A good story
Judges 13: The angel of God appeared to her.—
The set up for the story of Samson begins with the visitation of an angel. Manoah’s wife (unnamed in the Bible) is minding her own business when the angel appears to inform her that she’s going to have a baby boy. The child is to be raised under a strict code including his partaking of no fruit of the vine or ever having his hair cut. While the Nazirite vow was introduced in Numbers 6 this is the first time we hear of anyone actually under that vow and his case is (obviously) extraordinary. Not only does his being under the Nazirite vow set up the unique “haircut” feature of the story of Samson there’s also the fact that in Samson’s case being a Nazirite is not so much a vow as it is a lifetime assignment. His faithfulness to this vow is such a big deal that the angel has arrived early to stop his mother from drinking or doing anything that would constitute a breaking of the vow while Samson is still in his mother’s womb! When Manoah asks the angel his name he’s told that it’s a name beyond his vocabulary and comprehension. Then, as a burnt offering is made, the angel suddenly blends into the flames and ascends heavenward. It’s all very impressive and fun to read and think about. In fact, that’s all I’m doing with this passage because I don’t have a compelling devotional point to make. Sometimes a good story is just a good story!
Take Away: Most of God’s people just live their lives without visions or miracles. When those things happen, though, we have a story worth repeating.
Don’t make stupid promises to God
Judges 11: I’ll give to God whatever comes out of the door of my house.
Jephthah makes a stupid vow. As he leads Israel into battle against the Ammonites he promises God that, if he’s victorious, he’ll make an offering of the first thing to come out of the door of his house when he returns home. Now, the battle is won and as he returns home it’s his own daughter who first comes out the door to greet him. Apparently, he keeps his stupid vow and offers her as a sacrifice. This is wrong on so many levels that it’s hard to know where to start. For one thing, God doesn’t work this way. God does what is right because he’s righteous. He doesn’t play “let’s make a deal” with us. Beyond that, God doesn’t want human sacrifices. In the history of the Israelites, only one time is such a demand given and that’s with Abraham and Isaac. Even in the dark ages of Judges every citizen of Israel knows the story; and they all know that God stops Abraham before one drop of Isaac’s blood is shed. Finally (although there’s more) just because we say something stupid to God doesn’t mean he wants us to do it. “God, if you make me well I’ll be a preacher” might just get a response from God saying, “I’m the One who calls preachers, not you! What makes you think I want the likes of you as a preacher in the first place?” I’m to live in a genuine relationship with God, not one in which I’m constantly trying to bargain with or manipulate him into getting what I want.
Take Away: The Lord doesn’t want to make deals with us. Rather, he wants to connect with our lives.