Being Wholly Devoted
Numbers 6:1-8, 22-26
October 6, 2019
In the Hebrew Bible, this book is not called Numbers. It's called in the wilderness. It comes out of the phrase out of the very first verse there and it's aptly named because it describes the events that took place during those 40 years that the children of Israel were in the wilderness in the desert. It became known as the book of Numbers as it got translated into the Greek and into the Latin, but I love the phrase in the wilderness. It's a good name.
It describes those events and there's a lot of lessons for us in this book because they're in the wilderness, they struggled in their faith and they grumbled against God. I was thinking when we were in Israel, it was hot. In fact, during the first week, it was like 105 degrees. Exactly, and most of the things you do are outside. When you go to Israel, you're outside. I was thinking, imagine Israel in this kind of hot, dry desert for 40 years.
I think that would make anybody irritated, but they took it to whole new levels, their grumbling was against the Lord and so this is a lesson for all of us. It says these things happen-- For our example, Paul said, they were written for our instruction that we would not falter in our faith as many of them did. In other words, God's going to use this to strengthen faith. When it comes to our relationship to God, I tell you faith is everything. Faith is everything. We need to have strength and we need to learn from these examples.
In Numbers 6, which is where we're going to be tonight, Numbers 6:1. God is giving instructions here. By the way, we'll cover the other verses and chapters around it at the Wednesday service where we're going verse by verse, chapter by chapter, also through the book of Numbers.
Here in Number 6, God gives instruction for a man or woman who wishes to make a special vow in their life and it's a vow of dedication. They want to dedicate themselves to the Lord.
God has made a provision that they can take what is called the Nazarite vow, which is not to be confused with someone who is from Nazareth, he would be a Nazarene, but a Nazarite vow comes from the Hebrew word Nazir, which means to be consecrated, to be separated unto the Lord and so this is a wonderful provision to take the Nazarite vow. You could take it for a period of time as little as 30 days or a person could be as a Nazarite for life and there are several examples.
The prophet Samuel was a Nazarite for life, John the Baptist had taken the Nazarite for life. God has made a way in this dedication for a person, whether man or woman to choose what kind of relationship that he or she wanted with God. I love that because the same is true for you and me. God is made a way for us sinners though we be, He's made a way for us to have a relationship to the living God, but then we have to choose what kind of relationship, how near are you going to be?
See, I love that verse in James 4:8. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. God has made a way for relationship through His Son, Jesus Christ, but we must choose how near will we walk? How close will we be? Because I tell you, He wants us to be close. He wants us to be near. He wants a relationship that's alive and alive relationship comes from the one who made life, He is life, then He wants you to have that life and that comes from being near.
I. “Come Away My Beloved”
The Nazarite vow is taken as a way for someone to choose to have a relationship of being wholly devoted. Lord, I so love you and thank you. I dedicate myself to you. It's a powerful picture because these are the principles that guide us into being wholly devoted. God wants us to be devoted, to love Him with a heart that sincere and genuine and He wants us to live near to Him. Let's read it. In chapter 6, beginning verse 1. Again, the Lord spoke to Moses and he said this, verse 2, speak to the Sons of Israel.
Say to them this, "When a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazarite to dedicate himself to the Lord, he shall abstain from wine or strong drink he shall drink, even though vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, neither shall he drink any grape juice, nor eat fresh or dry grapes. No, fruit of the vine at all. All the days of his separation, he shall not eat anything that is produced by the great vine, from the seeds even to the skin and all the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall pass over his head."
In other words, he's going to grow his hair or she grow their hair long. He shall be wholly until the days of the vow are fulfilled for which he separated himself for the Lord. He shall let the locks of hair on his head grow long. All the days of separation to the Lord, he shall not go near a dead person. It's another provision. You cannot touch a dead person. He shall not make himself unclean. In other words, by touching a dead person, even for his father or his mother, for his brother or sister.
When they die because his separation to God is on his head. It's indicated by the growing out of the hair. All the days of separation, he is holy to the Lord. He's dedicated his the heart that he has is the Lord's in every way. Now, the rest of that chapter, most of the rest of the chapter describes in more detail, and we will look at those on Wednesday, but I want us to move to verse 22 because here is kind of the reverse of this. In the beginning, I described the Nazarite vow that someone who's wholly devoted to the Lord.
In the verses starting in verse 22, now it describes the Lord's heart towards you. It's the other way around because this is a relationship and so now you're going to see God's heart towards Israel and for you. He says in verse 22, the Lord spoke to Moses and he said, "Now speak to Aaron and to his sons," and say, "Thus, you are blessed the sons of Israel." When you bless the Sons of Israel, you say this, verse 24, "The Lord bless you and keep you."
Now, you've heard this before, but I want us to see where it comes from and the heart that God has behind it. The Lord bless you, the Lord keep you, the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up his countenance on you and give you peace. They shall invoke my name on the Sons of Israel and I will bless them. Now, would you notice something? This is not a prayer. It's not saying, "Oh, may the Lord bless you. May the Lord keep you. May all mine praying, Lord, I'm praying that you would make your face shine."
It's not a prayer. This is the declaration. This is God saying His heart to the people. Let me just declare it. Let me just say it. I want to bless the people. I want them to know it. See, this is not, "Oh, God I hope--" No, this is God says, "This is a fact of my heart. I want it to be known. I want this to be blessed. I want the people to know, this is my heart." Now, these are the verses that want us to look at and apply them to our lives.
Let's go back over these verses, starting in the early part of chapter 6. I want to see a principle of this holy, dedicated heart. I like to capture this way. It's a phrase that comes out of the Song of Solomon. Come away, come away, my beloved. It's a beautiful picture, Song of Solomon. Gives this picture of the Lord speaking that. It's really the Lord saying that to his people. Come away, my beloved. The Nazarite vow, it's a special vow taken to become a holy dedicated to the Lord and so that they would draw near to the Lord.
A. Keep God in the center of your heart
They would also draw away from other things to be a wholly dedicated is to come near to the Lord. In order to come near to the Lord, you've got to get far from other things. "Come near, come away, come away. Come near to me." See, what is He saying? The heart that's wholly dedicated, He's saying this, "Keep God in the center of your heart." That's what God wants. That's what God desires because He says, "You are the apple of my eye. You are the joy and the delight of who I am."
God would say, "No, I would love to be in the center of your heart." The Nazirite vow included being separated from wine and strong drink or vinegar or grape juice, even fresh or dried grapes. That doesn't give us the specific reason but many commentators believe that the fruit of the vine represented the best, the best that the earth had to offer. What was there to drink in Israel in those days? What could they drink in Israel in those days? Well, there was water because milk won't last very long.
You said, "They drink milk. It wouldn't last very long." Even grape juice wouldn't last long. It turned into wine. They had water and they had wine. Wine was precious. It was the choicest of what the earth had to offer. That's the point. See, to separate from the fruit of the vine was to come away from the world. Come away from the extravagance of the world. See, the idea was that for a period of time, the person would be wholly dedicated to the Lord. He would set aside those things so that he would not be distracted by those things but live under the Lord.
It's like fasting. If you've ever done fasting which is a very good discipline for believers to have in their life. You know fasting is separating yourself from things for a time to be wholly devoted to the Lord to seek his heart, to learn to pray. I remember many years ago, I was in the business world. I needed God to answer a prayer. This was a necessity that God would answer this prayer. I said, "I want to fast." It was such a matter of importance. I was the CEO of this company as a founder.
It was like, "God, I need you to answer this prayer." I decided I was going to fast until God answered this prayer, not to coerce Him but to keep my heart to Him. Then I felt, "Well, I don't know how long this is going to take so I'm not going to completely fast." I could die. I'm going to do what I call the Daniel Fast. The Daniel Fast means I'm going to only eat those things that are healthy. I'm going to fast all unhealthy things until God answers my prayer.
That's going to be my constant reminder to pray, to seek, I'm going to stand, I'm going to ask, I need God to answer. It's like that, so I can be wholly focused. I'm going to say no to those things. For me, no Doritos, no Ding Dongs.
I love Ding Dongs. You know what I'm talking about? They're like these kind of a hockey pock things. They have this chocolate covering over them and a gooey-- Okay, anyway. No, none of that sort of thing. No sugar. I'm going to be dedicated to the Lord. I fasted in this way and prayed for 18 months. I tell you what. God answered in a beautiful way. There's that idea. Just being separated to the Lord. Being separated to the Lord means being separated from.
It's like Ephesians 5:18. Do not get drunk with wine, that's dissipation. Be filled with the Spirit. Come away from that and be filled with the presence of the power of the Lord and the Holy Spirit. See, what God is addressing is the importance of keeping God in the highest place, of remembering your first love. Remember the joy that you had at the first. Do you remember when you first came to the Lord? The joy you had at the first. Things can change over time. Marriage can become routine. The job that you felt was so exciting can become mundane.
He says, "No." Do not let that happen in your relationship to the Living God. Do not let that happen in your relationship to the Living God. "Remember your first love," God says. Do the things you did at the first. If you have forgotten how wonderful things were at the first in your relationship to the Lord, one thing is for certain. God most certainly has not forgotten. He remembers. It's a delight for him to remember. I like this. It's at Jeremiah 2:2.
Thus, says the Lord, "I remember. I remember concerning you the devotion of your youth, the love of your betrothals, your following after me in the wilderness through a land not sown. I remember those days, the devotion of your youth." Were you once on fire for the Lord but that fire has grown dim? He says, "Then, ignite the fire again." Do the things you did at the first. Let the fire to burn again in your life. "Don't let that happen to the Lord," He says, "Draw near to me." You draw near to the fire and you'll catch fire. That's what He's saying.
B. Don’t keep your heart for God a secret
"You draw near to the fire and you'll catch fire." See, this is a very important thing. Then what's he showing us is this, another principle. Don't keep your heart for God a secret. Those keeping the Nazirite vow were to let their hair grow during the entire time of their vow. That would be evidence of a person's decision to be devoted to the Lord. Jesus, He did speak about not trying to appear religious, but that's not what he's saying here. The person who appears or tries to appear religious, his heart is not devoted to God.
His heart is devoted to himself. He just wants to appear religious. That's why Matthew 6:1, "Beware, beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them. Otherwise, you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven." Jesus did say this. He said, "Speaking of living your life in such a way--" He said it this way. Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works." They see your life, it's evidence to them. Then they will glorify your Father who is in heaven.
Now today, wearing long hair would not indicate where your heart is with God. It's a completely different thing. In fact, back in the '60s, people wore their hair long to say that they were anti-establishment to say that they were counter-culture. I know a lot about the '60s. I studied it in history books.
I tried to grow my hair long but I didn't have that kind of a hair. It went like this. That doesn't work. Side note here. One of the jokes that was popular in the '60s, it was in the history books I read was about a young man who got his permit. He asked his father if he can get his driver's license. I'll tell you what, the father said, "If you bring your grades up and get your hair cut, then you can get your driver's license."
The boy responded, "Well, I don't think I should have to get my hair cut, dad. Jesus had long hair. If Jesus had long hair, then I ought to be able to have long hair." The father said, "Well, it may be true that Jesus had long hair, but he also walked everywhere He went."
Okay, that may not have happened. By the way, the idea that Jesus had long hair is not accurate. You know how you see these pictures of Him with his long-- It's not accurate because only those taking the Nazirite vow would have long hair. Jesus did not take the Nazirite vow. Actually, He was known to eat and drink with sinners even. In fact, at the end of the vow, the hair would actually be cut off in a ceremony and offered up to the Lord. It would be burnt as a peace offering on the altar. That is just amazing to me.
It really was a significant thing. It represented something important, so we actually was shaved off and offers. It was just amazing. See, the point here is that we should not only live our lives so that people see our heart but that we should be unashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Like why would you be ashamed of Him who saved your soul and blessed you with eternal life? Like Romans 10:14, “How will they call on Him whom they have not believed? And how will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how would they hear without a preacher?”
Demonstrate it, don't be ashamed of it. I remember my wife telling me the story of when she was growing up, she was raised in a home where they did not believe in God. They were atheists. Her parents were atheists or family was atheist. Then, at one point, her older sister, her sister nearest to an age became a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. Her older sister, she said she could see in her sister a change because they used to fight all the time. It was like really girl-- They were always having these fights.
Then her sister came to the Lord and she changed. She was not like that anymore. Her sister just kept trying to bug her and bug her, pester, “You got to come to church with me. I really want you to come to church with me. Please, come to church with me.” She finally went to church just to get her sister to stop. She goes to church. She went to this youth gathering. She said she walked in and she saw this boy, he was really nice looking… No, it wasn't me.
She saw this boy; he was really nice looking. Then, she looked at him and realized that he was in love with the Lord because as they were worshiping, she saw something that she had never seen before in her life. He was completely caught up in worship and his heart was completely given over to the Lord and it moved her. It moved her. She herself came to the Lord a short time after that. It's like, "Don't be ashamed." He's unashamedly just devoted to the Lord.
C. Separate from things that are dead
Now, notice what He says next here, “Separate from things that are dead”, He says.
The final restriction of a Nazarite was to be separated from things that are dead. In that day, it meant staying away from dead bodies. It's interesting. That these were the same requirements placed on the high priest. He could not touch that things because he was separated unto the Lord who is life. Now, there are a lot of things in this world that are dead. There are a lot of things in this world that lead to death. To be wholly dedicated to the Lord means to pursue those things which bring life.
I want you to have life. I want you have life to the full, pursue those things. See, 1 Timothy 6:11-12, Paul writes, “Flee from those things, O man of God.” Don't you just love Paul's boldness. “Flee from those things, O man of God, and pursue righteousness and godliness and faith and love and perseverance and gentleness and fight a good fight of faith.” That's a good verse right there. That's a really good verse. “Flee from those things, you man of God.” I just love that verse. There's something really bold about that.
Pursue this, pursue it, pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance, gentleness, fight a good fight. Now, if a Nazarite did touch a dead body, even unintentionally, he had to shave his head and start over. I love that because, in other words, there's the provision for a fresh start. Start over. Now that's important because maybe you were on fire for the Lord at some time on your life, and then you got involved with things that are dead. Maybe you started making decisions that got you into difficulty, your trouble, and now you're ashamed.
I just love this heart where He says, "Provision, start over. Start over. New Start. New beginning. God's not done with you yet. God’s not finished with you. God’s not going to throw you away. God gives you a new beginning in the Lord Jesus Christ." I love that about the Lord. I just love that. Revelation 21:5. He who sits on the throne said this, “Behold, I am making all things new.” He said, “Write this down.” He said, “Write this down. These words are faithful and these words are true.” That's what God is doing. He makes all things new. I love that.
II. God’s Heart is to Bless
We need that because there's a lot of people who started so well, they started so on fire, they were so in love, and then something happened. Then He says, “Fresh start, new beginning. Start over.” I love that because God's heart and that's why He describes in detail the rest of that chapter. Then He brings us to verse 22, where He's trying to show us this, God's heart is to bless. Start over. God's heart is to bless. See, He wants these blessings spoken over his people. It's not a prayer. It's a declaration of His blessing.
The Nazarite vow is about a person's heart for God, but this declaration is about God's heart for Israel and for you. Notice what He says, verse 24, “The Lord bless you and keep you. The word you hear is actually in the singular. You personally, you by name, He knows you by name. You. The Lord will bless you. The Lord will keep you by name." He's intimately acquainted with all your ways. The Lord will bless you. The Lord will keep you. He knows where you’re camped. Earlier in this book, He describes where they're going to camp in proximity to the Lord.
A. The Lord bless you and keep you
The Levites who were wholly given over to the Lord, they are the closest. They are the closest, but then He makes this provision for the Nazarite vow, anyone who wants to dedicate his heart to the Lord. See, this is a key. Some people have a special place. They love to sit in church. I noticed that by the way. Some people have a special place. Some people get there early so they can sit in the back. Other people go to sit upfront. You know what? It doesn't matter where you sit.
What matters is whether you're near to God in your heart. That's what matters to the Lord. That's the key. No matter where you are camped, where you're sitting, it's the heart that matters. God wanted it known that His heart was to bless the people and He did not want His heart misrepresented. He wants it clear. I want you to speak this. I want you to declare this. I want it to be very clear to the people. I do not want this to be misrepresented. Write it down. Make this clear. Because some people, they misunderstand God's heart.
Some people see God is always angry and that He's looking for ways to make life difficult for them because after all, that's what they deserved. God does not want to be misrepresented. He clearly lays out word for word exactly what He wanted said, “I want this declared, this is my heart. I will bless these people.” There was a time when Moses misrepresented God and it was a serious matter. The people were thirsty. They grumbled, they were grumbling against Moses, and they were grumbling against God. Moses and Aaron went before the Lord.
The Lord said this, this is actually found in Numbers 20:8, “Take a rod that you have. You and your brother, Aaron, then assemble the congregation. Then, I want you to speak to the rock.” Now, you might remember. When Israel first came out of Egypt and they were in the desert a short time and they were thirsty and they started grumbling and a so God says that, "Take that rod and strike the rock, strike the rock and then living water will flow." He did this. Now, many years of the desert later, they grumble again.
He says, "Take the rod, you and your brother, assemble the people and now I want you to speak. Don't strike that rock again. Don't strike that rock. You just speak it and then it will yield its water. You shall thus bring forth water for the amount of the rock and let the congregation and the beast drink." The problem is that Moses heard that word and then he assembled all the people and then he stood up before all the people and he gave his speech. This is what he said in his speech. "Listen up, you rebels."
I suggest and when you start a speech with the words, "Listen up, you rebels," that either you had way too much coffee or you are way too irritated. "Listen up, you rebels, shall we bring water for you out of this rock?" Then he took the rod and he struck the rock twice. God was not angry with His people. He wanted to bless them with water and He wanted to give them the picture of Christ who is the living water. For once Christ was smitten for our transgressions on the cross once and never again. Once and once for all.
Once that provision is made by God for you to have living water, all you gotta do is ask. You just got to ask. You just speak the words you ask, you seek, you knock, and God will open to you. Moses misrepresented God. He said, "You did not treat God as Holy and therefore, you will not lead these people into the Holy land. That privilege will be given to Joshua." Joshua, whose name is the same as Jesus, Yeshua, Ha Mashiach. He did get to see it. We were there on Mount Nebo, same place.
What a glorious thing to stand on that mountain and to see what Moses saw, but he misrepresented God. God wanted to show this is my son. 1 Corinthians 10:4, "And they all drank from the same spiritual drink for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them and that rock was Christ." Don't misrepresent God heart either. We are ambassadors for Christ. When you live in this world, live as one who represents God well. When you call the name Christian, you represent God to the world, the people.
It's so important because we are living in a caustic, divisive, argumentative, bickering, fighting, broken world. Is this not true? May we represent God's heart. Notice here in verse 6:6 God says these words, "The Lord bless you and the Lord keep you." It's interesting that these words are together, bless and keep. See, the Talmud, an ancient rabbinical writings interpret this verse by saying, "Why do we ask God first to bless and then to keep us?" Because if he does bless with abundant blessings, we need to be protected from letting our heart wonder when that abundance and prosperity comes.
B. His face shine on you
Keep us, keep us, Lord. Keep us near to you. He keeps you by being with you. He never said that He would keep you from trouble. He never said He would keep you from fire. He did say, "If you walk through the fire, I will be there. I will keep you." The Lord is your helper and then you notice what He says next in the next verse, "His face shines upon you." His countenance, his face shining as the countenance of his heart. That's a declaration. "My heart will be gracious. Always poured out to you through his son. The favor of God is you."
C. The Lord lift up His countenance
That's why He says in the next phrase, "The Lord lift up his countenance." That means the favor of God is upon you and you can see this all over the Scriptures. Here's another one. Zephaniah 3:17, "The Lord your God is in your midst. He's a victorious warrior. He will exult over you with joy. He will be quiet in his love. He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy." That's his heart. Then he says in that famous blessing, the next, he says, "And he will give you peace." See, when know that God's favor is on you.
When you know that God is for you, that's when your heart is at peace. If you're at peace with God, then you can be at peace with yourself. Then you can be at peace with your life, but if you're not at peace with God, then you're not going to be at peace with anything. It's a picture of the Holy Spirit given by God to be the comforter, the counselor. He says, "The fruit of the Holy Spirit is peace and God's blessing over you is peace."
If your heart is troubled, if you came into this place and your heart is troubled, then let that declaration of God's blessings be spoken over you. He is your peace. He gives the peace of the soul. Inner peace. Jesus said in John 14:27, "Peace, I give to you. I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled. Neither let them be afraid." Isaiah 26:3, "You will keep him in perfect peace. Whose mind has stayed on you because he trusts in you."
Have peace. Let your soul be quieted in peace. Trust in the Lord. Know that he's for you, His favor is upon you. His grace knows no boundaries and his love will never fail. Father, thank you for everyone in this place, hearing this declaration because that declaration is also for us. Church tonight, if you want that blessing poured out over you, it's the declaration of his heart He wants to pour that blessing over you. You come tonight. Your heart is troubled. You need peace. Would you know that his heart is for you? That when you draw near to the living God, peace is yours.
If the fire that once burns bright has grown dim, you draw near to the fire again and you'll catch fire again. Church tonight, would you ask God to reignite your love? Would you ask God to cause his Holy Spirit to ignite that fire? You, would you ask that of the Lord tonight if you would? I'm going to ask you, just raise your hands. Say it by raising your hand to the Lord. Ignite the fire again. Pour the Spirit out again. Lord, I want that soul in me to be alive. I'm asking, pour your Spirit out on me. I want your life to be my life.
Draw me near to the fire, Lord, and let me catch that fire in my soul. Father, thank you for everyone who says yes and amen to what you're doing. Oh God, you are worthy. You are Holy. Let me give you praise tonight in Jesus' name and everyone said, "Can we give the Lord praise and glory?"