For the week of June 11, 2005 / 4 Sivan 5765
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 4:21 - 7:89
Haftarah: Shoftim / Judges 13:2-25
A Public Display
Even if his own father or mother or brother or sister dies, he must not make himself ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of his separation to God is on his head. Throughout the period of his separation he is consecrated to the LORD. (Bemidbar / Numbers 6:7,8)
The Torah refers to a special kind of vow called a Nazirite vow, whereby people would give themselves to the service of God in a special way for a period of time. Apart from the details of their vow, there were certain things that the person was to do and not do. These included: avoiding ceremonial impurity, abstaining from grape products, and letting their hair grow.
The need to let one’s hair grow like this would cause what might otherwise be a private and personal matter to become public. Therefore everyone would know when a person was under a Nazirite vow.
Some people might be uncomfortable with such a public display of spirituality. You may be aware of Yeshua's teaching regarding displaying our spiritual activities in public, but Yeshua was warning people against doing things such as charity, prayer, and fasting in such a way that people would notice (see Matthew 6:1-18). These activities should be done first and foremost as a service to God, not as ways to show off how spiritual we are.
Yeshua was not teaching that everything about our spirituality was to be private. That could not be so, since he commissioned his followers to actively make a difference in society through ways that could only be done in the public arena.
It is essential to know the difference between the private and public aspects of spirituality. While there are things that we should do only for God to see, a person whose life is given over to the service of God will be noticed in public.
The long hair of a Nazirite brought his vow into the public sphere. Since everyone would know, he would not need to explain why he was living differently from others, thus preventing embarrassment to himself and to others. The long hair was also a reminder to himself of his special commitment. When our commitments are private, it is easy to neglect them.
No matter how private or public the actual details of the person's vow were, the hair of the Nazirite caused that person to be somewhat of a public spectacle. The fact is people who give themselves to serve God in a special way will stand out. It is impossible to radically serve God and blend in with the rest of society. The hair simply helped both the person and those around him to more readily noticed and accept the radical nature of the commitment.
When someone comes to believe in Yeshua as Messiah, we are set apart to God in a similar fashion to that of a Nazirite. That doesn't mean that we need to grow our hair or have any other special outward sign of our inward commitment. What it does mean is that our faith will always have an outward, public aspect that we cannot and should not avoid. If we really believe, we can no longer blend in even among others who have a similar faith. If you have truly given your life to God, you will be noticed.
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