In terms of the fundamental realities of the story of Samson it is the story of us all- the story of mankind. But it is not just the story of mankind, it is the story of God in relation to mankind. The very basic realities of the story are these: man’s total inability to keep covenant, and God’s total inability to break covenant. It is within the context of those two realities that we find the single hope for mankind, and that hope is redemption- redemption which is entirely from start to finish the provision of God.
The story of Samson begins with this: Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the LORD, so that the LORD gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years.
The story of Samson begins with a national need. Given our place in history within our own nation of Canada, and regarding the present state or condition of this nation, how many of you would agree that there is a great and serious and very sobering need within our nation? But beyond the nation we need to see that Old Testament Israel was the ordained and called out people of God, and as such was a physical picture of the New Testament church. To understand the present state or condition of the church in the broadest application of the term, would you agree that there is a great, and serious and very sobering need?
The question is- How does God move to meet a national or corporate need? And the answer is: There was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah.
In less than a breath we have gone from the national view to a single, a certain, or a particular individual within that nation. And the first thing I would urge you to understand this morning is that when God moves to deal with a people corporately He does not look for national systems, national structures, national institutions, and national governments- He looks for an individual within the corporate setting.
The alteration of the larger picture always begins with a single, a certain, or a particular individual.
And then we discover the state or condition within this individual family: ‘and his wife was barren and had borne no children.’ The first conclusion is that this is going nowhere fast. How can God meet a national need when all He has to begin with is personal need on a family level? But right off the top we see the wonder of redemption: God moves to meet need in one area through meeting need in another area. In other words, when God provides in one area of need, that provision is not just about that particular need but about the broader need beyond the single need.
The story of Samson begins with an acknowledgment of profound need, first on the national level and then on the local or family level. From this we understand that there is a relationship between these needs with respect to what God is about to do. The heart of God is to change or alter the state of the nation- but to accomplish that He will change the state of one individual family within the nation. By meeting the deficit of the individual, God is moving to meet the deficit within the whole nation.
This understanding enables me to interpret my need and God’s provision regarding my need from more than a purely self-centred perspective. Your need is not merely about you- nor is God’s provision of your need merely about you. Both your need and God’s provision of that need are about issues, realities, and purposes that reach far beyond you.
This is where Robert’s reference to the slogan on the T-shirt has some merit: “It’s not about us. It’s all about them. And that’s about it.” Failing to understand this explains the raw self-centredness that drives so much of what is done in the name of the Lord- especially in the area of prayer.
One of the first and very important lessons we learn from the story of Samson is the relationship between human need and divine provision. My real understanding of the provision of God is determined by my real understanding of my need of His provision.
Need plays a very important role in my relationship with God. On the negative side it teaches me that I am absolutely powerless to meet my deepest and most fundamental need- which is the need for redemption or deliverance. That in turn teaches me that I must look beyond myself to find my true Provider and provision. In that sense, need drives me outside of myself as the source of my redemption- and drives me to the one and only true source of redemption and deliverance…the Almighty God.
Personal need and Divine provision is a powerful combination when it comes to change and alteration, first within my own life and then beyond my life to all things that are touched by my life.
Redemption takes place within the mysterious and dynamic relationship between my personal need and God’s absolute provision. In that sense the song writer was correct when he wrote: ‘For if I never had a problem, I’d never know that God could solve them; I’d never know what faith in God could do. So through it all. Through it all. I’ve learned to trust in Jesus, I’ve learned to trust in God. Through it all. Through it all. I’ve learned to depend upon His word.’
It is one thing to romantically articulate all of those grand realities in Christ to which we long to come; it is another thing entirely to understand that these same realities are not arrived at in a vacuum. There is no question about it; the Almighty God is faithful to bring us to these ever deepening realities in Christ- but He does this within the context of the details of our life, and particularly within the context of our needs.
The key word in the song I referred to is- ‘depend.’ The issue in need is not shame, humiliation nor disgrace; that’s the devil’s influence through our need. The real issue in my need is dependence. And to the extent that I truly understand and maturely realize my need- to that extent and in that measure I will understand my dependence upon God as the only source of my provision. And negatively, in whatever measure I do not understand my personal need I cannot understand nor realize God as my only source of provision- and consequently I will look to sources other than God.
The realization of Divine provision begins with a deep and Divine revelation of personal need. Or to state it within the context of the story of Samson- fruitfulness begins with the Divine confirmation of personal barrenness, and the absolute inability to produce apart from recognizing God as the one and only source. The first lesson to learn in the journey towards fruitfulness is to always distinguish between the source of the fruitfulness and the instrument through which that fruitfulness is manifest. If we get these rolls reversed- and see ourselves as the source of fruitfulness and see God as the mere instrument by which our will gets accomplished we are headed for endless frustration and possible deception.
Look at verse three: Then the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children…
When the angel of the Lord encountered this unnamed, barren wife of Manoah what was he in the presence of/ or what was it he was stepping into? The answer of course is that this Divine visitor was stepping right into the middle of her need- right into the middle of her barrenness and all that such a condition implicated within that culture.
The second rather obvious conclusion is that when the angel of the Lord steps into human need he does so to bring about alteration regarding that need. You can pretty much conclude that when he leaves, issues within your need are not going to continue as they were.
That raises a critical question regarding his opening statement to this barren woman: “Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children…
Every time I read this opening statement I want to respond something like this: ‘Ah…, H-E-L-L-O !!!!!!! And just where do you think I’ve been for all the years of my barrenness? How’s about telling me something I don’t already know.’
We all know this morning that God does not speak just to hear Himself speaking- or to check the strength of His voice. When God speaks, every word is deliberate and carries meaning. So regardless of how we feel about this opening statement we must conclude that it carried meaning with respect to the woman to whom it was spoken- and beyond that it has purpose regarding us by virtue of its presence in the Word of God.
Whatever else this opening statement may mean, it most certainly means this- the very first step towards the changing of an area of need is to understand, accept, and acknowledge the truth of the need itself. And in the end (and this is the most critical aspect of this) the final and true understanding of my need- of my present state or condition- must come by Divine intervention or revelation; i.e. the angel of the Lord.
Now the truth of my need has moved from mere intellect and mere emotion to Divine reality or confirmation. Fruitfulness begins with the Divine confirmation of my absolute barrenness- my absolute inability to ever produce the very fruitfulness I long for and desire.
The final encounter whereby that Divine confirmation occurs may take but a moment, but we must not lose sight of the fact that there is a whole journey of barrenness that leads us to and sets us up for that moment of encounter.
Or to state that in the context of the story we are looking at, let me put it this way; I think it highly unlikely that the years of this woman’s barrenness was due to a lack of sexual intercourse. Track with me here for just a moment. In these ancient cultures, as in many cultures yet today, there was no greater passion in the heart of a woman than the passion to be fruitful. With every act of sexual intimacy this was the hope.
But what do you think takes place in the hopeful heart when years of effort result in fruitlessness? This woman’s journey towards the Divine encounter was a journey through barrenness, by which I mean a journey through years of failed effort.
That journey of failed effort is about exhausting the notion within us- the lie that has been with us since Gen.3- that we are the source of the provision required to meet our need- all the way up to becoming God. In this process of failed effort two things are taking place. On the one hand, every resource is being exhausted; on the other hand, we are inching ever closer to the Divine encounter that transforms barrenness into fruitfulness- and the desert blooms like a rose.