This morning I encountered two provisions for someone to declare they were wholly the LORD’s. Two approaches that evidenced a willingness to pay a price that their all-out allegiance to the God of creation might be known. One was evidenced to everyone by the head, the other known only to Him who sees in secret by the heart.
Provision was made in the Old Testament for a man or a woman to “separate himself to the LORD” (Numbers 6:1-21). The NKJV says “to consecrate,” the NASB, “to dedicate” and, the NLT speaks of it as “setting themselves apart in a special way.” The original word has the idea of doing something extraordinary, or hard, or difficult. The idea of doing something wondrous. Thus of taking “above and beyond” measures in order to evidence someone’s dedication to the LORD.
The Nazirite vow involved complete abstinence from anything sourced on the grapevine, whether it be for drinking or eating. In addition to not touching the vine, they would allow nothing to touch their head. As long as the person was in this separated state, the locks of their head would be allowed to grow long. They were not to have any contact with death. Even accidentally being beside someone who suddenly died would defile the separation and would require sacrifice and cleansing to reestablish their consecrated state.
What’s more, the vow required that, at the end of the period of separation, the vow be consummated with a number of costly sacrifices. Lambs and rams for a sin offering, a burnt offering, and a peace offering. Loaves of unleavened bread offered as a grain offering along with a drink offering. Their grown out hair shorn, and the locks put on the fire of sacrifice.
And while I don’t necessarily get all the meaning and symbolism associated with this provision for separation, I get that it demanded a lot of effort and a lot of self-determination. And I get that people would know those who undertook the Nazirite vow by their long hair. Their head bearing evidence of their separation to God.
And then I read this in Romans . . .
For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
(Romans 2:28-29 ESV)
In this provision for separation, it is the heart which bears evidence of a consecrating work.
Circumcision was another ancient rite indicating the desire of people to be separated to God. Another physical act to try and convey a spiritual reality. But, says Paul, the true setting apart of a man or a woman to God is a spiritual dynamic, performed by the Spirit of God, which manifests itself in the physical reality of transformed lives.
It is the circumcising of the heart by the Spirit of God which provides the power for living lives consecrated to the Author or Life. It is the cutting away of the old nature through rebirth that allows true Nazirite dedication. Not by the goodness of any man, but by the grace of the One True God . . . not by human effort, but by divine intervention . . . not because of what we do or abstain from doing, but all because of what Jesus has done on the cross . . . not because of the power of self-discipline, but all because of the power of an indestructible life manifested through Christ’s resurrection from the dead . . . not because of self denial, but because of the abundant out-pouring of God’s grace.
That is separation marked by the heart. That is consecration enacted from the inside out.
Not that we might boast . . . but that He might be glorified.