Archive for August, 2009

Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ’When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, he shall separate himself from wine and similar drink…no razor shall come upon his head…(and) he shall not go near a dead body.’” Numbers 6:1-3, 5, 6The Nazirite Vow

The word Nazirite in the Hebrew is Naziyr and simply means the one who is devoted and/or consecrated to the Lord. We are all familiar with Sampson and his life-time vow, but according to [some] modern-day rabbinical thought, a vow of this type is typically for a month, a year, ten years, etc. The rest of the chapter (Numbers 6) bears witness to that since it refers to a time of fulfillment, or when the season of a vow comes to an end. A contemporary Christian application might be that of a short (or long) term missionary, a Sunday school teacher, or even a pastor of a flock of believers.

Nazirite Qualifications

We are reminded that these things were spoken by God, to Moses, for the people of Israel, but the fact that we have been grafted into that vine makes it applicable to the us as well. As we examine the passage, three (3) distinctives leap out of the text regarding prerequisite criteria for the potential vow-ee.


There is no alcohol for the person who is going to be set apart for service to the Lord. I suspect there are some Christians who would disagree with that interpretation, but let them find some comfort in knowing alcohol is not forbidden across the board. However, for those who are dedicating a specific chuck of time to the Lord, it is exceedingly pertinent.

…It is not for kings to drink wine, Nor for princes intoxicating drink; Lest they drink and forget the law, And pervert the justice of all the afflicted. Proverbs 31:4-5


So if we are taking the text literally, does it mean we are not to cut our hair during this dedicated period? Perhaps, but what I really believe the Lord is mandating is that the Nazirite should be easily identified—even from a mile away. In other words, our behavior, our language, every deed should be beyond reproach consequently identifying us as God’s property. It’s so much more than hair!

A love the axiom, “If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?” Imagine if all we had as our proof was our long hair (or our Christian bumper stickers); we would certainly be released of all charges. The follower of Jesus knows (or should know) that hair and/or bumper stickers become stumbling blocks of hypocrisy when we venture no further than the Christian labels that they are.

.For every tree is known by its own fruit. Luke 6:44


Dead bodies, ” you might say, “not a problem; I can stay away from those!” but what is God really saying to His church? Jesus said it this way; “Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead.” In other words, the born again believer has absolutely no business hanging out with dead things—we are called to leave the past behind and to move forward towards that which gives new life.

Does that mean we should not associate with the unsaved; our own family perhaps? The Numbers verse points out that we are not to go near the dead—the implication being we are to keep a safe distance. How close is to close? That’s where Holy Spirit discernment comes into play—I do not believe we can construct any hard-set rules on the matter. Suffice it to say, it’s always better to play on your own (God’s) turf, for a wise man once said, “If you hangout in a barbershop, eventually you’re going to get a hair cut.”/

…You have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him… Colossians 3:9b-10

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Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying: “Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the children of Israel, and the livestock of the Levites instead of their livestock. The Levites shall be Mine: I am the Lord. And for the redemption of the two hundred and seventy-three of the firstborn of the children of Israel, who are more than the number of the Levites, you shall take five shekels for each one individually; you shall take them in the currency of the shekel of the sanctuary, the shekel of twenty gerahs. And you shall give the money, with which the excess number of them is redeemed, to Aaron and his sons.” Numbers 3:44-48What Is Going On?

There are a few things going on here, but in a word, God is reorganizing. Let’s tackle the events in order. First, the Lord has ordained that for the purpose of ministering to the needs of His Tabernacle, the first-borns of every tribe of Israel will be replaced by the first-borns of the tribe of Levi. Collectively we all may ask, “Why?”

…Then Moses stood in the entrance of the camp, and said, “Whoever is on the Lord’s side–come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered themselves together to him. Exodus 32:26

There’s your reason. Remember the golden-calf incident in Exodus 32? Well the Levites were the only ones who stepped when Moses made the call. Their reward comes a year later (at this time) when God made their ordination official—the tribe of Levi is the ministering clan of His dwelling place.

And why are the first-born the Lord’s? Unquestionably all creation is the Lord’s, but God’s right (for lack of a better word) to claim the first-born of Israel came about during the first Passover when He spared them all from certain death, therefore no one else can make claim to this cluster of people.


As we read the Numbers text we first notice that the numbers do not add up. That is to say there are 22, 000 Levites and there are 22, 273 first-born slots to be filled, leaving a balance of 543 shoes to fill (did you get the math?). God in His infinite wisdom concluded that the only remedy was redemption—a price would have to be paid. Why does God resort to this solution? Only He knows in entirety, but it certainly does lay the ground work for a deliverance procedure all Christians have become familiar with.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Is This the Backbone of Replacement Theology?

No. Replacement theology–the notion that the body of Christ, His church has somehow replaced the nation of Israel, is a false doctrine and it is certainly not what is being illustrated here. Replacement does not mean displacement. What it does mean is that the replaced have lost out on the double-portion customarily awarded to the firstborn. There is a cost for disobedience and we do reap what we sow, but as long as there is repentance towards Christ Jesus there remains an open door to salvation. The church of Jesus has been grafted into the vine; we have not swapped-out the old for the new.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10

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Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal. And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back. 7 The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle. Revelation 4:6-7 Mobilizing Israel

In the Book of Numbers, chapter two, God diagrams how He desires the twelve tribes of Israel to be positioned around His Tabernacle. To some, these kinds of maneuverings seem happenstance, but with God nothing occurs without purpose and good cause. Before tackling the rationale, we should list some of the significant items recorded in the chapter.

On the Eastside…

On the eastside of the Tabernacle, and led by the tribe of Judah are Issachar and Zebulun; a group of 186, 400 battle-ready men. The south side was led by the tribe of Reuben, with Simeon and Gad; 151, 450 men in total. Led by Ephraim on the west side we have Manasseh and Benjamin at 108, 100 men. And taking up the read guard and Led by Dan were Asher and Naphtali with 157, 600 men.

Crossing Jordan

Initially, what I am about to say might seem like an insignificant detail, but it certainly adds to the overall symbolic picture—these tribes, positioned in this manner, form a cross. That is to say if you were looking down upon the encampment, in much the way King Balak did from atop the mountains, the likeness would be that of a cross—the largest segment at the bottom, the smaller at the top, and two almost equal portions on either side. How significant is that? I don’t know, but it is noteworthy. I suspect it sent a shiver down Balak’s spine, even though he knew not why.

Why Are They Leading Us?

The Jews themselves may have asked that very question, “Why does Judah, Rueben, Ephraim, and Dan get to lead these four regiments?” I submit to you that the explanation has much to do with the standards they bore. Oh not their moral standards, but the banners representing their individual clans: Judah’s standard was the lion, Rueben’s the ox, Ephraim the man, and Dan’s was the eagle.

So What

One of the first things we might recognize is that these four figures are emblematic of the four Gospels. In the Gospel of Matthew we see Jesus depicted as the King of the Jews (a lion), in Mark as the Servant (an ox), in Luke we see Jesus in His humanity (man), and finally in John His divinity (an eagle). It would seem that not only has God not forgotten the Jew in the New Testament, He has carried the Old Testament imagery right into the Good News

God’s Not Through with the Jew

That’s why I began this note with the Revelation 4:6-7 passage. Do you struggle with the Book of Revelation? If you knew your Old Testament you wouldn’t. If we want to know who God was referring to when He spoke of the first living creature (that) was like a lion, the second like a calf, the third living like a man, and the fourth like a flying eagle, all we need do is go back to the Old Testament, Tabernacle campgrounds. Coincidence? Not with God.

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If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce…you shall eat your bread to the full…I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid…your enemies shall fall by the sword before you…I will look on you favorably and make you fruitful, multiply you and confirm My covenant with you…You shall eat the old harvest, and clear out the old because of the new…I will walk among you and be your God, and you shall be My people. Leviticus 26:3-10Enormous Promise

“If, ” God says, we walk in His ways, retain and execute His commandments, He will supply provision, spiritual richness, serenity, authority, and most of all His presence. This is a promise from our Lord based not on our performance, but our determination—God alone knows the heart.

Read the Leviticus passage again. Are you suffering in any of these areas? The solution is simple—determine in your heart to walk in all His ways. Failure is not determined by how often we stumble; the reality is that stumbling is a distinctive of the believer’s tenacity. No, failure comes with disobedience; when we falsely believe there is another way to achieve that which God desires to provide by His grace and mercy. What does failure look like? Read the following passage:

But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments, and if you despise My statutes, or if your soul abhors My judgments, so that you do not perform all My commandments, but break My covenant, I also will do this to you: I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you. ’And after all this, if you do not obey Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit. ’Then, if you walk contrary to Me, and are not willing to obey Me, I will bring on you seven times more plagues, according to your sins. Leviticus 26:14-21

Why So Brutal?

Do these things seem brutal to you? For many it seems God has gone way over the top for those who choose to disobey Him. That’s not how I see it. I see a God who loves us so very much; He has made it vividly clear—as far as the east is from the west, as different black is from white, God has made the choice an obvious one. Plainly said, “You can’t blame the label maker when you choose to sip the poison.”

A Liberal Return Policy

What you have to love about our God is that He keeps the door open for a very long time. He will allow us to walk in disobedience for years and years, and then use those consequences we’ve endured as the very road signs pointing us towards salvation in His Son Jesus the Christ.

But if they confess their iniquity and the iniquity of their fathers, with their unfaithfulness in which they were unfaithful to Me, and that they also have walked contrary to Me…then I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and My covenant with Isaac and My covenant with Abraham I will remember; I will remember the land. Leviticus 26:40 + 42

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