Numbers 6 Bible Commentary

John Darby’s Synopsis

(Read all of Numbers 6)
The Nazarite and His separation to God

The Nazarite presents to us another character connected with the walk of the Spirit down here—special separation and devotedness to God. They separated themselves unto Him. Christ is the perfect example of this. The church ought to tread in His footsteps. Cases of special call to devote oneself to the Lord come under this class.

Marks of the Nazarite

There were three things connected with this separation The Nazarite was to drink no wine; he was to let his hair grow; and he was not to make himself unclean for the dead. Wine designated the joy derived from the pleasures of society, which rejoice the heart of those who give themselves up to them. "Wine which cheereth God and man." From the moment Christ began His public service, He was separated from all that nature had its just part in. Invited with His disciples to a marriage, He says to His mother, "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" But in fact even His disciples knew Him "after the flesh." [1] His intercourse with them was, as to the capacity of their fellowship in it, on the ground of the presenting of the kingdom then as come in the flesh.

The Nazarite character of Christ

As to this too, however, He must take His separate and Nazarite character, and, true as His affection was for His disciples, even in that human sphere where He, who saw through weakness, delighted in the true "excellent of the earth," the poor of the flock that waited on Him, yet He must be separated from this joy too. "I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine," says the Lord, "until that day when I shall drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom." He separated Himself indeed from that intercourse which, miserable as even His own were, His love had led Him to desire to have with them. He had said, "With desire I have desired to eat this passover with you." These natural affections were already denied, because God's consecration was upon His head. "What have I to do with thee?" had already expressed this to His mother. It is not that He had not the most tender affection for her; but now He was separated from everything to be God's. [2]

Renunciation of self in consecration to God

Secondly, the Nazarite let his hair grow: it was neglecting self in yielding oneself to the will of God, renouncing one's dignity and rights as a man; for a long head of hair marked, on the one hand, in a man, the neglect of his person; and on the other, subjection—power on the head. [3] It was consecration to God in the giving up of the joy, the dignity, and the natural rights of man (man considered as the centre of the affections proper to him), and that to be wholly God's.

Christ the complete Nazarite

Man has his place as the representative and the glory of God, and in that place he is encompassed by a multitude of affections, joys, and rights, which have their centre in himself. He can give up this place for the special service of God, seeing that sin has entered into all these things, which, far from being bad in themselves, are, on the contrary, good in their proper place. This Christ has done. Having made Himself a Nazarite, He did not take His place as a man, His rights as Son of man; but, for the glory of God, He made Himself completely subject; He submitted to all that that glory required. He identified Himself with the godly remnant of the sinful people whom He had loved, and became a stranger to His mother's children. He did nothing that was not prescribed to Him; He lived by the word that proceeded out of the mouth of God; He separated Himself from all the links of human life to devote Himself to the glory, the service of God, and obedience to Him. If He found, in the love of His own, any consolation, which can only have been very small and poor, He had to give up this also, and with regard to this, as to everything else, become, in His death, a complete Nazarite, alone in His separation to God. The church should have followed Him; but alas! she has taken strong-drink; she has eaten and drunk with the drunken, and has begun to smite the servants of the house.

The believer may be called to deny himself, for the precious service of his Saviour, in things which are not bad in themselves. But this act is accomplished inwardly. "Her Nazarites were purer than snow," says Jeremiah. Devotedness is inward. It is proper to consider here to what those who fail in this separation expose themselves.

Failure and loss, seen in Samson's extreme and solemn case

If we have devoted ourselves to the Lord in a way which is pleasing in His sight, enjoyment follows this devotedness in the measure of the testimony which is rendered to Him. God is with His servant according to His call; but it is a secret between His servant and Himself, though the external effects are seen by others. If we have failed in this separateness, we must begin all afresh: divine influence and power in the work are lost. There may be nothing amiss in other respects; we may arise to shake ourselves, like Samson, but we have lost our strength without being aware of it. God is no longer with us. The case of Samson is an extreme but a solemn one; for it may be that our strength has placed us in the presence of evil, and then, if God be with us, His magnificent glory manifests itself; but if not with us, the enemy has the sad opportunity of glorying over one long known as a champion for God, and apparently over God Himself. In this second alternative the inward secret, the true strength of separation unto God, was lost.

Let us beware, in ordinary things, of the first step that would separate us from inward holiness, and that separation of heart to Him which gives us His secret, light from above on all that is around; for the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him. If grace has called us to separation for an extraordinary service in anything whatever, let us keep ourselves from any lack of obedience to the word of the cross, whereby we are crucified to the world, sin, and the law. [4]

Beginning again

Generally, the unfaithful Nazarite returns to his separation, through the sacrifice of Christ; he is consecrated anew to God. [5] But anything which brings us into contact with sin produces its effect on our Nazariteship. We lose the power attached to the communion of God, and the special presence of the Spirit with us, whatever be the measure in which this power was granted to us. Alas! the time which has preceded is lost: we must begin again. It is great grace that all privilege of serving God is not taken from us; but though it be not, we suffer something from the effects of our unfaithfulness, when the power is restored unto us. A blind Samson was obliged to kill himself in killing his enemies. It belongs to us, in any case, immediately to acknowledge our defilement, to go to Christ, and not pretend to be Nazarites externally, when we are not so in the eyes of God. Nothing is more perilous than the service of God, when the conscience is not pure: however, let us ever recollect that we are under grace.

Nazariteship not for ever

This separateness and this self-denial are not for ever. Even Christ will not always be a Nazarite. He will know fulness of joy with God and His own. He will say, "Eat, O friends; drink, yea, drink abundantly, O beloved." It is by the alone power of the Spirit that we are separated from that which is evil, and often even from that which is natural, to be vessels of service and enjoyment, a testimony to God in the midst of evil. The time will come when, evil being removed, we shall be able to gratify our nature, but it will be a new one; a time in which the operation of the power of the Holy Spirit will only produce joy, and when everything surrounding us will be in communion with us. Then Christ will take a place which it was impossible for Him to take heretofore, although He was ever the perfect sociable man, perfectly accessible to sinners because He was thoroughly separated from them, and set apart for God inwardly, and had denied Himself, [6] to live only by the words of God.

Such is the life of God here below. That which He has created cannot be bad. God forbid we should think it! Such an assertion is a sure sign of the latter days. Christ could think about His mother with tenderness, when the work of His soul on the cross was done. But the Holy Spirit comes in as a power foreign to this life, and takes up man to make him go through it according to that power; so that, the more man is a stranger to it himself, the more he is able to shew, and does indeed shew, sympathy to those who are there according to God. Anything else is only monkish. If we are truly free within, we can sympathise with that which is outside; if we are not so, we shall become monks, with the vain hope of obtaining this freedom.

The Nazarite vow fulfilled

Lastly, when the Nazarite vow was fulfilled, all the sacrifices were offered, and the hair of the head of his separation was burnt in the fire which consumed the sacrifice of the peace-offerings: a type of the full communion which is the result of the sacrifice of Christ. When, in the time fixed by God, the sacrifice of Christ shall have obtained, in its effects, its full and entire efficacy, the energising power of separation will merge in the communion which will be the happy consequence of this sacrifice. We are thankful to know that the power of the Holy Spirit, now spent, in a great measure in checking the lusts of the flesh, will then be wholly a power of joy in God, and of communion with all that will surround us.

The ways of God when the Nazarite vow is ended

Let us now speak of the ways of God when the Nazarite vow is ended. Then the result of the work of Christ will be produced; all the varied efficacy of His sacrifice will be acknowledged; His people will enter into the communion of His joy; wine will be taken with joy. Jesus Himself awaits that time. I believe this specially applies to His people here below, to the Jewish remnant in the latter days. Their partaking of the Holy Ghost will be joy and delight. Something similar, however, awaits us, but in a still better way. So we have this joy by anticipation up to a certain point; for the Holy Spirit produces these two things, the joy of communion, and separation in loneliness for the service of God. It is a little what the apostle means in these words to the Corinthians, "Death worketh in us, but life in you." However, it can always be said of all Christians, "I would to God ye did reign, that we also might reign with you."

God ends by putting His blessing and His Name on the people

After having placed the people around Himself—having counted them by name, having arranged the service, cleansed the camp (which is distinct from the cleansing of defiled individuals, a subject which belongs to Leviticus), and shewn the true position of the devoted servant, a position which Israel might have taken, and which Christ, true servant, set apart for God, has taken—God ends by putting His blessing and His name on the people. The blessing places them under the keeping, the grace, and in the peace of Jehovah; and effectively Jehovah first blessed them in a general way; then, in making His face to shine upon them, He caused them to enjoy His grace; lastly, in lifting up His countenance upon them, He gave them the assurance of peace.

[1] It is a striking fact that in no one case did His disciples understand what He said when He expressed what was in His heart. This was utter isolation.

[2] The difference of these two phases of the Nazarite character of Christ in His life and in His death is not so great as might appear. He was ever separated from human joy as from all evil—there was no honey as there was no leaven, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief as passing in holy love through a world of sinners—His love driven back, and thus Himself straitened and pent up: the atonement opened its sluices. He is now, in fact, outwardly made separate from sinners. The early rejection of His mother's claim in John has its natural place in John, because in that Gospel He stands from the beginning apart in own Person, and the Jews are a rejected people.

[3] 1 Corinthians 11:10.

[4] These are the three things to which the cross is applied in the Epistle to the Galatians.

[5] It is not here his own conscience repurified as to guilt. That is never done. All through here it is not redemption, but the walk of a professing people who have to say to God.

[6] Not of course that there was any evil nature in Him to deny as there is in us, but in will and nature where there was no evil; as "Woman, what have I to do with thee?" which I take only as an example. On the cross when all was finished, He carefully owned her. Honey could not be in a sacrifice any more than leaven.