The word Nazarite signifies “separation.” A Nazarite was a person who voluntarily took a special vow of separation from the world and of devotedness to the service of the Lord for a certain period of time. Samson is the only example in the Scriptures of a person who was appointed by the Lord, before his birth, to be a lifelong Nazarite. (Samuel and John the Baptizer were under similar vows from the time before they were born, but it is not expressly stated whether or not they were intended to be Nazarite vows.)
In order to prevent the imaginations of superstitious persons from endlessly multiplying the restraints of these vows, God gave the Nazarites specific rules. First, they were not to drink wine nor strong drink, nor were they allowed to even eat grapes or raisins. This shows us that those who separate themselves to God must not gratify the desires of the sinful body. The Nazarites were not even allowed to eat anything that even grew on a vine – teaching us to take the utmost care to avoid sin and all that borders upon being a temptation to us. Second, Nazarites were not to cut their hair or beards. (This was the visible distinguishing mark of Samson being a Nazarite.) This peculiarity represented a neglect of the body’s ease and ornamentation. And lastly, Nazarites were not to come near a dead body during the time that they were separated by this vow. Those who are consecrated to God must keep their consciences pure from dead works, and they must not touch unclean things. The Nazarites were to be holy to the Lord during all the days of their vow. Indeed, holiness was the meaning of all those outward observances; and without it, the actions themselves were worth nothing at all.
Let us not forget that the Lord Jesus – the true Nazarite – is not only our Surety, but also our Example. For His sake, we must renounce worldly pleasures, abstain from fleshy lusts, be separate from sinners, make open profession of our faith, restrain sinful affections, be spiritually-minded and devoted to God’s service, and be desirous to live as an example to all around us.
No sacrifice was appointed for those who deliberately broke their vow of separation as Nazarites; they would have to answer another day for such profane trifling with the Lord God. But provision was made for those who became defiled by accident. Such a person was obliged to bring a burnt offering, a sin offering, and a trespass offering. He also had to begin the days of his separation all over again, according to his original vow; the time that he had already spent under the vow was “lost time.”
When a Nazarite had completed his term of separation according to his vow, he was to bring sacrifices to the door of the Tabernacle. Lest he should think that by this eminent piece of devotion, he had made God a debtor to him; he was appointed, even when he had finished his vow, to bring God one of each of the instituted offerings. First, there was the burnt offering, as an acknowledgment of the Lord’s sovereign dominion over him and all that he had, notwithstanding his liberation from this particular vow. Second, he brought a sin-offering; for atonement must be made for our sins before any of our sacrifices can be accepted. There was also a peace offering, in thankfulness to God Who had enabled the Nazarite to fulfill his vow. To these were added the grain offerings and drink offerings, which always accompanied the burnt offerings and peace offerings; and besides these, there was also a basket of unleavened cakes and wafers. Part of the peace offering, with a cake and a wafer, was to be waved before the Lord as a wave offering (verses 19, 20) and then given to the priest. But there was also one other ceremony that was appointed, which was like the cancelling of the pledge when the promise was performed; this was the cutting off of the Nazarite’s hair, which had been allowed to grow during the time of his vow. This hair was then burned in the fire over which the peace offerings were boiling (verse 18). This showed that his full performance of his vow was only acceptable to God in Christ, the Great Sacrifice.
The concluding verses of this chapter contain the benediction wherewith Aaron and his sons were to bless the children of Israel. That is why it is sometimes called the Aaronic Blessing. And even today, ministers – as God’s representatives – often use this same benediction to bless the congregation of the Lord’s people. This benediction is a solemn blessing of the people in the name of the Lord. To be under the Almighty protection of our Savior; to enjoy His favor as the smile of a loving Father, or as the cheering beams of the sun; to be the recipients of His grace as He mercifully forgives our sins, supplies our needs, consoles our hearts, and prepares us for eternal glory – all these things form the substance of this Aaronic blessing, and the sum total of all blessings! In such a rich list of mercies, worldly joys are not even worthy to be mentioned.
The Levitical priests could only pray to the Lord that His blessing would follow their words when they uttered them to the people. But our Jesus actually commands the blessing which He pronounces, for we are told by an authority not to be questioned that God – having raised up his Son Jesus – sent Him to bless us (Acts 3:26). How blessed we are indeed!
Lord Jesus! As our Great High Priest, pour upon us Your precious blessing! Father of mercies, we beseech You to bless us and keep us. Holy Savior, cause Your face to shine upon us, and be gracious unto us. Eternal Spirit, lift up Your countenance upon us, and give us peace in the blood of the cross. Amen.
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