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The Book of NUMBERS

Chapter 15

In the previous chapter God had, in effect, delivered a death sentence on the entire nation for their continued rebellion and unbelief.[1] Yet He had also proclaimed that the children of these rebellious Israelis would indeed enter the promise land.[2] Thus this chapter begins with this statement of fulfillment: “When you have come into the land you are to inhabit”. YAHWEH was seeking to prepare His people[3] [even through forty years of wandering in the wilderness] to serve and worship Him.[4]

Laws of Grain and Drink Offerings (vs. 1-21)

The instructions found here certainly complement the [foundational] instructions which were given in Leviticus 1-7. They are divided into two parts:

  • ANIMAL OFFERINGS [SACRIFICES] -  vs. 1-16
  • WAVE OFFERINGS - vs. 17-21

With respect to the ANIMAL SACRIFICES, these directions basically explained what should accompany each of the animal sacrifices. Various animals [bulls, rams, lambs, or young goats[5]] would be offered for various purposes[6] and each would be accompanied by a particular GRAIN OFFERING and DRINK OFFERING.[7] Further, God says, the stranger among them should observe the same statute as the native-born Israeli – so that all should worship YAHWEH in the same manner.[8] The WAVE OFFERING was a symbol of thanksgiving to YAHWEH for the fruit of the harvest that He had provided. It was to be done as the first of the crop was coming in.[9]

Laws Concerning Unintentional Sin (vs. 22-29)

Next Moses gives instructions concerning unintentional sins – committed either by the entire congregation[10] or by an individual.[11] The congregation should then offer both a young bull [as a burnt offering] and a young male goat [as a sin offering] to make atonement for their sin.[12] However, an individual should offer a female goat [in its first year] for a sin offering.[13]

Laws Concerning Presumptuous Sins (vs. 30-31)

But if a person sins presumptuously[14] he was to be “put to death”[15] because he brought “reproach upon YAHWEH” and “despised the word of YAHWEH”.[16]

Penalty for Violating the Sabbath (vs. 32-36)

The next is an incident – probably meant to illustrate the application of the principles above. This individual had openly defied the Sabbath Law[17] and the people responded according to the Law.[18]

Tassels on Garments (vs. 37-41)

God then commands the people to put tassels on their garments as a reminder of their need to obey the commandments of YAHWEH.[19] This was because of the tendency of their [and our] hearts to commit spiritual adultery against the Lord.[20] God’s desire was that they be a holy people and well represent the holy God[21] who had redeemed them.[22]


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[1] Cf. Num. 14:28-38.

[2] Num. 14:31.

[3] Both parents and children.

[4] God may indeed discipline a believer severely – but the end goal is that believer might “share His holiness” (Heb. 12:10-11).

[5] Cf. vs. 11-12.

[6] Cf. vs. 3.

[7] For a lamb or goat (vs. 4-5, 11), for a ram (vs. 6-7), for a young bull (vs. 8-10).

[8] Cf. vs. 14-16. See also Ex. 12:39 and Num. 9:14.

[9] Cf. vs. 20-21. Cf. Ex. 22:29, 23:19; Ezekiel 44:30. Verse 20 says that both a cake of the grain should be presented as well as the grain itself as an offering. Note Eph. 5:20. Perhaps the principle of giving from the “first” of one’s income is a good one – even in the New Testament Assembly (Cf. 1 Cor. 16:1-2).

[10] Vs. 24-26.

[11] Vs. 27-29.

[12] Vs. 24.

[13] Vs. 27. 1 John 1:8 reminds us that in no point of time we can claim that we “have no sin”. However, 1 John 1:7 reveals that as we “walk in the light” [live in God’s presence exposed to what He has revealed about Himself] that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin”.

[14] This translates an Hebrew idiom “high handedly”.

[15] Vs. 30.

[16] Vs. 31. The writer of Hebrews was influenced by the concept of “presumptuous sins” in Heb. 10:26-31.  There he states that a Christian who commits apostasy [defection from the faith] will incur an even greater judgment from God than physical death.

[17] Cf. Ex. 31:12-17.

[18] Cf. Vs. 35-36.

[19] Vs. 39a.

[20] Vs. 39b. Cf. Ex. 34:15-16, Ps. 73:27, 119:11, James 4:4. In a very real sense this was demonstrated in the next chapter  [Cf. Num 16:30, 46]. See also Deut 6:5, 10:12 etc.

[21] Cf. Ex. 19:6: Lev. 11:44, 45: 22:23; 25:38; Deut. 14:2.

[22] Vs. 40-41. Cf. Eph 1:4, Col. 1:22, 1 Thess. 4:7, 1 Pet. 1:15-16. The phrase “I am YAHWEH Your God” is used 20 times in the Pentateuch [the five books of Moses] to emphasize YAHWEH’s relationship to Israel.

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