Bible is the standard February 26 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): 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 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—he sets the standards of conduct. What are his standards and how do we maintain them?

God's standard for the entire congregation of his people is holiness. He says “Consecrate yourselves and be holy, because I am the LORD your God” (Leviticus 20:7, NIV). God’s people of every age in history need to be holy because he is holy—we cannot approach the LORD without it. Holiness in its moral and physical sense means absolute purity and cleanliness. The term carries the idea of separation. People and things are to be separated 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. In Bible terminology this is called consecration.

Because being absolutely pure and clean is impossible for the Israelites, substitutionary animal sacrifices are offered to atone (make amends) for their sins. Absolute purity is impossible for us, too, so later in history, Jesus Christ offers a perfect once for all sacrifice for sins. Faith in his perfect sacrifice in payment for our sins makes us holy (Hebrews 10:10,14).

Infectious diseases, contact with dead bodies, and bodily discharges also make people unclean. What are the Israelites to do if they touch someone who is unclean and become unclean themselves? Because God requires purity and cleanliness, they are to be separated from the camp of God (Numbers 5:2-3). This protects the large body of Israel. If later they are determined to be clean and free of disease, they are readmitted into the congregation.

Another regulation for which the Israelites need more clarification is the sin and guilt offerings. The normal procedure for the guilty person is 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 are the Israelites to do with guilt offerings, however, when there is no one to whom they can 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 it right? 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)

Sacrifices and restitution are required of the Israelites for all who sin and are guilty because they are impure. To rectify this, the Israelites must first check if there are close relatives of the victim to whom they can make restitution for an injury or offense. If there is no one, then they are to give the payment 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 are no close relatives.

Another way to maintain God’s holy standard of conduct is through 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 happens if the husband is feeling jealous because he suspects his wife of committing adultery but has no proof of it? The ceremony described in Numbers 5:11-31 is meant to deal with this situation and ferret out guilt, if there is any. This, of course, would be very humiliating and devastating for the wife but certainly a strong deterrent to flirtations. God provides a way for the Israelite priests to determine her guilt or innocence in the matter. If she is guilty, she suffers terribly, and if not, her reputation is cleared. Her innocence in the matter also shames her jealous husband. Although the Bible says her husband will not be guilty for making her go through this, he will look like a foolish and overly suspicious man. Obviously, this is not a ceremony for either party to take lightly, and most people would loathe doing it.

Why is there no test for the man to prove his faithfulness? We do not know for sure there is no test because there is no mention of it in the Bible. We only know that this issue of jealousy surfaced and needed clarification in 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 devices, 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 that we do (1Peter 1:15-16). These stipulations, as well as others mentioned, are for cleansing and holiness and are standards of conduct which God expects.

Another issue which needs further clarification is the making of vows. If individuals want to dedicate themselves totally to God, how do they do it? We were introduced to this regulation in Leviticus 27 for Israelites who wanted to dedicate themselves, their land, their animals or their property to the LORD. Each was given an assessed value. Today's Bible reading gives regulations for those who wish to take the Nazirite vow, a vow of total separation to the LORD for a period of time.

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 break any of these vows during the time of their dedication, they have to start all over again. At the end of their commitment they appear before the priest. He shaves their heads, and the hair is 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 are not monks; these Israelites remain in the community and participate 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).

Why do we want to maintain holy standards of conduct? We want to do this so God’s blessing will be upon us. The LORD says 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.” (Numbers 6:22-27, NIV)

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

Lessons to Live By

  • God’s standard is holiness so he 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 in saving us, we need to offer our bodies in holy service to the LORD.
  • We want to maintain God’s holy standard so his blessing will be upon us.

Focus Verse

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

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A Look Ahead: Now that we know what it means to walk in holiness, and we are striving to be holy, God Wants Helpers to accomplish his ministry. Find out more in our Next Lesson.

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