“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried.” (Numbers 6:1-3)
Under the Law of Moses, the tribe of Levi was separated to be a special people among the special nation of God’s people – a selection within a selection. In order to be a priest and to serve in the priesthood, an individual had to be a Levite. But not all Levites were priests. And even among the priestly class, an individual had to come from Aaron’s lineage to be the high priest; Moses’ own descendents could not qualify.
A selection within a selection within a selection, as the Lord God Himself Sovereignly chooses and anoints men for His service.
But there is yet another class of individuals that were set apart unto the Lord in a unique relationship. Our text verses cover the law of the Nazarite vow. We first note that this class includes both men and women, and is not restricted to a lineal descent. Whereas only men were allowed to serve in the Levitical priesthood; even a woman from that tribe was prohibited from serving therein.
However, anyone with a desire to do so could be a Nazarite. All they had to do was to consecrate themselves to the Lord, and take the prescribed vow. These were people that had separated themselves to live a life that honored the Lord their God. They were not able to serve in the priesthood; but they were, all the same, willing to dedicate themselves unto God and to be so identified.
It is quite natural for us, considering the restrictions and rigors, to wonder why a person would make such a vow. What did it prove to be a Nazarite? What did it accomplish? We usually try to make applications in our daily life so that we may better understand some of the practices of the Bible. But we have no readily-understood parallel to the Nazarite vow in the New Covenant. And so we need to look at the representation of a Nazarite in order to discern a significance for ourselves.
Although the individual would not be permitted to serve as a priest, or even to minister about holy things, a person taking the Nazarite vow had a desire to live a life set apart – consecrated – unto the Lord (Numbers 6:8). A Nazarite held him or herself to a standard of conduct intended to reflect the holiness of God. The performance of their vows was itself a recognition that the Lord is a God of devotion, and worthy of a consecrated lifestyle.
Furthermore, the Nazarite sought out a consecration of the inner-life, experiencing an intimate communion and fellowship with the Lord. Upon fulfillment of the vow, the Nazarite offered a burnt offering for consecration; a sin offering for purification; and a fellowship offering for celebration (Numbers 6:16-17). In each of these elements, we see that a Nazarite’s life was supposed to be a sacrificial undertaking.
The most notable Nazarite in the Bible is Samson (Judges 13:5); whose exploits tend to discolor his character. Nevertheless, Samson receives a favorable report as a hero of the Faith (Hebrews 11:32-34).
Another notable Nazarite was Samuel (1 Samuel 1:11). Even though he was a Levite by genealogy (compare 1 Samuel 1:1 with 1 Chronicles 6:25-28), Samuel was dedicated to the Lord by the Nazarite vow from the day of his birth.
In New Testament times, we read of the Apostle Paul performing the purification of a Nazarite with other men in fulfillment of their vows (Acts 21:23-26).
Salvation is nowhere indicated in the performance of these vows. Rather, each of these Biblical examples of the Nazarite vow involved men who were already counted among the Covenant Community, but each had been identified for their special relationship with the Lord. That is the value of a consecrated life, as shown by the Nazarite vow.
But Christianity is not about a series of do’s and don’ts that distinguish us as God’s people. The New-Life experience is a walk of Faith, characterized by an active love for the brethren, wherein we seek to show Christ in us by our actions. What then is the New Covenant parallel to the Nazarite?
This would be the individual that goes beyond the vast majority of Christians to live a life of complete dedication to the Lord. Their desire is to be a profitable servant rather than simply going through the motions of mechanical obedience (see Luke 17:10). This person is ‘sold out’ for Christ, presenting themselves as a living sacrifice as their reasonable service; they run the race with patience; press toward the mark; strive to enter in the narrow way. This person wants to know the communion and fellowship of Oneness with Christ (John 17:20-24); to be found in Him (Philippians 3:9).
Considering the many mighty works done by the Lord in the presence of the Children of Israel, it should seem to us a shock that we don’t read of more Nazarites in the Bible. Sadly, we read more of the murmuring and complaining, the disobedient and unbelieving, that characterized the Israelites as a hard-hearted and stiff-necked people. For the majority, it was enough that they were counted among the People of God.
How about you, Child of Grace? Are you satisfied with your service unto the Lord? Will you settle with your place among the People of God – or is there within you a desire to go above and beyond, to live a life of complete surrender, submission, obedience, and endurance to the Lord? Will you consecrate yourself unto the Lord your God this day and say, “Lord, here I am; use me for Your Glory and my good”? Yield your ‘self’ to the Potter, and He will make of you a vessel fit for His use.