This is the transcript of the sermon by the same title preached at Albermarle Reformed Church on 5/19/13
Perhaps no character in the book of Judges is as quite as intriguing as that of Samson. When reading his story we seem to be almost caught up in that of a comic book, with his feats of super-human strength and his battles against the Philistines; battles such as the infamous killing of a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:15), as well as the burning of the Philistines' crops (Ibid) for the revenge of his bride's father giving her away to another man.
Samson was endowed by God with marvelous strength and abilities. God had planned it this way in order to accomplish His goal of delivering His people from the hands of the Philistines. For this very reason we look at Samson's life and see what a waste it was! He squandered away the very purpose of his existence by spending it on his flesh. He indulged in drunken revelry and licentious behavior, forsaking everything that God had called him to do—namely that of being a Nazarite, one who was fully devoted to the service of God.
We often look at a man like that and wonder what and where he went wrong. Most are quick to blame the parents for such behavior. Often, we hear things such as, “He must have not gotten enough spankings,” or “I'll bet his parents gave him everything he ever wanted.” And still, “Spare the rod, spoil the child.” And while the actions of a child, even into adulthood, can be traced back to the parents in most cases we certainly cannot say the same of Samson's parents. You see, Samson had a godly upbringing. His parents raised him in the fear and admonition of the Lord. They taught him from his youth the statutes and commandments of Jehovah in all hopes that their teaching, like all parents hope, would find root in the heart and spill out into his adult life.
His parents' godliness can be seen within certain episodes of his life. For instance, when the young man Samson begins to look for a bride he goes outside of Israel and desires to marry a heathen, even against the Lord's command (Ex 34:16). Samson's parents advise strongly against his son's actions by stating, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” (Judges 14:3). Some may be tempted to think that true godliness would have forbid the marriage under any circumstance, but we are told in the very next verse that this incident was from the Lord Himself to seek an occasion against the Philistines. Yet we are told that Samson's parents were unaware of it. More than anything else, I think this shows the godliness of his parents in trying to stop their son from marrying against God's command.
But nowhere more than in his parents' lives do we see godliness at work than before the birth of Samson. It was at this time that the two vowed to raise their son a fully devoted vessel unto the Lord. This is what we intend to examine this morning. This thirteenth chapter of Judges gives us a brief glimpse into Samson's parents and their faithfulness in obeying God to raise their son as they were commanded. We shall examine the godly heritage that Samson had, and in hope encourage the parents and soon-to-be parents to take the same measure and caution taken in the birth and rearing of Samson.
verse 1 The continual cycle. We see the theme of Judges in the first verse with the familiar words, “And the people of Israel did again what was evil in the sight of the Lord. We learned earlier that the events of Samson were tied to the events of Jephthah. While the East was concerned mainly about the Ammonite invasion God had given the West over to the Philistines; and while Jephthah delivered his people after eighteen years, the Philistine invasion lasted a total of forty years. The two invasions were contemporaneous and we need not think that somehow the Israelites in the West were any more wicked than the Isreaelites in the East. The entire nation was at fault and God punished the entire nation by sending enemies from both directions. This is confirmed by several commentaries such as Jameison, Fausset, & Brown, Keil & Dielitzch, and Gill.
vv.2 Samson's Parents. In this next portion we are introduced to the parents. There are two important pieces of information given to us about his parents that are worth examining.
- The father's name, which is Manoah. The name itself is very similar to another familiar character, Noah. Both names mean 'rest,' and this is fitting as Israel is under bondage to a foreign people at this time. The people yearned for rest and they had previously cried out to God for deliverance. The East has been delivered, but why such a delay in the West? Had God forgotten some of His people while remembering the suffering of others? We know the answer to this is a resounding “NO!” and again it is important to stress that these people were no more wicked that those who had been under Ammonite rule. Soon, their rest was coming and ironically enough it would come through the child of a man named Rest.
- We are informed that his wife, who is nameless, is barren. She could have no children and this was most unfortunate in that culture. Children were not only seen as a blessing but they were an integral part of family life. They began to learn at an early age how to work in the family trade. They bore the load of the family through work and were vital in its survival. A family without children could mean disaster! It meant that the livelyhood would all but vanish. But more importantly it meant that the family name would not continue. There would be no inheritance to divvy out to children and the inheritance would be left to the closest living relative, only to be portioned out to his own children. What disaster this would have spelled for a family with no one to carry on the work and name!
vv.3-5 The promised son. We next have an account of the angel of the Lord visiting the mother of Samson. The woman was more than likely working in the field do to the lack of children as we are told later that the angel appeared a second time while she was in the field. Wherever she happened to be is not the focus of the verse. What is important is what happened next. The angel affirms her barrenness but then follows up by telling her that she will bear a son. In that culture, bearing a child period was a blessing, but having a son was much more of blessing for the sons were the strength, and providers, and protectors of the family. But more importantly, this son was to be a Nazarite. The Nazarite was a person that was wholly separated unto God for His service. We can find a description of this in Deut 6:2-8
2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the LORD, 3 he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried. 4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins. 5 “All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the LORD, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long. 6 “All the days that he separates himself to the LORD he shall not go near a dead body. 7 Not even for his father or for his mother, for brother or sister, if they die, shall he make himself unclean, because his separation to God is on his head. 8 All the days of his separation he is holy to the LORD.
We see the seriousness of this vow. A Nazarite vow was very serious. It was not something to be taken lightly and in most cases was a voluntary commitment. However, once the participant made the vow he was bound to it until the time of his vow was complete. For Samson this was a lifetime vow. And this is the first glimpse that we see of the godliness of his mother. Keep in mind that she was barren and had never had a child. Now, she is told that she will bear a son. What excitement must have gone through this woman's mind. But oh, what faith there was in complying with what was told her. There were no second questions or 'but what about this and that' or even a tinge of doubt in her reaction. She wholeheartedly wanted a child and doubtless she would do exactly what God commanded if given the child. Much like Hannah's faith in dedicating Samuel to the Lord, so Samson's mother showed that same faith in dedicating her son, as well. I am sure that this mother's love for her son was great, but she demonstrated that her love for Yahweh was greater by giving him fully to His service. It was not an easy task considering that this would be the only child she would ever bear.
vv.6-7 Relaying the message to Manoah. Next, we simply get a recap of the same event as she relays all that the angel told her to her husband, Manoah. She speaks of the Nazarite vow, telling her husband what is required not only of her son, but of her. Remember, the vow is for her as well. She was not allowed to drink strong drink or even the grapes off a vine. If her son was to be holy from the womb then she must also be holy separated to the Lord from conception.
vv.8-9 Manoha's prayer. We now see the godliness of Manoah in his prayer to the Lord. When his wife tells him of the child to be born he immediately responds with prayer. From this we can see two things:
- Manoah made habit of prayer. We are not told of any priestly intercessions going on at that time. The content of Manoah's prayer leads me to believe that he was a man often given to prayer. If it is true that out of the abundance the heart the mouth speaks (Mt 12:34) and that out of the good things stored up in the heart good things come (Luke 6:45) then it is certainly true of Manoah. There were no stumblings in his prayer; there were no doubts in his speech; nor were there any apprehensions. There was only the entreaty to God that he be given the right way to raise his child. This speaks volumes! For Manoah had in mind to rear his son, not as he saw fit, but as Yahweh had in mind. Whenever a father and mother can completely release their child to the way Scripture would have them raised it shows true godliness on their part. Manoah, as the head of his house was taking the lead. His prayer is one that is most tender and completely genuine. His only goal was that the angle appear again to teach him how to raise the child. The word 'teach' comes from a Hebrew word meaning 'to throw.' It is interesting what the Ancient Hebrew Lexicon says regarding this word:
The hand of man is used for the throwing. A flowing of water in a river. A throwing of the finger to show a direction to walk or live. The throwing of an arrow. The throwing down of water in rain. Awe or fear where one throws self to the foot of one in authority.iManoah was doing what every father should do: he was throwing himself at the foot of the Lord who was in authority over his life and the life of his child. The response that the author gives is “God listened.” What an awesome thing for a father's prayer to be so genuine; to be so pure as to only ask that he sit at the feet of God's authority to raise his children; and then to have God listen to his prayer.
vv.10-25 The angel's second appearance and subsequent commands. The rest of our text deals mainly with the angel visiting a second time and repeating all that he has said. I do not wish to reiterate everything for the sake of time. However there are a couple of things I think are important to be pointed out.
First, Manoah reaffirms his intention to dedicate his son fully to the Lord by asking what his manner of (v.12) life should be. I do not think Manoah doubted what his wife told him, I simply believe that this was needed for his own sake in establishing the fact that when this child was born he would be wholly Gods.
Second, his hospitality to the angel is in standing with Scripture. Old Testament law was clear about the treatment of strangers and foreigners. Leviticus 19:34 states, You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. The New Testament also carries this over as Hebrews 13:2 instructs us to be kind to strangers for in so doing some have entertained angels unaware. What a fitting passage for our topic! And how Manoah filled his duty to be hospitable to this angel.
Third, we see true worship in the sacrifice offered to the Lord. Upon hearing the angel's affirming words and upon offering him food and drink the next step was that of sacrifice. Once the angel of the Lord denied the food Manoah offered his sacrifice to the Lord in worship (v. 19). And notice the phrase that is attached to it. He offered to the Lord who works wonders. What a wonder it was to this childless couple, who for all intentions would never have a child. Yet God delighted to show mercy to this couple as He did with Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and Rachel. All of these couples were barren yet the Lord was gracious and worked all wonders to fulfill His good promised to His people. And this was no different for the Lord wanted to deliver His people now from the hands of the Philistines.
Fourth, we see his wife's utter assurance that God would fulfill his promise (v.23). Realizing that they have just seen God Manoah becomes fearful. Now, I could comment quite much on having the fear of the Lord but I believe the focus of this particular verse in his wife's reaction. While Manoah is fearful that they will die his wife is quite confident that it was not God's intention to kill them. By logic, she stated had that been the case (a) God would have already killed them (b) He would not have accepted a burnt offering from them, and (c) He would not have given them instructions on how to raise their son. A son cannot be raised by dead parents. This shows, I believe, the quiet confidence of his wife in God's promise to deliver a son. It is often in quiet faith that victories are won against sin and that faith is able to persevere through the toughest circumstances.
What can we learn from this passage about being godly parents and raising our children with a godly heritage?
- A godly parent fully dedicates his children wholly to God. There are no strings attached! Often, parents want to bargain with God about what they would have their children do or become. And most tragic are those parents who desire their children to become what they never achieved; that is, they never give one thought to what God would have their child to be, but only to their own selfish motives and ambitions and goals. They desire wasteful things for their children and invest in silly schemes rather than ask God, as Manoah, “What is to be this child's manner of life?”
- A godly parent is a parent of prayer. Just as Manoah prayed earnestly to the Lord so should parents pary for their children. And what should they pray? In all manner of things; in their education; in their circle of friends; in their future career; in their future spouse; in their future children's children. In short, they should pray in all aspect of that child's life. There should be nothing uncovered or unhemmws by the prayer of the parent. And let our prayers flow naturally and out of the heart as did Manoah's for his son. What a tragic waste for a child to grow up in a prayer-less envrionment.
- A godly parent is one that shows hospitality to strangers. Scripture is full of references of how the believer is to be hospitable to others. And it is a practice that the children should not only see regularly, but also be a part of. What joy it is for a son to be with his father as he preaches the gospel to the lost or for a daughter to be with her mother as she cares for the sick and needy. Children should be taught this practice of hospitality at a young age. Parents should entertain in their homes often and not begrudgingly. Hospitality and charity is supposed to be a natural affection of the believer. In 1 John 4:20 we are told If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. John also makes it a point that if we have the means to help another and we close our hearts to that person then God's love does not abide in us (1John 3:17).
- A godly parent worships. Worship is the most important part of our life. It is the outpouring of our thankfulness and our gratitude towards God for who He is and what He has given us. We know who God is because of what He does and we know what God does because of who He is. And who God is is what we should be teaching our children. The famous passage in Deuteronomy 6 passage God makes it a point to instruct the Israelites to tell their children of the works and deeds that He had done (Deut 6:20). They were to relay the plagues God sent upon Pharaoh. They were to tell of how God destroyed the Egyptians in the Red Sea. They were to teach them how God took care of them in the wilderness, providing food and water for the where there was none. And so too, we are to follow their example. We are to tell our children of God's goodness to us in the wilderness, and God's provision to the family when all seemed hopeless, and God's protection of us when we though we would be consumed. In this, our children will begin to get a sense of the wonder and the majesty and the power of God. And when they see us worship God both publicly and privately they too will imitate us when they become parents of their own.
- A godly parent rests in quiet assurance of God's promises. With all that was aforementioned this may be one of the most important. How do your children see you react in times of crisis? Do they see a quiet trust in God's provision for you or do they see a fearful person ready to quit and run to the world for help? During a time of great trial do they see you flee to the Lord in prayer to pour out your soul? Or do they hear you grumble against God for bringing affliction upon you? The example you set today will be the pattern they follow tomorrow. Be careful and be aware of how you react to God's testings. Do not be as the Isrealites and grumble and so bring God's chastisement upon you.
Dear brethren, today is the day we must resolve ourselves to give our children the heritage of a godly upbringing. Tomorrow is too late! Resolve now to begin to practice all the things in Scripture regarding you duties as a parent. With all your strength and with everything you have flee to the presence of the Mighty Rock and fling yourself upon His mercy, that He may forgive your lack of these things and your shortcomings. Repent of your neglect and now turn to Him for hope and salvation. The world longs to devour our children. It rakes its claws at them wherever they may go. We must therefore be all the more diligent in giving and equipping them with that godly upbringing so that they will be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.
i Benner, Jeff. The Ancient Hebrew Lexicon of the Bible p. 142. 2005.