“But what went ye out for to see? A man clothed in soft raiment? Behold, they which are gorgeously apparelled, and live delicately, are in kings’ courts” (Luke 7:25).
According to 2 Kings 1:2, when Ahaziah fell from a latticed window, he was apparently seriously injured. Rather than call upon Jehovah God for healing, he sent messengers to ask counsel of Baal-zebub, literally, “Lord of flies” (a devil). We know there was no excuse for this behavior, because he knew God’s prophet Elijah well. At least he identified him by his appearance and his clothing when the messengers turned back to tell him he would die from the fall. Ahaziah asked what the man who talked to them looked like. “And they answered him, He was an hairy man, and girt with a girdle of leather about his loins. And he said, It is Elijah the Tishbite” (2 Kings 1:8).
The hairy man (Elijah) with the leather girdle was one of God’s most beloved prophets. Therefore when John the Baptist came wearing a leather girdle, people naturally wondered if he were Elijah returned from the dead. “And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey” (Matt. 3:4).
False prophets often used rough clothing to convince the people that they were sent from God, but the Lord prophesied that this habit would stop (Zech. 13:4). Even today men wear special clothing of first one kind and another to convince the unwary of their ‘authority’ from God. Prophets spoke for God, but John came with a special message. He was the forerunner of Christ to announce Christ’s arrival (Matt. 11:9). John did not wear rough clothing to deceive. John was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb and worked in the wilderness, not in the city. As such, he lived on what he found in the wilderness, both with food and clothing” (Matt. 3:4).
When Jesus spoke to the multitudes about John, He asked them what they expected to see (Matt. 11:7-20). Did they expect to see a weakling clothed in soft raiment? Those that wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. John made do with what God supplied him in the wilderness. If people were expecting to see a prophet, they found far more than what they expected to see. Jesus said “Among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist: notwithstanding he that is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he… And if ye will receive it, this is Elias, (Elijah) which was for to come” (Matt. 11:14).
John was sent to teach and baptize those who would repent and turn to God. When the Pharisees and all Judea went to be baptized by John, he told the Pharisees that they should bring fruits worthy of repentance (Matt. 3:10; Luke 3:8). John taught New Testament principles to the people, so it was only fitting that he should command them to share their clothing and food (Luke 3:11). When he warned the tax collectors not to take more money than they had coming to them (Luke 3:12-13), he exposed the greed that had drawn men to such positions in the first place. The soldiers, whom he told to be content with their wages, must have been shocked at the thought of not using their power to take advantage of the common people (Luke 3:14).
Jesus proved that men hate His doctrine no matter what wardrobe His prophets used. John and Jesus were almost opposites in their appearance and in their dress and yet the critics had evil things to say about both of them. John was apparently a Nazirite from his mother’s womb and Jesus was not. Jesus testifies, “…John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners” (Matt. 11:18-19). Jesus concluded that they hated both Him and His Father without any just cause (John 15:22-25).
- What religious men today can you think of who might be wearing “wardrobes” to deceive?
- Like King Ahaziah, some today seek the help of special wizards or horoscopes. What scripture advice would you give these people who rely on such mediums?
- Many times young people try to dress to please the crowds. Is it possible to please everyone all the time? What counsel would you give a young person who is concerned with style?
- Women are told not to adorn the outward body but the inner man of the heart. List the things women are not to use for adornment and the things they are supposed to adorn (1 Tim. 2:9-10; 1 Pet. 3:3-5).
- RESEARCH QUESTION:Research the word Nazirite and find as much as you can about what the vows included and all that was required of one who had taken such vow ( 6:1-8). What women took the vow?
- What strong man in the Judges was a Nazarite (Judges 13:7; Judges 16:17)? His parents were told by an angel before his birth that he would “be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death” (Judges 13:7).
- Can we prove whether the prophet Samuel was a Nazirite (1 Sam. 1:11, 28)? His mother, Hannah, made a vow before his birth, “No razor shall come upon his head” (1 Sam. 1:11).
- The presence of many Nazarites in Israel was considered a sign of God’s blessings. During the time of the prophet Amos, there were many Nazarites. Amos strongly condemned the people for tempting the Nazarites to break their vows by doing what (Amos 2:11-12)?
- Was Jesus a Nazirite or a Nazarene? This will require some digging and some thinking to find out. Remember the wedding feast in Cana.
- What is wrong with pictures we see of John the Baptist pouring water on Jesus head to baptize Him? List as many things wrong with those traditional pictures as you possibly can.
Photo disclaimer: A Nazarite might be so from birth to death because his mother took the vow, or he might be one for a specified period of time. John was a Nazarite for life. No razor was to come on his head at anytime, so his hair and his beard would naturally be unusually long–probably wound up out of the way for convenience, not flowing as this photo shows.