Sunday, January 16, 2022

The Judges. Day 48, The Birth Of Samson, Part Three

In today's passage Manoah and his wife, the couple who will be the parents of Samson, invite the angel of the Lord to a meal at their house. This person has given them welcome news---that they will finally have a son---and they want to show their thankfulness for the Lord's kindness.

"Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, 'We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.'" (Judges 13:15) Does Manoah realize this is an angel or, as we'll discuss in a moment, the Lord Himself? Or does he think this person is a human, perhaps a prophet? It will become evident in a moment that he does not know he is speaking with a supernatural entity. This person looks like a man and was described to Manoah by his wife as "a man of God", although she added that he "looked like an angel of God". I think at this point Manoah believes this messenger is a human being to whom the Lord revealed a message concerning a miracle which He intends to bestow on the childless couple. Our next verse makes it clear that Manoah does not yet realize to whom he is speaking.

"The angel of the Lord replied, 'Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the Lord. (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the Lord.)" (Judges 13:16) This person does not need to eat food as a human does. But he will accept a burnt offering. This is our first big clue as to his identity. In a few moments we will find him doing something miraculous with the offering. Angels don't need to eat but an angel would not accept an offering. No angel accepts worship but instead points worship to God. Nowhere in the Bible do we find angels allowing men and women to worship them in place of God. Who is it that does accept burnt offerings in the Bible? The Lord. 

Manoah is still operating under the impression that he is speaking with a human who has come to deliver a prophecy. This person has declined his invitation to share a meal but Manoah still wants to show his gratitude for the delivery of the message about the coming child. He asks the man's name so that, after the promise has come to pass, he and his wife may honor him with a gift. If he does not find out the man's name, it will be difficult to locate him later on. "Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, 'What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?'" (Judges 13:17) 

"He replied, 'Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.'" (Judges 13:18) A literal translation of the word translated as "beyond understanding" is "wonderful". His name is too wonderful for words. It may be that he is using the word "wonderful" as a title because who in the Bible do we find bearing this title (among many other titles)? The promised Messiah, about whom the prophet Isaiah said, "He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9:6) Even if this person described himself to Manoah, it would be beyond Manoah's human understanding to fully comprehend what he is being told.

Because words are not sufficient to explain who he is, the person performs a miracle in the sight of Manoah and his wife. Manoah prepares a burnt offering for the Lord, as was suggested to him, and the man he's been speaking with does something astonishing. "Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. And the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord. 'We are doomed to die!' he said to his wife. 'We have seen God!'" (Judges 13:19-22) Now he gets it! The one who has been speaking with him, who appeared in the form of a man, was the Lord Himself. Manoah would not make the statement, "We are going to die because we have seen God!" about an angel. Nowhere in the Bible do we find it said that no man can see an angel and live. But we do find the Lord saying to Moses, when Moses requested to see the face of God, "You cannot see My face, for no one may see Me and live." (Exodus 33:20)

No human being has ever laid eyes on God the Father. But human beings have seen God the Son, for in the New Testament---in the incarnation---He became flesh and interacted with men and women while inhabiting a human body. He also, in the Old Testament, appeared at times to men and women in a human image, and in those instances He is referred to as "the angel of the Lord". This is an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ. Manoah refers to the man he has been speaking with as "God" because this was indeed the Lord in the person of God the Son. 

Manoah is a bit hysterical and overwhelmed but his wife makes a statement which displays both faith and logic. "But his wife answered, 'If the Lord had meant to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.'" (Judges 13:23) This woman has a very practical, sensible way of thinking and I love that about her. She says, "The Lord wouldn't have gone to all this trouble only to strike us dead. He accepted our offering after we beheld His face. He would not have told us we are going to have a son if it were not so. Dead people can't conceive and bear children. We are going to live and the Lord's promise is going to come true."

"The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol." (Judges 13:24-25) The promise is kept. Whether or not we think the messenger was an angel or the Lord Himself, we cannot argue that a miracle took place. We don't know how long Manoah and his wife had been married but it must have been a number of years, long enough that they were certain she was "unable to give birth", as we were told in Judges 13:2. The wording of verse 2 might make us wonder whether she was able to conceive but had never successfully carried a child to term, but in Judges 13:3 the Lord said to her that she was "barren". This means she was infertile. She could not get pregnant at all. The birth of Samson was not a case of her managing not to miscarry another pregnancy; it was a case of her finally becoming pregnant for the first time and having a successful, full term pregnancy. This was a true miracle of the Lord. 

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