Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Numbers 29:7-11 Do nothing at all

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, January 10, 2022

The Day of Atonement
7 On the tenth day of this seventh month you shall have a holy convocation. You shall humble yourselves. You are not to do any kind of work. 8 You are to present a whole burnt offering to the Lord, a pleasing aroma: one young bull, one ram, seven one-year-old male lambs—all without defect— 9 along with their grain offering, fine flour mixed with oil: six quarts for the bull, four quarts for the one ram, 10 two quarts for each of the seven lambs; 11 also present one male goat for a sin offering, in addition to the sin offering of atonement, the regular burnt offering and its grain offering, and their drink offerings.

This passage hardly touches on the true nature of the day of atonement. On that day, the high priest entered into the Most Holy Place to sprinkle blood on the cover of the Ark of the Covenant, burned incense in that place, and said prayers there on behalf of his people Israel. A scapegoat was sent away out into the wilderness, a visible representation of the people’s sin being sent away, never to return. Here, these things are understood, and only the additional goat, the one that was not sent away, is mentioned with the words, “in addition to the sin offering of atonement.”

The full picture of the Day of Atonement comes when we compare this passage with Leviticus 16:1-34 and Leviticus 23:26-32. Here in Numbers we have the specific amounts of the sacrifices. In Leviticus 16 we find out what the high priest was to do and the very detailed procedure for the scapegoat ceremony as well as entering into the Most Holy Place. In Leviticus 23 we have the very specific thing required of the Israelites on the Day of Atonement, which was nothing at all. “Do no work on that day,” the Lord said (Leviticus 23:28), “no work at all” (23:31). And he added, “I will destroy from among his people anyone who does any work at all on that day” (23:30). Here in Numbers 29, God explains: “Humble yourselves” (Numbers 29:7); “do not do any kind of work.”

This was a sermon of inaction to Israel. “What is it I do to earn God’s forgiveness,” an Israelite might ask. God’s response resounded again and again: Do nothing. Do no kind of work at all. If anyone does anything, he will be cut off from his people. This is a demonstration of the kind of grace God shows. To be sure, God shows goodness to all creation (Psalm 145:9), but when we learn about God’s grace in saving us from our sins, we learn that God is gracious to us because graciousness is part of who God is. Our salvation does not depend on anything we do at all. There is no deed, no prayer, no attitude in man to earn God’s grace or our salvation. Just as Abraham was justified by faith in God’s promise (therefore, faith in Christ, Genesis 15:6), so are we all. Paul said, “Those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:9).

God’s promise of forgiveness came with the sacrifice of the sin and guilt offerings: “With the ram of the guilt offering the priest is to make atonement for him before the Lord for the sin he has committed, and his sin will be forgiven” (Leviticus 19:22). That promise is the word of God that offers his grace and forgiveness, the word which works in mankind’s hearts, as Paul describes it, “The word of God which is at work in you who believe” (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

“It is by grace you have been saved, through faith… not by works” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Do nothing, O believer. God has atoned for your sin. God is the one who restores his people’s fortunes (Psalm 14:7). God is the one who redeems (Psalm 26:11). Put your trust in the One who forgives, and in his Son whose body was slain for the sin of all mankind. In him you have forgiveness, peace, deliverance from death, and from the power of the devil.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


Browse Devotion Archive