Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Command the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be careful to present My offering, My food for My offerings by fire, of a soothing aroma to Me, at their appointed time.’”
In the portion of Numbers immediately preceding this, a group of women had come to Moses to receive their father’s inheritance and ended up with some clarification on the laws governing inheritance for everyone. From there, it appears that God segued into talking about the offerings.
The connection is not quite so odd as it might appear at first glance. The Levites and the priests receive no inheritance. God goes so far as to tell Aaron and the priests that He, Himself, is their inheritance. With that in mind, the transition from laws governing inheritance to making sure that those who receive God as their inheritance are provided for brings things into focus a bit more. God goes on, in chapters 28 and 29, to outline what should be offered when. This is not news to the Israelites. God has given these statutes more than once before.
The reason for the repetition is, as far as I can see, at least threefold.
The first layer is to remind the Israelites of what they already know. When I was taught to write a basic essay, it was broken into three parts: (1) tell the audience what you are going to tell them in the essay, (2) tell the audience, (3) tell the audience what you told them. The repetition is not because human beings are unintelligent or because we are incapable of remembering things, but because it is easy for us to miss information in the midst of receiving information. If God is telling me something and I get distracted, even by some facet of the information being given, I will miss something else that is said. The repetition is for my benefit, that I might catch the fullness of what is said.
Repetition is also a major feature of literature in the oral tradition. Repeating information serves the same purpose when recounting a story orally that it does in writing: it makes sure I have not missed vital information.
The second layer is the payer of provision for the priests and Levites. Since God is their inheritance, they must get food and necessaries in some fashion and God reminds the Israelites that their offerings need to be on time. He does not state it explicitly, but there is the implication that lateness in the offerings means that the priests and Levites will be going hungry in the meantime.
The third layer is one that links to the notion that the calendar of feasts and festivals and whatnot is actually a pre-record of what God was going to do and now has done. If some of the feasts and sacrifices were meant to point to the Messiah and His work (and they were), then making sure they happened at the right time and in the right order was of vital importance. To miss the feasts and festivals and offerings would mean changing the message communicated. And Moses was prevented from entering the Promised Land for that very sin.
What has all of this to do with me?
First, let me pay attention when God repeats Himself. I have a tendency to skim across the test when I know that I have read about this thing before, so I sometimes miss information that was present the first go around, but is emphasized the second or third.
Second, let me give as God directs me to and support those who minister. If God tells me to give more, then let me give more. If God asks me to step back for a while, then let me be obedient in that. Whatever God says in my giving, let me obey.
Third, let me do what God bids me in the way and time He bids me do it. There is a reason for God’s timing, even if I do not understand what that reason is this side of Heaven.
Thank You, Father, for Your provision of food and shelter and all the needful things as well as many of the things of which I have no need. Please give me ears to hear Your instruction and a heart that is ready and willing to obey Your instruction in Your way and in Your time.