A separated people

The mark of a saint is not perfection, but consecration. A saint is not a man without faults, but a man who has given himself without reserve to God. (W. T. Richardson).


The counterpart to cleansing (chapter 5) is consecration (chapter 6). Priestly, Levitical service was the exclusive privilege of those who belonged to the tribe of Levi but the Lord here instituted a provision whereby any man or woman of Israel who wished could take a vow before the Lord to consecrate himself for a stated period of time to serve God (vv. 1-12). Occasionally such a vow would be made by parents on behalf of their children, as in the case of Samuel (1 Sam. 1:11), but ordinarily it was an act of devotion taken voluntarily by an adult.

A person who thus decided to consecrate himself was called a Nazarite. For the duration of his period of consecration, he had to abstain from fermented beverages and all other products of the vine (vv. 3-5); he could not shave his head (v. 5); and he could not come in contact with a dead body (vv. 6-8). To do so would violate the vow which was symbolized by his long hair (v. 7). If, however, he inadvertently came near a dead body he had to undertake a long ceremony of cleansing  (vv. 9-12; Lev. 5:7-10). Then he could resume his period of consecration.

When one’s time of consecration was over, the Nazarite was to take to the tabernacle a year-old male lamb for a burnt offering, a year-old ewe lamb for a sin offering, and a ram for a peace offering (vv. 13-17). These, accompanied by grain offerings and drink offerings and a basket of unleavened bread, constituted the formal announcement of his termination of his Nazarite vow. The sin offering was to atone for any sins unknowingly committed during the period of consecration (Lev. 5:1-6). The burnt offering was to symbolize complete surrender to the Lord (Lev. 1:10-13). And the peace offering was to show the fact that the Nazarite and the Lord were in perfect harmony (Lev. 3:6-11; 7:11-14). After this, the Nazarite was to cut his hair and cast it on the altar upon which the fellowship offering had been made (vv. 18-27). This offering of hair symbolized to the devotee the blessing of God, from whom all blessings come.


“The mark of a saint is not perfection, but consecration. A saint is not a man without faults, but a man who has given himself without reservation to God.” May that be true of my life!

Numbers 6:1-27 (English Standard Version)

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