“All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, from seed to skin.” Numbers 6:4
Under the old covenant, a person could take the vow of a Nazarite and separate themselves to God for a period of time. There were some people that were Nazirites from birth. Samson and John the Baptist are examples. But it seems for the most part to be a vow that was taken voluntarily.
Numbers 6:2 gives us the purpose for this vow – “to separate themselves unto the Lord.”
Separation – this is a word that fascinates me. My attention has been intensely riveted on this concept for many months. It is clearly a Biblical concept, demonstrated in the Old Testament by God choosing Israel as His own people from among the nations and then in the New Testament by Christ calling His own people from out of the world. In neither case was there a physical separation from the world, but there was a clear expectation that there would be such a profound difference in the manner of life, that a distinction would be noticeable.
This separation of belonging to Christ is to be radical and all encompassing. Just as the Nazarite ate no part of the grape, from seed to skin, we are to be radically separated from the world. Our interests, our priorities, our conversations – these should not follow the pattern of those who do not name Christ. From the innermost hidden recesses of our hearts to the outer person we present to the world, we should be different. From seed to skin.
But God forbid that we should merely take on the external forms of religion. How does God receive any glory from one who separates himself only to becomes a Pharisee, glorying in his separation, too holy to associate with “lesser beings”?? We do not turn away from the pleasures this world has to offer to follow a system of rules. But we have discovered what Thomas Chalmers calls “the expulsive power of a new affection”. We are not only separated from, but we are separated to. Separated to this Christ, this Saviour who has so mercifully redeemed us. All else pales in comparison and the world’s entertainments and amusements seem dull and lifeless after a glimpse of the glory of the eternal Lord.
I will close with these words from Mr. Chalmers
The love of the world cannot be expunged by a mere demonstration of the world’s worthlessness. But may it not be supplanted by the love of that which is more worthy than itself? The heart cannot be prevailed upon to part with the world, by a simple act of resignation. But may not the heart be prevailed upon to admit into its preference another, who shall subordinate the world, and bring it down from its wonted ascendancy? If the throne which is placed there must have an occupier, and the tyrant that now reigns has occupied it wrongfully, he may not leave a bosom which would rather detain him than be left in desolation. But may he not give way to the lawful sovereign, appearing with every charm that can secure His willing admittance, and taking unto himself His great power to subdue the moral nature of man, and to reign over it? In a word, if the way to disengage the heart from the positive love of one great and ascendant object, is to fasten it in positive love to another, then it is not by exposing the worthlessness of the former, but by addressing to the mental eye the worth and excellence of the latter, that all old things are to be done away and all things are to become new.
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I have been giving a great deal of thought to the idea of ‘separation’ as well. I agree wholeheartedly with you that we are called to think, speak and act differently–to be a nation separated unto God. The challenge for me is being IN the world but not OF the world. Living and working among people who are not Christians and seeking, through His grace, to live a life so infused with His Spirit that others will be drawn to Him. I want to be that light that shines in darkness, but not to succumb to the darkness. This was a wonderful post, dear Eirene. Thank you so much for writing this! Have a blessed day!
‘All else pales in comparison and the world’s entertainments and amusements seem dull and lifeless after a glimpse of the glory of the eternal Lord.’
I am reminded of a statement I read a long time ago. Can’t remember its source. Something to the effect that we too often settle for the shell and miss the kernel.