Strength for the Journey: “A Year to Remember (Part 2)” – Numbers 29

time fliesAre you surprised at how fast a year goes by? I am always surprised at how fast time flies. One of the unexpected realities of how my life has been structured after starting the school at GCBI is how the pattern of school has again become my own. Each year, we start with 1189 chapters of the Bible to complete, page by page – and work frantically to get through it without pressing it so quickly that it is not meaningful. Just about the time that school is over, we are cleaning up the last of the Bible, and then we graduate the students and fly off to Israel with them. There is a two month retooling, and then we have to get set up for the next group. I love the process, but I feel like I blink, and we are back at it again. Those close to the process know that our coverage of the Bible has grown to be more and more thorough with each passing year, as we press to do the job a little better with each group.

For some of you, the year looks like getting the children ready for school and living for the next vacation. I am not talking about the CHILDREN living for the vacation, though that may also be true – I am talking about YOU trying to keep up the energy to make it through to the next break. Many of you are working, providing a proper home for your children, and trying to keep it all together. Morning at your house may be a breakfast mess while lunch bags are being prepared, and children are trying to find homework. For those who are past that stage, you remember it “oh so well!” Years rush by, and it seems like seasons brush lightly the landscape and then give way to the next.

God knew that our lives would be like a vapor, and He said so. He knew that we would get caught up in the pursuit of all kinds of things. Fortunes are made by spending life blood and profitably using the seconds that tick by on the clock. Even among those who do not make much money, there is a hope of a time nearing the last quarter of life that they may live without the daily grind of going to a job. It may never happen, but the hope still lives within us. God directed His people to the “break times” of life, so that they would walk through the years with Him. As this is the second part of the lesson, we should remind ourselves what the point of our study has been and the point of the record of the Annual Calendar law truly was…

Key Principle: God communicated through the offerings His desire to walk the daily road of life with His people. When a community recognizes the value of following appointed times with God – it secures deep values in the hearts of its people.

When God structured the calendar for Israel, He outlined a daily, weekly and monthly calendar of offerings and “appointments”, just as we pointed out in our last lesson. At the same time, He delineated a series of appointed feasts for the annual national observance of His people.

• First, we looked at the day, week and month portion found in Numbers 28:1-15.

• Next, we followed the annual “daytimer” calendar through the twelve months – and even into a thirteenth one periodically added to correct the calendar! In Numbers 28:16-31 the Moedim (appointed times) of the Spring are explained.

• Today’s lesson encompasses the Fall Moedim – the final three of seven feast times (Num. 29).

The Annual Feast Calendar

The seven feasts are each given specific reference in Leviticus 23 and in Numbers 28-29, and are listed in the order they were celebrated in the calendar year. The spring festivals include the first four mentioned, the autumn festivals are the last three:

Spring Festivals

1. Passover (or Pesach, Nisan 14th, the first day of Unleavened Bread) Lev. 23:4,5; Numbers 28:16.
2. Unleavened Bread (the week of Chag Hamatzot) Lev. 23:6-8; Numbers 28:17-25).
3. First Fruits (or Bukkurim on Nisan 16th, the second day of unleavened bread) Lev. 23:9-14; Numbers 28:26).
4. Weeks (also called Shavuot or Pentecost) Lev. 23:15-22; Numbers 28:26-31).

Autumn Festivals

5. Trumpets (also called Yom T’ruach or Rosh Hashanah) Lev. 23:23-35; Numbers 29:1-6.
6. Day of Atonement (or Yom Kippor) Lev. 23:26-32; Number 29:7-11.
7. Tabernacles (or Sukkot) Lev. 23:34-44; Numbers 29:12-38.

Look back at the Lessons of the Spring Festivals (the first four moedim):

First, the Principle from Passover:

God offered Passover to remind His people that they needed to PERSONALLY APPROPRIATE the means He provided for atonement – and that is true of all of us as well.

In our lesson, we briefly followed the progression of the sacrifice for redemption that unfolded – and how it was to be appropriated into each person’s life. In Exodus 12:3-5, God gave careful instruction about the preparation of the home before the Lord executed judgment on the Egyptian firstborn. Each man was instructed to take “A LAMB” (12:3) for his house. If “THE LAMB” (12:4) was too much for the small household, the man was to share with his neighbor and not waste. The lamb was to be spotless, sacrificed that its blood may be used as a marker. It was to be killed and personally applied as “YOUR LAMB” (12:5). Individuals would have to use the blood, nothing else would suffice. People needed to personally believe and act upon the message of God and follow the instruction of God to be saved from calamity and set free from bondage.

Second, the Principle from the Feast of Unleavened Bread:

God told them to “get the leaven out” for a week to remind them that SALVATION belongs to the Lord, but INTENTIONAL LIVING is the domain of God’s people – and that is something we must constantly recall.

Leaven in the Bible was normally prohibited by God in connection with offerings and sacrifices. (Lev. 2:11). From the instruction came the Chametz cleansing that became the background for “Spring cleaning”. Jews remove all leaven from their homes, and destroy it or sell it. As the feast approaches each year, the message is clear: Get the leaven out. Though Passover was all about God’s provision to save – something theologians called “justification”, Unleavened Bread was all about a man’s work of intentional removal of corrupting influences. This is termed by theologians as “sanctification”- a term that means “set apart for a specific use, often a holy use.” The usable vessel before God was to be free of leaven, and recall God’s purposes were to make a new and clean people to serve Him.

Third, the Principle in the Feast of First Fruits:

Tucked in the middle, God gave a promise in the form of another practice called First Fruits – that HE was going to provide something beyond their understanding – the provision of a NEW LIFE through the resurrection of the dead. Physical death isn’t our end. It isn’t even the end of this body. It will be reconstituted for a future – a renewed body based on the current model, but with all the new technology of Heaven.

The most interesting thing about the Feast of Firstfruits is the fact that it was NOT commanded to be on a counted date, as in the case of Passover – Lev. 23:5. Rather this was the to ALWAYS be celebrated on the same day of the week – Sunday, rather than a calculated DATE (Lev. 23:4,15,24,27,34). Paul argued in 1 Corinthians 15, the feast for that Sunday following Passover was a “shadow” of Messiah’s resurrection (and eventually OUR resurrection!). The point of John 20:1 “On the first day of the week” was to REMIND EARLY FOLLOWERS OF THE SPECIAL DAY on which Messiah was raised. It was the Feast of First Fruits! This was the lesson of Paul to Corinth (1 Cor. 15:20-32), that the resurrection of Jesus was the CLEAR answer to the shadowy symbol of the waving of the sheaf commanded so long before!

Fourth, the Principle in the Shavuot Offerings (Feast of Weeks):

Fifty days after the festival of first fruits, the festival of Shavuot or “weeks” began. The Greek word for “fifty days” is Pentecost, and the festival received this name in ancient Jewish sources from the Second Temple Period. This was the time that recalled the “Giving of the Law” in Exodus, a time when many synagogues still have an all-night reading of Scripture as part of the celebration of the Torah.

This Moed had a strange instruction. In contrast to the feast of “unleavened bread” where all leaven was to be purged from the sacrifice and it was to be clean of fermenting corruption, the feast of weeks includes two loaves of meal baked with leaven (Lev. 23:17). The leaven was prescribed as part of the ceremony, and obedient faithful could do nothing less than obey. Why include the leaven in the loaves? What was God’s intention in this “shadowy symbol”? For the answer, we move to a much later time in the Bible, in the Book of Acts. Acts 2:1 reminds us that the Spirit of God came upon the first followers of Jesus at Pentecost. The disciples were gathered together to recall the giving of the Law at Sinai that occurred fifty days after Pesach in Exodus, and the Spirit came upon them and began to write the Law on their hearts. In front of them on the table was a simple symbol – leavened bread. God was forming something that would be a part of His plan – His church. It would not replace Israel, but it would carry the message of His love while a darkness and blindness descended for a time over the Jewish people. Thirty-five hundred years ago, God already announced the plan of a second group of people to carry His name that were not one nation – and He did it through a feast.

The Four Spring Moedim offer me these four truths:

  • If I want salvation, I need to listen to what God provided and receive it.
  • If I want to become what He intends, I need to get some things out of my life.
  • If I really listen to Him – He is offering me more than “a saved NOW” – He is offering me “a RISEN THEN”!
  • When God began His special work on Israel’s redemption, He started by creating time of veiled darkness where He offered the world an opportunity for relationship.

The long, hot, dry summer rolled through Israel each year. As the Autumn neared, the season for “Moedim” again drew near, and the last three lessons of the calendar were offered:

Autumn Festivals:

In Jerusalem, you can feel the festival season coming the way you can feel the opening of schools in North American each school year. This calendar year, Rosh Hashanah will occur on the night of September 5-6, 2013, as the Jewish “New Year” is marked. Immediately after the beginning of the year, a period called the “ten awesome days” ensues, in which Jewish people introspectively consider their lives before Yom Kippur or the “Day of Atonement”, which will be celebrated on September 14, 2013. Five days later, the Appointment of God to recall the time in the wilderness journey comes upon the people at Sukkot or the “Feast of Tabernacles” takes place between September 19-20, 2013.

Rosh Hashanah Offerings (Yom T’ruach or Feast of Trumpets):

Numbers 29:1 Now in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall also have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work. It will be to you a day for blowing trumpets. 2 You shall offer a burnt offering as a soothing aroma to the LORD: one bull, one ram, [and] seven male lambs one year old without defect; 3 also their grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths [of an] [ephah] for the bull, two-tenths for the ram, 4 and one-tenth for each of the seven lambs. 5 [Offer] one male goat for a sin offering, to make atonement for you, 6 besides the burnt offering of the new moon and its grain offering, and the continual burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offerings, according to their ordinance, for a soothing aroma, an offering by fire to the LORD.

When you read the passage in Numbers 29, it is hard to see the simple truth about the day that has become the “opening” of the Jewish sacred year. The new year celebration in most cultures is a “secular” event. Here God commanded a burnt, grain and drink additional offering set, along with a special “day of blowing trumpets” to mark the occasion. Before fireworks, people had trumpets to blast away at special occasions – and this was a special day. This marked the beginning of the new call to God to bring the rains and provide a harvest. It was a cry to God to renew the economy – and nothing could sound to the modern ear more SECULAR than dollars and cents (or shekels and agorot!).

God wanted Israel to know that to separate the “sacred” from the “secular” violated the very spirit of the Torah. Because of the combination of calendars in ancient Israel, there are literally several “New Year’s Days” in the calendar. In rabbinic tradition, there is even a new year beginning for trees, a new year for animals, a new sacred year and a new civil year for administration. The “Day of Trumpet Blowing” (Yom T’ruach) was prescribed by God as the beginning of the civil year, or “secular” year. It was prescribed as the beginning date for financial transactions, for market purposes, and for military services. It also introduced the highest holy days of the month Tishri, the sacred seventh month (by religious calendar reckoning) that contained the highest holy days. It was simply the “ringing in” of a new civil calendar year. Why would God include this in His list of sacred observances (Lev. 23:23-25)?

God knew that His children are tempted to compartmentalize their faith into only one part of their lives, but God was to be Lord of all parts of the lives of the people under the covenant. He wanted every aspect of their lives to be attached to their Divine relationship. Even the wearing of the royal blue ribbon in the prayer shawl (tallith) and tassels (tsit-tsiot) was to help remind them of the special relationship (Num. 15:38ff). Their “faith” must not be separate from the functions of life. Sacred and secular were to be one, all under the leadership of the Lord God.

Is this still a temptation for the people of God? Yes, it is, and it is growing. A Jewish friend of mine in Jerusalem used to carefully observe his faith, but cheated in his business. I called it to his attention one day, and he said this: “Business is business and Moshe is Moshe!” The implication was clear: My faith and my business practices are not related. That is a violation of the Torah principle found in this feast.

Today educators are becoming more brazen, separating morality and honest history from what we are training our young people to believe. Listen to an excerpt from Marvin Olasky of World Magazine:

Two days before the summer solstice, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences with great fanfare released “The Heart of the Matter,” a blue-ribbon-panel document emphasizing the need to beef up teaching of the humanities. …the AAAS commission in 92 pages came out in support of “full literacy … cohesive curricula … new partnerships.” Why should we love the humanities? …The AAAS tells us, “We live in a nation that has been built … on a foundation of humanistic and social science scholarship, from our Founding rooted in Enlightenment philosophy to a future informed by the compilation and analysis of Big Data.” The author says… “Really? I thought our nation grew in the belief that we are endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights. America’s founders quoted the Bible a lot more than any Enlightenment text. They treasured life and liberty, not Big Data. Why should we love the humanities? “Humanists and social scientists are particularly well suited to address … the ethical questions attending the adoption of new technologies; the social conditions that provide context for international policy decisions regarding the environment, global health, and human rights; and the cultural differences that aid or hinder global security.” Really? Houston Baptist professor Micah Mattix put it well: “Does anyone who has taken a humanities course at a secular college or university in the past 10 years doubt that instead of teaching us who we are, many humanities courses teach that identity is constructed; that instead of teaching the classical and cardinal virtues, they recommend the self-serving virtues of moral relativism and egalitarianism; and that instead of helping students to become better husbands, wives, and citizens, the real focus is on making them more autonomous?”… The writer continued: “Instead of plowing through the AAAS report, I’d suggest reading a piece now on the internet that’s only eight pages long, John Milton’s “Of Education” (1644). Milton opposed the leading humanities teachers of his day, the “monsieurs of Paris [who] take our hopeful youth into their slight and prodigal custodies and send them over back again transformed into mimics, apes, and kickshaws.” …”The goal of education”, Milton wrote, should be “to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him.

We are training people to distance faith and moral understanding from “real thinking” and “real living”, and the end of this system will bring nothing but relativism that paralyzes our workforce and endangers our local communities. Raise children that don’t connect GOD to MONEY and then stand back and watch how MONEY BECOMES THEIR GOD. Teach children that INTEGRITY is not as important as SUCCESS and you have launched the next generation of Wall Street tycoons and Harvard cutthroat plagiarizers. Sacred is secular, and secular sacred. God is either the foundation, or there is no foundation – and the building we are attempting to build will fall when the storms blow against it. One thing my years of life on the planet has told me is this: “Count on storms coming!”

Yom Kippor (Day of Atonement) Offerings:

Most everyone is familiar with the term “Yom Kippor” which simply means in Hebrew: “day of covering”. The covering refers back to the atonement blood poured on the mercy seat to cover the sins of the priest and the people in ancient Israel. Here are a few words:

Numbers 29:7 Then on the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation, and you shall humble yourselves; you shall not do any work. 8 You shall present a burnt offering to the LORD [as] a soothing aroma: one bull, one ram, seven male lambs one year old, having them without defect; 9 and their grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil: three-tenths [of an] [ephah] for the bull, two-tenths for the one ram, 10 a tenth for each of the seven lambs; 11 one male goat for a sin offering, besides the sin offering of atonement and the continual burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offerings.

Look at the blood tally: ONE BULL, ONE RAM, SEVEN MALE LAMBS. That is ON TOP OF the daily sacrifice – and in addition to the grain and drink accompanying offerings. The point is: MANY ANIMALS DIED IN REPLACEMENT OF PEOPLE’S SIN. There is an incredible high price for sin, and God required death as a penalty – just as He told Adam and Eve that He would. The command was given with serious tone, that each of the children of Israel would be impressed the seriousness of the day (Lev. 23:29) or they would be cut off from the house of Israel.

Shepherds from all throughout the land of Israel understood the significance of the sacrifice to Israel. For months, they cared for and cautiously groomed the livestock that would be used for atonement sacrifices. The price of sin was paid by the animal suited for sacrifice. The solemn Sabbath was observed by the High Priest of the nation, as he adorned the priestly garb and made a sin sacrifice at the Temple (Lev. 16:29-34ff). The sin offerings were prescribed to include a sacrifice for the sin of his family, then an offering for the cleansing of the sanctuary, and finally an offering for the sin of the people of Israel. The sin was to be atoned by the sprinkling of the blood of the spotless sacrifice on the Mercy Seat of the Holy of Holies. The price of sin had to be paid in the atoning sacrifice that included blood.

We cannot, we must not, as believers, forget the importance of the price of sin and the power of the blood that saves us even today. Do not mute the bloodiness in our message:

Hebrews 9:11 “But when Christ appeared [as] a high priest …12… through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.”

Blood and death aren’t a pretty part of our message – but they are the essence of it – that Jesus paid for the sins of men, and the power of the blood is unstoppable! Forty-three times in the writings of the early Christian Scriptures we read of the blood of Jesus that was shed to wash away sin. The very last time, in Revelation 12, John wrote: “And they overcame Him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” This is the overcoming blood with the power to SAVE, but also the power to ENABLE believers in dark days to withstand the deceptions and accusations of Satan. Judas betrayed “innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4). Peter called it “the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:9). It is called the “cleansing blood” in 1 John 1:7 and the “washing blood” in Rev. 1:5. Over and over the blood is mentioned – always powerful, always encountering the dirty and leaving it sin cleaned. The wages of sin is death, but the blood of the sacrifice can wash away the stain – so said the God of Yom Kippor.

Sukkot Offerings:

A very long “shopping list” like section of Numbers 29 invited the people to count off the sacrifices, day by day, of the seven day feast of Tabernacles. It begins in Numbers 29:12 “Then on the fifteenth day of the seventh month you shall have a holy convocation; you shall do no laborious work, and you shall observe a feast to the LORD for seven days.”

Next, for the week-long feast God commanded daily grain and drink offerings paired off by a long but decreasing tally of bulls, with two rams and fourteen male lambs daily as follows:

On the first day… thirteen bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs (13-15).
• Then on the second day: twelve bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs (17-19).
• Then on the third day: eleven bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs (20-22).
• Then on the fourth day: ten bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs (23-25).
• Then on the fifth day: nine bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs (26-28).
• Then on the sixth day: eight bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs (29-31).
• Then on the seventh day: seven bulls, two rams, fourteen male lambs (32-34).
• On the eighth day you shall have a solemn assembly; you shall do no laborious work. 36 …one bull, one ram, seven male lambs one year old without defect; (35-38).

The time of Sukkot in Israel was originally the “end of harvest” feast (cp. Ex. 23:17), also called the “in gathering”. The autumn harvest was now nearly completed. After the long and hot summer months in Judea, God had again shown His faithfulness to Israel in bringing in the “miracle crop” of grapes. The olives and grain harvests now all stored, the celebration of God’s faithfulness to the children of Israel completed the calendar of sacred observances. At the same time, the “BOOTHS” were not simply a reference to the agricultural harvest shelters – it was an image that hearkened back to the tents in the wilderness as God led Israel from Egypt, and made a nation from an extended family.

The feast of Booths, Tabernacles or Sukkot reminded the children of Israel of God’s great work of salvation from the bondage of the Egyptian Pharaohs. The children of Israel were commanded to live in huts (Lev. 23:42) or booths during the week of the festival (see also Neh. 8:14-18), to remind them of the travel through the wilderness. Sacrifices during this time were prescribed to include 189 animals (Num. 29:12-38), and the week was full of reminders of the faithfulness of God in the wilderness journey (Lev. 23:43). The faithfulness of God was taught to each generation of Israel as they sat in their booths, recalling the wilderness journey.

God had shown Himself merciful and faithful to the children of Israel in the desert wilderness. The dividing of the Sea, the manna of the wilderness, the cloud of guidance, and the pillar of fire were all images to be recalled to each new generation of Israelite children from within the sukkah, that they might remember and understand their Father in Heaven. At the end of the journey was their promised home, a land that was theirs by Divine covenant. God had freed the people, lead them, and finally gave them cities “that they did not build” with “wells they did not dig” (Dt.6). Israel was never to forget. Israel was to always teach their generations that the God of Abraham keeps His covenants. He is faithful to bring His people home.

We talk in our day about faithfulness, but on the level of the daily grind, we don’t seem to treasure it. We like the quick fix over the long and arduous process that brings lasting success. It seems we don’t say enough about those who stick by the stuff over the long haul, but that is becoming rarer. I am speaking of the mom and dad that work hard at their marriage and stay together through thick and thin. I am speaking of the teacher who quietly pictures Jesus in a classroom as each year brings more compromised curriculum and hostility toward God and His Word. I am speaking of the many who make ministry happen in a local body. Max Lucado wrote of this idea of faithfulness, when he said:

Norman Geisler, as a child, went to a DVBS because he was invited by some neighbor children. He went back to the same church for Sunday School classes for 400 Sundays. Each week he was faithfully picked up by a bus driver. Week after week he attended church, but never made a commitment to Christ. Finally, during his senior year in High School, after being picked up for church over 400 times, he did commit his life to Christ. What if that bus driver had given up on Geisler at 395? What if the bus driver had said, “This kid is going nowhere spiritually, why waste any more time on him?” – Max Lucado, God Came Near, Multnomah Press, 1987, p. 133.

Don’t forget, not only did a church stay faithful – so did GOD. How many years did he wait for YOU to open your heart to Him? How many blasphemies came from your lips while God was patiently wooing you to Jesus? How many nights were spent in beds you didn’t belong, or grasping a bottle that didn’t hold the real answers – but God was patient with you? The message of Sukkot was patience and faithfulness – attributes of God that have made all the difference in our lives.

The passage closes with the reinforcing truth that all the observances were to be observed strictly according to the command of God: Numbers 29:39 You shall present these to the LORD at your appointed times, besides your votive offerings and your freewill offerings, for your burnt offerings and for your grain offerings and for your drink offerings and for your peace offerings.'” 40 Moses spoke to the sons of Israel in accordance with all that the LORD had commanded Moses.

Let’s say it clearly, before we turn the page of this text to another lesson:

• God made an offering available for our salvation, but we have to personally appropriate it.
• God planned that after we were HIS, there would be some “cleaning house” in our lives.
• God had a plan from long ago that would conquer death and offer a new life in resurrection!
• God’s plan for Israel’s rejection of Him also included drawing others to Him on the way to turning His face back to Israel – and He called the His “church” – his “called out ones”.
• God refuses to see Himself segmented and secluded from all parts of our life.
• Sin has a terrible price, and death and blood were dragged in by our mutiny against God.
• God has been ever faithful to provide all that He has promised to people who deserve exactly none of it.

That is the message of God’s appointed times.