Wisconsin Lutheran Chapel logo

God’s Word for You

Numbers 7:84-88 The arithmetic of salvation

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, July 14, 2021

84 These were the offerings from the tribal chiefs of Israel for the dedication of the altar on the day that it was anointed: twelve silver dishes, twelve silver sprinkling basins, twelve small gold bowls. 85 Each silver dish weighed one hundred thirty shekels, and each sprinkling basin weighed seventy shekels. All the silver vessels weighed two thousand four hundred shekels according to the sanctuary shekel. 86 The twelve gold bowls, filled with incense, weighed ten shekels each, according to the sanctuary shekel. All the gold bowls weighed one hundred twenty shekels. 87 All the cattle for the whole burnt offering were twelve young bulls, twelve rams, twelve one-year-old male lambs, along with their grain offerings. Also there were twelve male breeding goats for a sin offering. 88 All the cattle for the sacrifice of the fellowship offering were twenty-four young bulls, sixty rams, sixty male breeding goats, and sixty one-year-old male lambs. These were the offerings for the dedication of the altar after it was anointed.

These totals answer a question that is the sort of thing we might expect today: “Do you think that they really killed all of those animals and presented all of those gold and silver dishes?” The answer can only be, yes they certainly did. Taking the tally of each tribal leader, one after another, and adding up their identical offerings, the sums given here are all correct.

This question and its clear answer can be applied to us today. We can ask: Did Jesus pay for each and every single one of my sins on the cross? The answer: Yes he certainly did. The law convicts us of our sins and makes us cringe over them, agonize over them, and fear the punishment of hell and God’s everlasting unrelenting wrath. God is not absent from hell, but his love is not there. What is present in hell for all eternity is his anger and fury over unbelief. Unbelief is the only sin that damns, even though all sins merit damnation. What those in hell experience is what Adam was afraid of in the Garden when he hid from God. He was afraid that the God striding through the trees was coming to punish him, but instead God was merciful and promised a Savior. The mercy and promise are not present in hell at all, ever.

Returning to our comparison of the tally or sum of our sins, this is what the unbeliever calls down upon himself when he dies in unbelief. The believers will be judged on Judgment Day according to the gospel. “Those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Galatians 3:9). Jesus said about believers: “The King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world’” (Matthew 25:34). Unbelievers, however, will be judged on the basis of the law, but not the law alone, but the law as it is illumined and explained by the gospel. This is what Jesus explained in the sermon: “I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully as already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28), and the same is true with each of the commands: murder (even anger, Matthew 5:21), abortion, divorce, cursing, swearing, wastefulness, laziness, failing to love an enemy, failing to give to the needy or to be hospitable to a stranger, racism, elitism, snobbery, bragging, bullying, abuse of every kind, but especially and above all, unbelief.

For his sins, the Christian with faith in Christ has nothing to fear of Judgment Day. But the unbeliever, whether the open atheist or the secret doubter, has everything to fear, for there is no road out of hell. There is no release, no rest, no hiding place. And the tally of the unbeliever’s sins will be counted, in public, on Judgment Day, for all to hear. They are more than anyone can count. “My sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see. They are more than the hairs of my head, and my heart fails within me” (Psalm 40:12). And Peter says: “They will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:4). Man cannot keep such a record, but God can and does for each unbeliever. The Apostle warns:

“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:26-31).

This terrible accounting of sin is why the gospel of forgiveness is so sweet and so delightful. Our God is the one “who forgives all your sins” (Psalm 103:3). To be cleansed of all our sin in Christ is to stand before God with no sins at all on our account. We have all been filthy at one time or another. We have all stood next to someone who was at least as filthy—a person in need of a bath, a shampoo, and a good tooth brushing. God is aware of our need for a good cleansing all the time. We are like a locker room full of sweaty, unwashed teenagers in his nostrils; such a stench is unbearable to anyone except the parent who truly loves their child. And God in his infinite, inexplicable love, washed us clean of all of our sins in Christ. Bathed, showered, shampooed, and toothbrushed, we stand before God truly clean of all our sins. In heaven, through Christ, we will have this status forever. Every sin is covered. It was not all of the animals brought to the altar’s dedication that did it. They only painted an arrow forward in time to Christ on the cross. But through the blood of Jesus, it’s all accounted and paid for, forever.

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