Dedication to God
Bible Study with Jairus – Numbers 30
When we read Numbers 30, a question comes to mind. Why is a passage regarding vows placed right between the instructions concerning sacrifices (Chapters 28 – 29) and the story of the defeat of the Midianites (Chapter 31)? It seems very abrupt and out of place, but the Holy Spirit illuminated our minds to see that these are all interconnected. Numbers 30 leads worshipers into a deeper experience of dedication. After the Israelites learned how to offer cattle and lambs to God (Numbers 28-29), God showed them how to offer themselves to the Lord as sacrifices (Numbers 30). Dedicating ourselves to the Lord will help us to defeat our spiritual enemies, just like the Israelites defeated Midian in Numbers 31.
Review of Numbers 22-31
In Numbers 22 – 25, we learn that Balaam tried to curse the Israelites. He instigated the seduction of the Israelites into sin, which led to a plague. After the plague, the Israelites took a census of the new generation (Chapter 26). God’s justice and mercy were further revealed in Chapter 27. Chapters 28 and 29 explain the offerings Israelites should bring to God. These offerings represented communion with God, which brings joy to God and strength to man.
In Chapter 30, we learn that the natural outcome of close communion between God and humans is the offering of oneself to God. We not only offer external sacrifices, but we offer ourselves as sacrifices to God (Romans 12:1). Self-sacrifice is the highest form of sacrifice. When we present ourselves as offerings to God, God can help us achieve success over our enemies, as shown in Chapter 31.
Earlier in Numbers, we see that Balaam was unable to curse the Israelites, but he was able to convince the Midianites to seduce the Israelites to commit promiscuity, leading to God’s anger and the judgment of the plague. Why did his deceptive plan work? Who was to blame? Was it Balaam, the Midianites, the Moabites, or the evil spirits motivating the Midianites?
As Christians, we sin because evil spirits and enemies tempt us in our natural areas of weakness. Yet it is ultimately our own weakness that causes us to sin. How does God deal with our mistakes to help us overcome our weaknesses? God works in two areas. Firstly, he works to defeat the external evil forces. Second, he works to strengthen our inner man to overcome these weaknesses.
God had inflicted severe judgement on the Israelites who had sinned, in the form of a plague that killed 24,000 people. Phinehas had killed the Midianite woman and the Israelite who brought her (Chapter 25). The census in chapter 26 was a form of inspection, like a military review, where God was inspecting those who were still standing after the judgment of the plague.
In chapter 27, Zelophehad’s daughters requested possession of their father’s land. This story is a continuation of the grand narrative. Exodus 34:7 says that God keeps ‘steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.’ Due to God’s just judgement, men who sinned (like Zelophehad) died. But because of God’s compassion, God asked Moses to give Zelophehad’s land to his daughters. This story reminds us of God’s words to Moses in Exodus 34.
As we’ve seen in our study of Numbers 28-29, the animal offerings discussed in these chapters represent communion with God. These offerings were fragrant and refreshing offerings to God. At the same time, a part of these sacrifices was also used as food for the priests. Symbolically, this passage reminds us that our communion with God brings joy to God, but also provides spiritual food for us, strengthening our spirits. This spiritual strength allows us to overcome our internal weaknesses and external enemies, which is the common theme that runs through Numbers’ Chapters 22 to 31.
Initially, we wondered why Numbers 30 was placed in between the passages on sacrifices (Chapters 28-29) and on the defeat of the Midianites (Chapter 31). I see a connection between these passages. I believe that when the Holy Spirit inspires a person to write, there must be a common thread of thought and logic that connects the passages. Understanding how these passages connect helps us feel excited and encouraged to read on.
Offering ourselves to God. Vows of self-sacrifice comprise the highest form of sacrifice, much more important than offerings of sheep and cattle. In Psalm 51, David says that the sacrifice of one’s heart is the best form of sacrifice. David said that God does not delight in sacrifices, but in a broken and contrite heart. This is the best form of sacrifice, an offering which he does not despise.
God loves it when we sacrifice ourselves to him. Other than presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1), the best form of sacrifice is presenting our hearts to God. External offerings pale in comparison.
When Jesus was on earth, he watched temple worshipers present their offerings at the temple. The rich donated huge sums of money out of their excess. But Jesus praised the poor widow who gave two small copper coins. Jesus praised her because she gave all she had, her entire livelihood. In other words, the widow not only gave her two small coins, but also her heart. This story demonstrates that God values our hearts more than our external sacrifices.
When Mary broke the expensive alabaster jar of perfume and poured it over the head of Jesus, Jesus saw Mary’s love towards God. He instructed that “wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (Mark 14:9). The Gospel of Christ states that, “for God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16). The story of Mary talks about man’s love for Christ. The love of God toward man and the love of man toward God are two sides of the same coin. That is why Jesus asked his followers to preach these two stories together.
Numbers 28-29 describe the different types of animal sacrifices (external sacrifices), while Chapter 30 describes vows–the offering of one’s heart and self to God. This is a higher level of sacrifice. This insight provides an important link between chapters 29 and chapter 30.
The Seriousness of Vows
Since this form of sacrifice is the highest form of sacrifice, we ought to pay close attention to it. Numbers 30:2 says, “If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.” Once a person vows to offer oneself as a sacrifice, one is obligated to fulfill that vow and not break his word.
God gives man free choice. We can choose not to sacrifice ourselves. But once the choice has been made to sacrifice ourselves to God, he takes our promise very seriously. We cannot go back on our word.
However, if your vow was made carelessly out of immaturity, God will not hold it against you. He honors you for your willingness to sacrifice and delights in one who gives out of a willing heart (2 Cor 9:7). However, if your father (vs 3 – 8) or your husband (vs 10 – 15) negate your vow, you are not required to fulfill it.
For example, if an unmarried daughter or married woman decides to give the entire family’s savings to God, but her husband or father objects, God would not hold the woman to her promise. However, if the father (verse 4) or husband (verse 14) says nothing to the woman, her vow will stand. If the husband says nothing at the beginning, but later goes back on his word (verse 15), the husband would have to bear the iniquity of sin. However, widows and divorced women had the freedom of choice. The vows made by these people could not be negated.
Vows and oaths are very serious matters. In the historical records of the ancient Middle East, we learn that many contemporary people groups treated vows and oaths very seriously. To emphasize the importance and severity of His words, God also swore an oath to Abraham. In the same way, God requires us to strictly fulfill our vows.
The Purifying Effect of Trials
In addition, once we have offered ourselves as living sacrifices, it is as if we have been placed on an altar. At this point, it is nearly impossible to retract the vow. When you offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God for His use and purposes, you begin to realize that God will use trials and difficulties to refine your character.
Of course, God allow trials to help us mature. Bob Jones, a leader in the Charismatic movement, has a powerful prophetic gift that is desired by many. However, he shares that nobody would wish to go through the trials that he has been through to get what he has today.
In the same way, Witness Lee, the founder of the Local Church Movement where I was saved, says that many people desire his ministry; but if they were to experience the difficulties that he has gone through, they would no longer covet his ministry.
God called me to present myself as a living sacrifice to God, to allow Him to work through me. After that, various trials and difficulties appeared in my life, including 10 years of infertility. Through these difficulties, God was molding me.
After I had a miracle baby, I met with a Korean prophet, who shared that God planned to use me greatly. However, he also mentioned that I had a strong personality, which needed to be refined before I could fully surrender myself to serve God. My wife and I both recognized that the difficulties and trials were a part of God’s plan for me to surrender my strong will fully to Christ. These difficulties were a form of spiritual discipline.
In many American Churches, the discipline of the Holy Spirit through trials and sufferings is not a popular topic to be preached about. However, once we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God, God will work through the Holy Spirit to discipline us and make us better people. Many times, external trials and sufferings cause us to feel sorrowful instead of joyful. But for those who have gone through trials and emerged stronger, their lives will yield the ‘peaceful fruit of righteousness’ (Hebrews 12:11).
The Korean prophet shared with me that God not only wanted to use me for His Work to preach the gospel, but He also wanted to sanctify and purify me, so that I could be a better testimony for Christ. However, there are many weaknesses in the flesh that I have yet to overcome.
Let me share a personal example. I have an area of weakness that is difficult to overcome. I have often failed in this area. Certainly, this is due in part to the external attacks and temptations from the evil one. But more importantly, it is due to the weakness of my inner self. Because of these weaknesses, I fall to ‘the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life (1 John 2:16).
This passage reminds me that I need to renew myself as an offering to God, to allow God to continue to purify me, helping me overcome my weaknesses, temptations, and desire for worldly things. Offering myself to God strengthens my inner man for the glory of God and to benefit those around me, and prevents enemies from attacking me. There are still worldly temptations that seek to consume me, but God has called me to let go of these desires.
This area of weakness has been a struggle for a long time. One night, I had a prophetic dream, in which I found myself stepping on earth’s surface, which was covered with dirt. In the dream, I was continuously stepping on the dirt surface to compact it, shouting, “Through Christ’s strength, I will overcome the temptations of this earth.” This prophetic dream was the Holy Spirit’s promise to me that as I rely on Christ, I will have victory.
Our victory comes through dedicating ourselves to God. On our own, we are powerless to change. By ourselves, we are unable to overcome worldly temptations. However, if we offer ourselves as sacrifices to God, God can do that for us.
After hearing my testimony, a woman shared that God has prompted her to work on an area of weakness that is difficult to overcome. Together, we prayed for God’s help in overcoming this weakness. Through our communion and prayer with God, we renewed our offering of ourselves to God and asked for God to work in us to overcome our weaknesses. We begged God to help us overcome any fleshly barriers to spiritual advancement.
The most important aspect of our sacrifice to God is that we need to surrender ourselves entirely to God, allowing him to be sovereign in our lives and work in our hearts. If we do not choose to offer ourselves to God as living sacrifices, God will respect our free choice and not interfere.
When we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God, we display our love for Him. In Revelation 2, Jesus rebuked the Church of Ephesus for abandoning the love they had at first. He asked them to remember from where they had fallen, repent and do the works they did at first, or God would come to them and remove their lampstand from its place, unless they repented (Revelations 2:4-5).
The weakening of the American Church and the corruption of American society are caused by a lack of love. Christians have abandoned their first love of Christ. Churches are faced with internal issues, which provide an opportunity for evil spiritual forces to tempt us. To solve the issues faced by the American Church, we need to return to our first love. Though American Churches are faced with many external attacks from the enemy, these are not the root problem. The root of the problem lies in the weakness within the hearts of American believers, due to lack of dedication to God and communion with him.
We need to offer the sacrifices of prayer and communion with God, continuously drawing close to him so he can empower us spiritually. These are the sacrifices depicted in Numbers 28-29.
We also need to go deeper in our relationship with God, to present ourselves as a joyful, living sacrifice. We need to undergo spiritual transformation in our thoughts and mind. As Romans 12:1-2 writes, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers by the mercies of God to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” This is what Numbers 30 portrays.
In Numbers 31, God commands Moses to kill the Midianites. While the Midianites (and evil spirits) tempted the Israelites and led them into sin, the core issue was that the Israelites had not offered themselves freely to God. As the saying goes, there is no smoke without fire. While the Israelites were in the wilderness, they continued to lust after Egypt’s leeks and onions. They had left Egypt, but Egypt was still inside of them. Today, many Christians find themselves in the same situation. We have been taken out of the “world”, but the “world” still lives in us. Our fleshly desires, coupled with worldly temptations, need to be continuously dealt with by the cross. As God disciplines us on the inside through communion and dedication to God, we grow closer to Him. Our relationship with God will strengthen us to defeat the external forces of evil.