At this time of the Gregorian calendar’s New Year, many of us ask ourselves what resolution or changes we are considering in our lives. What a great way to enter the book of Numbers, chapter 6 and take a deeper look at the Nazarite vow.
Let us begin with the first 2 verses of Numbers 6: Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘When either a man or woman consecrates an offering to take the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD.’
Here is an offer made to all people, one that welcomes both men and women. Before this, the Lord worked mainly with men. In fact, it was not a matter of choice, but rather through ancestry that those who worked around the Tabernacle were from the line of Levi, the priests. But now in this situation we have the call made to all men and women. It was to be a voluntary agreement from the heart of the person, rather than a demand being made by God.
And this is where we read of the word, Nazirite. Who is this individual? The word Nazirite, nazir in the Hebrew, comes from the word nezer which means separated, sanctified. But see how quickly we can recognize our own name there. In the New Testament, in the Brit Chadashah, the believers are also called saints and are set apart. The word saint is haguios in Greek, having the same meaning as nezer, one who is holy and separated.
And Paul speaks of the equipping of the saints for the service of God (Eph.4:12). He also tells us to pray for all the saints, that we may stand strong in our spiritual challenges (Eph.6:13) as we do the work for the Lord. In the same way that the work, the partnership with the Lord was an offer to Israel, so it is with today’s believers. Salvation is from the Lord, but then the process of sanctification and fruit bearing is a work we are called to do, and He is waiting for us to say yes to His offer.
So, what were the requirements for the Nazirite? On the surface, they are not the same for us. At the core, however, they are the same for us. There were three things that were required of the Nazirite. First, abstinence from wine and strong drink. Second, they were not to cut their hair for the duration of their vow. Third, they were not to approach a corpse, even if it was a member of their immediate family.
Each of these three stipulations conveys a lot of information for us. Let us read about the first requirement and see how it applies to us. Let’s read Numbers 6: 3-4, He shall abstain from wine and strong drink; he shall drink no vinegar, whether made from wine or strong drink, nor shall he drink any grape juice nor eat fresh or dried grapes. All the days of his separation he shall not eat anything that is produced by the grape vine, from the seeds even to the skin.
That the Nazirite abstains from wine is understandable. Wine, in the Bible could be seen as positive or negative. Scripture says that on the one side, wine makes glad the heart of man (Ps.104:15) but on the other hand wine is a mocker (Prov. 20:1). So, this law was given so that the Nazirite would not run the risk of losing his mental faculties should he over drink. But even more than this, it was perhaps to have the Nazirite draw his or her gladness of heart from the Scriptures and from the presence of God and not from the things of the world. Scriptures and communion with God and fellowship with His people can truly make glad the heart of men and women. Furthermore, this is not a command against drinking wine, for at the end of the vow, in vs.20 we see that the Nazirite may once again drink wine.
We can remember the law of wine for the priests; they could drink it outside their work at the temple, but never while in the Temple. Here lies a good balance. However, what is noticeable in this command is the abstention from drinking any grape juice or eating fresh or dried grapes. Why do you think the law goes this far? Is it possible that the Lord wanted to protect the Nazirite from any suggestive thoughts that could lead him or her to break this vow, to shelter them from any possible temptation? Here, the Spirit wants us to really think about sin without letting it invade our minds. It is like the case where Yeshua identifies sin at its inception. On the Sermon on the Mount lecture, He links murder to anger, for this is where it begins. Jesus says in Matthew 5:21-22,“You have heard that the ancients were told, ‘you shall not commit murder’ and ‘Whoever commits murder shall be liable to the court.’ “But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court. See how Yeshua brings murder to its very beginning, that is anger. We can extend this correlation to the grape and the wine. In so doing, He wants to prevent us from walking toward sin.
In the first words of the Book of Psalms, it speaks about our relationship to God. Psalm 1:1 reads, How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers! Here are three responses we can have to the temptation of sin. We can walk past it, stand there and consider it or choose to then sit right in it. The Lord wants to prevent us from walking toward it and away from Him. This is why it is better not to eat grapes or dried grapes. And so, the question is, what is your grape? Identify it and move away from it. If it is a place, or a television program, or a book or an object or even a person who brings you to be separated from God, keep away from these things.
One last thing, notice how Psalm 1 reads; the man who stands strong is in the singular (verse 1) whereas the wicked ones, the scoffers and the sinners are each in the plural form. While the man of verse one has the definite article “the”, the wicked etc. do not. Perhaps this shows us that it is rare to find this one man, but when found, the Lord rejoices in him and performs great miracles through him.