- via Flickr and elsie
“Also, for the duration of the consecration you must not have your hair cut. Your long hair will be a continuing sign of holy separation to God.” Numbers 6:5 (MSG)
Many years ago I had a client I visited on a quarterly basis. In the client’s office was a man who stood out from the crowd for many reasons. Chiefly, he stood out because of his long hair. It was extremely strange to see a professional man his age with hair that long. It fell almost down to his butt. After my first double-take, I figured the man was spending his after work hours trying to live out a teenage dream of being in a 80’s hair band.
As my colleagues and I got to know Mr. Hair Band Man over several business trips, we began to learn the much deeper purpose of his long hair. He told the story of a friend who had lost his way and ended up in prison. In an attempt to share the love of Jesus in a tangible way, he told this friend that he was going to take a Nazirite vow like the one described in today’s chapter. He would make a special consecration to God and would not cut his hair until his friend got out of prison. It was almost ten years when his friend was released and he finally cut his hair. His vow and his long hair became a powerful witness to his friend of his love, faith and commitment.
Looking back over my journey, I realize that there are stretches of life’s road that call for special times of consecration. There are periods of time when we may be called to be “set apart” for a special purpose; we may need to consecrate ourselves to God in a unique and more radical way. The purpose of this time of consecration may be public and relational, or it may be private and deeply personal. Either way, vows of consecration and their faithful maintenance can pave the way to new and powerful spiritual horizons.
“If she can’t afford a lamb, she can bring two doves or two pigeons, one for the Whole-Burnt-Offering and one for the Absolution-Offering. The priest will make atonement for her and she will be clean.” Leviticus 12:8 (MSG)
One of the reasons I’ve always encouraged fellow followers to read through the Old Testament is that it provides layers of new understanding to familiar passages in the New Testament. Take the verse above, for example. Now compare that with Luke 2:22-24:
When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took [Jesus] to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”), and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”
Now we get a deeper picture of Mary and Joseph, who were dedicated followers of the Law and held to the rituals prescribed in Leviticus chapter 12. We also learn that Jesus’ family was of limited means because they sacrificed the doves or pigeons rather than the lamb. This, in turn, is fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophetic word picture (Isaiah 53:2) that the messiah would be of humble beginnings “like a tender shoot and a root out of dry ground.”
God’s Message provides wholistic understanding. While individual verses or passages provide inspiration or instruction, they are intended to be interpreted in the context of the whole. I am always wary of those who pull one or two verses out of God’s Message and interpret them to mean all sorts of things that do not fit in context with the whole. These early books of law are certainly dry in terms of simple devotional reading, but they are thick with providing a broader historical picture of God’s plan.