WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
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Of the 340 years of Israel’s history that is recorded in the book of Judges, this 40-year stint of oppression, that the Israelites suffered at the hands of the Philistines in chapters 13-16, is the longest period of servitude that “GOD’s chosen people” had to endure at one time. Here in these chapters, we find chronicled, the now famous account of the life of Samson, who ruled over Israel for the final 20 of those years.
Samson, whose name means “distinguished”, was a man, whose great “physical strength”, and equally great “moral weaknesses”, made him famous throughout the land in his day. He is the last judge mentioned in the book of Judges, and even though his parents (Manoah and his unnamed wife) showed evidence of their great faith in GOD, Samson can quite clearly be characterized as a man who became just a product of his era (worldly).
Here in this passage (Judges 13), “The ANGEL of the LORD” (a manifestation of CHRIST in the Old Testament) instructs Samson’s parents before his birth, regarding the manner of lifestyle which he was to lead. Samson was to be raised as a “Nazarite”. He would become the first of only three men in Scripture to be born under a “lifetime Nazarite Vow” (the others are Samuel and John the Baptist). This meant that he would be dedicated to GOD from birth, and would serve as an example to Israel, personifying a commitment to the LORD forever (Vs.3-5).
However, Samson fell far short of this mark throughout most of his life, as his passion for pagan women and the pleasures of this world led to, first, his physical blindness and enslavement (the Philistines gorged his eyes out – Judges 16:21), and then ultimately, his dramatic demise during a festive pagan celebration of his capture, in the temple of the idol god Dagon, which he himself, ultimately destroyed (Judges 16:23-31).
Chapter 13 starts out as most of the chapters in this book do, with the familiar words “Again the Israelites did what was evil in the LORD’s sight”. And so, as is equally familiar, the LORD placed HIS people into servitude, this time, into the hands of the dreaded Philistines, who, as I said earlier, oppressed them for 40 years.
Samson’s parents, a man named Manoah, and, his wife (who is not named), were members of the Israelite tribe of Dan. They resided in the town of Zorah, which originally belonged to the tribe of Judah (Joshua 15:20 and 33), but was later allotted to their tribe by Joshua. Manoah’s wife was unable to bear children, and so, when “The ANGEL of the LORD” first appeared to her to tell her that she would bear a child, she was ecstatic, and she couldn’t wait to run and tell her husband the good news.
However, first she had to patiently wait and receive the instructions that the LORD had for her and Manoah. The LORD told her that she would give birth to a son, and, that she must not drink any wine or alcoholic beverages, nor eat anything that is forbidden in their diet by GOD, while she was pregnant. HE also told her that her son’s hair must never be cut, and that, he would be dedicated as a Nazarite from birth. And finally, the LORD tells her that her son would one day rescue Israel from the Philistines (Vs.3-5).
After receiving their instructions from “The ANGEL of the LORD”, the woman ran home to tell Manoah, and upon hearing this news, he immediately prayed to GOD asking HIM to re-send the ANGEL to them for the sake of his own hearing, and the LORD did. However, again the LORD appeared first to his wife, and his wife ran and got him and brought him to the place where the ANGEL of the LORD awaited them.
When the LORD told Manoah WHO HE was (v.11), Manoah believed HIM, and then he asked the LORD, “In what manner he was to raise the child?”. Here (v.12) we see the faith of Manoah, as he didn’t ask, “IF” YOUR words come true?”, but rather he states emphatically that “WHEN” YOUR words come true, what kind of rules should govern the boy’s life and work?” And the ANGEL of the LORD replied, “Be sure your wife follows the instructions that I gave her” (NLT).
When Manoah asked the ANGEL what was HIS name, the ANGEL simple responded, “Why do you ask MY name? You wouldn’t understand if I told you”. Not pressing any farther, Manoah asked The ANGEL of the LORD to stay and eat a meal with them. The ANGEL accepted Manoah’s invitation to stay, but HE declined to eat anything, telling Manoah to instead, offer up a burnt offering sacrifice to the LORD. After the sacrifice was prepared and underway, the ANGEL of the LORD ascended back up into Heaven upon the flames of that sacrificial offering, never to appear again to Manoah and his wife.
And when their son was born, they called his name Samson, and the LORD blessed him as he grew up. One day while in Mahaneh-dan, which was located between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol, the SPIRIT of the LORD began to take hold of Samson, and ironically, as the LORD would have it, this would be the same place where Samson would later be buried following his demise, which resulted by way of his own request to the LORD, that he die with his enemies, in Philistine (v.30).
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander