Robert Wurtz II
I raised up some of your sons as prophets, And some of your young men as Nazirites. Is it not so, O you children of Israel?” Says the LORD. “But you gave the Nazirites wine to drink, And commanded the prophets saying, ‘Do not prophesy!’ Behold, I will press you down in your place, as a cart full of sheaves presses down.” (Amos 2:11–12 NKJV, 2:13 ESV)
The prophet Amos is speaking the word of the Lord to the Israelites, who in spite of all He had done in delivering them from their enemies, chose a path of compromise and sin rather than consecration. Understand that consecration is essential to God manifesting Himself among His people. It is axiomatic in scripture that the magnitude of God’s unique presence is directly proportional to the peoples’ consecration. God will not dwell long among sinful people. Understanding this fact is key to understanding most of what went on in the Old Testament.
God brings a message through Amos that summarizes the attitude of the children of Israel. They despised consecration and they despised the prophetic voice of God. They manifested this attitude when they defiled the Nazarites who were living representations of consecration. Who were the Nazarites? Anyone in Israel who was willing to submit to the regulations of a Nazarite (take the Nazarite vow) could do so. This provision was unique in that it enabled people who were not priests (Levites) to experience some of the rewards of the priesthood. But to do this, the person had to consecrate themselves to God in a way similar to the priesthood. The central truth of this reality was that the closer people get to God the more consecrated to Him they need to be.
Much of the Old Testament law was written to teach the Israelites about the importance of holiness. God is holy and He expects us to be holy. When the people approached God they had to be careful to act in accordance with His holiness and His requirements. This is why drinking alcohol was forbidden for priests for example. An intoxicated priest, with his judgment impaired, might offer strange fire to the Lord as did Nadab and Abihu. Fire came out from God and destroyed them. Why? Apparently, they were intoxicated and got careless and presumptuous before God. (Lev. 10:1-8)
God also set out to teach the children of Israel about things that are clean and things that are unclean. He did this by selecting clean and unclean animals, for example. He also taught the Israelites that doing certain things will make you “unclean” (defiled). Touching a dead body is one example of defilement. Many could be cited. If we were to describe the idea in simple terms we could say that things that are clean do not have the stench of sin or this present evil world attached to them. However, uncleanness is not just a lack of cleanness. It is a power that positively defiles. Anything associated with a foreign cult, or hostile to Jehovah (Yahweh), is unclean. (TDNT III:416)
In modern times this truth is obfuscated — with the main emphasis being placed on the law being a means of revealing our sinfulness. This is true, but an overemphasis here obscures the fact that God was teaching the Israelites (and Christians) about His holiness and the importance of personal holiness. The New Testament places the emphasis on a new heart (regeneration) and an ongoing state of purity in heart. Unlike the Old Testament that was focused on externalities, the New Testament emphasizes a Kingdom attitude that rejects any acceptance of what is against God. This heart state is the only one conducive to the indwelling presence of God. We are temples of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we should view the Old Testament as a clinic on the whys and wherefores of God dwelling in or departing from His Temple.
What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will dwell in them And walk among them. I will be their God, And they shall be My people.” Therefore “Come out from among them And be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you.” “I will be a Father to you, And you shall be My sons and daughters, Says the LORD Almighty.” Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 6:15–7:1 NKJV)
Paul is reminding the Corinthians of what God spent hundreds of years teaching the Israelites. Things that were type and shadow in the Old Testament are real in the New Testament. Rather than dealing with touching dead animals and such, Paul is speaking to our participation in things that are fleshly, worldly and demonic. Do not touch what is unclean, And I will receive you. The Greek word for unclean is akathartos and it is generally used in association with unclean spirits. It also denotes moral uncleanness which can happen through a pattern of wrongdoing or sexual immorality. (TDNT III:427) Moreover, Hebrews 12:15 tells us that many people are defiled by a root of bitterness. This could mean an resentful, angry and incensed attitude of mind towards one’s neighbor. Any attitude or behavior that is offensive to God is a source of moral defilement.
Consecration to God
The value of consecration to God is found in His willingness to manifest Himself among us when we determine to truly consecrate ourselves to Him. This means that we must cleanse ourselves from everything that defiles us (offends Him). The challenge is that we live in an age much like Amos described when God said… “I raised up some of your sons as prophets, And some of your young men as Nazirites. Is it not so, O you children of Israel?” Says the LORD. “But you gave the Nazirites wine to drink…” There is an attitude that seems to prevail that shows little regard for a need to consecrate ourselves. In fact, there is a growing hostility to consecration. When God raises up prophets to call the people to consecration… they refuse to listen and either directly or indirectly declare, “Do not prophesy!”
The challenge with this attitude is that God doesn’t change. When we import unclean things into our lives or our churches we are behaving like Israel when she mingled the service of Jehovah (Yahweh) with the false gods of the Canaanites. It didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. What did God say? Behold, I will press you down in your place, as a cart full of sheaves presses down. God wanted to manifest Himself among the people but was unable because of their uncleanness. They refused to hear from the prophet or value the life example of the Nazarite. God wanted them to know the weight of His Divine glory, but their choices invited the weight of His judgment. The loaded harvest wagon presses down on the helpless ground beneath it. So Israel was heaping up a weight of divine wrath which would press it to destruction. (NBC p797). What a dreadful contrast to the glory they could have experienced and enjoyed had they had valued consecration.