Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Daily Bread for Feb 23, Num 28-30

Today's readings are Num 28-30.

While the offerings detailed in Num 15 were designed to show the gratitude of a redeemed people, the offerings outlined in Num 28-29 are an ongoing demonstration of how sacrifice for sin fits in the life of a Jew living in the time before Christ. Israel is unable to stop sinning. Sins require atonement. So, God fashions a complex series of sacrifices to be made on a continual basis, reminding Israel that they are always in need of deliverance even though they are God's people.

Notice how Num 28:2 is worded, God says that the sacrifices and offerings are, “…my food for my food offerings, my pleasing aroma…” At the onset, God makes it clear that the livestock and food being offered are already His. This establishes that His people are not owners of their belongings, but stewards.

There are regular offerings, daily offerings, Sabbath offerings, monthly offerings and festival offerings like The Passover, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. Note, the daily offerings and sacrifices continue during the feasts and festivals. In God’s economy, sins must be addressed daily.

The calendar year is filled with these rituals. Through them, we see that there will be a rhythm of life in the Promised Land, which they are about to enter.  The abundance and regularity of the sacrifices called for is a guarantee that God will provide an abundance of livestock, grain, grapes and olives. The sacrifices total 113 bulls, 32 rams, 1,086 lambs, more than a ton of flour and a thousand jars of oil and wine each year. Although God will provide, Israel will have to be diligent to work together to provide the livestock, grain, grapes and olives for the sacrifices. In their daily and continuous diligence, they will put on display the unity and close relationship of God’s family.

Every ritual, ceremony, and feast is designed to remind the Jews of what God has done, what He is doing and what He has promised to do. Notice, every blood sacrifice is accompanied by a grain and drink offering. The blood sacrifice covers sin. The grain and drink offerings are thank offerings. Between the two types of offerings, sins are covered and thanks are rendered to God.

There is considerable symbolism in the burnt offerings. They reveal much about the character and nature of God and His relationship to His people.
  •      The offering is burned completely. It is rendered wholly unto the Lord with nothing held back, the smoke rising up and figuratively filling the nostrils of God is a pleasing aroma to Him. Check Eph 5:2 on this one.
  •        God demands absolute purity, so the animal sacrificed must be without blemish.
  •       Nothing of the offering is retained by the owner showing God’s complete possession of the sacrifice.
  •       The rituals are performed in a very public setting as an outward demonstration of faith and obedience.
  •       The blood is poured out on the altar representing the return of life to the giver of life, God.
Num 30 deals with vows made by women and reinforces the godly order of the family and marriage. It’s a rough and imperfect shadow of the structure that will eventually become the template for the body of Christ that will govern its relationship with Jesus.

Meanwhile, in all these arrangements and guidelines, we see that God gives His people a unique order. While some of the directives may seem archaic to us, to the Jews, living in the ancient culture of the Mideast, where women were something like chattel, they are liberating and mindful of the vital role women play in their society. While a Jewish woman lives under some structure and authority in the home, she can make commitments and decisions. This is actually a far cry from how most women in other cultures were perceived and treated. In the Jewish family, the man was ultimately responsible for what happened in his home. But, the woman could make binding vows and could efficiently manage the affairs of the family (Prov 31). For this to be effective, the man and woman, or the father and daughter, would have to work closely together, treating each other as equals while recognizing godly order to the way things are done.

Israel's social structures and laws defy the norm, creating a society of equals that occupy different roles. There is structure but not a series of social classes. In these early books of the Bible we see, not only God's progressive revelation of Himself to His people, but the foundation for the two New Testament statements that will summarize the Law: "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind" and "You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself."

These three chapters will also serve as a stabilizing influence on Israel as Joshua assumes leadership from Moses. God continues to watch over His people, providing for them, protecting them and being faithful to His promises.

God's people are undoubtedly unique and set apart. Their sacrifices are meaningful and carry with them blessing and peace with a holy God, who lives with His people and loves them. This is a contrast to pagan sacrifices which are offered out of fear and appeasement of a distant and capricious god.

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