Preparing for Worship
The book of Numbers records the journeys of the Israelites from their encampment at Mount Sinai to the time that the Lord is ready to give them the Land of Promise. The first chapters of the book include many instructions and preparations for worship. God is to be taken very seriously, and He desires His people to take their worship of Him very seriously. Numbers chapter seven examines the offerings the people brought for the dedication of the Tabernacle, their transportable place of worship. Though it was not a permanent structure, wherever the people camped, the tabernacle would be the center point of their community. Their lives were to revolve around worshiping God with His people. Before they could conquer Canaan and influence the other nations for the Lord, the people must give attention to the worship of their God.
As Moses anoints and consecrates the tabernacle, the people participate in a beautiful expression of worship. Two types of gifts are given: thoughtful gifts and ones for sacrifice.
1) Thoughtful gifts: The heads of some of the families bring carts (wagons) and oxen to Moses. They understood that some of the Levites (the Gershonites [vs. 7] and the Merarites [vs. 8]) were responsible for carrying the structure and decorations of the tabernacle (frames, bases, poles, curtains), which were heavy. This giving demonstrates care and thoughtfulness. Iain Duguid writes,
The Lord did not command Israel to bring carts, but as they considered the tabernacle and the needs of caring for it, they realized the blessing that such gifts could be to those charged with its transportation. That should challenge us in our giving. It is one thing to write a weekly or monthly check and drop it in the offering plate. It is another thing to look around at the ministry needs of the church and, without being asked, find a need that we can meet, then meet it. What a blessing to have such people in our congregation.
2) Gifts for sacrifice: Most of the chapter records, family by family, the presentation of gifts and offerings to be used in the worship of God and the sacrifices presented to Him (10-88). In great detail the author records each gift brought: utensils and supplies for the various offerings, different animals needed, and materials to be used at the altar. These gifts illustrate that the people understood the purpose of the Tabernacle: the worship of God in intercession and sacrifice. After receiving these offerings, the daily sacrifices could begin and the worship of God begun more formerly by His people.
Again, Duguid shares,
This chapter shows us that the twelve tribes all eagerly played their part in providing the resources for a program of worship and fellowship with God. All of God’s people came together to fund the ministry of the tabernacle and those who served in it.
The tribes did so freely, generously, and unitedly. Everyone had an equal part to play.
Why this waste?
Every so often, when monies are being raised for a structure of worship, someone complains that the money is wasted money that could be used for more practical purposes. Years ago I learned from Pastor Jack Hayford that, in terms of today’s economy, the grand and glorious temple of God, built under Solomon and prepared for by David, would cost approximately one billion dollars! That is a lot of cash. Amazingly, the Bible records that God gave His glory abundantly to that temple: fire came down from heaven . . . and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it (2 Chronicles 7:1-2). In other words, God was not repelled by the extravagance.
Years later, according to the New Testament, a woman extravagantly lavished a year’s worth of wages from her alabaster jar on washing Jesus’ feet and prophetically preparing him for his death (Matthew 26:6-13). Many songs and sermons have been written on this dramatic account. Judas Iscariot suddenly asks, “Why this waste? This perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.” Now, Judas was probably not interested in the poor, but he might have been interested in stealing some of it for himself since he was the keeper of the purse. Jesus responds, “This woman has done a beautiful thing. The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me with you.”
Jesus teaches us an important lesson there: There is a time to spend money on worship, and there is a time to spend money on people. That is an important principle. When money is required for worship, God is not dishonored. He does not say, “What a waste!” Instead, he receives it as an act of love.
As a church, much like the Israelites in Numbers 7, we are preparing to enter a place of worship in a few weeks. The place will be dedicated for the primary purpose of the worship of God and His glory. For that purpose to happen, preparations must be made. As the desert-wanderers carefully and thoughtfully took time to prepare the tabernacle, so we are taking time to prepare the building that will house our church. Money is required for necessary things such as utility deposits, bathrooms renovations, and the removal of walls as well as more enjoyable things such as chairs, carpet, and sound equipment. As we continue to move forward, more money will be required for such things. Other gifts are required as well: time spent in planning and preparing details, cleaning and painting, and putting chairs together and decorating. All of these things are necessary and important. How comforting that in Numbers 7, God recorded every single gift brought by His people: He missed nothing! So today, God sees what we give.
God’s first response to the giving of His people, as given through the “thoughtful gifts,” is as follows: Accept these from them, that they may be used in the work of the Tent of Meeting. Give them to the Levites as each man’s work requires (7:5). In other words, God was pleased with the gifts and ready to receive them.
Then, after the gifts for worship and sacrifice are given, the Bible records, When Moses entered the Tent of Meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from between the two cherubim above the atonement cover on the ark of the Testimony. And he spoke with him (89).
In other words, in response to the gifts, God gave Himself to His people: There was fellowship between God and his people, accomplishing the goal of the covenant in every age and generation.
As we prepare as a church for a place of worship . . .
As we give our gifts of time, talents, and monies to prepare the Bridgeway Drive building . . .
As we get involved with this work instead of just standing by passively . . .
As we come “family by family” to bring gifts . . .
The Lord will be pleased, and we pray that He will give Himself in a dynamic way to fellowship with His people called The Spring.
Amen and so be it.