Obviously, the key to Chapter 7 is repetition. The same exact gifts are described for every tribe, twelve times. Why? Why not just summarize? Summarizing would not give the same weight as repetition does. So, what is the emphasis?
Rayburn: here the weight falls on the gifts given and the fact that they were given by every tribe. In fact, put yourself in the place of an Israelite listening to this passage being read in worship. You happen to belong to the tribe of Naphtali or Zebulon. You would listen intently for the name of your tribe and so would the members of every tribe. And you would listen carefully to be sure that your tribe contributed everything the other tribes did.
In this particular case the gifts given were given in support of what nowadays we would call the mission of the church. All the gifts were given to the Levites to enable them to perform their responsibility – the ox-carts, the animals for sacrifice, and the utensils filled with meal and oil – gifts for grain and incense offerings – all fall into the category of gifts for the work of the church...
I have been asked many times through the years and often, frankly, with somewhat of an aggrieved tone of voice why a person needs to go to church.... Communion with God, cleansing from sin, peace with God, commitment to God, hearing God’s voice, enjoying fellowship with him: all of that can certainly be experienced by individuals. The Bible leaves us in no doubt about that. But these blessings are chiefly communicated to individuals when the church is together in worship....The individual is present here in chapter 7 only as part of his tribe and only as part of the people of God at worship together....
If there is a subtitle that would apply to Numbers 7 both in its historical context in Numbers and with respect to the timeless principle that is enunciated here it should read: “We are all in this together and need to be.” The gifts that were given in this way for the use of the sanctuary were precisely not gifts that were used by an individual for his own worship of God. They were used in the sanctuary for the worship of the entire people. These were gifts, in other words, that were given both to God and to others. They were not first an investment in one’s own spiritual welfare.
It is important to note that we give because we have been given so much, because we have been loved so much.
Chapter 8 deals with the purification and offering of the Levites which has to do with atonement. And in order to atonement to take place, there must be sacrifice. Everything that Jesus Christ would accomplish for us is anticipated in the sacrificial system of the OT. We are only saved because Jesus took our place and died for us. He took our punishment while we took His righteousness. That is love! And it is so undeserving, which is what makes it mercy.
In Revelation we see that sin always results in self-destruction. There is a great spiritual warfare going on. Babylon represents any system that is hostile to God (IOW - our own American and Canadian cultures), that uses immoral means to gain its own pleasure and power. As Christians, we are to live in stark contrast to the rest of society around us. Yes, we are Canadians (and Americans) and there are many good things about our countries, and in many ways we are proud to identify ourselves with our nation. But deep down, we are not Canadian or American or any other nationality - we are Christians and our ultimate loyalty is to Christ.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Numbers 9-11; Revelation 18