This morning I found myself wondering if Moses had flunked high school writing. I was reading my way (plodding might be a better word) through Numbers 7. I knew I was in trouble when it was the only chapter for the day in my reading plan. Extra long. And it’s Numbers, so (sorry, God) extra boring.
And oh my word. It was the chiefs of the tribes bringing their offerings for the consecration of the newly constructed tabernacle. By the time I got to the fourth or fifth tribe, I was like… Wait. This seems familiar. (I’m a quick study, yes sir.) I read the next offering, my eyes darting back and forth from the previous one.
They were exactly the same.
My first thought: Moses could have used an editor. Or a better writing teacher. Wouldn’t it have been more concise and much better writing if he had said:
“This is what they brought: blah, blah, blah.”
“This is who brought it: bloo, bloo, bloo.”
Or even the other way around? I mean seriously, what was the point of the repetition through TWELVE tribal leaders when he could have said it in two paragraphs?
At about number seven (because yes, I kept reading, of course), I looked up and said, “You’re giggling at me, aren’t You.” He knows how annoyed I am by repetition.
I detected at least a grin.
And then we get to the end of the list and what does Moses do? He repeats the whole list of offerings, with the total numbers given.
This time I was sure I detected at least a chuckle, and by now even I was grinning.
I heard a preacher recently say that the Bible writers PENNED the words, but the Holy Spirit WROTE them. So I can’t blame Moses. And God certainly never needs an editor or even a writing teacher. So what’s with the repetition? Why write it out like that? What did He want us to see?
Perhaps their commitment. Their obedience. Each man, each tribe, getting recognition for their specific contribution, even if it was exactly the same as everyone else’s. I thought about the good ol’ days when school honor roll lists were printed in the local papers, about seeing my name as simply part of a list under a heading. How much more honored would I have felt if my name and grades had been listed separately?
So what was in it for Moses? It couldn’t have been fun to write that all out. I mean, he had just finished putting the whole tabernacle together. Then he received each of the leaders and their list of stuff, one each day for (ahem) twelve days. And after all that, (I honestly don’t know how MUCH after), he was charged with writing it down. He HAD to have wanted to compile that list more concisely – two quick paragraphs versus nearly eighty verses. So why did he write it like like he did?
(I had a little guy in a church children’s group once who barely spoke, but when I asked a why-type question, he would leap out of his chair, hand waving, with one of two vehement responses: “JESUS did it!” or “God said so!” Always the right answer, by the way.)
God said so. Simple. If the Bible is the inspired word of God (and it is), then there are no mistakes and, whether or not we have the wisdom (I too often do not) to recognize what the reason is, there is always a reason.
But this time, God gives us a somewhat rare peek at why. What was the result for Moses of doing all he did, for his “blind” obedience? Allow me to share the very last verse of Numbers 7, the most boring chapter in the entire Bible, one of the first verses I’ve underlined in my brand spankin’ new ESV:
And when Moses went into the tent of meeting to speak with the Lord, he heard the voice speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him.
Can there be a better reason?