Discovery: Nazirite Vow

I must have been under a rock during the day I was taught about the Nazirite vow in Sunday school.  Maybe I was day dreaming; maybe I was absent that day; maybe it wasn’t even a subject taught at my church.  A devotion I read several weeks ago mentioned the Nazirite vow and I’ve had to really dig in so that I could understand this concept.

Numbers 6:1-8 describes the vow as a way to make a special Covent with the Lord.   It was a strictly voluntary, special in its intent, and indicates a separation from a temptation.  It seems that the vow was used most frequently during a time of difficulty or extremely hard trials and temptation…at that time, the person could take this vow as a way to grow closer to the Lord. 

Interestingly enough, Numbers 6:3 commands that anyone taking the Nazirite vow should abstain from drinking alcohol.  More specifically, it called for an abstinent from wine and all products made from the grape plant. This would have included grape seed oil or cream of tartar.  

Another aspect of the vow included continually growing one’s hair.  If one temporarily forgot the vow, a simple look in the mirror would remind them.  It became not only a reminder of the vow, but a testimony opportunity when asked why they were growing out their hair.  

This led me to another question…are there any examples in the New Testament that speak to the Nazirite vow?  Guess what? Of course, there is! 

In Acts 18:18 (NASB), Luke wrote “Now Paul, when he had remained many days longer, took leave of the brothers and sisters and sailed away to Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him.  Paul first had his hair cut at Cenchrea, for he was keeping a vow.” 

Why was Paul exhibiting behavior associated with Nazirite vow?  He was traveling from Corinth towards Syria when he cut his hair.  His recent experiences in Corinth and in Athens, where he had apathetic encounters with non-believers, very few conversions to Christianity, a lack of new church establishment, and cult-like behaviors of worshiping Aphrodite.  His decision to take a special vow with an outward showing of cutting his hair was a way to mark the growth of his hair from the moment of the vow, as well as a means to protect himself and draw closer to the Lord during his trials.  

Most Americans would be able to tell you about the unique attributes of the wedding vows.  Heck, most would even acknowledge it’s a convent with/before God.  All would recognize that the wedding ring is the outward sign of the wedding vow having been taken.  We know about the wedding vows because we’ve attended ceremonies, watched them on tv, or even taken part in our own commitment with this vow.  We are comfortable with the concept of the wedding vow.

Why am I not as comfortable with this vow mentioned in Numbers and Acts?  How did I know about this very personal “Nazirite vow?”  In a moment of self-doubt, I felt like a horrible Christian that wasn’t studying her Bible enough.  And in the next instance, I was reminded by the Holy Spirit that I just need to keep studying…keep digging…keep praying.

What Biblical revelations have you had this week? Come to the porch and share!!

~Emily

Numbers 6:1-8 (NIV)

The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins. As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins. During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long. Throughout the period of their dedication to the Lord, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body. Even if their own father or mother or brother or sister dies, they must not make themselves ceremonially unclean on account of them, because the symbol of their dedication to God is on their head. Throughout the period of their dedication, they are consecrated to the Lord.’”

Bystander to the Hurting

I recently read a devotion that began with the question, “Which is harder; going through a painful ordeal yourself or watching someone close to you face a trial?”

I can think of dozens of examples where I would gladly go through a trial in order to save someone else the pain.  But that wasn’t the actual question….is it harder to do it yourself or watch someone else?  For me, it’s much harder to watch someone else and to know how best to support that individual.  

In Acts 16:16-24, we see that the faithful Paul, Silas, Luke and Timothy had gone to preach the Gospel in Philippi.  It was a time of turmoil with great danger to those proclaiming Jesus as the Messiah.  “and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, ‘These men, Jews as they are, are causing our city trouble, and they are proclaiming customs that are not lawful for us to accept or to practice, since we are Romans.’” Acts 16:20-21 (NASB)

Only two of them were arrested and flogged; Paul and Silas.

Why only two and not four?  

During a crazy time in Philippi, as a Roman colony, there was great prejudice and anti-Semitism.  While Christianity was not completely understood, Luke and Timothy were likely seen as Gentile and subsequently not arrested.  Whereas Paul and Silas were of Jewish heritage and were arrested out of hatred for that Jewish background.  

It is not easy to have the role as bystander to the hurting.  I’m confident that Luke and Timothy struggled with watching their friends punished.  They probably had turmoil over the unfairness of the situation.  Likewise, I know that I struggle watching those that I care about struggle and I certainly have trouble understanding when things seem unfair.  

God understands that it’s hurtful to observe the hurting.  Often it seems unbearable to bear witness to someone else’s pain.  He understands it so well, in part because He watches us hurting.  If He didn’t understand, He wouldn’t have given us so many examples within scripture to learn from. 

It’s not easy to watch someone else’s hurt.  Luke and Timothy had to endure that pain, as have I.  I’m sure you have as well.

In the next week, I’m praying for those around the porch who are hurting. And I’m specifically praying for those of you who are watching someone else’s hurting.  Rest assured you aren’t alone and that God understands.

~Emily

A Sinner’s Heart

I was pregnant with my second child when I was removed from the nursery schedule at the church I attended.  At approximately four months along, my belly was growing at a far faster rate than my first pregnancy.  Though I wasn’t tiring out easily, the nursery director wanted to ease any discomfort I might encounter while taking care of babies and toddlers as their parents were listening to the preaching down the hall.  While I felt a twinge of guilt at the extra duty the volunteers would inevitably encounter in an underserved area, it was a welcome reprieve from the Sunday morning routine.

Four weeks into my mini nursery-vacation, however, I was splashed with an ice-cold bucket of judgment that left me wondering if I would ever be worthy of my Jesus.  A friend confided that the respite I had been given was less about discomfort for me and more about the discomfort of our small church.  “How on earth would it look to have an unwed pregnant woman taking care of the babies in our nursery?” was the true reason I was asked to step aside in the role of nursery volunteer.

Yes…I was pregnant.  And unmarried.  I began having a relationship with the man who would eventually become my husband, and due to sinful nature, I became pregnant prior to any kind of wedding day.  And just like that, the feeling of being worthless and unusable for God’s glory came rushing into my life.  “What kind of example could I be for women now?” I thought.  I was no longer able to fulfill God’s calling in my life to minister to women.  I had ruined my ability to do so.

I cried for months over the torturous shame I felt.  I begged God to forgive me over and over again.  I mourned for the loss of my servant ability in the church, and I felt so far from Him.  Yet little by little, I was finally able to drown out the lies of the devil long enough to hear these two verses my Savior was whispering to me.

He shall again have compassion on us; He will subdue and tread underfoot our wickedness [destroying sin’s power]. Yes, You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19 (AMP)

Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; Acts 3:19 (NASB)

Those verses are beautiful, aren’t they?  I had forgotten that when true repentance happens, my sins are as far as the east is to the west (Ps. 103:12).  They are thrown into the depths of the sea, having been given whole restoration in Jesus Christ.

That sin is not one of my finer moments in life, and I fully recognize that what I did was willful disobedience.  But just as God commanded us to do, I repented and asked for His forgiveness.  He granted me the grace I so desperately desired.  There was no need to continue to live in the guilt and shame anymore.  God could (and WOULD) still use me for His honor and glory.

Iron Porch is proof of this.  God took this broken mess of a woman, full of mistakes and sinful nature, and molded her into a willing vessel for Jesus.  His grace and love is just that sufficient.  Any day that I doubt my calling, Jesus reminds me that the kind of example I’m supposed to be is the kind that shows our God is bigger than any sin or mistake I’ve ever made.  And I’ll take that calling any day of the week.

~Erin