Without question, the importance of faith is a central theme of the Scriptures. From the beginning, God has always expected man to exhibit faith. But, how can an individual demonstrate his faith? The answer: through his actions! A mere verbal acknowledgment of belief in God has never been enough. A study of James 2:14ff reveals that God desires that we prove our faith through obedience! It is still true that "faith without works is dead" (2:26).
It is accurate to affirm that all of the great men and women of faith of the Bible had an active, obedient faith. This was true of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Rahab, Gideon, Barak, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and many others--including Samson (cf. Heb. 11, especially verse 32).
Admittedly, when I think of Biblical characters known for great faith in God, Samson typically doesn't come to mind. When I think of Samson, I envision a man with great physical strength who had little self-control. I picture a man who violated his Nazirite vow, chose evil companions, fornicated, and caused an idol to receive glory that belonged to Jehovah. But, in spite of his flaws, Samson is proclaimed as a hero of faith according to Hebrews 11. We will study his life this week and examine the key events that were recorded for us by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It is our desire to learn what we can from his successes and mistakes.
We will begin by considering Judges 13-16. These four chapters are all we have recorded pertaining to the life of Samson, the thirteenth judge of Israel. Four chapters is not much in comparison with some Biblical characters, but it is quite a bit of information in contrast to what we have available on some of the other judges.
We will not read the chapters in their entirety due to time constraints, but we will read certain verses and summarize what is happening in the text.
In verse 1, we see apostasy in the nation of Israel once again - "Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD, and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years." Then, we are introduced to Manoah and his barren wife. The Angel of the Lord visited her and delivered a promise of a son. Undeniably, a family with no children is a good type to place a child in when special care is required. Three specific conditions were given by the Angel regarding the child who would be born. First, he was not to partake of strong drink. In fact, he was to abstain from the fruit of the vine period. Second, he was to avoid ingesting any unclean food. Finally, he was not to allow a razor to touch his head. The second condition was really not special in that no Israelite was to eat unclean food. However, the other two conditions were unique and included in what was called the Nazirite vow. This vow is explained in detail in Numbers 6. It seems that a special case of the Nazirite vow was in force for Samson since he was not prohibited from touching the dead. Obviously, God would not require him to fight in battle and also expect him not to go near dead bodies. Therefore, it appears as if Samson lived under a modified version of the Nazirite vow, and he was to do so for life. His life would also be special in that he would "begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines" (Jud. 13:5).
We will continue studying Samson's life tomorrow.