Numbers 29:12-40 – Reflections on The Days When Just Breathing Was Hard

Posted: November 3, 2016 in Book of Numbers

Numbers 29:12-40

Offerings for the Festival of Shelters

Have ever wondered sometimes why you are still alive? There are times in our lives when the times seemed so dark that you wonder how you made it through it. I would venture to guess that each of us has a “black hole” period in our lives. Like a “black hole” in space that sucks everything into it, we have had times in our lives were the very act of breathing seemed a chore. In the period, after my second marriage ended and before I met my current wife, there was a period there that I lived that life of where you sit back sometimes and wonder how you made it through it all.

 

There were bouts of complete depression early on after the breakup of my second marriage that lasted for weeks. I hated weekends during that early period because it meant having nothing to focus on. Being awake was just a painful time of hurt and anguish where you would just rather be asleep than awake. Being asleep meant that you did not have to think. I used to hate for the sun to come up during those early days after the second marriage broke up. Work was a diversion from the hopelessness that I felt during that time. I felt like something was missing and like a limb had been cut off. Everything was a struggle and everything ached. To add to the pain, it was my second wife who wanted the divorce and she was out living the party lifestyle with her friends from work. She was having the time of her life while I was sitting in the corner all alone. I would feel alone in crowds during that time. I would talk myself out of going out to do things by myself because I felt defective and thought people were staring at me because I was defective. I could hear people chuckle in my mind because I was alone in public places. I was by all definitions clinically depressed. I had made my second wife the central focus of my life and had made her my God. I lived and died by her approval or disapproval. Because of mistakes that I made concerning financial secrets and the ongoing, smoldering your kids vs. my kids issues in our marriage, it ended. After years of living the song and dance of winning her approval, the rug was yanked out from beneath when we split up. I had made her my god. And, when you withdraw someone’s god (whether it be a person, or a drug, or whatever), there is a time of withdrawal and depression. It is a wonder that I survived that time period. Although I never considered suicide during those early days after the second marriage ended, breathing was a chore and I would have welcomed death by natural causes. It would have been a relief. The darkness of those days I can still feel now when I take the time to think about those days. It was so profound a time in my life that when I think of Woodwinds Apartments, the first place that I lived after the split, I think of darkness and depression. Anytime that I think of that period of my life, I feel the pounding sadness as a palpable thing. I can taste and smell and see the loneliness of that time when I take time to think of it. I know some of you reading this can identify with it. Some of you have been through those dark days of life before and probably some of you are there right now.

 

When I reflect back on those days, I wonder how I made it through. I did emerge from the dark days and eventually established my own identity in life. When I reflect back on those early days after the end of my second marriage, I see the dark valley as a necessary time in my life. Although I would take a root canal without novocaine than relive those days, I can look back on those days and see it as a necessary time of withdrawal. It was part of the pruning process of God on my life. I was defining myself by the relationships I was in and the second marriage was the height of that person worship. It was all part of God’s plan to draw me closer unto Him. It was a jagged knife to those things that I clung to instead of my identity in God. It was only by His grace that I survived those dark days.

 

Today, a decade after those days, I can reflect on those days and see the painful necessity of it but I can also see the providential care of my Lord. It was a necessary time even though I could not see it at the time. I was just wandering in the wilderness making it from day to day, making it from breath to breath, making it through the dark days. God was working though I could not see it. He provided for me even when it hurt to move. He provided for me and gave me that ray of hope that things would get better. That will to put one foot in front of the other despite the pain of breathing came from Him as He was pruning the vines of god worship out of my life. Without that time, I know that would not enjoy the intimacy that I have with the Lord that I have now. Without that time, I would never have found Elena, my current wife and the best thing that ever happened to me. She is not my God but she is what God purposely sent my way at the time that I was ready for a relationship like what she offers to me. None of the things that I am today as a Christ follower would have happened without that time of pruning. It was horrible and necessary at the same time. Now, I can reflect on it as part of God’s provision and plan for my life – a way of Him making me more and more dependent on Him with each passing year.

 

Without that time in the wilderness, I could not rejoice today at the blessings that God has bestowed upon my life. That reflection on deliverance from and the necessity of the wilderness is what I thought about when reflecting on the details of the sacrifices that go along with the Festival of Shelters as set forth in the passage for today, Numbers 29:12-40:

 

12 “‘On the fifteenth day of the seventh month, hold a sacred assembly and do no regular work. Celebrate a festival to the Lord for seven days. 13 Present as an aroma pleasing to the Lord a food offering consisting of a burnt offering of thirteen young bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. 14 With each of the thirteen bulls offer a grain offering of three-tenths of an ephah of the finest flour mixed with oil; with each of the two rams, two-tenths; 15 and with each of the fourteen lambs, one-tenth. 16 Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.

 

17 “‘On the second day offer twelve young bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. 18 With the bulls, rams and lambs, offer their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. 19 Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering, and their drink offerings.

 

20 “‘On the third day offer eleven bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. 21 With the bulls, rams and lambs, offer their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. 22 Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.

 

23 “‘On the fourth day offer ten bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. 24 With the bulls, rams and lambs, offer their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. 25 Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.

 

26 “‘On the fifth day offer nine bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. 27 With the bulls, rams and lambs, offer their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. 28 Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.

 

29 “‘On the sixth day offer eight bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. 30 With the bulls, rams and lambs, offer their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. 31 Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.

 

32 “‘On the seventh day offer seven bulls, two rams and fourteen male lambs a year old, all without defect. 33 With the bulls, rams and lambs, offer their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. 34 Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.

 

35 “‘On the eighth day hold a closing special assembly and do no regular work. 36 Present as an aroma pleasing to the Lord a food offering consisting of a burnt offering of one bull, one ram and seven male lambs a year old, all without defect. 37 With the bull, the ram and the lambs, offer their grain offerings and drink offerings according to the number specified. 38 Include one male goat as a sin offering, in addition to the regular burnt offering with its grain offering and drink offering.

 

39 “‘In addition to what you vow and your freewill offerings, offer these to the Lord at your appointed festivals: your burnt offerings, grain offerings, drink offerings and fellowship offerings.’”

 

40 Moses told the Israelites all that the Lord commanded him.

 

We find God’s instructions for celebrating the Feast of Tabernacles in Leviticus 23, given at a point in history right after God had delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt. The feast was to be celebrated each year on “the fifteenth day of this seventh month” and was to run for seven days (Leviticus 23:34). Like all feasts, it begins with a “holy convocation” or Sabbath day when the Israelites were to stop working to set aside the day for worshiping God. On each day of the feast they were to offer an “offering made by fire to the Lord” and then after seven days of feasting, again the eighth day was to be “a holy convocation” when they were to cease from work and offer another sacrifice to God (Leviticus 23). Lasting eight days, the Feast of Tabernacles begins and ends with a Sabbath day of rest. During the eight days of the feast, the Israelites would dwell in booths or tabernacles that were made from the branches of trees (Leviticus 23:40–42). Here in this passage, we see the rather lengthy list of sacrifices that were to be made during this 8-day long festival.

 

The Feast of Tabernacles takes place on the 15th of the Hebrew month Tishri. This was the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar and usually occurs in late September to mid-October. The feast begins five days after the Day of Atonement and at the time the fall harvest had just been completed. It was a time of joyous celebration as the Israelites celebrated God’s continued provision for them in the current harvest and remembered His provision and protection during the 40 years in the wilderness.

 

My takeaway today is that we all have our times in the wilderness. We all have our dark times. But we cling to God as we pass through them. He has a purpose in it all and He will deliver from your dark days. He will set you on high ground. Let us remember the dark days after they have passed. Let us reflect on the dark days and what they teach us about dependence on God. Let us worship Him for His wisdom. Let us worship Him for seeing us through. Let us worship Him for delivering us from our own wilderness. Let us worship Him for pruning us. Let us worship Him for bringing us into the Promised Land. Let us remember and never forget the pruning and shaping so that we never forget what God has given us in the Promised Land.

 

Amen and Amen.

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