What is a Nazirite and Why Does It Matter?

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, February 4, 2017 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

Have you ever had that special outfit that you only wear on special occasions? Or maybe your family has special plates that are only used for holidays or special meals. These items have special purpose. They are preserved and kept clean for special times. When they are used, they demonstrate the importance of the moment, holiday, or ceremony they are used for.

In the Bible there is a word used for people who set themselves aside for special use to God. The word is “Nazirite.” The Biblical book of Numbers chapter 6 explains what a Nazirite is: someone who makes a vow, to be set apart, to be used by God in a special way, for a determined period of time. This vow included avoiding anything containing or made from any part of grapes (wine, vinegar, raisins, seeds, etc.). It also included not shaving their heads, and not being near dead bodies, and making a sacrifice at the end of the vow.

This was a tremendous act of discipline to give up not only a food item, but a major form of drink in daily living and holiday meals. This discipline also meant that their appearance would change, and that if any family member died they could not attend the funeral, or even be near their body when they died.

The vow of a Nazirite could be a long time, or a short time. It was a vow made to God, and breaking it before the appointed time was a sin - essentially because it would be breaking a promise to God. The sacrifice at the end was not only ceremonial, but likely represented the fulfillment of and release from the vow.

It's important to note that a Nazirite is NOT related to the town Nazareth. According to an article by Ron Allen, professor at Dallas Theological Seminary, the town of Nazareth is actually “Natsareth.” In translating the Hebrew letters to English, the letter called “tsade,” which makes a “ts” sound, was written as a Z in Greek and then English. Hebrew has a letter “z,” so inadvertently the meaning of the word got confused or lost in translation. A “netser” is a “branch,” and this is the root word from which “Natsareth” was taken. The reason I share this is to clarify Jesus was not a Nazirite (someone who made a vow to be set apart for God), even though he was a Natsarean (someone from the small village of 100-150 people whose name meant “the branch” tribe from King David's lineage).

So now that we cleared that up, what does a Nazirite vow have to do with us? Well, three well-known Nazirites in the Bible were Samson, John the Baptist, and Paul. Each of them were pivotal in history and used by God to accomplish special purposes. We too are meant to impact our culture and lead people to God. And there is tremendous personal discipline involved in being focused and available to God.

If we have accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior, that is something greater and more binding than a Nazirite vow - it is literally an exchange of our life as WE would live it, for His life in us as HE would live it. This is not a temporary vow, and it begins with His sacrifice for us. But as a follower of Jesus, is it helpful for us to put ourselves in a place of personal discipline to draw nearer to God and make ourselves more available to Him?

Yes. There are many spiritual disciplines that can draw us nearer to God and that require us to set ourselves aside. Fasting, seclusion, deep reflection on the Bible, etc. are all disciplines we can use in a similar way to the Nazirite vow. I don't recommend committing to the Nazirite vow without some critical understanding of the importance and seriousness of this kind of vow. But I do recommend that in whatever way you discipline yourself to be more available to God, you should approach it with the seriousness of a Nazirite vow.

Unlike the special dishware or clothing, we are not meant to only be displayed and used on special holidays or occasions. We should always be ready to be available to God whenever He has occasion for us to serve, bless, or intercede.

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