Having understood her own barrenness; having been engaged by the angel of the Lord in that barrenness; having received the promise of God regarding the transformation of that barrenness; and having accepted the new level of responsibility, accountability and obedience which this promise demanded- we have now arrived at the next critical unfolding in this amazing story.
Here it is: JDG 13:6 Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, “ A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. “But he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink wine or strong drink nor eat any unclean thing, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’ ”
I begin this morning by repeating a very misunderstood saying found in the culture of the church- ‘God is enough.’ Of course God is enough, but this God Who is enough has designed that His “enoughness” can only be realized within the context of community, of covenant, of relationship. And the truth of this reaches all the way back to the beginning; it was God who said, “It is not good for man to be alone”- even though that man was all alone with the God Who is enough.
Look at these words in Judges 13:6, ‘The woman came and told her husband.’
She had the profound encounter with the angel of the Lord; she received the promise; she was given insight into the future regarding her responsibility, she was given insight into the destiny of the promised son to be born of her.
The particular danger at this point is that pride enters the mix, producing a sense of personal superiority which causes us to isolate within our experience to the exclusion of others.
The action of this woman, who is now the carrier of the promise of God, demonstrates a couple of factors concerning her. First of all, it demonstrates that she believed what she had heard. And we might think that if we were to have an encounter with the angel of the Lord we would believe too. But we have to keep in mind that this woman did not know her visitor was the angel of the Lord.
She referred to him as “a man of God.” And while she recognised him to be unlike any ‘man of God’ she had ever encountered- she still did not understand him to be the angel of the Lord.
If you read the account she passed along to Manoah, you discover how accurate she was in the details- which indicates that she was not insensitive or dull to what she had heard. She was not of the attitude that the apostle Paul warned against when he wrote- ‘And despise not prophecy.’
Had she not believed the report she would not have passed it along- and certainly she would not have passed it along with such detailed accuracy.
Secondly this woman’s action demonstrates a vital truth for all who are carriers of the promise of God; that truth is that other people are going to be involved in the fruitfulness promised to you.
It does not matter how profound the encounter with God was at the point of the impartation of the promise- nor does it matter how profound that promise may be, the fact remains that it will never manifest in a vacuum; and particularly a relational vacuum.
We all know that an apple tree produces fruit, but cut off its relationships and see what it produces: its relationship with the earth, with the air, with the light, with the rain, and with the one who prunes it.
There is more involved in personal fruitfulness than an encounter with God and a promise received. And frankly, I cannot tell you how vital it is that we understand this aspect of the story before us. I will say only, that much of the lack of fruitfulness is not an indication that we have not been engaged by the “angel of the Lord”, nor is it an indication that we have not received the promise of God regarding purpose; rather, we did not (for whatever reason) recognise and honour the relational covenant connections essential to the bringing forth of the promised fruit.
Notice whom it was she talked to- her husband. And again, this is vital. What it indicates is that she knew where her covenant connections were. She knew where she was joined, she knew where home was.
At fifty six, I feel reasonably confident that I can point out that there are two critical factors in the “afterglow” of a profound encounter with God from which you walk away knowing that you are now a carrier of His promise; those factors are when to share, and with whom to share. Miss this, and if nothing else, we lengthen the whole process.
One of the most outstanding illustrations of this wisdom is found in the life of Nehemiah.
NE 2:11 So I came to Jerusalem and was there three days. And I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. I did not tell anyone what my God was putting into my mind to do for Jerusalem and there was no animal with me except the animal on which I was riding. So I went out at night by the Valley Gate in the direction of the Dragon’s Well and on to the Refuse Gate, inspecting the walls of Jerusalem which were broken down and its gates which were consumed by fire. Then I passed on to the Fountain Gate and the King’s Pool, but there was no place for my mount to pass. So I went up at night by the ravine and inspected the wall. Then I entered the Valley Gate again and returned. The officials did not know where I had gone or what I had done; nor had I as yet told the Jews, the priests, the nobles, the officials or the rest who did the work. Then I said to them, “You see the bad situation we are in, that Jerusalem is desolate and its gates burned by fire. Come, let us rebuild the wall of Jerusalem so that we will no longer be a reproach.” I told them how the hand of my God had been favorable to me and also about the king’s words which he had spoken to me. Then they said, “Let us arise and build.” So they put their hands to the good work.
There is a very great tragedy in much of the church today; a tragedy rooted in a total lack of teaching and understanding of the absolutely essential role covenant relationship plays in the realization of the fruitfulness of the individual.
I can share with you my personal experience in this; I’ve had my encounters with the “angel of the Lord”- very profound, very real, and which I can never finally deny; I know I have received the promise of God as it relates to personal purpose. But because of my appalling ignorance regarding the relational dynamic of the governmental order of God- my ignorance of the relational reality of the body of Christ, the journey towards the appearing of my ‘Samson’ has been painfully frustrating.
As I stand before you this morning, I am more conscious (and not just conscious but conscious at some very deep level never before experienced) I am more conscious than ever of my past, personal encounters with God, and of the promises regarding purpose that live in me. What is different is that I have never been so aware of the essential role others will play in the fulfilment of what lives in me- and consequently the critical need for me to understand who those people are, and the further need to accept and honour the covenant connection in the Spirit with them. Everything else may go, but those covenant relationships- those appointed places of union, of connection, of joining must be guarded and protected at all times.
Bringing this down to our immediate reality it means that you have a role to play in the appearing of the promise I carry- and I have a role to play in the appearing of the promise you carry. If either of us disregard that appointed relationship we do so at the risk of compromising the very promise with us.
And what we did this morning, in coming to the covenant table of the Lord, is about this very thing- discerning the body of Christ- which among other things is to understand where I am joined, and to understand the part that joint plays in my personal fruitfulness- as well as the part I play in the fruitfulness of that joint.