Numbers 28:1-15 Lessons from the Old Testament Festivals Sacrifices for Staying Sanctified for God

Introduction. The “offering laws” in chapters 28 and 29 instructed the Jews on how to stay close to God by giving thanks and staying set apart from the world, i.e. being “sanctified.” Sadly, many Christians find little value in carefully studying these chapters. Many suppose that if Christ fulfilled the sacrificial laws there is nothing to be gained by studying them. But this view is entirely mistaken. The sacrificial laws foreshadowed Christ (Col. 2:16-17; Heb. 10:1). Each festival that surrounded these sacrifices was called a miqra or “holy convocation” (Lev. 23:2). This same word can also mean a “rehearsal.” By studying what the people were rehearsing for, we can learn more about Jesus. We can also learn how to live our lives as a “living sacrifice” (Rom. 12:1). We will see that each individual sacrifice foreshadowed an aspect of our own walk with God. We are part of God’s holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). If you study these laws closely, they may change how you live your life.

1. Seven Ingredients to Making Your Daily Walk a Living Sacrifice to God. Nu. 28:1-8.

(1) Be humble in your walk with God. God begins by telling the people “be careful to present my offering, my food for my offering by fire, of a soothing aroma to me, at their appointed times.” (Nu. 28:1). Nothing appears in the Bible by accident. God repeatedly used the possessive terms “my” or “me” to stress that the sacrifices were about Him. If we boast about what we have done for God, what we have accomplished or when we accept praise without giving credit to God, we make our works about ourselves (1 Cor. 3:21). This is a form of pride. When left unchecked, pride can lead to our destruction (Prov. 16:18). Thus, as we make our life offerings to God, we are commanded to do so with humility (Mal. 6:8). Is the motivation behind your actions each day to glorify God, yourself, or your family?

(2) Be Obedient. The Jews did not have the right to pick and choose when or how to observe the sacrifices (Nu. 28:1). God closely regulated what days these sacrifices took place, the types of animals involved, the number of animals involved, and the exact measurements of the flour to be used. Nothing was left to individual discretion. According to Christ, we cannot say that we love God if we are disobedient to His Word (Jo. 14:15; 15:10). Is there any area in your life where you are being disobedient? Do you pick and choose which scriptures to follow? If you are not serving God, are you being obedient to His will or your own?

(3) Praise Christ daily that He paid for your sins. (The Lamb’s Blood). Each day, the Jews had to sacrifice two one-year old male lambs as a burnt offering (Nu. 28:3; 7:15). The lambs also had to be without defect (Nu. 28:3; Lev. 1:3; Ex. 12:5). These were the most valuable lambs in the flock. The lambs were sacrificed because there can be no forgiveness without the shedding of blood (Lev. 17:11; Heb. 9:22). Jesus was the lamb without defect who submitted Himself unto death as he was led to the slaughter (Isa. 53:7; Jo. 1:29; Heb. 10:12-14; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). The fire consuming the sacrifices (Nu. 28:3) symbolizes God’s judgment (Heb. 12:29). Jesus paid the ultimate price for our sins (1 Cor. 6:20). We no longer need to make sin offerings because Jesus’ death was a one-time sacrifice for all sins (Heb. 10:14). Because God once accepted animal sacrifices, we don’t have any reason to doubt Jesus’ ability to atone for the worst sinners (Heb. 9:14). From David’s example, we should give thanks by singing Jesus’ praises (Ps. 18:49; 26:7; 30:4, 12; 50:14; 69:30; 75:1; 79:13; 92:1; 95:2; 97:12; 100:4; 106:1; 107:1, 8; 116:17; 118:1; 119:62; 140:13; 147:7).

(4) Pray at least two times a day. (The Two Sacrifices). The lamb’s blood was a “soothing aroma” to God (Nu. 28:1, 6, 8; 18:17; Lev. 1:9; Ex. 29:18). Christ’s sacrifice later became that soothing aroma (Eph. 5:2). The priests created a soothing aroma on two separate occasions each day; in the morning and at twilight (Nu. 28:4, 8; Lev. 6:20; Ex. 30:7-8). Today, we can create a soothing aroma to God through our prayers (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3). The psalmist David states that he prayed in the morning (Ps. 5:3; 88:13). He also prayed at twilight (Ps. 63:6; 141:2). The twilight offering happened in the mid afternoon at the ninth hour. Peter and John, for example went “to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.” (Acts 3:1). Christ was crucified at the appointed time of the morning sacrifice and died at the appointed time of the mid afternoon sacrifice (Mk. 15:25, 34). This suggests that God wants us to create a soothing prayer aroma to Him twice a day to honor Christ (1 Chr. 23:30; 1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 12:12; Col. 4:2; James 5:16). Are you praying twice a day? Are your prayers a sweet aroma of praise to God or a shopping list of your requests?

(5) Give thanks by making your life a living sacrifice. (The Fine Flour). The Jews were also told to make a grain offering with a tenth of an ephah of “fine flour” (Nu. 28:5; 8:8; 7:13; Lev. 2:1, 7; 8:26; 14:10). The fine flour symbolized the best that the person had to offer from his or her labors. The grain offering was given out of thanks for being freed of sin (Lev. 2:1-16; Dt. 29:8-11). For the flour to be fine, however, the impurities had to be ground out. The exact measurements also meant that we needed to worship God in the exact manner He prescribed. To show our gratitude today, Paul encourages us to offer ourselves as a “living sacrifice” (Ro. 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:19-20). Have you allowed the Spirit to ground out the impurities in your life? Is your time spent as a living sacrifice to God or to yourself?

(6) Let your life offering be guided by the Holy Spirit. (the Beaten Oil). The Jews also gave a “hin” of “beaten oil” with the grain (life) offering (Nu. 28:5; 18:12-13; 8:8; 7:13; Lev. 2:1-2, 4, 6-7, 15; 8:30; 14:18, 29; Ex. 29:1-3; Dt. 18:4). The Jews were previously told to bring clear oil of “beaten olives” for the lamp of the Tabernacle (Ex. 27:20). Oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13). Like the olives, we also need to be crushed before the Holy Spirit can come upon us (2 Cor. 4:8). God does not want your life offerings if it is filled with selfish motives. Nor does He want your offerings if they are done out of ritual (Prov. 5:8; Isa. 1:13; Jer. 7:21-24; Amos 5:21-24). Do you merely go through the motions in worship?

(7) Show your thanks by being joyful. (the Drink Offering). The Jews also drank a small “hin” of wine as a drink offering (Nu. 15:5, 7, 10; 6:17; Lev. 23:13). Jesus is the vine of life that we drink, and the wine symbolizes His blood (Jo. 6:53). We drink His symbolic blood because we remember that our sins were transferred to Him through His blood (1 Cor. 11:25). In handing the cup to the disciples, Jesus said: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” (Mk. 14:24). Paul at one time compared his life sacrifice to a drink offering: “even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you.” (Phil. 2:17; same 2 Tim. 4:6). In this context, wine is a symbol of joy or happiness: “[The Lord] makes ... plants for man to cultivate – bringing forth food from the earth: wine that gladdens the heart of man . . .” (Ps. 104:14(f)). “Go . . . drink your wine with a joyful heart . . .” (Ecc. 9:7). Do people see the joy of the Lord radiating out of your life? Or, is your life offering (the grain offering) filled with complaints and grumbling? If you complain, what kind of a light are you?

2. Seven Reasons Why Sanctification Should Include a Voluntary Sabbath. Nu. 28:9-10.

God’s Sabbath was meant for mankind1

(1) Keeping a voluntary Sabbath allows time to worship and study God. (the Holy Blood of the Lamb) (Nu. 28:9). The Sabbath is the Fourth Commandment (Ex. 20:8; 31:13-17; Dt. 5:12-15). In the Old Testament, people who intentionally violated the Sabbath were to be put to death (Ex. 31:14; Nu. 15:33-36). The Jews also spent 70 years of exile in Babylon for failing to observe the Sabbath years (2 Chr. 26:20-21). Christ, however, fulfilled the Law (Matt 5:17). Our legal obligations to the law were “nailed to the cross.” (Col. 2:14). Thus, “[l]et no man judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of . . . the Sabbath days.” (Col. 2:16). These things are the “shadow” of Christ (Col. 2:17; see also Gal. 4:10). Paul also observed: “one person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike.” (Ro. 14:5-6). For all these reasons, failure to observe the Ten Commandments is no longer a test of salvation (Jo. 3:16; Ro. 10:9-10). Yet, there is a difference between what one is legally obligated to do and what one may do as an act of devotion. Jesus warns us: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15). “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (Jo. 15:10). He is the great “I AM” who gave Moses the Ten Commandments (Jo. 8:58; Ex. 3:13). Thus, the “commandments” that Christ referred to are the Ten Commandments. Even if Christ’s death caused the Ten Commandments to be reduced to only Nine (excluding the Sabbath), your love for God should still motivate you to spend at least one day devoted to praise, prayer, and Bible study. If we are motivated by love and not by obligation, spending at least one day studying, worshipping, and praying will be a “sweet aroma to God.” (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3). God always meant for the Sabbath to be a day of devotion: “If because of the Sabbath, you turn your foot from doing your own pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy day of the Lord honorable, and shall honor it, desisting from your own ways, from speaking your own pleasure and speaking your own word, then you will take delight in the Lord. . . ” (Is. 58:13-14(a)). The Sabbath was therefore meant to be a day for voluntary devotion. Are you using that time to glorify God?

(2) Keeping a voluntary Sabbath allows you worship corporately with others. (the Drink Offering). We are warned not to “forsak[e] the assembling together, as is the habit of some. . . .” (Heb 10:24-25). The reasons for this include encouraging and exhorting one another, stirring up love and promoting good works. (Id.) The Bible also reveals that we are like sheep, which are dumb and defenseless animals (Is. 53:6). A Sabbath that includes regular church or small study group attendance helps to protect us and keep us accountable. Have you placed yourself at risk for spiritual attack by separating from the flock? If you are part of a large church, have you found a small group or partner to stay accountable in your walk?

(3) Devoting one voluntary day to God shows God you trust Him. (the Grain Offering). (Nu. 28:9). The Sabbath was to celebrate both God’s creation and our freedom from bondage (Ex. 20:11; Dt. 5:14-15). Because of our original sin, all creation is condemned to struggle here on Earth (Gen. 3:17; 9:2; Rom. 8:19-22). The Sabbath foreshadows a day when, thanks to Jesus, we will no longer need to tire from the daily struggles of life (Heb. 4:9-10). During the Sabbath, the Jews were prevented from engaging in commerce (Jer. 17:21-27), field work (Ex. 34:21), chopping wood for heating and cooking (Ex. 35:2-3), and causing servants to work (Dt. 5:12-15). When we feel we must work for money on the Sabbath, what are we saying about how much we trust God to provide for our daily needs?

(4) Keeping a voluntary Sabbath sets you apart from the world around you. (the Drink Offering). Keeping a Sabbath out of devotion (not obligation) is also important to keeping oneself separated from the world. Although the Jewish Sabbath was Saturday, it now can be observed on any or every day of the week (Ro. 14:5-6). We are to be a salt and light in the world (Matt. 5:13-16). One part of “true religion” includes being “unstained by the world.” (Jam. 1:27). If your boss insists that you work seven consecutive days in a row, having the courage to say no makes you stand out like salt in a wound for God. If you keep one day of the week devoted to drawing close to God, you are more likely to be “unstained by the world” and a “light” to others. Does your use of your Sabbath make you a light to others?

(5) Keeping a voluntary Sabbath gives you the opportunity to volunteer and help others. (the Grain & Drink Offering). The Pharisees attempted to charge Jesus when He allowed His followers to eat grain in the field when they were hungry (Matt. 12:1-14) (the same thing David did for his men in 1 Sam 21). They also sought to charge Jesus when He healed on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:9-14; Jo. 5:1-18). Jesus challenged the notion that every kind of work on the Sabbath was wrong. He wanted people to understand the work that involves helping others is expected on the Sabbath. His point was certainly not to ignore the Sabbath altogether. When we devote our Sabbath to helping the persons in need, we are serving Christ (Matt. 25:40). Part of “true religion” also involves helping those in need (Jam 1:27). As many can attest, hard work on a day off from work to serve others is more fulfilling than a day spent serving oneself. Without a day off, our busy lives would not give us the chance to help others. Do you use your day off to solely benefit yourself?

(6) A voluntary Sabbath gives us rest. (the Grain & Drink Offering). We are expected to work hard as Christians (1 Thess. 4:11; 2 Thess. 3:10). Yet, as Lord of the Sabbath (Lk. 6:5), Jesus meant to give our bodies and our minds the rest we need (Mk. 2:27). The Sabbath allowed people to “refresh themselves.” (Ex. 23:12). Some people believe that God is holding back the best in life with restrictions. As Christians in recent years have chosen to ignore the Sabbath, is it any wonder that rates of hearts disease, depression, anxiety, sleeplessness, and stress have risen? Are you giving your body and mind a Sabbath rest?

(7) Observe a voluntary Sabbath and receive a double blessing from God. The Jews were expected to make daily sacrifices or devotionals (Nu. 28:3-8). On the Sabbath, the daily devotional offerings were doubled, i.e., four lambs instead of two (Nu. 28:9-10). In other words, the Sabbath involved double the normal daily worship. Jesus promises those who are “weary and heavy-laden” rest when they come to Him (Matt. 11:28). God also promises that those who spend the Sabbath seeking after Him instead of their own pleasures will find great delight: “Then you will take delight in the Lord, and I will make you ride on the heights of the earth;” (Is. 58:13-14). This is also when God can bless us by speaking to us. John, for example, received his end time revelation while “in the Spirit on the day of the Lord.” (Rev. 1:10). Thus, the double Sabbath worship provides a double blessing. Are you doubling your daily worship on your Sabbath? Are you missing out on this double blessing?

3. Seven Rules for Spiritual Renewal. Nu. 28:11-15.

(1) Be reborn in Christ. (the New Moon Festival). The new moon festival was one of the most mysterious yet interesting festivals. The Jewish calendar was based upon the cycles of the moon. On the first day of the Jewish month, the moon had a new beginning as a crescent moon. It then grows to a full moon in the middle of the month. It then wanes until it disappears on the last day of the month. The new moon symbolizes spiritual rebirth. “Just as the moon is born again, we are renewed in Messiah. It is the festival of being born again. Messiah Himself is our baptism.” (First Fruit of Zion, Torah Club, Numbers Vol. 2, (2014) p. 590-60). The Jewish nation also went in a similar cycle of growth and decline. Fifteen generations passed between Abraham and Solomon when Israel reached its full glory as a light to the nations. Fourteen generations of decline then passed until the last Jewish king Zedekiah (Id. at 591-2). Jesus, who gave us a new beginning, came 15 generations after Solomon (Matt. 1:17). Jesus said that we also must be “born again.” (Jo. 3:3). If you are born again, is the fruit of the Spirit in your life visible to others?

(2) Give your strength to Christ and wash away your dead and sinful flesh. (the Two Bulls) (Nu. 28:11). The bull was the strongest and most expensive sacrifice. The sacrifice of the bull represents the atonement of sin for a new believer who seeks to approach God. It was the first of the sacrifices in the book of Leviticus. The bull represented the complete judgment of sin (Lev. 1:5). The skin or flesh of this offering was cut up in pieces and burned (Lev. 1:6). The flesh which was cut up and burned represented the sin that separated from God (Isa. 59:2). The priest then put his hands on the animal he was sacrificing and the person’s sins were cast onto the animal (Lev. 1:5; Ex. 29:10, 15, 19). This foreshadowed how Christ gave all His strength and His life for us (Mk. 14:24; 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 1:18-19; 2:24; Is. 53:4-5, 10, 12). If Jesus became the two burned bulls, is there anything left for us to do in response? Yes. We give up our strength and find our strength in Him. The entrails and legs of the bull also still needed to be washed and burned as a soothing aroma to God (Lev. 1:9). The water used for washing is the Holy Spirit (cf. Ez. 36:25-27). When Peter asked Jesus to wash his feet, hands, and head, Jesus responded: “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet.” (Jo. 13:10). In other words, Christ died once for our sins, but our flesh must still be washed. Thus, this sacrifice directs us to do three things. First, we read the Word to wash and expose our sins (Eph. 5:26). Second, we must confess our sins (1 Jo. 1:9). Third, we give up our strength to let Christ be our strength. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:11-13; Hab. 3:17-19).

(3) Spiritual renewal involves complete submission to God. (the Seven Lambs) (Nu. 28:11). Jesus was the lamb who voluntarily allowed Himself to be led to the slaughter (Isa. 53:7; Jo. 1:29; Heb. 10:12-14; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). Christ humbled Himself to the point of dying for our sins. The seven lambs symbolized the completeness of His work (Heb. 10:14). The lamb’s blood was a “soothing aroma” to God (Nu. 28:1, 6, 8; 18:17; Lev. 1:9; Ex. 29:18). Christ’s sacrifice later became that soothing aroma (Eph. 5:2). Today, we can create a soothing aroma to God through our prayers (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3). The psalmist David prayed in the morning (Ps. 5:3; 88:13). He also prayed at twilight (Ps. 63:6; 141:2). The twilight offering happened in the mid afternoon at the ninth hour. Peter and John, for example went “to the temple at the ninth hour, the hour of prayer.” (Acts 3:1). Christ was crucified at the appointed time of the morning sacrifice and died at the appointed time of the mid afternoon sacrifice (Mk. 15:25, 34). This suggests that God wants us to create a soothing prayer aroma to Him at least twice a day to honor Christ (1 Chr. 23:30; 1 Thess. 5:17; Rom. 12:12; Col. 4:2; Jam. 5:16). Are you praying twice a day? In addition, just as Christ submitted to the Father to die for us, we should submit to Him. The Jews were to go through this cleansing process once a month. Christians should do the same: “present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice . . .[and] be transformed by the renewing of your mind . . .” (Rom. 12:1-2). The New Moon festival instructs us to go through a period of monthly reflection and renewal through the blood of Christ. If we do so, our light will shine to others.

(4) Spiritual renewal involves seeking God’s forgiveness and forgiving others. (the Ram) (Nu. 28:11). The New Moon festival also involved the sacrifice of a ram (Nu. 28:11). The trespass offering for sins against God was a ram (Lev. 8:18; 5:15). Abraham offered a ram as a substitute for Isaac (Gen. 22:8). Jesus became our trespass offering (Is. 53:10-11). If we confess our sins, God is faithful to forgive us (1 Jo. 1:9). Yet, to be forgiven, we must forgive others (Lk. 6:37; Matt. 6:14; Mk. 11:25). We must also pay restitution for our wrongs (Lev. 5:15). This in turn leads to spiritual renewal. Is there any unconfessed sin in your life? Have you forgiven others for the sins?

(5) Spiritual renewal involves letting the Holy Spirit direct your life offering. (the Fine Flour with Oil) (Nu. 28:11). The fine flour symbolized the best that the person had to offer from his or her labors, motivated out of gratitude for being freed of sin (Lev. 2:1-16; Dt. 29:8-11). Yet, the grain offering had to be accompanied by oil, which is the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13). Some Jews tried to accomplish this by making the New Moon festival a time of teaching (2 Kgs. 4:23). Yet, for others, it became just an activity that they did once per month without reflection. For this reason, God once lamented: “I hate your new moon festivals and appointed feasts, they have become a burden to Me, I am weary of bearing them.” (Is. 1:14; 47:13). Is your life offering directed by the Spirit? Or, is it a burden for God to deal with? If not once per month, how frequently do you try to renew yourself in your walk with God? If the answer is never, pray about making this part of your life.

(6) Spiritual renewal involves bringing your life into communion with Christ. (the Drink Offering) (Nu. 28:14). The Jews observed this festival with a two-day banquet (1 Sam. 20:5). David also tells us that the shofars sounded during the new moon (Ps. 81:3). We are to celebrate by being in communion with Christ. Protestants and Evangelicals celebrate communion with Christ at least once per month (Mk. 14:24; Jo. 6:53). Catholics do so even more frequently. Our drink offering of communion should be filled with joy in our life for others to see (Phil. 2:17). Is the joy of Christ in your life shining like the full moon? Or, have your struggles caused your joy to wane like the moon?

(7) Spiritual renewal involves casting off our sinful desires. (the Goat) (Nu. 28:15). The last sacrifice was that of a goat, which symbolizes the devil (Nu. 28:15). The goat sacrifice is described in the book of Leviticus. On the holiest day of the year (Yom Kippur), the high priest presented two goats as a sin offering before the Lord (Lev. 16:13). The high priest later cast lots for two goats to determine which would be slaughtered and which would later be driven away to “cover” the sins of the people (Lev. 16:7-8). For us, Christ did not merely cover our sins, He took them away (Jo. 1:29; Acts 3:19; 1 Jo. 2:2). When we are born again, our old self and our old desires should pass away (Rom. 6:6). Yet, there are times when our old selves will appear (Eph. 4:22; Col. 3:9). God, however, “knows how to rescue the godly from temptation. . .” (2 Pet. 2:9). If you have become yoked by sin, like an addition, will you let God take away your sins? If you are willing, renew yourself at least once per month to let God help you remove yourself from your temptations and struggles.