International Sunday School Lesson
For Sunday August 7, 2011
Purpose: To understand that God has a calling for each individual
Scripture Text: Judges 13:1-8, 24-25 (NRSV)
(1)The Israelites again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD gave them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. (2)There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. His wife was barren, having borne no children. (3)And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Although you are barren, having borne no children, you shall conceive and bear a son. (4)Now be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, or to eat anything unclean, (5)for you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor is to come on his head, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth. It is he who shall begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”(6)Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like that of an angel of God, most awe-inspiring; I did not ask him where he came from, and he did not tell me his name; (7)but he said to me, ‘You shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy shall be a nazirite to God from birth to the day of his death.’”
(8)Then Manoah entreated the LORD, and said, “O, LORD, I pray, let the man of God whom you sent come to us again and teach us what we are to do concerning the boy who will be born.”
Judges 13: 24-25
(24)The woman bore a son, and named him Samson. The boy grew, and the LORD blessed him. (25)The spirit of the LORD began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
As I read this text and title for this week's lesson, my thoughts went immediately to an actual event in 1956, when five missionaries were martyred in the Amazon jungle by the Waodani tribe. That event later led to a miraculous conversion of that jungle tribe. The story was first written about by Elizabeth Elliot, (whose husband was one of those missionaries) in the book, “Through Gates of Splendor,” and more recently in the book and movie “End of the Spear,” by Steve Saint. (Steve is the son of Nate Saint one of the five that were martyred in the jungle)
One of the many miracles to come out of that tragedy was the conversion of many of that tribe of savages to an understanding of God and the way that He leads. Mincaye, one of the Waodani tribesmen, explains it this way, “...seeing the Creator's markings, some of us decided to follow the trail, He marked with His Son's own blood. That is a very good trail.”
In our text, we find an “angel of the Lord,” marking out a trail (path) for a childless couple to follow, before they were given that child. That child was of course, Samson, one of the great stories in the Book of Judges.
The path or trail that was laid out by the angel of the Lord seemed so demanding and difficult that the father (Manoah) asked for a second meeting with this messenger. God wanted Samson raised as a “Nazirite” such a strict and devout sect, that very few Jewish men chose to follow it. Samuel was another nazarite that chose those vows. Some believe, John the Baptist, also to be a nazirite. Samson's vow seems to have been a lifetime vow, but that was not always the case for this vow, and it was often for a limited period of time. The “angel of the Lord” instructed Samson's mother to observe the restrictions even during her pregnancy, so Samson was a nazirite from the time of conception.
Being set apart for God's service, which is what nazirite means, is similar to vows taken by those that enter full time Christian service today.
Samson was born with so much potential and promise and as long as he remained faithful to that vow and to following the path God had marked out for him, Samson lived a productive life and saved his people from the scourge of the Philistines that ruled over them for forty years prior. Unfortunately, Samson disobeyed his parents and his God.
Just as in the jungles of the Amazon, when one ignores the carvings and loses sight of the trail, you can easily find yourself lost. Our path (trail) has been laid out for us, Proverbs 3:5 tells us “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight".