Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 4) – Like a Negotiator Who Has No Leverage But Thinks He Does…

Posted: August 1, 2016 in Book of Numbers
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Numbers 8:5-26 (Part 4)

The Levites Dedicated

Have you ever made a promise to God that you would do something for Him or stop doing something if he gets you out of jam? Many of us do that. Whether it be as crass as a person who, as they say, is “john-hugging drunk” and is, as they say, “making offerings to the porcelain god” where a person swears to God they will never drink again (only to renege on the promise a week later). There are times when we are sober that make deals with God too. If God will stop the pain of a situation such as a broken relationship, where it is simply hard for us to get out of bed in the morning, we may make deals with God if He will just stop the emotional pain that we are experiencing. Other times, we have situations where our lives may be physically in danger and there is seemingly no way out of the situation where we bargain with God. In a lot of this bargaining, we promise to do better. We promise to curtail our bad behaviors. We promise to go to church more often. We promise to read our Bibles more. We generally promise to dedicate ourselves to the Lord in ways that are impossible to maintain. After the crisis, we find it is difficult to be as good as we thought we could be during the time of crisis when we made the promise. When things don’t improve or the situation does not go away, we become disillusioned with the promise that we made to God because we think He did not keep up his end of the bargain. We get angry with God because He did not change our circumstances or we simply find this “churchy” lifestyle more than we are willing to do. Have you ever been there, done that? I know that I have before Jesus became my Savior and Lord.

 

Another example is when we go to church are hear the great music that touches a chord in our souls and the sermon is truly convicting to us and then that final song just creates a well of emotion within us. So much so that we are drawn to come down to the altar at the church during the altar call at the end of the service. We have full intentions of becoming a believer in Jesus Christ but after we leave the church on a spiritual high we find that life is the same. We have the same friends. We have the same lifestyle. Problems still exist. It’s still hard to pay the bills. Your husband, wife, or kids are acting no better. You seem to make the same choices and end up in the same situations. You end up doing the same behaviors over and over again. When nothing seems to have changed you fall away from this spiritual high that you had and the internal promises to do better. These “spiritual warm fuzzies” as I call them are similar to the bargains with God discussed above. The spiritual warm fuzzies are bargains with God as well. It is not a crisis situation often. It’s just a desire to be better and do better. When life doesn’t change the way we expect it to, the bargain we made does not pan out the way we want, we fall away from the Lord.

 

When we go to church for what church can do for us is another example. When we go to church because it is the cool church to be at. When we go to church so that we can work our way into being buddies with the pastor so that it seems that we are holy. When we go to church for the political connections that we can make. When we go to church so that we can get patted on the back for our talents and ingenuity. When we go to church to get praise for the amount of money that we give to the church. When we go to church to have power that we do not have in our non-church life. When we go to church because our best friend goes there. When go to church because the church has programs to that meet the need of my kids. When we go to church because we get to be on a committee or the chairman of a committee. We are bargaining with God. We are wanting payback for living a certain way. We want our needs met. We will always be disappointed when we bargain with God. We have the relationship all out of whack when we bargain with God.

 

It is this idea of making bargains with God that struck me this morning. It was the wave offering that was mentioned in this passage that brought the idea to mind because I got to wondering what’s the difference between bargains we make with God and the wave offerings in the Old Testament. Let’s read the full passage together and then let’s concentrate on v. 11 for today after we have read through it:

 

5 The Lord said to Moses: 6 “Take the Levites from among all the Israelites and make them ceremonially clean. 7 To purify them, do this: Sprinkle the water of cleansing on them; then have them shave their whole bodies and wash their clothes. And so they will purify themselves. 8 Have them take a young bull with its grain offering of the finest flour mixed with olive oil; then you are to take a second young bull for a sin offering.[a] 9 Bring the Levites to the front of the tent of meeting and assemble the whole Israelite community. 10 You are to bring the Levites before the Lord, and the Israelites are to lay their hands on them. 11 Aaron is to present the Levites before the Lord as a wave offering from the Israelites, so that they may be ready to do the work of the Lord.

 

12 “Then the Levites are to lay their hands on the heads of the bulls, using one for a sin offering to the Lord and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites. 13 Have the Levites stand in front of Aaron and his sons and then present them as a wave offering to the Lord. 14 In this way you are to set the Levites apart from the other Israelites, and the Levites will be mine.

 

15 “After you have purified the Levites and presented them as a wave offering, they are to come to do their work at the tent of meeting. 16 They are the Israelites who are to be given wholly to me. I have taken them as my own in place of the firstborn, the first male offspring from every Israelite woman. 17 Every firstborn male in Israel, whether human or animal, is mine. When I struck down all the firstborn in Egypt, I set them apart for myself. 18 And I have taken the Levites in place of all the firstborn sons in Israel. 19 From among all the Israelites, I have given the Levites as gifts to Aaron and his sons to do the work at the tent of meeting on behalf of the Israelites and to make atonement for them so that no plague will strike the Israelites when they go near the sanctuary.”

 

20 Moses, Aaron and the whole Israelite community did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses. 21 The Levites purified themselves and washed their clothes. Then Aaron presented them as a wave offering before the Lord and made atonement for them to purify them. 22 After that, the Levites came to do their work at the tent of meeting under the supervision of Aaron and his sons. They did with the Levites just as the Lord commanded Moses.

 

23 The Lord said to Moses, 24 “This applies to the Levites: Men twenty-five years old or more shall come to take part in the work at the tent of meeting, 25 but at the age of fifty, they must retire from their regular service and work no longer. 26 They may assist their brothers in performing their duties at the tent of meeting, but they themselves must not do the work. This, then, is how you are to assign the responsibilities of the Levites.”

 

It is the wave offering that caught my attention this morning. What is it? I had never really noticed this concept before when reading in the Old Testament even though it is there in other Old Testament books that I have studied. So, let’s find out what it is and what it means. According to www.gotquestions.org, a wave offering is:

 

The wave offering, part of the offerings of the Mosaic Law, was the symbolic act indicating that the offering was for the Lord. Portions of the things offered were literally waved in the air before the Lord. The wave offering is first seen in Exodus 29:19-28 in the description of the ordination ceremony of Aaron and his sons… A wave offering was a portion of a sacrifice presented to God, then released by God for the use of those involved in the sacrifice. The meat fed the families of the priests. The Levites served first the tabernacle and then the temple, fulfilling the obligation of the rest of the Israelites. Both were God’s provision for those who sacrificed themselves in service to Him.

 

I guess then the difference between our bargains with God and the wave offerings is then a matter of intent. A wave offering was offered up to the Lord when a true dedication was made, when a real sacrifice was made. The Levites gave up all rights to land and the fruits of it to be dedicated to the service of the Lord. That’s the difference to me between bargaining with the Lord and a wave offering. When we are willing to give up those things that are important to us, the gods of our own making, to be dedicated to the Lord it is different. When we do not see salvation as giving something up but rather gaining something, then we are wave offerings. When we see that we have gained eternity and are willing to follow the Lord and not romanticize our pre-salvation past, then, we are wave offerings. When we realize that we are sinners before a just and righteous God and are willing to follow Him and obey His Word willingly no matter what happens, no matter the cost to us, then we are wave offerings. When we experience real life change where we are in love with God, then, we are wave offerings. When we see life in Jesus as the beginning of a new and better life rather than trying to maintain a life of do’s and don’ts, then, we are wave offering.

 

When we get down on our knees in realization that we are destined for hell and that there is no amount of good stuff that we can do, no amount of service that we can bring, no amount of money we can give, no committee chairmanship great enough, no goody-two-shoe behavior excellent enough, no being friends with the right people at church enough, no being close friends with the preacher enough, no bargains big enough that we can make, to make us right with God and we fall at the feet of Jesus and beg Him to grant us peace and ask Him to be the Lord of our lives and change us from the inside out, we are wave offerings. It only through true salvation, knowing that there is nothing we can do to earn God’s grace and that in the absence of Jesus Christ we are simply hypocrites playing a game, that we can become fully dedicated to the Lord. It is only then that we are truly a wave offering. Anything less is just a bargain that we can’t keep. When we sacrifice our desires and make Christ’s desires our desire, we are wave offerings. When there is humility before the Lord, we are wave offerings. When we place God first and seek His ways and not our own, we are wave offerings. When we realize that we are not in a position to bargain with the Creator of the Universe and that we are not on equal footing to Him and simply fall before His feet and beg His grace and seek His face and humbly serve Him because He granted us grace, then, and only then are we wave offerings to the Lord. All-in. Fully dedicated. Seeing the sacrifices that we made of our old life as gain rather than loss. Understanding who God really is for the first time through the changing power of Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit. Understanding how lucky we are to have Jesus Christ as our Savior. And we jump full-in, all-out into this life dedicated to the will of God (and realizing that we will still make tons of mistakes and that life will not be perfect), we are wave offerings then and not bargainers who have no leverage to bargain but falsely believe that we do.

 

Amen and Amen.

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