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Bible is the standard February 26 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Numbers 5, 6

(Note: Yesterday we finished the book of Leviticus. We are starting today’s Bible reading in Numbers 5-6 because the first ten chapters of Numbers are not in their chronological order. As in all our chronological Bible studies, the Bible passages are rearranged according to the order when the events probably occurred. Numbers 5-6 seem to be a second appendix to the book of Leviticus, further addressing regulations in Leviticus, so we are studying it first (more…).

Maintaining God's Holy Standard

Members of almost any institution or organization must maintain certain standards of conduct. This is true in families, churches, places of business, the military, and other organizations. What is true in human society, in this case, is also true of God; God sets the standards of conduct. What are the standards and how do we maintain them?

God's standard for the entire congregation of his people, as a whole and as individuals, was (and still is) holiness. Leviticus 20:7 says “Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God,” (NIV). God’s people of every age in history need to be holy because he is holy. We cannot approach God without it. Holiness in its moral and physical sense means absolute purity and cleanliness. The term carries the idea of separation. People and things were to be separated (consecrated in holiness) to the LORD, away from ungodliness, idolatry, false teachings, and anything else profane, impure, unclean, or (in the case of things) common use. Because being absolutely pure and clean was impossible, substitutionary animal sacrifices were offered to atone (appease God) for people's sins. A better once for all sacrifice was later made to make us holy: God’s Son Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:10,14).

However, there was unholiness in the camp of Israel. What were the Israelites to do with those in the camp with infectious diseases, or bodily discharges, or who had touched a dead body? Because God required purity and cleanliness, they were separated from the camp of God (Numbers 5:2-3). This protected the large body of Israel. If later, they were determined to be free of disease they were readmitted into the congregation.

Another regulation that needed clarification was the sin and guilt offerings. The normal procedure for the guilty person was to confess the wrong to the one injured, offer an acceptable sacrifice for his sins, make full and complete restitution if possible, and add twenty percent as a restitution penalty. What were the Israelites to do with guilt offerings when there was no one to whom they could confess and make restitution? Some of us face this very problem: we feel guilty about some sin we committed in the past, but the person we wronged is dead; how do we make restitution? God gave this instruction to the Israelites:

But if that person has no close relative to whom restitution can be made for the wrong, the restitution belongs to the LORD and must be given to the priest, along with the ram with which atonement is made for him. All the sacred contributions the Israelites bring to a priest will belong to him. Each man's sacred gifts are his own, but what he gives to the priest will belong to the priest. (Numbers 5:8-10, NIV)

First, the Israelites were to check if there were a close relative of the victim to whom they could make restitution for an injury or offense. If there were no close relative to make restitution, then they were to give it to the LORD by the priests. In Protestant church assemblies there are no official priests, but perhaps by principle some gift of restitution to the LORD could be offered through the church if there is no close relatives present. Sacrifices and restitution were required of the Israelites for all who sinned and were guilty because they were impure. God also wants us to maintain standards of holy conduct. Leviticus 20:8 says, “Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy,” (NIV).

Another way to maintain God’s holy standard of conduct was (and is) marriage. Earlier, God gave Moses and the Israelites these commands on Mt. Sinai: “Thou shalt not commit adultery” (Exodus 20:14) and “thou shalt not covet” (with its various applications; Exodus 20:17).

“If a man commits adultery with another man's wife-- with the wife of his neighbor-- both the adulterer and the adulteress must be put to death,”(Leviticus 20:10, NIV).

But what would happen if the husband was feeling jealous because he suspected his wife had committed adultery but had no proof of it? The ceremony described in Numbers 5:11-31 was meant to deal with that situation and ferret out guilt if there was any. This, of course, would be very humiliating and devastating for the wife but certainly a strong deterrent to flirtations. God provided a way for people to determine her guilt or innocence in the matter. If she were guilty she would suffer terribly, and if not, her reputation would then be exonerated. Her innocence in the matter would also shame her jealous husband. Although the Bible says her husband would not be guilty for making her go through this, he could still look like a foolish and overly suspiscious man. Obviously, this was not a ceremony for either party to take lightly, and most people would loathe doing it.

Why was there no test for the man to prove his faithfulness? We do not know for sure there was not a test just because there is no mention of it. We only know that this issue of jealousy needed a regulation added to the law. We have no such practice today; however, there is a principle we might learn from this regulation. Husbands and wives need to be pure in their behavior toward others of the opposite sex. Do we give our spouse any cause to worry by spending too much private time on the Internet, mobile device, or in meetings with the opposite sex? Do we speak well of that person but criticize our mate? God wants to bless us, but we must be holy in all we do (1Peter 1:15-16). These stipulations, as well as others mentioned, were for cleansing and holiness and were standards of conduct God expected.

Another issue that came up was people who wanted to consecrate themselves totally to God - how do they do that? We were introduced to a regulation in Leviticus 27 for Israelites who wanted to dedicate themselves, their land, their animals or their property to the LORD. Numbers 6 gives further regulation to those who wanted to commit themselves totally to the LORD. In Moses’ day there were men and women who took Nazirite vows for a certain period of their lives to dedicate themselves totally to the LORD. During the time of their vow they had to follow these regulations:

He [or she]must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as he is a Nazirite, he must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.

During the entire period of his vow of separation no razor may be used on his head. He must be holy until the period of his separation to the LORD is over; he must let the hair of his head grow long.

Throughout the period of his separation to the LORD he must not go near a dead body. (Numbers 6:3-6, NIV)

If they broke any of these vows during the time of their consecration, they had to start all over again. At the end of the time of their consecration they appeared before the priest. He shaved their heads, and the hair was offered on the burnt altar as part of a fellowship offering, along with burnt and sin offerings (to learn about these, go back to our February 16 and 17 Bible studies). The Nazirites were not monks; these Israelites remained in the community and participated in all other ways. We may not be Nazirites, but as Christians, in view of God's mercy, [we are] “to offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is [our] spiritual act of worship.” We are not to “conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV).

Last, why do we want to maintain holy standards of conduct? We want to do this so God’s blessing will be upon us. In Numbers 6:22-27 “The LORD said to Moses,

Tell Aaron and his sons, “This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:

‘The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.' So they will put my name on the Israelites, and I will bless them." (NIV)

Do we want the blessing of the LORD? Of course we do. Then, we must maintain holy standards of conduct.

Lessons to live by:

  • God’s standard is holiness so God wants us to maintain standards of holy conduct.
  • Husbands and wives need to be pure in their behavior toward others of the opposite sex.
  • As Christians, in view of God's mercy, [we are] “to offer [our] bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is [our] spiritual act of worship.” We are not to “conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (Romans 12:1-2, NIV).
  • We want to maintain God’s holy standard so his blessing will be upon us.

Today’s Bible memory verse:

Leviticus 20:8 “Keep my decrees and follow them. I am the LORD, who makes you holy.” (NIV) God sent his son as a perfect sacrifice in our place, forgives our sins, gives us peace and makes us holy (more...)

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