Monday, July 23, 2007

Breaking the Cycle

What do you think of when you think of the Old Testament character, Samson? For most people, all they really can remember is that he had great strength and long hair. But in Judges 13-16 we discover that there is far more to be learned from this great story. To understand the significance of Samson, we must first realize the history behind the man. The book of Judges reveals one of the darkest time in the Biblical history of Israel. Seven different times Israel goes through the same cycle. They rebel. God punishes them by allowing them to be oppressed by a heathen nation. Israel repents. God restores them. Judges 13:1 marks the seventh and final descent into this cycle. This time God uses the Philistines to punish Israel. This oppression lasted for 40 years.

In verse 2 we are introduced to Manoah, the father of Samson. The name of Manoah’s wife is not given but we do know that she is unable to bear children. Verse 3 says that “the Angel of the Lord” appeared to her with the message that she would give birth to a son. She is given instructions for this pregnancy. She could not drink any wine or strong drink or eat anything unclean. This was due to Samson taking a lifelong Nazarite vow.

A Nazarite Vow was usually temporary showing one’s commitment to God. According to Numbers 6:2-6 it involved 3 things. You could not drink wine or eat grapes. You could not cut your hair. You could not touch a dead body. Samson is to be a Nazarite for life. This is the key to his strength. Samson’s long hair was simply a symbol of his commitment to the Lord. His strength was due to the Spirit of God on him. Ultimately Samson will break all of the criteria of this vow. The last violation will be his hair being cut. As a result, the Spirit of the Lord will leave him and so will his strength. It is also interesting to note that most scholars agree that Samson did not look like a strong man. Why? Because his strength came from his spiritual life not his physical life.

Verse 5 gives us the sad one line description of Samson’s life. Scripture states that Samson would “begin” to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines. Samson would not finish…he would just begin. And such is the sad case of so many even today. The truth is that many Christians just don’t finish well. Once they hit their late 50’s and on, they bail out of ministry and rarely are involved in attempting anything big for the Lord.

In verses 6-23, Manoah’s wife tells him of the message and he asks for a second heavenly visitation. The messenger does return. Manoah, thinking the messenger to be human, desires to fix food for him but is instead told to offer a sacrifice to the Lord. He asks the messenger’s name and is told that it is “Wonderful.” This same word is used to describe the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6. Folks, listen, this heavenly messenger is none other than a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. Remember, Jesus did not begin in Bethlehem. He is the eternal God. This divine messenger then enters the sacrifice’s flame and disappears.

All of Samson’s childhood is seen in Judges 13:24-25. In these verses we see that the secret to his strength was really not his hair. It was the Spirit of God being upon him.

If you are participating in the “Grace Church Bible Reading Challenge,” today’s reading is John 10-12. Be sure to go to our special website ( and share how God uses this passage in your life, read what others have written, or ask a question about the passage!

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