Willing Hearted Christianity
From Grace & Truth December 1996
The Ancient Nazarite Vow
The vow of the Nazarite is a most remarkable insertion of the Spirit of God in Numbers 6. It follows just after the giving of the law, yet its chief principle is in contrast to law, being a vow of devotion that was entirely voluntary. The individual would devote himself to God, since only God knows rightly what is true devotion to Himself. What did this vow involve?
First, it demanded separation from the fruit of the vine. This involved denying oneself the joys of self indulgence and natural stimulation.
Second, it required that a person not cut his hair during the period of his vow. This involved fullest obedience to the Word of God and subjection to His authority.
Third, it allowed no contact with a dead body, suggesting that those who would please God must avoid every defiling association.
However, being a vow, it involved the adoption of a legal principle - that is, in taking the vow, the Nazarite obligated himself to fulfil its conditions. This stands in contrast to grace where no vow is asked or even permitted, for the Lord set these aside in Matthew 5:33-37. Yet the Lord Himself, though not literally a Nazarite on earth, perfectly fulfilled the spiritual significance of the Nazarite's separation. His was a blessed life of perfect devotion to God, of holy separation from every evil, and of utter subjection to His Father's will. The Old Testament bore witness of His vow to do the will of God (Ps.40:7-8), and this He has perfectly done
As redeemed by the blood of Christ, the child of God today is not in any sense under law. He is brought into the liberty of eternal life by the pure grace of God and blessed with all spiritual blessings in the heavenlies in Christ. Yet, the Nazarite vow has a striking application to every child of God in this present dispensation of grace.
Though we are warned against making vows, yet by voluntarily receiving Christ as Saviour and Lord, we thereby own His absolute authority over us forever. This is true whether we understand it well or not. In accepting the One in whom is seen supreme devotion to God and separation from evil, the believer also accepts that blessed place of separation with Him.
This is the very meaning of the New Testament truth of sanctification - a state of being set apart for God. Do we not therefore gladly accept the spiritual responsibilities involved in Nazariteship: personal self-denial, thorough subjection to the Lord, and separation from evil associations? As our Lord has said, "For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth" (Jn.17:19 NKJV).
Is any lesser path really safe for the believer? Admittedly it is a high standard - that of thorough devotion to the Lord. But when He has displayed Himself in matchless grace and proven Himself worthy of our absolute devotion, could He ever agree to our adopting a lower standard? If we do so, it is loss for ourselves and sorrow to Him.
Many who are converted may not realize that this is the Scriptural standard, and in such cases God will certainly not require of them what they do not know. Yet the measure of their blessing will certainly be affected. Trials, distresses and difficulties in the path will not be so severe a test for them because the element of loneliness of exercise will be largely avoided; yet they will miss the blessedness of the grace that meets this need. This loneliness of exercise is one of the true privileges of a walk with God in which the heart learns to know God's heart. Let us never feel it a hindrance to blessing or a valid objection to the path of God.
It is vitally important that no legal principle should be involved in keeping us in the path of God. The grace that saves is the same grace that supplies both desire and strength for the path of faith.
Yet, if the Nazarite violated his separation, then the former days were lost (Num.6:12). Does this not indicate that our devotion to God must be thorough and unreserved, with full purpose of heart to continue "all the days of separation"- that is, until the end of our time on earth? In other words, can we call anything actual devotion to God if we limit its duration? Christ's devotion was "unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil.2:8). This true inward purpose of heart is the New Testament answer to the Old Testament vow, but it will accomplish far more than a vow ever could.
Single-eyed devotion to Christ will survive every test. It is simply a matter of whether or not He is sufficient for us. If others falter, let us have thorough compassion towards them, but still maintain the standard of our holy Lord. The days of our Nazariteship are near their end. We shall not regret any purpose of heart when we see Him face to face.