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God’s Word for You

Numbers 6:18-21 The Nazirite (Part 6)

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, July 1, 2021

18 The Nazirite is to shave the hair on his head, that marks his separation at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. He is to take the hair from his head, that marks his separation, and put it on the fire which is under the sacrifice for the fellowship offering. 19 The priest will take the boiled shoulder from the ram and one unleavened round loaf out of the basket and one unleavened wafer, and put them into the palms of the Nazirite after he has shaved the head that marks his separation. 20 The priest will wave them as a wave offering before the LORD. This is the holy portion for the priest, together with the breast that is waved and the thigh that is elevated. After that, the Nazirite may drink wine.

In the final part of the completion ceremony, the Nazirite shaved his head. Since this is not the same phrase as cutting or clipping the hair (Leviticus 19:27; 2 Samuel 14:26; Acts 18:18), we understand that the shaving was probably a complete shaving of the head down to bald, although something less than that may have been permitted for a woman. The shorn hair was burned on the altar on the fire with the offering. When I was a boy and my mother lost her hair due to her cancer treatment, she had me take her hair out to our burning barrel to dispose of it. I will never forget the colored sparks and the acrid smell of her burning hair as long as I live; smell is a powerful means for memory. Pastor Kuske also made this application: “This act symbolized that man can perish as easily as the hair is consumed in the fire. The only hope of sinful mankind, is in a fellowship restored on the basis of God’s grace” (People’s Bible: Numbers, p. 58). “Each man’s life is but a breath” (Psalm 39:5), “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? (Matthew 6:27; Luke 12:25). But grace, mercy, and peace all come from God (2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4).

21 This is the law for the Nazirite who vows his offering to the LORD according to his separation, in addition to whatever else he can afford. Just as he has made this vow, so he must carry it out according to the law governing his separation.

There are times in a person’s life when a vow seems like an attractive thing to do. There is something about the ache of loss or recovery from trouble or danger that makes a special attachment to God seem appealing. But the mind can get caught up in going too far with such a thing. What I mean is that we can start to think that we get benefits from a vow that are never offered by the Lord. For example, in the Jewish Talmud, there is a lot of discussion about the vow of the Nazirite and its benefits, but these go quickly overboard: “If a Nazirite who abstains from wine is called holy, how much more so shall one who abstains from everything [by fasting] be called holy” (Taanit 11a). Some Rabbis emphasized the benefits of wine so highly that they accused Nazirites of sinning by abstaining from wine!

Do not make a vow or put yourself under the burden of a vow unless you are certain, after a period of reflection, that you can absolutely complete it without giving up or trying to change the vow. Since it is so easy to misunderstand the value of such a vow, it’s better to avoid them altogether. There are certain vows that are required and that have benefits for society: marriage vows, vows made in a courtroom, vows made for public or military service. And there are vows we make when answering a divine call for service in the church. But if someone thinks that they merit something extra from God because of some other vow that they make, they are mistaken. There are those who misinterpret Matthew 19:21, where Jesus says, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.” But that’s a test Jesus gave to a rich man who thought he had kept all the commandments perfectly, it isn’t a recipe for joining a monastery or a convent. The person (monk or nun) who quotes that passage to justify their choice and hope for a special reward is doing so from false pretenses. “They are guilty of a double sin,” our Confession says, “deceiving men, and doing so under the pretext of the divine name” (Apology of the Augsburg Confession XXVII:44).

If you make a vow, or are currently under a vow such as service or marriage, be certain to thank God every day for the blessings that vow has brought to you and to others. Even your good Christian example of keeping a vow faithfully when so many do not is a blessing that is worth more than we can imagine, since our examples will be followed and considered by those who follow after us. You fill more than one place in God’s kingdom. Praise him for the honor of doing so, and ask his help in doing those things he has given you to accomplish.

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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