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. 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 13:1-5, NIV).
In Judges 13, the story of Samson begins with a comedy scene straight out of Seinfeld. Samson’s mother was approached by a fearsome heavenly man and told that she must abstain from wine and unclean foods, for she was to bear a son in her barrenness, who would deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines, the dread enemy of Israel. In joy, the woman rushed home to tell her husband that they were going to finally bear a child, but Manoah, unable to take her seriously, pleaded to God to come back and clarify exactly how they were to raise this “special child”.
Graciously the Angel of the Lord revisited the woman as she sat upon her land. As fast as her feet could fly, this beloved woman rushed home to alert her husband their heavenly visitor had arrived. With clear logic Manoah sought for instruction, asking, how are we to order this child? How are we to form him? To decree him?. You can almost see Manoah grab his cell and open to Notes in anticipation, with that humility God brings to all our lives, that He is asking us to do something that we have no parameters for, and He needs to give over with a bit more information. No further details were offered. Instead the angel reiterated for Manoah to follow what he had told his wife, that she must abstain from alcohol and unclean foods.
Manoah then urged the angel to join them for a meal, not grasping his audacious request that he had invited God over for supper. The Angel of the Lord refused the offer and instead advised a sacrifice unto God would be more acceptable. Manoah, still not getting it, asked for the stranger’s business card, that he would get due recognition once the “baby” had arrived. The Angel again declined, explaining that His Name was “piliy”, Hebrew for “remarkable, wondrous and incomprehensible”, too much for rational Manoah to understand. Reason would not rule this visit and dear Manoah was being confronted with the power of God in a most succinct encounter. After preparing a goat, broth and unleavened bread and lighting it aflame on a rock, the Angel showed just how wondrous He was, for as the flames ascended, so too did the angel. At this marvelous miracle, Manoah and his wife hit the ground in worship, logic and reason liberated by the divine. From that place of encounter, months later, the woman gave birth to a son whom she named Samson.
In the original language, the play on words in this narrative is fantastic. Samson’s parents live in a town called Zorah, which means hornet, a place which stung under the forty year oppression of the Philistines. Samson’s father is named Manoah, which means rest, quiet, settled. The mother is never named. Despite tradition, it is Samson’s mother who names her child after many years of barrenness, and she names this future superhero of Israel, Samson, which in Hebrew means brilliant sunlight, the glory child of Israel.
In this story, everything begins with the mother. She must maintain a holy consecration as a Nazarite ( see Numbers 6:1-21), never touching the fruit of the vine or eating unclean animals before the child is even conceived, and she must maintain this standard in her boy’s life from birth. In a place of cruelty and desperation and oppression, she and her man of rest must raise this boy with great expectation of his destiny. Their consecration, of choosing mangoes over grapes, milk over wine and not indulging in any pagan dietary temptations was a daily posture of their hope in God every day of Samson’s childhood.
The Word records that Samson grew and the Lord blessed him. The Spirit of God began tapping on Samson as he journeyed across his province, from a place of hornets (Zorah) to a place of entreaty ( Eshtaol) as he began to mature and grow towards his unique destiny in the Lord.
From this story of Samson, we see how being set apart for God, living a consecrated life is crucial to fulfilling our destiny in God. Though destined for greatness, Samson lost his way when he lusted after the unclean Philistine woman. The Scripture recount a lack of consecration in Samson’s life, as he ate unclean honey from a lion’s dead carcass, caroused with pagan women, and continued to falter daily, until his betrayal at the hands of Delilah. The defeat of his destiny culminates with Samson’s climatic death as he demolishes a Philistine temple in one last agonized attempt to revenge himself against the Philistines, blind, desperate, and angry at their mockery. Mercifully, God allowed Samson to succeed, and the Scriptures record the outcome:
So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life. And his brothers and all his father’s household came down and took him, and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah. He had judged Israel twenty years.( Judges 16:30,31)
For twenty years, Samson experienced limited success as deliverer of Israel, not because God had waned in power or changed His mind. Samson was compromised. Despite his Nazarite consecration, Samson honoured only one of the three conditions the angel had decreed over his life: he kept his hair uncut. The harder aspects of consecration : fasting certain foods, and honoring a Judaic diet seemed unnecessary to Samson but deeply impacted his nation’s freedom. Instead of a holy life, he lived full of lust. Though his gifting was irrevocable, his potential to bring freedom to Israel was directly limited by his unwillingness to obey God and live a holy life as a covenanted Nazarite.
Thank God, Jesus, the Nazarene, did not repeat this pattern. Though we may have failed many times to honour God and abstain from unclean, sinful ways, Jesus just never sinned. Hebrews 5:7-9 states:
Jesus, who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him..
Like Samson, Jesus was announced by angelic visitation. Like Samson, Jesus was destined to save His people. Unlike Samson, Jesus did not use His anointing to flee from a city, get the girl or even avenge Himself. Jesus suffered life and remained consecrated to His Father in heaven. Jesus saw beyond Himself and trusted His Father that all pain He endured had a most marvelous purpose: our deliverance from death unto abundant life. Having obeyed, Jesus became our author, the one who writes salvation across our guilty verdict and sets us free from our sin, that now we may love and obey our God and wondrously impact this world with God’s glory.
Let’s Pray: Father God, give us eyes to see You better and a heart that fears You instead of trying, like Manoah, to just understand Your instructions and ignore Your wondrous incomprehensible glory. May Your destiny for our lives be more relevant than any temporary comfort or desires. Lord God, we entreat You to fill us with Your Spirit, that we may live consecrated lives, set apart to You, to impact our borders with Your Kingdom. Lord Jesus, thank You for being the Way, our example and hope, that despite Your greatness, You suffered, submitted and obeyed and never, not even once, indulged Your own desires. By Your grace, help us walk holy before You understanding the greater implication of a life devoted to God. May Samson’s tragedy teach us the reality of cause and effect between obedience and authority, and may we all rise up as deliverers, chosen by God, to bring His Kingdom here on earth for Your Name’s Sake. Amen.
1. Samson disobeyed his parents and sought a Philistine for a wife, despite God’s clear instructions not to intermarry with the non Jewish peoples of the land. This set a whole change of events in motion which made Samson Public Enemy No. 1 with the Philistines. Can you remember a time in your life when you broke God’s rules to get what you wanted? What consequences came from that choice?
2. Samson lusted after foreign women more than he feared God. Can you see from Samson’s life the negative domino effect of rebelling against God? Who lost the most here? Samson? Israel? God? How deos that impact your walk with God?
3. Manoah wanted clear understandable instructions from the angel, as he methodically set out to obey the holy stranger. Instead of step by step “How to Raise a Superhero” checklist, Manoah received an encounter from heaven. What do you think this gave Manoah in order to raise Samson?
4. Have you encountered the incomprehensible wondrous God, too marvelous to comprehend or do you, like Manoah, keep just asking God for the check list of do’s and don’ts in order to do life well?
5. What did God teach you in the story of Samson? How will this change your life choices on a daily basis?
Next Week’s Reading: Judges 18- 1 Samuel 2
1 Brown Driver Briggs Hebrew Definitions, esword.net