You may very well wonder why I chose the title, “Samson’s Silver Spoon.” It is because I have chosen to make use of the expression, “He was born with a silver spoon in his mouth.” By this we are referring to someone who was born with all the advantages one could hope for. Usually this would include a powerful and influential family and more than adequate financial resources. In other words, someone who is “born with a silver spoon in his mouth” is a person who has all the advantages and is thus more likely to be successful.
Surely Samson would fall into this category of being born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Gideon claimed a disadvantage by virtue of being the youngest child in his family and being born into an insignificant clan (a claim which appears to be false). Abimelech had the disadvantage of 70 brothers who were born of his father’s wives, while he was the son of a concubine. Jephthah had the even greater disadvantage of having a mother who was a prostitute. But when we come to Samson in Judges 13, we find a man who is born into a godly family, whose miraculous birth was announced by a two-fold visit by the Angel of the Lord, and in whom the Spirit of God is at work. With such advantages, one can hardly imagine Samson being a failure.
The purpose of this message is to focus on the author’s rather lengthy introduction of Samson, one that requires all of Judges 13. This introduction is the most lengthy and detailed introduction of any of Israel’s judges. More attention is devoted to Samson than to any other judge in this book. We would do well to discover why the author felt this lengthy introduction was necessary. We should also note that Samson is the last of the judges that will be described in the Book of Judges.2
I would make two suggestions to the reader who desires to get the most out of this text and the three chapters that follow (which are devoted to Samson). First, set aside almost everything you remember about Samson that you have learned from children’s Bible story books or Sunday School. They have “cleaned up” Samson to the point that we would not recognize him if we saw him. Second, read the account as though you are doing so for the first time. Try not to dwell on chapters 14-16 until after you have carefully considered chapter 13. I have purposed to cover the life of Samson in three lessons. This first lesson will concentrate on the author’s introduction to Samson in chapter 13. In the second lesson, I will focus on Samson and his failed love life with the woman at Timnah in chapters 14 and 15. In the third message on Samson, we will be dealing with Samson and Delilah and the consequences of this relationship as described in chapter 16.
There is really no way to understand the life of Samson without knowing something about the Nazirite vow. The vow and its requirements are set forth in Numbers 6:1-21. Here’s the essence of the teaching of that text:
The Nazirite vow is a voluntary vow of separation unto God, which can be made by either a man or a woman.
The Nazirite vow is normally a temporary vow, one made for that period of time which the individual stipulates at the beginning of the vow.3
The person making the vow must abstain not only from wine, but from everything derived from the grape vine. This would include grape juice, grape skins, grape seeds, and raisins.
The person making the vow must avoid contact with anything dead, even family members.
If any defilement occurs during the period of the vow, the individual must go through a cleansing process and then begin the vow period all over.
The person making the Nazirite vow must also abstain from cutting their hair for the period of time the vow is in effect. Once the stipulated period has ended, sacrifices are offered to God, and the hair is cut off and offered up on the sacrificial fire as well.
I believe it is safe to say that whatever evil the Israelites are now committing, it is worse than at an earlier time:
19 When a leader died, the next generation would again act more wickedly than the previous one. They would follow after other gods, worshiping them and bowing down to them. They did not give up their practices or their stubborn ways (Judges 2:19, emphasis mine).
Based on this premise, we may assume that Israel’s disobedience is even worse than this earlier description of their sin recorded in chapter 10:
6 The Israelites again did evil in the Lord’s sight. They worshiped the Baals and the Ashtars, as well as the gods of Syria, Sidon, Moab, the Ammonites, and the Philistines. They abandoned the Lord and did not worship him. 7 The Lord was furious with Israel and turned them over to the Philistines and Ammonites (Judges 10:6-8).
The period of oppression in chapter 10 was 18 years (verse 8). Now, the period of Philistine domination is 40 years. Thus, the author must be referring to another, later, time period.
It may be important for the reader to recognize what is not said in the first verse of chapter 13, though it is found in earlier chapters. The author does not describe this period of domination as horribly cruel and oppressive as, for example, it was in chapter 6,5 or in chapter 10.6 Neither are we told (as we were earlier in Judges) that the Israelites “cried out” to God, either in repentance or in a plea for help.
What I am about to say is inferential (some might even say “speculative”), rather than propositional (a truth based upon a clear statement in the Bible). Nevertheless, it does seem that the author has some reason for not referring to any great anguish or agony on Israel’s part and for not mentioning (as he has in the past) that the Israelites cried out to God for deliverance.
I am inclined to conclude from the author’s silence on these matters that the Israelites were content (or at least complacent) with regard to their domination by the Philistines. Why would this be? Let me suggest some possible reasons.
Considerable time (40 years) has passed, and the Israelites may simply have gotten used to Philistine domination. (In New Testament times, how many Israelites were crying out to God for deliverance when they were subjected to Roman rule?)
Domination by the Philistines would mean that the Israelites would enjoy a measure of stability, as well as protection from the other nations which surrounded them. A number of years ago, there were some who would have said, “Better Red (under communist rule) than dead.” Some Israelites may have been thinking, “Better a Philistine than dead.”
Philistine rule provided the opportunity to worship any number of gods. Religious pluralism may have sounded sweet to some wayward Israelites.
The Philistines, like the other Canaanite peoples, were serious in their pursuit of sensual pleasure. Their (im)morality and their religion actually promoted sensuality. And thus there were undoubtedly some Israelites who endured (if not enjoyed) Philistine domination, simply because it was more fun than fundamentalism (pun intentional).
Sadly, Israel’s apathy with regard to their political and moral bondage is not that difficult for someone today to understand because we see a very similar perspective in our country today. Over the last few decades, our constitutionally-guaranteed freedoms have been eroded away by government intervention, legislation, and high court interpretation. Many people have not protested (loudly enough) because of the benefits they supposed they were gaining from government domination and encroachment. And now we see giant strides being taken to suppress our liberties even further, and all too many Americans are willing to let it happen because of the benefits they believe they are gaining. Let us learn from Israel’s mistakes.
2 There was a man named Manoah from Zorah, from the Danite tribe. His wife was infertile and childless. 3 The Lord’s angelic messenger appeared to the woman and said to her, “You are infertile and childless, but you will conceive and have a son. 4 Now be careful! Do not drink wine or beer, and do not eat any food that will make you ritually unclean. 5 Look, you will conceive and have a son. You must never cut his hair, for the child will be dedicated to God from birth. He will begin to deliver Israel from the power of the Philistines.” 6 The woman went and said to her husband, “A man sent from God came to me! He looked like God’s angelic messenger – he was very awesome. I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not tell me his name. 7 He said to me, ‘Look, you will conceive and have a son. So now, do not drink wine or beer and do not eat any food that will make you ritually unclean. For the child will be dedicated to God from birth till the day he dies’” (Judges 13:2-7).
We are first introduced to Samson’s father, Manoah, who comes from the tribe of Dan. He had a wife, but we are never given her name. To me, she is simply “Mrs. Manoah.” Mrs. Manoah was barren, and so she and her husband had no children. We don’t know if they were elderly, as was the case with some others in the Bible with a similar condition.7
The Angel of the Lord appeared to Mrs. Manoah even though there is no indication that she petitioned the Lord for a child. The Angel spoke to the woman, informing her that although she was barren, she would soon give birth to a son. The Angel then gave her instructions regarding the boy’s prenatal care, as well as his lifestyle after his birth. The woman was not to drink any alcoholic beverages, nor to eat any unclean food. The boy’s hair was never to be cut. If it was not already clear to her, these instructions were an indication that her son would be a Nazirite from birth. He would also begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines.
It is worth noting here that Mrs. Manoah’s conduct and prenatal care were required because her child would be a Nazirite “from birth.” It is not that difficult to conclude that God regarded this woman’s fetus to be a human being, and thus she was instructed to commence the practices of a Nazirite while the child was still in her womb. Life begins in the womb. It is just that simple. The words of the Angel of the Lord make it clear that it is so.8
There is one more thing that we should note from the Angel’s words to Mrs. Manoah. Her son, who was to be a Nazirite for his lifetime, would “begin” to deliver Israel from the Philistines (verse 5). There will be other deliverers who will carry on this task, but it is Samson who will begin the process, which will continue after his death.
Mrs. Manoah went to her husband to tell him what she had just seen and heard. She told Manoah that a “man of God” came to her and that his appearance was like that of an angel. In her words, He was awesome. There was something about him that distinguished him from mere men. Not only was this person awesome, He was also mysterious. She did not ask His name or where He came from, and neither did He tell her. She reasoned that He must be an angel.
She went on to tell her husband what the Angel did say. He told her that she would conceive and bear a son. He also instructed her that she must not drink wine or fermented beverages, and she must not eat any unclean food. This was because her child was to be a Nazirite his entire life – from womb to tomb.
At this point, it is necessary for us to pause for a moment to make a few observations. First, note that Samson’s status as a Nazirite was neither voluntary (on his part), nor was it temporary (as it usually was). Samson’s function as a Nazirite was imposed upon him by God. Second, Mrs. Manoah was required to be a participant in Samson’s practice as a Nazirite. As noted before, this is because Samson was a living human being the entire time he was in her womb, and so the Nazirite restrictions had to apply to her during her pregnancy. Third, the Angel of the Lord is merely recognized as a “run of the mill” (i.e., ordinary) angel at this point in time. It is later that both Manoah and his wife recognize Who they are dealing with. Fourth, even though Numbers 6 is emphatic about a Nazirite not having contact with the dead, nothing is said of that in our text.
Fifth, we should note that while nothing is said regarding contact with the dead, something is said about refraining from foods that are ceremonially unclean.9 Nothing is said about unclean foods in the instructions pertaining to the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6 because all Israelites were to avoid unclean foods. One taking the Nazirite vow was going above and beyond the standards of conduct followed by the average Israelite. Under the Law of Moses, no Israelite was permitted to eat unclean food.10 Now, unclean foods are specifically prohibited in the case of Mrs. Manoah and Samson. Why would it be necessary to forbid them to eat unclean foods? I believe it is because of the apostasy and idolatry of the Israelites. Food and drink were an essential part of heathen worship, and thus in order to worship with the Philistines, one would eat their unclean foods. It would appear that the Israelites were regularly eating unclean foods, and so for a Nazirite to be set apart to God, it was necessary to apply this general prohibition to Samson and his mother specifically.
8 Manoah prayed to the Lord, “Please, Lord, allow the man sent from God to visit us again, so he can teach us how we should raise the child who will be born.” 9 God answered Manoah’s prayer. God’s angelic messenger visited the woman again while she was sitting in the field. But her husband Manoah was not with her. 10 The woman ran at once and told her husband, “Come quickly, the man who visited me the other day has appeared to me!” 11 So Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he met the man, he said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to my wife?” He said, “Yes.” 12 Manoah said, “Now, when your announcement comes true, how should the child be raised and what should he do?” 13 The Lord’s messenger told Manoah, “Your wife should pay attention to everything I told her. 14 She should not drink anything that the grapevine produces. She must not drink wine or beer, and she must not eat any food that will make her ritually unclean. She should obey everything I commanded her to do.” 15 Manoah said to the Lord’s messenger, “Please stay here awhile, so we can prepare a young goat for you to eat.” 16 The Lord’s messenger said to Manoah, “If I stay, I will not eat your food. But if you want to make a burnt sacrifice to the Lord, you should offer it.” (He said this because Manoah did not know that he was the Lord’s messenger.) 17 Manoah said to the Lord’s messenger, “Tell us your name, so we can honor you when your announcement comes true.” 18 The Lord’s messenger said to him, “You should not ask me my name, because you cannot comprehend it.” 19 Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and offered them on a rock to the Lord. The Lord’s messenger did an amazing thing as Manoah and his wife watched. 20 As the flame went up from the altar toward the sky, the Lord’s messenger went up in it while Manoah and his wife watched. They fell facedown to the ground.
21 The Lord’s messenger did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. After all this happened Manoah realized that the visitor had been the Lord’s messenger. 22 Manoah said to his wife, “We will certainly die, because we have seen a supernatural being!” 23 But his wife said to him, “If the Lord wanted to kill us, he would not have accepted the burnt offering and the grain offering from us. He would not have shown us all these things, or have spoken to us like this just now” (Judges 13:8-23).
The way I read our text, Manoah and his wife were godly people living in an ungodly world, albeit an ungodly Israelite world. Manoah prayed that God would send the Angelic Messenger another time, so that he might hear from Him how this promised child was to be raised. I’m delighted to see that Manoah did not question God’s ability to give them a son, as did Zacharias.11 He assumed that the promise of a child would be fulfilled, and this is the reason why he wanted further instruction regarding the raising of this special child. Graciously, the Angel appears to Mrs. Manoah a second time while she is out in the field. The woman hurries to find her husband, and then reports that the One who had appeared to her earlier had appeared to her once again.
Following his wife, Manoah came upon their mysterious and majestic visitor. Manoah asked the Angel if he was the One who had spoken to his wife earlier, to which He answered, “I am.” When one sees an “I Am” in the Bible, it does strike a familiar note, doesn’t it?12 And who better to say this than the Angel of the Lord?
Now Manoah has his opportunity for a bit of Question and Answer, and so he sets forth his question.
Manoah said, “Now, when your announcement comes true, how should the child be raised and what should he do?” (Judges 13:12)
The NET Bible seems to paraphrase here, perhaps on the basis of verse 8. Other translations take Manoah’s words in a more strictly literal way:
Manoah said, “Now when your words come to pass, what shall be the boy's mode of life and his vocation?” (NAU)
Then Manoah asked, “When Your words come true, what will the boy's responsibilities and mission be?” (CSB)
And Manoah said, “Now when your words come true, what is to be the child's manner of life, and what is his mission?” (ESV)
Manoah said, “Now let Your words come to pass! What will be the boy’s rule of life, and his work?” (NKJ)
As I see it, the two questions are really intertwined. Manoah begins by asking the Angel what the boy’s life calling and ministry will be, and this also raises the question of how this child should be raised. Let’s face it; if the boy is going to grow up to be a musician, his training will be different than if he is going to be a computer technician. That is why colleges have (or used to have) “majors.” Students “major” in the subject areas which are most applicable to the career for which they are preparing. Manoah wants to know what God has in mind for this boy, as well as some instructions regarding how to prepare him for his calling.
Here’s the interesting thing about the Angel’s answer – He evades giving a direct answer to the question. Indeed, the Angel’s answer is to repeat and reiterate His previous instructions to Manoah’s wife. He adds nothing further to His previous statements about the boy’s calling. I think there is a good reason for the Angel’s evasion. Ideally, Samson would have turned out to be a man like Samuel. After all, Samuel judged Israel in years to come. But Samuel was a godly man, and his “judging” was quite different than that of Samson. The chapters which follow will show us that his life was vastly different from that of Samuel. Why tell Samson’s parents that their son will become a self-centered, flesh-driven man whose judging will be the result of his anger and retaliation? That will be evident to them soon enough and knowing this ahead of time might discourage them from putting forth their best efforts in raising Samson.
Not getting very far with his first question, Manoah takes a different tack with his next two questions. First, he invites the Angel to stay for dinner. Some have accused Manoah of being manipulative here, but I don’t see it that way at all. Abraham invited his three guests for dinner in Genesis 18,13 just as Lot invited the two angels to eat with him in chapter 19.14 This was just good Middle Eastern hospitality. Nevertheless, the Angel declined the offer of a meal, but did encourage the offering of a sacrifice, much as Gideon had done in chapter 6 (resulting in a similarly impressive event):
17 Gideon said to him, “If you really are pleased with me, then give me a sign as proof that it is really you speaking with me. 18 Do not leave this place until I come back with a gift and present it to you.” The Lord said, “I will stay here until you come back.” 19 Gideon went and prepared a young goat, along with unleavened bread made from an ephah of flour. He put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot. He brought the food to him under the oak tree and presented it to him. 20 God’s messenger said to him, “Put the meat and unleavened bread on this rock, and pour out the broth.” Gideon did as instructed. 21 The Lord’s messenger touched the meat and the unleavened bread with the tip of his staff. Fire flared up from the rock and consumed the meat and unleavened bread. The Lord’s messenger then disappeared. 22 When Gideon realized that it was the Lord’s messenger, he said, “Oh no! Master, Lord! I have seen the Lord’s messenger face to face!” (Judges 6:17-22, emphasis mine)
At this point, Manoah still does not recognize this “angel” as the Angel of the Lord. He is certainly curious about His identity, however, and so he asks the angel for his name, so that they can honor him once the child is born. It sounds like a reasonable request, but the angel is still unwilling to identify Himself, and so he side-steps the question by asking Manoah why he wants to know, adding that His name is beyond comprehension. Wow! That should have gotten Manoah’s attention. What happens when Manoah offers the sacrifice sets aside all of his questions and produces an appropriate sense of awe and fear.
Manoah took a young goat and sacrificed it on a rock.15 As he did so, an amazing thing happened as Manoah and his wife looked on. The Angel of the Lord ascended into heaven in the flames that blazed up from the sacrifice. Were these flames ignited by the Angel, as they were with Gideon’s offering? The author does not say this specifically, although the same Hebrew word is used to depict the flames “going up” from the sacrifice.16
I can imagine Manoah and his wife standing there, gazing up into the sky (as the disciples did when Jesus ascended into the heavens) waiting to see if He would return to earth. When it became obvious that He would not return, Manoah concluded that this had been no ordinary angel; this was none other than the Angel of the Lord. This was God!
Manoah knew that no one could see God and live,17 and so he reasoned that he and his wife were as good as dead, since they had seen God. Mrs. Manoah is the voice of reason here, while Manoah is in a panic. Her reasoning is based upon common sense. God had accepted their sacrifice. In addition to this, although they had seen God, they were still alive. If God had meant to kill them, He would not have accepted their sacrifice, and He would not have allowed them to live this long. Neither would He have told them that they were going to have a child. Dead people don’t bear and raise children.
24 Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol (Judges 13:24-25, NASB95).
And so it was that when Manoah’s wife gave birth to a son, she named him Samson. The author wants us to know two things about Samson’s growing years. First, he experienced God’s blessings as he grew up. We don’t really know what all was included in the blessings God showered upon Samson in his youth, but we can say that Samson experienced the blessings of God. I am convinced in my own mind that these blessings included far more than mere brute strength, which would have been a mere sampling of things to come. I believe that God’s blessings would have included both spiritual and material benefits.
Second, we are told that “the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him.” Every other time the Spirit comes upon Samson in the Book of Judges, he becomes a powerful killing machine.18 But here we are not told that the Spirit “came upon” Samson; we are told instead that the Spirit of the Lord began to “stir” him. It is my opinion that the Spirit’s work here may be similar to what Stephen described in the life of Moses:
23 “But when he was about forty years old, it entered his mind to visit his fellow countrymen the Israelites. 24 When he saw one of them being hurt unfairly, Moses came to his defense and avenged the person who was mistreated by striking down the Egyptian. 25 He thought his own people would understand that God was delivering them through him, but they did not understand. 26 The next day Moses saw two men fighting, and tried to make peace between them, saying, ‘Men, you are brothers; why are you hurting one another?’” (Acts 7:23-26)
I believe that God’s Spirit was at work in Samson to give him a heart for the Israelites and to yearn for their deliverance from bondage to the Philistines. I believe God was prompting Samson to love and to worship Him, rather than the Philistine gods. The Spirit may well have been bearing witness to the teaching of his parents. It is also possible that in addition to these things, the Spirit of God actually empowered Samson to engage the Philistines in battle, but for more pious reasons than we shall see in later times.
A good while ago I was speaking at a banquet. I had chosen to speak using Barnabas as an example for all to follow in their ministries. I was nearing the “punch line” of my sermon when one dear sister, sitting at the back of the room, saw where I was going next in my message. At just the right moment she almost involuntarily uttered, “Ohhhhhh. . . .” Obviously, I can’t give you the exact intonation of what she said, but the essence of it was this: “I can see it coming; here it is . . . .” She was absolutely right, and her timing could not have been more perfect.
That’s the way I feel as I read the last verse of chapter 13. If I had not read chapters 14-16, I would have expected great things of Samson – or should I say greater things of Samson. Here is a man whose birth was a miracle, and it was announced by a two-fold appearance of the Angel of the Lord. He was born into a godly home and raised (so far as we can tell) in a way that honored God. During his childhood, he experienced the blessing of God and was “stirred” by the Spirit of the Lord. Who could ask for any better beginning than this? That is why I chose the title, “Samson’s Silver Spoon.” Samson had been blessed with every advantage, and thus we anticipate great things from him in the following chapters.
But our high hopes are about to be dashed on the rocks of reality in chapters 14-16. While God will use Samson to break the Philistines’ grip on Israel, he is not a deliverer that we will be proud of (no matter how much we seek to clean up Samson’s image in our children’s Bible story books). Samson will kill his thousands, but his motivations are primarily anger and revenge, based upon his frustrated efforts to indulge himself with illegitimate pleasures.
There are many lessons to learn from Samson, and one of them is this: Starting well does not assure that one will end well. All too often those who start well finish badly. Think of David, for example. We meet him as a youth, standing bravely before Goliath in the name of the Lord.19 We see his integrity and faith in God when he refuses to take the life of his king, even though Saul is seeking to kill him.20 And yet, later on, this same David will abuse his power by taking another man’s wife and ordering the death of her husband to cover his sin.21 In his final days, David is reluctant to hand the government over to his son Solomon, oblivious to the fact that another son, Adonijah, is in the process of seizing the throne.22 The same thing could be said for Solomon and many others. Starting well is a wonderful thing, but ending well is far better.
Sadly, the cause of Samson’s failure remains as the number one cause of failure in Christian leaders (and others) today. How many leaders have become addicted to power and to fleshly lusts? How many leaders have been disqualified because of their sexual immorality? Wine, women, and song destroy leaders. That is why King Lemuel is warned about the dangers of wine.23 David and Solomon both found women to be their downfall. In the New Testament, Peter will warn that false teachers are dominated by fleshly lusts, and they lure others by the offer of fleshly indulgence.24 What ruined Samson continues to ruin Christians (and many others) today.
In this regard, Samson typifies the nation Israel.25 Israel had a great beginning just as Samson did. At the “birthing” of the nation Israel, God miraculously demonstrated His power over Pharaoh, the Egyptian army, and the no-gods of Egypt. He powerfully delivered Israel from her Egyptian bondage, parting the Red Sea in such a way as to deliver the Israelites and at the same time destroy the Egyptians who were in hot pursuit. He supernaturally provided for His people while they were in the desert. He gave the Israelites His law, making a covenant with them. He put His Spirit in their midst and led them to the Promised Land. He drove the Canaanites out of the Promised Land and gave His people possession of this land. And yet when we look at Israel in the Book of Judges, they were behaving just like Samson. They were seeking their own pleasures and turning their backs on God.26 They were not finishing well. If it were not for a gracious and merciful, covenant-keeping God, Israel would not even exist.
The story of Samson is a beautiful example of how God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility inter-mesh. There are many who feel it necessary to embrace one or the other – God’s sovereignty or human responsibility – but not both. But our text demonstrates both principles at work at the same time. Samson is a man who must (and does) make choices. These choices are almost always sinful and self-serving. And yet God purposed and promised that Samson would begin to deliver Israel from bondage to the Philistines. And that is exactly what God did, through a disobedient and pleasure-seeking Samson.
Do not think that God’s sovereignty removes all freedom of choice from men, or accountability for those choices. God’s sovereignty is so complete that He can give men freedom and yet still be in complete control of His world. We who are parents know (or will soon learn) that it is impossible for us to have complete and total control of our children. When we seek to exercise control, we do so by limiting our children’s freedoms. We confine them to their rooms and take away their car keys, cell phones, and computers. But even then we are not in complete control. God is able to give men the freedom to make choices and yet still be in control, so that we are assured that His purposes will be realized. That is illustrated by God’s use of Samson, even though he is sinfully self-indulgent.
The story of Samson in Judges 13 has much to teach us about parenting. In the first place, it reminds us that God is in control of the womb. Whether God gives children, or withholds them, it is He who opens and closes the womb.27 Whether God gives children or withholds them, it is to achieve His purposes and to bring glory to Himself. Secondly, while it is clear that godly parents are to train up their children in the ways of the Lord, doing so is not a guarantee that every child raised by godly parents will become godly.28 With all of the advantages Samson enjoyed, he chose to seek the satisfaction of his fleshly lusts, and yet his fleshly pursuits did not give him the satisfaction he hoped for.
I would also point out that no one is a perfect parent, nor is anyone a perfect evangelist, teacher, or preacher. I do not know of a group of elders who are more committed to obeying our Lord than the elders of Community Bible Chapel. But having said this, I must also add that whatever we do, we do not do it perfectly. When we attempt to correct, we do not do it perfectly. When we exercise discipline, we may look back and wish we had gone about it differently. And when we parent, we will make mistakes. I do not doubt that Samson’s parents made mistakes, but they appear to have desired to be godly parents. Nevertheless, Samson chooses the path that leads to trouble.
This brings me to the matter of idolizing our leaders. If one looks long enough and carefully enough, they will discover flaws in every leader. Some of us make it easier for others to see our faults, but we all have them. We would do well not to idolize men, recognizing that they all have their weaknesses. We should respect and honor our leaders, but we should never look upon them in such a way that our faith is shaken if their faults become evident. I love the way the Bible portrays men honestly and realistically. We see that Abraham was a liar (at times), Jacob a deceiver (all too often), and Samson was a womanizer. Peter was inclined to put his foot in his mouth. Men have feet of clay; only God is the perfect example.
But look at this from another perspective. Look as those whom we find in the “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11. We find Abraham (who sometimes lied), Noah (who got drunk), Moses (who killed a man, and who disobeyed God by striking the rock), Rahab (who had been a prostitute), Gideon, Barak, Samson, and Jephthah, all of whom had their flaws (to put it mildly). Isn’t it wonderful to know that God saves sinners like these folks, declaring them righteous, not because of their perfection, but because they have placed their trust in the promises of God and in the person and work of Jesus Christ?
Ultimately, that is what our author is doing in Judges – He is pointing us to Christ, and not to fallible men. Christ is the ultimate Deliverer, not Gideon or Barak or Jephthah or Samson. God used fallible men to deliver them from their bondage to political oppressors like the Moabites, the Midianites, the Ammonites, and the Philistines. But it will take a perfect Deliverer to rescue men and women from their bondage to sin. If Judges teaches us not to look to mere men for salvation, it also instructs us to look for the One who is the perfect Deliverer – the God/Man, Jesus Christ, who is the coming Messiah. And so just as Samson’s birth is announced to a childless couple, Messiah’s birth is announced by the son of a childless couple – the parents of John the Baptist. And just as Samson’s birth and role as deliverer is announced by an angel (the Angel of the Lord), so the announcement of the birth of Messiah comes by angels. There are just a few men who are declared to be Nazirites for life. The first of these is Samson. A little later, Samuel is dedicated to God as a life-long Nazirite.29 And then a good while later, John the Baptist is appointed to live his life as a Nazirite.30 One might very well wonder why it was John the Baptist who was the Nazirite, and not Jesus:
18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon!’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him, a glutton and a drunk, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is vindicated by her deeds” (Matthew 11:18-19).
Being set apart as a Nazirite was a symbolic act. It symbolized one’s dedication to God, of being set apart for His service. But the symbol did not produce the reality. Although he was a Nazirite, one could hardly call Samson holy. And while Samuel and John the Baptist were godly men, they were not perfect men. Jesus did not need the symbolic ritual of becoming a Nazirite because He was perfect. He was set apart for service to God. He was set apart from mere men as the perfect God/Man. It was because He was the perfect God/Man that He could come to redeem His people – Jews and Gentiles alike – whoever places their trust in Him. The imperfections of the judges in the Book of Judges point us to Him who is the perfect Deliverer – Jesus Christ. He alone could die in the sinner’s place, bearing his (or her) punishment, and achieving not only the forgiveness of sins but the eternal deliverance and blessing of those who are His, by faith. Judges should not only teach us how bad the men of that day were, but how bad all men (including us) are today, and thus how badly we need God’s deliverance. That deliverance has been accomplished by the Lord Jesus through His death at Calvary, resurrection, and ascension, for all who receive it.
If Judges 13 got our hopes up (so far as Samson is concerned), chapters 14-16 will bring us down to reality. But the good news is that those who place their hope (and faith) in Jesus find that it is even better than they might have imagined. He will never disappoint us. He will never fail. His deliverance is truly “wonderful,” and it lasts forever. I pray that you have placed your trust in Him.
“Kings will be your foster fathers, and their queens your nursing mothers. They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground; they will lick the dust at your feet. Then you will know that I am the LORD; those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (Isaiah 49:23, NIV, emphasis mine).
To You they cried out and were delivered;
In You they trusted and were not disappointed (Psalm 22:5, NASB95; emphasis mine).
Just as it is written,
“BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE,
AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED” (Romans 9:33, NASB95, emphasis mine).
There is no disappointment in Jesus!
1 Copyright © 2009 by Robert L. Deffinbaugh. This is the edited manuscript of Lesson 14 in the series, The Dark Days of Israel’s Judges, prepared by Robert L. Deffinbaugh on November 8, 2009. Anyone is at liberty to use this lesson for educational purposes only, with or without credit.
2 In 1 Samuel, we are told that Eli (4:18), Samuel (7:6, 15-17), and Samuel’s sons (8:1) judged Israel.
3 I can think of two other instances of what we might call “imposed” Nazirite status. The first would be Samuel, whose mother promised God that if He gave her a son he would be a Nazirite all his life (1 Samuel 1:11). Second, Zechariah, the father-to-be of John the Baptist was told that John would be a Nazirite (Luke 1:13-15).
4 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible. The NEW ENGLISH TRANSLATION, also known as THE NET BIBLE, is a completely new translation of the Bible, not a revision or an update of a previous English version. It was completed by more than twenty biblical scholars who worked directly from the best currently available Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek texts. The translation project originally started as an attempt to provide an electronic version of a modern translation for electronic distribution over the Internet and on CD (compact disk). Anyone anywhere in the world with an Internet connection will be able to use and print out the NET Bible without cost for personal study. In addition, anyone who wants to share the Bible with others can print unlimited copies and give them away free to others. It is available on the Internet at: www.netbible.org.
5 Verses 1-6.
6 Verses 6-16.
8 My thanks to Gordon Graham and others who reminded me of this fact.
9 See verses 4 and 7.
12 I am particularly thinking of the “I am’s” of the Book of John.
13 See verses 3-8.
14 Verses 1-3.
15 I’m inclined to favor the more literal rendering “the rock.” It seems that there were such designated places where sacrifices were normally made. Was the “one stone” on which the 70 brothers of Abimelech were slaughtered (Judges 9:5, 18) such a place?
24 See 2 Peter.
25 I am grateful to Dave Austin , who reminded me of this after I delivered this message.
28 I am well aware of Proverbs 22:6, but as most students of Scripture recognize, Proverbs speaks of what is generally true, so that there are exceptions. As a general rule, those who work hard are more likely to experience prosperity than those who are sluggards, but not every hard working man is prosperous according to this world’s standards. As one surveys the history of Israel’s kings, it becomes evident that godly kings sometimes have ungodly children and that ungodly kings sometimes have godly offspring.