Numbers 6 tells two stories. The first is about how the Nazirites dedicated themselves; the second story is God speaking a blessing over Israel. Is there any connection between these two? We felt that Jesus Christ, dedicated Himself to God as a sacrifice, satisfying the requirements of God’s righteousness, holiness, and glory. So the Nazarite here is a type of Jesus Christ. Since He became a channel of blessing, God could then give us all the blessings in Christ. We must follow the example of Jesus Christ and become Nazirites who dedicate ourselves to God and become a channel for God’s blessings.
When we were reading this chapter, we noticed that the dedication of the Nazirites was a gradually deepening process.
For example, at the beginning of Numbers 6, anyone could make a Nazirite vow. The requirements were simple. A Nazirite could not drink any wine or vinegar made from wine and grape juice. Wine, vinegar, and grapes were considered a luxury rather than a basic necessity of life. Being a Nazirite was just abstaining from some pleasures in life. You could make your own dedication according to your situation and decide the length of dedication. Some people dedicated themselves to God to be Nazirites for life, while others just devoted a period of time.
Numbers 6:5 in the English Standard Version says: All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head, and he shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long. Hair is like the crown of a priest. The word “crown” in Hebrew means separation, consecration, and crown. According to Exodus 39:30-31 (NIV), the crown is engraved with the words “Holiness to the Lord,” and they must tie a lace of blue unto the crown to fasten it on high upon the turban. The locks of hair here are like the blue lace.
But the difference between the Nazirites and the priests is God chose the priests while the Nazirites voluntarily dedicated themselves to God. For example, Eli was a priest, but his priesthood declined. God then raised Samuel, a Nazirite, to replace him as priest. One must be a Levite to be a priest, but Nazirites do not have to be from the tribe of Levi. Just as the priesthood of Melchizedek was higher than the Levitical priesthood, the Lord Jesus became our high priest in the order of Melchizedek. The Lord Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi; he was from the tribe of Judah, so He became a Nazirite and voluntarily dedicated Himself to God. The Bible tells us that no one could take the life of Jesus Christ; He laid it down of his own accord (John 10:17-18). So the Nazirite in this chapter represents Jesus Christ.
A dedicated Nazirite could not touch the dead during the period of his dedication. Even if his parents, brothers, or sisters died, he could not defile himself. But there was a turning point in Numbers 6:9. It says that if someone dies suddenly in his presence, and he defiles the head of his separation, he shall shave his head on the 7th day of his cleansing. On the 8th day, he will present two doves or two young pigeons to the priest. One is for the sin offering, and one is for the burnt offering. This is to make atonement because he sinned by being in the presence of the dead body. That same day he is to consecrate his head again. On the day he rededicated himself to the Lord, he needed to bring a year-old male lamb as a guilt offering.
This is where we were confused. It’s the person beside him who suddenly died. Why was the Nazirite considered as having sinned? I can understand that he was unclean, but verse 11 had also said that he offered a sin offering and a burnt offering to make atonement for himself because he sinned by being in the presence of the dead body.
We can understand the fact that someone died next to him, so he was defiled and unclean. But how come it says that he sinned? Was he just like a priest who offered sacrifices for the sins of the dead man? Or does he need to make atonement because he sinned by reason of the dead man?
There are three parts to the story of the Nazirite vow. The first part is they could not drink alcohol; the second part is they needed to rededicate themselves after being defiled. The third part is the regulations for various sacrifices after they fulfilled the entire period of their Nazirite vow. Before we talk about the third part, let’s discuss our thoughts on verse 11. Why should the Nazirite offer sacrifices of atonement when someone died beside him?
The English Standard Version (ESV) says: “and the priest shall offer one for a sin offering and the other for a burnt offering, and make atonement for him because he sinned by reason of the dead body. And he shall consecrate his head that same day.” Judging from the grammar, it does say: because he sinned by reason of the dead body.
I could be wrong, but let’s assume I’m correct and discuss how I came to this reasoning.
We understand that we are all born into sin and commit sins. One is singular, and the other is plural. Sin in the singular form refers to the nature of sin in us. For example, when we preach the gospel to people, we often say that we are sinners, and we need God’s salvation. But many of our friends haven’t been illuminated by the Holy Spirit. They don’t understand that they have been born into sin, nor do they feel they commit sins. When we first started preaching the gospel to our friends, they justified that they had not sinned. We then often say that “Even if you didn’t have sins, you still have a sin nature, so you still need to repent and be saved.” Eventually, the Holy Spirit illuminated them, and they had repented and received salvation. The first thing they felt was their “sins,” which was their sinful behavior, and they repented accordingly. But if the Holy Spirit continues to illuminate on them over time, they may realize that not only their “sins” but the “sin” in their Adamic nature crucified Jesus Christ on the cross.
This is the Nazirite’s experience. We couldn’t understand why he was declared as having sinned and why sacrifices had to be offered when he had no control over this person who suddenly died beside him. There were three sacrifices offered. Doves and young pigeons were valued much lower than the male lamb, which was much more valuable. When Joseph and Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, offered sacrifices to God in the temple, they offered doves or young pigeons because they were not wealthy. We don’t know whether this Nazirite was rich or poor. The lamb could have been a tremendous financial burden for them. Because this person suddenly died beside them, they suffered a financial loss. Since his separation time was defiled, the previous days of his separation didn’t count. This seems like a huge loss overall.
This is where the problem lies. Let me ask you something. Why did the Lord Jesus offer Himself as a sacrifice for our sins, even if he did not sin? Did He suffer a great deal?
The Lord Jesus is God who became a human being who was flesh and blood just like us. He had no sin but became a sin offering for us. He offered Himself on the cross for our sinful nature, which is the singular sin, and our sinful behaviors. The Lord Jesus also offered Himself as a burnt offering. We can liken it to the story of Isaac, who was offered to God by his father Abraham as a burnt offering. The burnt offering is burnt entirely and offered to God to satisfy His requirements. Bible scholars generally think of Isaac as a type of Christ. According to Leviticus 1, every part of this burnt offering (for example, a male from the herd without blemish) must be burned completely as a fragrance to God. Christ’s death on the cross is likened to an unblemished sacrifice that was pleasing to God. Just as Noah offered clean animals as burnt offering, God was pleased.
That’s why the Nazirites offered doves or young pigeons here, which are also offered as a sin offering and a burnt offering. It is not only to cover his sin but to offer fragrance to God for His satisfaction.
Numbers 6:12, NIV says, “They must rededicate themselves to the Lord for the same period of dedication and must bring a year-old male lamb as a guilt offering. The previous days do not count because they became defiled during their period of dedication.”
Here it talks about the guilt offering. The guilt offering is a sacrifice for our trespasses and inadequacy. The sin offering focuses on whether we sin and the type of sin, however, the guilt offering focuses on our nature to commit a transgression and the sin that this brings. The transgression dealt with by the guilt offering often doesn’t contain deliberate sins. But because of our negligence, character flaws, and imperfections, resulting in harm to others, we must offer the guilt offering. For example, Leviticus 5 talks about various cases of guilt offerings. If you encounter an unclean body, but you did not notice it, and you thoughtlessly take an oath, then you need to offer a guilt offering. This is a sin, but it is not a deliberate sin, so the sacrifice offered is a guilt offering rather than a sin offering.
Here the person suddenly died beside the Nazirite, but it is not his fault. Did he sin? Yes. What was his sin? We need to give an example to illustrate. This example may be too layman, but it can explain the problem. For example, a eunuch carrying an emperor while traveling falls. Naturally, the emperor will fall also. The eunuch didn’t fall on purpose, but does he have the sin of negligence?
The Nazirites separated themselves and consecrated their heads, which represented God’s presence. This was God’s great trust in them. We must understand that if the Nazirites are defiled, it will also bring defilement to God, so it is not allowed. As a Nazirite, what we do and think is not just for ourselves; it is also for God who is with us. If we dedicate ourselves to God as a Nazirite, God’s presence is also with us. Our words and deeds are not only about ourselves, but God’s reputation is also at stake. But many Christians do not see this. Their words and deeds are often defiled by uncleanness. They never considered the fact that inappropriate words and deeds would defile God’s presence and name. This principle is also seen in God’s command to the Israelites in the Old Testament, recorded in Deuteronomy 23:12-14. The Israelites should find a place outside the camp where they can go relieve themselves, and cover up their excrement so that when the Lord moves about in their camp, He will not see anything indecent and turn away. The camp of the Israelites is where God’s presence is, so God cannot see anything indecent among them.
Although the sudden death of the man beside him was not the Nazirite’s fault, it was not the crux of the matter. The crux of the matter was the presence of God. Because of the Nazirites’ separation, God’s presence is represented by their head. If God didn’t want to defile Himself, He could withdraw His presence from this Nazirite, so that He wouldn’t be defiled. But God values the Nazirite’s dedication and was not willing to remove His presence from him. So the only way is to let the Nazirite make atonement of this uncleanness so that God can continue to be with him.
Although this Nazirite paid the price of time and money, he did not lose the presence of God. In other words, it depends on what you treasure. If you treasure the presence of God over anything else, anything lost is considered nothing.
The experience of the Nazirite here is actually what Christians can experience every time we pray. For example, Christians all know they should set aside time to pray, so the time set aside is like the Nazirite’s dedication.
When you set aside special time with God to pray, keep your focus on the relationship, and fellowship with Him. Avoid thinking about ministry or things you have to do that day. Most people who take time to pray, find themselves distracted with their thoughts wandering. The enemy often influences the mind with unclean thoughts. Paul tells us that the mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8:6, NIV). These unclean thoughts come from the flaming arrows of Satan to prevent your mind from being focused on the Spirit (Ephesians 6:16). If you don’t understand the enemy’s tricks, you’ll find your prayer time shallow, devoid of entering into God’s presence, and feeling like a waste of time. Prayer time should be intentional. It shouldn’t be a task that you check off your list of things to do. The whole purpose of prayer is to enter into God’s presence. When your mind is distracted, it is defiled, which equals death and is no more than a religious duty. We can liken it to the Nazirite who devoted himself to God. The sudden death of a person near him defiled him, so the previous days of dedication didn’t count.
Therefore, in this situation, you must use Christ, who is the sin and guilt offering to cleanse your mind of sin and eliminate the enemy’s arrows that defile your Spirit. Don’t give up; keep praying! Dedicate your time to the Lord again and continue to work hard to enter His presence. As long as you persevere, you will enter into God’s presence. I was saved in the Local Church Movement, and Witness Lee always taught that you must spend at least half an hour or more to enter into God’s presence. This is true from my experience.
I often practice this way. I pray at least half an hour every morning, devoting the day to God (just like the Nazirite devoted himself to God) and then pray that God is with me all day. I use Christ as my sin and guilt offering to God so that I can enter into God’s presence. Throughout the day, I keep calling on the name of the Lord and pray-reading the Lord’s Word. After receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, often I even prayed in tongues to continue to be in His presence. There are times when I get up late and don’t spend enough time in prayer to enter God’s presence, which makes it difficult to live in His presence that day. Sometimes, I am too busy, my mind is overactive, or I am excited by something in the natural realm, or I am defiled by something I saw, heard, or thought. I find it difficult to enter into God’s presence since the mind governed by the flesh brings spiritual death. Sometimes at noon, I go out for a walk to pray. By the time I’m finished, I’ve walked almost ten thousand steps, still focusing on my own thoughts. The time that I was supposed to be praying passed without me entering into God’s presence. I ended up worrying more instead.
That was an example of a failed prayer time. But many times, I do have successful experiences. Though dominating or unclean thoughts try to defile me and I feel the Spirit of death and an absence of God’s presence, I don’t give up. I pray for the blood of Jesus to cleanse me by the washing with water through the word and His Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:26). I offer my body as a living sacrifice to God and put on the whole armor of God and fight against the enemy’s arrows by calling on the name of the Lord, pray-reading out loud, proclaiming and singing the Bible verses such as Colossians 3:2-4, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things for we already have died”; or Galatians 2:20, “We have been crucified with Christ, and we no longer live, but Christ lives in us”; or 2 Corinthians 3:16-17, “Whenever our heart turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” I use Christ as my sin and guilt offering, and through God’s word, I win the battle in my mind and rededicate myself to Him. Slowly, I achieved victory over my mind and entered into God’s presence.
This is the process each time I pray. If I dedicate myself in the morning, enter into God’s presence through at least half an hour of prayer, and keep myself from being contaminated by the world, my body, and mind, I will live in His presence throughout the day. But if at times vain imaginations, earthly thoughts, worries, or unclean thoughts from Satan come in, and I have no victory over the defilement or the death brought by the defilement, I will need to rededicate myself. I use Christ as the sin and guilt offering and pray again to enter into God’s presence through Jesus Christ, the only mediator between God and men.
Many Christians experience failure in prayer though they are willing to pray every day and live in God’s presence. Most don’t have victory due to their circumstances and a mind governed by the flesh, which causes spiritual death. Prayer becomes a frustrating time because they can’t control the multitudes of thoughts that flood through as they attempt to pray.
Often a person’s heart is open to pray, but because they spend too much time watching unhealthy programs on TV, their minds have difficulty focusing on spiritual things. In America, even as Christians, we can easily be consumed with media, social networking, and TV. The first step to change is to dedicate yourself to the Lord as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1). This doesn’t mean you drop out of life, become a pastor, and preach full time or go to seminary. To dedicate oneself as the Nazirites did, we just need to abstain more from the things that distract us from going deeper with God. The Nazirite had to abstain from wine, which represents entertainment in life. Is it wrong to drink or watch TV? Like drinking wine, TV isn’t wrong unless you abuse it. Drinking too much alcohol makes you more susceptible to sin. Watching unwholesome things on TV defiles your Spirit, making it difficult for you to enter into God’s presence.
The paragraph above is similar to the early stage of our Christian experience. The more fully dedicated to God you are, you will experience what Ezekiel did in chapter 47. God’s presence is represented by flowing water in this chapter. This water can also be likened to the Holy Spirit. It’s only ankle deep at first, allowing you to move freely in your flesh. As you give more of yourself to God, the water gets deeper and deeper making it more difficult for you to behave in the flesh. You have to swim in the water of the Holy Spirit to move. This represents a life saturated and flowing with the presence of the Holy Spirit.
Let’s return to the third part of the story of the Nazirite vow and continue the discussion. When his period of separation as Nazirite is over, he would need to offer more sacrifices to God. This includes a year-old male lamb without defect for a burnt offering, which represents that Christ has filled his life. He would also need to offer a year-old ewe lamb without defect for a sin offering (Numbers 6:14, NIV), which represents that he has freed himself from the dominion of sin to a certain extent. He also needs to offer a ram without defect for a fellowship offering (NIV, Numbers 6:14), which represents that he has already pleased God.
Together with grain offerings and drink offerings, he will also offer a basket of bread made without yeast–cakes made of fine flour mixed with oil, and wafers spread with oil, (Numbers 6:15, NIV). The Nazirite will also shave off the hair that he dedicated and put it in the fire that is under the sacrifice of the fellowship offering (Numbers 6:18, NIV). After he shaves his head, the priest shall offer a wave offering and a heave-offering. At this time, the Nazirite may drink wine.
Why is it that the Nazirite couldn’t shave his head or drink wine before his separation period was over but it was okay to do so after the separation? Why did God stipulate under the law that the Israelites had to obey keeping the Sabbath? Why then, when Jesus, the son of God, came, did he not observe the Sabbath? Paul said in Galatians 3:24-24, “The law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” The Nazirite followed the law by not drinking wine or shaving his head to help him develop spiritual discipline so he could overcome the defilement of the world, including sin, flesh, and his mind. This allowed him to be filled with God and become free in the Spirit of Jesus Christ. By the time the Nazirite’s separation and dedication is over, he has become spiritually mature and can overcome sin and worldly influences. It’s not about what our outward behavior looks like; spiritual maturity is the important thing.
This Nazarite has become spiritually mature by the time his training is finished. He could now become a channel of blessing, bringing in the blessings of God. When the Lord finished the instructions to the Nazirites, He told Moses to bless the Israelites and say to them, “May the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).
On the surface, this blessing has nothing to do with the story of the Nazirite vow, but it is actually very relevant. Because God was pleased with the Nazirite’s dedication, which opened up the channel of God’s blessing to the Israelites. Think about the fact that Christians today can receive God’s blessing because Jesus Christ dedicated Himself to God as a Nazirite. If you dedicate yourself to God as a Nazirite, accept God’s help and become spiritually mature, how much blessing will you bring to the people around you?