In the lesson on Jephthah our class spoke about the crazy vow he made while on the way to fight the Ammonites 1. As recorded in Judges 11:30-31 Jephthah promised that if he had success in battle then he would sacrifice the first thing to come out the door of his house upon his return from battle. The disaster was that his only child came dancing out the door to welcome him home. According to Matthew Henry Jephthah seemed to have had a lapse of faith on the way to the battle. It was as if he was struck with fear and responded rashly. Can we not recall stories of those who say, “God if you do this then I will do that”?
One of the ladies in the class mentioned that many people really, really want to have a role in what is going on. When our faith runs low we negotiate with the Lord for the outcome. We assume, we figure that we must have a role. The good things that come to us must be because of something we do. I certainly am like that. I am deeply and reflexively meritorious. When I come to a chapter like the one here on Samson what I prefer and expect to read would be something to the effect of, “The people of Israel cried out in their oppression; God heard their prayer and sent Samson…who was a good and godly man.” I badly want to find God responding to a submitted and humble person or people. There may have been a modicum of this in Samson’s parents, but it is small. There would be little to none of this in Samson.
Let us go down and see things unfold west of Jerusalem…
1 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. 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. 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.” (Judges 13:1-5–ESV)
The people can be counted on for mankind is consistent: they sin. God is consistent in pushing back against sin punishing with the intention of causing a return to himself. A generation of suffering began its course and so when we come to Judges 13 everyone less than 40 years of age only knew the heavy hand of the Philistines.
If one looks at a map of Israel and draws on it the various judges who are highlighted in Israel’s history the whole of the territory is identified from the north to the south to the east and the west. God raised these men and women up for their tasks. Samson will be the judge from the northwest (territory of Dan). Man failed chronically, but God favored doggedly. God would not ignore sin but he would be relentless in his mercy.
God manages and knows his nation and its people
The way this is phrased in verse 1 brings to mind the picture of God’s ongoing management. The 40 years of delivery to the Philistines seems to be something decided and done by God. That God was managing this is further built out in verse 2 and following. To see that read verse 2 which tells of this family’s condition and then verse 3 where God comes. When I first came to study this passage I had thought the woman was praying, but it seems that she was not. It seems that she was minding her own business going about the things of her life when God came.
God not only came, but God displayed that he knew about her life, family, and her longings. He knew she was barren. He knew she had always been barren. He either knew that her body naturally was going to have a moment when she could conceive or he was going to do something of his own that would cause her to conceive. He said she would conceive a son, and he gave her some instructions for her to follow.
We must conceive of ourselves as also being known by God
God not only knew the woman Manoah was married to. God knows us. He knows our past and he knows the future he would give to us. He guides us with his scripture, our circumstances and by his Holy Spirit. It is valuable and important to view ourselves this way.
God is not like we are
Three traits I wrote down for a lesson on Samson back in the 2012 era are the following: relentlessness, doggedness, determinedness. God is these things not to get someone, somewhere to worship him (as if he was a cosmic narcissist) but to redeem and rescue the fallen creation. Some will come; most will not.
Because I function in a mental land of merit all things are colored by this including the character of God. Why would I mention that here? Because God’s determinedness, doggedness and relentlessness do not make sense to a mind of merit.
It is precisely because God does not function on merit that mankind, certainly myself included, has any hope.
Mankind does not deserve God’s benevolent resolve, but mankind gets the offer anyway.
God will shower his mercies far and wide. Few will come, but some certainly will. Maybe it is a little like pollen. If there is enough of it some of the pine cones will be fertilized. Or maybe it is like sea turtle babies. Some make it to the ocean. Or, maybe it is like grass seed. Some falls on good ground.
The point here is precisely: love. For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son…John 3:16 is the culmination of his plan. God comes to mankind continually, doggedly, unreservedly because of his love.
Relentlessness, doggedness, determinedness make a lot of sense in the context of love. If we understand the love of God then these things are less surprising.
The point of all this: God is at work carrying out his own purposes. When he was ready to begin saving Israel from the Philistines he would do it.
What should we do? Don’t work for mercy. “Trust and Obey for there’s no other way,” goes the song. Samson’s mother had a trust point: she would conceive when it was time to conceive. She had an obedience point: she must avoid everything from grapevine.
What should we do? Be relentless for God’s purpose.
- Live the great commission
- Don’t wait for colleagues to express interest in Christ.
- God loves people and has done his utmost to reach out
- May we never be satisfied in our “reached” state
- Live with this phrase in our minds and hearts: “because he reached out for me I will reach out for others.”
- Philippians 3:12b says, “I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”