After the death of Gideon and later judges, Israel turned away from the one true God once again 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 the people of Israel.
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 (NKJV)
As the people suffered, they began to turn back to God. In His mercy, He raised up a final judge to begin their deliverance from the Philistines. This would not yet be complete deliverance, but it would be big step toward freedom. God left it for the prophet Samuel and King David to complete the victory over the invaders.
In the power of God, this new judge, Samson, would be one of the strongest people to ever live. The secret of his great physical strength was to be rooted in the Nazirite vow that the Lord had prescribed for him.
But Samson was not morally strong, and would waste much of this powerful anointment on impulsive acts of distraction and folly. He would not bring a complete deliverance to Israel as his predecessor judges had done. Fortunately, God’s deliverance does not solely depend upon our skills or abilities, but is a divine gift of His mercy and love. The same principle applies to us today – God does for us what we cannot do for ourselves because of the loving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. God’s mercy and grace originates at the cross and flows to the farthest corners of the world. He brings healing and salvation to all who would receive Him, 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. Even before his conception, Samson’s mother was instructed to take on the vows of a Nazirite to God, such as avoiding alcohol or any ritually unclean food per the law of Moses.
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)
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 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, her husband Manoah prayed to God that the He would send the Angel back to give them further instructions on how to raise their son, which God heard and 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?” Judges 13:17-18 (NKJV)
Isaiah would later prophesy that one of the names of the coming Messiah, Jesus, would be the name “Wonderful”. Here, as Manoah and his wife offered a sacrifice to the Lord, like Gideon before them, they discovered that the Angel of the Lord was, in fact, God. This Angel was later believed by many to be the pre-incarnate Jesus 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 13:19-21 (NKJV)
After this, Manoah’s wife conceived and gave birth to Samson. He would grow in the favor and blessing of the Lord, with great strength and full of God’s Spirit.
Like many other parents of important Bible characters, Samson’s went through years of childless heartache and prayer before finally having a child in God’s perfect timing. God is sovereign, and His glory is magnified when His power alone brings about the desired result. Like other Bible parents in the same position, Samson’s parents were granted an audience with either an angel or the Angel of the Lord Himself when informed what God’s will was for them and their child.
Whatever God’s will is for us, may we seek to walk a path in His guidance that permits us to bear valuable fruit for Him and His kingdom.
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 not received, so have given up on? We learn from these Bible accounts to never give up with our prayers, as God is always listening, and may yet fulfill our heart’s desire. But whatever the case, He will give us a loving answer in His sovereign timing, be it yes, no, or later. It will be one that is for our ultimate benefit, according to His loving will for us.
Father God, we thank You for Your loving compassion for us, always mindful of our tears, longings, and heartaches. Thank You for listening to us and help us to listen to You, worshipping You in Your goodness in all situations. We ask for Your comfort, healing, and forgiveness as we seek to do the same for others. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.