One of the things to remember as we continue reading through Numbers is that God has set His people Israel apart. They are to live as God commands. They are to be different in every way from all their neighbors. However, they continued to be disobedient, so God laid down more ground rules for the daily life in the camp of Israel. God wanted them to be a clean people. God’s glorious presence lived in the camp and that meant the camp needed to be pure and holy in His sight. In Leviticus we read, “I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” But with that promise came responsibility. The concepts of clean and unclean were vital to the daily life of Israel’s camp. It meant they were to be clean in personal hygiene, what they wore, what they ate and how they conducted themselves. Chapter five lists three kinds of different defilements. Once again some of the things we read are more than a bit strange to us.
Chapter six brings people separated by choice. There is a difference between a Nazarite and a Nazarene. A Nazarene comes from the city of Nazareth…like Jesus of Nazareth. A Nazarite comes from a Hebrew word that means “to set apart or to dedicate.” Nazarites were Jewish men or women who dedicated themselves wholly to the Lord. This was both positive and negative. It was positive because they were totally devoted to God. The negative came in the form of the things they were required to abstain from. Each Nazarite had a different goal in mind but all of them sought to glorify God and obey His Word. They were not isolated from society but instead became witnesses to others of the importance of total devotion to the Lord. Vows were for a specific period of time but needed to be at least 30 days. And the vow was for a specific purpose.
There were three requirements when making a Nazarite vow. They were not to drink or eat anything that had to do with grapes…skins, seeds, wine, raisins, or the actual grapes. Second, they were to let their hair grow as a sign they were devoted especially to God. Think Samson. Since the women already had long hair it is possible they kept it down or unkempt as a sign of their devotion to the Lord. And third, they were not to touch a corpse, not even of a close family member. If by chance the person observing a Nazarite vow became defiled there were rules! They waited a week after the defilement and then shaved off their hair. The hair was a sign of their dedication, so it had to go. On the eighth day they were to make a sin, a burnt and a trespass offering to the Lord. This would let the person begin their vow again and rededicate themselves to the Lord.
Those Nazarites who successfully completed their vow came to the priest with the required sacrifices for a sin offering. Their vow didn’t absolve them of any sin they might have committed. This was followed by a burnt offering that symbolized total dedication to the Lord and a peace offering. The peace offering would later become part of the meal after the fellowship offering. One of the most important parts of the ceremony was the shaving of the Nazarites head and the placing of the hair on the altar fire under the peace offering. It was a special offering to the Lord because the hair symbolized the vow the Nazarite had made to the Lord. Once all the rules had been followed and the proper offerings had been made the Nazarite could drink wine again. Understand no one will be saved by observing a Nazarite vow or a vow of any kind. Our salvation comes only through Jesus Christ.
The last part of chapter six is the blessing you hear at the end of every service of worship here. This is called the Aaronic blessing. The priests were given the privilege of serving at the altar and ministering in the sanctuary, but they were also allowed to bless the people in God’s name. If ever a nation was blessed it was Israel. God rescued them from bondage to slavery in Egypt. He gave them His Holy Word. He gave them the promised land and dwelt with them in the sanctuary. God gave these blessings to NO other nation. The greatest blessing of all was the sending of His Son through the nation of Israel for the salvation of the Jews.
In this blessing the name of God is used three times, an indication of the trinity...Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The pronouns used here are singular which means that God’s blessings come to us personally. God blesses the nation by blessing the individuals and by blessing the nation He blesses the world. Now more than ever we need these blessings. To have the Lord’s presence, His grace and to have Him listen when we call, is priceless. To wish peace…shalom…to someone was way more than just the absence of a storm. Shalom means quietness of the heart within us, spiritual health, and prosperity, all we need in life and spiritual well-being.
In this reading we see the generosity of God’s people. The people had donated generously to the building of the tabernacle. In fact, those who worked on the tabernacle had to ask the people to stop bringing offerings. Now the people would contribute to the tabernacle’s ministry and maintenance. Each of the tribal leaders brought the same gift. But they brought their gifts on successive days. That way God could see each and every gift individually. Each tribal leader is mentioned twice, at the beginning and the end of the list of what they brought. This was a costly offering. No doubt the leaders got together and decided what a suitable gift would be. That way no one gave more or less than another.
We are no different than the Israelites. God has called us to be different than the world in which we live. We too are blessed by the Lord and with those blessings comes our call to be a blessing to others. God has called us to be a generous people. He has called us to live differently than the rest of the world. We are to know the difference between the common and the holy. And in all we do, God gets the glory.
In His Grip,
Pastor Matt W.