Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, that they separate themselves from the holy things of the children of Israel, and that they do not profane My holy name by what they dedicate to Me.” (Leviticus 22:1-2)
Pursuant to the command we read in the previous devotion, this command emphasizes the need for the priests to be set apart in such a way that the sanctity of the Sanctuary was not compromised. They had to be ritually clean and they were to eat foods designated as “holy” only in the Sanctuary. In other words, anything that was regarded as holy had to remain with the area that had been designated as holy and that is why the priests had to “separate themselves.” To become contaminated by something unclean meant that they must withdraw from all aspects of their service (that is not to say they were disqualified from their position).
The Hebrew word translated as “separate” is נזר nazar and is closely related to another word that you may be familiar with — nazir, or as it is rendered in our Bibles, Nazirite. A Nazrite was one who took a specific vow to dedicate himself to God in a way that required him to abstain from certain things that were lawful for others. In this way, the person who took the vow expressed a desire to draw closer to God by dying to things that were considered common or that would contaminate. This is precisely the point being made about the priests: while in service, they were instructed to abstain from things that would be considered allowable for others. In other words, it was all about a willingness to die to self more than those who stood afar in the courtyard.
It is also interesting that the word nazar is derived from the root word means “crown” (זר zer). The idea that stems from this phonetic connection is that those who are willing to “separate themselves” from the world will be crowned with distinction — all will know that these belong to God. True, they bear the burden of having greater responsibilities, which is to say they must die to themselves more than most. However, those who dedicate themselves to God in such a way will not go unrewarded — they will be crowned with distinction. Therefore, if we are willing to dedicate ourselves to God’s purpose and “fight the good fight … and keep the faith,” we know that we will receive from our Master the crown of righteousness (2 Timothy 4:8).
Blessings and Shalom,