Numbers 28
Pulpit Commentary Homiletics

I. THE PROPRIETY OF THE DAILY OFFERING. All the offerings were to be made in their due season, and every day that passed over the head of the Israelite people was a due season to make offerings to Jehovah in connection with the daily manifestations of his goodness. As what might be called the ordinary and common gifts of God came day by day, so it was appropriate for Israel to make ordinary and common offerings day by day. We must remind ourselves continually of the unfailing goodness of God. Whatever the special mercies in each individual life, there are certain great common mercies for us all, always something, in acknowledging which every one can join. We know that to God the mere offering was nothing, apart from the state of mind in which it was made. God gave the form, and it was required of the people that they should fill it with the spirit of acceptance, appreciation, and gratitude. We have, indeed, no command for daily offering now, no stipulation of times and seasons; but how shall we utter the petition, "Give us this day our daily bread," unless we feel that the bread is a daily gift? This one petition implies that petition, and therefore all the constituents of prayer, must belong to our life every day. There must be the feeling that although the actual production of the bread is spread over a long time, we have to take it in daily portions; and our physical constitution is in itself the witness to the daily duty of making an offering to God in return. We can store up grain for months, for the seven years of famine if need be, but we cannot store up thus the strength of our own bodies. Man is not a hibernating animal. "Give us this day our daily bread" implies daily strength to work for it, daily power within to assimilate it when eaten. And since spiritual supplies and strength are meant to be received in like fashion, an acknowledgment of these should be a principal thing in our daily offering. Considerations drawn from the thought of God's daily gifts, both for natural life and spiritual life, should be beautifully blended in our daily approaches to him. Notice that these daily offerings were appropriately mentioned here at a time when the camp relation (chapter 2) was about to be dissolved. Israel was soon to be distributed, not only from Dan to Beersheba, but on both sides of Jordan. Hence the daily offering would be very serviceable in helping to manifest the unity of the people, and to preserve the feeling of it. It was also especially needful to be reminded of this national duty of daily offering after the humiliating apostasy to idols while Israel abode in Shittim (chapter 25). The only guarantee against the soul lapsing into idolatrous offerings is to be continually engaging in hearty and intelligent offerings to God.

II. IT MUST BE A MORNING AND EVENING OFFERING. To make a daily offering was not enough. Israel was not left to its own will as to the time of day for the offering. The sustaining of life is indeed going on all day long, by the secret and unfailing power of God, and the recognition of this power is always meet at any hour of day or night. But the day has its own peculiar blessings, and also the night, and they are to be made special in our thoughts, as they are made special in our experience. The dawn and the twilight bring each their own associations. In the morning we look back on the rest, the sleep, and the protection of the night, and forward into the work, the duties, the burdens, and the needs of the day. Similarly evening will have its appropriate retrospect and anticipation. That is no true thanksgiving which does not discriminate, marking the difference between thanksgivings which may be offered at any hour, and those which are peculiar to the morning and evening. The very recollection of the gradual regular changes in the time of sunrise and sunset should impart an ever-freshening sense of the faithfulness of God, and of how orderly and exact all his arrangements are.

III. THE CONSTITUENTS OF THE OFFERING. The lambs, the flour, the oil, the wine. These were parts of the actual product of Israelite industry. In presenting the lamb there was the thought that Israel had shepherded it, had watched over the little creature from the day of its birth, and taken all care to obtain the unblemished yearling for the burnt offering. All the shepherd's thoughtfulness, vigilance, and courage are represented in the offering. And mark, these, not as the qualities of one man, but of all Israel. The service of the particular man is merged in the shepherd-service of Israel as a whole. So with the offering of the flour; in it there is the work of the ploughman, the sower, the reaper, the miller. The oil is there because the labour of the olive has not failed, and the wine because men have obeyed the command, "Go work today in my vineyard." In presenting so much of the result of its work, Israel was thereby presenting part of the work itself. But these offerings were not only the result of work, they were also the sustenance of Israel, and the preparation for future work. The lambs, the flour, the oil, the wine were taken out of the present food store of Israel. The Israelites were therefore presenting part of their own life. If these things had not been taken for offerings they would soon have entered into the physical constitution of the people. The acceptability of the offering lay to a great extent in this, that it was from Israel's daily ordinary food. There would have been no propriety in making an offering from occasional luxuries. The significance of the unblemished lamb thus becomes obvious. The lamb for God was to be unblemished; but surely this was a hint that all the food of Israel was to be unblemished, as far as this could be attained. The presumption was that if Israel would only give due attention, there would be much of the unblemished and the satisfying in all the products of the soil. We are largely what we eat, and unblemished nutriment tends to produce unblemished life. The constituents of this offering further remind us of the great demand on us as Christians. It is the weighty and frequent admonition of Paul that we are to present our bodies to God as a living sacrifice. The offering is no longer one of dead animals, grain, &c., mere constituents of the body, and still outside of it. We are to offer the body itself, made holy and acceptable to God. We must so live then, we must so eat and drink, we must so order habit and conduct, that all the streams from the outside world which flow into us may contribute to the health, purity, and effective service of the whole man. Let everything be tested according to its ability to make us better Christians, and therefore better men. In relation to this great offering which is asked from us, let us ponder earnestly these typical offerings of ancient Israel, and set ourselves to fulfill the law connected with them. Here almost more than anywhere else let it be true of us that we are advancing

"From shadowy types to truth, from flesh to spirit,
From imposition of strict laws to free
Acceptance of large grace, from servile fear
To filial, works of law to works of faith."
Let life be an offering to God, and it will be hallowed, beautified, and glorified as it cannot otherwise be. - Y.

In verses 1 and 2 we have a general statement respecting offerings to God, reminding us

(1) of the paramount claims of God (note repetition of "my" and "me"), and

(2) the promptness and punctuality needed in meeting those claims ("in their due season"). Then follow directions as to the most frequent of these offerings - the daily burnt offering, which suggests lessons derived from -



I. It consisted of two parts:

(1) a lamb, a bleeding sacrifice;

(2) a meat and drink offering, flour, &c., bloodless; but the whole was to be burned before God.

We see here -

1. Expiation. This we need every morning, for we awake and leave our beds sinful, and requiring an atonement that we may be able to present acceptable service during the day. And we need it every evening that daily sins may be forgiven, and that we may rest at peace with God, "clean every whir" (John 13:10).

2. Dedication. In the burnt offering, as distinguished from the trespass offering, expiation by blood-shedding is taken for granted, but the burning, as the symbol of entire surrender to God, is the culminating point. The various parts of the burnt offering may be regarded as typical of our surrender to God of all the varied powers and gifts he has bestowed. (Illustrate from Romans 12) As Christ presented himself in complete sacrifice to God, so should we (Ephesians 5:2, &c.).

II. "A continual burnt offering" (verse 3). So constant must the Christian's self-surrender be. With each morning comes the summons "Sursum corda," and the appeal, Romans 12:1. Evening brings rest from earthly toil, but no cessation from a renewed, continual dedication to God. We should desire no exemption from this continual offering of ourselves when we remember the motives to it.

1. We ourselves and all we have are God's.

2. We have enjoyed expiation through the perfect sacrifice of Christ. The law of the daily offering is urged because "ordained in Mount Sinai" (verse 6). The law of Christian self-sacrifice was published by deed, and not by word, at Calvary (1 Peter 2:24; 1 Peter 3:18).

3. Such sacrifice is pleasing, a sweet savour unto God "the Lord" (verse 6).

4. Such acts insure Divine manifestations. See Exodus 29:38-43, which suggests that the neglect of the daily offering would interrupt communion with God.

5. Thus complete self-surrender brings us into the fullest sympathy with God, and thus into the most perfect liberty (Psalm 119:45; John 8:36, &c.). - P.

I. THE LESSON ON THE SPECIAL OFFERING. Special blessings belonged to the sabbath, over and above those of the ordinary day, and it became a duty to recognize them. The sabbath offerings represented what Israel had gained by the rest of the sabbath. We make our gains not only by the food we eat and the work we do, but also by the intervals of rest in the midst of labour. Moreover, by this offering God indicated that the sabbath was to have its own appropriate occupation. Most emphatically, by precept (Exodus 20:10), and by punitive example (Numbers 15:32-36), God had commanded to Israel the cessation from ordinary work. Here he indicates that the most effectual way of providing for cessation is to find a holy work to do. We cannot be too earnest in finding such a positive use of the day of rest as will please God and promote our own spiritual advancement. Surely, in the judgment, many who have reckoned themselves Christians will be convicted of a sore misuse of the weekly opportunity. We may be very precise and even punctilious in our abstentions, but what will this avail by itself? The mind that is not earnestly and comfortably occupied with Divine things will assuredly be occupied in thinking of things that belong to the ordinary day. As it is now, instead of the Sunday casting its brightness on the week-day, the weekday too often casts its shadow on the Sunday. God is able to make the appropriate occupation of his day, if we enter on it in a right spirit, a joy all the day long. In the world, and through the week, we have to deal with all sorts of men. There is the strain, the discord, and the suspicion that must belong to all human relations in this mixed and sinful state. The week-day is the world's day, wherein we cannot get away from the world. The Lord's day ought to be what the name suggests, the day for us to feel that we have not only to do with the hard conditions of a selfish world, but with One in heaven, who is most considerate, and most able to satisfy us with all good things.

II. THE LESSON OF THE DAILY OFFERING WHICH WAS NOT TO BE OMITTED. The sabbath, in respect of God's gifts and dealings in nature, was the same as an ordinary day, and therefore had to be acknowledged as such. So far as God's operations in nature are concerned all goes on without a break, Sunday and week-day alike. The sun rises as on other days, the clouds gather and the rain falls, the rivers run, and the tides flow and ebb. It is as true, Sunday as week-day, that in God we live and move and have our being. The great difference is that while God in nature is making all to go on just as usual, man, if he be in harmony with the will of God in Christ Jesus, is resting from his toils. God needs not rest in the sense in which we need it. He rested from the exercise of his creative energy, but not because of exhaustion. We, who have to eat our bread in the sweat of our face till we return to the ground, need that regular and frequent interval of rest which he has so graciously provided. And thus, coming as we sometimes do to the close of the week, utterly spent and exhausted, ready to welcome the brief respite from toil, we have the joy of recollection, as we see God continuing on the sabbath his work in the natural world, that he is indeed the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, he who fainteth not, neither is weary. "He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength" (Isaiah 40:28-31). - Y.

Here the services rendered to man by God in nature are once again linked in with the duties of religion. As God required offerings in the morning and evening of every day, so on the day when the new moon fell there was an additional and largely increased offering. Why should such special notice be taken of this occasion?

I. THE MOON IS OUR OWN SATELLITE AND PECULIAR SERVANT. It has evidently been given for our special benefit. The sun serves us with our share, as it does the other planets that circle round it, but the moon is peculiarly ours. When, therefore, it had passed through all its phases, it was well to mark the renewal of service by a special offering. If it be said that Israel was not aware of this nice distinction between the services of the sun and moon, the distinction is nevertheless real, was known then to God, and is known now to us. The commandments of God took into consideration not only what was known at the time of their announcement, but what would be further discovered in the progress of human inquiry. We can see a propriety in this ordinance of the monthly offering, as we think of the peculiar relation which the moon alone of all the heavenly bodies sustains to our earth.

II. THE MOON IS AN EMBLEM OF APPARENT CHANGE AND YET REAL STEADFASTNESS. Thus it is an emblem of the way in which God's dealings appear often to us. The Unchanging One looks like a changing one, and it takes all our faith to be sure of his faithfulness. We talk of the waxing and the waning moon, but we know that the moon itself remains the same, that the change of appearance arises from change of position, and depends on how it catches the light of the sun. When we do see it, we see the same face always turned towards us, and mysterious as its movements are to the ignorant and the savage, they are nevertheless so regular that all can be predicted beforehand. The moon therefore is a peculiar and suggestive emblem of constancy, if we look on it aright. Juliet, indeed, in her love-sick prattle says,

O, swear not by the moon, the inconstant moon,
That monthly changes in her circled orb. But appearance is one thing and reality is another, and we are reminded of one who found a very different emblematic value in the moon when he said, "They shall fear thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations." The faithfulness of God is the same, even when his face is hidden, and when his mercy, like the waning moon, seems to diminish before our very eyes. The mysterious hindrances, sorrows, and gloomy peculiarities of our present life would be largely cleared up, if we only knew as much of the wheels within wheels of God's moral government, as we do of the wheels within wheels in the motions and relations of the heavenly bodies.

III. THE CONNECTION OF THE MOON WITH THE MONTH IS ALSO TO BE BORNE IN MIND. Spring, summer, autumn, winter, are. after all, vague terms. We mark the changing phenomena of the year far more accurately by the months than by the longer seasons. We speak of blustering March, showery April, chill October, drear December, and may we not suppose that the Israelites had somewhat of the same way of thinking with regard to their months? - each month with its own character and making its own contribution to the fullness of the year (Deuteronomy 17:3; Deuteronomy 33:14; 1 Samuel 20:5; 2 Kings 4:23; Psalm 81:1-4; Psalm 89:37; Isaiah 30:26; Isaiah 60:20; Galatians 4:10; Revelation 22:2). - Y.

I. IT WAS A REMINDER OF HOW SERIOUSLY GOD'S GIFTS TO THE ISRAELITES HAD BEEN INTERFERED WITH. There was the gift of the day with its morning and evening, the gift of the new moon, and probably we shall not do wrong in concluding that the patriarchs understood and appreciated much of the blessing of the Sabbath. But what were these to the Israelites amid the bitterness of their bondage in Egypt? Pharaoh had taken the choice gifts of God and distorted them into agents of the most exquisite pain. Instead of having a heart for the morning and evening sacrifice, they were in a state such as Moses indicated might occur to them again in the event of disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:67). Their morning cry might justly have been, "Would God it were even!" and their evening' cry, "Would God it were morning!" In Egypt they had not materials enough for daily work, let alone holy service. Thus we have a forcible illustration of the way in which spiritual evil has embittered all God's natural gifts. In the use of them, they get turned away from his intentions so as to serve the selfish purposes of some, and cause perhaps the life-long privations and miseries of others. We must indeed be thankful for what God gives, even when it is interfered with, for the gift shows the disposition of the giver, and it is a good thing for us to be at all times assured of this. But then we must also carefully mark how much there is in human society to intercept, distort, and even as it were transmute these loving and suitable gifts of God. The very abundance of the blessings which God is disposed to bestow, should lead us to view with much alarm, with deep and abiding concern, the obstacles which lie in the way of a complete and profitable reception of the blessings.

II. IT WAS A REMINDER OF HOW COMPLETELY GOD HAD TAKEN THE OBSTACLES OUT OF THE WAY. The week of unleavened bread was a period for joyous commemoration of the deliverance from Egypt; and by their offerings Israel recognized that the deliverance was entirely by the act of God. Israel did nothing but walk out of the prison-door when it was opened. This was an inestimable blessing, to be a free nation, even although a nation whose territory had yet to be gained. Liberty leads to all other blessings. We cannot rejoice too much in the spiritual liberty which Christ has achieved for the children of men. We are bound to commemorate it in fitting ways; ways adequate to glorify God, and to impress us more and more with the magnitude of the blessing we have gained. As to the particular mode of commemoration, every Christian must judge for himself, as in the sight of God, with respect to the due season (verse 2). Easter has come as a matter of fact to have special associations and special value for many. They feel that they have proved the worth of the season in their own experience, and can amply justify the observing of it. Those of us who live outside the traditions, the habits of thinking, and the peculiar spirit fostered by the observance of an ecclesiastical year, can hardly claim to be competent judges of the value of such times and seasons. But mark one thing. No observance can be worth calling such unless it comment, orates an actual, personal deliverance. God not only put his strong hand on the gaoler Pharaoh, but drew forth the captive Israel. When Christ our passover was sacrificed for the children of men, he brought them into a new relation to God, one of possible reconciliation to him, and possible liberty for the whole man. How far the reconciliation and liberty shall be actual depends on our personal repentance and faith.

III. THE PARTICULAR COMMEMORATIVE VALUE OF THE UNLEAVENED BREAD. The people leaving Egypt were not allowed to finish the preparing of their bread according to their wont. They were hastened out of the land at a moment's notice. And it was not God who did this, as when the angels hastened Lot out of Sodom. The Israelites were thrust out by the Egyptians themselves. The gaoler himself was found a fellow-labourer with the liberator. Thus the unleavened bread becomes an impressive reminder of the complete rupture which God makes between his people and their spiritual enemies. As there could be no mistake about the effect which was produced in Egypt by the death of the first-born, so there can be no mistake about the efficacy of the blow which God in Christ Jesus has dealt on our great spiritual adversary. That our Saviour in his own person, and for himself, has completely conquered sin, is a fact which we cannot dwell upon too much, as full of hope for ourselves and for a sinful and miserable world.

IV. NOTE THE SEASON OF THE YEAR IN WHICH THIS FEAST WAS OBSERVED. It happened in the first month of the year, made the first month on account of this very deliverance. How devoutly would the true Israelite look upon the beginning of this month I Hail I new moon which brings near the season for celebrating the deliverance from Egypt. Who can doubt that such a soul as Simeon kept the days of unleavened bread in the very spirit of them, living as he did in those dark humiliating times, which were Egypt over again, when the land of his fathers was captive, and the temple of his God neglected by its own custodians? It is the most fitting time to recollect the sure mercies of the past when we need a renewal and perhaps an increase of them.

V. THE CONTINUAL OBLIGATION OF THE DAILY OFFERING. The bondage in Egypt embittered the gifts of God, yet even then a patient and willing soul would find something to be thankful for. And when liberty came, if right thoughts came with it, the gifts of God becoming available for use would inspire 'special thankfulness for the mercy that had made them so. How much God's daily blessing's should be heightened and sweetened in our esteem by the larger use which we can make of them as believers in Christ! We must not under-value common, daily mercies even in the presence of God's unspeakable gift. He who is the brightness of the Father's glory casts something of that brightness on every gift of the Father's love. That is no right appreciation of God's mercy in Christ Jesus which does not lead us to a better appreciation of every other mercy. God, whose presence and power we are called to observe in the redemption of the world, would have us to see the same presence and power wherever we have faculties to see them. To go from the cross, with the meaning of it and the spirit of it filling our minds, and in such a mood to receive the common mercies of God as one by one they come to us, will fill them with a new power. Henceforth they will minister, not only to the wants of flesh and blood, but to our growth in grace and meetness for glory. - Y.

I. A RECOGNITION OF THE ANNUAL SUPPLY OF FOOD FROM GOD. The day of the first-fruits was the day for bringing "a new meat offering unto the Lord" (verse 26). This meat offering was to consist of two wave loaves made of fine flour (Leviticus 23:17). Hence by this an indication was given that the chief constituent of the daily meat offering would not be lacking during the following twelve months. Corn is appropriately singled out above all the fruits of the earth as furnishing the staple of man's food. Other things, even the oil and the wine, are to be counted as luxuries in comparison. The prominence here given to bread accords with our Lord's teaching, when he tells us to pray not for daily food in general, but for the daily bread. It was a good thing thus to mark in a special way the completion of the corn harvest, that which had been "sown in the field," and not to wait and merely include it when the labours of the year had been gathered in (Exodus 23:16). God's mercy in the daily bread flows out of his mercy in the annual harvest. We are called upon to behold him, year after year, filling the storehouse whence day by day he draws and distributes the daily supply. As we behold the annual harvest we can join the appreciative souls of the world in thanking God for the production of bread. And then in the daily offering we equally thank him for the distribution of what has been produced.

II. A RECOGNITION OF GOD'S EFFECTUAL BLESSING ON HUMAN INDUSTRY, How much in the way of combined effort is suggested by the sight of a tiny grain of corn! What mighty forces are represented there - heat, light, air, moisture, soil - all acting on a living germ! And not only these. That grain also represents human industry, forethought, attention, patience, all crowned with the blessing of God (1 Corinthians 3:6). And if we look upon the grain now, we see the light of modern science brought to bear upon its growth and increase in addition to all the other necessary effort. We may be quite sure that God will bless all honest: intelligent, and sedulous effort to increase the fruits of the earth. After all these centuries, man hardly yet seems to appreciate the scope of that command, "Subdue the earth" (Genesis 1:28). Man has rather learnt to replenish the earth with those who use it as a vantage ground whereon to subdue and devour one another.

III. To a Christian the feast of the first-fruits must ever bring to mind THE ALL-IMPORTANT EVENT WHICH HAPPENED AT THE FIRST PENTECOST AFTER THE ASCENSION or CHRIST. There was doubtless some weighty reason for choosing the time when the day of Pentecost was fully come as the time when the disciples were to be all filled with the Holy Ghost. There was a close connection, we know, between the Passover feast and the Pentecost feast. A complete week of weeks, a perfect period, intervened between that day of the Passover feast when a sheaf of the harvest firstfruits was waved before the Lord (Leviticus 23), and the day of Pentecost, when the full meat offering was presented. Thus in this interval the harvest was gathered in, and then by the Pentecostal service it was signified that in the strength of the food which he had gathered man could go on for another year. And as God chose the Passover season, when the great deliverance from Egypt was celebrated, for that death and resurrection of Christ whereby he delivers his people from guilt, and spiritual bondage, and helplessness, so he chose Pentecost for the entrance of that Holy Spirit who makes the deliverance to be followed by such unspeakable positive consequences. The risen Saviour gives liberty to those who believe in him, and then he gives the Holy Spirit, that the right of liberty may not be a barren gift. What is even a free man without daily food? What advantage is it to a man if you liberate him from prison merely to turn him into a sandy desert? The forgiven sinner with his awakened spirit and new needs has the evident fullness of God's Spirit to which he may continually apply himself. God availed himself of the place which Pentecost naturally held in the minds of the disciples to teach them a great lesson. Hebrew Christians were not likely to give up their old times and seasons, and so the Passover feast was still further glorified by the recollection of Jesus dying for them, and the Pentecost feast by the recollection of how the Spirit had been poured upon all flesh. It is very certain that we do not sufficiently appreciate the practical significance of that memorable Pentecost. It ought to stand in our minds side by side with that other memorable day when the Word that became flesh first breathed at Bethlehem the air of this sin-tainted world. Is it not a matter of the greatest significance that after Pentecost the Holy Spirit of God was among men as he was not before? What a blessing, and yet what a responsibility, to feel that thus and then he came, and, as he came, still remains! - Y.

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