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Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Israel's Calendar, Communal Celebration, and the Cost of Sin

Moses prepares the “new” generation to enter the land of promise and gives them an annual calendar containing specific dates and sacrificial requirements for those dates:

Daily: 2 lambs without defect, a grain offering, a drink offering
Weekly (on the Sabbath): 2 lambs a year old without defect, a grain offering, a drink offering 
Monthly (on the first day of the month): 2 young bulls without defect, 1 ram without defect, 7 male lambs a year old without defect, a drink offering, a grain offering. 1 male goat without defect
Annually
Passover (a week during the first month beginning with the fourteenth day) 2 young bulls without defect, 1 ram without defect, 7 male lambs a year old without defect, a grain offering
Feast of Weeks or Pentecost  (A week of celebration 50 days after Passover) 2 young bulls without defect, 1 ram without defect, 7 male lambs a year old, a grain offering, a drink offering, 1 male goat without defect
Feast of Trumpets (10 days during the seventh month)
  • The first day of the seventh month - 1 young bull without defect, 1 ram without defect, 7 male lambs a year old without defect, a grain offering
  • The tenth day of the seventh month - 1 young bull without defect, 7 male lambs without defect, a grain offering, 1 male goat without defect
  • The fifteenth day through the twenty-first day of the seventh month. Moses specifies each day’s offering which adds up to: 70 bulls, 14 rams, 98 male lambs, 7 goats, along with the daily grain and drink offerings
  • The twenty-second day (eighth day of this Feast) 1 bull, 1 ram, 7 male lambs, 1 male goat, a grain offering and a drink offering
Israel’s spiritual livelihood revolves around the sacrificial system. Livestock had to be set aside continually for the sacrificial system. Harvest season revolved around the sacrificial system as it begins and ends with a sacrificial offering.
Israel’s annual calendar teaches a number of truths about the sacrificial system:
  1. Sin impacts the community. Therefore the communal life revolves around the sacrificial system. 
  2. Sin impacts the family. In a culture where wealth was measured by holdings in livestock (and eventually land and crops), families had to set aside the unblemished and best animals for the sacrificial system. 
  3. Sin impacts individuals. The sacrificial system reminds each person of the holiness of God, the seriousness of sin and the cost involved, and God’s good and gracious acceptance of a substitute. 
Sin is terrible. Therefore, its payment is costly. And bloody. And constant. Daily. Weekly. Monthly. Annually. 
Thank Jesus that he ended the sacrificial system when he entered the heavenly tabernacle as the perfect high priest and offered himself as the perfect lamb on the eternal mercy seat. Celebration, for those who’ve accepted the atoning work of Christ personally, is constant, daily, weekly, monthly, annually, and eternally! Hallelujah! 




Older Post
"Moses said to the LORD, ‘May the LORD, the God of the spirits of all mankind, appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd.’" (Numbers 27:15-17)




What would it be like to know the day of your death? What would you do if you knew that you had only a short time to live? To complicate the question, how would you feel toward others who may have contributed to your early demise? Would you have a heart of bitterness or a heart of compassion?


Prayers indicate heart affections and attitudes. If you knew that your last prayer prayed before you died would be answered, what would you ask from God? 


After Moses the man of God heard the words of Numbers 27:12-14, "Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Go up this mountain in the Abarim range, and see the land I have given the Israelites. After you have seen it, you too will be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, for when the community rebelled at the waters in the desert of Zin, both of you disobeyed My command to honor Me as holy before their eyes." (These were the waters of Meribah Kadesh, in the desert of Zin.) He asked God to raise up a leader to take his place at his death. 


Rather than lashing out at the community whose behavior brought about this judgment, Moses demonstrates a heart of compassion for this grumbling, murmuring multitude. He cries out to God to "appoint a man over this community to go out and come in before them, one who will lead them out and bring them in, so the LORD's people will not be like sheep without a shepherd" (27:16-17).


Retaliation does not enter into Moses' vocabulary; instead, Moses intercedes for the people of God. He desires for them to have a leader, one who will shepherd the people out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land, as he has led them through the wilderness. He asks God, "the God of the spirits of all mankind," to give them a shepherd, because he cares for this flock. Though they've murmured, complained, and even rebelled, his heart is for them because he has God's heart for them.


Moses prefigured Jesus in this request. As the Good Shepherd looked out at the hurting, harassed, and helpless multitudes of His day, He too had compassion on them, because they were as sheep without a shepherd. He then commanded His disciples, "Pray therefore to the Lord of the harvest, that He may send out laborers into His harvest" (Mt. 9:36-38). Jesus and Moses both reflect the heart of the Father, who cares for the multitudes.


How's your heart today? Do you have a heart for the multitudes? Are you, like Jesus and Moses, praying for God to send out laborers into His harvest? Are you willing to go if He calls (because Jesus' command is a request for a job!)? Are you praying for nations to have shepherds to lead them out of hurt, to love them to Christ, and to give them hope? How's your heart? 


Questions for Today's Chronological Bible Reading (Numbers 27:1-29:40) 
  • The daughters of Zelophehad appeal to Moses for their father's inheritance because he has no sons. How does God respond to this request? What does this show you about God?
  • When Moses appeals for a leader, God commands him to anoint Joshua in his place. What qualities has Joshua already shown that have prepared him for leadership? What qualities does God seek in His leaders? 
  • The burnt offering is mentioned several times; the Bible gives details here that reaffirm the command given in Leviticus 6:8-13. What key truths come from the burnt offering? 
  • What feasts are mentioned in these chapters? What is the significance of each feast? What might it picture under the New Covenant?
Turning Truth into Prayer
Thank the Lord that He sent a shepherd to care for your soul. Thank Him especially for the Good Shepherd who laid down His life for you. Pray that God will call out laborers to go to the hurting, helpless multitudes that have no shepherd.