The True Nazarite
T. Stephen, Peterhead, Scotland
One of the most striking of the requirements of God for the Nazarite was complete abstention from wine (Num. 6. 3, 4). Nothing that tended to stimulate nature to excess, or to carry it beyond the bounds of propriety, was permitted in the life of the Nazarite.
Nazariteship could be acquired in two ways—by birth and by vow. Both were fulfilled in the great Antitype, the Lord Jesus Christ. In connection with His birth, the angel said to Mary, "That holy thing that shall be born, shall be called the Son of God," the emphasis being rather on what He was than who He was. He alone, as possessor of holy humanity, was God's true Nazarite from birth; and the deep spiritual meaning of Nazariteship found expression in the lowliness, the utter poverty, of His outward circumstances. Left outside, His birthplace a stable, He was unnoticed except for the few who came under the influence of Heaven, and were divinely guided to Him.
The Spiritual equivalent to the Nazarite's vow is seen in the Lord's absolute devotion to the Will of God. Ps. 40. 7, 8; Luke 9. 51; John 4. 34. Every step of His pathway was in the Will of God. It was a path that derived no joy from earth, and sought none there. All His joy and pleasure was found in His intercourse and communion with God.
John 1. 11 records that when He came, His own people received Him not. Thus at the very outset of this Gospel He was rejected by His own (what must His holy feelings have been at this rebuff?); and as the path of the Holy One developed, the language of Ps. 69. 8 was true of Him— "I am become a stranger to my brethren, and an alien to my mother's children." Finally, rejection and alienation issued in actual hatred—"They hated Me without a cause." John 15. 25.
All this suggests the moral aspect of Christ's Nazariteship; but then is a dispensational aspect of His Nazariteship also, which we should be careful not to miss. This dispensational picture comes to light in a special way in connection with the last Passover and the institution of the Lord's Supper.
The Lord Jesus gathered His little company around Him in the Upper Room, and after having feasted with them He made one of His very emphatic statements—"I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God shall come" (Luke 22. 18). It is a strong negative which is used, and this emphatic declaration of abstention from all that comes from the vine reminds us forcibly of the Nazarite's vow. The Lord has become God's Nazarite in regard to the nation of Israel. The wine of communion with that people, whom He loved and for whom He was to die, was to cease, and He was to be separated from His beloved Israel until the Kingdom of God should come. Not until then would the lost communion be restored: not until then would the fruit of that vine be enjoyed again by Him.
At this point, the Holy Spirit brings in one of the most striking parentheses in the book, verses 19 and 20 of Luke 22 (see Newberry's footnote). At this point the Lord introduced a completely new ordinance, the Lord's Supper, and it would appear from an examination of 1 Cor. 11. 24, 25 and Luke 22. 20 (New Translation), that in connection with this new ordinance He does drink the wine, of which He had just said that He would never drink.1
The explanation of this apparent paradox must be sought in the difference between the two ordinances. The Passover was for Israel; the Lord's Supper for the Church. The former was associated with Law; the latter with Grace. The parenthetical verses, 19 and 20, suggest to us therefore the period of time which we know as the Dispensation of Grace, between the death of Christ and the setting-up of His kingdom with Israel. The drinking of the wine here harmonizes beautifully with the injunction in Num. 6. 20. After the days of separation were completed, the sacrifice offered, and the Wave-offering waved before the Lord (type of Christ in resurrection)—"after that the Nazarite may drink wine."
When the Lord took the Cup in Luke 22. 20, the Cross was still (historically) before Him; but may it not be that in the spirit of His mind He would even then enter into all the precious results of the completed sacrifice. As He spoke the words "for you," He would have before His mind not only the Eleven, but all the redeemed who were to be secured for Himself on the other side of death; His Bride, His own; from whom He would receive all that His heart had been set upon. So He entered by anticipation into the blessed joy of the "after that," and "drank wine."
Now, His sufferings are over. He will never suffer again. He has us for Himself, blessed compensation for all that He passed through. He has a personal joy at the right hand of God as the One who, for the joy that was set before Him, endured the Cross and despised the shame; but He awaits in patience the moment when He will present us faultless before the Throne of Glory with "exceeding joy." Then, indeed, when we are with Him and like Him for ever, the joy of the "after that" will be realized in all its fulness.
Well might we understand then how He could give thanks for bread and wine just before His suffering. He looked on to what was beyond, and it filled His heart with ecstatic joy, and brought Him through - past the betrayal, the denial by Peter, the forsaking by the disciples, and finally the forsaking by God Himself.
"In Thy presence is fulness of joy, and at Thy right hand are pleasures for evermore." Ps. 16. God has ministered that fulness of joy to Him in whom alone the Psalm has its fulfilment. He was once the Man of Sorrows - Isaiah. 53. He is at present the Man of Patience - 2 Thess. 3. 5. He will soon be the Man of Joy - Jude 24.
Let us all, as in our own measure we travel the Nazarite pathway, encourage our hearts with the Lord's own assurance (John 17. 15) of having His own joy ministered to us, whilst we are in the world that hates us and can offer nothing for our spiritual needs or enjoyment. In a particular way, this encouragement may be the portion of those brethren who, in their separation to God, have given up much of what could be termed legitimate interests, in order to devote themselves to ministering to and leading the Flock.
Either the Lord's coming, or death, will end the days of separation to God upon earth. The vow will have been fulfilled, the sacrifice of service will have ended. Then all that has been of Christ in our service for Him will be brought under review. Those of us who maintain a holy separation in true Nazariteship, amidst all our trial in our present service, will enter soon into our "after that," when the Master's word is heard - "Well done thou good and faithful servant. Enter thou into the JOY of thy Lord."
1. 1 Cor. 11.25, A.V. "When he had supped," R.V. "after supper." The A.V. (with J.N.D. and others) supports our contributor's view. The weight of later translators seems in favour of the R.V. Since it is a matter of interpretation, with authorities divided, we do no more than mention in fairness to our readers.