Sunday, February 25, 2007

Matt's Messages - Offerings

Life in the Wilderness
February 25, 2007
Numbers 7:1-89

There are just 89 short verses this morning in Numbers chapter 7! This is the longest chapter of the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible) with 89 verses. Don’t worry, I’m not going to read all of them.

Numbers 7 is another one of those chapters that you’ve never heard a sermon on and probably never will again! In fact, it’s one of those chapters where when you come to it, your eyes have a tendency to roll into the back of your head and you lose concentration. This is one of the “counting sheep” kind of chapters, good to read before going to bed to cure insomnia.

But this is God’s Holy Word! Upon closer inspection, this chapter tells quite a story!

It’s a story about “Offerings.” Giving. Worship in giving. And there are principles here that carry all the way into the New Testament about how the people of God are to give to God.

We’re going to get into the details this morning, and then I’m going to draw out 5 implications for our giving today.

“When Moses finished setting up the tabernacle, he anointed it and consecrated it and all its furnishings. He also anointed and consecrated the altar and all its utensils. Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of families who were the tribal leaders in charge of those who were counted, made offerings.”

Now, this part is actually a flashback.

So far in the book of Numbers, we’ve watched as the people of Israel were mustered, numbered, organized, structured, purified, consecrated, and (last week) blessed.

They are getting ready to march towards the Promised Land for conquest. It probably seems like it’s taking forever to get there. But there was a lot to prepare! And we have a least one more week after this one before they get on the road!

Well, you needed to know some of that stuff to make sense of this stuff, but chronologically, this takes place a month before the rest of what we’ve read.

This is associated with the dedication of the tabernacle, and specifically, the dedication of the altar which happened in Exodus chapter 40.

This chapter is about the offerings that were made to accompany the dedication.

Verse 2 says that the leaders of Israel, the tribal-family-heads made offerings. V.3

“They brought as their gifts before the LORD six covered carts and twelve oxen–an ox from each leader and a cart from every two. These they presented before the tabernacle. The LORD said to Moses, ‘Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work at the Tent of Meeting. Give them to the Levites as each man's work requires.’ [Remember the Levites from chapters 3 and 4? Remember what their work was? Taking care of the mobile Tent of Meeting. These carts will work great for them! V.6] So Moses took the carts and oxen and gave them to the Levites. He gave two carts and four oxen to the Gershonites, as their work required [What did they do? Chapter 4:21-28 said that they carried the tabernacle curtains. v.8], and he gave four carts and eight oxen to the Merarites, as their work required [What did they do? Chapter 4:29-33 said that they carried the frames and the big super structure of the tabernacle–so that’s why they need twice as many. v.8]. They were all under the direction of Ithamar son of Aaron, the priest. But Moses did not give any to the Kohathites, because they were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible.”

Remember that? No carts for them. They had the holy things that were inside of the tabernacle to care for and they had to carry them on poles on their shoulders. No carts or oxen would do.

But that’s not all that was given. V.10

“When the altar was anointed, the leaders brought their offerings for its dedication and presented them before the altar. For the LORD had said to Moses, ‘Each day one leader is to bring his offering for the dedication of the altar.’”

How many days will that be, then?

Twelve. Twelve successive days of a special offering. One for each tribe.

Day One: Judah. V.12

“The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nahshon son of Amminadab of the tribe of Judah. His offering was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Nahshon son of Amminadab.”

Now, we were introduced to Nahshon son of Amminadab back in chapter 1. He was the leader of the tribe of Judah. And he brought, on Judah’s behalf, all of these offerings. They were expensive, extensive, and expressive (to use a phrase from a couple of weeks ago).

These offerings were obviously to be used in the service of the tabernacle. The plate, bowl, flour & oil, gold dish, bulls, rams, and lambs were all for sacrifices. Four different kinds of sacrifices are listed here: grain, burnt, sin, and fellowship sacrifices.

Nahshon brought these forward on day number one.

Day number two of this dedication. Verse 18.

“On the second day Nethanel son of Zuar, the leader of Issachar, brought his offering. The offering he brought was one silver plate weighing a hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver sprinkling bowl weighing seventy shekels, both according to the sanctuary shekel, each filled with fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; one gold dish weighing ten shekels, filled with incense; one young bull, one ram and one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and two oxen, five rams, five male goats and five male lambs a year old, to be sacrificed as a fellowship offering. This was the offering of Nethanel son of Zuar.”

Does that sound vaguely familiar to you?

We were introduced to Nethanel son of Zuar back in chapter 1. He is the leader of the tribe of Isaachar.

What did he bring on day 2? The exact same thing as Judah did on day 1.

And the same thing happens 10 more times in 10 more days.

24-29 Eliab son of Helon, same offerings.
30-35 Elizur son of Shedeur, same offerings.
36-41 Shelumiel son of Zurishaddai, same offerings
42-47 Eliasaph son of Deuel, same offerings
48-53 Elishama son of Ammihud, same offerings
54-59 Gamaliel son of Pedahzur, same offerings
60-65 Abidan son of Gideoni, same offerings
66-71 Ahiezer son of Ammishaddai, same offerings
72-77 Pagiel son of Ocran, same offerings
78-83 Ahira son of Enan, day number 12, tribe of Naphtali, exact same offerings as the last 11 days.

Why did God make sure that all of this got recorded in His Holy Word?

We’re going to talk about that. Verse 84 has the total round up.

“These were the offerings of the Israelite leaders for the dedication of the altar when it was anointed: twelve silver plates, twelve silver sprinkling bowls and twelve gold dishes. [Are you catching a key number?] Each silver plate weighed a hundred and thirty shekels, and each sprinkling bowl seventy shekels. Altogether, the silver dishes weighed two thousand four hundred shekels, according to the sanctuary shekel [that’s 12 times 130 plus 12 times 70]. The twelve gold dishes filled with incense weighed ten shekels each, according to the sanctuary shekel. Altogether, the gold dishes weighed a hundred and twenty shekels. [That’s 12 times 10.] The total number of animals for the burnt offering came to twelve young bulls, twelve rams and twelve male lambs a year old, together with their grain offering. Twelve male goats were used for the sin offering. The total number of animals for the sacrifice of the fellowship offering came to twenty-four oxen [12 times 2], sixty rams [12 times 5], sixty male goats [12 times 5] and sixty male lambs a year old [12 times 5]. These were the offerings for the dedication of the altar after it was anointed.

Anybody catch the key number?

Twelve days, twelve tribes, twelve exact same offerings.

Offered in the same order that they camp around the tabernacle East, South, West, and North, and then set off to march.

And this is the end of the matter, verse 89, when all is said done:

“When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony. And he spoke with him.”

Now, we’ve seen the details. What does all of this mean for us in 2007?

This chapter was about these tribes, through their leaders, giving offerings. And I think there are at least 5 things for us to think about here and apply to our lives:


As I was working my way through the details of this passage this week, I suddenly had this question pop into my mind: “Where did they get all of these things? Gold, silver, and so forth?”

What’s the answer to that? Egypt.

Israel was in slavery in Egypt and didn’t have lot of nice stuff.

But when God did the Red Sea Rescue in the book of Exodus, He made the Egyptians give their best to the Israelites when they begged them to leave (Exodus 12)!

They had these things to give because God had given them to them in the first place.

It is no accident that this section on offerings comes right after last week’s section blessing!

The LORD bless you and keep you.
The LORD make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The LORD turn His face toward you and give you peace.

We give because the LORD has first given to us.

Some people have the idea that the offering plate is a way of earning your relationship with God.

Give a little, get a little. It’s payment time for earning God’s favor.

“God has to bless me now because I’ve given to Him!”

No! When the offering plate comes around, we give because God first gave to us.

He doesn’t need our money.
He isn’t impressed by our money.
He isn’t bribed by our money.
He isn’t blackmailed by our money.

It’s not our money!

It’s His money. And He graciously gave it to us in the first place to take care of.

And when the plate goes by, we get the chance to give back in worship a portion of what He’s given us.

What has God given you? It’s from that that He calls us to give.


Look again at verse 5.

“The LORD said to Moses, ‘Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work at the Tent of Meeting. Give them to the Levites as each man's work requires.’”

The Levites belonged in a special way to God (we’ll see that again next week). And their work was the LORD’s work. So it was funded the LORD’s way–by the giving of the LORD’s people.

Now, today, we don’t have the tabernacle and the levitical priesthood.

I am not a priest any more than any of you are. We are all priests in the New Covenant.

And this building is not sacred like the tabernacle was.

Now, we are all temples of the living God.

But the LORD’s work still requires funding. And He still funds it the same way–through the giving of the LORD’s people.

So when the offering plate comes by, the money is to be used to further the work of the LORD.

That can take a lot of different forms: compassion giving to people in need, salaries of ministry staff like myself, building upkeep for the ministry programs we have here including this Sunday morning worship gathering, missions, etc.

But all of it should be used to further the work of the LORD which in this age is the planting, growth, and development of gospel-centered churches that are making gospel-centered disciples of Jesus Christ.

And that’s what we believe 100% of our budget here should go to.

So when the plate goes by, we give for the LORD’s work.


Now, this one was a little harder to see, but where does it say what and how much these tribes were each supposed to bring?

It doesn’t, does it? In verse 11, the LORD tells them to take it 1 day at time for 12 days. But He doesn’t say what or how much.

I’m not sure how they decided what or how much to bring. Perhaps Nahshon and the tribe of Judah set the standard and everybody just followed suit. I don’t know.

But I think it points to the idea that they gave willingly, voluntarily, on their own.

They definitely seem happy to give, don’t they?

One major emphasis in giving in the New Testament is on giving cheerfully.

Giving is not a tax. It’s gift! It’s something you’re happy to do.

You give out of the overflow of you heart, not just because you ought (even though you are commanded to do so. God does command giving–in fact, He command cheerful giving!).

Here’s one reason why I think that this chapter goes on and on and on.

I think this was a big-time, joyful, celebrative, festive occasion.

The altar was being dedicated. And all twelve tribes were going to have a happy part in dedicating it.

Each and every day for twelve days in a row, it was time for another tribal leader to step forward and joyfully volunteer the resources that God had placed in their hands back into God’s hands for God’s work.

We give voluntarily out of our hearts.

Do you give cheerfully?

As we noted earlier in the service, we have been experiencing a budget shortfall here at church. For the last several months, our offerings have not covered the expenses that our church family has approved for the 2007 budget. We told the members about that at our last meeting, and as a Leadership Board, we’ve been trying to address that problem.

One of the ways that we’ve addressed it is to freeze all what we’re calling “non-essential” spending.

Another is to make the need known to you and to give some biblical teaching on the subject of giving. Isn’t it interesting how God arranged for this passage to show up right now in the life our church? I think that’s cool!

But in making the need known and teaching on it, we don’t want anyone to give out of sense of guilt and mere obligation.

Instead, we want all of us to give voluntarily from the heart.

Cheerfully, because we know that God has given it to us in the first place.
Cheerfully, because we know that God loves a cheerful giver.
And cheerfully, because we know that we’re being used by God for the furtherance of His kingdom when we give.

We give voluntarily out of our hearts.

And along with that #4. WE GIVE TOGETHER IN HARMONY.

Here’s why I think all twelve tribes gave the exact same offerings.

Because they were equally together giving as God’s people.

The bigger tribes didn’t try to outdo the smaller tribes.
The smaller tribes didn’t think they were second fiddle.

The richer tribes didn’t try to impress everyone else with what they gave.
The poorer tribes didn’t try to give more than they could so that they would seem more spiritual.

They were all together equally responsible for the dedication of the altar and the work of the Levites.

Everyone had a part to play. They all worked together in harmony.

Which is a picture of what the church should be.

Not that we all give the same amount. We give, for the most part, privately so that there aren’t comparisons made.

But we all give; and we all give to the same cause; and each little bit that each of us gives adds up together to accomplish a lot!

We give together in harmony.

I don’t know who gives what here at church. I don’t want to know, and I will never know.

But My guess is that some of you give a lot and you really don’t have much more to give.

And probably some of you give some and might be led to give more. You might need some adjusting to your financial priorities.

And I’m guessing that some of you probably give very little and need to be challenged to grow in the grace of giving.

Let me recommend a couple of resources on that. I highly recommend two books by Randy Alcorn. One is The Treasure Principle which Blair mentioned last week and that several of us read as a Summer Book Club book a few years ago. And the other is a follow-up to that called, The Law of Rewards which is biblical teaching on how our giving goes ahead of us and our treasures get stored up where moth and rust do not destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal. Both of these are very good and helpful for thinking through our giving habits.

Heather and I have recently decided to make a change in our giving, too.

One of the commitments we’ve made to give towards for the last several years is now over, and we have an extra amount of money that we need to figure out where to send.

And we’ve decided to give that money each month for the rest of this year to the church.

We give to the church already, but this will be over and above what we normally give to the church (a new commitment) because we want to be giving together in harmony with all of you–and defeating this budget shortfall and helping pay down our indebtedness.

I’m hoping that we will all give together (on whatever level we are each led) in harmony because that’s the way the church is supposed to be.

12, 12, 12, 12, 12.

We give together in harmony.


We can’t forget verse 89.

It’s not just tacked on to the end and sits there by itself. It’s the culmination of this chapter.

“When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the LORD, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony. And he spoke with him.”

That’s relationship!

That’s a relationship with God!

Because of the altar that was dedicated those twelve days and the sacrifices that were sacrificed on it, Moses could enter into the Tent of Meeting and approach God and talk with Him.

A Holy God enthroned at the center of a Holy Camp between the two cherubim above the atonement cover (the mercy seat) on the ark of the Testimony–a His throne!

And Moses could talk with Him there.

Did their offerings earn that?

No way. But God made it possible through their offerings for them to know Him in relationship/fellowship.

And that made their offerings all the more worth it!

Now think about this.

What they had was a just a shadow of what we have because of Jesus!

We don’t need any Moses now to mediate for us. There is now one mediator between God and man–the man Christ Jesus!

We don’t need an altar for sacrifices. Jesus is the fulfillment of all of the sacrifices.

We don’t even need a tabernacle. God became flesh and tabernacled among us in Jesus.

They had a shadow. We have the real thing–Jesus.

How much more should we give, we who know Jesus through the New Covenant in His blood than those who gave so richly under the Old Covenant?

You may have been taught that tithing is the biblical thing to do. Give the first 10% of your income to the Lord. That seems to be the biblical pattern in the Old Testament.

How about in the New?

Well, in the New tithing was done poorly by the Pharisees who tried to make it a legalistic thing.

And Jesus had harsh words for them, but He didn’t say that tithing itself was bad.

I think that tithing was a good law in the Old Testament, and it’s a good place to start in the New Testament.

But we have a fellowship with God through Jesus that is beyond anything that they knew in the Old Testament. We have grace in abundance.

I think that more grace means more giving for God’s people.

Randy Alcorn suggests that we think about 10% as the floor, not the ceiling for New Covenant Christ Followers. And I think that’s right. For years now, Heather and I have worked at increasing our giving, not just in total dollars, but in percentage of our income. And I recommend that for you to consider, as well.

Israel only had the shadow. We have the real thing in Jesus.

If we belong to Jesus.

Do you belong to Jesus?

We give out of fellowship with God.

If you don’t have a relationship with God by trusting in Jesus Christ alone, you can’t really give in the right way.

In fact, you probably don’t want to give. You probably think that church is all about getting your money.

But Jesus Christ died on the Cross to pay the penalty for the sins of all who believe in Him.

And if you trust Him for salvation, your priorities about your things, you stuff, will change.

If you don’t belong to Jesus yet, please don’t give to the church. Instead, get right with God through Jesus, trusting in what He did on the Cross for you. And He’ll change your pocketbook priorities for you.

We Give Because God First Gave to Us
In Jesus. And everything we have comes from Him.

We Give for the Lord’s Work
Everything we give goes to the furtherance of the Mission.

We Give Voluntarily out of Our Hearts
God loves a cheerful giver.)

We Give Together in Harmony
Each person doing their part. No one standing out. No one getting the glory except for Jesus.

We Give out of Fellowship with God.
They only had the shadow. We have the real deal–Jesus Christ.

We give our offerings to Him.


Very good word spoken. I can see that you're heart has taken the right steps in giving to God. I don't believe in a tithe minimum, but i agree with most of your points. I do think that sacrificial, cheerful giving is commanded and if we all did that one thing, then we wouldn't have to worry about what the minimum is. One thing that would be interesting to study is why the Israelites didn't give tithes in the wilderness and how this relates to us NT believers waiting to cross our Jordan.


Thanks for dropping by.

I'm not saying that a tithe would be a minimum as some kind of a law, but as a kind of benchmark for the start of sacrificial, cheerful giving. So, we may not be disagreeing.

I think that Matthew 23:23 gives Jesus' main thoughts on the matter of tithing.