Judges 13.1-25 Faithful Deliverer

October 7, 2012 Series: Judges | Still{Un}Faithful (Part 2 of 2)

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Judges 13:1–13:25

Intro: Samson
It is important to remember that Judges is a story within a story. The Bible is the story of the one true God recuing his people from evil. Different leaders, prophets, priests, and eventually kings arise to lead God’s people until a ‘savior’ comes. Judges is that part in the story when God’s people are leaderless and trying to do what is “right” in their own eyes. What they think is “right” is usually wrong so God raises up “judges” to save them from sin—because they are sinful men all fail—all point to the one savior (who is more than a man) who will deal with sin once and for all.

The next four chapters of Judges center on a deliverer, sent by God, named Samson. Samson is the 12th of 12 judges in the book of Judges. Many would argue that Samuel is a 13th judge, from the tribe of Ephraim, born likely at the same time as Samson. It is likely that, before we jumped into Judges, that we could have identified these twelve. Few have heard of men named Shamgar, Tola, Jephthah, and Ibzan or women like Deborah and Jael. Without doubt, EVERYONE has probably heard some version of the tale of Samson—even if it was not biblical. The name Samson conjures up the image of this herculean hero, a Jewish-Superman ripping apart lions with his bare hands, fighting armies with jawbones, and always getting the girl. He is pictured as a buff, suave, good looking, and very hairy stud.

The truth is Samson is the tragic story of man who abuses all the gifts that God blesses him with. He is a gifted leader, a mighty warrior, and a charismatic figure that everyone is drawn to—but he is deeply broken. And yet, God is bigger than his sin and accomplishes his mission through his brokenness. Over the next four weeks, we will begin to see how Samson rebelled against his calling, how Samson pursued sin and his own glory, and even how Samson’s perversion of masculinity has infected our own culture. And though we will see how God saves Israel through a wonderfully dark hero, my greatest desire is for us to see the Samson in all of us that needs saving.

We ended Judges 12 with an unfaithful man making an unrighteous vow that destroyed his family. Now, we begin chapter 13 with a faithful God making a faithful vow to save his family. Read Judges 13.1-25

God who is gracious
For the last six chapters, upwards of 200 years, God has been silent. The last time he is recorded speaking to Israel is in chapter 6 when an angel visits Gideon. Over that time, Israel has followed a pattern all too familiar to our own lives—they sin, God judges, they cry, God saves. The last judge, Abdon, reigned for 8 years. Following his death, Israel again “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Namely, they break his covenant by worshipping false gods, being friends with God’s enemies, and marrying foreign women. God judges their sin by raising up the Philistines—the enemy that farmer Shamgar had fought. Usually, every time God raised up an oppressor, the people cry. Their cry was never one of confession, but one of relief from oppression. This time, even though the oppression is the longest in the book (40 years), Israel does not cry.

Israel has become comfortable in their enslavement. They have come to accept their oppression and their idolatry as the NEW NORMAL. They do not cry because their sin no longer bothers them—they are content living in, like, and for the world. We need to fear being that comfortable with our sin. John Owen famously said, “Be killing sin or it will be killing you.” One of the most effective ways for the enemy to kill us is to inoculate us to sin—to convince us “it isn’t that bad” or “it isn’t that big of deal.” We become comfortable with the idea of being “pretty devoted or better-than disciples.” After all, we’re not as idolatrous, lawless, or rebellious as Jephthah. We may not be fully devoted, but we’re not burning our children on altars. We have ACCEPTABLE IDOLS representing acceptable sins—just a little greed, just a little unloving, just a little coveting. Consider your own comfort with sin, and your devotion to the LORD or lack thereof. This is not about proving you’re acceptable by listing all the things that you have done or avoided. This is simply asking HOW YOUR LIFE WOULD LOOK DIFFERENT if Jesus ceased your LORD right now. How do you spend your money? What is are your biggest bills? How do you spend your time? Does facebook get five hours a day and God get five minutes? How do you serve your church? The Bible says have become part of a body. What are your excuses for being lame? How do you spend your energy? Do you exert more in planning your vacations or in planning your how you will serve Him? And when are those things unfaithful? Consider your devotion. If you’re desires, your plans, your checkbooks, your time, all that you have SUDDENLY CEASED to be governed by the LORDSHIP of Jesus Christ, would anything change? Perhaps some of us have become comfortable with some acceptable sins, comfortable confessing faith with our mouths but living like the world.

God who does the Impossible
By Grace, this is the setting in which God decides to break the silence. Our unfaithfulness is always the beginning of the story—it’s where God works best, perhaps exclusively. He enters into a situation that only he can resolve. The kind of devotion God requires is only possible through a miracle of God’s Spirit. Up to this point, God has raised up men—calling men out of winepresses and onto battlefields. Instead of “raising up” a living deliverer, he decides to grow one from scratch. The Angel of the LORD tells a barren woman she will have a son. Without God, there would be no life in this woman’s’ womb. Our Loving God speaks hope though men refuse to listen. Our Sovereign God speaks salvation though there is only oppression. Our Creator God speaks life though there is only emptiness.

Not only does the Angel of the Lord tell her that she will bear of son, but she tells him this son shall be devoted to the LORD, a Nazarite (Numbers 6), with a specific mission—to begin to save Israel from the Philistines. This is essentially a foreshadowing of Christ’s own birth thousands of years later: Luke 1.30-37 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” What is your impossible right now? Where does God have to show up?

There is so much that could be said about God setting apart a child before they are born. And though I do not think that this is the intention of the text, it certainly is a bold declaration of the truth that God knows and has a purpose for his unborn children. And for the church, or the individual Christians, to stand idly by while 1.2 million unborn children are killed each year is to be as comfortable with sin as Israel has become. We should be weeping over this kind of death, but we should weep even more over our unfaithfulness. We should be pleading to God for his help. The thrust of this text is that God is faithful to save and without him we are lost. Men contribute nothing to their salvation but sin. In barrenness, God brings forth a savior. There is no human energy. There is no human talent. There is no human desire. There is only a faithful, loving, glorious God showing grace. God moves first; we can’t help but move.

God who is “Wonderful”
Samson appears to be one of the few, if not the only judge, that comes from a stable home with seemlingy “good” parents. His MOTHER W/O A NAME goes to tell her husband, Manoah, what has happened. She tells him that she met a man who looked like an angel—VERY AWESOME. She repeats everything the angel said but Manoah wants to verify it for himself, so he prays that God will send the “man” again to teach him what we are to do with the child. And throughout the story, Manoah sounds at best like an unspiritual dufus, and at worse a pagan jerk, who refuses to listen to the wisdom of his spiritually discerning wife. Sounds like a normal marriage. God answers his prayer and the Angel of the Lord returns to visit Manoah’s wife. This time, his wife runs to get Manoah who follows her to meet this man. Manoah verifies that he’s the “man” who spoke with his wife and asks him—IF our son is born, as you say, how should we raise him, what will be this boys mission? The Angel responds with—do what I told your wife.

Then Manoah shows his real struggle. We have a repeat of what happened with Gideon in chapter 6. He offers to prepare a meal for Angel who instructs him instead to make an offering to God. Manoah prepares a burnt offering. And as he does, he asks the angel, “What is your name, so that when your words come true, we may honor you?” Remember that Manoah is part of a culture that is totally idolatrous. In ancient times, knowing the name of a heavenly being was thought to provide special power OVER that being. Unlike Gideon, Manoah does not want to honor him, he wants insurance. And unlike Gideon who named his altar ‘LORD is PEACE” Manoah never names his altar site.

That is because Israel is at WAR with GOD. And it is a war over control. I want to control my money, my time, my stuff, my life, my mission, even my God. And I won’t devote myself to His commands unless I know where obedience is going to lead—will it benefit me as I think it should. We see that God will not be controlled. The Angel of the Lord refuses to give His name, telling him he should know it is WONDERFUL. In other words, trust my Word, obey my voice, and know my ways are beyond your understanding. This is why many of us struggle with devotion—we’re not in control. There is great fear in what feels like blind devotion, great insecurity in not knowing how things will work out, great pain in sacrificing, great anxiety in possibly failing. Devotion to God is a call to leave that which is uncomfortable and trust Him. He is a mysteriously wonderful and dangerous savior, and he calls us to follow him on a mysteriously wonderful and dangerous mission. It is a mission that requires genuine devotion and sacrifice without guarantee and even without explanation.

God who substitutes
Finally, as the fire goes up on the burnt offering the Angel of the Lord enters into the flame and is burned up. Both Manoah and his wife are moved to worship. Having seen God, specifically Jesus, Manoah fears he will die—for no man can see God and live (Ex. 33.20). But his spiritually discerning wife calms his fears, reminding him how foolish it would be to tell them about a coming baby and then kill them—duh!

But the most important part of this scene is that we see what will be required for us to move from total unfaithfulness to total faithfulness, from enemies of God to family, from comfortable Christians to disciples ready to die. We do not need better thinking, better behavior, or even a better life. We need an entirely new one. The Angel stepping into the altar as an offering to the LORD pictures the substitutionary atonement of Jesus. That is a big phrase to say that Jesus was not just an example of humble service and love. He dies in my place for my sins—taking the punishment I deserve and giving me the sinless life I don’t. He not just your example, he is your substitute in death and in life. That is why we celebrate communion. That is why we get baptized. That is why we live to proclaim his name.

God who judges and blesses: Let’s close this out in a way that makes us all uncomfortable. When you trust in the TRUE SAMSON for salvation, Jesus, two things come into your life—judgment and blessing.

As predicted, Manoah’s wife gives birth to a baby boy and she names him Samson, meaning, little sun. He is going to be bright, strong, and hot. But the coming of Samson is both a predicted judgment & a blessing upon God’s people. Understanding this takes a little more digging into Samson’s lineage. Manoah is a Danite, meaning he is from the tribe of Dan. Dan was one of the 12 sons of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham. Jacob had two wives, one he loved name Rachel and one he was fooled into marrying named Leah. Though he did not love Leah, God blessed her, she gave him four sons. Rachel gave him none. Rachel became very angry and attempted to force God’s hand and control her situation. This led to the birth of Dan. Genesis 30.1-6 When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children, she envied her sister. She said to Jacob, “Give me children, or I shall die!” 2 Jacob’s anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, “Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?” 3 Then she said, “Here is my servant Bilhah; go in to her, so that she may give birth on my behalf, that even I may have children through her.” 4 So she gave him her servant Bilhah as a wife, and Jacob went in to her. 5 And Bilhah conceived and bore Jacob a son. 6 Then Rachel said, “God has judged me, and has also heard my voice and given me a son.” Therefore she called his name Dan.

In the eyes of Rachel, the birth of Dan was both a judgment and a blessing. For over 300 years, Israel cried over and over again for a deliverer, a leader, a king to save them. All the while, they did what was right in their own eyes. Then God gave them a savior—on that they both loved and hated. Though his heroic escapades, he brings what they like and what they don’t like. The loved him when he destroyed their enemies the Philistines. But then they hated them, because when he did, he took away their comfort, their security, even their idolatry. That is what devotion naturally brings.

Conclusion: Devotion Jesus is Judgment and Blessing
For those who do not know Christ, I would plead with you see and confess that you are a sinner, to recognize that you have lived for yourself, you rebelled against the one true holy, loving, and good Creator. This is why out of your control. Trust in Jesus. Believe that God sent His Son to die as your substitute not to make you a better person, but to make you an entirely new one.

For those who say you know Christ, consider your devotion—what you have become comfortable with or what you are trying to control. When, by grace, you respond to Jesus call to ‘follow me’—there is no guarantee where it will lead. But I do know that you will experience both judgment and blessing.

Devotion to Jesus will take away your comfort with sin. Devotion to Jesus will uncover your selfishness. Devotion to Jesus will reveal your idols. Devotion to Jesus will expose your religiosity. Devotion to Jesus will cause you to be hated. Devotion to Jesus will bring judgment on those things that are too important to you, that are robbing him of worship. And if you are not experiencing that, perhaps you are not devoted to Jesus.

But devotion to Jesus also brings overwhelming blessing. Jesus forgives our sin and frees us from its power. Jesus removes our guilt and our shame forever. Jesus establishes our identity as a perfect child of God and tells us we are significant. Jesus fills us with love and joy. And he blesses with hope and purpose until He returns—to proclaim Jesus as not only savior but LORD, worthy of my devotion, worthy of my obedience, worthy of my sacrifice, even worthy of my life and even my death.

More in Judges | Still{Un}Faithful (Part 2 of 2)

November 25, 2012

Judges 20-21 Faithful Substitute

November 18, 2012

Judges 19.1-30 Unfaithful Acts

November 11, 2012

Judges 17-18 Unfaithful Worship