Sermon October 1, 2017 Judges Chapter 13 “The Advantage of Exceptional Difficulties”

Judges 13                                                                                                            Samson, Part One

Judges Sermon # 16                                                                                              October 1, 2017

“The Advantage of Exceptional Difficulties”

Pastor Louis Prontnicki                  Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church

 

If you were a general going into a battle, you would seek out any military advantage over your enemy, wouldn’t you?

If you were playing a game against another team, you would look for any advantage you could start with over your opponent, right?

We are always looking for things that will make our job easier for us, things that will work for our advantage, right? We almost never try to start at a disadvantage or having things stacked against us when we are starting out.

And yet God is different. So often, when He is about to begin a great new work, He starts with what is clearly a great disadvantage to Him! That is, the Lord deliberately starts great works with tremendous handicaps working against Him! For example, He begins his work of saving the Auca Indians in Ecuador by having those people spear five dedicated missionaries to death in 1956!  He begins a tremendous ministry to the disabled and to all of us by having a 17 year old girl named Joni Eareckson (Tada) break her neck diving into a shallow pond! Why does God start things like that?

Let me give you a truth about how the Lord works, one that we will see here in Judges 13, and we can see throughout the Bible: “When God initiates a remarkable deliverance, He chooses to start with exceptional difficulties, so that we might be in awe of Him and trust in His ways.”

This biblical principle is played out in the story of Samson, from his conception to his death.

Now Samson was the 12th and final judge in the Book of Judges. He was from the small tribe of Dan, and the fact that he was born at all was a miracle of the Lord. Let’s delve into Judges 13:

 

  1. The Lord started His deliverance with an improbable couple, from a dubious tribe, to raise up an exceptional deliverer for Israel. (vv. 1-14)    v. 1“Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lorddelivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.”

Unlike the other times of oppression, here in Judges 13 there is no record of Israel crying out to the Lord, even though they were oppressed for 40 years! Why not? Because Israel had so compromised with the Philistines, that instead of them seeing a basic world-view conflict between serving the Lord and their idol, God’s people just wanted a comfortable compromise with their enemy and its idols.    Yet God’s heart is still touched by the misery of His people, even when they weren’t crying out to Him for deliverance. That’s amazing!  The Lord takes the sovereign and gracious initiative with his sinful people, and He will raise up a deliverer for them!

v. 2A certain man of Zorah named Manoah, from the tribe of the Danites, had a wife who was barren and had no children.”

Here is an improbable couple to begin with. How can the Lord raise up a deliver from them when they can’t have children?  And not only are they struggling with infertility; they are from the tribe of Dan. Now the tribe of Dan does not have a good reputation. We’ve already been told in Judges 1:34 that the Danites allowed the Amorites to confine them to hill country (They allowed the pagans to push them around.). In Judges 17-18 we will see that Danites were greedy and wicked, as they forcibly took land from other Israelites. So the Lord is starting here with an improbable couple, from a dubious tribe!

I hope that is an encouragement to you, that our God loves to accomplish His purposes through improbable people from dubious backgrounds!

 vv. 3-5 The angel of the Lordappeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

Here we see the Biblical pattern of God often beginning His work of salvation through a barren woman. For when the Lord is about to do something great, He begins where there is no human ability or resources to serve as a starter. He begins with what we would see as a big disadvantage.  This is the biblical truth: when God initiates a remarkable deliverance, He chooses to start with exceptional difficulties, so that we might be in awe of Him and trust in His ways.

This story of God raising up a deliverer to save his people begins much like the stories of other couples who struggled with infertility: Abram and Sara; Isaac and Rebekah; Jacob and Rachel; Hannah and Elkanah; and Zechariah and Elizabeth. In each case the Lord began a new work by starting with a couple who couldn’t have children. Is that how you would start, if you were doing some new ministry?

I’m reminded of the tourist in Ireland who needed directions. He stopped his car and asked a local man how to get to Dublin from there. The wee Irishman shook his head and said, “If I were going to Dublin, I wouldn’t be starting from here!” But our amazing God starts from the places that we would never start from, so that we stand in awe of Him, and so that we learn to trust His ways, not our own.

By the way, this is how God created the universe, starting from absolutely nothing! It was creation ex nihilo, out of nothing, so that we would be in awe of what He did, and learn to trust in His ways, as Job learned as God took him on a tour of God’s creation. Naturalistic, Darwinian evolution seeks to rob God of His rightly glory and awesomeness.

Here’s something else in the story that we would have done differently: We would have included the name of this mother. Samson’s mother is mentioned 19 times – 19 times! – in 13:2-14:9, and yet God never tells us her name!  We know the father’s name and we’ll be given the son’s name… we are even given the name of Delilah later on… but this woman who gave him birth remains anonymous!  Why? Because ultimately this story is not about the mother; rather, it is about the Lord and the deliverer He raises up, for God’s glory. Look at v. 5 “He will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” This is a story about how God saves sinners. It’s about how the Lord sends a savior in an unlikely way. And that, my friends, is what the whole Bible is about.  1 Tim. 1:15 “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” John Stott once said that if you had to boil down the message of the Bible to just five words, it would be this: God saves sinner through Christ.

Matthew 1:21 “Call Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Luke 2:11 “Today… a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”

Now for the sake of time I am going to make just two comments on vv. 6-14

The first is that the pre-natal instructions this woman receives from the angel all have to do with the fact that her son is going to be set apart for the Lord’s use, and therefore she also must observe certain points of dedication to the Lord during her pregnancy. (There are pro-life implications from this for how the Lord views a child in the womb from conception.)

The second point involves a principle of divine guidance. For when Manoah asks the Lord in v. 8 and v. 12 for wisdom to raise this special son, the Angel does not answer Manoah’s question. Rather he repeats what he said before about how wife is to do during her pregnancy.  He basically tells Manoah not to fret about the future, but rather to focus on the next nine months.

I think that there is a Biblical principle here, namely that “Present obedience will bring with it future direction.”  That is, trust and obey what the Lord is clearly telling you to do now, and if you do that, He will provide the guidance you need for the future… when you are ready for it!   God wants us to trust Him in incremental obedience; to take small steps, not giant leaps.

What about you? Can you trust God with that truth, as you seek guidance?

 

  1. The Lord confirmed His good news of deliverance through unexpected amazements (vv. 15-23)

Manoah and his wife now realize that their visitor is far more than either of them can comprehend. For the angel of the Lord was a personal visitation from the Son of God Himself; God’s Son appearing to people before the time of His incarnation. What an unexpected and amazing interaction with God Himself!

And so it ought to be with us, as we contemplate the Lord and all His glory! For we worship Him now in the fullness of His revelation to us in the person and work of Jesus Christ! “Behold our God!”

But look closer. When did couple realize who this angel was? V. 20: it as when they saw in the midst of the flaming sacrifice, lifted up above them.

And in the same way, we today can truly recognize Jesus as Lord and Savior, so that we bow down in awe and worship before Him, when we recognized Him in His sacrifice! (Matthew 27:54 – The centurion and those with him declare that “Truly He was the Son of God” after Jesus completes His sacrifice of Himself). His disciples recognized Jesus as the Lord in his nailed-marked hands, and as He broke bread with them, pointing to His death on the cross. Even today, we see the presence of the Lord here with us in the breaking of the bread and the drinking of the cup!

And when we see Jesus for Who He really is, we ought to be like Isaiah of old, in Isa. 6, who cried out “Woe is me, I am doomed… for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.” We should respond like Peter did in Luke 5, after that impossible catch of fish, and Peter realizes that he is in the same boat with the Lord, the Holy King of the universe, and he cries out, “Depart from me, O Lord, for I am a sinful man.”

Both Manoah and his wife are amazed and awe-struck by this appearance of the angel of the Lord, the Son of God himself. Yet the wife (v. 23) also expresses her confidence in Lord’s faithfulness to His promises, that He will not kill them. Her answer to her husband affirms a great truth, namely that God is calling us to have both (1) an awesome fear of the Lord and (2) a confident assurance in His steadfast love and covenantal mercies to us, in Christ Jesus. (See Ps. 147:11 “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”  Also see Ps. 2:11 “Rejoice with trembling.”)

“When God initiates a remarkable deliverance, He chooses to start with exceptional difficulties, so that we might be in awe of Him and trust in His ways.”

 

  1. The Lord began to fulfill His promise of deliverance through the birth of this boy and by the stirring of His Spirit. (v. 24-25)

What the Lord starts He always brings to completion. And about nine months after this exceptional announcement to Manoah’s wife, this woman who was infertile and childless was holding a baby boy in her arms. She named him “Samson” meaning “Sun” or “Little Sun”  as he was undoubtedly her little sunshine, after all those years of being barren.

Yet, much like the childhood record of Jesus, the narrative skips quickly from birth to adulthood, so we may soon see this unexpected deliverer in action as a man.  But don’t miss the detail given in v. 25 “And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him…”

In this remarkable story, the Lord, having overcoming an exceptional difficulty (barrenness), continues personally oversee and empower this young man… so that we will know for certain that Samson’s power comes from God, and not himself. The same is true today. Acts 1:8 “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…”

And the Lord does it that way, so that we might be in awe of Him and trust in His ways.

This morning, who are you in awe of? And who do you trust with your life?

As John Piper reminds us: “Stand in awe of the Lord Jesus. Worship Him. Trust Him. Follow Him.”