THE AWESOMENESS OF OUR GOD CALLS FOR A LIFE OF SEPARATION FROM SIN UNTO HIS SERVICE
Awesome = both wonderful in His person and in His works
In our lessons regarding the life of Samson we are going to discover that promising beginnings do not guarantee an exemplary life. Samson proves to be a contradictory character. As with Jephthah, he is included in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Faith Heroes – God used him in a mighty way to bring partial deliverance from the oppression of the Philistines. His God-given strength remains legendary. In that regard he is even a type in some respects to the ultimate deliverer who would grant us freedom and new life for all of eternity. But a model of godly character he is not. Despite his many advantages in life –which begin with this auspicious divine birth pronouncement and fulfillment – he proves to be a spoiled, self-indulgent individual who stumbles into all sorts of self-made disasters. Yet we don’t want to paint him in too negative a light since he ruled for 20 years (15:20) and the incidents that have been recorded for us seem to highlight more of his flaws than his contributions.
9 REASONS THIS DIVINE BIRTH PRONOUNCEMENT WAS AUSPICIOUS:
(propitious, favorable, bright)
Thus we should expect Samson to fulfill a significant role in God’s overall program for His people
I. DESPERATE NATIONAL TIMES
“Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, so that the LORD gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years.” (:1)
Continued apostasy and unfaithfulness; degenerating cycles of disobedience and discipline
God’s covenant people had been assimilated into the surrounding Philistine pagan culture; they were no longer even crying out to the Lord for deliverance; were not living as a separated people; they did not realize how close they were to losing their identity as the people of God – the ones through whom blessing would eventually come to the entire world through the Promised Seed – the coming Messiah – this present deliverer, Samson was only a type; he was called to a life of separation – speaks to our need to be separate from defilement and dedicated to the service of our Lord and God
Motyer: To be given “into the hand of the Philistines” (13:1) meant that Israelites fraternized readily with them, that even intermarrying with them was acceptable, that the once-patriotic men of Judah would rather be rid of Samson than rock the boat of harmonious relations with them (15:9-13), and that even the Lord had to be “seeking an occasion” against them because every snag of hostility between them and Israel had been carefully smoothed over (14:4). In other words, Israel had totally sold out to the values of the Philistine world.
Renewed demonstration of the grace of God; taking the initiative to reach out to them in their oppression and send a deliverer
Forty years is a long time – entire generation
Philistines clustered in five major cities along the coastal plains: Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron
Tom Fuller: The Philistines (means “wanderer”) came from Greece around the same time as the Israelites (1,200 BC). Their occupation of the coastal area of Southern Palestine (a word which comes from “Philistine”) sped up nearer the time of Samson and they disputed land with Israel around the territory of Dan and Judah.
They lived in 5 city-states, ruled by local “kings.” They were a powerful people and oppressed Israel until David conquered them (1 Samuel 13). They were experienced in metallurgy and so their technology gave them an edge militarily.
How desperate are we for full deliverance from our Lord Jesus Christ?
II. DESPERATE FAMILY SITUATION
“And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had borne no children.” (:2)
This was a major disgrace and source of sorrow; no one to carry on the family name; wife is unnamed in this account; unable to fulfill her potential in life as wife and mother; this was a condition that had caused growing hardship over a long period of time – maybe she was beyond normal child-bearing years
Significance of tribe of Dan: along with Judah – most closely vulnerable to the threat of the Philistines
Wiersbe: The tribe of Dan was originally assigned the land adjacent to Judah and Benjamin, extending to the Mediterranean Sea. Since the Danites weren’t able to dislodge the coastal inhabitants, however, the tribe relocated and moved north although some of the people remained in their original location. Zorah is about fifteen miles from Jerusalem in the foothill country near the border of Philistia.
Brensinger: Central to the story of Samson’s birth is the barrenness of Manoah’s wife. This is so, not primarily because of the pain and anguish associated in the ancient world with such a childless condition, but because of the recurring theological importance of barrenness in the Bible. Time after time, moments of grave difficulty serve as the context for wonderful conceptions. In this way, emphasis once again falls squarely upon God’s role in the unfolding of salvation history.
Other biblical examples of God promising to open the womb in significant circumstances:
– Sarah / Isaac Gen. 11:30; 18:1-15; 21:1-7 – three men; one was the Lord
– Hannah / Samuel 1 Sam. 1:1-28 — Eli
– Elizabeth / John the Baptist Luke 1:5-25, 57-66 – angel of the Lord
– Mary / Jesus Christ Luke 1:26-38 – angel Gabriel
S. Lewis Johnson: The troubles that come to us are frequently the things that prepare us for the things that God has for us in the future. And no doubt, the winds of trouble that had come to Manoah’s wife in her barrenness were designed to cast her upon the Lord, so that when the time came, and God in his own supernatural way, gave her a child, she would be the kind of mother for him that God intended that he should have.
III. DIVINE MESSENGER = THE ANGEL O F THE LORD = PREINCARNATE CHRIST
– Identified in vs. 3 by the narrator as “the angel of the Lord” – looks like a man
o Angels did not appear as heavenly winged creatures in these interactions
– First characterized by the woman as “a man of God” (:6)
– Progression from Manoah just interacting with the messenger as a man of God to recognition that this was the angel of the Lord = God Himself
Who delivers the pronouncement (authoritative announcement) makes all the difference
“Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, ‘A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name.
Very awesome (“to cause fright”) in terms of His appearance; impressive; majestic; glorious; transcendent – the Awesomeness of God lies at the heart of this passage
Origins incomprehensible – “you cannot unscrew the inscrutable” – there are those things where it is a glory to search out what God has revealed and then there are the secret things which belong to the Lord
Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible: He received no answer since names were considered the essence of a person, and to know the name would have carried with it the ability to control the person.
IV. DIVINE CONDITIONS OF SEPARATION PRESCRIBED FOR BOTH MOTHER AND CHILD = NAZIRITE – SEPARATED FROM THE WOMB
“Then the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman, and said to her, ‘Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb;’” (“3-5a)
“But he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink wine or strong drink nor eat any unclean thing, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’” (:7)
“So the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, ‘Let the woman pay attention to all that I said. She should not eat anything that comes from the vine nor drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing; let her observe all that I commanded.’ “ (:13-14)
Why did the angel of the Lord appear to the woman instead of to Manoah?
This passage supports the pro life position in the abortion debate – no question that life and personality begin at conception; while the child was still in the womb, these conditions of remaining pure from defilement needed to be observed by the mother
Usually Nazirite vows were voluntary – here they were being commanded for both the mother and the child
Usually Nazirite vows were temporary – here they are permanent until the death of the child
Separation unto God is in view for His purposes
Tom Fuller: Nazirites (Numbers 6:1-12) had three special restrictions:
1. They were to abstain totally from “fermented drink” including grapes and raisins;
2. They could not have their hair cut; and
3. They could not come near a corpse.
This is important because Samson violates all three of these prohibitions at some time in his life.
Prohibition against cutting the hair put last – these 4 chapters are the account of Samson breaking all three of these vows
Inrig: Obviously, Samson was going to be a striking figure, because nothing represented his position more than the hair on his head. Men could not see whether he drank wine or was around the dead, but they could see his long, braided hair and know that this man was set apart in a special way to God. In his Nazirite life-style, as well as in his birth, Samson was unique.
Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary: Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist were the only “Nazirites for life” recorded in the Bible. Before they were born, their vows were taken for them by their parents.
[Interesting to see the parallel types of prophetic announcements of their births]
V. DIVINE MISSION ANTICIPATED
“and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” (:5b)
Yet in the fulfillment of his mission, Samson is going to act much more like an isolated individual – trying to exact vengeance against his own personal enemies. You don’t see him rallying the troops or exerting that type of cooperative leadership. The story is all about Samson himself. Almost in spite of himself, the Lord uses him to carry out His intended mission.
VI. (:8-14) DIVINE REITERATION OF THE PRONOUNCEMENT TO MANOAH
“Then Manoah entreated the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, please let the man of God whom Thou hast sent come to us again that he may teach us what to do for the boy who is to be born.’ And God listened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again to the woman as she was sitting in the field, but Manoah her husband was not with her. So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, ‘Behold, the man who came the other day has appeared to me.’ Then Manoah arose and followed his wife, and when he came to the man he said to him, ‘Are you the man who spoke to the woman?’ And he said, ‘I am.’ And Manoah said, ‘Now when your words come to pass, what shall be the boy’s mode of life and his vocation?’”
Answer to prayer – even though more details and instruction are not given – just an instant replay of what had transpired earlier
Manoah prayed and yet the angel of the Lord returned to his wife first
Significance of “I am” designation – cf. gospel of John
Give me more details about the child’s calling and mission
VII. (:15-23) DIVINE WONDERS VALIDATE THE PRONOUNCEMENT
A. (:15-16) Wonders Witnessed in the Context of Worship
“Then Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, ‘Please let us detain you so that we may prepare a kid for you.’ And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, ‘Though you detain me, I will not eat your food, but if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.’ For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.”
B. (:17-20) Wonders Validate the Messenger and Thereby His Pronouncement
“And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, ‘What is your name, so that when your words come to pass, we may honor you?’ But the angel of the LORD said to him, ‘Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?’ So Manoah took the kid with the grain offering and offered it on the rock to the LORD, and He performed wonders while Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came about when the flame went up from the altar toward heaven, that 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.”
Tom Fuller: The Angel doesn’t really answer Manoah’s question about his name except to say that it is “beyond understanding” or “wonderful”. The root Hebrew word means “to be great, to be separate, difficult.” It’s the same word used in verse 19 “the one who works wonders” or “he did a wondrous thing” (KJV). I think the implication is that you are dealing with such a higher being than you that it would be useless to try to explain it to you.
Dale Ralph Davis: There the psalmist is being overwhelmed by God’s intimate, detailed, comprehensive knowing of him – his activities, his purposes, his words (before they’re spoken!). . . . That knowledge is too wonder for me – it is so high I cannot reach it! . . . it’s beyond me . . . it’s so grand I can’t pull it all in . . . There is a mystery, a depth, a surpassingness about God that we can never fathom, comprehend, or touch (cf. Rom. 11:33). This does not mean we cannot know God; it means that though we may know God truly we do not know him exhaustively. He has given us sufficient but not complete knowledge of himself. There are still limits imposed; we do not have total knowledge of his character and ways.
C. (:21a) No Need for More Revelation
“Now the angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah or his wife.”
All questions have been answered; God has the final word
What a privilege that we have the Word of God – we are not dependent on such isolated glimpses into the mind and will of God.
2 Peter 1:16-21 “the prophetic word made more sure” – more privileged than those who witnessed the Transfiguration account
VIII. (:24-25) DIVINE PRIVILEGES EXTENDED IN INTIMATE FELLOWSHIP
A. (:21b-22) Frightening Realization
“Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. So Manoah said to his wife, ‘We shall surely die, for we have seen God.’”
Manoah knew some scriptures – but did not have a good grasp on the context and application … needed help here from the theological insights of his wife
B. (:23) Fallacy in Manoah’s Fear
“But his wife said to him, ‘If the LORD had desired to kill us,”
Just as in the case of John the Baptist, the Dad (Zacharias) needed reassurance; it was the Mom that more favorably received the promised announcement
Look at the privileges we enjoy every day and take for granted:
1. Privilege of Intimate Worship
“He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands,”
2. Privilege of Witnessing Divine Wonders
“nor would He have shown us all these things,”
S. Lewis Johnson: So what he did was to make fire arise out of the rock, consume the animals of the sacrifice, and then as the flame shot up towards heaven, the angel went over in the flame and ascended unto heaven himself. He did wondrously, his name was wonderful and he exhibited some of the characteristics of who he was and what he could do in what happened. . .
Now at a time like this it’s good to have a wife like Manoah had. It’s wonderful to have a wife like her, and not a wife like Job’s. I’m sure that Job’s wife would have given him encouragement in his disappointment. She would have said, “It’s true and it may be soon.” [Laughter] But, there are some people who say that women cannot reason. But the facts are that women often perceive a great deal better than men. Mr. Spurgeon has put it, “They look at once into a truth while we’re still hunting for our spectacles.” and that was certainly the case here, because Manoah’s wife understands fully the significance of the appearance of the angel long before it had dawned upon Manoah.
3. Privilege of Receiving Divine Revelation
“nor would He have let us hear things like this at this time.”
In fact there could be no fulfillment of the divine promises were Manoah and his wife killed in judgment
IX. (:24-25) DIVINE FULFILLMENT
A. (:24a) Birth of Samson
“Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson;”
Tom Fuller: Samson is born. His name could come from the word for “sun.” A new light for Israel.
“sun’s child” – born only a few miles from Beth-Shemesh, the city whose name means “house of the sun”
B. (:24b) Blessing Upon Samson
“and the child grew up and the LORD blessed him.”
Similarly, Look at the brief parallel descriptions of the childhood of:
– John the Baptist — Luke 1:80 “And the child continued to grow and become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.”
– Jesus Christ – Luke 2:40 “The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.”
C. (:25) Beginning of Samson’s Exercise of Power by the Spirit of God
“And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.”
We must never forget that the power Samson exhibited came from the Spirit of the Lord working through him
Implications from this passage about the doctrine of the Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Zeisler: The Hebrew word to stir is an interesting word. It originally meant to tap or agitate something. It could be used of the way a cowboy in a rodeo gouges his bronco with his spurs to try to make him buck harder and higher so he gets more points for riding him. This is not a word that suggests God was wooing Samson, teaching him, and persuading him. Samson was stirred into action, but not as a partner in God’s plans.
Tom Fuller: I think there is a clue to Sampson’s character here. He lived at Mahaneh-dan, which is the place where 600 Danites camped earlier (though it appears in Chapter 18). These men were part of an armed raiding party that was completely godless and rebellious. I’m not saying there is a direct connection but I wonder if Sampson’s rebellion might not have been influenced here.
THE AWESOMENESS OF OUR GOD CALLS FOR A LIFE OF SEPARATION FROM SIN UNTO HIS SERVICE
– In His Grace – the unfaithful Israelites deserved to be case off
– In His Person – His name is Wonderful, incomprehensible
– In His Promises – and then in His faithful fulfillment
– In His Works – changed lives – so that He transforms us into living sacrifices as a trophy of His grace and power
With this divine birth pronouncement and its fulfillment, Samson certainly had an auspicious beginning … and we know he finished with a bang. In the next several weeks it will be sad to see how he failed to measure up to his Nazarite calling and yet how God still used him when he acted in faith and dependence upon God’s power.