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The Nazarite

Paul Dronsfield

Numbers chapter 6

In Isaiah and Jude we read about certain persons who separate themselves. "Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou." (Isa. 65:5). "These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit" (Jude 19). This kind of separation is totally unacceptable to God because it is the outcome of a feeling of superiority to others. In contrast with this there is a separation that God delights in because it is a separation unto Him. In such a case there is an answer in the heart to that which He has wrought in it. There is love and devotion to Him and a desire to be pleasing to Him.

The Israelites had been told that their God was a jealous God (e.g. Ex. 20:5; 34:14; Deut. 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; Josh. 24:19). He did not want their affections to be here, there and everywhere. He did not want to share them. He wanted them wholly for Himself.

It is no coincidence that the vow of the Nazarite in Numbers 6 follows the "trial of jealousy" in chapter 5. What husband who truly loves his wife could bear the thought that her affection lay elsewhere. God is jealous over us. That jealousy is expressed in the Song of Solomon, chapter 8:6: "Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave..." It is a jealousy born of love, a love that has caused the Lord Jesus to go into death in His desire to possess us wholly for Himself. His love did not waver in the face of death and His jeal­ousy over us was indeed cruel as the grave. But then that verse in the Song of Solomon speaks about the fire that burns: "for love is strong as death; jealousy is cruel as the grave: the coals thereof are coals of fire, which hath a most vehement flame." How awful it was for the Lord Jesus to suffer that terrible judgment, that vehe­ment flame, that was poured out upon Him when He was forsaken of His God.

There is no thought of self-righteousness or superiority to others in this kind of separation, which is rather the response of the heart to God's love. The fact that someone was an Israelite didn't automatically make them a Nazarite. It was entirely a voluntary matter rather than a legal duty imposed upon them. Perhaps we find the New Testament equivalent of the Nazarite's vow in Romans chapter 12 where the apostle exhorts the people of God: "I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God" (Rom. 12:1-2). The mercies by which Paul beseeches us are developed in the earlier part of that epistle. For example, when we were without strength, the Lord Jesus Christ died for us (ch. 5:6). His love, His mercy, were set upon us. When we were converted?  No, before then. When we were born?  No, before then. When the world was created?  No, even before then. We were chosen in Christ "before the foundation of the world" (Eph. 1:4). Jeremiah writes propheti­cally, "Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (Jer. 31:3). We have been drawn to Himself and He seeks a response to His love. He desires that our bodies might be devoted completely to Him and His serv­ice, and that we might not be in any way conformed to this world. We read in Proverbs, "My son, give Me thine heart" (ch. 23:26). God does not want us to desire things outside of Himself, but rather that we may go wholly after Him.

The Nazarite was not to drink wine or taste any product of the vine. In Judges 9:13 we read, ". wine, which cheereth God and man." In the Scriptures, wine speaks of earthly joy and God sought that joy from His earthly people, Israel. In Isaiah 5 Israel is compared to a vine, and in verse 2 of that chapter we read of all that God did so that fruit might be produced. "And He fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of it, and also made a winepress therein: and He looked that it should bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes." "What could have been done more to My vineyard," God asked, "that I have not done in it?" He had done everything that could be done yet when He came to taste of the fruit there was no wine for Him. He could have no joy in His earthly people.

The first miracle the Lord Jesus did when He was here on earth was in Cana of Galilee (John 2:11). His mother said to Him, "They have no wine." This really sets forth Israel. There was no joy in the nation because they had forsaken their God; they had departed from Him in their hearts. And when their Messiah came and presented Himself to them, as it says in the prophet Isaiah, ". we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not" (Isa. 53:3). The One in their midst should have been their joy but they did not recognise or own Him. But by turning the water into wine in Cana He proved He was the only One who could bring joy to Israel. Despite this they did not know Him. The feast-master didn't know where the wine had come from, just as the rulers failed to recognise Him, or bow to His authority.

We read that the Lord Jesus was, "come of woman, come under law" (Gal. 4:4, J.N.D. Trans.). Was the Lord Jesus a Nazarite?  Did He take up this vow?  Clearly He did not. "The Son of man came eating and drinking" (Matt. 11:19). He touched the dead: "And He took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi: which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise" (Mark 5:41). The Lord Jesus was not a Nazarite under the law, but He fulfilled in spiritual reality what the shadow of Numbers 6 gives us in outline. He was the true Nazarite who walked in perfect separa­tion to His God. He was cast upon Him from His mother's womb (Psa. 22:10). He came eating and drinking (wine), but said to His disciples, "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom" (Matt. 26:29). There was no joy for Him in this earth, in His people Israel. He was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. As He looked into the heart of man there was that in it which brought Him only sorrow. He did not joy over Jerusalem, He wept over it. The challenge presented to us in the Scripture is this: can we as those who belong to Him, find our joy in a world that has rejected Him?  Do we in any way seek our joy in a world that has turned away from Him, a world in which He knew nothing but sorrow and rejection and ultimately death. Quite plainly we should be able to answer "no." We cannot as it were drink of the fruit of the vine. There was no joy for Him and because we are His, there should be no joy for us. But there is a secret joy for the Christian, a joy which this world cannot know or understand. If we consider again the feast at Cana, while the feast-master did not know where the wine came from it says that the servants who drew the water knew. There is joy for those who serve the Lord Jesus. We draw water from Him which this world cannot draw. We drink of the wells of salvation and this is our joy. We drink deeply of that life which He has given us, the life which is in Him, and we can know the joy which He would have us to know even in this world. "These things have I spoken unto you, that My joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full" (John 15:11). This He said in the context of the need to abide in Him and bear fruit.

As well as a secret joy for the believer, there is also a secret strength, and we see this in the long hair of the Nazarite. In this connection we immediately think of the story of Samson. He was a Nazarite from his mother's womb and he grew seven locks upon his head (Judges 13:5; 16:13, 19). In pictures Samson is always portrayed as a man of tremendous physique, but that isn't the idea at all. The Philistines said to Delilah, "Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth." They couldn't understand where Samson's strength came from. It didn't come from his physique, but rather it lay in his separation to God so that, "the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him." Once his hair had been shaved off he was as weak as a child. Even Delilah "began to overpower him" (Judges 18:19).

If we turn to 1 Corinthians 11 we can see what long hair signi­fies. I will refer to the verses only in so far as they touch upon our subject. "Doth not even nature itself teach you, that if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him?  But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering." That does not mean that the long hair of the woman is glorious but simply that it is given to her for a covering. God has given her long hair as a veil and that veil speaks of her subjection to the man. In the case of the man long hair is a shame unto him. It speaks of reproach and dishonour. If we are subject to the Lord Jesus, obedient to Him, and conformed to Him rather than this world, it will bring us reproach. The Lord Jesus, the perfect Nazarite, said in John 8:49, "I honour My Father, and ye do dishonour Me." In Psalm 69 He spoke prophetically of His reproach and why it was to be His portion: "For the zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up; and the reproaches of them that reproached Thee are fallen upon Me" (v. 9). It was for the sake of the God of Israel that He bore that reproach and why shame covered His face (v. 7). A life lived in subjection to God, in this world that hates Him, will bring reproach and shame, but this can be a source of secret strength. We read in 1 Peter 4:13, "But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when His glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the Spirit1 of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part He is evil spoken of, but on your part He is glorified." If we are reproached for the sake of Christ, the Spirit of glory and

1"Spirit" here is rendered with a capital "S" in the J.N.D. Trans­lation

of God rests upon us. What strength there is then for the believer walking in separation to the Lord!  The Spirit of God came upon Samson at times and he had great strength as a result, but sadly this did not continue because he did not walk in separation.

We must move on now to the thought of touching a dead body. Death in Scripture is the result of sin, of disobedience to God's Word, and this is what marks man and all that he does. As we walk through this world we come into contact every day with that which is tainted by death. But the Lord would not have us to be occupied with those things. If disobedience to His Word brings death, the Lord would have us to be completely subject to His Word and to walk with Him.

It is often the case that believers walk faithfully with the Lord, holding the principles that He has shown us in His Word, and then there comes a challenge to that Word from within one's own family. This is why we particularly need verse 7: "He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die; because the consecration of his God is upon his head." The emotional bonds that we have with our more immediate relatives are very strong. Consequently, when conflict arises between what we know to be right and the approval of our own relatives, there is the temptation to set those principles aside in order to gain their approval. The Lord Himself knew what it was to be a member of a family. It is not only that He knows of these things because He is the God who created the family and created these emotional bonds, but He knows them because He experienced them when He was here upon earth. He loved His mother, His brothers and His sisters. He knew what those emotional bonds were, but He filled out in perfection every rela­tionship in which He was found. He had His God before Him and when a choice had to be made between the desire of His family and the will of His God, He was subject to the will of His God. The consecration, the separation of His God was upon His head. There is an example of this in Mark 3:21. His friends, or as it should be translated, His relatives, were without and they said, "He is beside Himself." In other words they felt that He was going too far. The Lord gave His answer in verse 31: "There came then His brethren and His mother, and standing without, sent unto Him, calling Him. And the multitude sat about Him; and they said unto Him, Behold Thy mother and Thy brethren without seek for Thee. And He answered them, saying, Who is My mother, or My brethren?  And He looked round about on them which sat about Him, and said, Behold My mother and My brethren!  For whosoever shall do the will of God, the same is My brother, and My sister, and mother." The Lord identified those with Him who did the will of God as His brethren. This is where His heart lay and when that strong appeal came to Him from His own mother and His brethren according to the flesh He was obedient to His God. Having, as the perfect Man, overcome in such circumstances, He can enable us also to do the same.

In verse 9 of this chapter, "If any man die very suddenly," we have the thought of being taken by surprise. Perhaps we can take Peter as an example of this. He felt he could follow the Lord in his own strength but the Lord said to him, "Watch, and pray, that ye enter not into temptation" (Matt. 26:41). He said this to all the disciples, but particularly to Peter because he had said to Him, "Though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended." The disciples were to be watchful, for there were dangers within and without. They were also to pray, to be dependent upon the Lord, rather than be confident in themselves. Peter was following afar off, and he came amongst those who had set themselves against the Lord, and suddenly he found he wasn't strong enough to withstand them. His own fleshly nature reared up. He didn't want the enemies of the Lord to reproach him because he belonged to Christ, and so in that moment of weakness he denied the Lord. When the Lord looked upon Peter and he realised what he had done he went out and wept bitterly. It was at this point that the work of restoration began. Similarly, Nazariteship comes to an end when this sudden touching of a dead body takes place.

The Nazarite realises that he has not been walking as the Lord would have him to walk, just as Peter realised that the Lord couldn't own the fleshly self-confidence that had marked him. Numbers 6 makes provision for such failure. Two turtle doves or two young pigeons were to be offered, the one as a sin-offering and the other for a burnt-offering. The sin-offering reminds us of what we were in all our sins. The love of God met us in our need, and the Lord Jesus died for us to deal with what we are in ourselves. The burnt-offer­ing speaks of our acceptance, not in our own merit, but in the Lord Jesus, who is of infinite worth in the sight of God. Our eyes look to Him, we are occupied with Him, and this is where true strength lies. After this the Nazarite would take up his vow again, not in his own strength but in the strength of God.

When the days of his separation were fulfilled the Nazarite was brought to the door of the tent of meeting. His hands were filled with offerings for his God. If we walk day by day in close communion with our Lord and in separation from all that is not of Himself, this will be the result. How full our hearts will be as He talks with us in the way and shows us in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. A real appreciation of Christ can only come through time spent in His presence learning of Him and then we also will be able to "offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 2:5).

Verses 14 and 15 give details of the offerings which the Nazarite brought. They speak in a typical way of so many lovely features of the Lord Jesus revealed and unfolded to us in the New Testament.

"One he lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt offering." This reminds us that God sending His Son to take up everything for Him in perfection here, where man had failed so utterly, was firstly a provision for Himself. "God will provide Himself a lamb for a burnt offering" (Gen. 22:8). If we meditate upon all that the Lord Jesus means to God His Father and how He has so completely glorified Him in His life and in His death, our hearts will be greatly enlarged.

"One ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering." In this case the lamb offered was to be a female, and this stresses the aspect of subjection. The Lord Jesus, as Man, was subject to His God and Father in all things, even though His obedi­ence brought Him unfathomable suffering. He became "obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2:8).

In the garden of Gethsemane He contemplated the awful suffering that He would pass through when His soul would be made an offering for sin. He pleaded with His Father to take that dreadful cup from Him. "Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from Me." But even though His holy human soul shrunk from that dreadful hour, in perfect obedience He submitted His own will to that of His Father: "nevertheless not what I will, but what Thou wilt" (Mark 14:36).

"One ram without blemish for peace offerings." In typical teaching the ram sets forth the energy and strength with which the Lord Jesus pursued that one object that was before Him: the glory of His God. One of the things the peace offering speaks of is thanksgiving, as seen in Leviticus 7:12. We give thanks to God for all that Christ is and has done for Him and for us. We share God's thoughts and delight in His Son, and in doing so we eat the same peace offering that God eats. Our hearts flow out in worship and thanksgiving to the Father and the Son, as we have communion with them in the things that they have brought us into, the basis of that communion being the shed blood of Christ.

The unleavened bread reminds us that "in Him is no sin" (1 John 3:5). In His humanity the Lord Jesus manifested the holy moral nature of God and it was seen in Him because He is God the Son. "God is light and in Him is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:15). This glorious truth was revealed in the Person of Christ as He walked upon earth.

Then there are the cakes of fine flour mingled with oil and the unleavened bread or wafers anointed with oil. This oblation is spoken of in Leviticus 2:4. It speaks of Christ as the perfect Man and encompasses the whole of the time He lived here on earth. It includes the cross, although not in its sacrificial aspect, because there is no blood in the meal offering.

Fine flour has an even consistency throughout; there are no lumps in it. This is how the perfect moral nature of the Lord mani­fested itself. We might say of a man, "He is very kind" or "He is very gentle" because it is this characteristic that marks him more than all others. With the Lord Jesus it was not so. Every character­istic in which God delights was seen fully and in complete perfec­tion in Him.

The flour was mingled with oil-that is, none of the flour was untouched by the oil. Nothing that the Lord Jesus said or did or thought was apart from the Holy Spirit. When the Scripture speaks of the Lord being full of the Holy Spirit, it is not only referring to that particular moment in His life, but to what characterised Him. Everything was done in the power of the Spirit of God.

The Lord Jesus was also anointed with the Holy Spirit, just as the unleavened wafers were anointed with oil. "God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power" (Acts 10:38). He was marked out and set apart by God as the One He had chosen to perform all His will whether as servant, prophet, priest or king. He was the Lord's anointed. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the Lord in the form of a dove a public testimony was given to this. The reason why was also stated when the voice of the Father Himself from heaven declared: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased" (Matt. 3:17).

Everything with which the Nazarite came was brought before the Lord by the priest and again we are reminded that it is through the Lord Jesus Christ that we offer up our spiritual sacrifices to God (1 Peter 2:5).

The Nazarite also brought his drink offering which we read in Numbers 28:7 was the fourth part of a hin of wine. It was poured out before the Lord in the sanctuary. Two things particularly come to mind, especially as they bear directly upon the subject of the Nazarite. The wine speaks of joy and the pouring out speaks of utter devotion to God. There was nothing held back. We see this wonderfully in the life of our Lord in Matthew 11 when He speaks of the cities where He had laboured so devotedly for God. He had, it seemed, "laboured in vain" and "spent" His "strength for nought" (Isa. 49:4). But there was no despair in the heart of Christ, nor indeed could there be. Rather, there was true joy. Luke 10:21 tells us that "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit (literally, exulted or leapt for joy), and said, I thank Thee, O father, Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes: even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Thy sight."

In Numbers 6:18 we read, "The Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall take the hair of the head of his separation, and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace-offerings." We have considered already what the hair speaks of. When it was shaved off it was to be taken and put into the fire as if it was itself an offering to God. At the end of Psalm 51 David says, "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" (v. 17). These things are a delight to God. They are sacrifices with which He is well pleased-a heart that is subject to Him and that is done with self. Samson was brought to this point at the end of his life. He could say, "Let me die with the Philistines," and then God wrought a victory through him greater than any victory he had won before (Judges 16:30). The world will despise such sacrifices, but God will not despise them. The hair was put on the fire under the peace-offerings and offered up. The peace-offering speaks of fellowship. Both the one who brought it, and the priest who offered it up, partook of it. True fellowship is not brought about by seeing both sides of an argument and then coming to a compromise. The fellowship which is of God, the unity which is of the Holy Spirit, is enjoyed only through subjection to Christ and a separate walk with Him. We read in the First Epistle of John, "If we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellow­ship one with another" (1 John 1:7). It is as being subject to the Father and the Son that we enjoy fellowship with them. And enjoying fellowship with them, we also enjoy fellowship with one another.

In Numbers 6 the time comes when the vow of the Nazarite is completed. Of course, our separate walk before God should only come to an end when the Lord calls us to be with Himself, either through death or when He comes to catch away all His heavenly saints. Then it is that we shall look back and see that that walk was only accomplished in His strength. This is what the heave-shoulder speaks of. We have only been able to conquer in His love, which is represented here by the wave-breast. And we can know these things now and praise God that we are being kept through the power and the love of Christ.

The vow having been fulfilled, we read that the Nazarite could drink wine. When we are in the presence of the Lord forever we shall know full joy, as the Scripture says in Psalm 16:11, "In Thy presence is fulness of joy." When the disciples saw the Lord after His resurrection it says, "They. believed not for joy" (Luke 24:41). How much greater will be our joy when we are like Him, and see Him as He is. We shall indeed drink wine in that day!

Beside this there is perhaps the other thought that we can only know a walk of separation here upon earth. There is nothing to be separate from in heaven, for everything there is in accord with the mind of God. We can only, "prove what is that good, and accept­able, and perfect, will of God" in our lives here. However many years naturally we might have before us, how short the time is; how quickly the years pass. We have a limited time, so the challenge from these Scriptures is, how are we going to spend that time?  Are we going to squander it day by day by being preoccupied with the things of this present life, or are we going to live for the Lord Jesus and His pleasure?