Numbers 28-29

Numbers 28‑29  •  9 min. read  •  grade level: 7
In Numbers 28-29 we have a somewhat difficult and certainly a very different expose of the feasts and sacrifices from that which we found elsewhere. But all is easy to those who bear in mind the distinctive theme of the book.
It is not merely, as was noticed, pilgrimage through the wilderness. This it is, but it comprises the earth also. In short the earth is the scene; and to us the wilderness. But the earth will not be always the wilderness. This is an important remark to make in order to understand Numbers. For there is a time coming when that which is now a wilderness will no doubt still be the earth for the people of God on it, but it will be no longer the checkered place of trial and sorrow which it is now. If we hold fast this fact, the application of these two chapters will be rendered more easy.
First of all we have the general offering. There is the sweet savor of Christ arising continually, in which God regards his people on the earth. It is the Lamb of God who invests all that are His with His own acceptance before God. This is what was meant by the daily lambs, but there is much more than this. It is said, “And on the sabbath-day two lambs of the first year without spot, and two-tenth deals of flour for a meat-offering.”
This clearly goes on to the rest of God, of which the Sabbath is always the well-known figure. When it comes, the only difference will be that the testimony to the value of Christ will be more widely spread and fuller. God will never fail in causing the testimony to Christ’s sweet savor to rise before Him. Christianity has brought it out in its very depths; but then it is a thing only known to the believer on the one hand, and to God on the other. But when the Sabbath dawns on the earth, the true Sabbath of Jehovah in all its meaning, there will be a public witness of it all over the world that cannot be mistaken. This seems referred to in the doubling of the lamb. It is the idea of the rest of God contrasted with the time of working which precedes the rest (as, for example, in the present time).
“There remaineth therefore a rest (or a sabbath-keeping) for the people of God.” The time of the true rest is not yet come. Observe, it does not mean the rest we have got for our souls by faith. We must always guard against that common misapprehension. It is quite true that we have rest now in Christ for the conscience and the heart; but this is not the meaning of Hebrews 4. It is rather the rest of glory for the people of God and for the world, when there will be this diffused testimony.
Then comes “the beginnings of your months.” This is peculiar to Numbers, being found in no other book of the Pentateuch. The reason seems to be that it is essentially bound up with the wilderness types of Israel – their experiences and changes as a people on earth. “In the beginnings of your months,” that is, at the new moon, when there was the shining forth again of that which had waned away. Such a type in no way suits the church which is called during Israel’s darkness after the light waned and before it shines again.
“And in the beginnings of your months ye shall offer a burnt-offering unto Jehovah; two young bullocks, and one ram, seven lambs of the first year without spot,” with their appropriate meat-offerings and drink-offerings. There is represented here the largest form of setting forth Christ offered to God in the bullock, with the idea of energy of devotedness to God, and this too in that adequacy of testimony which “two” represents. The sheep or the lower forms indicate, I suppose, Christ appreciated after a less measure. The bullock is the fullest appreciation of Christ. Those that had so long despised Him will now acknowledge Him with so much the greater fervor because of their former slight. The Lord graciously takes notice of this. The ram is a type of Christ as an offering of consecration to God; here it is but a feeble testimony – “one ram.” The “seven lambs” mean the completeness of Christ’s sweet savor before God. There is also, as we know, the necessary sin-offering.
But now we come to the feasts. On the fourteenth day of the first month the passover is noticed, where we have, as it is said, two young bullocks, just the same provision as was laid down for the beginning of months, the new moons. Further, in the case of the feast of weeks, “in the day of the first-fruits, when ye bring a new meat-offering unto Jehovah” (the Pentecostal offering), there is a similar type. “After your weeks be out, ye shall have a holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work: but ye shall offer the burnt-offering for a sweet savor unto Jehovah; two young bullocks, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year.”
What brings out the truth more distinctly is the change we find in coming down to the seventh month. This is the acknowledged type of what distinctively concerns Israel – Israel summoned and brought into the blessing of God. Here we see the difference very marked; for there is claimed but “one young bullock, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year without blemish.” It lacks the fullness of testimony to grace which went out to the Gentile as well as the Jew. It is but a single witness to the grace that God is about to display to His people Israel. It may include the largest form of appreciation, but still it is only a partial witness of grace. There is but one young bullock – not the two found in the previous case. So again the atonement-day has just the same figure: “Ye shall have on the tenth day of this seventh month an holy convocation; and ye shall afflict your souls: ye shall not do any work therein: but ye shall offer a burnt-offering unto the Lord for a sweet savor; one young bullock, one ram, and seven lambs of the first year.”
But after a few days there is a very different type brought before us. “On the fifteenth day of the seventh month ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no Servile work, and ye shall keep a feast unto the Lord seven days: and ye shall offer a burnt-offering, a sacrifice made by fire, of a sweet savor unto Jehovah; thirteen young bullocks.”
Now surely this is very noticeable. Why such a change? There is nothing like it before. It is only when we come to the feast of tabernacles that this sudden change appears. Before this we hear in certain circumstances of two bullocks or one bullock: here there are thirteen. Why thirteen? Was this not intended to exercise our spiritual thought as to the truth of God? Are we not to infer that it is the all but fullest expression of Christ known on the earth? It is no longer the preparatory dealings. The first and the tenth days of the month mean the preparatory ways of God to bring the Jewish people back to their position of witnessing to the glory of Christ in the millennium. But now they are in that position – not in the preliminary processes, so to speak, with God gradually leading them on.
Hence now we read, “Ye shall offer a burnt-offering, a sacrifice made by fire, of a sweet savor unto Jehovah; thirteen young bullocks, two rams, and fourteen lambs of the first year.” The thirteen seems to signify that it is all but complete, and the fullest form of expressing this; for clearly two sevens would be the fullest expression of it. Thirteen is only short of this; the figure approaches completeness to the utmost. Such is the type of the millennium among the feasts. The millennium may not be perfection, but it will be indefinitely near it.
This feast gives us a true notion of that great day. It is false that there will be no sin in the coming age. At the same time sin will be quite exceptional. There will be a large effect produced in honor of the work of the Lord Jesus. The reconciliation of all things according to Christ and by His cross will be displayed in a manner only not complete. This is what is represented by the feast here.
But in the details of this feast there is evidence given of another striking fact. It would appear that there is not preserved adequately the sense of the Lord’s grace throughout the millennium. Alas! that age will exhibit symptoms of decline, as we know from elsewhere that at the end of it there will be a vast outburst of rebellion when Satan is let loose for a space. There has been but one faithful witness. Even in the millennium, when Satan no longer tempts, the solemn fact will be found that there is no sustainment of the power of testimony with which they began. Hence, as we find, this feast represents the whole scene of the millennial day. It is said that on the next day, the second day, “Ye shall offer twelve young bullocks”; and again on the third day eleven bullocks; and again on the fourth day ten bullocks; and on the fifth day nine bullocks, and so decreasing. Surely all this not only has meaning, but the meaning points to the fact that there will not be the sustainment of the same devotedness as at the first.
Nevertheless the purpose of God never fails. Hence therefore we find that on the eighth day “Ye shall offer a burnt-offering, a sacrifice made by fire, of a sweet savor unto Jehovah, one bullock, one ram, and seven lambs.” The eighth day brings us here no more than a single witness, indicating what was outside the earth. It might seem extraordinary at first sight that the eighth day should be less than the seven days. During the seven days the number never came down so low as to one bullock. But the reason seems to be this, that in Numbers we have the testimony and service of Christ on earth, and consequently no more than a witness to what is outside and above the earth. It points to another and heavenly scene, which was not properly the subject of the book. It is therefore but a solitary witness to heavenly things, not their introduction in power.