The Call as a Vow
Numbers 30:3-6 (Moffatt Bible) If any woman vows anything to the Eternal or pledges herself to abstain from anything, while she is young and living in her father’s house, then, 4should her father come to hear of the vow or pledge and offer no objection, her vow is valid and her pledge is binding; but, 6should her father express disapproval, no vow or pledge that she has taken shall stand, and the Eternal will forgive her, since her father disapproved.
The text sounds very offensive in the 21st century after Christ. Men and women are equal. Many people feel men and women are equal before God, and like myself, find support for that in Biblical principles. This passage was written before the feminist movement. Women, in ancient times, were under the authority of men,1 either their husbands or fathers. Single, adult women were able to make vows or covenants with God. When women were under the authority of men, those vows had to be approved by their father or husband.
In our time, a pious young person could make a vow that might create problems for that person in the future, or for that young person’s family. Obtaining support and guidance from one’s family is part of spiritual discernment. When a young person makes a spiritual vow or commitment that causes strife in the family, a young person may need to wait until he or she is of full legal age to act on the vow. God has the time to wait, and all forms of serving God should be done in God’s time, not our time. We get a picture of that in the book of Jeremiah too.
Jeremiah 1:5-7 (Moffatt Bible) “Before I formed you in the womb, I chose you; ere ever you were born, I set you apart; I have appointed you a prophet to the nations.” 6Then I said, “Ah, but O lord Eternal, I cannot speak, I am too young!” 7But the Eternal said to me, “Say not, you are too young, to whomsoever I send you shall you go, and whatever I command you, shall you speak.
There are many possible meanings of Jeremiah. The contributors to the NIV Bible Commentary believe the best meaning is “the Lord exalts.” Other meanings include “the Lord establishes” and “the Lord hurls.”2
The role of those called to be God’s servants and prophets is to exalt people in Christ, to establish the Kingdom, and to gently help hurl God’s reluctant children into service. Those are not easy tasks, and that is why I question the call of those who seem overly eager to serve God.
In Hebrew, we get a rich picture from the verses in Jeremiah. The Eternal chose Jeremiah before he was born. In Hebrew, the meaning is that God literally knew Jeremiah before Jeremiah was born.3 And this was an intimate knowledge of Jeremiah.4 God did not just form Jeremiah, God formed Jeremiah, like a potter would form clay.5
There is an interesting application of the text in Jeremiah for the queer community. You almost get the picture that God knew Jeremiah so well, God personally made Jeremiah into the kind of person God wanted him to be. God knowing us before we are born is a New Testament idea too. In the first two chapters of Ephesians, Paul paints a picture of God choosing you to be one of God’s children before the world was created. God chose you, a queer person, to be part of the Kingdom, before the world existed!
God formed you, by hand, to be the kind of person who would be just the right person to touch people for God in a special way. For some reason, God thought you should be queer. God linked our sexuality and spirituality in the womb. The two are locked, hand-in-hand. When we understand that, we find the tension between sexual orientation and Christianity fades away. God knows just the right time for you to be the person God really created you to be. There is no need to either rush or continually delay the coming out process.
For example, there is no need for gay, lesbian, or bisexual youth to inform their family, if that will place the youth’s health, life, or safety at risk. God has called many people out of the closet. One reason God has called people out is to make it easier for others to come out, and to be the people they were created to be. To Christians who know they are queer, God is speaking in a soft, encouraging voice, calling you to step forward to be the person you were intended to be.
God is asking queer people to come out, so the queer Christian community can be powerful agents of change for God. The Eternal is working now to help prepare you to make a difference in the world, even if you are still serving from a closet. Part of the preparation is to reduce your level of fear, so you can be a brave servant of God.