Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Judges series - Judges 13

The way to read this article is that the orange underlined texts are the verses of the Bible (NIV, unless otherwise stated). The black texts following the Bible verses (and enclosed by square brackets) are my commentaries. At the end of these Bible texts and commentaries, I have inserted a section on "Points to take note/What we have learnt/can learn".
{For full listing of all articles in this series, click here}

The Birth of Samson

1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, so the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years. [History repeated itself, the Israelites did evil again, and so the Lord continued to give them over, and this time to a great enemy, the Philistines, who subjected them for 40 years. A great enemy would require an exceptional deliverer/judge.]
2 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless. 3 The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, "You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son. 4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, 5 because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines." 6 Then the woman went to her husband and told him, "A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn't ask him where he came from, and he didn't tell me his name. 7 But he said to me, 'You will conceive and give birth to a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from birth until the day of his death.' " [Samson is the name of the deliverer. His father was a Danite, so Samson was from the Dan tribe. An angel announced his coming birth, and said he was set apart to God from birth, and no razor was to be used on his head. Wow! This brought to mind, Jesus and John the Baptist – so special!] 8 Then Manoah prayed to the LORD : "O LORD, I beg you, let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born." [Ah! The father knew, his son to come was special, and he prayed for visitation of the angel again, who had previously appeared to his wife, so that he could get instructions for the upbringing of the child.] 9 God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. 10 The woman hurried to tell her husband, "He's here! The man who appeared to me the other day!" 11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, "Are you the one who talked to my wife?" "I am," he said. 12 So Manoah asked him, "When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy's life and work?" 13 The angel of the LORD answered, "Your wife must do all that I have told her. 14 She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her." [Indeed the angel came again, and repeated the instructions previously given to Samson’s mother.

Notice that Manoah asked the angel for the rules for the boy’s life and work, but the angel only revealed what the mother of Samson must do. What does this tell us? Or is it supposed to tell anything at all? Maybe, the Lord is telling us that he reveals only what he considers necessary, and we are to lay hold and obey what we have received as the revelation from the Lord. Maybe, the Lord is trying to teach us that we should concentrate on the part that we are to play, and not dictate another’s life and work, when the Lord has become decisively the one’s Master. Maybe, the Lord will like the individual to personally seek the Lord for the will of the Lord for his life and work. Even so, it can also mean that certain things are meant to be kept sealed for a period of time or even eternity. This brought to mind, Deu 29:29 - The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. Of course, it is not to say that we cannot continue to seek or ask, but that we have to accept God’s sovereignty, wisdom, and, that we are to be submissive, for Pro 25:2 still exhorts us, princes and princesses, to seek out a matter: It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.]
15 Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, "We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you." 16 The angel of the LORD replied, "Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the LORD." (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the LORD.) 17 Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the LORD, "What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?" 18 He replied, "Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding." [Here we see an example of an ordinary man seeing and having a conversation with a “heavenly being”. This account is very interesting to me. It implies that at times, really, a man does not know the one who appeared to him is an angel or the Lord himself. When it happens, sometimes the man genuinely does not know what to think. The mother of Samson, based on what she saw, in the first instance, told Manoah, Samson’s father that, the being looked like an angel. Maybe, Manoah thought that the heavenly being was the Lord. He wanted to prepare an offering, a young goat, to the heavenly being. This was the same thing Gideon wanted to do when the Lord appeared to him. Gideon, for his encounter, asked for the heavenly being to stay while he went to prepare the offering, as a sign for him (Gideon) that, indeed it was the Lord who was talking to him. Maybe, Manoah knew about the encounter that Gideon had with the Lord, i.e. the testimonies of Gideon got passed down the generations and Manoah took pain to know and remember the dealings God had with man. In this regard, I encourage people to tell and record their testimonies (encounters with God or experiences of God’s supernatural works), and at the same time, get to know what God was and is doing in our midst. For this reason, the reading, understanding and remembering of the Old Testament are of significance. I believe it pleases the Lord to know that an individual takes the trouble to know Him and his dealings with man.

The reply of the heavenly being is interesting. There are 3 things to learn or should know: Firstly, angels dare not and will not have man bow to them, worship them or receive offerings from man. If any angel does that, he must be a fallen angel, one from the Satan’s camp. Secondly, the phrase, “angel of the Lord”, sometimes was interpreted as the Lord by some Bible scholars, sometimes not, by other Bible scholars. This was one instance that the Lord had taken the “form” of an angel. You will read later on, that this was indeed the case, although at this point, He was talking like any angel would talk. In some other encounters in the Bible, the angel of the Lord was, I believe, really just an angel. Thirdly, the Lord does come incognito, and in this particular case, as an angel of the Lord. Want another instance – read the story of the 2 men on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-35). By the way, angels do come in disguise, too.]

19 Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the LORD. And the LORD did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: 20 As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. 21 When the angel of the LORD did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the LORD. 22 "We are doomed to die!" he said to his wife. "We have seen God!" [Part of the reasons for us to study the Word of God is to know the ways of the Lord, to be attentive and know to do the right things when we experience heavenly visitations. I believe also that in the “minor” spiritual encounters with the supernatural, we are to learn through those experiences how to be attentive to God. God is teaching us through those experiences, we can learn from our experiences as well as the experiences of others. When we are in love, we are attentive to our partner, we even try to anticipate what he/she will do, not just his/her likes and dislikes, or what will please him/her. Many of us say we love God, yet we are not at all attentive to God. Sad to say that when I thought about what Manoah did, I realize that I would have missed it; I wouldn’t have done the offering, I would have thought to myself like this, ‘Ok, he (the heavenly being) is not the Lord, and he does not really want to reveal his name. Let’s move on.’ Manoah paid attention and heeded the words of the “angel”, he made that offering. God honored him and his wife by revealing the true identity of the angel of the Lord whom He originally concealed from the couple. Manoah quickly remembered the words that God had spoken to Moses that no one could see God face to face and still live (Ex33:20). I believe they have spoken to God face to face, incognito.] 23 But his wife answered, "If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this." [Manoah’s wife was correct. But I believe it was also true that because God appeared to them incognito that they did not need to die. It was recorded in verse 21 that the angel of the Lord, on consuming the offering did not appear before the couple again. The reason was simple, if the couple saw the Lord again, this time, having known who the angel of the Lord was, it would have necessitated the fulfillment of Ex 33:20, that they must die.]

24 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the LORD blessed him, 25 and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol. [As told by the Lord, Samson was born. As he grew, the Lord blessed him. At a certain place, Mahaneh Dan, the Spirit of the Lord began a stirring in the heart of Samson. For what? We shall see in the next chapter!]

What we can learn here:

1. Again, as in the earlier times in the Judges period, the Israelites again did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and they were given over to a powerful enemy, the Philistines. By the time Judge Samson came on, the Israelites were already oppressed by the Philistines for 40 years, and that was for a long time, as long as the time of wondering in the desert before they came into the Promised land. It is therefore, possible that if we continue in our wayward ways, the Lord would continue with his harsh disciplining.

2. Concerning Judge Samson, 4 chapters were devoted to him, Gideon, only had 3, and lady judge Deborah, 2 (without consideration of length). At the end of chapter 16, we will learn that he led the Israelites for 20 years, both Gideon and Deborah, 40 years each. I would regard him as a major judge, along with Gideon, Deborah, etc. Do not dismiss the account of Samson, there are much to learn.

3. In terms of his introduction, he came in the likes of great prophets like Jeremiah who was called even when he was in his mother’s womb, John, The Baptist, and even Jesus, the latter 2, births of which were fore-told. He was among those who were set apart from birth, for the Lord. I believe such class of people, has so special a calling in their lives that often than not, their lives might come out, in some aspects, extraordinary or unorthodox or even strange. Theirs were lives already set apart for the Lord, right from the beginning. While many and many of us do not fall under this category, we are not to envy or be upset. In any case, as vessels, we all have our destinies to fulfill. More is given, more is expected, and the more special is the calling, the more special can be the expectation! At the same time, we are to remind ourselves that there are things we can do in our walk in the faith, regardless that we have not been set apart in like situations like that of Samson. As a believer, we have all been set apart for the Lord. As a New Testament believer, we are to serve God in righteousness, and in the peace and joy of the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17-18). Many people are being taught now to just bask in grace, and just to adopt the attitude of “being”, to throw to the wind, all “should” or “ought”; I believe that is not what the believers’ walks are all about.

4. As I have said, because of the special calling on his life even before he was conceived, Samson’s life, as we will come to learn more, in later chapters, was somewhat strange or unorthodox, and somewhat not easily understood. Despite the difficulty, I do not think he should be regarded as a minor judge whom we just casually gloss over or judge that he, Samson, “wasted’ all that the Lord had given as potentials for him to be. In the subsequent chapters, we will learn of some of his shortcomings, who had none (except the Lord); even Gideon was not with none. I believe it is incorrect to say that right from the start, Samson did wrong; the stirring that this chapter ended with, which we will look at, in the next chapter, is of the Lord, not of Samson’s own.

5. The side lesson, which I also have pointed out in earlier expositions of the Book of Judges, is the need to know our faith heritage, know of how God has dealt with men, and the ways of God. And the sub-lessons are gleaned from the (purposely?) given long text, and my accompanying commentary of how the parents of Samson came to know they are going to have Samson.

6. On the subject of Nazirite, let me say that Numbers 6:1-21 are about one making a Nazirite vow, but here, the state was decided for him by God. As to whether or not, Samson had to fulfill all the commandments concerning Nazirite vow is questionable, the only one command specifically stated by God for Samson is that he must not allow his hair to be cut.

7. Rather than writing off Samson as being the outright irresponsible judge, and consider nothing much to learn from him, we are to understand that for certain people there can be so special a calling and consecration demanded of them, that they do not get to live their own lives, but live their lives according to the strict consecration demanded upon them, which can be, not easy.

Anthony Chia – Lord, help me to walk in your will for my life, no matter how insignificant, men might think it to be; Lord, may I always bear in mind that when it is important to you, it has to be important to me.

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