The Naziritic vow fascinates me. My understanding of it is that it’s like a super intense, public fast. What I’ve read says it was undertaken by people suffering from prolonged illness, by those seeking a desired event or outcome, such as a baby, or as an act of gratitude in recognition for all that God had done.
It wasn’t just abstinence from wine. It was everything to do with the grape. So no raisins, no vinegar, nothing from the grapevine. No association with death; they couldn’t attend to even their closest family members should they die during the duration of the vow, or they had to start over. And they couldn’t cut their hair, the most obvious and public sign of the vow.
It was also very expensive. The sacrifices made at the conclusion were so expensive, the wealthy would occasionally sponsor those who could not afford it but had completed the vow.
This is beautiful to me. The amount of dedication, everything involved. Sometimes I wonder, are the sacrifices at the conclusion the only reason this is no longer practiced? I looked into it a bit, and the Jewish position is that without a temple, someone undertaking the vow would necessarily be doing so for life. I’m far more curious about the Christian take on it, though.
I found a few different ideas, very few positions on a modern practice, though. Most resources were just describing what it was. One suggested that Paul and a few others in the New Testament, aside from John the Baptist, may have undertaken it, which I had never heard before. I look forward to possibly considering that when I get to those passages.
Mostly, though, it seems to just be a thing that was Biblical and is now historical. Does it need to be? We still see the value of fasting. We don’t need sin offerings anymore, but we are still capable of making significant donations to the church. I don’t know. I just feel we may have lost a deeply beautiful, personal, intense observance.
Personally, I struggle with the idea of not cutting my hair. That would be a real sacrifice for me, because the weight of my hair is something I find very uncomfortable. This is the first time I’ve considered a modern take on the Nazirite vow, and I have to say, just considering it does affect how I approach God, how I pray. And admitting that I would struggle with it, admitting that I’m not ready for something like that… well, that’s pretty intense itself.
I’m not sure we should enter Naziritic vows. I do think it serves us well to seriously contemplate that level of devotion, what it would look like for us, what it would mean, how it would change us. How deeply does your devotion go? Could you give up just a few freedoms for 30 days? A few years? How set apart are you willing to be?