THE GOSPEL IN NUMBERS: The Nazarite
THE NAZARITE"This is the law of the Nazarite." Numbers 6:21
Here a new ordinance appears. It seems a special flower set by God's hand within the garden of the Jewish code. Therefore let special fragrance now be sought by faith, for surely special fragrance may be found.
Israel's whole race was severed from the world. But the wide circumference encompassed a narrower circle. Where all were separate, the Nazarites occupied special separation.
These stood apart, as a peculiar dedication to the Lord. Amid surrounding columns they rose the highest pyramids. Among God's servants they wore distinctive clothing. Where all were nationally holy, they showed the holiest badge.
They bound themselves by voluntary vows. Some mighty motive must have urged their hearts. But it is not revealed. Conjecture may suppose, but cannot be assured. The vow might be the act of men weighed down by consciousness of sin--appalled by sight of inborn evil--or penitent for grievous falls. It might be gratitude for signal mercies. It might be zeal to arouse others to think more of God. But the real cause is veiled. This only is declared, that Nazarites, obeying a strong impulse, gave themselves peculiarly to God.
My soul, the Nazarite here speaks with warning voice to you. Your days, are they devoted service? Your public walk, is it resplendent godliness? Are all observers led to mark, that you are wholly God's? But surely above all you should be pre-eminently His.
Think of His dealings with you--His tender love--and smiles of never-failing care. Think of your Jesus--His cross--His blood--His wounds--His agonies. Think of the mercy-seat--the interceding prayer--the coming glory--the eternity of bliss. Think of hell merited, and heaven your free-grace home. Surely each morn should see you self-bound by stricter vow--and dedicated to more signal piety.
The Nazarite's motives are unknown. But Nazarite-rules are rigidly prescribed. They are threefold. Let them now be viewed.
1. NO JUICE OF GRAPE, no produce of the vine, from seed unto skin, may touch the consecrated lips. Not only the intoxicating cup is banished far, but all, which grows on the intoxicating tree. Enticement's total troop, from first to last, must be expelled. Like Achan, and his little ones--all must die. Numb. 6:3-4.
Believer, this principle is broad and deep. You openly avow, that you are not your own. Your body--spirit--mind and soul--are purchased by redeeming blood. They all are bound a living sacrifice to the one altar--Christ. Hence you must keep them pure--clean--bright--strong--vigorous for His work. They should stand, as servants with loins girt--ready at all times to discharge His will.
Then sedulously flee whatever, like the juice of grape, may tend to weaken the firm energy, or to stir up the sleeping brood of sensual and ungodly lusts. Alas! what evil lingers still in every saintly heart! A sudden spark may cause a fearful blaze. Keep far from the beguiling cup.
Touch not the seed or the skin. Flee not strong potions only, but all that may insidiously corrupt the taste. More than gross vice is branded here. Evils may enter in a pigmy form. At first they may seem harmless, as the gentle dove. Avoid them. They are the cancer's touch. They are the weed's first seed. Rapidly they grow. Fatally they spread. Mightily they strengthen. Soon they pervade the weakened soul.
2. NO RAZOR approaches the Nazarite's hair. His flowing locks openly announce his separate state. His head pre-eminently bears the signal of his service. The dedication must not be a secret act, known only to the conscience and the Lord. The front must witness, that the man is God's. Numb. 6:5.
Believer, here is another lesson for your life. Religion is not for the closet or the knees alone. It is not a lily, growing only in the shade. It is to be the one attire, in which you move abroad--the holy crown of hair, which sparkles on your brow. It must be conspicuous, as locks pendant from the head. It is not to be cut short or hidden. It must arrest attention. Like the flag, it must proclaim the country, to which the ship belongs.
Christian meekness, and the Spirit's wisdom, never conceal our faith. Truth scorns all cowardly modesty. Bold honesty rejects such timid shame. Pure religion shines as the sun without one cloud. Thus others profit by its rays. Thus, like an attractive magnet, it draw souls to God.
3. HE MUST AVOID ALL CONTACT WITH THE DEAD. He must not close the eyes of his expiring friends, or catch their parting breath, or bear their corpses to the grave. Among the living, he must live. Where life is absent, he must be absent too. Numb. 6:6-7.
Why is death to be thus shunned? Reasons are obvious. It is the penalty of sin--the sign of God's most righteous wrath. It is a proof of innocence destroyed--of evil touched--of vengeance merited. It is abomination's colleague. Therefore it is emblem of what holy men should abhor. Life, too, is God's inseparable essence. He cannot die. Therefore to intermix with death, denotes a separation from our God.
Here is again a rule for Christian walk. He, who is Christ's, must flee the touch of everything allied to sin. The holy garments may not be defiled. The blood-washed feet must shun polluted paths. The vessels for the Master's use may have no stain. The spirit's temple must be pure. Corruption in no form may soil it.
Believer, rigidly apply this maxim. It drives you from the contagion of ungodly scenes. How many crowds are nothing but a crowded charnel-house! The bodies breathe, but hold no breathing soul. The words--the works--are odious, as an open grave. Arise--depart. The living dwell not amid tombs. The atmosphere pollutes. Depart, touch not the dead.
How many books are deathful! They may have fascinating garb. But they are only gay, as corpses decked with flowers. Their taint destroys. Their chilly touch corrupts.
This rule brands many a pulpit, as a plague-spot. A lifeless teacher often guides in paths of death. No spark from heaven has vivified his soul. What, then, but putrefaction issues from his lips? On earth there is not a more pitiable sight, than death, in a preacher's form, digging the grave of souls.
Here, too, we see the misery of those, who by dead works expect to buy soul-life. All works are dead, which grow not on the stem of faith. Such are but rotten berries. They live not unto God. How can they purchase life?
But no precautionary care can always keep men from the dying scene. Death has an unrestricted range. It moves among the busy haunts. Its icy hand is everywhere. In every spot it seizes victims. Thus the most watchful Nazarite might most unwillingly stand by the dead.
If so, corruption has been by his side--pollution has polluted him--his vow is broken. Therefore atonement must be made. The ordinance now commands him, as guilty, to seek God. He is required to place a whole burnt-offering on the blazing altar. He must then add a sacrifice for sin. Moreover, as a debtor, he must buy remission by a trespass-offering. Thus the chief types, which shadowed out Christ's blood, must all be brought.
This is not all. The former period of his Nazarate is cancelled. The previous days are counted, as lost time. He must cut short the locks, which hitherto had proved his separate state. He must commence afresh his dedicated walk. Numb. 6:9-12.
Hark! What a voice here cries, Beware of sudden evil! Satan is a lurking foe. He shoots his darts from hidden ambushes. When all seems safe, a wound is given. There is a pitfall in the firmest paths. Where least suspected, nets are spread. David arose, unconscious of the slippery ground. A few brief moments rolled him in the mire. But there is hope for suddenly contracted guilt. This type attests this blessed truth. It bids the failing Nazarite to recover his lost state by offerings of blood. Reader, at all times there is an open access to a remitting God. There is a Savior waiting to obliterate. Come, plead His merits--present His expiating death. There is no stain, which He removes not.
The type, moreover, shows, that pardon found must be the starting post of new devotedness. The washed feet ascend anew the holy hill. The cleansed hands fight with more vigor. The Nazarite, passing the appointed gate, enters again upon his sacred course.
These reconciling rites were ordered, if the offence were sudden, unintended, and abhorred. But what, if deliberate transgression be indulged? The ordinance is silent here; and thus warns solemnly. Where shall he turn, who turns presumptuously from God? Where is his hope, who boldly touches sin? Reader, never burst conscience-bounds. Grieve not the Spirit's gentle mind. Drive not the holy inhabitant from your breast. Some, who ran well, have wantonly cast off the gracious yoke. The after-course has been fall upon fall, without a check or turn.
The Nazarite vow continued only for a fixed time. The days expired. The vow was then discharged. The badge of consecration was laid down.
But grand solemnities attested the completion of this hallowed state. The Nazarite enters the tabernacle's gate. He stands beside the sacrificing altar. He brings each victim, which symbolizes sin's desert. No rite is absent, which confesses need of remission, and trust in reconciling blood. A lamb, as a burnt-offering, dies. A lamb again, as a sin-offering, is utterly consumed. A perfect ram, as a peace-offering, solicits peace. Meat-offerings in every form are piled. Drink-offerings in abundance flow. Voluntary gifts profusely follow. All hair is next shorn off. The fire receives it. It ascends in the ascending flame of the peace-offering. Numb. 6:13-21.
But why is there this expenditure of blood? What is the significance of this multitude of rites? They all seek expiation. They all look onward to the cross--and thus they graphically show, that holiest deeds of holiest men can only find acceptance through the dying Jesus. For surely this full train of pardon-petitioning sacrifice distinctly states, that the Nazarite's devoted course still needed to be cleansed.
Believer, is not this the conscious feeling of your humbled soul? You are the Lord's. You strive to serve Him--wholly--unreservedly--forever. You would bring to Him your every moment--faculty--and power. You would present the offering of your thoughts--your words--your works. But ah! what failures! You would do good--evil is present. In public acts, what inconsistency! In private duties, what outbreakings of corruption! In the closet, evil thoughts assail. On the knees, the tempter haunts. Some base imagination stains ascending praise. Your self-denial is too often self-indulgence. The badge of the 'Nazarite vow' too often hides a worldling's heart. What, then, shall be done? Behold the cross. There is your only help. Thence only is your peace. In that most precious blood you only can obliterate your guilt. Come, wash therein your every duty--service--prayer--thanksgiving. Cleanse there the stains of your most holy hours. Live under vows, as a strict Nazarite. But wrestle for forgiveness, as a sad short-comer.
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