God’s yoke is easy when believers work together. (six covered carts and 12 Oxen). The leaders of the 12 tribes brought six covered carts and 12 oxen. There were two oxen for each cart to be equally yoked (Nu. 7:3). The priests dedicated these gifts at the tent of meeting for both God’s use and for the Levites for their use in carrying the Tabernacle (Nu. 7:5-6). When we follow Christ, He reveals that His yoke easy (Matt. 11:30). Yet, the yoke within the Church is not equally born when the people do not give equally of their time and money to help the church leaders do their jobs: “How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity.” (Ps. 133:1). Are you given the best of your time, talent, and treasure?
Be yoked together with other believers. Jesus said that the world will know that we are His disciples by the love that we have for one another (Jo. 13:35). Each tribe contributed to the efforts to help the Tabernacle move through the wilderness. They depended upon each other, not the outside world, for their animals and provisions. The Bible tells us not to be unequally yoked with non-believers (1 Cor. 6:14). Animals that are not equally yoked will be pulled off course. Being unequally yoked in dating, marriage, business, or in friendships can also pull you off your walk. Are you unequally yoked with anyone in your life?
Be in submission to God’s Word. The 12 tribes gave the Levite tribes of Gershon and Merari carts and oxen (Nu. 7:7-8). But the tribe of Kohath did not receive any carts or oxen because they were to carry the holy things of God by hand (Nu. 4:4; 7:9). Yet, they would die if they touched these items for even a moment (Nu. 4:15, 20). God later struck down Uzzah when he touched the ark with his unclean hands to save it from falling from an unstable cart (2 Sam. 6:2-7; 1 Chr. 13:7-10). If the Jews had carried it with poles as God instructed them to do instead of carts, this never would have happened. At the time of Uzzah’s death, however, the Jews either forgot God’s Word or tried to rationalize why there was a better way to accomplish His will. Either was equally sinful in His eyes. Today, there are many churches which seek to work together for God. Yet, many churches pick and choose the verses that they will follow. For example, many churches refuse to preach on God’s standards of sexual morality out of fear that the casual church seekers might leave. Churches that fear and follow the Word in its entirety should not be yoked together with such churches. “For there must also be factions among you, in order that those who are approved may have become evident among you,” (1 Cor. 11:19).
Leaders must also be in submission to God. After the priests dedicated the Tabernacle, each tribe came on separate days for 12 days to give their gifts (Nu. 7:10-11). If churches are to work together, they must be guided by the Spirit with a common vision for God. The Bible lists the acts of the 12 leaders, not by their birth order or importance, but by the order that God assigned them to guard the Tabernacle. Leaders cannot expect to be successful if they act on their own accord. Church leaders also cannot dictate to others based upon their size or money. They must instead be Spirit lead by being humble servant leaders to all.
Judah. Nashon “the discerner,” the son of Amminibad “the people of a liberal giver,” made the first offering (Nu. 7:12). He was from the tribe of Judah, the fourth tribe and a descendant of Leah (Gen. 29:35). Judah’s tribe guarded the eastern flank of the Tabernacle (Nu. 2:3). As the names suggest, God gives liberally to those leaders who seek to discern His will (Jam. 1:5). Are you seeking His will in all that you do?
Issachar. Nethanel, “a gift of God,” the son of Zuar “little,” made the second offering (Nu. 7:18). He was from the tribe of Issachar, the ninth tribe and a descendant of Leah (Gen. 30:20). This tribe guarded behind Judah on the eastern flank (Nu. 2:5-6). As the name suggests, for those leaders who are meek in God’s presence, He promises to provide them with spiritual gifts (Matt. 5:5). Are you humbly to receive His blessings?
Zebulun. Eliab “God is Father,” the son of Helon “brave or strong,” made the third offering (Nu. 7:24). He was from the tribe of Zebulun, the tenth tribe and a descendant of Leah (Gen. 30:20). His tribe also guarded behind Judah on the eastern flank (Nu. 2:7-8). For those leaders who are sons of God, they do not need to fear any evil (Ro. 8:15; Ps. 23:4; 112:7). If you are walking with Him, is there any person or thing that you fear?
Reuben. Eilzur “God is a Rock,” the son of Shedur “the Almighty fire,” made the fourth offering (Nu. 7:30). He was from the tribe of Reuben, the first tribe and a descendant of Leah (Gen. 29:32). His tribe guarded the southern flank (Nu. 2:10-11). For those leaders who take refuge in God, He will purify their impurities (Ex. 24:17; Dt. 4:24). He will also be a shield against their enemies (Ps. 18:30; 2 Sam. 22:3, 31). Are you taking refuge in Him when you are under spiritual attack?
Simeon. Shelumiel “at peace with God,” the son of Zurishaddai “My rock is the Almighty,” made the fifth offering (Nu. 7:36). He was from the tribe of Simeon, the second tribe and a descendant of Leah (Gen. 29:33). His tribe guarded behind Reuben on the southern flank (Nu. 2:12-13). For those leaders who have taken refuge in God as their rock, they should expect to find peace. They should also be at peace with each other: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:2-3). Are you at peace with your brothers and sisters in Christ?
Gad. Eliasaph “God has added,” the son of Deul “known of God,” made the sixth offering (Nu. 7:42). He was from the tribe of Gad, the seventh tribe and a descendant of Leah’s maid Zilpah (Gen. 29:11). His tribe also guarded behind Reuben on the southern flank (Nu. 2:14-15). To those leaders who know God, He will not withhold anything they need. Do you trust in Him for all your needs, not your wants?
Ephraim. Elishama “God has heard,” the son of Ammihud “the people of majesty,” made the seventh offering (Nu. 7:48). He was from the tribe of Ephraim, the one of two tribes replacing Joseph, the eleventh tribe and a descendant of Rachel (Gen. 30:23). His tribe guarded the western flank (Nu. 2:18-19). In the Old Testament, God warned that as a consequence of the separation caused by sin, He would not hear the prayers of sinners. “So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” (Is. 1:15; 59:2-3; Prov. 15:29; 8:9; Ps. 66:18). In the New Testament, He warns that sin can still “hinder” prayers (1 Pet. 3:7; Jo. 9:31). When you repent, your prayers will not be hindered.
Manasseh. Gamaliel “God is a rewarded,” the son of Pedahzur “the rock has redeemed,” made the eighth offering (Nu. 7:54). He was from the tribe of Manasseh, the second tribe replacing Joseph (Gen. 30:23). His tribe guarded behind Ephraim on the western flank (Nu. 2:20-21). For those leaders who are redeemed by Christ’s blood, they have great rewards in heaven waiting (Heb. 11:6). “If we have been united with Him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in His resurrection.” (Ro. 6:5). Are you denying yourself of the things of the flesh to store up your treasures in heaven?
Benjamin. Abidan “my father is judge,” the son of Gideoni “the cutter down,” made the ninth offering (Nu. 7:60). He was from the tribe of Benjamin, the twelfth tribe and a descendant of Rachel (Gen. 35:18). His tribe also guarded behind Manasseh on the western flank (Nu. 2:20-21). For those leaders who trust in God, they do not need to take vengeance into their own hands. They can trust God to deal with their enemies (Is. 11:4; Ecc. 3:17; 1 Ki. 8:32). Are you leaving vengeance to God when you are wronged?
Dan. Ahiezer “brother of help,” the son of Ammishaddai “the people of the Almighty,” made the tenth offering (Nu. 7:66). He was from the tribe of Dan, the fifth tribe and a descendant of Rachel’s maid Bilhah (Gen. 30:6). His tribe guarded the northern flank (Nu. 2:25-26). Through Spirit-led love, church leaders are surrounded by brothers and sisters in times of need. Are you “[b]ear[ing] with one another in love”? (Eph. 4:2-3; Gal. 6:2).
Asher. Pagiel “event of God,” the son of Ocran “afflicted,” made the eleventh offering (Nu. 7:72). He was from the tribe of Asher, the eighth tribe and a descendant of Leah’s maid Zilphah (Gen. 30:12). His tribe guarded behind Dan on the northern flank (Nu. 2:27-28). If a leader is serving God, he cannot ignore the afflicted (Jam. 1:27). “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (Col. 3:14). Does your love for Christ motivate you to help the afflicted, the hungry, and the sick?
Naphtali. Ahira “brother of evil,” the son of Enan “having eyes,” made the twelfth offering (Nu. 7:78). He was from the tribe of Naphtali, the sixth tribe and descendant of Rachel’s maid Bilhah (Gen. 30:8). His tribe guarded behind Dan on the northern flank (Nu. 2:31-32). If a leader is being a wise shepherd of God’s flock, the leader should be constantly on the lookout for misguided brothers or sisters who might be seeking to pull the sheep astray. Are your eyes vigilant for evil around you?
Tithes should be both generous and united in purpose as led by the Spirit. (The silver dish & bowl). Nu. 7:13, 19, 25, 31, 37, 43, 49, 55, 61, 67, 73, 79, 84-85. The tribes gave silver and utensils weighing 2,400 shekels (Nu. 7:85). They also gave gold weighing 120 shekels (Nu. 7:86). The Jews gave out of devotion. While building the Tabernacle, Moses requested that the workers stop giving because there was an outpouring of generosity (Ex. 36:2-7). This same type of Spirit-led generosity existed with the early Church (2 Cor. 9:6, 8-14). By contrast, if you hold back your tithes, you are robbing God (Mal. 3:8-10). Imagine the number of missionaries that could be sent out if the members of the Church today followed the example and gave both generously and with one accord: “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” (Phil. 2:2). Are you giving generously as led by the Spirit for His kingdom?
God remembers every gift. Many might wonder why God recorded the identical gifts of each tribe 12 times. Because of this repetition, this is the longest chapter in the Torah. Why not record it once and say that the others gave the same? According to Matthew Henry, “It was for the encouragement of these princes, and of their respective tribes, that each of their offerings being recorded at large no slight might seem to be put upon them; for rich and poor meet together before God. It was for the encouragement of all generous acts of piety and charity, by letting us know that what is so given is lent to the Lord, and He carefully records it, with every one's name prefixed to his gift, because what is given He will pay again, and even a cup of cold water shall have its reward. He is not unrighteous, to forget either the cost or the labor of love.” (citing Heb. 6:10). If you give in secret, He will reward you in heaven. Yet, it you publically give, you have received your reward (Matt. 6:2-5).
The flesh in your life offering should be crushed. (Fine flower for the gain offering). Nu. 7:13, 19, 25, 31, 37, 43, 49, 55, 61, 67, 73, 79. Each of the tribes gave “fine” flour for the grain offering. 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 from the penalty of sin (Lev. 2:1-16; Dt. 29:8-11). To become fine, however, the flour must be “crushed.” If your selfish desires have not been crushed, they are of little value to God. He has no interest in your offerings when your heart is not right (Prov. 5:8; Isa. 1:13; Jer. 7:21-24; Amos 5:21-24). “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Phil. 2:1-3). Are you giving out of love to Christ or a selfish reason?
Your life offering should be guided by the Holy Spirit. (Oil for the grain offering). Nu. 7:13, 19, 25, 31, 37, 43, 49, 55, 61, 67, 73, 79. Each of the tribes also gave “oil” for the grain offering. Oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit (1 Sam. 16:13). If you serve God without His Holy Spirit, your flesh is leading you. Every person in the Body of Christ has a different role. Just as the brain controls the body, let the Spirit direct your service: “For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body-whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free-and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Now the body is not made up of one part but of many.” (1 Cor. 12:12-26). “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:2-6). Are you praying for His direction as you seek to serve Him?
Your life offering should be guided by righteous prayers. (The gold pan with incense). Nu. 7:14, 20, 26, 32, 38, 44, 50, 56, 62, 68, 74, 80, 86. Each of the tribes also gave “incense” in gold bowls. The incense to the Lord symbolized prayer. “May my prayer be counted as incense before You; the lifting up of my hands as the evening offering.” (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3). The gold that is came in symbolized purity. Your life offering to God should also include righteous prayers. The Holy Spirit may not guide the Church if it is not seeking God in prayer. He allows you to become united in prayer and purpose: “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Cor. 1:10). Are you diligently praying every day?
Christ’s death atoned for your sins. (The bull). Nu. 7:15, 21, 27, 33, 39, 45, 51, 57, 63, 69, 75, 81, 87. The tribes gave a total of 12 bulls as a burnt offering (Nu. 7:87). The need for atonement applies to everyone. Sin has separated us from God: “But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear.” (Is. 59:2; Rom. 3:10-11; Ps. 14:1; 53:1; 143:2; 1 Jo. 1:8). We further cannot ignore the consequences of our sin for “the wages of sin is death . . .” (Rom. 6:23). We also have nothing to offer to pay for our sins. God has no need for our money. He therefore requires that each person offer a substitute. One life is needed in exchange for another. Blood is God’s symbol for the exchange of lives because: “the life of every creature is its blood.” (Lev. 17:14; Gen. 9:4). Without the shedding of blood, sins cannot be forgiven: “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb. 9:22; Lev. 17:11). The blood also had to be from an animal “without defect.” (Lev. 1:3, 10; 3:1; 22:20; Ex. 12:5; Dt. 15:21; 17:1). This was a sacrifice because it was one of the most expensive things the person seeking atonement owned. It would be the equivalent of cutting a Mercedes into pieces. Christ’s blood was given as an atonement for us because it was “unblemished and spotless” (1 Pet. 1:17-19). Christ further relieved us of the need to continue the sacrifices by offering us a one-time sacrifice for all: “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14). The tribes were all united in giving a bull, symbolizing their belief in its atoning blood. Although unity is important, we should not be in unity with a church if that church does not believe that Christ fully atoned for our sins. We are not to judge each other over minor matters like food, drinks, and festivals (Rom. 14:4-5, 10). Yet, we should avoid a church that teaches either a works-based salvation or some other path to heaven without Jesus. Faith in Him is the only way. “[W]ithout faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). Thus, a Church must believe that He died for our sins and then rose from the grave to give us life.
Christ is your substitute in death. (The Ram). Nu. 7:15, 21, 27, 33, 39, 45, 51, 57, 63, 69, 75, 81, 87. The tribes gave a total of 12 rams as a burnt offering (Nu. 7:87). The trespass offering for sins against God was a ram (Lev. 8:18; 5:15). Abraham offered the ram (who had his head caught in the thicket of thorns) as a substitute for Isaac. Just as He did for Isaac, God will provide this offering for us: “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering.” (Gen. 22:8). The ram foreshadowed Christ, who is your substitute trespass offering (Is. 53:10-11). Unity with other churches is required, but only if they share in this belief. If being a good person or having good works is enough to get to heaven, than Christ would have died a pointless death at the cross (Gal. 2:21).
Christ submitted Himself unto death for you. (The Lamb). Nu. 7:15, 21, 27, 33, 39, 45, 51, 57, 63, 69, 75, 81, 87. The tribes gave a total of 12 lambs as a burnt offering (Nu. 7:87). Jesus was the lamb without defect who submitted Himself unto death as He was led to the slaughter. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.” (Isa. 53:7; Jo. 1:29; Heb. 10:12-14; 1 Pet. 1:18-19). He humbled Himself to the point of dying for your sins. You in turn are to submit to Him (Ro. 12:1). If a church teaches that He was not the son of God, you should not be in fellowship with it: “[T]he body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God . . ..” (Eph. 4:11-13). Jesus is Lord over all. He was not just a prophet.
Christ took your sins away. (The Goat). Nu. 7:16, 22, 28, 34, 40, 46, 52, 58, 64, 70, 76, 82, 87. The tribes gave a total of 12 goats as a sin offering (Nu. 7:87). On the holiest day of the year, Yom Kippur, Aaron presented two goats as a sin offering before the Lord (Lev. 16:13). Aaron 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. “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”’ (Jo. 1:29; Acts 3:19; 1 Jo. 2:2). If a church believes that you have to work to pay off debts that Christ fully paid for and forgave, you again should not be in fellowship with that church.
Christ is the source of eternal peace. (The peace / Shalom offering). Nu. 7:17, 23, 29, 35, 41, 47, 53, 59, 65, 71, 77, 83, 88. Separate and apart from their burnt and sin offerings, the twelve tribes gave for a peace offering of 24 bulls, 60 rams, 60 goats and 160 lambs (Nu. 7:88). Before we were reconciled to God, we were enemies with Him (Ro. 5:10; Phil 3:18-19). Enemies do not automatically become friends when they end their hostilities. Christ’s death ripped the temple “veil,” which gives us access to God (Matt. 27:51; Mk. 15:38). You are part of God’s holy priesthood (1 Pet. 2:5, 9). As a priest, your “access” to Him does not automatically mean that we have “fellowship” with Him. You must also seek out fellowship with Christ when He knocks on the door of your heart. When speaking to the Church of Laodicea, He made an intriguing invitation to the believers that they could form an even deeper relationship with Him: “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.’” (Rev. 3:19-22). Many Christian quote part of verse 20 for the proposition that Jesus will come into the heart of a non-believer if he or she will accept Jesus as Lord. But this message was directed to existing believers at the Church of Laodicea. Moreover, focusing only on the knock on the door fails to address Jesus’ specific offer to “dine” with the believers. In that time, to dine with someone was an intimate sign of a deep friendship. Christ’s offer can only fully be understood in the context of Leviticus 3. There, God offers instructions for people to “dine” with Him as part of a peace or shalom offering. Thus, Jesus’ invitation was for a believer to find the peace that surpasses all understanding was made in the context of the peace offering. This offering is the secret for a believer to find God’s peace. Christ warns that in the world you will know turbulence, but in Him you will know peace (Jo. 16:33). He alone offers the peace that will allow you not to lose faith in the time of tragedy or adversity: “. . . we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ . . ” (Rom. 5:1). His peace and worldly peace are not the same: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (Jo. 14:27). If a church teaches that we can find inner peace on our own or without Jesus, you again should not be in fellowship with them.