13 Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years. Judges 13:1 NKJ
After the death of Gideon and the later judges, Israel turned away from the one true God and began to worship other gods. As a result, they lost the cover and protection of the Lord, and Israel’s adversaries were able to rule over them. This time, it would be the Philistines who would make life miserable for Israel.
As the people suffered, they began to turn back to God. In His mercy, He raised up a final judge to begin to deliver them from the Philistines. It would not be a complete deliverance, but it would be a start. God left it for Samuel and then David to complete the victory to completely free Israel from these invaders.
In the power of God, this judge, Samson, would become one of the most powerful men who ever lived. The secret of his great strength was to be rooted in the Nazirite vow that the Lord had prescribed for him.
But Samson would waste much of this powerful anointment on impulsive acts of distraction and folly. He would not bring complete deliverance to Israel as his predecessor judges had done. Fortunately, God’s deliverance does not depend on the skills or abilities of man but is a divine gift of mercy and love. The same principle applies to us today – God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves, thanks to the loving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for us. God’s mercy and grace flows from the cross to the farthest corners of the world, bringing healing and salvation to all who would receive it, from every nation and tongue.
The account of Samson begins as the Angel of the Lord makes a personal appearance to the wife of Manoah, who to this point had been childless.
4 Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. 5 For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” Judges 13:4-5 NKJV
Even before his birth, Samson’s mother was instructed to take on the vows of a Nazirite to God.
What is a Nazirite? Numbers 6 describes the Nazirite vow as a special dedication to the Lord. Nazirites must not drink wine or eat or drink anything that comes from a grape, or eat anything unclean. Their hair must be allowed to grow long, never to be touched by a razor while they are honoring their vow. Finally, they must not go near a dead body, even that of a loved one.
The Nazirite vow was normally taken for a limited period of time, but God was calling on Samson to be a Nazirite for his entire life, even from the womb. He would be a judge of abnormal strength and would be used by God to punish the Philistines that had invaded Israel.
After his wife’s encounter with the Angel of the Lord, Manoah prayed to God that the He would send Him back to give them further instructions on how to raise their son, which God honored. Manoah then prepared a young goat and grain as an offering to the Lord.
17 Then Manoah said to the Angel of the Lord, “What is Your name, that when Your words come to pass we may honor You?”
18 And the Angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?”
Isaiah would later prophesy that the names of the coming Messiah, Jesus, would include the name, “Wonderful”. Manoah and his wife then offered a sacrifice to the Lord, and like Gideon, soon discovered that they were in the presence of the Angel of the Lord, believed by many to be the pre-incarnate Christ.
19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering and offered it upon the rock to the Lord. And He did a wondrous thing while Manoah and his wife looked on— 20 it happened as the flame went up toward heaven from the altar—the Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar! When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground. 21 When the Angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and his wife, then Manoah knew that He was the Angel of the Lord. Judges 13:17-21 NKJV
After this, Manoah’s wife conceived, and she gave birth to Samson. He grew in the favor and blessing of the Lord, with great strength and full of God’s Spirit.
Like so many other parents of Bible characters, Samson’s parents had to go through many years of childless heartache and prayer before finally having a child in God’s timing. God is sovereign, and His glory is magnified when His power alone brings about the result. Like other Bible parents in the same position, Samson’s parents were granted a personal audience with God Himself as He told them what was about to happen.
What is happening in your life today that only the power and grace of God can resolve?
Is there something in your life that you had been praying for, but have given up on? We learn from these Bible accounts to never give up with our prayers, as God is listening and will give some kind of answer to us in His sovereign timing and for our benefit.