After a donkey ride with Balaam, the second census, and the promotion of Joshua, the book of Numbers turns a corner and goes into a fascinating list of some more laws. Minus the sarcasm, this is still important stuff. It’s all about sacrifice, in a few different ways. Take a look:
Comprehensive sacrifice. The Jewish people had to present a daily, weekly, and monthly sacrifice, along with several more during feasts and special events. The regularity of their sacrifices communicates to us as Christians that we’re not to give ourselves over to God on a basis of convenience (i.e. asking for stuff, asking for forgiveness for a particular sin) but that it must be done constantly.
Jesus tells us to “deny ourselves,” daily. Is this really happening? Does your life represent a comprehensive sacrifice unto the Lord?
Blemish-free sacrifice. I’m not a huge fan of leftovers, beyond the obvious nutritional or financial benefits. Anyone can agree that, on day two coming out of the microwave, the Hamburger Helper just isn’t the same. But if you had company, would you even think twice about pulling out a recipe instead of pulling out the Tupperware?
While God really doesn’t need anything, it’s not exactly an expression of devotion if you toss reheated slop on a plate and serve it up. “I didn’t really need this.” Well, God doesn’t either. Give Him your best — it’s lightweight rude not to.
Sacrifice that hurts a little bit. Sacrifice is defined by losing something of yourself for the sake of someone else. God isn’t asking us to all donate a kidney to Him, but if your offering, whether it’s time or money or whatever, is not somewhat painful or inconvenient to give up, it’s not really sacrifice at all.
The Jews had to give up at least two perfect, year-old sheep daily. That was a significant economical burden — that’s like saying, “Here’s $240” — every day. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, even if this was represented by the whole nation (and not just one person/family), the daily sacrifice meant 720 sheep a year. Since 1400 BC (which scholars date the events and original composition), that’s 1,058,400 sheep until the temple’s destruction in 70 AD. This doesn’t count the weekly/monthly ones or any special occasions. Lambocide.
Sacrifice of precedence. After reading through this section of Numbers, I can’t imagine that Israel was wholly faithful to these commands. Being a human of error, cutting corners is not beyond me, and I don’t think these guys, even the priests set apart for God’s work, had a millenium-plus streak of perfection. And the tedium required in preparing the sacrifices would make even brain surgeons get all antsy after a few years.
This tells me that keeping up is impossible. And that is exactly the point. Our human efforts will never measure up; no degree of religious devotion, good deeds, or “blemish-free” offerings will cut it. Only the sacrifice of Jesus Christ the Son of God can actually reconcile the distance between His perfection and our flawed selves.