NUMBERS 28:1 – 30:16 and MARK 8:1–38
Numbers 28 and 29 is a review of sorts of the pattern for offerings that was given to the first generation of those who came forth from Egypt. This reiteration is for the benefit of the next generation who will be part of the company that will possess the land. The planning is underway for a whole new generation of leadership to emerge. We can see why such planning is needed in light of the episode with Balaam. We see that there was a lapse among some of the tribes of Israel in the matter of Baal-Peor. The Lord is taking meticulous detail in trying to re-establish the priestly functions so as to try and prevent a similar occurrence both before and after the crossing of the Jordan. We will see an elaboration of further instructions in the Book of Deuteronomy.
The different offerings are referred to in verses 1-15, with special emphasis placed upon the burnt offering. The Feast of Passover is covered in verses 15 which is a picture of what took place in Egypt (Exo 12:6). The next Feast referenced is “Unleavened Bread” which is a fulfilment of Exo 12:15 (verses 17-25). It was to be observed for 7 days with the first day being holy unto the Lord. There was to be no leaven (sin) partaken over this period. There was to be no hint of leaven (sin) in the camp. It is vital that we be circumspect throughout our entire journey with the Lord; however heightened care needs to be given whenever there is a sovereign move of God.
The Third Feast referenced is the day of First Fruits which is a reference to Pentecost. The waving of the sheaf offering was symbolic of when Christ rose from the dead. So we have the first 4 feasts referenced in Numbers 28. The 3 feasts of the 7th month are covered in chapter 29. These three feasts are noteworthy because of their recent spiritual fulfilment and application.
These feasts were examined in some detail when we looked at Lev 23. In fact we can say that Lev 23 covers much of what is seen in both Numbers 28 and 29. Let’s examine these three feasts from another perspective. You can draw very strong parallels from Nehemiah 8. Here we find both Ezra the priest and Nehemiah converging together in this chapter. Nehemiah was part of the Tirshatha which was a high civil position. This was a unique alliance. Nehemiah was not a priest but he was a leader who articulated a strong vision and ability to follow it through.
There is a calling together of the people as seen in Neh 8:1. This gathering was called on the 1st day of the 7th month (Feast of Trumpets-Lev 23-24). The sounding of the Trumpet could be for one of three reasons. 1) A call to assemble. (This is what is taking place in Nehemiah 8). 2) A call to war. 3) A call to prepare to move the camp onward.
Many see the re-gathering of Israel in 1948 as a sign to the church. It can be likened to the Feast of Trumpets where we see God doing something very new conveying a spiritual significance. We mentioned in our review of Lev 23 that the Feast of Atonement was fulfilled spiritually in October of 1973. The Yom Kippur war was started on the Day of Atonement. This natural event had a spiritual significance seeing that God was about to deal with sin in high places. America, at this time was embroiled in a national scandal known as Watergate that involved President Nixon. This scandal resulted in his being impeached and dismissed. Ironically, we see in Nehemiah 8 that Ezra the priest read the Law in the street that was before the Watergate (Neh 8:3). Do you think that was coincidence? In reading the Law, Ezra was able to give the essence of it resulting in the people being smitten in their hearts. Ezra was schooled in the Law of God; he lived by the Law and was able to teach it (Ezr 7:6, 10). This kind of priestly temperament was lacking in the incident involving Balaam. The resultant teaching of the Law brought a lamenting and repentance to the people as seen in Neh 8:9. It was declared to be a holy day and there was evidence of deep contrition.
This is the fruit of the Feast of Atonement. It does not hide nor gloss over sin; it deals with it. It can be painful but the consequences of not addressing sin would be even more painful. After the fall of the US president there were approximately 16 other heads of state that fell in areas of corruption. We then saw the Lord beginning to uncover sin within the high realms of leadership in the church in the 1980’s and beyond. We have witnessed personally many such tragedies.
One can understand why the Lord instructs Moses to reiterate the Levitical offerings and Feasts after the fallout from Balaam’s ministry. For us, the message of Atonement must be embraced and confronted. We must not allow clever doctrines to obscure or diminish its impact. The Apostle Paul emphatically warned concerning such doctrines in the last days.
2Ti 4:3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;
If we have itching ears we will fall prey to the Balaam’s and false teachers of the last days. Itching ears are the product of an uncircumcised heart. The Feast of Atonement gets to the root of the matter. False teachers allow for a by-pass or easier way to live and serve. The seasonal feast that has governed the church in the last few decades is that of Atonement.
The 7th feast is the long awaited Feast of Tabernacles. One of the names attributed to this Feast is that of JOY. Going back to Nehemiah 8 we see that the people were weeping and lamenting after having the Law (the message of Atonement) expose them. It was here where a transition takes place. Ezra, seeing that the working of the Law (Atonement) has had its effect, now tells them to weep no more. He further exhorts them to let the “Joy of the Lord be their strength”. (Neh 8:10) This is the fruit of the 7th celebrated Feast.
We can link Numbers 29 with Nehemiah 8. The 3 feasts of the 7th month are covered in Numbers 29. The 3 feasts of the 7th month cover the whole of Nehemiah 8. The sequence of these Feasts is instructive to us. May God grant that we understand the signs of the times and flow in His respective seasons. We are on the verge of a mighty move of God and we have the benefit of Biblical history to help guide us. We also have the record of Biblical history to serve as a warning. The last great feast is quickly approaching; may we be prepared.
This chapter is entirely devoted to the subject of vows made to the Lord. These clarifications probably went a long way in helping to clear up confusion that may have arisen as a result of offerings made during the Levitical procedures as seen in the previous two chapters. In verse two we see that a vow that a man has made before the Lord was to be kept. One would suppose that a vow would have been rationally made seeing that a priest would be involved. We have seen the vow of a Nazarite in chapter 6. There were vows of voluntary offerings (Lev 7:16). A vow was not to be made foolishly or on a whim. A woman’s vow could be disallowed if her vow was immediately refuted by either her father or husband. If the father or husband heard the vow but did not voice dissent the vow would then stand. If a woman were a widow or one who was divorced her vow would then stand, seeing she had no covering (vs 3-16).
This chapter gives us a bit of insight regarding the need for a proper covering. It also establishes God’s order. Our covering is Christ, whom we received at salvation. There is peace, protection and comfort as we walk under the shadow of His covering. The covering for Christ is the heavenly Father.
1Co 11:3 But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.
A man, whether it be a father or husband has the ability to disallow a vow that a woman would make. This chapter may help to provide some clarity as to what happened in the garden at the time of the fall. We understand that Adam was not deceived yet he partook of the fruit. Why did he do this? Is it possible that he could have disallowed the transgression of Eve’s disobedience? Christ is known as the last Adam and He disavowed the sin that came upon man at the fall (Rom 5:15-18). The Bible clearly indicates that Adam could have covered Eve if he would not have consented to her act. We do not know how things would have played out but we know it was due to affection for his wife that Adam consented.
We should meditate and examine this initial act of how sin came upon man more closely. We all know that the tempter approached Eve and brought her to the place of an emotional and soulish response in partaking of the fruit. What about Adam? What was going on in his mind? He knew better but he chose to align with his wife’s transgression. He was emotionally attached to his wife; he obviously loved her but yet chose to knowingly disobey God’s commandment. His was an emotional and soulish response to his wife’s transgression. This point is important because many similar judgements are being made today over issues of doctrine.
The last Adam was a high priest who willingly became sin because of His great love for us. One of the primary differences between the first and last Adam is the allegiance to the Father. A love for God and for His Laws must always take precedence. Which of the 2 Adam’s functions in today’s church? Adam loved his wife, he knew what was right but did not disavow Eve’s act. A true priest will choose to uphold God’s viewpoint. This manner of priest allows his spirit man to govern his soul and make judgments accordingly.
You see the 2 Adams in Ezekiel 44. In the first 14 verses you see the Levites who have a ministry but a ministry that caters to the uncircumcised hearts of the people. This is a reflection of the 1st Adam. In verses 15-31 you have another group of Levite priests known as the sons of Zadok. They make judgements based on what God says. It is a picture of the last Adam. Which of these two groups will prevail in our life?
What about a marriage vow? The Bible is quite clear regarding the taking of vows before God and man regarding marriage. The question is asked of each couple if they willingly take the other to be their spouse. It is a commitment that God honours and it is a commitment that is taken for better or for worse. The union of a man and woman is a powerful entity. This union will be tested; in fact it will come under intense attack. It is a most precious TYPE that God has given in demonstrating the love relationship that Christ has with His bride the church. He does not and has not given up on us.
If Christ exercised the divorce option towards His people like it is exercised in today’s world, where would we be? We now see marriage being redefined in the most perverse of ways. It has been cheapened; not just by same sex marriage laws but by doctrine which introduces escape clauses that are contrary to scripture. The same sex marriage assault is a result, in my opinion, of compromised doctrine. When we whittle down and alter God’s Law even in subtlest of ways, it opens doors. If these doors were closed, if the locks and bars of Nehemiah’s doors around the wall (Neh 3) are in place it gives no room for the enemy.
This chapter on vows helps to give understanding and clarity with regard to the offerings and Feasts as seen in Leviticus. It also helps to clear up many doctrinal issues that challenge the church.
The fame and popularity of Jesus continues to grow. He is once again in a situation where there are so many people and few provisions. There are two qualities of the Lord that I would like to highlight in this account. The first is the thought of compassion. You find the Lord was moved with compassion on a number of occasions in the gospel. Whenever Jesus was moved with compassion you oftentimes would see a related miracle. Here are but a few examples:
Mat 20:34 So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight, and they followed him.
Mar 1:41 And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean.
Jesus was truly moved by the needs of people. He saw them as sheep having no shepherd and went to great lengths to meet the needs in their lives. This requires a putting aside of one’s own comfort and interests. Jesus lived a selfless life which enabled “virtue” and a life giving flow to pour forth out of Him. There is a verse in the Book of Philemon that illustrates this truth:
Phm 1:5 Hearing of thy love and faith, which thou hast toward the Lord Jesus, and toward all saints;
We looked at this verse in an earlier commentary. In 2 Pet 1:5-7 we see the reverse order. Peter writes that we are to build upon the foundation of Faith. (2 Pet 1:5) Then, upon this foundation we are to add several godly attributes or measures of grace such as virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness and then agape love. The foundation must be faith for without it is impossible to please God. Once we have allowed God to develop these attributes in our life we can then flow from a position of “agape love” releasing faith in whatever our ministry endeavour may be. A person who ministers from a position of agape love is always looking after the interests of others. He or she becomes a conduit through which the love of God can flow. This is why you see miracles flowing out of the Lord’s compassionate heart for people. As a church and a people grow in this area, the more miracles one will begin to see.
Jud 1:22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:
Lord, develop within us a heart of compassion so as to make a difference in the lives of people. The second quality that can be seen in Jesus is His heart of thankfulness. In verse 6 he took the few provisions at hand and gave thanks. We can note that the Lord was not overwhelmed at the multitudes of people in light of the small amount of food at hand. His focus was on giving thanks for what they had in hand. I find this truth to be revelatory. What would we do if we were ministering to thousands of people and we see that they are tired and hungry? Naturally, we would like to see them fed and accommodated. What if you have limited resources available in light of the great need? How do you meet that need? Whenever Jesus was in such a place His first focus was on giving thanks for what they had. He did not allow the pressing need to cause Him to panic. He had intimacy with the Father; He had a heart filled with compassion which enabled Him to be an open channel of blessing. He was able to draw from the source of all life, the heavenly Father. This is the result of a deep intimate relationship. We can never understate the need for being thankful. A thankful heart radiates in any situation. How do we approach situations when pressed in an area of need? We do have to pray that God will meet needs but do we take time to take stock of what we have, to give thanks for what we have? Jesus was a model of thankfulness throughout HIs earthly ministry. It is a beautiful model for us. The more I go on in my Christian walk the more aware I am in how God views a thankful person. It is one of the greatest barometers in measuring our intimacy level with God. The more thankful you are the more God will be able to flow through your life. Of course, the reverse of this is true and we have seen this in the wilderness journeys of Israel. (Num 11) We also have seen how an unthankful heart opens the door for backsliding. (Rom 1:21) These qualities of compassion and thankfulness help characterize the successful nature of Christ’s ministry. It provides a deep contrast to today’s “entitlement” mentality. Sadly, this sense of entitlement has entered into the church. The fruits of entitlement produce a self-centred culture which stops up a life releasing flow of faith to meet needs. May we learn from the Lord’s example.
In verses 14-21 the Lord illustrates another teachable moment. He takes advantage of the minor matter of forgetting to take bread. The Lord was able to quickly use this moment to make a profound truth concerning the Pharisees. He makes the statement; “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.” (vs 15) Look, all the disciples were guilty of was forgetting to take some bread and the Lord uses this lapse to illustrate a most important truth. He is not only trying to warn them about matters concerning the Pharisees but I feel He is instructing them in how to discover keys to the kingdom. Profound truths can oftentimes be found in simple day to day illustrations. What is required is a seeking heart. We see this in the kingdom parable of the Pearl of great price.
Mat 13:45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls:
Mat 13:46 Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
If we are proactive in our walk with God, looking for opportunities to see God in every situation He may well reveal precious hidden truths. A simple forgetting of bread presents the Lord an opportunity to warn about the subtle undermining teachings of the Sadducees and Pharisees. When leaven is first put in it is not noticed. After a time the leaven begins to permeate the whole loaf of bread. A subtle or false teaching has a similar trend. It may sound good, have many Biblical aspects to it but taken to length can do great damage. We must have an ability to discern Truth in these last days. What I feel to emphasize though is how the Lord was able to bring forth a teachable moment from a simple everyday occurrence. This is the beauty of the Kingdom of God and the beauty of parables. They speak and say so much in such simplicity. Those who have a tuned ear can catch the message; catch the sense of what the Spirit is speaking. If we do not incline our ear to seek His voice these “Teachable Moments” will pass us by.
The balance of Mark 8 sees Jesus healing a blind man in a unique way. He spit in his eyes. At first his vision was obscure but he could see men as trees walking. Is there a message in this account? The Lord opened His eyes but he did not yet see the big picture. This could well represent the spiritual vision that exists in many churches. We must seek the Lord for His vision for our lives and for our respective churches. Without it we wander aimlessly and without direction. Our purpose is limited and we find our identity not being well defined. The man required a second touch from the Lord resulting in seeing things clearly. (vs 25) More than ever a vision is required to anchor a church and an individual to stand and to know how to progress forward. Let’s believe God for a 2nd touch upon our spiritual eyes that we begin to see things from God’s perspective. It will change our approach in everything we do.
2Ki 6:17 And Elisha prayed, and said, LORD, I pray thee, open his eyes, that he may see. And the LORD opened the eyes of the young man; and he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha.