Sunday, March 23, 2014

Judges 13-15 He shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines

From Judges 13-15


Jdg 13.1-13; Story; The Birth of Samson
Jdg 14.1-20; Story; Samson’s Marriage
Jdg 15.1-20; Story; Samson Defeats the Philistines

Passage and Comments

Those who read the first Judges blog or have been reading through Judges with me will note Jdg 13.1 has the repeated formula we've seen in  Jdg 3.7; 4.1; 6.1; and 10.6.
13 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years. (Jdg 13:1)
One would have thought Israel's collective memory would have worked out why they were being continually given over to foreign rule. But I guess not. George Santayana is famous for quoting "Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them." Yep. But like before, God continues to remain faithful to his people even when they are faithless (cf. 2 Tim 3.13). He raises up another Judge. This one is well known - Samson.
2 There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. (Jdg 13:2–3)
Normally I would assume it would be right to sympathize with a woman who is barren. But in the scriptures, I cant think of a single barren women explicitly named so who didn't give birth to someone famous. It's almost like God intentionally held the child back for just the right time. No doubt the parents were more grateful to God for blessing them after a longer wait than those who could have children without to much trouble. However this child is Samson, the trouble will begin after he is born. 
4 Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, 5 for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” (Jdg 13:4–5)
The Nazirite vow is specified in the Jewish law (Num 6.1-21). Interesting fact about Nazirite's. They are not allowed to drink vinegar (Num 6.3). Hmmm. Ever tried drinking vinegar? Once my friends swapped my glass of water for vinegar. Just as soon as I put it in my mouth I spat it out!

More seriously, this Nazirite will save Israel from the Philistines. So we know in advance the LORD will use him to once again rescue Israel from their punishment.
6 Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, 7 but he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’ ” (Jdg 13:6–7)
The woman tells her husband and they are assured their love making will produce what they had long hoped for. A son. Even more, someone who will save Israel.

Its interesting to ponder why Samson was required to become a Nazirite. None of the other Judges needed to adopt this lifestyle. Perhaps it was part of God's plan for how he would use Samson to defeat the Philistines. More on that later.

Story of Israel

As I mentioned earlier many if not all women explicitly named in the scriptures who does not have a child who becomes famous for some reason. Consider;

Sarah, Abraham's wife (Gen 11.30; Rom 4.19),
Rebekah, Isaac's wife (Gen 25.21),
Rachel, Jacob's wife (Gen 29.31),
Hannah, Samuel's mother (1 Sam 1.2), and
Elizabeth, John the Baptists mother (Lk 1.7,36).

I think the main factors with each of these is the fact that someone has yearned for a long time that the child may be born and two that God would fulfill his saving purposes through that child.

Story of Jesus

In the New Testament, we have no indication that Mary (mother of Jesus) was barren. But the birth of Jesus fits the bill on both counts above. The promised Christ was long awaited for. Hundreds of years in fact. God fulfills his saving purposes through Him.

When Samson has grown he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines. But Jesus will play a much greater role in God's salvation. He saves people from sin and death by the power of his own death and resurrection. Only the long awaited for Christ can do that.