Sunday, September 16, 2007

Nazirite vows

In my Sunday School class, we started into Numbers this morning-- cruising through the first ten chapters and hitting some high points. Among those was the Nazirite vows of 6:1-8.

The famous Nazirites were all lifers: Samuel, Samson, and John the Baptist. And interestingly, all three were the products of affirmatively-answered petitionary prayers by parents struggling with infertility. The vow could be for a finite/designated amount of time as well-- and included abstention from alcohol, contact with dead bodies, and hair cuts. (All three prohibitions are famously wrestled with in the ministry of Samson!)

Alcohol was usually fine, but the Nazirite was to even avoid touching grapes-- a picture of God's holiness in staying so far away from what had been defined, in this context, as a sin. Avoiding alcohol would have been a tremendous sacrifice in that culture and time. Avoiding a dead body, including family, would be a tremendous sacrifice in any time.

Most important, the asceticism was not for its own sake-- but to be more fully devoted/consecrated to the Lord. Likewise, spiritual disciplines today are never for their own sake (or for those who practice them to become self-righteous); they are always supposed to be pointed to the greatest ends of more faithfully loving God and others.

Ironically, Christ was not a Nazirite at all-- engaging in all three behaviors. That said, all Christians-- in following Christ-- are to be "spiritual Nazirites", devoted through whatever means necessary to "be holy" and to be "consecrated to the Lord".


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