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“Oh, the unspeakable greatness of that exchange,—the Sinless One is condemned, and he who is guilty goes free; the Blessing bears the curse, and the cursed is brought into blessing; the Life dies, and the dead live; the Glory is whelmed in darkness, and he who knew nothing but confusion of face is clothed with glory.” Trailady

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Jesus, the Nazarite

“And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matt. 2:23).

What was Nazareth? How did it get its name? The SDA Bible Commentary says for verse 23. Nazareth: “Some have traced the name Nazareth, or Nazaret to a root meaning ‘to protect,’ or ‘to guard,’ and assign it the meaning ‘watchtower,’ an apt description of its location high in the Galilean hills. Others derive it from a root meaning ‘branch’ or ‘sprout,’ which would make it a descriptive name suggestive of the dense brush-wood in the hills round about. The exact form of the original name, and thus its meaning, are both uncertain….”

Commenting on Nazarene, it says: “Some have suggested that this name was derived from the Heb. nazir, ‘nazirite,’ meaning ‘separated one,’ and that Matthew’s statement originally read, ‘He shall be called a Nazirite’ (see on Num. 6:2). But the derivation is extremely unlikely. Furthermore, Jesus was obviously not a Nazirite (Matt. 11:19; Luke 7:33, 34; cf. Num. 6:2-4). The more likely root is nasar, from which is derived neser, a ‘sprout,’ ‘sprig,’ or ‘shoot.’
Neser is translated ‘Branch’ in Isa. 11:1, a clear Messianic prophecy….”

But, I would contend that the name of Nazareth came from the Jews’ strong desire to live separate from this wicked world. When the Jews returned from Babylonian exile they returned as a different people than when they left Canaan in chains. Bondage remedied their pre-exilic rebellion against the law of Moses. But, for most, its revival did not come from a heart of repentance and contrition of faith and love. Therefore, the best this loveless Christ-less religion could offer was a dread legalism. Islam and Arabs today mimic this state in Israel during the 400 year inter-testamental period.

     By the Babylonish captivity the Israelites were effectually cured of the worship of graven images. During the centuries that followed, they suffered from the oppression of heathen foes, until the conviction became fixed that their prosperity depended upon their obedience to the law of God. But with too many of the people obedience was not prompted by love. The motive was selfish. They rendered outward service to God as the means of attaining to national greatness. They did not become the light of the world, but shut themselves away from the world in order to escape temptation to idolatry. In the instruction given through Moses, God had placed restrictions upon their association with idolaters; but this teaching had been misinterpreted. It was intended to prevent them from conforming to the practices of the heathen. But it was used to build up a wall of separation between Israel and all other nations. The Jews looked upon Jerusalem as their heaven, and they were actually jealous lest the Lord should show mercy to the Gentiles. 
     After the return from Babylon, much attention was given to religious instruction. All over the country, synagogues were erected, where the law was expounded by the priests and scribes. And schools were established, which, together with the arts and sciences, professed to teach the principles of righteousness. But these agencies became corrupted. During the captivity, many of the people had received heathen ideas and customs, and these were brought into their religious service. In many things they conformed to the practices of idolaters. Desire of Ages, p. 28,29.

At this time, and in the spirit of their new determination to obey the God of their fathers, Nazareth was founded. The kibbutz had every good intention; but without good works working out of a heart of love to God, like David had, the higher and the stricter the standard which they sought and enforced, the stronger their angry root of bitterness grew. Like so many kings of Israel, they “did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, yet not like David.” (2Ki. 14:3). Such obedience is a thin veneer holding back a powerful tide of resentment and rebellion, which it works in vain to hide. Before God such religion is worth nothing, but to be cast out and trampled under the feet of men.
Surely, the Jews were feeling the wrath of God which He had forewarned them. “And if ye will not yet for all this hearken unto Me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins.
And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:
And your strength shall be spent in vain: for your land shall not yield her increase, neither shall the trees of the land yield their fruits.
And if ye walk contrary unto Me, and will not hearken unto Me; I will bring seven times more plagues upon you according to your sins.” (Lev. 26:18-21). “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” (Jn. 3:36).

Like the medieval Church as Augustine’s millennial City of God and the Protestant puritanical colony of Massachusetts, the Nazarenes sought to create a city on a hill, whose strict obedience of the Nazarite codes would beam a light all over Israel. They thought that by creating this high model, others would rally to their example. They envisioned a great revival of righteousness throughout Israel, sparing them from further wrath from God. Certainly, this kind of consecration would ensure Jehovah’s acceptance and prosperity of the nation, and praise from their fellow countrymen. But they found no one else interested, no one else to duplicate their regimen and to multiply other Nazarite townships. The pure reforms of Ezra and Nehemiah had collapsed long before, and even in Jerusalem ambition, internal strife, and Greek philosophy reigned uncontested.

Yet the Nazarenes stubbornly retained their resolution; they would go it alone, if need be. They would be the light to lighten God’s people, although year after year anger toward God and resentment toward the other Jews burned hotter and hotter. They were not a city of light, except for the burning of anger in their hearts. This disposition, which went completely contrary to the spirit of the Law’s two great commandments, and which they rehearsed daily, opened the door to Satan’s subtle influence. Over time he carved their characters into his evil image. No glimmer of grace sprung from their unhappy, veiled biting toward one another. This was the town God sent His Son to grow up in—the worst town in the worst condition this world has ever known.

“Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (Gal. 4:3-5).

When Christ stepped down from His exalted status from sharing the throne of God, He not only condescended to be in Adam’s image, but Adam’s fallen state. And worse, He took on the nature of Abraham’s descendents after 2,000 years of degradation and four pagan empires, especially under the iron vise of Satan-controlled Rome. But even worse still, of all the places in Israel to live, the Father put His Son in the most difficult of all—despised and hateful Nazareth. No other place, city or countryside, could God find the most destitute of spirituality or willingness to hear the Spirit of God. And into this corrupt settlement Jesus offered a cheerfulness and blessing that added a new life to many of its residents.

Significant is the statement, “He [Joseph] came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Mat 2:23). Jesus was the true Nazarite. Where the Nazarenes failed, Jesus succeeded. In Him was fulfilled, not only the outward conformity of this genuine law from Moses, but the deepest, most beautiful manifestation of its spirit. Better than this cousin John, who was a Nazarite from birth (Lk. 1:15-17), Jesus would reveal the real meaning of the statute, “When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD…” (Num. 6:2).

The Heir of God would demonstrate the fullest meaning of the laws of Moses. From the very testimony of John the Baptist, came this humble admission. “He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: He that cometh from heaven is above all.” (Jn. 3:31).

Higher than the highest human thought can reach was Jesus’ obedience to His Father’s will.

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