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God’s Word for You

Numbers 6:13-17 The Nazirite (Part 5)

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, June 30, 2021

13 This is the law for the Nazirite when the time of his separation is over: He is to be brought to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 14 He will bring this as his offering to the LORD: a year-old male lamb without defect as a whole burnt offering, a year-old female lamb without defect as a sin offering, one ram without defect as a fellowship offering, 15 a basket of unleavened round loaves made with fine flour mixed with oil, unleavened wafers coated with oil, along with the specified grain offerings and drink offerings. 16 The priest will bring them before the LORD and will offer the Nazirite’s sin offering and burnt offering. 17 The priest will offer the ram as the sacrifice for the fellowship offering to the LORD, along with the basket of unleavened bread. The priest will also offer the specified grain offering and drink offering.

The modern reader’s head spins with the dizzying array of sacrifices. There seems never to have been a moment in the life of the Old Testament worshiper could or would bring one and only one offering to the Lord; how they would shake their heads in confusion at our little envelopes tucked into purse or pocket on Sunday morning, or our online payments being transacted invisibly, behind the scenes, invisible but present, spiritual offerings cloaked in virtually spiritual garb.

When the Nazirite finished his vow, he brought three animals and a cartload of grain and drink offerings. The Nazirite brought all of these to the flap at the entrance of the tabernacle court, and a priest would walk over and meet him. This priest would serve throughout the Nazirite’s ceremony, assisted perhaps by some young Levites training for the priesthood or an older, retired priest. These were the offerings:

1, The burnt offering. This was the yearling lamb, a male. The Nazirite would lay his hands on its head and the priest would accept it to make atonement for him. Rather than the worshiper slaughtering the animal, the priest would do it for the Nazirite, and arrange the pieces of the animal on the altar so that all of it would be burned as “a pleasing aroma to the LORD” (Leviticus 1:17). A burnt offering was an expression of devotion, complete surrender to the Lord.

2, The sin offering. The Nazirite’s sin offering was a yearling lamb, a female. This was the same as a sin offering for any ordinary Israelite who was not in any position of leadership (Leviticus 4:32). The special fat around the kidneys and in the loins was cut away and burned, and the blood of the lamb was put on the horns of the altar (the four corners) and the rest of the blood was poured into the ground at the base of the altar. The final point of this offering is all about the sins, whatever they might be, of the one who offered the sacrifice: “He will be forgiven” (Leviticus 4:35).

The remainder of the lamb, that is, everything apart from the blood and the fat that was burned on the altar, was taken outside the camp and burned completely (hide, meat, head, hooves, and all) on a wood fire. The removal of the lamb was a little parade, a shepherd carrying a slaughtered lamb outside the city of tents, to be disposed of. The New Testament writer understood the significance perfectly: “For the high priest brings the blood of the animals sacrificed for sins into the Most Holy Place, and then their bodies are burned outside the camp. Jesus suffered outside the gate for this reason: to sanctify people by his own blood. So then let us go to him, outside of the camp, bearing his disgrace. For we do not have a permanent city here, but we are looking for the city that is coming” (Hebrews 13:11-14). The blood of the Lamb covers our sin, and we are carried outside the community of the old covenant just as the old covenant was fulfilled in Christ. We are a new community, the New Testament people, united in Christ and forgiven in Christ.

3, The fellowship offering. This ram’s meat was boiled (verse 19) while the fat was being burned, and this was partly how the priest received his income to feed himself and his family, since he received a share of the ram for himself. The sad account in 2 Samuel 2:13-17 shows how this practice was abused later in Israel’s history.

Since the fellowship offering provided the meal, it was accompanied by various breads and things we would think of as crackers (unleavened bread with oil), and wine. Some of this was offered to the Lord, and the rest served as the balance of the meal. We see in the modern Passover gathering (you can imagine an American Thanksgiving dinner) that it was permitted to bring other food along, whatever fruits and vegetables were handy or in season, and some of these could be prepared or they could simply be washed and ready to eat. When we remember that the fellowship offering was the meal, then the mention of various “grain offerings” along with it just helps us to set the table, as it were, of our imagination. There is no minimum or maximum with these meals. The meat of a fellowship offering was to be consumed in one day, but in the case of the Nazirite’s vow, leftovers could be had on the second day (Leviticus 7:16).

We will ponder the end of the ritual and the haircut in the final verses (6:18-21). But here a word about fellowship seems in place. I will try to be brief.

The fellowship offering in these sacrifices is called shelem in Hebrew. It was a sacrifice made to show agreement, alliance, and friendship or good relations with God. The worshiper did not disagree with any of God’s commands or hold anything back from this union between God and worshiper. Then in Psalm 55:14, David uses the word yahdav, “unitedness,” as a term for being joined in faith and ministry. This was a word often used simply for remaining together (as with Abraham and Lot, Genesis 13:6) or a city’s buildings being packed together (Psalm 122:3). But David’s idea of sharing faith and work is carried over into the New Testament’s doctrine of koinonia (κοινωνία), a fellowship that begins with complete faith in Christ (1 Corinthians 1:9; 1 John 1:3) and all the teachings of the Scriptures without overlooking or ignoring any of them (Deuteronomy 4:2). When we discover a Christian or a church or a whole church body that believes as we do, we have fellowship with them (fellowship is recognized and discovered, not voted on or chosen, Galatians 2:9). To share in ministry or worship with those who are outside one’s fellowship is not permitted by Scripture. John warned: “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God… Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work” (2 John 1:9,11). This is why Christians will be careful about which charities they contribute to (even at Christmas time at the grocery store). Not every group that uses a cross as a symbol or says “salvation” is part of their name actually believes that Christ is the only path to heaven (John 14:6). Sometimes a Christian or even a church will have a mistaken view of a doctrine, and Christian love must guide us in how to proceed. Our WELS Statement on Church Fellowship (1970) says in one of its final paragraphs: “Particularly two Christian principles need to direct us, the great debt of love which the Lord would have us pay to the weak brother, and his clear injunction (also flowing out of love) to avoid those who adhere to false doctrine and practice and all who make themselves partakers of their evil deeds. Conscientious recognition of both principles will lead to an evangelical practice.”

Praise God for the fellowship you enjoy in your church. It is a blessing to worship with those who believe the same as you do, just as it is a wearying burden to attempt to worship in the presence of those who do not. When our prayers are joined in unity and harmony, we know that we ourselves are “a pleasing aroma to the Lord,” because we share in the forgiveness that comes only through Jesus.

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.


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