I hope you are reading your Bible. If you haven’t been, it’s never too late to start! And if you’ve never read through your Bible, you can still do it this year — it really isn’t that hard. If you read four chapters a day, starting today, even with the late start, you’ll still be done well before the end of the year.
If you haven’t started reading your Bible, check out Bible Reading, which I posted back in May of 2014. It has some suggestions for those who are starting out, and one of those suggestions is that you can actually skip some things, at first, if you find them difficult.
That’s fine, for starting out — but this article is about one of those chapters that some people might find difficult, and skip. If you started out with your Bible reading by skipping the harder parts, just be aware that you might miss something good — something like Numbers 15.
Meat, Drink, and Heave Offerings?
At first glance, Numbers 15 is simply another chapter like others in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. The beginning of the chapter describes the meat offering and drink offering that was to be offered when the children of Israel brought their offerings, when they made it to the Promised Land. Later, it talks about the heave offering. What does this have to do with believers in Scotland? Why is Jon writing an entire article about this?
You may have heard that the sacrifices are “types” — divinely planned illustrations of important truths about our Saviour and His work of saving us. But if you don’t already know the details of that, how is all this detail about how the sacrifices were to be offered going to help you? And how is reading this passage going to help anyone except a dedicated student of those things?
If you go read Numbers 15, you’ll see what I mean. This is simply not the kind of passage that people, after a surface reading, are likely to say, “WOW, what a great story! I’m glad I read that! Awesome!” And so, many people might just skip this chapter, and if they do, they might miss something that really is pretty wonderful.
Stepping Back to Numbers 14
Numbers 15 comes immediately after Numbers 14, and Numbers 13-14 is one of the saddest passages in the Bible.
God had brought His people out of Egypt, working many miracles to break the pride and power of Pharaoh, to set them free from bondage. He brought them through the Red Sea, destroying Pharaoh and his army in the process. Throughout their journeys in the wilderness, He had fed them with manna, bread miraculously provided from Heaven. He brought water out of the rocks, if necessary, to provide for their needs.
Now, they had arrived at the Promised Land. They sent spies into the land, who came back with a two-sided report. Yes, they said, it is a wonderful land — but the people who live there are powerful, and we can’t defeat them. They will destroy us, and our wives and children will become slaves.
The people forgot all of God’s miracles in Egypt, the deliverance of the Red Sea, His faithfulness through the wilderness, everything He had done for them. It was all discarded on the rubbish heap of ungrateful forgetfulness, and they turned to unbelief, complaining, and rebellion.
Sin always has consequences, and the consequences this time were severe. God said He would not take them into the land after all. They were going to wander in the wilderness for forty years, until all the adults, all those who had seen His deliverance in Egypt and at the Red Sea (and should have known better), had died. Their children would go into the Promised Land, but they would not.
The people mourned, and then said they would go into the land — but God was not with them, and they were defeated badly in battle. Numbers 14 ends with heartache, despair, a marred relationship between God and His people, and defeat before their enemies. They can’t go into the Promised Land, even when they repented and tried to go at the end of the chapter. The damage had been done.
The Hope of Numbers 15
If we read Numbers 15, right after reading Numbers 14, we see an amazing thing. God has just said to His people that they aren’t going into the land, that they are going to have to wander in the wilderness for forty years — and now, He immediately begins talking about them in the land, speaking of it as an absolute certainty. It is “when,” not “if.”
1 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
2 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye be come into the land of your habitations, which I give unto you,
3 And will make an offering by fire unto the LORD, a burnt offering, or a sacrifice in performing a vow, or in a freewill offering, or in your solemn feasts, to make a sweet savour unto the LORD, of the herd, or of the flock:
If anyone doubted that God’s promises still held, if anyone wondered if the sin had ended His relationship with His people, God slams the door on that kind of thinking. He describes what they will do when they come into the land, He affirms that He will give it to them, and He describes the offering of freewill offerings, indicating a loving relationship between God and His people.
That’s the first word after the tragedy of Kadesh-barnea. He will still bring His people in and give them the land, they will still make offerings simply because they choose to out of love for their God — there is going to be restoration!
And that’s not all:
13 All that are born of the country shall do these things after this manner, in offering an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD.
14 And if a stranger sojourn with you, or whosoever be among you in your generations, and will offer an offering made by fire, of a sweet savour unto the LORD; as ye do, so he shall do.
15 One ordinance shall be both for you of the congregation, and also for the stranger that sojourneth with you, an ordinance for ever in your generations: as ye are, so shall the stranger be before the LORD.
16 One law and one manner shall be for you, and for the stranger that sojourneth with you.
They are going to have children in the land (verse 13). Foreigners will come and live peaceably among them, and with them honour their God.
18 Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When ye come into the land whither I bring you,
19 Then it shall be, that, when ye eat of the bread of the land, ye shall offer up an heave offering unto the LORD.
The spies had just told them of the wonderful crops of the Promised Land, and brought them an enormous cluster of grapes to show it. God tells them, “Those crops, that land and its produce, they are going to be yours!”
The chapter closes out with the rather sad story of a man who had willfully broken God’s law, and had to be put to death. You would think that wouldn’t happen right after Kadesh-Barnea, but such is the sinful nature of humanity.
But even in that context, Numbers 15 closes with this wonderful statement.
I am the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the LORD your God.
I hope you are reading your Bible, even if you are skipping some of the chapters like this one. But I hope, if you have been reading your Bible for a while, and have been skipping this kind of chapter, that you start to read some of them. You never know what you might find — but God knows what He’s put in there for you.