I read these chapters a couple days ago and honestly had no idea what to say. I even thought about making that my post, “who knows.” But I fully believe that the Bible always has something for us. Sometimes it’s so clear that the Holy Spirit speaking to you almost bypasses your thoughts and just hits your heart. On some occasions we read something like these two chapters and think the only point is cultural context. But, again, I think there is always something personally applicable. So these chapters put that belief to the test. It’s been a couple of days that I’ve thought about and still- nothing. Then this morning I read it again and just asked “God, what do you want me to see here?” And so, this is what I know have to share.
As much as I wanted to find something significant to say on the Nazirite vow, God didn’t lead me there. We will be camped out in 5:11 to the end of the chapter, the portion entitled The Test for an Unfaithful Wife. Now hang in there with me. I’m aware this isn’t the cheeriest topic, and I know there will be times that what the Lord has for us will be a heavy rebuke. But today isn’t that day. Now this is a weird passage. And it becomes even more strange when you think of people actually practicing it. My Bible has a note that says there is no evidence that it was ever actually practiced and it might have been in there as a deterrent for adulteress behavior. Now that’s a nice thought, but I disagree. I feel like that is an attempt to make such a foreign practice to us easier to accept. But the real thing that matters is that God wouldn’t have put it in there if it couldn’t have been practiced. So even if it never was, the fact that this could have been practiced is the point (plus how much do we think of human nature that no one would have been in an adulteress situation, let alone a jealous husband thinking it might have been happening!). So if we’re looking at this bizarre passage with the perspective that the ceremony would have worked if it was ever used, then there are a couple of take away points for us.
Point 1: God is not magic, but miraculous. Sometimes this distinction isn’t very clear. Do you remember in Exodus Moses performing miracles to try and get Pharoh to release the Israelites, but the Egyptian magicians could duplicate some of them. This passage could sound like magic, but the drink is not a spell but a drink made from the holy ground of the tabernacle. It represents the idea at the beginning of chapter 5: God protects His dwelling place from being defiled by instituting boundaries, and there are severe consequences for crossing the boundaries. The sacred drink in a defiled host becomes a curse as punishment for defiling holy things. But the lesson here is that God was the one that created the outcome of the drink, not a spell. God is capable of the miraculous because it is His nature. It is of vital importance to our accurate view of God that we know and accept His miraculous nature. Sometimes our fear, skepticism, experiences, and the teaching we’ve received have made us shy to accept this piece of Him. But just as we see in this passage, the miraculous nature of God is assumed and necessary for the systems He put in place to work. We need to be discerning to not call the miraculous of God magic, and magic the miraculous.
Point 2: Sin can cause disease. Because of our modern medical understanding, we tend to no longer believe this is true, but the fact is that it is many many places in the Bible. We’ve even heard medical science back it up in the studies on unforgiveness and a shortened life span. Science helps explain the things of God, it will not explain away the things of God. Sin defiles- we’ve seen this many times already- and if it defiles our bodies, sickness as a result makes sense.
Point 3: Curses and blessings are real. We see the priest speaking a curse over the adulteress and later at the end of chapter 6 we see God instructing the priests to speak a blessing over the Israelites. If God instructs them this way, they must be real. God does not lie.
Now, I’m not going to pretend I know how all this practically plays out. But God is not a formula, He is a person. So since He wanted to make this things clear this morning, I also trust that He will give more clarity when I need it. Which is such a relief! I’m so thankful that I’m not responsible to figure things out!
Tomorrow’s Reading: Numbers 7