Numbers 6 Devotional
by Pastor Lawrence Bowlin
The Nazarite vow was a voluntary vow temporarily made by an individual man, or a woman, to separate himself unto the Lord in a special way similar to the pattern required by the priests when they were performing their duties in the temple. There were three requirements in order to keep the vow: one was to abstain from wine and any aspect of the grapevine, to grow one’s hair long without any trimming, and to avoid going anywhere near a dead body, even if it was the body of a close relative or loved one.
Although the people of Israel were called to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests, it was only a select few who actually fulfilled that role in life. The Nazarite vow was an opportunity for each Israelite to dedicate himself to the Lord in special way, at least for a time, to serve the Lord wholeheartedly without distraction. Although stipulations for keeping the vow all symbolized what the people of Israel should be like ordinarily, those who took up the vow reminded Israel of her calling as the Lord’s holy people.
By giving up wine and strong drink, which was often associated with gladness and joy in daily living, the Nazarite was seeking a greater joy in the Lord than could be found in earthly things (see Psalm 4:7). By growing one’s hair long and unkempt, it was not a sign of savagery, as the Pharisees probably interpreted the habits of John the Baptist in the wilderness, but, rather, of one so devoted to the Lord and His service that he wasn’t as concerned with his own person. Similarly, by avoiding any contact with the dead, the Nazarite was shunning any aspect of sin and its defilement pursuing with great zeal the holiness of the Lord, putting the Lord before even father and mother, brother and sister, husband or wife.
Of course, being regulated by the law, as soon as the description of the vow is given, recourse is given for those who have broken their vow, even unintentionally, and have not lived up to their promise to live completely for the Lord untarnished by sin and undistracted from the world. We must keep in mind that Nazarites were not ascetics but were still fully engaged in their work and in their homes. All they needed to do was to keep those three stipulations in their pursuit of a closer relationship with the Lord for a time; thus, if they failed to do that, then their sin needed to be atoned for.
But not only did those who had broken their vow have to bring sin offerings unto the Lord, so too did those who had kept their vow. Look closely at all the sacrificed required by the Nazarite before he could complete the time of his separation. There is never a sense in which the Nazarite can say to God at the end of his separation, “Look how well I did,” or “see how holy I am.” No, even with the best of intentions and with their greatest efforts at holiness, even the Nazarites fell far short of the mark of God’s perfection.
Although Jesus never technically took up the Nazarite vow himself, he certainly fulfilled its substance. Instead of abstaining from wine, if you remember, Jesus turned the water into wine. And instead of avoiding contact with the dead, by the power of the Spirit, he raised the dead. But Jesus didn’t need to separate himself from these things because his heart was never drawn to sin and his holiness was never defiled. Ultimately, Israel could never look to Sampson as a good example of the Nazarite, for he broke every part of his vows. Samuel, on the other hand, sought to keep his vow faithfully and with integrity, yet he still was just a man tainted with sin. The Nazarite vow is fulfilled in Christ for he is the one who shows us the joys at God’s right hand, who exemplifies what it means to live for and to serve the Lord each day, and who continually shunned every aspect of sin out of love for his father.
Certainly, we are called to find our righteousness in Christ and our definitive holiness in Christ simply by looking to Christ by faith. We will never obtain anything close to perfection on our own; it is only through his righteous life and his perfect sacrifice for sin that we can be drawn into a close relationship with the Father. And, now, for those who have trusted in Jesus, we are called into a life of separation unto God similar to the Nazarite vow, but one not based upon the law of God, but upon the grace of the Lord that empowers us and quickens us to turn our backs upon sin, to live for the Lord and to seek a greater joy that can only be found at God’s right hand.