Studies in Numbers, I Faithfulness, B The Centrality, 2 The Contributions, Text: 7:1-8:4

Studies in Numbers, I Faithfulness, B The Centrality, 2 The Contributions, Text: 7:1-8:4


The occasion is the dedication of the completed tabernacle when  offerings were made for its operation. In Exodus 35:20-29 we have an account of the offerings brought willingly by the people for the building of the tabernacle, And all the congregation of the children of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. Then everyone came whose heart was stirred, and everyone whose spirit was willing, and they brought the Lord's offering for the work of the tabernacle of meeting, for all its service, and for the holy garments. They came, both men and women, as many as had a willing heart, and brought earrings and nose rings, rings and necklaces, all jewelry of gold, that is, every man who made an offering of gold to the LORD. And every man, with whom was found blue, purple, and scarlet thread, fine linen, and goats' hair, red skins of rams, and badger skins, brought them. Everyone who offered an offering of silver or bronze brought the Lord's offering. And everyone with whom was found acacia wood for any work of the service, brought it. All the women who were gifted artisans spun yarn with their hands, and brought what they had spun, of blue , purple, and scarlet, and fine linen. And all the women whose heart stirred with wisdom spun yarn of goats' hair. The rulers brought onyx stones, and the stones to be set in the ephod and in the breastplate, and spices and oil for the light, for the anointing oil, and for the sweet incense. The children of Israel brought a freewill offering to the LORD, all the men and women whose hearts were willing to bring material for all kinds of work which the LORD, by the hand of Moses, had commanded to be done. Now the tabernacle is finished and is about to be dedicated, and offerings are again needed, this time, for the work of the tabernacle. This is all about the dedication. We read in verses 1-9, 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. 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.” 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, and he gave four carts and eight oxen to the Merarites, as their work required. 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. Thus the gifts of oxen and carts  are distributed according to the difficulty of the tasks assigned to the different families of Levites. They are for the conveyance of the tabernacle. Next we have the offerings from the different tribes which are for the actual service of the tabernacle. Now as we consider this dedication and the gifts we consider the contributions, the consecration. and the commencement.


There is a great deal of repetition in this chapter and for that reason we will only read those parts that are necessary. Thus is the longest chapter in the Pentateuch. The offerings brought by the different tribes are all identical and so we read only the first and then the summary of all the offerings in verses 12-17, and 84-88, 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...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. 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. 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. 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, sixty rams, sixty male goats and sixty male lambs a year old. These were the offerings for the dedication of the altar after it was anointed. We observe that these offerings were the same, they were splendid, and they were sacred.


12 tribes bringing their gifts on 12 separate days in rotation and every tribe contributed the same things for service and sacrifice. Though it is not mentioned there must have been some understanding of what the needs were. In other words no one tribe excelled another in giving, even though it is virtually impossible that all their resources were the same. My college holds annual alumni giving campaigns like many other institutions. At the conclusion they list the individual donors, and they even have various classes of donors. A hypothetical illustration would be all the people who gave a $100 or more, and all the people who gave a $1000 or more and so on. In the tabernacle no one tribe could claim to have given more. There was no pride or conceit possible. Thus there was observed the wisdom of God in  Christ when Jesus said in Matthew 6:3 & 4, But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. The college also asks the various graduating classes to compete. The tribes could not do that either. All the focus was on giving to the Lord.


One must remember that these people were in the wilderness of Sinai and not in Babylon or Persia. Resources were limited, and yet they brought things of great value. It is appropriate to bring splendid offerings to our God. As I write this it is  Christmas time again. The people I admire are those who give more to the Lord than they spend on their children’s presents. Profligate spending on kids is very common at this time of year. This happens often because we have forgotten Jesus words in Matthew 6:33, Seek ye first the kingdom of God and all these things will be added unto you. In the end if we do not put God first then it is good neither for us or for our children.


The dedication of the tabernacle is a very sacred occasion and the sacredness of it is demonstrated in two things. First the offerings were brought on 12 consecutive days. If you stop and think, you realize that somewhere in 12 consecutive days there has to be a weekly sabbath. As  restrictive as the rules for the sabbath were, no allowance is made for it because this is holy work, suitable for the sabbath. In the second place, each day that the gifts were brought there followed a series of sacrifices of the bulls, and rams, and lambs, and goat. That is why so much time is allotted for each tribe to present their gifts.Thus the sacredness of the dedication could be fully appreciated.


In the consecration of the tabernacle they were doing what we can never do, that is, setting apart God’s dwelling. In some sense, God who does not dwell in temples made with hands is there in  the tabernacle in the same way he was present in the incarnation of our Lord who “tabernacled” among us. That is what it says in John 1:14. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. Literally, he “tented” or “tabernacled” among us. In 7:1 we read, 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. Throughout the Mosaic institutions directly given by God everything that has anything to do with worship is set apart by anointing. Anointing in this fashion binds whatever is anointed to the exclusive service of God. It cannot and must not be used for any other purpose. To this end not only inanimate objects but people, priests and kings for example, are anointed for service. Modern church dedications are quite different. We set  buildings and people apart for service to God but we all know that church buildings get used for a variety of purposes. Many modern churches are built with school rooms, and gymnasiums or all-purpose rooms. The can be used as polling places, for blood drives, for square dances, graduation ceremonies, and a vast variety of meetings for self-help, exercise or discussion. None of this was true of the tabernacle or the temple  which followed. They were anointed exclusively for God and His worship.


In 7:89 and 8:1-4 we have the commencement of the worship of the Lord in the tabernacle, 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...The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and say to him, ‘When you set up the seven lamps, they are to light the area in front of the lampstand.’ ” Aaron did so; he set up the lamps so that they faced forward on the lampstand, just as the Lord commanded Moses. This is how the lampstand was made: It was made of hammered gold—from its base to its blossoms. The lampstand was made exactly like the pattern the Lord had shown Moses. Exodus 27:20 might seem to imply that the candelabrum was to be kept burning by day as well as by night. but the words there mean day after day in perpetuity as long as the tabernacle or temple stood. It is clear from Leviticus 24:1-3, The Lord said to Moses, “Command the Israelites to bring you clear oil of pressed olives for the light so that the lamps may be kept burning continually. Outside the curtain that shields the ark of the covenant law in the tent of meeting, Aaron is to tend the lamps before the Lord from evening till morning, continually. This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. The lamps were lit when no daylight could be accessed through opening the outer curtain. We know from 1 Samuel 3:3 that the Divine voice was heard by the child-prophet, Samuel, when Eli was laid down in his place, “and the lamp of God was not yet gone out” in the temple where the ark of God was. The candelabra was a powerful symbol but it was intended to be a practical device to enable the priestly ministrations after dark. In other words the tabernacle could not be used until the lamps were lit and thus the services of the dedicated and consecrated tabernacle were begun. I remember once when we were building a new church we had a lengthy discussion of the lighting. It became kind of a joke with our trustees because the lighting in the church catalogs was prohibitively expensive. It was all in "ecclesiastical" catalogs. As a result someone said we should look for something that resembled “ecclesiastical” lighting. We did and in the end we had to supplement the lighting with  more practical measures. The light-stand in the tabernacle was extremely beautiful and valuable, but it was also intensely practical like all of God’s works. We should worship God in beauty but more importantly in the “Beauty of Hoiiness.”