In Numbers 26, Yahweh is seen preparing the second generation of post-Exodus Israel for the reception and enjoyment of their Land promise. Here the LORD specifies the offerings that are to be instituted for corporate worship and the celebration of Israel’s festivals. A concise reference to this is found in Numbers 29:39-40. It reads: 39 “These you shall offer to the LORD at your appointed feasts, in addition to your vow offerings and your freewill offerings, for your burnt offerings, and for your grain offerings, and for your drink offerings, and for your peace offerings.” 40 So Moses told the people of Israel everything just as the LORD had commanded Moses.
In order to properly arrange for life in the Promised Land, all the offerings that God required the priests to offer for the whole nation over the course of an entire year had to be set-up in an organized fashion. These offerings maintained fellowship with God. Numbers chapters 28 and 29 contain a list of the minimum number of sacrifices that were to be offered each year for the nation as a whole. Plus, individuals could and did bring other sacrificial offerings in addition to these.
This system was critical because the real key to a successful conquest of Canaan, and the key to living a happy life within its borders was continual fellowship with God. So at this time, God presented to a new generation, by way of Moses, a finalized and complete set of regulations; regulations for offerings, offerings which for the most part had already been given at Mount Sinai; offerings intended to facilitate intimate worship of God by His people in the Land promised to them. In this section of Numbers a new wilderness generation is given an old/new beginning. Because again while moving forward to receive their Land inheritance, they’re reinstructed to continue presenting the offerings previously received at Sinai.
Now in addition to facilitating corporate worship and celebration, prior to Messiah’s death these prescribed offerings were also the primary means by which God enabled His people to understand the enormity of their sin and corresponding need for atonement. But now that Messiah has died, these ceremonies are redundant and actually offensive because to try and repeat them implies that something else is needed in addition to Messiah’s death to receive forgiveness of sin.
So presently, in order for us to experience a new beginning with God, we need to present our bodies as living sacrifices; sacrifices that are holy and pleasing to the LORD (cf. Rom. 12:1). But let’s be honest about it; usually when we hear an exhortation like this we say to ourselves, “Well, I guess I’m just gonna to have to suck it up and try harder!” Plus, because living sacrifices can easily wiggle off the sanctification altar, what we’re really talking about here is an old/new type of beginning in the sense of rejuvenated and refocused spiritual commitment.
Given that we recently commemorated the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, let me suggest this approach for following through on a sincere desire to more consistently live for God; Messiah’s Declaration of Dependence. “I am the vine; you are the branches. The one who remains in me, and I in him, bears much fruit, because apart from me you can accomplish nothing” (John 15:5).
Here’s the crux of the matter: If we fail or neglect to maintain unhindered fellowship with the vine by not allowing the vine to have His way us, resisting the Holy Spirit’s work by neglecting and disobeying God, we’re not just handicapped, we’re not just at a disadvantage, we’re powerless and completely unable to produce anything of any genuine or lasting spiritual value.
Conversely, cultivating continual intimacy through loving obedience enables us to generate much that is spiritually authentic and significant. And even if there’s little or no appearance of such “fruit,” that’s not necessarily an indication that a person doesn’t possess salvation. Rather, such a state is often reflective of the fact that one is no longer moving forward, not growing in Messiah, spiritually sick, and, until they are well again, incapable of realizing and enjoying true spiritual success. So, in order for us to make an old/new beginning with God that’s really gonna stick, let’s embrace and cooperate with Messiah’s declaration of dependence; presenting our bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to the Lord as we relationally remain in Him.