Friday, August 5, 2011

The Book of Judges - The Birth of Samson

Today we are going to venture back into the book of the Judges.  Today we begin our study of Samson and we will be with Samson for a few weeks.  Unlike the several minor judges we studied, we know a lot about Samson.   This week we will see the circumstances around his birth. 
Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.  Judges 13:1 NKJV
This sounds familiar.  This is also right along the lines of what I was speaking about yesterday.  God delivered them into tyranny due to their sin.  This time they were under the thumb of tyranny for forty years before God once again heard their pleas. 
Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name [was] Manoah; and his wife [was] barren and had no children. And the Angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, "Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or [similar] drink, and not to eat anything unclean. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines."  Judges 13:2-5 NKJV
Samson was going to be a special child.  There are a very select few babies that were preceded by a visit from an angel of the Lord and all of them were very special.  The few I can think of off the top of my head are Isaac, John the Baptist, and of course Jesus Christ.  We also see that once again God was going to bring this child through a miraculous birth.  With the exception of Jesus where the miracle was the virgin birth, the other examples are children who come from barren women.  

Samson was going to be a very special child, born for the specific purpose of delivering Israel from the Philistines.  Please note that this was not going to be an instant answer to prayer.  God gave the promise of deliverance, but that promise was a long way off.  She had to get pregnant, have the child nine months later, then raise that child into the man of God he was called to be.  The deliverance was promised, but not for years to come.  But, even though faint, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  Deliverance was coming.  We also learn that Samson was going to be a Nazirite.  This was a special person dedicating himself to God.  Normally this would be a decision that someone makes, but Samson was going to be a Nazirite from the womb.  I think before studying Samson, it is important to note what a Nazirite is as much of his life was centered around that.  It is why he does not cut his hair and later it is why it was such a big deal that he took honey from the carcass of a lion.  I recommend reading Number 6:1-12 to learn exactly what is involved in being a Nazirite. 
So the woman came and told her husband, saying, "A Man of God came to me, and His countenance [was] like the countenance of the Angel of God, very awesome; but I did not ask Him where He [was] from, and He did not tell me His name. And He said to me, 'Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. Now drink no wine or [similar] drink, nor eat anything unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.' "  Then Manoah prayed to the LORD, and said, "O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born."  Judges 13:6-8 NKJV
So the woman ran to her husband to share the exciting news that the angel had shared wit her.  I love Manoah's response when hearing the news.  Before anything else, he prayed.  His prayer was a good one, too.  As the husband and leader, he wanted to know how the Lord wanted him to do what he asked him to do.  Note the faith he had as well.  He did not say "if" the child would be born but "when."  He knew God was going to do His part, he just wanted instruction on his to his his part. 
And God listened to the voice of Manoah, and the Angel of God came to the woman again as she was sitting in the field; but Manoah her husband [was] not with her. Then the woman ran in haste and told her husband, and said to him, "Look, the Man who came to me the [other] day has just now appeared to me!" So Manoah arose and followed his wife. When he came to the Man, he said to Him, "Are You the Man who spoke to this woman?" And He said, "I [am]." Manoah said, "Now let Your words come [to pass]! What will be the boy's rule of life, and his work?"  Judges 13:9-12 NKJV
So the woman is back in the field working one day and the angel returned. This time she immediately runs to get her husband.  He asks a great question.  He asks how he should raise the child the Lord will provide. 
So the Angel of the LORD said to Manoah, "Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful. She may not eat anything that comes from the vine, nor may she drink wine or [similar] drink, nor eat anything unclean. All that I commanded her let her observe."  Judges 13:13-14 NKJV
And the answer is simple in that he was to do all that the angel previously explained to the wife.
Then Manoah said to the Angel of the LORD, "Please let us detain You, and we will prepare a young goat for You." And the Angel of the LORD said to Manoah, "Though you detain Me, I will not eat your food. But if you offer a burnt offering, you must offer it to the LORD." (For Manoah did not know He [was] the Angel of the LORD.) Then Manoah said to the Angel of the LORD, "What [is] Your name, that when Your words come [to pass] we may honor You?" And the Angel of the LORD said to him, "Why do you ask My name, seeing it [is] wonderful?" So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it upon the rock to the LORD. And He did a wondrous thing while Manoah and his wife looked on-- it happened as the flame went up toward heaven from the altar--the Angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar! When Manoah and his wife saw [this], they fell on their faces to the ground. When the Angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, then Manoah knew that He [was] the Angel of the LORD.  Judges 13:15-21 NKJV
Manoah asks the angel to stay so that they can have a feast for him.  The angel says he will stay but that any glory or thanksgiving has to be given to God.  Manoah asks his name and the angel says "wonderful", which is also the Hebrew word for "secret."  Manoah makes the burnt offering and the angel rode the flame of that offering right up into Heaven. (now that must have been a sight to see!).  Manoah and his wife finally realize that this man was no man at all but an angel of the Lord and the fell on the ground and worshiped. 
And Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, because we have seen God!" But his wife said to him, "If the LORD had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these [things], nor would He have told us [such things] as these at this time."   Judges 13:22-23 NKJV
This reminds me of me and my wife.  Many times I react without taking the time to think about something.  I generally come around, but sometimes I take the "shoot first ask questions later" approach to life.  The Lord is working on me in that area, though.  In fact, just as in this case He uses my wife.  Manoah realizes what they have seen and immediately fears that he is going to die.  His wife takes the time to think it out.  She reminds him that they were just promised a child, which would be kind of hard to happen if they were both dead. 
So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him. And the Spirit of the LORD began to move upon him at Mahaneh Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.  Judges 13:24-25 NKJV
And so fast forward ahead to the fulfillment of the promise. Samson was born and the Spirit of the Lord began to move in him.  We will pick up there next week.

So what can we learn from Samson today?  There are a few important lessons.  First we see repeated message in Judges that God will chastise a nation for turning against God.  We also see a picture of the hope of our promise to come and staying steadfast in that hope.  The parents of Samson knew they were going to have a son who would deliver Israel from the Philistines, but they also knew that would take some time.  They knew it would be years in the future.  Sometimes it is hard to think of the world to come when we are stuck in this world now.  We have so many trials and tribulations in this life that we sometimes forget that this world is passing away.  There are also times we forget the promise and cry out in fear like Manoah not remembering the promises to come.  I know that for many it seems like light at the end of the tunnel is so so far away and so so hard to see, but I assure you it is there.  Each moment of each day, we draw closer and closer to our eternal deliverance.  So when this world seems tough (and right now it seems very tough), remember that this world is very temporary and someday, in fact any day now, our Lord can come and take us home.  Never lose sight of promise that our Lord is coming to deliver us from this wicked world. 
"Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near."  Luke 21:28 NKJV

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