Numbers 7:12-18 ff “He who offered his offering the first day was Nahshon the son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah. And his offering was 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 a year old. This was the offering of Nahshon the son of Amminadab. On the second day Nethanel the son of Zuar, the chief of Issachar, made an offering. He offered for his offering one silver plate whose weight was 130 shekels, one silver basin of 70 shekels . . .”
Numbers 7 is one of those passages of the Bible that we can be prone to skip over. It describes how the tribes of Israel brought gifts at the time of the dedication of the tabernacle in the wilderness. They weren’t commanded to do this. They did it voluntarily, out of a motivation of thankfulness and a desire to consecrate this place of worship to God. But then the chapter goes on to list what they gave; like a silver plate, a silver basin, a golden dish, and various animals, incense, and fine flour for various offerings. God told Moses that He accepted these offerings, and He then told Moses to have each of the 12 tribes bring its offering one at a time on 12 consecutive days.
What’s interesting about this is that the chapter lists these gifts 12 times, once for each of the 12 tribes. It uses the exact same words. They all gave the exact same things. So, why does it do this? I don’t know for sure, but there were several thoughts that came to mind as I reflected on this passage.
First, I would note that God made sure that each and every gift from each tribe was written down for all to see. God made sure that there was a record. But isn’t that true of anything we do as an act of worship and service to our Lord? We are told in Revelation 20:12 that there is coming a time in the end when this will happen: “And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.” Think of this: everything we have done has been recorded by God – and those things will be revealed someday. That’s a good thing for those who have served the Lord with gratitude throughout their lives, but no so good for those who’ve done little if anything to glorify God. Like each of the 12 tribes for which there was a record, there is a record for each and every one of us. It’s a sobering thought, but it’s the truth.
But then I thought about how the good works of one person can encourage good works by another. I imagine that as each tribe brought its offerings in the presence of the other tribes, they were encouraged to follow the good example of those who had gone before. It’s a type of positive peer pressure, I suppose, and if the motives of those who follow the good examples that have gone before are also good, we have the record of Numbers 7 that God is well-pleased. We have a similar picture from the New Testament in the book of Acts. In Acts 4 we have an account of how the early believers were as “one in heart and soul.” They viewed their possessions as not their possessions, but the common property of all. As with the Israelites in Numbers 7, this was all voluntary. It was nowhere commanded. Because of their actions we are told, “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet (Acts 4:34-37).”
And so here, as in Numbers 7, we see a type of positive peer pressure. Barnabus, “the son of encouragement,” in effect encourages others to follow his good example by what he did. But im
mediately following this we have the example of Ananias and Sapphira. They wanted to be seen as those who were one with all the others, and they sold a piece of property and brought it to the apostles for distribution to the needy as well. However, unlike the others who were giving, this couple wanted to make a show of generous giving without actually being as generous as they purported. They held back part of the proceeds for themselves, and lied that they had given it all, just like those who had gone before them. For this hypocritical act, Ananias and Sapphira were not commended by God, but struck dead on the spot. And this has been recorded for all to see, just as was the gift of Barnabus, a good gift that was willingly given.
What a lesson for each of us that not only are our actions being recorded by the Lord, but also the motives for those actions. May God help us to honor the Lord who gave His all for us by good works and good gifts motivated from a grateful heart, rather than some other much less noble motive that may be hidden from others at this time yet written down and exposed for all to see in the end.