Numbers 7, to the best of my knowledge, is the most repetitive chapter in the whole Bible. And I’ve recently come to be very excited about it.
It begins “on the day when Moses had finished setting up the tabernacle.” On an historic day for the people of Israel, when God’s great mobile home is finally complete, the children of Israel begin a twelve day ceremony where a leader from each tribe brings dedication offering. All twelve tribes bring this prescribed offering.
“One silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil for a grain offering; one golden dish of 10 shekels, full of incense; one bull from the herd, one ram, one male lamb a year old, for a burnt offering; one male goat for a sin offering; and for the sacrifice of peace offerings, two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs”
This exact same phrase is repeated twelve times in one chapter. When I read this the other day, I was confused. I got into the shower after reading and began asking God a simple question: “why did I just read the same thing twelve times?” I wondered why, if all the tribes brought the same gift, would the writer choose to write each offering out individually? Why not just write that each man brought the same thing? The chapter could be much more concise.
I believe that every word in the Bible is useful and purposeful. I don’t believe there’s even a single word that isn’t important to God. So as I pondered why God would exercise such great detail, this question popped into my mind:
Every silver plate weighed exactly 130 shekels, but does that mean that they were all the exact same plate?
I knew from earlier books that different tribes had their own master craftsmen, and so I began to imagine each of these separate dishes all next to each other. Although they each weighed exactly the same, they probably all looked vastly different. They were made by different men and carried a unique sense of the significance of the celebration. In the same way as the crafted items, each of the animals sacrificed were completely unique. Each of those animals had their own name and came from a specific set of parents. They had each lived their own animal stories up to this culminating point of their lives.
As my mind began to explore the great individuality expressed in these offerings, I felt like God was pointing this out as a reason for repeating the same list of items twelve times. All the offerings fit into a prescribed offering. But in God’s all-seeing eyes, they were all incredibly unique. He knew the story and name of every animal. He saw every moment that went into the creation of the dishes. They were special to Him.
At this point, what I had read became more than just a story to me. I felt Jesus begin to give me application. I have a pretty repetitive, predictable schedule. Sometimes I get bored with it. Sometimes I struggle with feeling stuck in the daily grind even though I believe that God wants me to be here. I feel sometimes like my life isn’t even that special because I’m around lots of people who do many of the same things I do. But I know my heart’s desire is to live as a pleasing offering to the Lord.
In this chapter, I see that that desire is possible. I know my structured life is an offering to the Lord. I know that even when I feel like I do the same thing as my friend next to me, God cares about the details of my life. I may be on the YWAM base serving from 8–5 every day as my prescribed offering, but even the little things count to Him. My offering this week may look very similar to the one from last week, but God sees the attitude of my heart and stories that go behind every little action.
I know that God delights in my “big” offerings, but this whole process was Him taking me a level deeper into what it looks like to “not (just) love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”
So now, my question changed from “why did I just read (or do) the same thing twelve times?” to “how do I glorify and please Jesus with the details?”
For all of us, even if we feel like we are just living a repetitive life, there is great space to glorify Jesus and give love to Him in the details. I may give an offering of 9 hours, but did I focus my eyes on Him during that time? It would make Him smile if I did; even if everything looks the same on the outside. My offering may have been to sit in a lecture or teach music theory, but did I do it with sincere love for His children? That would have been a pleasing fragrance to Him.
I want to please Jesus with everything and I am excited for the journey of learning how to love with the details.