Our reading today begins with the details of the Levitical responsibilities by family. In 4:5, we see that no one can see the glory of God. Aaron and his sons are to take down the veil, keep it between themselves and the ark, and cover it. They are also the only ones allowed to handle those holy things in God’s presence – all of those things that we have seen are covered in gold: the table for the bread of the Presence, the golden vessels, the lampstand, and the Altar of Incense. This shows once again the absolute holiness of God and His inapproachability by anything or anyone unholy (see also vv. 15 and 20). Note in verse 13 that the ashes from the altar, that is, the Altar of Incense, are taken and are the only thing covered in purple. This is because in those ashes would be the ashes of the sacrificed lamb from the Day of Atonement, and they will be covered in the color of royalty. This is a pointer forward to the sacrifice of our King. Note that, in this chapter, God provides for all the human resources needed to carry out the complete ministry of His dwelling place, just like He does with His church to this day.
Chapter 4 begins with another reminder of God’s holiness. Whoever is unholy will corrupt the whole camp. The same is true in the church (see 1 Cor 5). Notice in verse 6 that the assumption is still that sin will be unintended sin (the people will “realize” their guilt), not intentional sin against God. Also note that every sin must be paid for no matter what (v. 8).
The rest of the chapter records a strange requirement for testing women whose husbands suspect them of adultery. This is clearly a supernatural act by God through the exercise: if the woman is innocent, nothing will happen. If she is guilty, she will suffer and be cursed. The idea of “bitter” water as a punishment for sin is always for unbelievers (see Jer 9:15, 23:15, and Rev 8:11). This is in contrast to the bitter water that God turned sweet in the incident at Marah (Ex 15:22-27 – notice the water there is part of a test in verse 25). The water that kills is God’s judgment for unbelief, whereas the sweet water points us to the Holy Spirit for those who believe (see John 7:37-39).
Chapter 6 focuses on the Nazirite vow. The word “Nazirite” means “devoted” or “consecrated.” This is a voluntary setting apart of one’s self to God for a specified period. It requires abstention from purely physical pleasure (6:3-4), signaling that one’s pleasure was in God. It also required the abandonment of human adornment (v. 5), signaling a focus on the inner life as opposed to the outward life. It also required a commitment to holiness (vv. 6-8). This points us to what God calls us to: finding our pleasure in Him (see Rom 14:17, Luke 8:14, Phil 4:4), focusing on the inward as opposed to the outward (see Matt 23:25-26, Rom 2:29, 2 Cor 5:12, 1 Pet 3:3-4), and a commitment to holiness (see Matt 5:48, Rom 12:1, 1 Cor 3:16-17, Eph 4:24).
The chapter ends with the blessing God gives to Aaron with which to bless Israel. Note that the words usually translated “face” in v. 25 and “countenance” in v. 26 are both the same word (usually translated as “face,” indicating the presence of God). Remember what it means to see God’s face. It cannot be done in this life. And yet, it is the Lord’s face before us that is the blessing. It is grace. It is peace. Because this points to our complete salvation. The ultimate blessing of God is Him providing our complete salvation! So why wouldn’t He be our joy? Why wouldn’t we live lives of holiness? Why wouldn’t we be utterly devoted to Him? He has put His name up on us! We are Christians!