Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Monday, February 13, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Feb 14, Num 7

Today's reading is Num 7.

Num 7, amid a lot of detail concerning the dedication of the tabernacle and a series of sacrifices, reveals more of God's attributes. There are qualities of His character and nature deeply embedded in the instructions God provides for His people. We also learn a bit about how a healthy relationship between the people and God is supposed to function. 

God's people are to supply all that is needed for the tabernacle to work properly. All they have is from Him and is given to them so they can live in a manner that honors Him. In thanks, they are to give back a portion of what they have received that will assist in His ministry and demonstrate His presence among His people. Each of the tribes will donate a portion of their belongings and treasure to God and the ministry of the tabernacle. Utensils, wagons, tools, bowls, grain, oil, incense and precious metals are brought for service. In the instructions for these offerings, we learn that God's people are expected to donate their time, talents and treasure to Him.

Beyond the support for the tabernacle and those who serve in it, additional offerings and sacrifices are directed. These are to consecrate the tabernacle and make restitution for the sins of the people. An enormous amount of blood is shed during the sacrifices. As we ponder the incredible volume of shed blood, we realize the magnitude of sin and the painful cost of redeeming God's people from its consequences.

Notice, all the sacrifices made by the tribes are identical. Everyone pays the same price for their sins. There is no distinction made for position, size or stature. Later in the Bible, we’ll see that everyone pays the same price for their sin--death (Rom 6:23).  The price is due from all because all have sinned. There is no distinction made, no exemptions allowed. The only way to avoid paying is to have someone stand in a substitute. Therein is the symbolism of the animal sacrifices. The death of the animal pays for the sin. The animal is a substitute for the sinner. The sacrificial system is inadequate for eternal salvation. But, it shows us God's method of redemption, substitutionary sacrificial atonement.

It's not clear whether the Jews understood all this at Sinai. They certainly were not the beneficiaries of the complete revelation we have today. As far as they could tell, the sacrifices atoned for their temporal sins. Whether or not they thought the sacrifices were efficacious for eternal forgiveness, we don't really know. There's little evidence that they believed so. 

What they saw was the laying on of hands to convey the sins to the animals. They saw the sacrifice and the sprinkling of blood. What they did understand was that God gave them a way to atone for their sins. They were faithful to adhere to those guidelines and faithful to believe that God was working in their lives through their high priest. The burden they labored under was one that indicated the sacrifices had to be repeated incessantly. They had no vision for a sacrifice to end all sacrifices. As far as they could see, the system they were given was a way for them to live under God's blessing on a day-to-day basis. The Hebrew people, regardless of their propensity to stumble, are models of people who strive after and trust God--most of the time, just like us. 

Here, in Num 7, the template for God’s plan of redemption comes together. The people offer sacrifices to the priest who presents them to God. The priests are ceremonially clean. They stand in the place of the people. They make the offering in a ceremonially clean dwelling consecrated to God. Taken in total, we now know that the priests represent the ultimate substitute, Jesus Christ, who is perfectly clean, perfectly sanctified and the perfect substitute. It will take many centuries for this to become apparent but we see the first glimmer of these eternal truths played out at the base of Sinai.

At this point in their history, Israel demonstrates total, genuine commitment. They have invested themselves and all they have in the tabernacle. The tent has been dedicated by blood. At the end of Num 7, God blesses. He is in the tabernacle. His people have built a home for Him, according to His design and direction. He will dwell among them. 

One day, He will dwell in them.

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