Friday, May 21, 2010

Set Apart

Friends,

It has been awhile since I have read the book of Numbers...and there really is more to it than simply "numbers" -- it really is a fascinating book. In reading about the Nazirite vow (chapter 6) this morning, I came to some realizations. First, the word "Nazirite" comes from the Hebrew word "nazir" which mean "set apart." The Nazirite vow could be for a certain period of time, like seven years...or it could be a lifetime commitment. Israelite leaders, Samson and Samuel, were committed to be Nazirites for life from birth. Individuals who would take such a vow would have to abstain, not only from alcoholic beverages from the grape, but avoid grapes, grape juice and raisins, as well. Such individuals could not come into contact with a dead person, as it would make them ceremonially unclean. Even if a family member or friend were to die, they would not be able to go to a funeral service or in any other way go to show their respects to their loved one. Nazirites also would not cut their hair during the time of the vow or shave their heads (unless they became ceremonially unclean, by coming into contact with a dead body, for example...then they would have to start their vow over again). Both men and women could be Nazirities under the old law...whereas only men could be priests. Both priests and Nazirites were set apart to be holy unto the Lord. In some senses, Nazirites were the monks and nuns of the Old Testament.

In reading the gospels and the Book of Acts, we come to understand that the Nazirite vow maintained its influence on God's people even during the time of Christ. John the Baptist, presumably, was a Nazirite (Luke 1:13-15). Some have surmised that Jesus was also a Nazirite, although there is no genuine proof of this. I think that some have confused this with the fact that Jesus is called "the Nararene," meaning that He was from the city of Nazareth. There are some that have pulled in certain passages in order to make the case that Jesus was a Nazarite, but I am not going to explore this at this time. I am not going to make a commitment to whether He was actually a Nazirite, either way, but I will say that it is interesting to note that He did come into contact with dead individuals. However, He may have viewed this, as He did the Sabbath...that He came to establish a new meaning and strategy, even, in relationship to the ritual. We have no evidence that He ever took strong drink of any sort (as at the Wedding in Cana, John 2). He did set the stage for the Lord's Supper at the Last Supper (Luke 22:20ff), where He, presumably, took the bread and the fruit of the vine. The Apostle Paul took the Nazirite vow, presumably, as seen in Acts (18:18)...and others may have taken the same vow (21:23-34).

So, should we still be keeping such a vow? Most would immediately say -- "no." I am not certain that this would fall into the category of "things passed away." There are some rituals in the New Testament, such as fasting, pouring of oil during prayer, the laying on of hands, the holy kiss, that have either been accepted or dismissed as either universal or cultural depending upon which "Christian group" we are talking about, or even which contemporary Earth culture may be in discussion. It is interesting to consider. I do know of some who have taken vows in order to be monks, but it would seem that in our modern day "monks" shave their heads rather than grow out their hair, so I am not certain that anything can really be discerned from this. I think that I would be in trouble on all three fronts as related to being a Nazirite. In my line of work, it requires that I come into contact with dead individuals, so I would be in violation of such a vow, although I am uncertain if any sacrifice could be made to make myself clean...at least, under a Christian system. Now, under a Jewish/Christian system, perhaps this could be the case, but this will not ever be the case with me, personally. Although, I could avoid alcohol, as I am an abstainer...I would have a very difficult time avoiding grapes, grape juice, and raisins. A big problem would occur with the partaking of our Lord's Supper, as we Christians (as least in our fellowship) partake of the fruit of the vine (grape juice) on a weekly basis...so this would present a problem. As far as cutting my hair...well, if you have seen pictures of me...this would be problematic, as well. I guess I could grow it out in the back and be put on some mullet watch list, but it is probably not going to happen.

I will say that I can...and we all can...keep the original, spiritual intent of the Nazirite vow. We are all to be "set apart" to the Lord. We should consider our lives "as dedicated to the Lord." The original Greek word is hagios, as it is transliterated. It means to be "set apart," "pure," "holy" to the Lord. We need more Christians to be taking this principle seriously in our day and time, as it seems that we "collectively" struggle with "holiness" more so than ever, as the world continues to infringe upon us. But, we can dedicate our lives as "spiritual Nazirites" to the Lord...and be His holy people in this world. This is our calling.

Blessings,
Don

3 comments:

Kazul said...

very much appreciated these thoughts, sir!

1 Middle Man said...

Thank you, Kazul. Blessings to you.

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