Scripture: “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD, he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink.” Numbers 6:2-3a ESV
Observation: Having recounted the stipulations of his covenant with Israel, Yahweh instructs Moses regarding observing vows (which draws the book of Leviticus to a close). And so we turn our attention to the fourth book of the Pentateuch, Numbers (aptly named since its first two chapters focus on a census count). As the text progresses, chapters 3-4 outline the Levites’ tabernacle duties and then highlight their dedicated relationship to Yahweh: substitute offerings in place of the firstborn males from the eleven other clans. Next, chapter 5 reviews and details matters regarding the unclean, adulterers, and confession and restitution for those who sin against the Lord and fellow Israelites.
In chapter 6, the author records the protocol for men and women who desire to observe the Nazirite vow. Typically, the vow committed the pledger to total devotion to the person and work of the Lord for a specified period through strict observance of:
- diet (abstinence from the fruit of the vine),
- appearance (no trimming of hair), and
- associations (not coming in contact with a dead body).
Upon completing the vow, the priest brings the Nazirites before the Lord and presents their sin, burnt, and peace offerings. Finally, the Nazirites shave their “consecrated head” (6:16-18).
Takeaway: Two notable characters in the Bible observed the Nazirite vow. First, we read of Samson, who failed to keep his lifetime commitment (touching a lion’s carcass and submitting to Deliah’s scheme to cut his hair). Thus, having broken his vow, he lost his strength and served his last days blinded in captivity. In contrast, the Apostle Paul fulfilled his vow for its specified time and shaved his head upon completion. He, too, would spend his last days in captivity and face death at the hand of an enemy, but being wholly dedicated to Christ, Paul would appropriate the Lord’s grace and peace that would prove to be sufficient for all the trials he would face.
So what’s our takeaway? Anyone who comes to faith in Christ, in effect, takes a Nazirite vow to dedicate themselves wholeheartedly to the Lord in his service. And our commitment demands that we conduct our lives as image-bearers of our holy God in an appropriate manner of life that includes diet, appearance, and associations with others. Of course, we all come up short, so we, like Paul, need to deepen our understanding of Christ’s grace, for it is all-sufficient for every temptation, struggle, and failure. And as we become more aware of the sinful nature of our hearts and grow in appreciation of our Lord’s extraordinary and priceless love for us, we find the strength and motivation to lead lives becoming of our glorious Savior—not perfectly but consistently. And even if our lives follow the path of Samson, there is always redemption. For in his last hours, the Lord listened to Samson’s prayer and gave him the strength to pull down the pillars of the Philistine temple and destroy 3,000 men and women of Israel’s arch-enemy (fulfilling his life mission).
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for your Son who dedicated his life to you for our benefit. Would you please help us follow his lead and cooperate with your Holy Spirit to devote ourselves to you, where our diet, outward appearance, and association with others align with your purposes and bring you glory? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling