We continue our study this morning of the life of Samson by examining the second part of Judges 13:3 “…but you shall conceive and give birth to a son.”
Last week we considered the relationship between human need and Divine redemption. When God “shows up” He does so right in the middle of our need or deficit. In doing this He establishes at least two things. First He confirms the true reality of our need. But secondly, He establishes that He is aware of our need- that He is not out of touch with what is happening, with what is going on in our lives.
And then there is a third realty we have been brought to, and this reality is what the whole story of Samson is about; the attitude or disposition of the Father’s heart in relation to our need is always redemptive. He has not manifested Himself in the middle of our need in order to judge, condemn, and reject us. He has come into my need redemptively- and that fact alone means that change is emanate.
That redemptive change begins with where we are this morning in the story of Samson. And here is where we are: “…but you shall conceive and give birth to a son.”
What we have here is a new word, a new message- something she had never heard before. Redemptive change begins not with a frantic effort of doing but with hearing. The doing follows the hearing.
When this order gets reversed- that is when we are doing without hearing, all of our doing is without direction and the result is weariness, and the depletion of strength- as opposed to- they shall run and not de weary; they shall walk and not faint.
We do not know how long this woman was barren, but I am going to suggest that during the season of that barrenness the message that built within her consciousness was the message of her own barrenness- a message of frustration, hopelessness and disillusionment. And yet, even that played it’s part, for it set up a vacuum within her soul into which this new word was poured. Notice- there was no resistance to the new word- the word she was now hearing for the first time.
And that’s the positive dynamic of a vacuum- it has no power to resist or repel. Rather, it sucks it up and pulls it into itself.
Redemptive change begins with hearing, and the first thing that changes is found in the words of the apostle Paul; ‘So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.’ I want to say this carefully and very deliberately. The first thing that changes is that I move from unbelief regarding my need to a position of faith regarding what I just heard in relation to my longstanding barrenness.
In the same breath this woman has been brought from- “behold now, you are barren and have borne no children…” to, “…but you shall conceive and give birth to a son.”
What I would urge you to see is the difference of nature between these two messages. The essence of the first part of the message is; here is where you have been- here is where you are- and this is the way it has been and is; you are barren and have borne no children…” There is a certain finality of hopelessness and disillusionment about it.
And then, in complete contrast of nature to that of the first part of the message, comes the second part of the communication which can only be described as being a promise. So in a single breath this barren woman has been moved from hopelessness to promise, from disillusionment to possibility, from emptiness to fullness.
So again, all change begins with this change- a change of words, which moves us from unbelief to belief. And what we need to understand regarding this change is that the first thing that gets changed in this exchange is the mind or pattern of thinking in relation to the need.
A new word sets up a new thought, a new mindset, and while I continue to look at the same old need I am doing so through a new thought filter.
The communication does not end with the promise of fruitfulness. Notice the next couple of verses. “Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. “ For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
With every new word or promise that God brings into an area of need there comes a whole new level of demand, of responsibility and accountability regarding my life or lifestyle. That new word which broke off the old thought pattern and created a new mindset of belief- that same new word calls for new levels of obedience which moves us beyond present patterns and habits of lifestyle.
Failure to understand this very often sets up conflict within community. That conflict moves around the issue of why God seems to demand so much of some and so little of others. I know there is more to this than what I will present here but most certainly this is a factor. What God demands of us is a pretty good prophetic indicator of what He has set Himself to bring forth through us. Rather than being conflicted by that we should be blessed with the sense of privilege.
The one and only time I heard Earn Baxter speak, I remember that he stood before a couple of thousand people and read a simple but profound poem. I can’t recall all of the poem but I do recall its message and its title- ‘Others May but I May Not.’
This is not about pride and judgement. It is about freeing others to be where they are, while gladly accepting the obedience demanded of me because of what God has purposed to bring forth through me.
If Manoah’s wife had taken this personal demand back to her community, called a meeting of all mothers, wives and prospective mothers, and began her message with- “Thus says the Lord, no more drinking wine or strong drink, nor eating any unclean thing.” …would she have been speaking truth? The answer, of course, is-“Yes.”
But the issue is, she would have been imposing personal truth and direction upon the corporate community. The result would have been conflict in community.
There is a final consideration I want to leave with you this morning from these two verses we are looking at. Let me present it in the form of a question. Regarding the demands made of Manoah’s wife- were those demands about Manoah’s wife, or were they about what God was going to birth through her- i.e. Samson?
It seems obvious enough that the new demands laid upon this woman were not about this woman nor for her sake; these demands related to what was being birthed in and through her. And this leads to a very sobering consideration. What the instrument does during the period of gestation has an influence upon the fruit being formed- even when that fruit is the result of the direct promise and act of the almighty God. In other words, God’s involvement does not negate our appointed responsibilities.
The time between the promise given and the promise manifest in our time space world is what I call “the wait time.” How the “carrier of the promise” conducts his or her life in relation to the known demanded obedience that came with the promise is going to impact in some measure upon the fruit that appears.
The question may be redundant but I think it needs to be asked; What would have happened had this woman disregarded the specific demanded obedience associated with the promise?
Some of the answer to that question has to do with the relationship between faith and obedience. Regarding that relationship, here is what we read in the book of Hebrews.
HEB 3:18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief.
So the question is: What was it that kept that first generation from entering into what God had promised….was it disobedience or unbelief? And the answer is- “Yes.” What we are looking at is two sides of a single coin- a single coin which cannot finally be separated.
Unbelief refers to the internal reality or state of the heart. Disobedience refers to the external life choices flowing out of the unbelief within.
The test of our faith- that is the proof or evidence of our faith- is a whole lot more than our ability to quote promises or to religiously confess positive confessions. The final proof of our faith is our obedience of life- an obedience defined by the requirements that came with the promise spoken to you.
It is my view that this is what James meant when he referred to the relationship between faith and works: ‘Faith without works is dead.’ For our purposes this morning think of it this way: ‘Faith without obedience is dead.’
So again, we know that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ within you. But regarding the obedience required we must also understand that it is defined by that same word of Christ you have heard. And the final demonstration of my faith is my obedience to whatever the word of Christ is within me right now.
And again, may I remind you that you are not bound by the required obedience of the word of Christ to me- and in that sense I must not judge you by my faith. And on the other side of this you must not hold me in obligation regarding the obedience of your faith as defined by the word of Christ within you.