Worship and Dedication
(Numbers 7 & 8)
Introduction: This week we turn to the process for equipping God's sanctuary. How does God want to obtain the equipment for His work? How does He want to obtain the workers? If support comes from offerings? Should everyone give the same gift? Can anyone be too old to work for God? Let's plunge into our study of Numbers and learn some more about God's instructions on these issues!
- Read Numbers 7:1-2. Focus on the picture: God's tabernacle is erected, furnished and even has all of its utensils in place. The head of the families made offerings that made this possible. We are always interested in God's view of offerings. Did every person make an offering? (It says the tribal leaders made them.)
- Why not require everyone to make an offering?
- Read Numbers 7:3. What do you think about these offerings? Did every tribal leader examine his heart and decide what he would give? (No. This is a co-ordinated effort. No doubt Moses told them what was needed and they gave it.)
- Have you ever done this before: given what was needed as opposed to giving money in general?
- Which approach do you think would be more productive? (I understand people give more for projects. They can see what they are giving for and they feel more involved.)
- Read Numbers 7:4-8. On what basis were the carts and oxen distributed? ("As each man's work requires.")
- Is that how we distribute the offerings in our church today?
- In my conference, they look at the church membership, the attendance, the tithe and they come up with a formula to determine how many pastors your church should have. Does that reflect what "each man's work requires?"
- What if church leaders just looked around and asked: "Where is God's work best progressing? What is producing results? We will put the money there." Would that be consistent with what is going on in Numbers?
- Read Numbers 7:10-11. This is a dedication offering. One leader brings his dedication offering each day for twelve days. Is this just an offering, or is this a ceremony?
- Should we make our offerings into ceremonies?
- We tend to try to minimize our offerings. Some churches have an offering box at the back and never call for an offering. Should we sometimes focus on the offering?
- Read Numbers 7:12-17. We won't read the next eleven days of gifts because they are all the same. My wife's birthday is coming up soon. I like this idea of knowing exactly what the offering should be! Unfortunately, I'm left with very little guidance. What should we conclude from the fact that everyone gave the same thing?
- If you scan over Numbers 2, you will see that some divisions/tribes were five times larger than others. Is this God's view that everyone should give the same amount regardless of ability to pay? (This is not the entire picture we find in the Bible. The tithe ( Leviticus 27:30-32) was based on "income," it was not a set amount each person paid. It increased with increased income.)
- Do you think the ceremonial aspect of this offering has something to do with the amount of this offering? (Yes. Read Numbers 7:84. These are the plates and bowels for the tabernacle. They needed twelve identical sets. Every tribe had an equal share in the worship service. I doubt this offering strained the resources of even the smallest division of the people.)
- Is this how our offerings are normally viewed: as an opportunity to be involved in the work? (The overriding theme here is that the people gave offerings that they could see were part of the worship system. Every tribe was a part of this.)
- God's Voice
- Read Numbers 7:89. When we studied Genesis we thought it was great that Adam and Eve got to speak face to face with God. When we studied Acts, we thought it was great that the Holy Spirit was so obviously involved in the work. Whose idea was it for this meeting between God and Moses? (It says Moses intended to speak with God.)
- Moses is the leader. He is one of perhaps a million Israelites. What does this teach us about God speaking to us? Is it like winning the lottery? We have to be a Moses - one in a million?
- Read Hebrews 4:14-16. What does that suggest about our ability to approach God? What does it suggest about our ability to speak with God? (We can approach God "with confidence." The text says nothing specific about actually talking with God, but it indicates that if we come to God we will "find grace to help us in our time of need." Some communication is going on because we are promised results!)
- Numbers 8:5-22 describes the dedication of the Levites to the work of the tabernacle. I want to focus on just a small part of God's instructions. Read Numbers 8:23-26. What does this say is God's view of retirement?
- Read Luke 12:16-20. What does this suggest is God's view of retirement?
- Do we know this man's age? (No.)
- What do we know about his general wealth? (He was so wealthy he did not know where to store his most recent crop.)
- Why did the man retire? (He did not retire because of age, he retired because of his wealth - he did not need to work.)
- Read Luke 12:21. What does Jesus say is the problem with this man? (He focused on himself rather than God. He focused on his pleasures rather than God's will - at a time when he could still work.)
- I've often heard it said that the Bible says nothing about retirement. (I hear this from people who are saying silence means we should not retire.) They add that, if anything, Luke 12:18-20 says something negative about retirement. My own plan is to never retire as long as I can still work. However, I never previously noticed Numbers 8:25. Can you reconcile it with Luke 12? (If you look carefully at Luke 12, it does not provide specific counsel on age and work. Although many people become wealthy enough in their later years to stop working, Luke 12 addresses money and work.)
- Let's get back to Numbers 8:25-26. The text says "must retire" and "work no longer" but it also says "may assist their brothers in performing their duties." If you "must retire" what is this "may assist their brothers" part? Can you reconcile those two instructions? (A number of commentaries suggest that at fifty the Levites went from "regular service" to an advisory role. They were giving instruction and advice.)
- Read Deuteronomy 31:1-2. At what age did Moses retire? (120 years.)
- Why such a disparity with the Levites? Moses served more than twice as long as the Levites!
- What rule should we find in these texts about retirement? (It is not wrong to retire from regular work at a certain age. However, God can continue to use us in His work for our entire life.)
- Friend, our study this week lends support to the idea that God has different approaches to offerings and different approaches to personal service. In some situations God desires one thing and in another He wants something else. Will you be flexible and open to God's will for your service?
- Next week: Trumpets, Blood, Cloud and Fire.