GATHERED TO HIS PEOPLE
Lord, we anticipate that great day when You call each of us home.
Read NUMBERS 20:14–29
Edom Denies Israel Passage
14 Moses sent messengers from Kadesh to the king of Edom, saying:
“This is what your brother Israel says: You know about all the hardships that have come on us. 15 Our ancestors went down into Egypt, and we lived there many years. The Egyptians mistreated us and our ancestors, 16 but when we cried out to the Lord, he heard our cry and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt.
“Now we are here at Kadesh, a town on the edge of your territory. 17 Please let us pass through your country. We will not go through any field or vineyard, or drink water from any well. We will travel along the King’s Highway and not turn to the right or to the left until we have passed through your territory.”
18 But Edom answered:
“You may not pass through here; if you try, we will march out and attack you with the sword.”
19 The Israelites replied:
“We will go along the main road, and if we or our livestock drink any of your water, we will pay for it. We only want to pass through on foot—nothing else.”
20 Again they answered:
“You may not pass through.”
Then Edom came out against them with a large and powerful army. 21 Since Edom refused to let them go through their territory, Israel turned away from them.
The Death of Aaron
22 The whole Israelite community set out from Kadesh and came to Mount Hor. 23 At Mount Hor, near the border of Edom, the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, 24 “Aaron will be gathered to his people. He will not enter the land I give the Israelites, because both of you rebelled against my command at the waters of Meribah. 25 Get Aaron and his son Eleazar and take them up Mount Hor. 26 Remove Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar, for Aaron will be gathered to his people; he will die there.”
27 Moses did as the Lord commanded: They went up Mount Hor in the sight of the whole community. 28 Moses removed Aaron’s garments and put them on his son Eleazar. And Aaron died there on top of the mountain. Then Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain, 29 and when the whole community learned that Aaron had died, all the Israelites mourned for him thirty days.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours? / Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers” (Edward Henry Bickersteth, 1825–1906).
Death overshadows the whole of this chapter. It begins with Miriam’s death (1), proceeds to God’s sentence upon Moses (12) and ends with the passing of the third member of the family, Aaron, in the final verse. Aaron’s death, like that of Moses’, is linked to that fateful incident at the rock (24), takes place on top of a mountain (28) and is mourned for thirty days (29).
In verse 24, we see yet another encouraging picture that the Bible paints when describing the death of a believer. Unlike the New Testament, in which we read that believers “fall asleep” (John 11:11; 1 Cor. 15:6) or are taken “to Abraham’s side” (Luke 16:22), here, as elsewhere in the Old Testament, Aaron is “gathered to his people.” What a beautiful picture! The Christian’s ultimate family is the people of God. These people are our brothers and sisters, some of whom are found on earth, others already in glory. The longer we live, the more we will find that we know more of the family in heaven than here! Death will not separate us from our family, but gather us to them. Eventually, we will all be with Christ and with them!
Aaron has just enough time to “pass on the mantle” quite literally, as the priestly garments go to his son, Eleazer. The Aaronic priesthood has begun and will continue in Canaan—but, as the writer to the Hebrews reminds us, our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the priest of a greater order, that of King Melchizedek, and of better things. He has died but has risen again. His priesthood is eternal. He never passes on and needs no successor! Because of his victory over death we, as his people, will all be gathered one day to join the church triumphant. What a glorious hope!
If, like Aaron, you were given a day’s notice of your death, what would you do? Perhaps you ought to do that today, regardless!
Lord, teach me to number my days so as to maximize my effectiveness for Your kingdom while I yet have opportunity.
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