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Law of Moses

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As A Rule of National and Individual Life
By Robert Roberts
Chapter 30 - Nazariteship

WE have already considered the provision made for the special expression of gratitude in the form of freewill and thank offerings. But there was a higher form of this privilege. It was made possible for a man to give himself entirely to God for a stated time, or to dedicate anything belonging to him perpetually. All Israel belonged to God, as Moses so frequently declared (Deut. 7:6; 14:2). But opportunity was provided for individual consecration to God, on the part of such as might feel moved in that direction under special circumstances. Man or woman was at liberty to vow a vow of separation for a certain time: that is, they might resolve to dedicate themselves exclusively to God for a specified time.

This was the case of the Nazarite, which may repay special consideration, as regards the rules laid down for their guidance, both in their literal bearing and their typical significance.

The Nazarite, or separated one, was not to drink wine during the time of separation, nor to eat anything yielded by the vine, whether grapes or raisins, or vinegar, or husk, or kernel. Nor was he or she to touch strong drink of any kind (Num. 6:3). There must have been a reason for this. A similar injunction was laid on the high priests while they ministered in the tabernacle; and we get a slight clue to its reason in their case: "Do not drink wine, or strong drink, thou (Aaron), nor thy sons with thee, when ye go into the tabernacle of the congregation, lest ye die: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations: and that ye may put difference between holy and unholy, and between unclean and clean" (Lev. 10:9). It is the nature of strong drink to dull the mental eye, and to render the mind insusceptible to spiritual considerations. It does this by the artificial and sensuous glow which it kindles in the faculties. It is this feeling of electrical elation that gives drink its charm with all men who are prone to the use of it. That it should be forbidden to the high priest in the act of officiation, and to the Nazarite during the days of his separation, is proof that the things done under its inspiration are not acceptable to God. It may not be impossible to understand this.

Which of us cares for a cordiality that is plainly due to the fumes of the whisky-bottle or wine-cup? The love we appreciate is the love that is due to the pure action of healthy reason. Could anything more abhorrent be imagined than a jocose high priest? Or a high priest artificially strung up with strong drink for the performance of his duty? "Doth not nature itself teach us" that the pure and unbiassed discernments of reason, acting on the commandments of God, could alone be acceptable in such a relation of things? We may here understand why Jesus, the great antitypical Nazarite, refused, before crucifixion, to drink of the "vinegar, mingled with gall" (Matt. 27:34), which would have dulled pain, and enabled him to go through the ordeal of pain with an endurance not derived from faith, but from mere physical stupefaction.

The bearing of this interdict of wine or strong drink on the Nazarite cannot be obscure. The essence of a Nazarite's separation was the mental attitude of such an one to God. The separation was a separation "unto the Lord". Such a man's or woman's separation would be a merely nominal affair if they were at liberty to relieve the tedium of their separation by exhilarating potations, or by the use of any substance calculated to elate by mere physical action. Their minds could not in such a state be fixed on God, but would be floated in the turbid sensationalism of artificially stimulated faculties -- pleasant, it may be, to the person, but not to God, who delights to be the object of intelligent, humble and thankful contemplation.

What may be the typical significance of this institution of the law? We have to be careful in the application, because wine is used with such a variety of significations. It is used to represent the fruit of obedience which God desired at the hands of the house of Israel (Isa. 5:1-4; Matt. 21:33-41). It is used to represent the blessedness which God will dispense from Zion to all nations in Abraham (Isa. 25:6). It is used to represent the blood of Christ shed in righteousness and in sorrow (Matt. 26:28-29). It is used to represent the false principles ministered to all nations by the False Church of the Seven Hills (Rev. 18:3). It could not possibly represent any of the first three in the case of the Nazarite. God could not mean to signify by type that there must be no obedience in the Nazarite's life, or no foretaste of the coming blessedness, or no self-sacrifice for righteousness sake. Neither could He mean the doctrines of Rome in the historic sense, which had not yet become historic.

Is there any other sense? There is another sense that blends with the fourth of those already enumerated. We may discern it in the Bible description of wine as "wine that maketh glad the heart of man". The gladness that comes from this source is gladness without a reason -- a mere chemical ecstasy -- a gladness resulting from the quickening of the action of the heart by artificial stimulant. There are various ways of inducing this kind of gladness. There are theological ways which we may take as illustrated in the exercitations of "revival meeting". A man who is the slave of sin goes into one of these whirlpools of excitement, in which the air is electrically surcharged by the currents given off by hundreds of excited nervous systems. The preacher of the moment is the operator. The sinner comes into the "circuit". He has been cuffed and kicked in the cold world outside: here he gets melted in the gratification of finding himself declared an object of love: an experience so different from his wont that it gradually thaws him. He is told he has only to believe that Christ died for him, and he will become as precious to God as the angels. The shouting and the praying lashes the electrical atmosphere into waves and pulsations that at last overwhelm him, and he surrenders, and is led in tears of self-pity to the penitent bench, where he reaches the climax of an ecstasy which is generated by the action of animal magnetism stimulated by contributory nerves in the room, and wrought into action through the powers of a thought in which there is barely an element of truth.

The application of this to the matter before us would seem to be this -- that there must be no working up into mere animal excitements in those who wish to be acceptable to God. The dancing dervish and the inebriated sectary of every description are alike odious to God -- as all rhapsodical self-centred friendships would be to man. The separation of the Nazarite, in being dissociated from the possible action of wine and strong drink, must be a separation founded on quiet reason, producing gratitude for benefactions calmly discerned, and holiness, from beauty and obligation intellectually perceived; and praise, from total dependance on the wisdom and the power of God recognized. All men now called by the gospel to separation, are antitypical Nazarites. "Come out from among them, and be ye separate" (be ye Nazarites) "and I will receive you".

Their Nazariteship is uncontaminated with the wine of sectarianism with its howlings and shoutings and spiritual inebriations in general. They are quiet, calm, though fervent men of enlightened reason, like Christ, the great Nazarite-in-Chief. They do not think to be heard from their much speaking in prayer (Matt. 6:7-8). They do not cry out and shout and cut themselves in the excess of superstitious devotion, like the priests of Baal, but are like Elijah, in his few, quiet, effectual words of truth (1 Kings 18:26-38). They do not cover the altar of the Lord with weeping and crying out -- thinking to make up for their iniquitous practices by the excess of pietistic genuflexions (Mal. 2:13-14). In understanding, they are not children: in understanding, they are men (1 Cor. 14:20). They are to be distinguished from theatrical religionists of all kinds, as the true is always to be discerned from the false: the natural from the artificial: the sincere from the hypocritical and the superstitious. They are Nazarites -- unexcited by spiritual wine -- uninflamed with strong drink, but radiant only with the calm brightness of rational and devout consecration to God.

Next, "no razor shall come upon his head, until the days be fulfilled in which he separateth himself unto the Lord: he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow" (Num. 6:5). It is possible we see the explanation of this in the reason given for cutting off the hair in the case of God's expostulation with Jerusalem: "Cut off thine hair, O Jerusalem, and cast it away, and take up a lamentation in high places; for the Lord hath rejected and forsaken the generation of his wrath" (Jer. 7:29). To cut off the hair is the reverse of an act of self-exaltation: it takes away from a man's dignity: it is the natural token of personal abasement, and this token was exacted because of transgression. But in the case of a man separating himself to the Lord--not transgression, but the reverse -- obedience -- consecration -- was the normal state. Therefore, uncut hair was a suitable adjunct of Nazariteship. There are times and connections when, "if a man have long hair, it is a shame to him" (1 Cor. 11:14): but in the case of the Nazarite, it was otherwise. It was both the token of consecration, and the condition of God's succouring presence with the wearer, as Samson found, when he revealed the secret of his strength to Delilah (Judges 16:17-21).

The anti-typical significance may be discerned in those spiritual characteristics that are enjoined upon those who have become, in Christ, "an holy people to the Lord". It does not belong to them to be always in the hair-tearing remorse of the wicked. "Let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works" (Heb. 6:1). "How shall we that are dead to sin live any longer therein?" (Rom. 6:2). The answer of the good conscience will impart to them that "spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind", which Paul speaks of. "What communion hath light with darkness? What concord hath Christ with Belial?" Uncut hair speaks of faithfulness intact.

"He shall come at no dead body", that is, in the ordinary relations of life. "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. All the days of his separation, he is holy unto the Lord" (Num. 6:6-8). The Nazarite would therefore be inconveniently placed sometimes in his domestic relations. Funerals of relatives happening during the time of his separation could have none of his attention: and he would appear in the light of a person without natural affection. It would not really be so; the Nazarite would be none the less a lover of his friends, because he could not take part in the usual demonstrations of sorrow: it would merely be the case of one love being over-ridden by another and a greater. Duty to God sometimes interferes with what we would do for man. The duty to God in this case was the duty of separation from the defilement connected with death. It does not seem possible to miss the meaning of this, in its typical bearing.

Jesus, the great Nazarite, made light of natural relationship in spiritual connections. A young man whom he called to follow him, wished to go and first say farewell to those that were at home. Christ's answer has appeared rough to those who cannot judge by any higher rule than the flesh: "No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God" (Luke 9:62). To another, he said, "Follow me: but he said, Lord, suffer me first to go and bury my father", Christ's rejoinder was of the same character as in the other case: "Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God." Jesus would not have us unmindful of natural duties, but he asserts the superior claims of those that have to do with God. He affirms a stronger connection and a higher relation in the case of those who are related to God, than those who are connected in flesh. "Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother and sister, and mother." This declaration had all the greater point from the circumstances that drew it forth, namely: the circumstance of his mother and his brothers, calling for him to take him home. One of the crowd said to him, "Thy mother and thy brothers without seek thee". The words quoted were his rejoinder.

Why should Jesus have thus made light of the ties of natural friendship? Because of what natural friends are, in the light of the Nazarite law. They are defiled by death. They are mere fellow-buds on the Adamic tree, which is a tree of death. Those who are truly sanctified by the truth are delivered from this defilement. Though physically the same as their relatives, it is only for a time they will remain so. In their mental relations, they stand new men in Christ, "chosen of God and precious": "elect according to the foreknowledge of God through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth": and this alteration in their mental relations will lead to a complete alteration in their physical state in due time, when that takes place which Paul variously calls "the redemption of our body" (Rom. 8:23), the swallowing up of mortality in life (2 Cor. 5:4), the putting on of immortality by "this mortal" (1 Cor. 15:54), the changing of this vile body by the Lord that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body (Phil. 3:21). Because therefore of the great difference between those who have come to belong to God by the belief and obedience of the truth, and those who are mere sons of Adam unwashed from their sins, it is not for the former to have close dealings with the latter. The anti-typical application of the Nazarite law forbids it. They are not to be defiled by the dead. They are not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. They are not, as the children of light, to have communion with darkness. They are not to love the world, nor the things that are in the world, for all that is in the world, being pursued in disobedience to God, is displeasing to God; and becomes the mere "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life", The children of this world are inspired by the flesh in all their ideas; and "they that are in the flesh cannot please God". All these things are testified (2 Cor. 6:15; John 2:15; Rom. 8:8), and nowhere more forcibly than in this object-lesson of the Nazarite holding aloof from all contact with the dead during the days of his separation.

But it might happen that some person might "die very suddenly by the Nazarite" (Num. 6:9), and thus the Nazarite would involuntarily contract the defilement which he had been taking pains to avoid. What then? The Nazarite was reckoned in that case as having "sinned by the dead" (verse 11), and he was required to "offer two turtles or two young pigeons" at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation. If such a thing happened before the period of his Nazariteship had run out, it was to be considered that all the days that had gone before were "lost" (Num. 6:12), and that the days of his separation had to be begun over again.

Several important things are suggested by this. It shows the extreme scrupulosity of the divine law when a Nazarite could "sin by the dead" without intention on his part. We may be affected by this in the antitype. One "dying suddenly by us" would be one who had been alive -- consequently a brother falling away from the faith. Yet the occurrence must be "by us" -- near us -- in contact with us -- before it can have a defiling effect. That is, there must be intimacy and toleration and perhaps more, a cooperation amounting to saying "God-speed", and so a "partaking of their evil deeds" (2 John 11). Personal friendship often interferes with a clear and healthful discrimination of duty in divine matters, and so the guilt of an offender against God may cleave to us. Eli, though disapproving of the wrong ways of his sons, sinned in "restraining them not" (1 Sam. 3:13). Jesus told the brethren at Thyatira that though they were not behindhand in "works, charity, service, faith and patience", he had this against them, that "thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce my servants". There is such a thing as being "partakers of other men's sins" (1 Tim. 5:22). We may "sin by the dead" while not sinning in our own action. The line to pursue is indicated by Jude: "Of some have compassion, making a difference: and others save with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh" (verse 23).

If there were no remedy for the defilement arising from "one dying suddenly by us", the occurrence would be fatal: but here the type comes to our aid. Though the preceding days of separation are "lost" by defilement (in harmony with what is written in Ezekiel, that "when the righteous man turneth away from his righteousness... all the righteousness that he hath done shall not be mentioned"), there can be renewal and resumption, except in the cases reserved in Heb. 10:26, where we are informed that in case of wilful sin after enlightenment, "there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins". The defiled Nazarite was to bring a sin offering and a burnt offering to make atonement, after which, he might resume the days of his separation, repeating those that had been lost.

What is this, but the typical inculcation of confession and supplication in the name of Christ -- the antitypical sin offering and burnt offering. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all iniquity." We must not forget God's kind disposition towards even the wicked, as when He says: "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon" (Isa. 55:7). If God is ready, thus to favourably receive unrighteous men (saying, "Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?"), what may not those hope for who walk in His fear all the day long, but it may be, stumble occasionally out of the right way? The question is answered in the beautiful declaration of Psa. 103: "As the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy towards them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." It might be thought that the scrupulosities of the law were inconsistent with these wide-sweeping declarations of God's kindness: but this feeling disappears when we remember the constant provision for sacrifice and forgiveness. And when we discern in those sacrifices (taken in connection with the sacrifice of Christ, which they all foreshadowed) the maintenance of God's supremacy as the foundation of His grace, we can but exclaim with Paul: "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever" (Rom. 11:33-36).

On the completion of the days of his separation, the Nazarite was to offer at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, through the priest, one he lamb for a burnt offering, and a ewe lamb for a sin offering, and a ram for a peace offering -- all without blemish; and also a basket containing cakes and wafers of unleavened bread, with their appropriate meat offering and drink offering. He was then to shave off his hair and put it in the fire on the altar, under the peace offering being consumed. The priest was then to take the shoulder of the ram and one unleavened cake out of the basket, and put them in the hands of the Nazarite, and then wave them for him before the Lord -- after which, the Nazarite was free from his vow of separation, and at liberty to drink wine (Num. 6:13-20).

If we had not already given a full consideration to the subject of burnt offerings, sin offerings, peace offerings, etc., there would be more in this enumeration of the closing ceremonies of Nazariteship than could be dealt with in the rest of this chapter. It is sufficient in the light of that consideration, to give them the application they seem to have to the matter in hand.

In this literal bearing, they were a convenient and impressive termination to the special time of consecration which godly Israelites might desire now and then to impose upon themselves. But that use is now past, and we have but the typical significance to apply. Taking the whole period of the Nazariteship's separation to stand, in parable, for the life of probation to which the Gospel calls men, we may discern without difficulty the meaning of a ceremonial that proclaims the essentiality of sacrifice to the final acceptability of the most faithfully kept time of separation. Though the grace of God proposes the acceptance and glorification of faithful men -- faithful in their separation from the evil world in which they "pass the time of their sojourning" (and will not accept those who are otherwise than faithful in this) yet it is not on account of their own righteousness that the glorious gift of immortality is bestowed. It is on account of their deferential and grateful and humble submission to what has been accomplished in Christ. If God dealt with them on their own ground merely, they could not be saved, for they are all, without exception, "under sin" in the first case: sinners by extraction and character. It is the act of grace to forgive, and while this act of grace takes the shape of "counting" certain things for righteousness imparting a "right to the tree of life", it never for a moment abates its character as an act of grace. It is true to the last (and for ever) that "by grace are ye saved through faith" (and obedience thereof). The saving contains forgiving as its essential feature. Without forgiving, saving could not be; -- and this forgiving is "for Christ's sake" -- Christ, the obedient; Christ the crucified: Christ, the risen: Christ, the intercessor.

We are" justified by faith", and so have" peace with God" (Rom. 5:1). "It is of faith that it might be by grace" (4:16): "not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8).

Consequently, when the days of separation are all over for God's Nazarites -- when the days of their successful conflict with evil are done, and the time has come at the Lord's return to "give every man his own reward, according to his own labour" (1 Cor. 3:8), it will still be as forgiven men -- not as faultless men -- that they will enter into life -- forgiven because of their submission to the divine institutions appointed with that view. They will all be eligible to take part in the song which proclaims the chosen saved through him who hath washed them from their sins in his own blood. Their recognition of this fact will not cease with their attainment of the immortal nature. Rather will they recognize it with a distinctness and rapture unknown in the days of their flesh. They will then see with a clearness not possible in the dim days of mortal faculty, that they owe it all to Christ -- in his life, death, and resurrection -- that they have their immortal place under God's glorious sun. They will be ready to say with David: "Not unto us, O Lord; not unto us, but unto thy name give glory."

This is doubtless the typical counterpart of the ordinance that required the faithful Nazarite on the completion of the days of his separation, to bring all the sacrifices that prefigured Christ; present and wave a representative part through the priest; burn his hair (surrender mortal nature for the transformation that waits by Spirit); and then go forth to drink freely of that wine which in flesh-nature tends to disorder, but in Spirit-nature will be drunk as a harmless exhilarant, and as the symbol of the feast of gladness that God will yet spread for men upon the earth.

 

Ch 31

 

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