Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Lord calls Samson’s Parents to Prepare Samson: Judges 13


The visit of the angel to Samson’s parents and the events in Judges 13 that transpire in that incident are very similar to Gideon’s call to deliver Israel.  1) Instructions are given 2) sacrifice is made 3)they see miracles as the angel ascends into heaven 4) They feel they have been presumptuous and worry they will die because they have seen God. 5) They realize they will not die because they Lord has accepted their sacrifice.

The question that comes to me now is, “Why did the Lord call the parents of Samson instead of Samson directly this way?”

The answer seems to be that extra preparation for Samson was required and that the nature of the obstacles he faced required he be raised a certain way so that he could better deal with them.  At the beginning of Judges 13 it says the Lord had delivered the Israelites into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years.  That’s a long enough time that a significant portion of the population didn’t know what independence even looked like for their own people.  The younger portion of the population might be inclined to raise their social status by affiliating themselves in some way with the Philistines who ruled over them.  Samson would fight a lot of social apathy and inertia.

It is interesting that the angel came to visit Manoah’s wife first, and then when Manoah prayed to have the angel visit them again to instruct them, the angel came to his wife again and not directly to him; she had to run get him.   This might look like a slap in Manoah’s face from the Lord, but I think there is another better way to read it.

I love that the Lord answered Manoah’s prayer; it showed that the Lord cared just as much about him as his wife.  I love that Manoah’s wife ran to get him when the angel came; it shows how anxious she was to have her husband be included in the spiritual experience.  I think this shows the Lord blessed Manoah’s wife with the first visitation in order to challenge Manoah to exert his own faith and request to be included.  To his credit, he did.

I think there is a great message here for men in the church.  You often hear them say that women are more spiritually in tune, blah, blah, blah.. but this story teaches us that the spiritual experiences of faithful women are meant to be a challenge to men to show them what blessings men can enjoy too if they will humble themselves and ask and seek and knock, etc.

How was Samson to be prepared if he was to “begin to deliver Israel” as the angel said?  You can imagine this would be a very important question for Samson’s parents to ask, and Samson’s father, Manoah, asks it. “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” 

  Interestingly enough the angel doesn’t say anything about weapons or fighting.  He essentially repeats all the things previously told Manoah’s wife: 1) His wife is not to eat or drink anything from the vine, or wine, or strong drink and 2) Everything told her before she is to beware—no razor to shave his hair, and he is supposed to be a Nazarite unto God from the very beginning.

So how is being a Nazarite and doing these things supposed to prepare him to begin to deliver Israel?  It’s the little differences and the purpose behind them that will set him apart.  His life will be structured differently because of being a Nazarite and having to avoid wine or strong drink.  He’ll look different because of his hair, and he won’t be touching the dead, so he won’t be going to certain places like to graves and such.  These differences are small, but they have a big purpose--being set apart to God.  They help build moral strength to live differently from other people.  The little things can lead to big things and big courage.  Being obedient in the little things and feeling the Lord’s favor gives strength to be obedient in the big things that will require battle and trusting the Lord.

That reminds me a lot of the standards in For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. Those guidelines are small and simple things, but they help set youth apart for the Lord, and the experience gained in following those standards helps build greater moral strength for greater challenges that lie ahead.  And I don't think that those standards are only for youth. They can bless any adult at any age who is willing to follow them.

It is neat to me that the angel doesn’t just say Samson is to do this, but also instructs Samson’s soon-to-be mother that she is to avoid drinking wine and strong drink as well.  She becomes a kind of half-Nazarite, and her example will help Samson learn how to find permissible things to drink.  (Her obedience during her pregnancy also ensures Samson will not suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome.)

So, do the little differences of being a Nazarite help?  To some extent, yes, but Samson’s tendency to break other commandments ends up casting a shadow over his story.  We can only wonder how his story would have been different if he had found better women.