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God’s Word for You

Numbers 6:9-12 The Nazirite (Part 4)

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, June 29, 2021

9 If someone near him dies suddenly, thereby defiling the head of hair that marks his separation, he is to shave his head on the day when he is purified. On the seventh day he is to shave it. 10 On the eighth day he will bring two turtledoves or two pigeons to the priest at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. 11 The priest will offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering. He will make atonement for him, because he sinned on account of the dead body. On that same day, he is to consecrate his head. 12 He will establish a new time of separation to the LORD. He will bring a year-old male lamb as a restitution offering. His previous time of separation will not count, because his separation was defiled.

This passage answers the obvious “What if?” question: What if I’m in the middle (or near the end) of my Nazirite vow, and something happens, such as coming into contact with a dead body? Well, the vow starts all over again, but that’s not all. There was a whole set of offerings that had to be made in order for the Nazirite to approach the tabernacle (and therefore a priest) and reset, as it were, his or her time of vow. The process lasted a week. He (I’ll just call him “he” for our purposes) had to spend a week of special separation and ritual cleansing, just as when a leper was being examined for cleanness (Leviticus 14:1-9). He had to shave his head and bring two birds (doves) for offerings, one for sin and one as a burnt offering. Then a lamb was sacrificed as he established the new time of his vow of separation. There was no talk about “time served” and other things we might try to introduce from our legal system. “His previous time of separation will not count because his separation was defiled.”

There is an account about a certain woman, Queen Helena, not the mother of Constantine but the wife of King Monobaz of Adiabene. She was a convert to Judaism around the time of Jesus’ ministry. She is remembered for her generosity during the famine in Jerusalem in the 40s. When her son became a soldier, she took a Nazirite vow as a prayer for his safe return. With a year to go, she became unclean in some way (probably contact with a dead body) and had to begin her vow all over again. This was in line with our text today and God’s command: “When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said” (Numbers 30:2).

We should look carefully at the phrase in verse 12: “separation to the LORD.” Normally, we would say that something is separate “from” something, not “to” something. But in this case, the Nazirite is separating himself to the Lord and from everything else, everything unclean, everything impure, everything sinful, everything stained by sin. So the vow is to separate that person “to” the LORD and from the world. You and I don’t have that kind of a vow. We live in the filth and mud of sin, and we get splashed with that filth every day. But being in the world gives us the contacts that the Lord wants to make with unbelievers and sinners, people for whom Christ died. How will they find out about their loving Jesus if I live in an ivory tower? Teachers have a call to teach. Pastors have a call to preach and administer the sacraments. But all Christians have an opportunity to share the message of Jesus crucified for our sins. Take your chances. There are broken hearts nearby that need the gospel you treasure so dearly.

We all are one in mission,
We all are one in call,
Our varied gifts united
By Christ the Lord of all.
A single great commission
Compels us from above
To plan and work together
That all may know Christ’s love. (Christian Worship 566:1)

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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