Two Nazarites Walked into a Juice Bar

Two Nazarites walked into a juice bar. (It was a juice bar because, being Nazarites, they don’t drink alcohol.) Both were the long-desired offspring of barren couples, both dedicated entirely to God before they were born, and both destined to die at the hands of oppressors (though the reasons for their death were very different).

They are the only two Nazarites most of us could name, one from the Old Testament and one from the New: Samson and John the Baptist. (You get extra credit if you know that Samuel was also a Nazarite. See 1 Samuel 1:11. I didn’t know it until I read the study notes in my Bible today.) Let’s stand these two side by side and see what we can learn.

Birth: Barrenness, Angels, and Life-Long Dedication

Both men were set apart for
God from before conception.

Manoah’s wife (we don’t get her name) was barren when “the angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, ‘You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son’” (Judges 13:3). Zechariah’s wife, Elizabeth, was also barren when an angel appeared to Zechariah in the temple and said, “Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John” (Luke 1:13). On both occasions, the angel went on to explain that the boy would be set apart for service to the Lord. In Samson’s case, it was explicitly as a Nazarite (Judges 13:5). In John’s case, we infer from the text, which says he would never drink alcohol and he would be “filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born” (Luke 1:15).

Not clear on what a Nazarite is? Check Numbers 6 and/or skip down to the first comment below, where I’ve summarized it.

Life: Wilderness, Honey, and Owning One’s Identity

Both Samson and John the Baptist grew up to be “the outdoorsy type.” After killing a lion, Samson knew how to find the exact spot later (Judges 14:5-9). He was also able to catch 300 wild foxes—no easy task (Judges 15:3-5). John lived in the wilderness when “the word of God came to him” (Luke 3:2), and he stayed there to do his preaching (Matthew 3:1, 5). Both men liked wild honey, but only Samson took his from a dead animal (Judges 14:8-9, Matthew 3:4).

From the beginning, Samson disregarded his Nazarite identity. While he enjoyed supernatural strength from God (despite his bad behavior), he never guarded his vows and frequently touched dead things (e.g. Judges 14:6, 19; 15:14-15; 16:3). Judges doesn’t say, but I bet he drank alcohol at some of those parties, too. Throughout his life, Samson never pointed people to God. John, on the other hand, embraced his Nazarite identity. The gospels aren’t explicit, but one gets the impression that John’s wilderness roamings, his hermit-like tendencies, and even his camel hair clothes (Matthew 3:4), reflected his effort to uphold the vows he never asked to take. John’s whole adult life centered on pointing people to Jesus (John 1:26-34).

Death: Oppressors, Lust, and Leaving a Legacy

Both men died
because of lust.

Lust led to the death of both Samson and John, and both died at the hands of oppressors. But they left very different legacies.

Samson’s desire for Delilah—a woman to whom he wasn’t married—clouded his judgement. After much nagging (Yes, the Scriptures use that word!), he told her the secret of his strength. She shaved his head, and the Philistines captured him, plucking out his eyes before they put him to work in prison (Judges 16:4-21). At a big party, the Philistines put the blind, weak Samson on display. The Bible says, “He performed for them” (Judges 16:25). How humiliating! But Samson saw his opportunity. He prayed,

Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.  –Judges 16:28

Even here, weakened and humiliated, Samson didn’t honor God with his request. Instead, he sought revenge, even though it meant his own death. Samson’s lust led to his death.

Herodias hated John for telling the truth about her marriage to Herod. She talked Herod into arresting John and putting him in prison (Mark 6:17-20). On Herod’s birthday, he threw himself a big party. Salome, Herodias’ daughter, danced for her step-father and his guests. Matthew explains:

On Herod’s birthday the daughter of Herodias danced for the guests and pleased Herod so much that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me here on a platter the head of John the Baptist.” The king was distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he ordered that her request be granted and had John beheaded in the prison.  –Matthew 14:6-10

His judgment was clouded by lust (for his wife’s daughter!!) and probably alcohol, but Herod had to fulfill his oath. John died because of Herod’s lust.

Samson lived a reckless
life solely for himself.
John lived a weird life,
but he focused on Jesus.

Samson lived a reckless, sinful life, taking advantage of God’s gifts and grabbing as much attention as he could for himself. Yes, God used Samson to destroy Israel’s enemies, but He could have been so much more, had he gotten beyond himself—his pain, his resentment, his selfishness—to focus his life on God’s glory. Instead, he remained vengeful and proud, and he died in that vengeance.

John lived an unusual (to our eyes), single-minded life pointing others to Jesus. “Look,” John said, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He died for speaking Truth to power.

09-01 lunch - Ju's drink 1
Random photo of me at an outdoor cafe with a juice drink. It was a long time ago… (c) Carole Sparks

We’re all born into situations for which we never asked. Some are negative: hereditary diseases, legacies of substance abuse, racism. We struggle to rise above those. Others are seemingly positive: preachers’ kids, high educational standards, parents in demanding occupations. We may rebel against those for a time (some do it for a lifetime). Both Samson and John the Baptist received their Nazarite vows before they were born, but they “grew into” those vows very differently. This comparison makes me question how I accept and use my heredity, call it my received legacy (the good and the bad), for God’s glory.

Or maybe we need to talk about what we’ve claimed for ourselves. We say we’ve dedicated our lives to Jesus, but how’s that playing out in our attitudes and actions? Which kind of Nazarite will I be? Which kind of Nazarite will you be?

I imagine Samson walking into the juice bar with lots of tattoos, his seven braids like dreadlocks, his massive bulk filling the room. What kind of drink would he order?

I imagine John walking in right behind him, his long hair and beard studded with twigs, his camel hair vest drawing a few eyes, an intense look on his face. They don’t serve locust protein powder yet (that’s a thing—Google it!), so what would he order?

Two Nazarites walked into a juice bar—one struggling against his identity and one embracing it. What can we learn from their lives? My #dedication is #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

Congratulations on making it all the way through this long post! Use the comment section below to let me know your thoughts on Nazarites in general, these two guys in particular, their comparison, or what you think they’d order in the juice bar. I love hearing from my readers!

For a great summary of these lives (plus Samuel) and an interesting comparison of them to Jesus, check out Vanessa’s recent post.

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What if Martha Ordered Pizza?

Martha, Martha, Martha. Oh wait, wrong reference–one you’d have to be of a certain age to understand: the Brady Bunch age. Martha Brady could order delivery pizza. Martha in the New Testament could not.

In my post for Pastor’s Wives this month, I share my heart about Martha, the much-maligned sibling of Mary and Lazarus. Put yourself in her shoes for a minute and ask yourself what you would have done when the Messiah walked into your living room (Luke 10:38-42). Continue reading

[Hashtag] This Is My Life

Julia sipped from the cup of tea in her left hand while she swiped and double-stamped Instagram posts on the phone in her right hand. She didn’t even look at the images, just “liked” them because her friends posted them. Friends with interesting lives and exotic vacations. Friends with fantastic husbands. An Old Navy advertisement: she paused, scrolled back a little, and tapped the now-red heart to un-like that one. She kept scrolling. Friends who always found the coolest coffee shops. Friends with beautiful tables already set for Easter dinner which was still four—no wait, two—days away.

Julia propped her feet on the basket of laundry in the floor but immediately lifted them off again. At least take off your shoes first, Julia! Those clothes are clean. She slipped her feet out of six-year-old tennis shoes and stretched them atop the laundry basket. Both the basket and her feet blurred until she blinked her eyes like windshield wipers to clear the tears.

What would happen if she posted a photo of the full laundry basket? Continue reading

Sabbath Stealers and Strengtheners

Sometimes my Type-A, list-making tendencies get in the way of my Sabbath observance. My to-do list is a Sabbath-stealer.

Going for a walk on a sunny, Sunday afternoon is, for me, a Sabbath-strengthener.

My guest post for Jeanne Doyon this week reviews some key points from our Sabbathing series and helps us all sort the Sabbath-strengtheners from the Sabbath-stealers. (They may be different for each of us.) Click on over, especially if you love a completed to-do list! Then leave me a comment there or come back here to share.

I love a good to-do list, but when I studied #Sabbath, God didn’t give me a list. Guess it’s #NotAboutMe…or my #ToDoList. (click to tweet)

My Preponderance of Passion Week Posts

Easter seems early this year, and it’s on April Fools Day, which hasn’t happened since 1956. I Googled it. It shouldn’t take me by surprise since we’ve been talking about it since Valentine’s Day (start of Lent), and yet almost every year, somehow it does.

04-08 kiddos all done
I may have taken a few too many pictures this particular year. They mutinied. (c) Carole Sparks

I want the holiday to mean something more than plastic eggs and baked ham, more than crowded church pews and freezing toes in sandals for which it’s not quite warm enough (but you just have to wear them anyway because they look so cute with your new outfit).

Sometimes it helps me to go back through old blog posts (just like I go through old photos, finding ones like this) and remind myself of things God has already shown me from His Word, like a journal review but much more public. As Passion Week approaches, I’ve assembled a long list of posts–thirteen, actually–about various occurrences during the week. I offer them to you here in more-or-less chronological order. Use them however you like. I’m also posting one link per day on Facebook and Twitter (at 7:30am each day), so you can have a daily suggestion if you would prefer.

Palm Sunday

The Day The King Cried Why did Jesus cry as He looked over Jerusalem on the day He entered like a prince?

Tuesday (no special name for this day)

All You Need is Love…and More Love In this recent post, we sit down with the religious leaders in the temple as they challenged Jesus with difficult questions…and one question that was different.

Maundy Thursday, in the Upper Room

footwashing 1
a modern-day foot-washing several years ago (c) Carole Sparks

Servant Leadership: Focusing on the Foot Have you given much thought to Jesus’ view as he sat before those 24 feet?

Who’s Humble Now? Jesus and Peter share an interesting dialogue when Jesus stoops down to wash Peter’s feet.

The Error in the ‘I’ Peter’s declaration of commitment may have been noble, but it was flawed in one very important way.

Maundy Thursday, in the Garden of Gethsemane

Help! I don’t even know how to pray Here’s an easy-to-remember four-step prayer method based on Jesus’ one-verse prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane. You don’t need alot of words.

04-14 Concord Park (48)
Dogwoods have long been a symbol of Jesus’ death and resurrection. (c) Carole Sparks

The Spiral Slide of Temptation Heavy eyelids, quiet garden, late at night: Peter, James, and John just couldn’t help but fall asleep. In this post, learn what that’s got to do with playground slides.

Two Questions about Your Calling Jesus’ words and actions in the Garden and on the cross reveal the two things that were most important to Him.

Flight, Fight, or Follow For Christ-followers, there’s another option beyond the instinctual fight or flight.

Good Friday

Rethinking Peter’s Denial (I’m assuming this was very, very early Friday morning.) Trace Peter’s descent into denying Jesus. We may have judged him too harshly.

What’s So Good about ‘Good Friday’? My mild rant from last year at this time. I haven’t changed my mind.

Easter Sunday

Easter 2017 memeFaith Has No Formula When we take a look at that first Easter morning, we find that people reach faith in different ways and at different paces.

When in Doubt We call him ‘Doubting Thomas,’ but the moniker isn’t justified.

Take your pick of My Perponderance of #PassionWeek Posts–all scenes from the Gospels. Because #Easter is #NotAboutMe, via @Carole_Sparks. (click to tweet)

What Gospel scene from Passion Week has been significant to you in the past? What strikes you here? I’d love to hear your feedback in the comments below or on the individual posts!

Easter greeting

One Man’s Very Real Sabbath Restoration

When Jesus “riled up” the Pharisees by having His disciples pick grain on the Sabbath, He demonstrated to them—and us—that the Sabbath was created to serve us, not us to serve the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28). He modeled the fact that we can and should take care of our own needs on rest days. In the second of Matthew’s examples, we’ll see that we can also meet the needs of others. Continue reading