Introduction: Welcome to Expound our weekly worship and verse by verse study of the Bible. Our goal is to expand your knowledge of the truth of God as we explore the Word of God in a way that is interactive, enjoyable, and congregational.
Skip Heitzig: Numbers [cheers and applause], Numbers, chapter 6. [laughter] Okay. Well, I remember when I was a young Christian, I went to a church close to where I lived in California. I was asked to play worship, do some music. And it was a Nazarene church, and I didn't know much about that denomination. But I remember before I was asked to come up and sing with the little group that I was with that the church together sang an anthem of a song I had never heard before, nor since, called "I'm So Glad I'm a Nazarene."
Now, if that's the denomination you were raised in, perhaps you're familiar over that song. But it just struck me that it was so important that they identified themselves with that sect, with that denomination. And they sang in rousing anthem, "I'm so glad I'm a Nazarene." And since I wasn't, I wasn't that glad to sing it. So, I didn't really sing along with it. I just sort of waited my turn to sing. Perhaps, we could call chapter 6, "I'm So Glad I'm a Nazirite."
Because it's about a group of people who take a special vow, not to be Nazarenes (i.e. a Christian denomination), but a Jewish group called Nazirites were introduced to the law of the Nazirite in chapter 6 of Numbers. And let me just briefly tell you what that is about. It was a way in which anyone could act priestlike. Now, you know, to be a priest you couldn't just do it because you felt led. You couldn't be from the tribe of Issachar and wake up one day and go, "You know what? I want to be a priest." I'm sorry, you can't.
You have to be from the family of Aaron, and the tribe of Levi, and it was a very narrow set of parameters. But even though you couldn't be a priest, you could for a period of time be priestlike, be priestly; man or woman, if you just had something in your heart that you were grateful to the Lord for, or you were seeking him for something special, and you wanted to consecrate yourself for a period of time. That's what the law of the Nazirite was all about.
It was a period of time that was set aside, and some of the restrictions and some of the regulations read very much like what it would be like to be a priest. So, chapter 6 is all about that; chapter 7 is the order of the march as the people give their gifts. And we don't how far we'll be able to get tonight, but at least we'll make it, we hope, we trust, through chapter 6, maybe chapter 7, because I'll let you in on a secret as we get to chapter 7 to make that chapter very short.
Well, let's begin by thinking of in your mind the most famous of all Nazirites in the Old Testament. You know who that is, Samson. Samson was a Nazirite from his youth. The prophet Samuel, it would seem, was a Nazirite as his parents dedicated him and left him there at the tabernacle. In the New Testament many believed that John the Baptist, since no razor was to be upon his head, and he was not to drink wine or strong drink, that's what the angel said to his dad Zacharias, that he also lived as a Nazirite.
And did you know that Paul the apostle on two different occasions took the vow of a Nazirite? So, again, if you think, "Well, the Old Testament is not applicable to the New," you would be wrong. Because if you got to chapter 18 or 21 of the book of Acts, about the vows that Paul the apostle took, it's described here in chapter 6. Now, because the chapter begins and says if any "man or woman" wants to be a Nazirite, this is how it is to be done, and because it says "or woman," it makes us ask the question: Are there any women that we know that took the vow of a Nazirite?
Well, not biblically, but historically there was one lady that the Jews record. She was a first-century Jewish lady by the name of Helena from a district up in ancient Assyria. And for a period of time, for many years, she took this vow as a way to thank God for bringing her son home safely from the war. And so simply as period of dedication, and as a vow of gratitude, she gave this vow.
Verse 1, chapter 6, "Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: "When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take a vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, he shall separate from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh grapes or raisins." ' " The word "Nazirite," from the Hebrew word nazir, which means to separate, to dedicate, to consecrate. The idea is you make yourself holy unto the Lord.
According to Jewish literature, the Mishnah, it was a typical time period of about thirty days. That was the minimum that they set, one month. Typically it went to about a hundred days at the maximum. So, between one month and just a little over three months. However, there are a couple of exceptions where some people were lifetime Nazirites, and we already mentioned one, that was Samson. Before Samson was born his mom and dad, Manoah and his wife, were unable to conceive and have a child.
An angel appeared to them and said, "You're going to have a child. You're going to have a son. No razor shall be upon his head. He shall be a Nazirite from the womb. Therefore, don't drink anything strong," he said. The angel said to the mother, "Don't drink wine or strong drink. Start now and dedicate this child to the Lord." That was Samson. And we know that he grew his hair very long, but the strength wasn't in his hair, it was in his dedication to God. And you know that story. He's the most famous one.
Then I also mentioned the prophet Samuel. His mother said as soon as he is born, "I prayed for this child, and now I dedicate this child to you." And he was given in service of the tabernacle in the Old Testament. When we get to the New Testament, and I'm just recapping what I just mentioned, but expanding on John the Baptist. John the Baptist's father Zacharias was ministering in the temple at the altar of incense. And one day as he was there an angel appeared to him, which freaked him out.
It would freak most people out, that's why the first thing out of angels' mouths are, "Don't be afraid." Because most people, and I would be too, are afraid. And he said that, "Your wife Elizabeth"---now they're beyond childbearing years---"is going to have a son. And he's going to turn many of the hearts of the children of Israel back to the Lord their God. And he's not to drink wine or strong drink," and describes very much what we read here in the law of a Nazirite. Now, you'll notice some of the restrictions that are given.
" ' "He shall separate," ' " verse 3, " ' "himself from wine and similar drink; he shall drink neither vinegar made from wine nor vinegar made from similar drink; neither shall he drink grape juice, nor eat grapes nor raisins." ' " So anything that is the fruit of the vine was restricted for a Nazirite. " ' "All the days of his separation," ' " whether it's a month, whether it's a hundred days, or a lifetime.
" ' "All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin. All the days of the vow of his separation no razor shall come upon his head; until the days are fulfilled for which he separated himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. Then he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow." ' " No grape products, no wine or similar drink, not even grape juice. Simply because the fruit of the vine, including wine, was a symbol in ancient times for joy.
And this symbolizes earthly or, if you will, "worldly" joy. So the point is this: while he's separated to God, his joy so to totally be in the Lord. He's not to put a glass of wine to his lips, "Oh, what a great bouquet. Ooh, that gives me such joy." None of that. Your joy is to be totally in the Lord, and not in any earthly products. Now you should know something about alcohol in the Bible, wine in the Bible, because among, especially Protestants groups, it's become quite controversial.
And some believe that one should abstain totally, absolutely from anything, period. Of course, they have a difficult time with Jesus turning water into wine. They have difficulty with Jesus celebrating the Passover with his disciples, etcetera. But they have interesting ways of interpreting that and wrangling the Scriptures to get to that. Now, I personally abstain from alcohol. That's my personal conviction, and simply because it is so controversial.
Just imagine what some would think if they saw Pastor Skip down at the bar. [laughter] It could give them pause. It would give them something to talk about or blog about. So the fact that I don't go down to the bar, in that regard they have nothing to talk about. And so whenever it's brought up, I say, "Look, I'm not opposed to it. I drink as much as I want. I don't want any." So it's that easy, case closed. Now it's not an issue. But know this; the Bible doesn't talk down against the taking of wine, because it's all over Judaism.
Paul even said to Timothy, "Take a little wine for your stomach's infirmity." Because of the water situation in those days, a little bit of alcohol would kill the germ base that is in water supplies. But the Bible does condemn the excessive use of it so as to render a person in a different conscious state, to be altered in consciousness. "Do not be drunk with wine," Paul said, "but be filled with the Spirit." So, if you're looking for a buzz, try getting filled with the Holy Spirit, try getting high on God's goodness and God's love. It's better than any earthly joy.
Now the Nazirite, you separate yourself from any of that as a source. And then, also, in verse 5 you let your hair grow. Now, I loved reading this when I was a young Christian and my hair was, well, pretty far down passed my shoulders. Just another thing back on that whole Nazirite thing and restricting of wine: the prophet Amos in chapter 2 chides the people of Israel, because, get this, in chapter 2, around verse 12, it says, "For you made the Nazirites drink wine."
They seem to be people in Israel, Israelites, God's people, named God's people, who didn't like the idea of some people being around them (i.e., Nazirites) who were a little bit holier than they were. So they forced the Nazirites to taste and drink wine. "[You forced], you made the Nazirites drink wine, and you said to the prophets"---all in Amos, chapter 2. "You said to the prophets, 'Do not prophesy!' " I find it interesting that people who have a worldly value system often will get upset at those who have a higher, more spiritual value system.
"Well, who do you think you are?" And they will get down on those who just have a personal conviction of a behavior; that's their standard before the Lord. It makes certain other people like unbelievers and carnal Christians very uneasy. They would rather you lower your standard, than they raise their standard. Now let me offer you a warning, a caution: I often find believers asking the wrong questions: "Well, can I be a Christian and do this activity?" "Can I be a Christian and drink this?" "Can I be a Christian and take this?"
Wrong questions. Instead of saying as a Christian: "How low can I go? What can I get away with and still be a believer and please the Lord?" Why not ask a different form of questioning? "How far can I go to please the Lord? How much can I do that would honor his name?" How about questions like that, rather than, "What can I do in lowering a standard?" So, the Nazirites has a raised standard during this period of time, everybody knew it, and it was a sin to cause Nazirites to lower their standards.
Now, again, in verse 5, " ' "No razor shall come upon his head." ' " To cut your hair or to, excuse me, to let your hair grow out, which some saw as a sign of strength, especially for a man, but I'm not even going to get into that. I see it more simple than that. To grow one's hair out would be a sign of humiliation. You're sort of unkempt. It's a symbol of shame, bearing your shame, bearing your humiliation. Just like you don't imbibe in wine products, the growing out of the hair, and sort of letting go unkempt.
And you can imagine if you're a lifetime Nazirite, you'd look pretty gnarly. It'd be tough to take care of. In fact, there are even restrictions in Judaism that if a person is a lifetime Nazirite, perhaps we should let him do a once-a-year trimming process, so it doesn't become a burden to him. But, basically, it was a sign of humiliation, reproach, shame. First Corinthians, chapter 11, Paul says, "Does not even nature itself say that it's a shame or a dishonor for a man to have long hair?"
So it was a sign of humiliation. Now, be careful with that Scripture, by the way. Because some people get very legalistic and they say, "It's a sin for a man to have long hair." No. Nature says it's a shame, God doesn't say it's a sin. A shame and a sin are two different things; God and nature are two different things. It's a natural sign of dishonor to go around unkempt. The Nazirite would do that for a period of time.
" ' "All the days," ' " verse 6, " ' "that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body." ' " Just like a priest, you get defiled. " ' "He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head. All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the Lord. And if anyone dies very suddenly beside him" ' "---somebody you're just sitting next to going out the lunch or somewhere and they drop dead, which would be rare, but it could happen.
If it does happen, you're defiled, there's a dead person. " ' "And he defiles his consecrated head, then he shall shave his head on the day of his cleansing; on the seventh day he shall shave it. On the eighth day he shall bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of meeting; and the priest shall offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering, and make atonement for him, because he sinned in regard to the corpse; and he shall sanctify his head that same day.
" ' "He shall consecrate to the Lord the days of his separation, and bring a male lamb in its first year as a trespass offering; but the former days shall be lost, because his separation was defiled." ' " We've been through this before, and you understand the idea of corpse defiling somebody who is under a holy, restrictive vow to the Lord. I do see a corollary. You and I are God's holy people; we are his separated people. Just like a Nazirite wouldn't touch a dead person because he would be defiled, maybe you and I ought to be careful on how we deal with the spiritually dead among us.
If we find ourselves doing what the spiritually dead does, emulating what the spiritually dead world around us does, going to the places where the spiritually dead often congregate, then perhaps at some point we need to question our own dedication to the One who gave us life. What kind of spiritual life do we have that shows the difference that we are alive versus those who are dead. There was a clear defilement process for the law of Nazirite.
What I find intriguing is that if you're a Nazirite, you say, "Okay, this month, man, I'm dedicated to the Lord. I'm going to go through this process." What if your mom or dad dies during that month? You can't be there to minister to that and help with those funeral arrangements and touch a corpse, lest you be defiled. Which seems harsh, but God didn't require this vow. You don't have to take it. This is completely voluntary. He didn't require anybody to do it, but once you did it then you're required to follow through with it, and God holds it and takes it very seriously.
Here's the principle: Jesus said, "Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me." Sometimes I find people, who it would seem, in the name of the Lord and Christian values put their families above even God. And I find a mistake with young parents---it's a child-centered parenting.
It's all about the child and whatever the child needs, and "I'll put my child first." No. You should teach your child that "In this family we put God first. You're not first, just like I'm not first. God's first. And there's certain things, because God is first, that I do, and certain things that you will do." Lest it become child-centered parenting, rather than God, Christ-centered parenting.
I remember a song many years ago by a man that I used to watch lead worship at my church in the early days named Keith Green. And Keith had a song called "I Pledge My Head to Heaven for the Gospel." The second verse is, "I pledge my wife to heaven for the gospel. As I told her when we wed, I'd rather be found dead than to love her more than the One who saved my soul." I think it's a great set of vows. "Honey, I love you, I'm committed to you, but I love Jesus more than you."
Third verse, "I pledge my son to heaven for the gospel, though he's kicked and beaten, ridiculed and scorned, I will teach him to rejoice and raise a praising, thankful voice, and to be like him who bore the crown of thorns." In other words, "Son, I am raising you in this world, put Jesus first. I'll put Jesus first. The world's going to hate you. They may kick you, they may beat you, praise the Lord when that happens. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad." Those were the values that he taught his family with. It was like a modern-day Nazirite vow in his family.
Interesting, in verse 12, and it would seem harsh, some people would say it's unfair. If somebody drops dead---okay, you're a Nazirite this month, somebody drops dead. Now you're defiled, and you lose, it says, all those days. You gotta start all over again. You go, "That's not fair. Don't, like, ten of them count?" No. Let's say it's a thirty-day vow and on day twenty-nine you're defiled, you start all over again. You say, "That's not fair."
Actually, look at it from a different vantage point. It's a way to get a second start. It's a way to go through a process and be seen as though you are not defiled at all. And I think this speaks of the beautiful nature of God to give you and I a second chance and a third chance and a fourth chance and a fifth chance. And I don't know what you're on, I'm on about nine thousand nine hundred and---well, even more.
" ' "Now this is the law," ' " verse 13, " ' "of the Nazirite: When the days of his separation are fulfilled, he shall be brought to the door of the tabernacle of meeting. And shall present his offering to the Lord: one male lamb in its first year without blemish as a burnt offering, one ewe lamb in its first year without blemish as a sin offering, one ram without blemish as a peace offering, a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, unleavened wafers anointed with oil, and their grain offering with their drink offerings.
" ' "The priest shall bring them before the Lord and offer his sin offering and his burnt offering; and he shall offer the ram as a sacrifice of a peace offering to the Lord, with the basket of unleavened bread; the priest shall also offer its grain offering and its drink offering. Then the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head at the door of the tabernacle of meeting, and shall take the hair from his consecrated head and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offering.
" ' "And the priest shall take the boiled shoulder of the ram, one unleavened cake from the basket, one unleavened wafer, put them upon the hands of the Nazirite after he has shaved his consecrated hair, and the priest shall wave them as a wave offering before the Lord; they are holy for the priest, together with the breast of the wave offering and the thigh of the heave offering. After that the Nazirite may drink wine." This is the law of the Nazirite who vows to the Lord the offering for his separation,' " his nazir, hence the word "Nazirite" or "dedication." " 'And beside that, whatever else his hand is able to provide; according to the vow which he has taken, so he must do according to the law of his separation.' "
When you come to Acts, chapter 18, you read this crazy phrase that unless you had this chapter you wouldn't understand where it says, "And Paul [the apostle] had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he has taken a vow." And you might read that and go, "I don't know what that's about, but it sounds like he got a summer haircut." You'd be wrong. He took a vow of a Nazirite and getting "his head shorn," his hair cut off "at Cenchrea, for he has taken a vow," it's the vow of a Nazirite.
When you're done, you have to bring two lambs, one ram, all without blemish, male the first year, ewe the first year, ram, besides grain offerings. And you can see just by the enumeration of what you bring, it would be quite costly to take the vow of a Nazirite. When you're done, you have to pay for those animals and the sacrifice. So, because it was quite costly, often they would be sponsored by somebody from the tribe. They would kind of put money together and sponsor that person who is having that vow or undertaking that vow.
That was the idea in Acts, chapter 21. Do you recall it, when Paul is back in Jerusalem and there's controversy over Paul the apostle? And the church in Jerusalem says, "Look, you're like a wild card, dude. You are, like, so---you have such a crazy reputation that you're out telling people not to keep the law of Moses, not to circumcise their children. So, people here in Jerusalem, even though they are believers in Messiah, in Yeshua, they look at you with dangerous, somebody's who's against the law.
"So, here's the deal: there's four men who have taken this vow, this Nazirite vow, go in with them and defray their costs." And that's what it's speaking about when they had their heads shaved and they paid for animals for sacrifice. Paul the apostle had to put up the money for himself and four other people, probably given to him by the church in Jerusalem. But here's what I like. I love the fact that in your vow of separation to the Lord, at some point you come to the tabernacle in plain sight, in plain view of everyone.
It's a public ceremony, it's not a private, personal ceremony. There's a accountability that's attached to it. So it wasn't private, it wasn't personal, it was public, and there was accountability. And I think that's important that when we dedicate to the Lord, we're not afraid to say that we dedicate. Not that you do a public pledge---"I'm giving so much money," but, "I'm dedicated to the Lord and I am unashamed to do so."
Sometimes you will see, most of the time, when it comes to salvations, I give people an opportunity to get up out of their seat and walk forward and give their lives to Christ in an altar call. It's public because Jesus so often called people publicly. Instead of, "Hey, come here. Don't let anybody know. Let's just go over here. Come here, I'll just pray with you." "Matthew, Levi the tax collector, get up from where you're working behind that booth. Get up right now and follow me." It was public, so everybody would see it, everybody would know it.
" 'This is the law of the Nazirite.' " Now let's finish off the chapter. "And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: 'Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, "This is the way that you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them" ' "---now stop right there. If you have a good memory, you may remember though in Leviticus, chapter 9, Aaron and his sons are told to raise their hands before the people of God and give them a blessing. But in Leviticus, chapter 9, it doesn't say what the blessing is.
Now we have the script, now we have the words. Once the hands are raised---so can you picture the high priest standing before the people raising his hands, giving them a blessing? Not just, "Yo, dudes, God bless you all." But listen how beautiful that blessing is:
" ' " 'The LORD blesses you and keep you;
The LORD make his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you;
The LORD lift up his countenance upon you, and give you peace.' "
So they shall put my name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.' "
This is called in Hebrew the Birkat Kohanim, or the blessing of the priest. And you'll notice there's three lines, verse 24, verse 25, and verse 26. Those are the three lines. In each of the three lines the word "LORD" appears. And notice, look at it in your own Bible, it's all capital letters. Do you notice that? "The LORD bless you," verse 24. "The LORD," verse 25, "make his face shine upon you." Verse 26, "The LORD lift up his countenance." Now that---every time you see that word "LORD" with all capitals, it's the covenant name Yahweh, Yahweh.
When Moses said, "So, like, what's your name? And what do I tell people when they say, 'Who sent you? What's the name of the one who sent you'?" He said, "I AM THAT I AM. I'm the Everlasting One. I am Yahweh," (we believe it's pronounced). And so because we think it's pronounced that way, but we're not sure, the word LORD, capital L, capital O, capital R, capital D, is substituted for his name. But you'll notice it's three times, which adds force to what is explained in verse 27. " 'So they shall put my name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.' "
Notice something about each line of this benediction. In each line there are two items of benediction: "The LORD bless you and keep you," two blessings given. Notice the next one: "The LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you," two more items of blessing. Verse 26, "The LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace." With each line, with each verse, though there are two items of benediction, each verse gets progressively longer and progressively more emphatic.
And I bring this up because the Hebrews bring this up. The Hebrews look at these verses and they look at the symmetry in them. There are fifteen words in these three verses, and if you take out the divine name "LORD," there are twelve words in Hebrew, which they say correspond to the twelve tribes of Israel in giving this blessing. In the first line, which is verse 24, there are fifteen letters that comprise three Hebrew words.
In the second line, or verse 25, there are twenty Hebrew letters that comprise five Hebrews words, and in verse 26 there are twenty-five Hebrew letters that comprise seven Hebrew words. So they just sort of grow and magnifies each time. But what's the central theme of this? The central theme is God loves you, God treasures you, God favors you, God wants to bless you. That's God's heart toward his people: "Bless them, put my name upon them, proclaim my blessing to them."
I'm amazed at how many people I still meet who picture God as somebody standing in heaven with his arms folded over his robes, frowning at them. "He's out to get me." No, he's out to bless you. Jeremiah 29:11, "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of goodness and peace, to give you a future and a hope," to bless them. " 'And so shall they put my name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.' "
"Now it came to pass"---making great time. Now, I gotta warn you, look, look at the very end of the chapter. How many verses? Do you see how many verses? Eighty-nine verses. Do you know what the longest chapter in the Bible is? Anybody? Psalm 119. How many verses? One hundred seventy-six verses. This is the second longest chapter in the Bible, eighty-nine verses, lots of repetition. A pattern is given, then it is repeated twelve times. So because of that we're not going to read every single verse.
Because once you read a set of verses, you've read it all, just you replace the different heads of the different tribes who were giving the same gift. So, chapter 7, here's the deal: the children of Israel are about to march. They're about to make an orderly march from Mount Sinai up to Kadesh Barnea. Now, it's going to take them many, many years, but they're going to go on this march. Before they go on the march, they take an offering of the tribes for the tabernacle, and they make sacrifices for the tribes at the tabernacle. That's what this is all about.
So, if you remember chapter 2, there were twelve men, one out of each of the tribes, who helped Moses and Aaron count the numbers of the tribes. Remember that? The same men are listed. These are the chiefs or the princes. They will bring a sacrifice that they take from the tribes for the work of tabernacle. "It came to pass, when Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle, that he anointed it consecrated it and all of its furnishings, and the altar and all of its utensils; so he anointed them and consecrated them.
"Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of their fathers' houses," whom you have already met, by the way, "who were the leaders of the tribes and over those who were numbered, made an offering." Now stop right there for a moment. Chapter 6, we just got through with the blessing. The priest would extend his hands, bless them in the name of Lord, or remind them of God's lifting up his countenance, which means, "God, you've shown your strength to these people. Give them your peace, bless them in this area, and in that area."
And as soon as the blessing is received, an offering is taken, or an offering is received as the people freely give. I think that is fitting, and I think that is the way it ought to be done. Worship is essentially a response to blessing. Has God blessed you at all? Then worship him. "Well, I don't feel like worshiping." Once again, has God blessed you? Has God shown his favor on you? Has he given you his peace? Has he lifted up his countenance and been strong on your behalf? Then worship him. Worship is a response.
We in America are a little bit fat and sassy when it comes to our worship experience. We, believe it or not, have come to believe that it's all about us. "I like that song." Okay, noted. "I don't like that song." Okay, whatever, noted. At what point will you realize this isn't about you? This isn't about, "Oh, I like that song. I don't like that song," you know. "This is about me. I'm here to be blessed." You've been blessed. The worship time---you know what it means? It means it's now your turn.
God has blessed you, now it's your turn to tell him, "You bless me. Thank you. I love you. I worship you." It's not about you, it's about him. When we make worship about getting rather than giving, do you see what we do? That's American, by the way. When we make worship about getting rather than giving, we're making God our servant rather than our Lord. "What are you going to give me? What more are you going to give me? I want a good feeling tonight at worship."
"Oh, I didn't get it, it must be that church's fault." You have made God your slave rather than your Lord. You have turned worship from humble adoration into self-gratification. He has blessed, now we respond. Worship is a response to God. First John, chapter 4, "We love him because he first loved us." We love him because he first loved us---it's response to God. Worship is not only a response to God, worship is the proper response to God.
Romans chapter 12, "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, and acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service." It's a smart thing, logical thing to do. It's proper. So, worship is a response to God. Worship is the proper response to God. Third part, worship is the proper response to God that must come from the heart, not just mouth, not just rote, not just memorized---from the heart.
Jesus said in John, chapter 4, to the woman at the well of Samaria, "The Father is looking for those who will worship him in spirit and in truth," according to truth, biblical revelation; but in spirit---spirited, from-the-heart worship. It's a response to God from the heart and it's proper. The fourth part of worship: worship is the proper response to God from the heart whereby the worshiper places God above everyone and everything else in life. That's true worship, God's first.
Jesus said, "The first and greatest commandment: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, all your strength.' " And so it's right and proper for us to gather corporately and devote time to singing and telling God, "You're awesome. You're wonderful. This is about you, not about me. Forgive me for making it about me. You bless me." "What if I don't feel like doing it?" Do it anyway. "Isn't that hypocritical?" No, it's obedient.
Hebrews, chapter 13, says we are to "give God a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips." Sometimes you've had a bad day, the last thing you feel like doing is going church and singing a song, but you do it. You're making a sacrifice of praise. You're expending more energy because he's worth it. He is who he is, and we respond. Verse 3, "And they brought their offerings before the Lord, six covered carts." One translation says "covered wagons," but it makes me think of a western, so I'm glad it says "covered carts."
"Six covered carts and twelve oxen," one oxen per tribe, one covered cart per two tribes. "A cart for every two of the leaders, and for each one an ox; and they presented them before the tabernacle. Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 'Accept these from them, that they may be used in doing to work of the tabernacle of meeting; and you shall give them to the Levites, to every man according to his service.' " Now notice that little phrase, "according to his service." That's important because of what you're about to read.
"So Moses took the carts and the oxen, and gave them to the Levites. Two carts and four oxen he gave to the sons of Gershon, according to their service; and four carts and eight oxen he gave to the sons of Merari, according to their service, under the authority of Ithamar the son of Aaron the priest. But to the sons of Kohath he give none, because theirs was the service of the holy things, which they carried on their shoulders."
So you remember those three families, right? Gershonites, Merarites, Kohathites, you know them well by now. You're like buddies with them. You've hung out with them for a few weeks now. The Merarites got more oxen and more carts than the Gershonites. Why? Because it's according to their---what?---service. The service of the Merarites was the infrastructure, the heavy stuff: the boards, the sockets, the pillars, all the weighty stuff that the linens and the cloths hung on.
The linens and the cloths were easy to carry. It didn't need as much wagon space, trunk space, you would say, to carry it, so that would be used for the Gershonites. That's why they had fewer and the Merarites had more, because they had to carry heavier stuff. Now, the Kohathites got none, because the tabernacle and the few articles of furniture they had to carry were to be borne on their shoulders. The others were like covered wagons or like---look at them like semitrucks for the tabernacle.
That's how the tabernacle would be transported through the desert. Jesus said, "To whom much is given, much shall be required." So those that got more is because they had to carry a heavier weight. Those that got less is because they had to carry less weight. Those that got none is because they had a few items to carry that were holy things and that was it. And so that principle is followed. "Now," verse 10, "The leaders offered the dedication," don't worry, watch, we're going to get through this. Trust me.
"The leaders offered the dedication offering for the altar when it was anointed; so the leaders offered their offering before the Lord. For the Lord said to Moses, 'They shall offer their offering, one leader each day, for the dedication of the altar.' And the one who offered his offering on the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab, from the tribe of Judah. His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels."
So, the first one was probably worth around $2,500, the second one about $1,400, in modern-day equivalent. Silver is going up. "One gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense." So, several thousand dollars for the gold, because gold is at an all-time high. That's in modern equivalent. "One young bull, one ram, one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; one kid of the goats as a sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs in their first year. This was the offering of Nahshon the son of Amminadab."
If we were to read verse by verse the rest of the chapter, you would think it's a broken record. Remember the old vinyl records where they would skip and go back and play the same part of the song over and over again? It sounds like a shopping list being narrated, and then a record skipping and going over again, because there's twelve tribes, and on twelve consecutive days they would bring these sacrifices that Nahshon from the tribe of Judah brought that first day. That would be repeated for twelve days.
It took all day. That's a lot of animals. It took all day to receive it, to have prayers and offerings and sacrifices and dressing and clean up. So it was twelve days of giving the sacrifices, and giving the gold and the silver, etcetera, the carts for this endeavor. Why isn't it just repeated this way? After this verse, just say, "And for the next tribe ditto, and the next tribe ditto, and the next tribe ditto, and the next tribe ditto, ditto, ditto, ditto---end. Why is it repeated with their names over and over again?
I find something beautiful here. In Hebrews, chapter 6, it says, "The Lord is not unjust to forget your work and your labor of love which you have shown toward his name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and to minister." God notices every little thing someone does and knows their name. Nahshon, do we care who he is? God did and God named him. And all of the gifts are given, and it just sort of crescendos. "On this day I noticed that this guy brought this, and on the next day I noticed that this guy brought that."
"God is not unjust to forget your work and your labor of love which you have shown toward his name." One of my favorite little Scriptures, I'm just going to read it to you, is tucked away in the book of Malachi, chapter 3. Just let me read it to you. "Then those who feared the Lord spoke to one another, and the Lord listened and heard them; and so a book of remembrances was written before him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on his name. 'They shall be mine,' says the Lord of hosts, 'On the day that I make them my jewels.' "
It's a beautiful thought that when we talk about the Lord to each other, it's like the Lord stops all the anthems of heaven---"Shh, shh, he's talking about me. What's he saying?" And this metaphor is written, "a book of remembrances was written before him for those who fear the Lord and who meditate on upon his name." I love that. God noticed Nahshon, God noticed all of these others, so let's take a look at all the others.
"On the second day," verse 18, "Nethanel the son of Zuar, leader of Issachar, presented an offering," and it reads exactly like what we just read. He gave exactly the same thing and it's written exactly as you have read. Look at verse 24, "On the third day Eliab the son of Helon, the leader of the children of Zebulun, presented an offering." The same thing is written. Verse 30, "On the fourth day Elizur the son of Shedeur, leader of the children of Reuben, presented an offering."
Verse 36, "On the fifth day Shelumiel the son of Zurishaddai, leader of the children of Simeon, presented the offering." Now, I don't know if you're noticing this, but the sequence of the giving of the offering is exactly the same sequence as the numbering in chapter 2, and will be the order of march they will take off from east, the tribes, the three tribes along the tabernacle east, and then the tribes on the south, then the tribes on the west, then the tribes on the north. And the sequence of the numbering and the sequence of the march is the same sequence given here.
Verse 42, "On the sixth day Eliasaph the son of Deuel, the leader of Gad, presented an offering." Verse 48, "On the seventh day Elishama the son of Ammihud, the leader of the children of Ephraim, presented an offering." Exactly the same kind that we have read. Verse 54, "On the eighth day Gamaliel the son of Pedahzur, the leader of the children of Manasseh, presented an offering." Verse 60, "On the ninth day Abidan the son of Gideoni, the leader of the children of Benjamin presented an offering."
Verse 66, "On the tenth day Ahiezer the son of Ammishaddai, leader of the children of Dan, presented an offering." I sort of feel like this is [sings] "On the twelfth day of Christmas my Levites gave, or the tribes gave to me . . ." And so it's like the twelve days of offerings that are given during this month. Verse 66, that's Dan. Verse 72, "On the eleventh day Pagiel the son of Ocran, the leader of the children of Asher, presented an offering." Verse 78, "On the twelfth day Ahira the son Enan, leader of the children of Naphtali, presented an offering."
So it's the same order as we have read. Verse 84, "This was the dedication offering for the altar from the leaders of Israel, when it was anointed: twelve silver platters, twelve silver bowls, and twelve gold pans. Each silver platter weighed one hundred and thirty shekels, each bowl seventy shekels. All the silver of the vessels weighed two thousand four hundred shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary. The twelve gold pans full of incense weighed ten shekels apiece, according to the shekel of the sanctuary; all the gold of the pans weighed one hundred and twenty shekels."
That's a lot of shekels. "All the oxen for the burnt offering were twelve young bulls, the rams twelve, the male lambs in their first year twelve, with their grain offering, of the kids, the goats, the sin offering twelve. And all the oxen for the sacrifice of peace offerings were twenty-four bulls, the rams sixty, the male goats sixty, the lambs in their first year sixty. This was the dedication offering for the altar after it was anointed.
"Now when Moses went into the tabernacle of the meeting to speak with him [that is, the Lord], he heard the voice of One speaking to him from above the mercy seat." That's where God speaks today---the mercy seat. The only way God will have a relationship with a human being is based upon the propitiation, mercy seat, that comes to us through Jesus Christ. That's the place where God spoke to Moses, "from between the two cherubim; thus he spoke to him."
Do you remember back in Exodus 33, Moses went into the tabernacle of meeting, and it says, "And the Lord spoke to Moses face-to-face, as a man would speak to a friend"? Literally in Hebrew: mouth to mouth, in a familiar conversational manner. It's been one of my favorite Scriptures in all the Bible, Exodus 33. When it says, "face-to-face" or "mouth to mouth," the rabbis interpreted that to mean that God's message rang so clearly in Moses' mind that it was like seeing your own image in a mirror.
It was just this instinctive---"I know that's God speaking." It could have been an audible voice, but it rang clearly and it registered unmistakably in his mind. But I love that God is speaking to Moses in this plain, friendly, familiar tone. That's how I love to pray. Some people talk to God, well, in different ways. Some people approach God like he's an emergency room doctor. They only talk to him in an emergency. "God, I need help!" That's it, that's the extent of their deep prayer life. "God, I need help!"
They only treat God like an emergency room physician, not a good plan, not a great relationship. Others approach God like one would approach their mother-in-law, a bit begrudgingly. You know, she's there and she's important and she's important to your spouse, but she's your mother-in-law, so it could be a bit begrudgingly. Other people approach God like he's a policemen, cautiously. "What does God want? What does he want now? What is he trying to do? Do I have to confess something to him, or can I get off this time?"
Best to have the kind of relationship where it's just familiar, friendly, conversational. Do you ever just talk to the Lord and say, "Lord, I got really nothing on my heart, I just want to hang out and just tell you, great to be with you. I love you. You're wonderful." My advice, though you don't have to follow my advice, is that when you pray, make more habit of praying out loud. I find when I do, I get less distracted. When I pray inwardly, my mind---I mean, talk about attention deficit.
I'm in forty different places often at one time, and then, "Oh, yeah, two hours ago I was praying, wasn't I? I forgot about that." [laughter] So, for me it's best if I just take a walk and talk out loud. Now, my neighbors think it looks a little funny. If I have a dog, at least they think I'm talking to one of my dogs. But just to talk to the Lord, and it's out loud, and it can register. And I can hear and reflect my words back and hear the Lord's voice even as I talk to him out loud.
And so the Lord spoke to Moses "from above the mercy seat that was in the ark of the Testimony, between the two cherubim; thus he spoke to him." Let's pray. Father, we pray that you would spoke speak to us through that place of mercy---your Son Jesus Christ. For your Bible tells us that if we don't have the Son, we don't have the Father, but anyone who has the Son has the Father also. And we approach you, Lord, not on our own merits, but on the merits of your Son, the mercy that is extended through the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed.
Lord, in this quiet moment we search our own hearts, our own level of dedication, of consecration. And just like we have sung tonight in these songs that "I give you all of me, for all of you." We don't want those to just be words, nor do we want to approach worship as a means to get something from you, as much as to give something to you. Forgive us, Lord, for the times we make it more about us than about you.
Lord, I would, finally, pray for anybody who might be with us tonight who doesn't have a relationship with you at all. So, the idea of approaching God, they're just hoping that they can approach you because they're good enough. I pray you would convince them that nobody is good enough. But Jesus Christ was good enough as a once-for-all Sacrifice, and by believing in his finished work, then you see us as not only good enough, but good enough to extend blessing to and favor to and honor to, just like your own Son as he exchanged his life for us, as he provided a seat of mercy, so that we could approach you, and we could relate to you.
I pray if anybody with us tonight has not given their lives to Christ, or they've wandered away and they need to come back home, I pray that tonight this would be their Nazirite vow, so to speak. They want to leave behind the world and consecrate themselves to the Lord, and want to be found in Jesus Christ, and receive the salvation that comes from the cross. Or if they've wandered from you, to rededicate their lives to you.
As we close this service, as your heads are bowed, if there's anyone here in this auditorium that describes that person and you want to give your life to Christ, would you just slip your hand up and I'm acknowledge that hand before we close in song and go home. God bless you, ma'am, right up in the front; and on the side to my right; right there in the middle. Raise your hand up. Keep it up for a moment. Father, we thank you and we pray that these lives found in Jesus Christ would blossom and bear forth much fruit, in Jesus' name, amen.
Would you stand to your feet. Even as Moses was to present these Nazirites of the door of the tabernacle, as we sing this final song, I'm gonna ask those of you who raised your hands---some on the far side, some in the middle, couple of you in the middle here on different sides, some toward the back. I'm going to give you an opportunity to make it public like Jesus called people publicly. As we sing this final song, I'm going to ask you to get up from where you're standing.
Just say, "Excuse me," to the person next to you, find your way to the nearest aisle, and come stand right up here where I'm going to lead you in a prayer publicly to receive Jesus Christ and his forgiveness. As we sing, you come, and come right now. Come right up here. [worship music plays] Awesome! Bless you, bless you guys. Who else? Maybe you're sitting in the back and you thought, "I'm back here on purpose. Nobody sees me." God sees you, and God has been speaking to you, and God has touched you. And I believe he's saying, "Respond to me in this moment." And if you're hearing the whisper of God in your heart, respond to him. Say yes to him.
Get up from where you're standing. If you're in the family room just come right through that door, right up to the front on your right and be escorted right up here. It doesn't matter where you are, what matters is that you make your way up to the front, and I'll lead you in that prayer. [worship song continues] Those of you what have come forward, I don't know if this is your first time or this is a rededication, but as we pray this prayer, as I lead you, I'm going to ask you to say this prayer out loud. Say it out loud from your heart, say these words to the Lord as you give your life to him.
Let's pray: Lord, I live you my life. I know that I'm a sinner, forgive me. I turn from my sin, I turn to you as my Savior. I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, that he came from heaven to earth, that he died on a cross for me, and that he rose again from the dead. Give me your Holy Spirit, and help me to follow you every day, in Jesus' name, amen. [cheers and applause] Congratulations!