Nazareth? Can anything good come from Nazareth? Nathanael soon learned the answer to that question in the first chapter of John's gospel. Yes, good things come from Nazareth.
Today, most people don't get the connection between deep consecration to the Lord and true spirituality. We have spent decades dismantling the separation of certain behaviors and being Christ-followers. We reason and rationalize... "Certainly I can still do __X__ and be a Christian." We have fought to have both Jesus, and every form of worldliness, and forgot to search the scriptures to see if deep, complete consecration to the LORD, the kind of consecration that even drives us to give up things we have rights to, has a point. I can assure you, it has a point.
The first place to look for the root problem of the breakdown is to the Sabbath. Consecration of time gives sacred space for consecration of self. Remove the consecration of time and we, who are like sheep and prone to wander, have less and less motivation to consecrate ourselves. After all, we've gone to great lengths to assure ourselves that any kind of self-denial is pointless to our faith ... that asceticism is equivalent to nonsense... so we just do what we want, when we want, how we want, and say we believe but don't display our belief.
In Israel, every seventh year was a Sabbath year from vine dressing. Imagine walking through the country side of Israel and seeing undressed vineyard and undressed vineyard. What is the point? It's a Sabbath year and the sacred space of time meant that you left the vines to the LORD who created them and gave yourself to the LORD who created you. Complete ... total ... entire consecration... Holy to the Lord. An undressed vine is set apart to the LORD.
Which brings us back to where we started with the idea of Nazareth. The name itself is derived from the Hebrew "NAZAR" which is to be holy and set apart to the LORD. Nathanael's question was an oxymoron; a contradiction of terms. Yet, we are like Nathanael. We ask, "Can anything good come from NAZAR? ... Can anything good come from being an undressed vine in a Sabbath year? The answer is YES.
During Lent people give up a "something." You know, sweets, Facebook, meat on Fridays, etc. But who's ready to give up everything?
In Numbers 6, the Nazarite vow was to be taken to seriously and completely that they were not to even be in the presence of a dead person. That included immediate family. Compare these two verses... the first from Numbers 6 on the Nazarite vow, and the second from Jesus of Nazareth...
Numbers 6:6-8 NKJV All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body. (7) He shall not make himself unclean even for his father or his mother, for his brother or his sister, when they die, because his separation to God is on his head. (8) All the days of his separation he shall be holy to the LORD.
Luke 9:59-60 NKJV Then He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." (60) Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."
I still think Jesus is looking for people who are undressed vines in Sabbath years for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
Luke 9:23-25 NKJV Then He said to them all, "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. (24) For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. (25) For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.