A Spurgeon Snapshot: The Iniquity of Doing Nothing (Day 067, Numbers 32:23)

“But if you don’t do this, you will certainly sin against the Lord; be sure your sin will catch up with you. Build cities for your dependents and pens for your flocks, but do what you have promised.””
‭‭Numbers‬ ‭32‬:‭23‬-‭24‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Numbers 32 tells the story of how some of the tribes of Israel wanted to stay on the west side of the Jordan and claim their inheritance from those conquered lands. Moses initially objects, thinking they are refusing to join in the fight to claim the Promised Land. After all, God had commanded all of them—not just 10 1/2 tribes—to drive out the Canaanites. But the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh assured Moses that they would join the fight until all the land was conquered, and only then go back across the Jordan to settle. In verse 23, Moses binds them to that promise, emphasizing that failure to fight with their brothers would be a sin against God.

Here’s how Spurgeon framed this for the church today:

The iniquity of doing nothing is a sin that is not so often spoken as it should be. It is, sadly, common among professed Christians and needs to be dealt with. The sin is to forget one’s share in the holy war to be carried out for God and for His church…

On Sunday some worshipers care only about feeding their souls. Soul-saving is pushed into the background. Unless we shake off that horrible selfishness and feel that the essence of our religion lies in love; and that one of the first fruits of [love] is to care about the salvation of others, then this text solemnly threatens us.

Beloved, don’t stay on your side of the Jordan. Join the fight.

I am using the Spurgeon Study Bible for my Bible Read Through in 2023. All of the study notes are quotes from Charles Spurgeon’s sermons and writing. For more on Charles Spurgeon, click here. The Spurgeon Study Bible is available from Lifeway, Christianbook.com, and Amazon.

Day 067: Does the Bible Sanction Genocide? (Numbers 31-32)

15 Moses said to them, “Have you let all the women live? 16 Behold, these, on Balaam's advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the Lord in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. 17 Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. 18 But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves. (Numbers 31:15-18)

I’ll be honest. Numbers 31 bothers me. God, through Moses, seems to be approving both genocide and rape of Midian. It’s not a good look, and it actually doesn’t look any better when the Israelites come into the Promised Land and begin to systematically wipe our the inhabitants of the land.

A man in my church walked away from Christianity a few years ago because of passages like this. His exact words to me were, “I look at the Old Testament, and I can’t accept that God would allow–much less command– the slaughter of people in His name.” So when Numbers 31:17 commands that every male is killed, even the little ones, and verse 18 commands the men to take young virgins for themselves as the spoils of war, it raises questions for me.

Christians are fond of pulling verses out of the Koran that “prove” Islam is not a peaceful religion. What is to stop Muslims from doing the exact same thing with large sections of the Old Testament? As a Bible teacher, how do I defend a verse like Psalm 137:8-9?

8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
    happy is the one who repays you
    according to what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.

Context matters. Of course it does. My one comfort when comparing the Old Testament to the Koran is that the Koran doesn’t give context. It is the collection of the sayings of Mohammed. “Koran” actually means “recitations,” and it was compiled by Mohammed’s disciples who wrote down his pronouncements. So you don’t get narrative in the Koran. You don’t get context.

And it is context that helps us understand that the command in Numbers came because the Israelites were again being led into idolatry. Context tells us that the Psalmist in 137 was lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonians.

I’m still bothered by the brutality of Numbers 31, but I can live with the tension because I understand that the Bible is the whole gospel story of how God rescues, delivers, redeems, and safeguards His people. I can see how it shows God’s hatred of sin, and that Numbers 31 is specifically about the need for us to be zealous about eradicating sin, as Moses and Phinehas were, and not nurturing and coddling of sin; like the men who brought back some of the very women who led them into sin in the first place.

I can live with the tension because I know that one day there will be sons of Midian and daughters of Babylon before the throne of Jesus, singing His praise.

I can live with the tension because this is the story of my faith. But I have to be very, very careful with how I talk about other people’s faith. I wouldn’t want a Muslim to take Scripture passages out of context to try to prove to me that Christianity isn’t a religion of peace. Thus, I should think twice before I do that to Islam.

Day 066: Rams, Lambs, and Silly Women, Part One: Rams and Lambs, Goats and Bulls (Numbers 28-29)

“And you shall offer a burnt offering, a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord, thirteen bulls from the herd, two rams, fourteen male lambs a year old; they shall be without blemish;” Numbers‬ ‭29‬:‭13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

There’s something in Numbers 28-30 to offend just about everybody. Animal rights activists won’t like all the sacrifices. Workaholics won’t like all the talk about Sabbath rest. And egalitarians REALLY won’t like the implication that a woman’s vows could be overturned by her husband or father.

Most of the discomfort comes from reading these chapters with our own cultural lenses on. But when we look at them through a different lens, there are actually some beautiful truths in these passages. In Part 2, I’ll talk about the bit about not taking a woman’s vow not being binding. But first, can we talk about all those sacrifices?

So many sacrifices. Two lambs every day (Numbers 28:1-8). Two more lambs every week on the Sabbath (28:9-10). Then, for each of the first six annual feasts, a ram, a lamb, and seven bulls. If you’re keeping track, every year the Levites slaughtered six rams, forty two bulls, and eight hundred and forty male lambs.

If you were bothered before by the body count of daily sacrifices on the altar, then the Feast of Booths (Numbers 29:12-39) must have sent you over the edge. In all, seventy bulls are sacrificed during the seven feast days, as well as fourteen rams, seven goats, and 98 lambs.

Curiously, this feast has a bonus day. Note verses 35-38:

35 “On the eighth day you shall have a solemn assembly. You shall not do any ordinary work, 36 but you shall offer a burnt offering, a food offering, with a pleasing aroma to the Lord: one bull, one ram, seven male lambs a year old without blemish, 37 and the grain offering and the drink offerings for the bull, for the ram, and for the lambs, in the prescribed quantities; 38 also one male goat for a sin offering; besides the regular burnt offering and its grain offering and its drink offering. (Numbers 29:35-38)

Why a bonus day? Hold that thought. For now, just imagine how physically exhausted the priests must have been at the end of the Feast of Booths. And as someone who gets queasy watching Gray’s Anatomy, I’m really, really glad I’m not a Levite.

In fact, the only thing I would want to be less than a Levite in ancient Israel is a male lamb.

Why seventy bulls? Well, remember a couple of weeks ago when we talked about how the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot) was the only one of the Jewish feasts that the Gentiles were welcomed to? (See Day 051: A Feast for The Rest of Us ) Zechariah 14:16 says,

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles.

In Genesis 10:1-32, we read what is called the Table of Nations– a listing of all the nations of the earth after the flood. Wanna guess how many there are?

Seventy. How many bulls are sacrificed? Seventy.

We also see the Feast of Booths show up in the New Testament. John 7 tells us that Jesus went up to Jerusalem for this feast. And in verse 37, we read that,

37 On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

In other words, after the seventieth bull was sacrificed, and the sins of all seventy nations on earth were atoned for, Jesus stands up and cries out, “All who are thirsty, come to the water.”

Today, there are far more than seventy nations. In 2023 there are 195 countries recognized by the UN. And depending on how you define your terms, there are anywhere from 11,000 to 24,000 distinct people groups in the world.

Which brings me back to the Feast of Booths. Remember the bonus day?On the eighth day of the seven day feast, seven more lambs were offered. Plus one more ram, one more goat, and one more bull.

I think that eighth day represented all the nations that were to come. The Feast of Sukkot was the one that all nations were invited to celebrate. That seventy-first bull was for nations like mine, which would not exist for another four thousand years.

But hear this: when the last bull was sacrificed, there was yet one more sacrifice to be made. Jesus is the end of the sacrificial system. Jesus said that rivers of living water would flow from Him. What flowed from the Temple altar were rivers of blood from insufficient sacrifices. When Jesus shed His blood, He became the once and for all sacrifice for the sins of every nation, tribe and tongue. Every people group. For as many as would receive Him.

Small Group Study Guide, Week 10

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Rather than a detailed, day-by-day summary, I’m going to continue to point you to resources that will help you unpack the daily readings. They will give you additional helps and insights for each day. Please continue to let me know any suggestions to make this as useful to you as you prepare as possible.

The Unfolding Story Podcast: This is a daily 3-5 minute podcast from Peyton Hill, pastor of FBC Prattville.

The Bible Recap podcast: Typically around nine minutes, this podcast from Tara-Leigh Cobble also provides a concise summary of the day’s readings, focusing on where you see God’s character in the readings.

Links to Blog Posts for this week’s readings from 66in52.com (this site):

Discussion Questions:

Note to leader, especially if you are using this in Sunday School: Be sensitive to group members who may not have read or are not participating in the reading plan. Make sure you use the summary to help them get their bearings, and use the Scripture references in the parentheses so everyone can look up the passage. Don’t skip questions in bold.

  1. As you went through the reading this week, what stood out to you? Is there anything you noticed that you had not seen before ? What questions did the readings raise? (Allow group to share their highlights, but resist the temptation to comment, answer questions, or open it up for discussion. You want the group to get comfortable sharing their thoughts, without looking to you to be the expert on everything.)
  2. One of the takeaways of the Balaam story is that the power of our words is very limited. We can’t curse what God has blessed and vice versa. Have two volunteers read Mark 11:24 and Romans 4:17. Ask, What would you say to a prosperity gospel Christian who believes we are able to speak things into existence, based on verses like this? (For background to this question, see “Can We Speak Things into Existence?” on gotquestions.org.
  3. On one hand, you can see Numbers 26-27 as an example of God’s protection of His people in that after forty years, there was almost the same number of Israelites as there were in the first census. On the other hand, you have to wonder how much the Israelites could have multiplied in forty years if they had not rebelled. Which way do you look at it?
  4. If you are a woman, how does it make you feel that a woman’s oath could be overruled by her husband or father (Numbers 28)?
  5. Why do you think God has to repeatedly remind His people to worship Him only, and to rest? What us the connection between those two commandments (besides the fact that they are two of the Ten Commandments?)
  6. Why was God so insistent that His people drive out the Canaanites from the Promised Land?
  7. Numbers 35 makes a distinction between a murderer and someone who accidentally kills someone else. We make a similar distinction between 1st degree murder, manslaughter, and negligent homicide. Do you think there should be a difference? Does it surprise you that there is a difference in God’s Law? Why or why not?
  8. We started Deuteronomy this week. The name of the book literally means “second giving of the law” (deu + torah). Why was a second giving of the law necessary?
  9. As we wrap up, are there any questions you had about anything you read that we haven’t addressed? (Don’t stress if you don’t know the answer. For some questions, there may not be an answer! You can toss the question to the whole group, give your opinion, or promise to research before next week. And always encourage them to post questions in our Facebook group. Pastor James or someone else may have an insight or an answer).
  10. What action steps or changes do you sense the Lord is leading you to do next week as a result of this study?

A Spurgeon Snapshot: The Daughters of Zelophehad (Numbers 27:1-5)

27 Then drew near the daughters of Zelophehad … The names of his daughters were: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. And they stood before Moses and before Eleazar the priest and before the chiefs and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, “Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among the company of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the company of Korah, but died for his own sin. And he had no sons. Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.” (Numbers 27:1-5)

In this tiny little story, we see a picture of incredible faith, and an incredibly gracious God. The backstory is that in Israelite culture, land is of vital importance. Many of the passages we find so tedious in Leviticus-Joshua are about the division of the land, the laws for inheritance of the land, the reverting of the land back to its ancestral allotments in the years of Jubilee, and on and on. Even today, the national newspaper in Israel is called Haaretz (The Land).

So, yeah. Land was a big deal. And in this patriarchal culture, the assumption is that land would pass from father to son. So Zelophehad’s daughters were concerned that their family’s allotment would be given to whomever married the daughters. So they came to Moses with the question: Will our father’s name disappear when we get to the Promised Land?

Here is Spurgeon’s insight on this obscure passage:

The children of Israel had not seen the Promised Land, but God had declared that he would plant them in a land that flowed with milk and honey. that land would belong to them and to their descendants by a covenant of salt forever. These women believed in and valued this heritage. They were not like like Esau, who sold his birthright for a mess of pottage. They regarded it, though they had never beheld it, as being something exceedingly substantial, and they didn’t want to be left out when the land was divided. They were anxious about an inheritance they had never soon, and in this regard they may testify to us.

There is an inheritance that is far better than the land of Canaan. May we all believe in it and long for it!

Charles Spurgeon

What a picture of Hebrews 11:1. Zelophehad’s daughters had the substance of things hoped for, and the conviction of things not seen! God, give me a longing for the inheritance that is stored up for me.

Day 061: Politicians and Priests (Numbers 16:1-2)

“Now Korah son of Izhar, son of Kohath, son of Levi, with Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth, sons of Reuben, took two hundred fifty prominent Israelite men who were leaders of the community and representatives in the assembly, and they rebelled against Moses.”
‭‭Numbers‬ ‭16‬:‭1‬-‭2‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Through the Bible: Numbers 16-17

On Day 060, we talked about how Moses and Aaron talked to God about the people, while Joshua and Caleb talked to the people about God (see Numbers 14:5-9). It was a beautiful picture of religious leaders and secular leaders working together to glorify God.

Today, we see the opposite. Instead of joining hands to honor God, Korah (a Levite) and Dothan and Abiram (Reubenites) joined hands to glorify themselves. Moreover, they also convinced 250 “leaders of the community and representatives in the assembly” (presumably representatives from every tribe) to join the rebellion. Korah challenged the religious authority of Aaron. Dathan and Abiram challenged the political authority of Moses.

We talk a lot in our country about the relationship between church and state, God and government, religion and politics. Today’s reading shows the worst consequences of mixing the two.

In yesterday’s reading, Joshua and Caleb prove a bridge between church and state is possible. In today’s reading, Korah, Dathan, and Abiram prove that a wall between the two is necessary. Power—whether religious power or political power—always corrupts. We are a fallen race, with deceitful hearts whose inclination is toward evil all the time (Jeremiah 17:9; Genesis 8:21).

Between the Living and the Dead

God displayed His awesome power when the ground opened up and swallowed Korah, Dathan and Abiram (cf. Psalms 106:16-27), as well as the 250 representatives of the assembly. Nevertheless, the very next day even more people joined the rebellion, blaming Moses and Aaron for the deaths of all the people.

What Aaron did next is as clear a picture of Jesus as you’ll find in the Old Testament:

So Aaron took his firepan as Moses had ordered, ran into the middle of the assembly, and saw that the plague had begun among the people. After he added incense, he made atonement for the people. He stood between the dead and the living, and the plague was halted.” Numbers‬ ‭16‬:‭47‬-‭48‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Lord Jesus, You made atonement for every priest, politician, and general. Even on our best days, we are frail and corruptible. But Jesus, You stood between the living and the dead to make atonement for us.

Strike that. Lord Jesus, you didn’t just stand between the living and the dead. You hung there. You were counted as one dead in order that we could be numbered among the living.


Small Group Study Guide, Week 9


Rather than a detailed, day-by-day summary, I’m going to continue to point you to resources that will help you unpack the daily readings. They will give you additional helps and insights for each day. Please continue to let me know any suggestions to make this as useful to you as you prepare as possible.

The Unfolding Story Podcast: This is a daily 3-5 minute podcast from Peyton Hill, pastor of FBC Prattville.

The Bible Recap podcast: Typically around nine minutes, this podcast from Tara-Leigh Cobble also provides a concise summary of the day’s readings, focusing on where you see God’s character in the readings.

Links to Blog Posts for this week’s readings from 66in52.com (this site):

Discussion Questions:

Note to leader, especially if you are using this in Sunday School: Be sensitive to group members who may not have read or are not participating in the reading plan. Make sure you use the summary to help them get their bearings, and use the Scripture references in the parentheses so everyone can look up the passage. Don’t skip questions in bold.

  1. As you went through the reading this week, what stood out to you? Is there anything you noticed that you had not seen before ? What questions did the readings raise? (Allow group to share their highlights, but resist the temptation to comment, answer questions, or open it up for discussion. You want the group to get comfortable sharing their thoughts, without looking to you to be the expert on everything.)
  2. Ask a volunteer to read Numbers 12:2. Point out that in the previous chapter, after Moses had gathered seventy elders, “the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the Spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders. And as soon as the Spirit rested on them, they prophesied.” Point out that it’s very possible that Aaron and Miriam (or at least Aaron) were two of the seventy elders through whom God spoke in Numbers 11:24-25. How might that have contributed to their arrogance?
  3. Any guess as to why Miriam was the only one to get leprosy, when both she and Aaron spoke presumptuously? (Leader: there isn’t a clear answer. It is possible that since she is named first in 12:1, then she may have been the instigator. It may also be that she was singled out because she was a woman criticizing the patriarchal leader. Don’t shoot the messenger!)
  4. When the twelve spies bring back their report about the Promised Land, the claimed they saw the Nephilim in the Promised Land (13:33). How do you explain this if you assume the Nephilim were destroyed in the Flood (see Genesis 6)?
  5. Look at the sequence of events in Numbers 14: The people believe the ten spies who didn’t think they could take the land. They say, “It would have been better for us to die in this wilderness (v. 3).” Then God tells them they won’t be able to enter the land, but instead they will die in the wilderness (v. 32). So basically God gives them what they said they preferred. Then they change their minds and decide they can take the land. What do you make of this?
  6. If you were in Moses’ sandals, and God told you He was going to start over and “make of you a nation greater and mightier than they” (14:12), what would you say?
  7. When Moses intercedes for the people, did God change His mind? Can God change His mind?
  8. Why doesn’t Moses get to enter the Promised Land? Why was striking the rock instead of speaking to the rock such a big deal? Is it right or fair that leaders are held to a higher standard?
  9. As we wrap up, are there any questions you had about anything you read that we haven’t addressed? (Don’t stress if you don’t know the answer. For some questions, there may not be an answer! You can toss the question to the whole group, give your opinion, or promise to research before next week. And always encourage them to post questions in our Facebook group. Pastor James or someone else may have an insight or an answer).
  10. What action steps or changes do you sense the Lord is leading you to do next week as a result of this study?

Day 059: Oh, Lord, It’s Hard to Be Humble (Numbers 12:3)

Moses was a very humble man, more so than anyone on the face of the earth. (Numbers 12:3)

Through the Bible: Numbers 11-13

I won’t lie. I think this is maybe the funniest verse in the Bible. If you accept that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible, then you can’t help but chuckle over the image of Moses describing himself as a “very humble man, more so than anyone on the face of the earth.” (CSB)

When I was in eighth grade, our Men’s Chorus (don’t laugh) performed Mac Davis’s “It’s Hard to be Humble” for our annual dinner theatre. We liked it because we got to strut around with our chests puffed out and sing lines like,

I used to have a girlfriend, 
but I guess she just couldn't compete
With all those love-starved women who keep clamoring at my feet
Well I prob'ly could find me another,
but I guess they're all in awe of me
Who cares? I never get lonesome,
'cause I treasure my own company.

And we really liked it because we got to sing a cuss word in the chorus. You’ll have to look it up yourself. I’m a pastor now, so I can’t tell you what it was.

So, back to Moses. Could he really write that line about himself with a straight face?

I read different commentaries on this verse, and most believe this was a line added by a different editor. Because a genuinely humble person wouldn’t typically describe themselves as the most humble person on the face of the earth.

On the other hand, Moses wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and so if the Spirit wanted verse 3 in there, then who was Moses to argue? Especially because, you know, he was so humble.

But I think the point is to make it clear that there wasn’t anything Moses did to provoke Aaron and Miriam. The Spirit wants to make sure we, the readers, know that it was Aaron and Miriam who were in the wrong here. In a commentary on Apologeticspress.com, one scholar writes,

the phrase is added so that the reader can understand the narrative more fully. In the context, Moses’ brother Aaron, and sister Miriam, had spoken against Moses because he had married an Ethiopian woman. They said to Moses, “Has the Lord indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us also” (Numbers 12:1-2)? These statements amounted to a direct attack upon the authority that God had given Moses.” 

It wasn’t about Moses pointing out how humble he was. It was about God defending the reputation of his chosen servant. He did the same thing with Job when he told the three friends, “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7).

You see, regardless of what Mac Davis says, it’s actually not hard to be humble at all. For one thing, we serve an awesome God, and the closer we get to his greatness, the more we can agree with John the Baptizer: He must increase, I must decrease (John 3:30).

But even more importantly, its easy to be humble when you live like you don’t have to defend your own reputation. You know the Lord will do it for you.

Day 058: The Mandatory Retirement Age (Numbers 8-10)

23 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 24 “This applies to the Levites: from twenty-five years old and upward they shall come to do duty in the service of the tent of meeting. 25 And from the age of fifty years they shall withdraw from the duty of the service and serve no more. 26 They minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard, but they shall do no service. Thus shall you do to the Levites in assigning their duties.” (Numbers 8:23-26)

I had never noticed that God put an upper limit on the time a Levite could serve in the tent of meeting. Fifty years! In our culture that seems really young. But perhaps when you think about the heavy lifting involved with all those sacrifices, the upkeep of the tabernacle, and (at least until they were settled in the Promised Land), the work involved in breaking down and setting up the tabernacle whenever the Lord led them to a new place, it starts to make sense.

Add to that the wear and tear of being the representative of the people to God, and (for me anyway) you begin to see God’s grace in creating a mandatory retirement age for the Levites. I like what the Expositor’s Bible Commentary says about this regulation:

Again, in these regulations we sense the holiness and the mercy of God. His holiness demands that his ministers be fully able to do the work that is required for them. His mercy precludes a man doing the work when he was no longer physically able.

I agree, but I think the mercy goes beyond giving an aging priest a pass. Because notice what the Scripture says: even though they are not actively slaughtering the sacrifice, or carrying the utensils, or loading the oxcart, or maintaining the eternal flame, they aren’t just “pastors put out to pasture.” Instead, verse 26 says, “they minister to their brothers in the tent of meeting by keeping guard.”

Such kindness. Long before psychologist Erik Erickson developed his theory of developmental crises, God understood that a human being will deal with the desire to contribute, and the feeling that they still have something to offer as they get older, as opposed to simply stagnating.

And it isn’t just a token job. These aren’t Wal-Mart greeters here. Once a priest reached the age of fifty, they were to minister to their brothers by standing guard.

I read this in two ways. First, literally standing guard. Protecting the holiness of the tent of meeting. Ensuring that all the procedures and rituals were properly followed. Watching for intruders, troublemakers, and enemies.

But I also zeroed in on the “minister to their brothers” part. Anyone who serves as a pastor will tell you how important it is to have older mentors and accountability partners in their life. Someone who knows firsthand the temptations associated with pastoral ministry. Someone who will affirm them, encourage them, strengthen them, guide them, pray for them, celebrate with them, and correct them when necessary.

When you look at it this way, you realize that this isn’t just giving an old guy something to do in a patronizing way when they can “no longer do the work.” It is realizing that shepherding the shepherds is vital and crucial.

I am unbelievably blessed to have breakfast once a week with three older men. One is my former boss, Travis, the senior pastor with whom I served before becoming a lead pastor myself. He has been retired for a couple of years now. But I will never miss an opportunity to spend time with him. He is the finest example of ministry with integrity for the long haul that I know personally. And though he still actively serves as an interim pastor at a small church in the country, he has eased comfortably into his role of ministering to his brothers.

In many ways, he is what I want to be when I grow up. I hope that in ten or fifteen years, I’m going to be the one having breakfast with a pastor or two from the next generation, doing everything I can to stand guard over the care of their souls.

Party On, Moses! (Leviticus 23)

#9 in the 66 in 52 series. Glynwood Baptist Church, Prattville, AL. James Jackson, Lead Pastor. February 26, 2023.

If you’ve been keeping up with the reading plan, this week you finished Leviticus! that means you’ve made it up one of the big hills on this marathon! That’s great news!

And now we are in Numbers. And I know that over these past couple of days, you’ve been thinking that this isn’t much better. Unless you are an accountant or a Sunday School Director, an entire book about counting people doesn’t sound all that exciting.

However, I think you will be surprised. Once you get past the censuses in the first few chapters and the last few chapters, the stuff in the middle is pretty great.

And remember that every word of the Bible matters. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 tells us that

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God[b] may be complete, equipped for every good work.

So even in Leviticus and Numbers, we are reading words that were breathed out by God, and that are profitable. And my prayer is that you are going to see this in Leviticus 23.

So, In chapter 23 of Leviticus we have the festivals of the year. Look at verses 1-2 with me:

23 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, These are the appointed feasts of the Lord that you shall proclaim as holy convocations; they are my appointed feasts.

What follows is a description of one weekly observance and seven annual feasts that were to be observed by the Jews. And these were not low-key, somber events. They were parties!

God is saying to the children of Israel, “Once a week, and seven times a year, you’re going to celebrate the relationship you have with Me. It’s going to be a party. And you are going to have these celebrations every week, every year, in every generation, whereever there’s a community of Jews, until the end of time.

And so the title of the sermon this morning is “Party On, Moses.” Let’s pray, and we will dive in.


The first feast Isn’t an annual feast. It’s a weekly observance. Look at verse 3:

“Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day is a Sabbath of solemn rest, a holy convocation. You shall do no work. It is a Sabbath to the Lord in all your dwelling places.

When you look at this verse, what is the word that jumps out at you? Rest.

Even today Jews in Israel take this day of rest seriously. It truly is a celebration. Families dress up a little nicer. Parents will often buy little gifts or toys for their kids on their way home from work on Friday. Most men buy flowers for their wives every Friday for the Sabbath. And if you happen to live in a tourist town, wealthy families will often have shabbat dinner at one of the swanky hotels where Gentiles do the cooking. [Tiberias story]

The Sabbath was a gift, not an obligation. God gave us the seventh day and said, “Thou shalt chill.”

But at some point, religious leaders decided they needed to clarify what was and wasn’t considered work on the sabbath. They compiled a list of 39 activities that were prohibited from doing on the sabbath, such as bearing a burden, because that was considered work.  

But that wasn’t enough. They decided they needed to clarify what it meant to “bear a burden.” Let me give you just one example:

  • Is it forbidden to wear artificial teeth on the Sabbath? (Who knew they even had false teeth in the second century BC?)  So, could you put them in on the Sabbath? No, because that would be work. So what if you put them in before the Sabbath? Then you wouldn’t be working but you’re still bearing their weight on the Sabbath. On the other hand, you need your teeth to eat, and if you don’t eat, you’re neglecting your body’s need for food, and that breaks another commandment.

So, here’s where they landed:  As long as they were simple false teeth, then yes. But if it was a gold tooth, then no, because that would be vanity. So, no grillz on the Sabbath. [click]

The Talmud is a commentary on the Torah. In the Talmud, there are twenty-four chapters full of this stuff!

Can you see how keeping the Sabbath was hard work? And that’s why Jesus said “The Sabbath was made for man. Man wasn’t made for the Sabbath.” So if you get fixated on what you can and can’t do on the Sabbath, you’ve stopped making Jesus Lord, and instead made the Sabbath the Lord over you.  

By the way, Sunday is not the Sabbath day. It is the first day of the week. Some Christians believe you are breaking the Sabbath if you go to church on Sunday instead of Saturday. But I want you to notice something. Every time you read about the Sabbath in Scripture, the emphasis is NOT on going to synagogue. The emphasis is on resting.

Does that mean you shouldn’t go to church? Of course not. We are meant to come together for corporate worship. Hebrews 10:24 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing.” Just don’t think that as long as you get that one or two hours of church in, you can ignore God’s command to rest.

Don’t misunderstand me: I believe 100% that God is to be worshiped on Sunday. And Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, every single day of the week, multiple times a day. But I also believe 100% that God has wired us for a day of rest.

So let’s make sure we are taking Sabbath seriously. We need to acknowledge that God ordained that we rest from our work. But there is more to remembering the Sabbath than going to church, and there’s more to worshiping God than which day you do it on.

So if you are taking notes on your listening guide, the keyword for Sabbath is REST

The next feast is Passover.

Now, even though there’s only one verse about Passover in Leviticus 23, it’s actually one of the most important dates on the Hebrew calendar. it’s so important that it has already been covered in detail twice, which is why it only gets one verse here.  

Every year, every Jewish household remembers the story of how the Lord brought Israel out of Egypt. They tell their children about how God instructed his people to paint the blood of a lamb on the doorframes of their houses, and how that night, the destroying angel of the Lord went throughout Egypt and killed the firstborn in every house where He did not see the blood of the lamb.  So ever since, on the 14th day of the first month, Jewish families hold a highly symbolic meal called the Seder. Seder is a Hebrew word that means order, and so the head of a Jewish household leads his family through the seder, using a book called the Haggadah.

During the meal, the youngest child asks, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”  Four questions follow. By answering the questions, the Father tells the story of Israel’s deliverance from bondage in Egypt.

Passover was an annual reminder of Israel’s salvation history. And once again, notice how the observance isn’t about going to synagogue and listening to a rabbi. It’s about parents teaching their children.

What happens to a faith when parents don’t teach their children? It dies. This is why Passover is the only one of these seven festivals that we still have a remnant of in Christianity. Our communion services are all about reenacting and remembering what Jesus did for us.

Parents, I can’t emphasize this enough. Tell your children and grandchildren your salvation story. Write it down. Tell it often. It is not for the church to teach your children about faith.

The Keyword is REMEMBER.

The third feast often gets lost, because people assume it is just part of Passover. It is the Feast of Unleavened Bread.

If you remember the story of the Exodus, the Jews didn’t have time for bread to rise when they were driven out of Egypt, All they had before God sent manna was unleavened bread.

So for seven days after Passover, Jews eat unleavened bread. To prepare for this, religious Jews spend the week before Passover making sure there is not a single crumb of anything with yeast in their home.

They vacuum the house. They turn over every cushion. They search for crumbs in every pocket, beard, and belly button.

They scrub down the refrigerator, stove, and microwave. They scour the sink and countertops. They may even buy all new clothes to wear that week, and use a different set of dishes just for that week.

Ladies, I know what you are thinking: this sure doesn’t sound like a celebration to me! So let me explain what this was about.

Throughout the Bible, leaven (yeast) represents sin. Paul used this metaphor with the Church in Corinth:

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:6-8)

If you’re not a Christian yet, I don’t want you to hear this and think, man, I’ve got to really get my act together before I give my life to Jesus. I’ve gotta scrub and scour and quit drinking beer (because beer has yeast) and change my wardrobe before I can be a Christian.

But please understand that these were all the things the Jews did to make themselves acceptable to God. If God has been calling you to give your life to Him, then you don’t have to get cleaned up to take a bath. Jesus is going to clean every fish He catches!

It isn’t until AFTER you invite Him into your life that Jesus starts cleaning house. That’s what Christians call sanctification. He’s going to remove all of the sinful desires in your life and replace them with the fruit of the spirit. If it wore you out to hear all the things they did to get ready for the Feast of Unleavened bread, then understand that in Christianity, all you have to do is give Jesus the broom. Let him remove the sin. Let him change those desires. You don’t have to scrub and scour and sweep. You just have to give Him the broom.

So the keyword for the Feast of Unleavened Bread is REMOVE

The next feast is the Feast of Firstfruits.

10 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, 

At the beginning of the harvest, everyone brought a portion of the first grain they harvested to present to the Lord. It was an expression of faith that more was to follow. We’re dedicating this first part to God, But also, we’re doing this with full confidence that there’s going to be a plentiful harvest.

Israel society was based on agriculture. If God didn’t provide the rain for the crops to grow, the people would starve. And Firstfruits reminded them of the promise that God made to Noah back in Genesis 8:22

22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

It was a joyful celebration when they were able to return the firstfruit of the harvest back to God. Every year they were learning to trust Him that He would continue to provide. So there was singing, and dancing, and clapping, and shouting.

Now, let me ask you this: when you give your tithe, do you do it at the beginning of the month or at the end of the month? If you use online giving, do you set it up as a recurring payment, or do you do it each month, and wait to see whether you’re going to have enough?

Hear me on this: what you give is between you and God. I’ll never know, and I don’t want to know how much you give. But I will say that how you give is an expression of how you trust God.

And how do you feel as you are writing that check or sealing that envelope? Are you grinning or are you grimacing? Is it duty or delight? Sometimes we look at the guys taking up the offering like pallbearers. You watch them take the offering plate up the aisle and its like you are saying goodbye to your best friend! Listen, returning to the Lord the first portion of what He has blessed you with should fill us with joy and gratitude. We have been shown time and time again that if we are faithful with the first, God will be faithful with the rest.

The keyword for this one is RETURN.

Four down, four to go. Still with me? Then let’s talk about the Feast of Weeks. Our keyword for this feast is REWARD, and we are going to see the three REWARDS this feast is associated with.

Verse 15-16 says,

15 “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. 16 You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord.

Another word for fifty is “Pentecost” so the Feast of Weeks is also called Pentecost.

The feast of firstfruits kicked off the harvest season. Pentecost concluded it.

It recognized that God had provided the harvest once again this year. That’s the first reward of Pentecost.

Second reward: according to Jewish tradition, Moses received the Law from God on Mount Sinai on this exact day of the year even before the feast was celebrated. So for the Jews, Pentecost was a reminder of  God’s Promises. Even today, orthodox Jews don’t sleep for the twenty-four hours of Pentecost. They stay awake reading Torah, discussing Torah, praying over the Torah, memorizing Torah.

Now, Christians associate Pentecost with a third REWARD. According to Acts 2, It was on the day of Pentecost that the Holy Spirit came and indwelt the disciples, and they preached the gospel in all languages to the people that were gathered for the feast, and three thousand people were saved that day, and the church was born. So the third reward is God’s presence. When the fire fell at Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in the hearts of believers. And He still does!

So let’s review: REST, REMEMBER, REMOVE, REWARD, and now, RETURN.

All right! We are in the homestretch! We’ve covered the four spring feasts of the year. Now let’s look at the three fall feasts.

Leviticus 23:23 introduces us to the Feast of Trumpets. And kind of like the Feast of Unleavened Bread after Passover, the Feast of trumpets can get lost in the shadow of the Day of Atonement. Here’s what verse 24 says:

 24 “Speak to the people of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, on the first day of the month, you shall observe a day of solemn rest, a memorial proclaimed with blast of trumpets, a holy convocation. 

That’s it. That’s the whole feast. On the first day of the seventh month, blow a trumpet and take a day off from work. Why?

Because according to verses 26-28, ten days after this trumpet is blown is the Day of Atonement, the most solemn, the most holy day on the entire Jewish calendar. Cody did a great job teaching on the day of atonement last week, so we aren’t going to spend a lot of time on it this week. But I would encourage you all to go back and listen to last week’s teaching.

But back to the feast of trumpets. The keyword is READY.

What are trumpets or bugles used for? If you served in the military, the bugle call is what woke you up in the morning. In ancient days before radios and walkie talkies, a trumpet blast would signal to the troops that it was time to move. Different blasts signaled different things. But those who knew what each trumpet meant knew they had to be READY to respond.

That’s what the feast of trumpets was for. The Jews were to spend the next ten days getting ready for the Day of Atonement.

The ten days from the Feast of Trumpets to the Day of Atonement are known in Hebrew as Yamim Nora’im. It means “days of awe.” For the next ten days, focus on God’s awesomeness. Get ready by holy contemplation. Get ready for the day when your sins will be atoned for because of the sacrifice that will be made on your behalf.

Once again, let’s look at this as Christians. What does the New Testament say we should always be ready for? [The return of Christ]. How will the return of Christ be announced? [with a trumpet]

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God.  (1 Thess. 4:16)

We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. (1 Cor. 15:51-52)

One more thing: In our Wednesday night Bible study, we’ve been talking about the letters to the seven churches that begin the book of revelation. We studied the letter to the church at Smyrna last week, and there is a line in that letter that says,

10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 

One of the guys in that study came up afterwards and said, “What’s up with the “ten days” part? I’ve never noticed that before. I told him I didn’t know, but I would try to find out. And man, here it is: There were ten days of awe in preparation for the Day of Atonement. And Revelation teaches us that there will be days of awe and tribulation before that last trumpet sounds.

So I have to ask you, are you ready?

Number 6 is the Day of Atonement. And because Cody did such a good job with this last week, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this one. I would encourage you to go to our YouTube channel and listen to it, or read the detailed description of it in Leviticus 16. But our keyword for this one is REDEEMED.  This was the day the priest sacrificed one goat as a sin offering, and sent the other goat into the wilderness, representing God removing our sins from us.

Here’s what you need to notice in Leviticus 23: All of the other feasts give instructions for what the people are supposed to do. Get rid of all the leaven in your house. Eat only unleavened bread. Present the first of your harvest. Sacrifice a goat and two lambs at Pentecost.

But what do you do on the Day of Atonement? Nothing. Listen to what the emphasis is on the Day of Atonement:

  • 28 And you shall not do any work on that very day, for it is a Day of Atonement,
  • 30 And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people.
  • 31 You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places.
  • 32 It shall be to you a Sabbath of solemn rest,

Over and over on the Day of Atonement, God commands the people to do no work. All the sacrifices that are made, according to Leviticus 16, are made by the priests. The people do nothing.

What do we contribute to our redemption? Only the sin that makes it necessary. Jesus, our great high priest, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us, says Paul. Therefore, let us keep the feast.

Feast of Booths (Lev. 23:33-44; Zech. 14:16)

Keyword: ROOM

One more, and then we will wrap up: It’s the Feast of Booths, or Tabernacles.

This one is my favorite feast of them all. The Feast of Booths happened five days after the Day of Atonement.

Let’s look at the verses together: [Read v. 40-42]

Now, let me point out something to you: This was a week-long party!

  • Verse 40: You shall rejoice for seven days!
  • Verse 41: You shall celebrate for seven days!

This blew me away this week: this is the first time in the entire Bible that the words “rejoice” and “celebrate” are used!

And here was the part that, if you were a kid, you must have thought it was the coolest time of the year: According to verse 42, you were to live in booths for seven days.

What other religion has a God that says, “Thou shalt party for seven days?” Where are all you campers? What other religion says, “Thou shalt camp?”

You really need a visual for this. Check out his video from the Israeli Board of Tourism:


Did you catch it? This is the only one of the Feasts that the Gentiles are welcomed to! They come from all over the world. And it’s probably a great time for VRBO, because all the homeowners in Jerusalem are living in booths out in the backyard!

And I love the rules for the booth—there’s a limit to how high it can be, because they learned their lesson from the Tower of Babel—but there’s no limit to how wide it can be.

At the most joyous celebration of the year, there is room for everyone.

The Feast of Booths is an annual reminder for the Jews that no so long ago, they were homeless. For forty years they lived in tents and temporary shelters on their way to the Promised Land.

Friends, don’t we need some reminders that this world is not our home? We ourselves are living outside the promised land. But one day, God is going to take us home to the New Jerusalem.

And until we get there, we want to make our booths as wide as possible, so there will be room for as many people as possible. And for the stranger, the alien, and the prodigal, making room in our booth can teach  them that God has made room for them in His eternal home. In the New Jerusalem, there will be room for people from every tribe, tongue and nation.

And what a day of rejoicing that will be! Let me close by asking you the most important question you will ever be asked. Have you made room for him? If you are a Christian, do you take time to remember the sacrifice He made for you? Are you allowing Him to remove those things in your life that may be displeasing to Him? What are they?

Are you a good steward of what he has given to you, returning a portion of His blessings with your time, talents, and treasure.

Are you experiencing the rewards of the Christian life: God’s provision, God’s promises, and God’s presence?

If you aren’t a Christian, I beg you—get ready for that last trumpet. Repent of your sins, and trust Him to forgive you. Understand that you can do nothing to earn your redemption. Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for you because of the Father’s great love for you.

And when He rose from the grave, He ascended to heaven to begin to prepare a place for you. He is building your sukkot even to this day. He is making room for you.

Please, make room for Him.  

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