God’s Mandated Fun
It has been a long 40 years while the faithless generation died out. But the previously counted generation has passed. God instructs Moses to count the nation again tribe by tribe.
God tells Moses to use the census numbers to assign plots in the promised land by family and size. The males, as heads of the families, actually own the land. Zelophehad’s daughters appeal to Moses about the promised land allotment—they are their father’s only heirs. After hearing their request, Moses makes an addendum to the land policy in special circumstances for families with no male heirs. Every family is to forever have a piece of the promise.
God tells Moses to go to the top of a mountain and view the promised land as his final act as leader, because Moses is going to die. Knowing the nation will need a new leader, Moses asks God for one. God selects Joshua. Having Joshua stand before the priest and the nation, Moses commissions him. The entire nation witnesses the passing of the mantle.
God reviews the instructions he has given for offerings, festivals and other sacred days, going over them with Moses. Moses then passes God’s commands on to the people.
The King’s Heart
Only one of God’s holy days, the Day of Atonement, was to be a somber occasion. God tells his people on that day to “deny yourselves” (Numbers 29:7)—or more literally, to “humble (or afflict) yourselves.” The expression came to be used of fasting. The Day of Atonement was to be a heavy-hearted day of confessing sin and seeking God’s mercy.
But every other special occasion—including the weekly restful Sabbaths and the monthly and yearly festivals—were to be days of celebration. “Do no regular work,” God kept saying. “Shake off your burdens. Unload your worries. Eat and drink and enjoy each other. I am taking care of you. Celebrate!” It was joyful, jubilant, mandated fun. God had commanded celebration to be permanently and repeatedly on the calendar.
He is good, good, good.
God required two daily offerings of lamb to serve as bookends for all other offerings (see Numbers 28:1-6). The morning offering was the first offering of the day and all other offerings were placed on top of it. The second lamb was offered at twilight and was left burning all night on the altar. There would continually be an offering before God. Many scholars agree that Jesus was crucified around the time of the first daily sacrifice and gave up his life near the time of the late afternoon offering. Jesus is the offering who is continually before God.