In a modern culture where self is at the centre, and we are compelled to fully give over to wherever our appetites take us, I believe a company of people are rising in the earth who will voluntarily set their hearts to the opposite – to living a life of consecration, wholly dedicated to Christ alone, and to walking in holiness, hunger for Him, and purity of heart.
After listening to a message on the Nazarites by Lou Engle a few years ago, I’ve been seeking to further understand the ancient ways of the Nazarite lifestyle, and what application it has for us today. I’ll attempt to summarise many pages of notes here, but I also encourage you to read the scriptures here and undertake your own study with the Lord.
NAZARITES – “SEPARATED ONES”
The term ‘Nazarite’ comes from the Hebrew root word ‘nazar’ meaning ‘to be separated’. Nazarites made a voluntary vow for a set period of time, although the bible records at least three Nazarites who had taken a life-long vow: Samuel, Samson, and John the Baptist (possibly also Elijah). The Nazarite vows are described in Numbers 6:1-21.
Although we are now living under a new covenant, I believe that the Nazarite vows (and their purpose) in the Old Testament contain a ‘shadow’ of a lifestyle of consecration that we can live in Christ.
In Numbers 6 we read that Nazarites were ‘separated to God’. So it was not just about the discipline of abstaining from certain things, but about them being ‘to God’.
In brief, during the time of the vow, Nazarites were to separate themselves from:
- Drinking wine and all that comes from the vine (set apart for hunger)
- Cutting their hair (set apart for holiness)
- Going near a dead body or anything impure (set apart for purity)
As I’ve written in the above, I believe each of these three vows hold a core value of what it means to live a consecrated life, although the application of these may be different for today. Each of these vows represent outward expressions of the inward pursuit of hunger, holiness and purity. How we live these out will ebb and flow with life. We won’t always fast, and we won’t always separate ourselves from every legitimate pleasure in life. But we can be committed to an ongoing lifestyle where we prioritise the pursuit of these things.
Here are some further thoughts on each of these values:
- Wine and grapes were common to the day, and abstaining from them represents the redirecting of our appetites and desires towards the Lord.
- We hunger and thirst for truth and righteousness. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (Matthew 5:6)
- We redirect our appetites and desires towards Him.
- We live a fasted lifestyle as an outward action of our inward pursuit of seeking Him.
- We make it an ongoing practice to lay down legitimate pleasures of life for the goal of seeking Him more.
- Hair is a symbol of our anointing and strength that is visible to others (eg. Samson lost his strength when his hair was cut). In Numbers 6:5 says: “All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.”
- Holiness is not about abiding by legalistic rules and rituals, it’s based on the law of love.
- A lifestyle of holiness is to be set apart and consecrated unto God. It is one of loving God and beholding Jesus. We become like the One we behold.
- We are to watch over the gates of our soul. “When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light.” (Luke 11:34-36)
- Holiness looks like something, not just an inner commitment of the heart. “…but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pet. 1:15-16)
- It’s interesting to note that it’s a ‘highway of holiness’ that prepares the way of the Lord (not the highway of love or the highway of goodness). “And there will be a highway called the Way of Holiness. The unclean will not travel it, only those who walk in that Way–and fools will not stray onto it.” (Isaiah 35:8. See also Isaiah 40:3).
- The vow of not going near a dead body speaks of staying away from things that are not living and pure.
- We don’t go near the things that don’t produce life. We consider how we engage with those things. Think of the things that have become cultural norms and practices – not everything is good for us. Whatever is true, noble, pure, honourable, and commendable – these are the things we meditate on. (Philippians 4:8)
- Intimacy is connected to purity of heart: “Blessed is the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8)
- We seek both purity of heart and hands – that’s our inner life with Him, and it’s the visible things that are seen of our relationship with Him. “Who may ascend the hill of the LORD? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to falsehood, who does not swear ” (Ps. 24:3-4)
- Paul refers to a passage in Isaiah 52:11 where he says to come out and separate ourselves and touch no unclean thing. (1 Cor 6:17). He follows this by saying, “Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.” (2 Cor. 7:1).
- The pursuit of purity is connected to our meditation of scripture. It sounds so basic, yet how many neglect to open the pages of his word and allow its truth to transform our lives? “How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word.(Ps. 119:9)
As mentioned above, we are not bound to legalism and law, or rituals and rules, but operate in the law of love. The values expressed in the Nazarite vows give us a roadmap to how to become seekers and lovers of Jesus in greater measure.
For the sake of length, I’ll cover what I understand the purpose of a ‘Nazarite’ commitment is in the next post. It’s awesome!
Thanks so much for reading.