:19

(19)  And when the cloud tarried long upon the tabernacle many days, then the children of Israel kept the charge of the LORD, and journeyed not.


  • When the presence of the Lord, represented by the cloud and the fire, rested in one spot, then the people would “keep watch” over it.
  • They wanted to see if and when it would move.
  • This “keeping watch” was not just done by a specially appointed person, although we do know that there was a Levitical “guard duty”.
  • Here it describes those as watching as the children of Israel more generally.  Obedience to God was being executed to both exacting and complete.
  • God did not necessarily reveal to them why He moved.   He did not move only at certain times.  He did not answer to them.  They answered to Him and obeyed him in his movement.
  • There is a growing part to waiting.
  • They like us, have to be willing to wait on God and yet be active and faithful while we are patiently waiting.
  • There is an active waiting that is necessary.
  • We need to “keep watch” over what God wants us to do to move us or keep us in any given situation.
  • We must actively wait.

Term #4- Doing. v.20-23

Num 9:20-22

(20)  And so it was, when the cloud was a few days upon the tabernacle; according to the commandment of the LORD they abode in their tents, and according to the commandment of the LORD they journeyed.

(21)  And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed.

(22)  Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed.

  • This explained the circumstances in which obedience was demanded by the presence of the Lord.
    • Obedience at any time of the day- morning, noon, or night.
    • Obedience in waiting for 2 days, a month, or a year, or in traveling every day. There was no printed agenda.  Where would they be next Thursday at 9am?  Wherever the cloud was.  They abode with God and God provided direction, protection and affection.
  • Just like them, I don’t have a printed out “God Calendar”.
  • I can make plans, but the Lord orders my steps.
  • I should ask Him to intervene. I do this by being with God every day, and letting him abide in me.

Num 9:23

(23)  At the commandment of the LORD they rested in the tents, and at the commandment of the LORD they journeyed: they kept the charge of the LORD, at the commandment of the LORD by the hand of Moses.

  • God’s commandments in this passage are connected to his presence and leading.
  • Two actions are summarized here- journeying and resting.
    • There was a time for work and there was a time for rest.
    • The commands came through His relationship to them.
  • The cloud and the pillar rested at the tabernacle.
    • This was the place that God accepted their sacrifices and atoned for their sin.
    • This was all a picture of the coming Christ- the lamb of God that would take away the sin of the world.
  • This entire section is a chiasm with the focus being obedience:
    • A chiasm is a literary structure- away of emphasizing whatever was in the middle of the structure. It’s like a poem, but based on content and not placement on the page.

Here is the structure of this chiasm:

  • A- At the command of the Lord the people would camp (18)
    • B- The people would not journey as long as the cloud continued. (19)
      • X- They would remain and journey by the cloud (20)
      • X- They would remain and journey by the cloud (21)
    • B- The people would not journey as long as the cloud continued. (22)
  • A- At the command of the Lord the people would remained encamped. (23)


  • What is emphasized here is that the Lord was directing whenever and wherever they went, and they were obedient to him.
  • Redemption cannot come through our obedience, but because of Christ’s obedience on the cross.
  • Yet Redemption always should lead to obedience. Look at the great commission – “teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you.”
  • God’s elected to give the promises and covenants through Israel.
  • He chose to reveal Himself to them. He initiated the relationship, and redeemed them.
  • As a result of that election He rightly demands obedience.
  • Obedience to Him is what was best for them.
  • So it is with us. When we respond to God’s offer of forgiveness, He redeems us and puts us in His family.
  • As a loving Father he deserves obedience from us and for us.
  • The good news is that He also empowers and enables us to do it by His Word and the indwelling Holy Spirit.
  • This leads to His glory being magnified by our lives!



So here are some questions to help us be obedient to God today:

  1. Are you aware of the presence of God in your life? If you know Christ you are indwelled by the Holy Spirit of God!  He is with you.  Therefore, you should be obedient!
  2. Are you open to God’s direction in your life? We get direction primarily through His Word.  Are you in His Word?
  3. Are you patiently waiting for what God has for you? Or are you being disobedient and trying to plan your life apart from God?
  4. Are you doing what you know to do that is right? Are you being obedient?

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