Separated Unto God
“May the LORD bless you and protect you. May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you. May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.“ – Numbers 6:24-26 NLT
These are two difficult chapters filled with strange commands and bizarre-sounding rituals. From the seemingly harsh treatment of lepers and those individuals suffering from potentially contagious diseases and the trial of a wife for possible adultery to the strange regulations concerning the Nazirite vow, these chapters are difficult to understand at face value. But the underlying point seems to be fairly simple: God is highly concerned about the moral purity of His people. He takes the vows of His people seriously. He expects them to maintain moral and ethical standards that are superior to those of other nations. He has a higher standard to which He holds His own. It is interesting that these two chapters talk a lot about moral failure, uncleanliness and defilement. Yet at the end there is this beautiful statement regarding God’s desire to bless and protect His people. God wants to show His people favor and grace. He wants to shine the light of His glory on them. But He can’t do it if there is sin in the camp. He can’t dwell in the midst of uncleanness and defilement. He can’t make His home in a place surrounded by sin.
So God takes special care to maintain external cleanliness in His people. He commands that those who are carrying potentially deadly disease be removed from the camp. These seems harsh, but it was protective. They were placed outside the camp so that their disease would not spread, bringing disaster and death to the entire nation. This is a not-so-subtle picture of how we are to deal with the sin that we find in our midst. We are to remove it. We are to deal with those who might contaminate the camp. But we find it much easier to allow sin to exist. We are reluctant to judge, lest we be judged. But God seems to be reminding us that the regulations made for ensuring cleanliness in the camp of Israel suggest the adoption of similar means for maintaining purity in the church. The Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible says this, “And although, in large communities of Christians, it may be often difficult or delicate to do this, the suspension or, in flagrant cases of sin, the total excommunication of the offender from the privileges and communion of the church is an imperative duty, as necessary to the moral purity of the Christian as the exclusion of the leper from the camp was to physical health and ceremonial purity in the Jewish church.”
God wants to bless us. He wants to smile on us with His favor, but He expects us to deal with sin in our midst. Whether it willful sin in the form of an adulterous affair or inadvertent defilement as illustrated by the Nazirite who accidently becomes unclean. These chapters seems to show us that the purity of God’s people is a high priority to Him. Why? Because He wants to bless us. He wants to dwell among us. He wants to show us His favor. But sin separates. Sin brings the anger of God, not His favor. Sin destroys. Yet God has made provision for sin, and it does not require the bizarre rituals outlined in this chapter. He has given His Son as payment for our sins – past, present, and future. We no longer have to pay the penalty that sin requires – which is death and separation from God. But we still must take sin seriously. Paul asks this powerful and probing question: “What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning, so that grace may increase?” (Romans 6:1 NIV). Then he answers it for us: “By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?” (Romans 6:2 NIV). Paul goes on to tell us: “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:6-7 NIV). We no longer have to sin. We have been set free from its power and its penalty. Yet we find that we still have a propensity to sin. And God expects us to treat sin with the same soberness and seriousness that He demanded of the people of Israel. So He can bless us. So He can smile on us with His favor.
Father, You want to smile on us with Your favor, but too many times we smile on the sin in our lives. We laugh about it. We even enjoy it. We make excuses for it. We rationalize our behavior and take advantage of your grace. Give us a sober-mindedness when it comes to sin. Especially the sin in our midst. We have grown accustomed to it. We have grown comfortable with it. Give us renewed fervor for holiness and a hatred for sin. So that we might enjoy Your favor as Your people. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men