Well now it starts to get weird, doesn’t it? As we explore Numbers 5-6 in our #DailyNumbers series, we come across some seemingly bizarre rituals, practices, and beliefs. Now is a time when it is important to remember what I wrote in the series intro about the need for a good understanding of the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) socio-religious context. 😉
Looking back at ancient Judeo-Christian spirituality from our vantage point in history, we can see that there were three general categories of laws in the Old Testament (not a perfect analysis, but it will serve our purposes): 1) civic laws (instructions that focused on creating a new and distinct society in the ANE), 2) ritual laws (instructions that focused on how to express loyalty to God in the ANE context), and 3) moral laws (timeless instructions that focus on how to live with God and others within our surrounding contexts).
Much of Numbers 5-6 falls within the first two categories, and given that: 1) there is no inherently perfect or ideal society or culture that we are called to emulate, and 2) Jesus negated Old Testament rituals laws (read the book of Hebrews, for example), much of this section does not specifically apply to followers of Jesus today. That being said, however, we can still see that virtues such as holiness and faithfulness are important to God.
I am especially intrigued by the concept of the “Nazarite vow”. It was entirely voluntary, but it seemed that if a person wanted to express his or her devotion to God in an especially powerful way, they could make a specific vow, and submit to a different way of life. I suspect too, that the beneficiary of the vow was not God, but rather, was the person committing to the vow. Perhaps it was something that the person needed to do for themselves, as a way of physically expressing a previously internal-only commitment (similar to baptism today, but extending to ongoing daily living?).
Hmm … that raises an interesting question, doesn’t it? Do you or I need to stand out and “be different” for God in our contexts? If so, what would that look like today?