Numbers, Numbers, Numbers

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Numbers 7; Psalms 42–43; Song of Solomon 5; Hebrews 5

I am a numbers person. This is really no surprise given my educational background.  We called ourselves “accounting dorks” back at the IWU Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority house in 1994.  There were 4 of us.

Here are my numbers on Numbers 7:

  • With 89 verses, Numbers 7 seems like the longest chapter in the Bible.
  • Psalm 119 is actually the longest chapter in the Bible, it has almost double the number of verses – 176 in total.
  • Our 2016 schedule (following the McCheyene plan) will get us to Psalm 119 on June 22.
  • Don’t worry though, we have an entire week allocated to Psalm 119 (7 days, June 22-28).
  • Seventy-three of the verses (7:12-7:83) in Numbers 7 say the exact same thing, just with different names.

Truth be known, it isn’t really the numbers themselves that I love. Don’t get me wrong, solving the math problem or getting the financial statements to balance gives me a sense of fulfillment, but that isn’t really where my energy comes from.  Rather, it’s how I can use the numbers to tell a story, to make my case, and to influence my audience.  That’s why I love the MD&A (Management Discussion & Analysis) section of an annual report.  It’s the story behind the numbers.  Investors beware, this is an UNAUDITED section of the financial statements.  It is full of management spin, which is why it’s so fun!  Yes, 22 years later I am still an accounting dork.

When it comes to the book of Numbers (and Leviticus for that matter), are you like me? I’ve found this reading to be pretty hard.  It has a ton of historical details and, frankly, isn’t overly inspiring.  Yet from reading 2 Timothy last week, we know God included these scriptures in the Bible for a reason.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

In the book of Numbers so far, God’s people have:

  • Taken a census
  • Arranged their camp
  • Assigned serving duties to men of each tribe
  • Outlined rules for unclean people, confession and restitution
  • Established the Nazarite vow

All were these actions were taken in accordance with instructions God gave them through Moses. The Lord blessed them.

The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: you shall say to them,

The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

“So shall they put my name upon the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22-27)

This brings us to Numbers 7. In response to God’s blessings, each tribe brought offerings before the Lord.  Seventy-three verses in Numbers 7 explain exactly what each tribe brought.  Twenty-six sacrifices by my count (3 serving pieces of precious metal, flour/oil mixture, incense, 21 animals), which are explained in the same painstaking detail 12 times.  What is God trying to tell us?  A few ideas to consider:

  • God’s people are obedient to his instructions. Did you notice, the sacrifices each tribe brought align with God’s detailed instructions from Leviticus (grain offering, burnt offering, sin offering, peace offering and redemption values)? As Christ followers, we are called to be obedient (John 14:23, James 1:22).
  • We each matter to God. The sacrifices offered by each tribe were recognized, individually, by God. This approach affirms that God values people. There is power in numbers (Matthew 18:20), but God also cares deeply about each one of us (Luke 12:7).
  • All gifts/roles/responsibilities in the kingdom of God are equally important.  Each tribe had a different number of people and a different role for serving in the tabernacle, but all were equally important and valued.  Likewise, it takes a variety of roles in the Church today to accomplish God’s objectives. All matter (Romans 12:4-5).

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).