What does it say?
This is the second census (numbering) of Israel and marks the beginning of the new generation that will enter the land (Num 26). Only Joshua and Caleb remain of the previous generation. The people are now gearing up to enter the Promised Land.
The daughters of Zelophehad present a situation not covered by law (Num 27). An inheritance normally passes from father to sons. In this case, the father of these five women left no male heir. They come to Moses and the High Priest, and they in turn go to God to reveal his wisdom. God instructs that in such a case the inheritance goes to the daughters or nearest relative so that his name and inheritance remain in his tribe.
What does it mean?
Even though entrance into the land was delayed, God completes his mission despite the people’s disobedience. This is a reminder that the mission is not about me, but about God accomplishing his purposes. He wants us to be clean vessels, but he will accomplish his mission regardless. Here, he completes his promise to bring Israel back to the land. He may use flawed instruments, but when we continue to make poor choices and sin, we will suffer the consequences, just as an entire generation died in the desert.
The case of the daughters of Zelophehad gives insight into how to apply God’s truth. The Mosaic Law did not have a law for everything. We can apply truth, however, to any possible situation of life, even when there is no direct instruction. When in doubt, we consult together with those in spiritual leadership and prayerfully seek God’s wisdom to apply the spirit of God’s truth to any life circumstance.
We do not live under the Law today. Paul said that all things are lawful, but not all are expedient or edifying (1Cor 10:23). He also said that the letter of the Law kills but the spirit gives life (2Cor 3:6). Trying to obey the law in our own power only reveals our spiritual bankruptcy. Paul uses the word spirit in a double sense. We look for the spirit of the Law, but also look to God’s Spirit in us for the wisdom and power to do God’s will.
How will I respond?
Am I facing a decision or circumstance that I don’t know how to handle biblically? Which of these steps apply to my need: 1) search scripture for direct instruction; 2) seek the spirit of scripture to guide me in my contemporary situation; 3) consult with a trusted leader or with trusted people in my small group; 4) pray for God’s wisdom and guidance?