Thursday, January 22, 2009

Samson's Mother Prepares for His Birth

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending January 25, 2009

Scripture Text: Judges 13:1-7, 8-13, 24 (NRSV)

Purpose: To examine the role of preparation in fulfilling our commitment to God.

Judges 13:1-7, 8-13, 24 (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 for 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.’ (9)God listened to Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman as she sat in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. (10)So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, ‘The man who came to me the other day has appeared to me.’ (11)Manoah got up and followed his wife, and came to the man and said to him, ‘Are you the man who spoke to this woman?’ And he said, ‘I am.’ (12)Then Manoah said, ‘Now when your words come true, what is to be the boy’s rule of life; what is he to do?’ (13)The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, ‘Let the woman give heed to all that I said to her.

(24 )The woman bore a son, and named him Samson. The boy grew, and the Lord blessed him.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

As I prepare this lesson, I am also watching the inauguration of Barack Obama as our 44th president of the United States of America. As it happens our lesson is about preparation, and you have to admire the preparation that has gone into the inauguration ceremony and the transfer of power.(Maybe the Chief Justice could have used a little more preparation.) Can you imagine the confusion of an unprepared ceremony? We also, are called, to prepare ourselves and our families for service in fulfilling our commitment to God.

Our text is the story of an unnamed woman who is called by God, to prepare herself as well as to prepare her yet to be conceived, but promised son. The nation of Israel was being judged by God for their unbelief and failure to maintain a relationship with the One that had brought them out of slavery in Egypt and given them a land to possess, to dwell in and to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and Joshua. These headstrong people never completed the task that God laid out for them, of destroying the Canaanites. This promised land became a place of Idol worship, and a feeling of contentment replaced the call that God had made to each of them before entering this Canaan rest.(See Hebrews 3: 7-19 & Psalm 95: 7-11 concerning the Canaan rest) The battle was not over, but the Israelites grew weary of driving out the inhabitants of the Promised Land. They settled, grew crops and raised families and herds. God's call no longer had the appeal it did prior to entering this promised land.

God had let the people suffer for some forty years at the hand of the Philistines, now He was ready to call a new leader to the fore, but it would require preparation on the part of an unnamed woman. A woman who still believed in the one true God, a woman of little consequence, from the tribe of Dan. A woman that had to convince her husband that the call and the promise were real.

While all of us enjoy reading the story of Samson and his great strength, Samson is not the role model that we want to use. The history is almost timeless, the Palestinians (Philistines) and Gaza are still playing a part in the lives of the Israelites, just as it did, in the life of Samson.

The fact is that God used an obedient woman that was willing to follow His instructions, in raising a son, and doing all that she could do to carry out God's plan. The son had his moments, but his love of pleasure, and his willingness to not continue, as his mother had raised him, brought about his ultimate demise and death. And the nation of Israel would continue to struggle until another woman, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, would come to the fore as an obedient follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and set aside her son and make preparation in fulfilling her commitment to God.

What is your response, to God's call? Are you preparing yourself and your family for service? God does not always call the brightest and best, but, he can always use the willing and the ready. I am reminded of the old southern hymn “Ready: "Ready to go, ready to stay, Ready my place to fill, Ready for service, lowly or great, Ready to do his will."

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