NUMBERS 7:1 – 9:23 and MARK 4:1–20
The facilitating of the Tabernacle work continues with the anointing of the Tabernacle and all of the instruments. This is the anointing oil as taken from Exo 30:23. This oil is for the purpose of setting apart to make holy. It is also the anointing oil referred to in Psa 133 denoting the unity of the Brethren. It is a costly oil and it was applied to every area of the Tabernacle as well as the instruments and priests. There were representatives from each respective tribe that would present their offerings. These offerings were handled by the Levite families. It would either be handled by the Gershonites or the Mearites depending on their respective roles as seen in Numbers 4. The Kohathites had the responsibility of bearing the Ark, Mercy Seat, Candlesticks, Showbread and the altars which would either be bore on their shoulders or by cart.
The tribe of Judah was the first to present their offering (vs 12-17). Each offering consisted of one silver charger, one silver bowl, fine flour mingled with oil for a meat offering, one golden spoon, one bullock, one ram one lamb of the first year for a burnt offering, one goat for a sin offering and several items that would make up the peace offering. This would be related to the Levitical instruction given to the priests in Leviticus. The different offerings are distinguished as are the sacrifices that would be offered. This sequence went on over a period of 12 days, one tribe per day. One can sense a certain protocol as each day a specific tribe was given opportunity to have their day in coming before the Lord in front of all their other brethren. It can also serve as a picture of the New Jerusalem in Rev 21:12 where the 12 gates of the new city are mentioned which speak of the 12 tribes of Israel. We also see in Rev 22:2 where there are 12 manner of fruit that will serve as healing for the nations. There is considerable typology in the study of the Tabernacle, and the Offerings; however there are many beautiful truths that are conveyed, giving glimpses of what is to come.
The first instruction that God gives to Moses is regarding the lighting of the candlestick. I do feel significance in this because it refers to the role of the Holy Spirit. The light of the candles were to burn perpetually. There is another thought here that can be considered. Christ as the Passover Lamb is the means by which we come into the outer court of Moses Tabernacle. It is then the ministry of the Holy Spirit that can empower our life as a believer and do the needed work in dealing with our sin nature to prepare us to be able to enter into the holiest of all. It is here where the Ark, which speaks of the presence of God, dwells. We have a good example of Peter in his discourse with the Lord after He rose from the dead. He presents Peter a target or goal of “agape” love (John 21:15-19). It was not possible for Peter to achieve this on his own seeing that he had just denied the Lord a few days earlier. The Lord asks Peter a third time, “do you love me?” The word the Lord uses here is phileo, which was a relational kind of love. The first two times the Lord asked this question he used the word “agape” The Lord came down to the level of where he was at. Peter loved the Lord but it was not at the “agape” level. The Lord then shared these words with Peter.
Joh 21:18 Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not.
The Lord was making a clear reference to the Holy Spirit whom would soon empower Peter to walk a walk he was not capable of in his own strength. At the end of his life, Peter gives this exhortation to the church, which includes us:
2Pe 1:5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;
2Pe 1:6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;
2Pe 1:7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.
The Greek word for charity is “agape”. Peter hit the mark, the target the Lord presented to Him back in John 21:15-19. This is how we become holy and have eventual access into the holy of holies. It is Peter that says “be ye holy as I am holy”. (1 Pet 1:15-16) How did Peter do it? He was empowered by the Holy Spirit, he experienced the candlestick anointing as seen in the Holy place of Moses Tabernacle. It is how we too can achieve God’s high calling for our lives.
In order for Moses Tabernacle to be viable and functional it had to start with the lighting of the candlesticks. This helps us to appreciate the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit. He is the person of the godhead who facilitates the pleasure of the Father. He allowed Christ to be conceived within the womb of a virgin. He empowered Christ to fulfil His mission in going to the Cross (Heb 9:14). He is also the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead who dwells in each of us (Rom 8:11). He is also the same Spirit that moved upon the earth at creation (Gen 1:2). You even see this significance when the Lord is about to speak to the 7 churches in Revelation. The Lord spoke in the midst of the 7 candlesticks signifying the role of the Holy Spirit (Rev 1:12-13). It is also noteworthy to see that the first warning given to the first church (Ephesus) in failing to do what is instructed will be the removal of the candlestick (Rev 2:4). An investigative study of the golden candlestick will result in a greater understanding of the person and ministry of the Holy Spirit.
In verses 4-22 there is the preparation of the Levites (the priests) before they could minister in their respective roles in the Tabernacle. There had to be a cleansing and offering made on their behalf before they could minister before the people. God put a clear distinction between the priests and the people (8:14). We also see that in their ministry they not only served as in making atonement for the sins of the people but they also were ministers of healing when the people came near to the sanctuary (vs 19). One wonders why we do not see this same power at work today in our churches. Perhaps it is because of sin (leprosy). When examining the Book of Leviticus you cannot help but see a plague almost always being linked to leprosy. Sin is dealt with when the work of the Atonement has had its full effect. I feel that verse 19 is conditional on true atonement. This would enable a person to approach the sanctuary resulting in the promise of no plague or sickness. How many today truly embrace and appropriate the Feast of Atonement (Lev 23:27-29)? Many are cut off because they “CHOOSE” not to appropriate the message of Atonement.
We see another interesting truth at the close of chapter 8. The priests who are over the age of 50 can no longer minister in the service of the holy things. They do however have a ministry to the congregation in the Outer Court. It speaks of priests of experience who are able to be an example to the general congregation. In modern terms we can see how men and women of experience can be such a blessing to the younger generation of believers. I feel this provides a key in understanding how to bridge the generational divides.
The keeping of the Passover is covered in the first 14 verses. There is an exception in the keeping of the Feast under certain conditions as explained in verses 6-14. There is also warning about being cut off if the Passover is not observed (verse 13). I would like to zero in on this verse with a few comments. As we have seen earlier the Feasts speak of our progressive walk in God. From Salvation (Passover) to Zion (Tabernacles) we see through the Feasts keys in understanding our respective journey. What must also be appreciated is the observance of the Feasts and the time frame or cycles which characterize them.
God works in cycles, and it is important that we understand God’s timetable and learn to flow accordingly. A person who chose not to observe Passover would be “put out” which could mean being ostracized or in some cases death. The Tribe of Issachar was known for having understanding of the times and season of God (1 Chr 12:32). This means they knew what they had to do. God has a cycle for the work week as established in Genesis 1. (Work 6 days and rest on the Sabbath) Solomon wrote that there is a time and season to everything under heaven (Eccl 3:1-8). There is a perfect order in God’s creation. The more man delves into understanding the cosmos and the realities of life the more convinced, even to the most sceptical that there is a God. To suggest a Big Bang as the origins of life is to put ones belief in disorder, confusion and the unknown. The daily cycle and predictability of the sun’s rising and setting is proof in itself that we serve a God who establishes order and cycles. The key for us is to learn how to flow and align with God’s order.
The children of Israel did this by observing the appointed Feasts days on an annual basis. We later see in Num 9 (vs 15-23) that Israel was led by a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. These cycles of movement were not as predictable as the appointed Feast days but it required an ability to transit to a new location on short notice. This was God’s way of keeping Moses and Israel in alignment with His timetable. When the timetable of God is adhered to it then allows for the supernatural to flow due to the fulfilling of God’s agenda.
The well-known example of the Crossing of the Red Sea at the time of the Exodus is a good example of this. Moses, as the appointed leader was in perfect alignment with God’s intent and desire. He was leading Israel in harmony with heaven. This resulted in Israel being brought to an impossible position; a large Sea before them and a trailing army of Pharaoh and Egypt pursuing them. What can be done? Is there any way out? Did God really bring Israel to this kind of end? The Lord supernaturally opened the waters of the Red Sea because Moses and Israel were in alignment with what God had purposed. They were in rhythm with God, flowing in that which He had purposed before the foundations of the world. It is this rhythm that we seek to align with today.
The failure to observe the Passover in Old Testament times was to put one’s self outside of God’s cycle. We cannot afford this today, especially in this late hour. What is happening today in our world is that “man” is becoming his own god. This is nothing new but it is occurring at an accelerated pace and its fruits can be seen worldwide. At the same time we see God being removed from every fabric of life. The most ominous of signs is the removal of God’s Law and His ways. This is reinforced by increased persecution and targeting of Christians who seek to uphold Judeo-Christian values. When a person steps outside God’s ordained cycle whether it be the keeping of the Passover in the OT, the failure to move when God moves or simply living on man’s terms as opposed to God’s, he becomes vulnerable and open for avoidable spiritual attack. This is something we must guard against as believers. The rhythm of today’s world’s system is now running at a very high pace. Think of a whirlpool; its outer edges have a current that is strong but still manageable in being able to escape its grasp. The more one gets sucked into its flow the more powerful the force until you simply yield to its overwhelming force. We must find that place of Rest in God that allows for a de-linking from this whirlpool type current. This will allow for God to speak, it will allow for a refreshing so that alignment with God can come back into view. This is what Jesus was able to do in those wonderful times of intimacy with the Father. The busyness of the day’s ministry would leave Him tired and emotionally spent but He was always able to find Rest and recalibration for the challenging days ahead. Though the forces of hell were pitted against Him He was able to find Rest and work faithfully in doing the Father’s will. We can do the same.
The keeping of the Feast day (Passover) in Numbers 9 is a reminder that God works in cycles. By keeping the Passover, Israel was constantly reminded in what God did in bringing them forth from Egypt. He was also presenting them a picture of the true Passover Lamb to come. The keeping of Feasts helps to reassure us that God does have all things under control even though the world around us is drifting further into chaos. Today, more than ever we need to hear His voice and not allow our hearts to become hardened or indifferent. We need to implement a daily cycle of spending time with God (devotions and prayer) to help keep us in alignment with what God is doing and saying. This is what Jesus did and it is most imperative for us as well.
This chapter is filled with several parables. It was a method of teaching that Jesus used to present “profound truth” veiled in child-like stories. This allowed for those who truly had a heart to know Jesus to absorb and appropriate the fruits of His Word. On the other hand it “shielded” these truths away from those who did not take Jesus seriously. The Lord sums up the above in the following two verses:
Mar 4:11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
Mar 4:12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them.
The disciples at first were not even clear on the interpretation of the parables (vs 10). This is one of the brilliant aspects of the Lord’s teaching method. He was in such control of His environment and His teaching. To outside observers this was not the case but it was deliberate on the Lord’s part in being able to share the values of the kingdom in easy to digest stories. To this day we continue to extract “eternal gems” from them. Man is a creature of pride and has to be seen as being in control. Sad to say this is seen in the church as well. We need to be careful as to how success is defined. The brilliance of parabolic teaching cannot be understated. The ability to teach in such a way comes from a life that has been hidden in God. Such a person can take an aspect of God’s creation and weave it into a beautiful Truth. The kingdom of God is vast and unlimited and has many means and ways that it can be expressed through the believer’s of today. That means you and me. It begins with a life that serves as an example to others. The way we live is our greatest message. It can be further enhanced by being able to convey truth in creative ways. The teaching of parables is a way for the Kingdom of God to be revealed in simplicity; To be understood by those who truly have a heart for God.
One of the most common of parables is that of the sower (vs 1-20). It primarily is a message of the seed of God being planted into 4 different conditions of the ground (earth). We spiritualize this truth by referencing 4 different types of hearts. We will cover this parable in more detail when we look at Luke chapter 8. (My personal favorite version of this parable) This parable flows nicely with some of the thoughts we looked at in Numbers 9. A soft and open heart will allow for the seed that was sown to become fruitful, expressing itself in its fullness. A person with such a heart will be in tune and alignment with what God is doing. This kind of heart will help ensure that we be not bitter or hardened thus removing ourselves from God’s purpose and plan.
The parable of the sower in Mark 4 sets up the other parables that Jesus teaches in this chapter. That which is hidden in seed form, a seed that is nurtured in good ground will eventually come to fruitfulness. The fruits will be seen and observable (vs 21-25). A seed that is sown in good ground and is nurtured through the cycle of day to day life will one day bring forth much fruit. There are three stages mentioned, the blade, the ear, and full corn in the ear. A picture in how one can progress from the Outer Court, the Holy Place into the Holy of Holies of Moses Tabernacle (vs 26-29). A picture of how one grows through the process of being Called, Chosen and Faithful (Rev 17:14). A seed that is sown in good ground, though small and hidden at the first can grow and become the greatest among plants as illustrated by the mustard seed. Jesus is giving a vivid picture of the Kingdom of God in this chapter. Can we see it? Are we able to hear what the Spirit is saying through these examples? Are we in a position to make it applicable to our own personal lives?
These are exciting and challenging days that we have the privilege of living in. The storm clouds are arising everywhere and we need to be aware of what is happening. We must know the seasons and cycles of God and seek to be in full alignment. This is what the Rest of God is all about! Mark chapter 4 closes on a somewhat different subject. It speaks of a storm that His disciples were in. (These storms are on the horizon for us today) Jesus in the midst of the storm was able to speak “Peace be Still”. These are Words for us today. May we come to know the Peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil 4:7).