God has given Israel the Law, but he has another requirement beyond the law.  God wants a few good men to go above and beyond the call of duty.  These may be volunteers, or appointees by parental devotion as with Samson.  They can turn away from the responsibility, but they will suffer some loss.  Nazarites are a special separated group. 

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.  Numbers 6:1-8

You may remember some of these requirements from the story of Samson.  But remember all of these, as each is required of the Nazarites.  They must not cut their hair or contact grapes, wine, or even a vineyard.  They can not approach a body, even of a family member for a funeral.  There is a provision if he should slip though.  It requires a ritual from the priest.

And if any man die very suddenly by him, and he hath defiled the head of his consecration; then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day shall he shave it.  And on the eighth day 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.  Numbers 6:9-12

So even after atonement some loss is experienced from the Nazarite’s days of honor.  When his days of separation are completed he will have a cause to shave his hair:

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.  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 6:13-21

Some Nazarites were known for their faithfulness, and others for their failures.  Samson is our most detailed example.  Remember the three rules when you read his story.  See if you can spot where he first starts going wrong.  How many more errors do you find?  Yet, like David, he discovers mercy even after his failures.  These then are the Nazarites we meet in the bible:

  1. Judges 13:7  (Samson)
    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.
  2. Judges 16:17
    That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.
  3. 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:
  4. Amos 2:11
    And I raised up of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazarites. Is it not even thus, O ye children of Israel? saith the LORD.
  5. Amos 2:12
    But ye gave the Nazarites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying, Prophesy not.

Does God still have a place for Nazarites?  Some Christians are strongly led to follow a narrow path of holiness.  Perhaps we think of them as “holier than thou”, but do they have their calling from God?  Perhaps we are wrong to tempt them by offering alcoholic wine in communion services.  This may be especially true if this is done without warning.  But then why even tempt our reformed alcoholics?

While there are times when we must judge against sin that destroys the church, we may be in danger for judging someone to be overly religious.  If they do not force this on others, they may well be honoring a valid vow.  Their desire to offer a sacrifice to God is not harmful.  Our own judgment may be more harmful to the body than their vows.  We certainly err when we forbid prophesy in church. 

 Therefore the flight shall perish from the swift, and the strong shall not strengthen his force, neither shall the mighty deliver himself:  Neither shall he stand that handleth the bow; and he that is swift of foot shall not deliver himself: neither shall he that rideth the horse deliver himself.  And he that is courageous among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day, saith the LORD.  Amos 2:14-16

I am concerned to see more churches with doctrinal statements that claim the gifts of Pentecost, while forbidding the manifestation in services.  The Azusa Street revival may be fading in our generation.  Perhaps we need a return to the Nazarites in the modern church.