Listen to sermons at FreeGraceRadio.com
“The Law of the Nazarite”
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body. 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……And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:1-27)
What is the meaning of this strange law? With all the strictures imposed by it, what man could possibly fulfil it? For what purpose was it given.
The law of the Nazarite and the vow of the Nazarite pointed to One who would come by whose utter consecration to God his people would be forever accepted with and forever blessed by the holy Lord God in everlasting grace and salvation, One by whom chosen, redeemed sinners would be themselves utterly consecrated to God. Our Lord Jesus Christ is the Nazarene of whom Moses spoke in the law in Numbers 6. That is what God the Holy Ghost shows us in Matthew 2:23.
In God’s wise and good providence, our Savior was brought to Nazareth as a baby by Joseph, that he might, in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecy, be called a Nazarene. Should any ask, with Nathaniel, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” I reply, with Philip, “Come and see.” — “And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23)
The words “Nazarene” and “Nazarite” are really the same words. The word comes from the word “Netzar,” and means separated. “A Nazarene,” or “Nazarite” is a person separated and given up to God. But where in the Old Testament is there a prophecy that says, “He shall be called a Nazarene”? Have you ever tried to find such a prophecy? If you have, I am sure you were perplexed, because there is no such statement in the Old Testament Scriptures. In fact, the statement is not found anywhere in the Bible, except in Matthew 2:23. The town of Nazareth was such a small, insignificant place in Zebulun that it is not even mentioned in the Old Testament. So where did Matthew get this notion that the Old Testament prophesied, “He shall be called a Nazarene”? — This is a prophecy written in bold letters throughout the Old Testament Scriptures, “He shall be called a Nazarene,” though it is nowhere precisely stated.
Like the doctrines of the Trinity, Substitutionary Atonement, and Divine Sovereignty, it is taught everywhere, though stated nowhere. Everything regarding the law of the Nazarite, as well as the whole Volume of the Old Testament, declares that he who is the Christ is that One who is pre-eminently the Nazarite, the Separated One.
The Jews, contemptuously, called our Redeemer the Nazarite or Nazarene. Spitting on the ground in disgust, his detractors hissed out the name “Nazarene,” as if it were the climax of contempt. Yet, that blessed Nazarene, triumphant and glorious, “Jesus of Nazareth,” is that One whose glory is great in salvation! His is the greatest name among men. — “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
Blind Bartimaeus understood perfectly well that the Christ, the Messiah, would be called “The Nazarene.” When he heard that it was “Jesus of Nazareth” who passed his way in Jericho, his heart was filled with hope of mercy from “the Son of David” (Mark 10:46-48). Dishonored by his foes, he is adored among his friends. While others deride him as “a Nazarene,” we adore him as Christ the Nazarene, Jehovah-Jesus, King of kings, and Lord of lords ((Philippians 2:8-11).
This title, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, was always designed of God as the highest and strongest testimony to the peculiar and distinct character of our Savior as the one great Nazarite of God. — What do the Scriptures tell us about him?
The fact is, the whole body of the Old Testament Scriptures, when telling us about this Gospel Age and the glorious accomplishments of Christ in redemption and grace, tells us that “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Jacob’s prophecy concerning Joseph, who was an eminent type of Christ, declared, “He shall be called a Nazarene” (Genesis 49:1, 26). The word “separate” is Netzar, that is a Nazarite among his brethren. Moses used that same word again in Deuteronomy 33:16, when pronouncing God’s blessings upon Joseph for generations to come, when he spoke of “the good will of him that dwelt in the bush.” Remember, Moses was referring here to the first revelation he was given of the incarnate God (Exodus 3:2; Acts 7:30). So both Jacob and Moses declared, by Joseph the type, that the great Antitype should be the Nazarite, One separate from his brethren.
When God gave his law to Israel by the hand of Moses, one of the most thoroughly expanded laws given was “the law of the Nazarite,” here in Numbers 6. There are many things in the law of the Nazarite that cannot be applied to our Savior. He both touched dead bodies and drank wine, though he was never made unclean by doing so. Yet, strictly speaking, as that One who was wholly devoted and separated to the Lord God, our Savior is the Nazarene typically referred to in this Old Testament law. He is the One and the only one who perfectly fulfilled it. This is evident from the fact that the law is never mentioned again until we see it mentioned in connection with Samson (another type of our Redeemer) in Judges 13.
The prohibition (Numbers 6:3-4) of drinking wine or any other intoxicating beverage, obviously, refers to the personal use of acholic drinks for personal gratification. Otherwise, the Nazarite could not keep the passover. Our Lord Jesus Christ was solemnly set apart to the Triune Jehovah, set apart to do his will from eternity, sanctified and consecrated to God (John 17:19) for the salvation of our souls. — “And,” he says, “for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.”
“All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the LORD, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow.” (Numbers 6:5)
Again, our Savior fulfills the type gloriously. The church is described as having hair like a flock of goats (Song of Solomon 4:1). Like the hairs of his head, a vast multitude grow up in Christ and upon him. No razor shall ever separate us from our Lord. Like the hair on our heads, we live upon Christ, depend on him, and draw life and strength from him, because we are a part of him and can never be separated from him. As Samson’s strength and glory was his hair, so we are Christ’s glory. And our mighty Samson shall never lose his glory. The hair is the last part of the body to die; and we shall never perish, because Christ our Savior lives forever!
Therefore, it may be said of every member of Christ’s Church, as we read in Lamentations 4:7, — “Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire.”
“All the days that he separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body. 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.” (Numbers 6:6-8)
Christ was made sin for us. Yet, he knew no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth. He was ever holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners. — “And if any man die very suddenly by him.” — We died by him when he died. — “And he hath defiled the head of his consecration.” — When he was made sin for us; “then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day.” The seventh day represented the day of grace, perfection, and completion. “Shall he shave it. And on the eighth day,” the day of resurrection, new life, and new beginning, “he shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons, to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, and make an atonement for him, for that he sinned by the dead, and shall hallow his head that same day. And he shall consecrate unto the LORD the days of his separation, and shall bring a lamb of the first year for a trespass offering: but the days that were before shall be lost, because his separation was defiled. And this is the law of the Nazarite, when the days of his separation are fulfilled: he shall be brought unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: And he shall offer his offering unto the LORD, one he lamb of the first year without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb of the first year without blemish for a sin offering, and one ram without blemish for peace offerings, and a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings. And the priest shall bring them before the LORD, and shall offer his sin offering, and his burnt offering: And he shall offer the ram for a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD, with the basket of unleavened bread: the priest shall offer also his meat offering, and his drink offering. And the Nazarite shall shave the head of his separation at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation, and shall take the hair of the head of his separation, and put it in the fire which is under the sacrifice of the peace offerings.” — When Christ died, we suffered all the fury of God’s wrath in him, to the full satisfaction of divine justice. — “And the priest shall take the sodden shoulder of the ram, and one unleavened cake out of the basket, and one unleavened wafer, and shall put them upon the hands of the Nazarite, after the hair of his separation is shaven: And the priest shall wave them for a wave offering before the LORD: this is holy for the priest, with the wave breast and heave shoulder: and after that the Nazarite may drink wine. This is the law of the Nazarite who hath vowed, and of his offering unto the LORD for his separation, beside that that his hand shall get: according to the vow which he vowed, so he must do after the law of his separation.” (Numbers 6:9-21)
We must not overlook the fact that in all these offerings for sin shadowed forth the one great, all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ, our great Nazarite, by which our sins were put away. Waving the offering before the Lord was both an acknowledgement of sin before the holy Lord God and a celebration of sin’s pardon and removal by the precious blood of Christ.
In Mark 14:24-25, our Savior spoke of his work as the Nazarene being fulfilled, when he said, “This is the blood of the new testament, which is shed for many. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
We have the clearest possible evidence that all that is seen in this Nazarite law refers to Christ and his great work of redemption in the last verses of Numbers 6. In these verses, upon the basis of the Nazarite’s obedience and sacrifice, God commands his blessing upon his people.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.” (Numbers 6:22-27)
The next time the word Nazarite is mentioned is in Judges 13:5. Here it is used to describe Samson, another great type of our Savior, in his consecration to God from his mother’s womb, as a Nazarite
“For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:5)
“But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.” (Judges 13:7)
In Samson’s case, this vow was a matter of lifelong consecration to the LORD. So it was with our blessed Savior who, from his conception in the womb of the virgin to his last breath upon the cursed tree, did always those things that pleased and honored his Father. But there was a great difference between Samson and Christ. — Samson had the vow put upon him. Christ willingly took it and fulfilled it! Still, in Samson’s case there are many things that show the correlation between the type and the antitype.
Samson’s birth was announced in precisely the same way as was Christ’s birth, by the angel of the Lord. Manoah’s wife, Samson’s mother, was barren at the time, as if to show that the birth of this child, though not miraculous, was extraordinary. The message the angel brought to Manoah’s wife and to the Virgin Mary were very much the same.
Indeed, the angel of the Lord who brought the good news of Samson’s birth appears to have had in his mind and heart the much greater good news he would announce in years to come. When Manoah and his wife offered sacrifice to God, the Angel of the Lord did gloriously! — The Angel of the Lord is Christ himself. He behaved gloriously because in all these things he was anticipating that which he would accomplish as our Redeemer, “the joy set before him,” for which he endured the cross, despising the shame.
And above all, just as the angel concerning Samson declared that he should be a Nazarite to God from the womb, and should begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, so the angel announced to Mary concerning the Lord Jesus Christ that he should be that Holy Thing, and be called the Son of the Highest, and should deliver “his people from their sins.” (Compare Judges 13:2-7 with Luke 1:26 and Matthew 1:20-21).
Isaiah also used this very word when he prophesied of Christ coming to save us by the sacrifice of himself (Isaiah 11:1, 10). Though our Savior was born at Bethlehem, in fulfillment of Micah 5:2, he was at the time of his conception in the virgin’s womb “a Nazarene” (Luke 1:26-33)
“That Holy Thing,” the man of the anointing, as Christ is declared by the angel to be, was immediately conceived, and the Nazarite from the womb was formed in the city of Nazareth, by the power of the Holy Spirit, just as Isaiah told us he would be, in the womb of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6).
In all these things, we see that Christ the Nazarene is “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth,” having fulfilled it entirely as our Substitute and Savior. He, and he alone, was utterly separated and consecrated to God from the womb. And we in him were and are separated and utterly consecrated to God from the womb.
How wondrously the overruling hand of God’s providence arranged to have his darling Son called “a Nazarene,” that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, using even those who despised him and would have destroyed him to give him this glorious name.
It was Herod’s determination to murder the infant King that forced Joseph to flee with him and Mary down to Egypt, that he might be called out of Egypt, to fulfil the Scriptures. When Joseph heard that Herod was dead, he started back to Judea, but heard that Herod’s son, Archelaus (who was just as vile as his father) reigned in his stead. So, Joseph turned to Nazareth (Matthew 2:22-23). It was the demons of hell, themselves, who were first compelled to call our Savior by this blessed name (Mark 1:24). Next, Philip used this name to identify the Lord of Glory (John 1:45-49). Then, the soldiers who came to arrest him in the garden used this name to speak of the Savior, affording our Savior opportunity to show his great power and authority as our mighty Samson to deliver his Israel in the hour of his death (John 18:3-9).
Then Pilate, the Roman Governor, as if constrained by a mysterious, overruling power, as if to give his own testimony to Christ and reverse the ignominy he meant to put upon him, both subscribed to his royal authority and proclaimed him the Nazarite to God, writing it out in three different languages upon a placard that was put on the cross, — “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19). After his resurrection, the angels at the tomb used this same name to identify our blessed Redeemer (Mark 16:6-7).
That which Satan, the demons of hell, and wicked men considered his great dishonor is truly our blessed Savior’s greatest honor. He takes this name, “Jesus of Nazareth,” to himself with great delight. He does so because he was separated unto God and sanctified himself as Jehovah’s righteous Servant. God the Son became Jesus of Nazareth that he might both deliver us from our sins and procure for us all the blessings of grace and glory from the Holy Lord God, just as was typified in the Nazarite law of Numbers 6.
By this name, Peter identified him in his most glorious character as our Redeemer in Acts 2 (Acts 2:22-24). Again, when he and John healed the cripple at the temple’s gate, Peter ascribed the work to “Jesus of Nazareth.” (Acts 3:6; 4:10). And the Son of God himself, when calling his chosen from heaven, calls himself the Nazarite (Acts 22:6-8). The Savior’s words there might be read, “I am Jesus the Nazarite, not a Nazarite, but the Nazarite, the very identical, yea, the only one.”
From the first dawn of revelation back in Genesis, throughout the Scriptures, the Spirit of God sets the Lord Jesus before us in this character, that we might know that he is Christ the Nazarene, the Nazarite of God, by whose devotion and consecration we are saved.
In reality, there is but one Nazarite. That Nazarite is Christ. All the legal, typical Nazarites were only foreshadowings of him. It is this exclusive personal character of our blessed Savior, as the Nazarite of God, that so sweetly endears him to us. — It is Christ the Nazarene who now sits upon the Throne of Glory. — By Christ the Nazarene, Jehovah’s devoted. obedient, perfect Servant, we are redeemed (Hebrews 10:1-14). By Christ the Nazarene, Jehovah’s devoted, obedient, perfect Servant, we have access to our God (Hebrews 10:19-22). — By Christ the Nazarene, Jehovah’s devoted. obedient, perfect Servant, we are accepted and blessed of God forever.
“And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.”
All praise to Christ the Nazarene! Blessings forever be on the head of him that was separated from his brethren! Truly, “thy father’s children shall bow down before thee.” Now and to all eternity, let him be called the Nazarite of God!
I would like to be known, as Paul was. Though counted by all men to be a pestilent fellow and a troublemaker, his greatest crime was thought to be that he was “a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts. 24:5). As our Lord Jesus Christ consecrated himself to God for us, as “the Nazarite to God,” let us now consecrate ourselves to him (Romans 12:1).