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God’s Word for You

Numbers 6:5 The Nazirite (Part 2)

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, June 25, 2021

5 During his entire vow of separation no razor is to pass over his head, until the time that he has separated himself to the Lord has been completed. He will be set apart as holy. He is to let the hair of his head grow long.

In this matter, as with avoiding alcohol, the Nazirite resembled the High Priest, but there was a difference. A High Priest had to keep the ornament of his head, his hair, in good repair. That is to say, he could not let his hair become “unkempt” (Leviticus 10:6), which is taken by some to mean arranged, brushed or combed (the undersigned can attest to the futility of combing or brushing hair that is curly, but late into my fifties I have yet to find a word for what I do in the morning with my hair, mostly with water and fingers, except “take care of” or “make kempt”). Having hair that was seen to was the High Priest’s sign of separation for God, and having hair that was unshaved and uncut was the Nazirite’s sign; they may have been identical in many cases. In Ezekiel’s idealized vision of the heavenly temple, priests were to keep their hair trimmed (Ezekiel 44:20), but that is the closest we come to a command to priests about the length of their hair, and we must be careful about applying anything in Ezekiel’s Temple Vision (chapters 40-48) to anything other than a way of depicting the New Testament covenant of peace and forgiveness in Old Testament priestly terms.

The man who struggled with the hair-cutting prohibition of his Nazirite vow was Samson, although his struggles were tied to other issues in Samson’s life. Nazirites were not forbidden from marrying a wife or having children (Samuel had a wife and family, 1 Samuel 8:2; 1 Chronicles 6:28). Samson had relationships with at least three different Philistine women: his Philistine wife from Timnah (Judges 14:1), the prostitute of Gaza (Judges 16:1), and Delilah from the Valley of Sorek (Judges 16:4). Without addressing Samson’s sins regarding the prostitute or his unmarried relations with Delilah, it was specifically the prohibition of cutting his hair that Delilah wanted to know about. She was being used by her countrymen to subdue Israel’s great champion, and while he slept, she called in a man “to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him” (Judges 16:19).

We must be careful when we read about these things, that we don’t think too lightly of Samson or the three legs of the Nazirite’s vow (wine, hair, and death). It doesn’t matter what a rule is, or how inconsequential it seems at first. After a while, any rule will become unbearable to the sinful man. If I were to tell you that you mustn’t use a pencil for a year, you would come to tell me how impossible a rule this is after a week or so, even if you can’t think of why you would need a pencil today. The vows of Samson and the Nazirites set them apart for special service to God. That service was always different. Samson was Israel’s judge and champion, and destroyed many enemies of God’s people when they were threatened and attacked. Samuel was God’s prophet, and anointed the first kings of Israel (Saul and David). John the Baptist was God’s prophet as well. He inaugurated baptism as the Christian sacrament and he baptized Jesus, but just as important, if not more, was that his was the finger that pointed to Jesus and said, “Behold the Lamb of God!” When Paul took a vow, it was to help other men with a vow, and God used that vow and a silly misunderstanding to get Paul arrested and brought before Caesar in Rome (Acts 18:18-28:31). So even if this vow is not something we see today or fully understand in the pages of the Scriptures, we can see how God used flawed, sinful men and women to carry out his will in the world. Would Hannah’s prayers have been so fervent without the malicious taunting of her rival wife (1 Samuel 1:6-7)? Not that the rival Penninah was doing anything but sinning with her cruel words.

This seems to bring up the question about whether God sometimes requires sin. This is never true. God works despite our sins. We could bring up many examples as long as we remember that God does not ever command sinfulness. The Holy God is not the source of sin, but he brings about his plans despite our sins. Sometimes he even uses the sins of this person or that, but he does not need to. In fact, he does not want us to sin, hating our sin (Deuteronomy 16:22), and disciplining us for our good that we may share in his holiness (Hebrews 12:10). Consider your life today and the things that you do. What is to God’s glory? Even those things that seem so ordinary give God praise and can show our devotion to him. If your righteous acts go unseen by everyone except God’s Holy Spirit, then be comforted that your motives are pure. If you find yourself under any constraint like the vow of the Nazirite, that’s no sin or flaw. But giving God glory with your words, with the things that you do, and even with your innermost thoughts, without having taken any vow—this delights the Lord. Ah, to be a forgiven child of God and to know that I serve him! It is better than a cool breeze on a hot summer day.

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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