The 1st Sunday in Advent November 27, 2022
Judges 13:3-5; 1 Samuel 12:22-24; Luke 1:13-17
62, 66, 91, 74
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Audio of the sermon is available at: https://anchor.fm/ministrybymail
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ +
Prayer of the Day: Mercifully hear, O Lord, the prayers of Your people, that, as we rejoice in the advent of Your only-begotten Son according to the flesh, so when He comes a second time in His majesty, we may receive the reward of eternal life; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed who have come to worship the newborn King,
Today we want to talk about an Old Testament term that you may or may not be familiar with—a Nazirite. The Hebrew word “NA-ZIR” comes from the verb “NA-ZAR” and means “to dedicate or separate.” A Nazirite is someone who made a special vow or promise to God. They showed that they had separated themselves for this vow in a couple of ways. During the time of their vow they were to drink no wine or intoxicating drink. They were not even to approach anything that would give a hint of intoxication—no grapes, no raisins, no grape juice. During this time of their vow to the LORD, they were to “NA-ZAR” or separate themselves from dead bodies—even if it was their own family members. And then there was the great outward sign that they were under a NA-ZIR vow—they would not cut their hair during the time of their vow.
At the end of the period of their Nazirite vow, they would bring prescribed offerings to the Temple. At the Temple they would shave the hair they had been growing during the time of their vow and burn it along with their sacrifices.
All these acts—separating themselves from alcohol and even the fruit of the vine, separating themselves from dead bodies, and separating themselves from a razor cutting their hair—were all outward signs to everyone else of an inward separation and dedication to the LORD for some vow they had made.
Today we want to consider three Nazirites that were separated to the LORD from the womb for their entire lives—Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist. Another thing that these three men have in common is that their births came in a unique way. As we consider these three Nazirites that were separated to the LORD, we want to consider the Holy LORD who though He Himself was separate from sinners, was born as one of us to separate us to God.
And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” Judges 13:3-5 (ESV)
Our first Nazirite is Samson. Before Samson was even born, the Angel of the LORD told the wife of Manoah, that their son was separated to God for the purpose of delivering Israel from the hand of the Philistines. When you think of SAMSON what are some things that come to mind? Superman like strength? His hair? The women?
Samson did have super-natural strength. We read in Judges that any time the “Spirit of the LORD” would rush upon Samson, He give him unusual strength. Samson tore apart a young lion with his bare hands, killed 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, and in Gaza he ripped the city gates from their foundation and carried them on his back. Samson was given this physical strength from God for that purpose of delivering the Israelites from their enemies—the Philistines.
Maybe you know how the rest goes. Samson, who had great physical strength, had a weakness for women. One woman, a Philistine named Delilah, whines until Samson tells her that he is a Nazirite to God from his mother’s womb and if his hair is cut off, he’ll be come weak. In telling this heathen woman of his Nazirite vow, Samson had, in a way, broken his vow already. Rather than defeating the enemy, he gave into her. Delilah lulls Samson to sleep and shaves his hair. Samson is hauled away by the Philistines to a prison in Gaza where his eyes are gouged out and he is put to work on a grinding wheel.
But while in prison, his hair begins to grow again. As Samson’s hair grew it was an outward sign of Samson resuming his vow to deliver God’s people from their enemies. As blind Samson is brought before to a large Philistine party at their temple to put on a show, Samson is placed by some large pillars which supported the temple. In his physical blindness, Samson saw God was his strength and prayed that God would give him strength once more. “Let me die with the Philistines!” And Samson pushed over the pillars that supported the pillars and killed more Philistines in his death than he had killed in his life.
What a captivating account from the Bible! A man with superhuman strength, born to defeat the enemy in death! Isn’t that a picture of the Man from Nazareth? Jesus of Nazareth, who had all power in heaven and on earth walked on top of water, calmed a storm with the power of his voice, healed the paralyzed, and even raised dead people to life.
And yet, how did Jesus use His great power? Jesus of Nazareth was born to deliver. His step-father Joseph was told that his pregnant fiancée Mary would, “Bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) Like Samson, Jesus died with His enemies in order to save His people. Jesus took our enemy of sin on Himself on the cross. He took on our enemy of death Himself as Jesus breathed His last and died. Jesus of Nazareth, Son of God and Son of Man has delivered us. Christ has “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10) Rising from the dead we are freed from our sin and death no longer has power over us. Like the Nazirite Samson, Jesus of Nazareth was born to deliver us!
For the LORD will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the LORD to make you a people for himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. 1 Samuel 12:22-24 (ESV)
How many of you realized Samuel was a Nazirite? When we think of Samuel, we think of the little boy in the tabernacle to whom God called out to in the night or the man that went to Bethlehem to anoint David as the next king of Israel. I had forgotten he was a Nazirite. But unlike Samson, whom GOD declared to be a Nazirite from birth, Samuel’s mother Hannah had vowed that if God would give her a child he would be a Nazirite: “I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.” (1 Samuel 1:11) Like Samson, Samuel never got a haircut and his long hair would have been a reminder that he was a “NA-ZIR,” Samuel had been set apart to the LORD.
At the time of our text, Samuel is no longer that little boy in the tabernacle but an old man. He is the last judge of Israel. The people of Israel wanted to be like the other nations and have a king. God allowed it while warning them that a king would demand taxes, take their land, and put their sons and daughters to work in his service. The people asked for God’s forgiveness.
Though the people had rejected the judges God had given them and asked for a king, Samuel does not cease to care for this people. He promises to continue to pray for them and instruct them. In a way, this is kind of like Samson. The people had cut away the work Samuel was doing as judge, but it does not stop Samuel for carrying out his vow as a Nazirite.
Samuel promises to continue to intercede and instruct. This too reminds us of why Jesus was born. He was born to instruct us and intercede for us. John writes that grace and truth came through Jesus Christ and that “the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has declared Him.” (John 1:17-18) Peter confesses that Jesus has “the words of eternal life.” Though Jesus has ascended into heaven, He calls on us to continue to teach everything He has commanded. And who better to intercede on behalf of man to God who is Himself God and Man. Paul writes, “There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 2:5) Jesus who Himself is God was born to instruct about God and to intercede for us before God.
But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Luke 1:13-17 (ESV)
Our final Nazirite is John the Baptist. John the Baptist of whom Jesus says, “among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11) When we think of John the Baptist, we certainly think of baptizing, fiery preaching, clothing made of camel’s hair, and eating locusts. But John the Baptist was also a Nazirite—he would have never drank any alcohol and never cut his hair to show that he was separated for the Lord. Like Samson, God determined that he was to be set aside from the womb for a special purpose—“to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” John was born to prepare people for the Lord.
How did John carry out his “NA-ZIR” vow? Isaiah calls Him “the Voice crying in the wilderness.” He preached the law of God, warning of sin and calling on sinners to turn from their sin. In doing so, he was preparing people for the Lord as they looked for a Savior who would rescue them from their sin.
This Nazirite can remind us of the Nazarene, Jesus Christ. Jesus was also born to prepare us for the Lord. By His life He came to be our righteousness. He was born to wash away our sins with His own holy, precious blood, and to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness. He rose from the dead to declare us justified—declared “not guilty.” Jesus of Nazareth was born so that He Himself could prepare people for the Lord.
As you prepare to celebrate the birth of your Savior, Jesus, rejoice that like Samson, Jesus was born to deliver you; like Samuel, Jesus was born to instruct you in God’s ways and intercede for you on God’s behalf; and like John the Baptist, Jesus was born to prepare you for the Lord. Rejoice in the glad tidings that unto you is born a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved