Friday, September 18, 2020

A Minister’s Manifesto (2 Tim 4:1-5)

 Dr. Paul Manuel—2020


2 Tim 4:1 In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2 Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3 For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4 They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.


      I.    His authority is supreme (vv. 1-2).

            A.    The Lord is with you.

            B.    The minister is for others.

Application: It is neither possible nor advisable for a minister to avoid study, for that would deprive him of insights only available through others (2 Tim 2:15).

     II.    His adversary is short-lived (vv. 3-4).

            A.    The enemy is ever deceiving.

            B.    The enemy is essentially deceived.

Application: Do not try to win an argument by humiliating your adversary, lest you turn him into your enemy (Phil 4:5).

    III.    His attitude is stable (v. 5).

            A.    The minister is determined to serve.

            B.    The minister is devoted to serve.

Application: The minister must adapt for the gaps in his education, and the congregation must allow him time to backfill those gaps (1 Pet 3:15).

Introduction: Sometimes you get involved with something without realizing at first what it is about:

The minister received an unexpected phone call from the IRS. “Hello, is this Rev. Green?” “It is.” “This is the IRS. Do you know a Steve Smith?” “Yes, I do.” “Is he a member of your congregation?” “Yes, he is.” “Did he donate $10,000.00?” There was a pause, then minister replied… “He will.”

Sometimes you get involved with something without realizing at first what it is about. Timothy may have started in the ministry without realizing at first what it is about. Paul writes a letter to Timothy telling him some of what he can expect. It is “A Minister’s Manifesto,” general guidelines about how the young leader can fulfill his calling.

Background: While traveling through Asia Minor, Paul writes twice to Timothy, a young man he knows well, a man he introduces to service in the local church. In his second letter Paul tells Timothy with a few broad strokes what to expect. This is not a detailed job description, but a description about what he should emphasize.[1] The first thing Timothy should realize is that…

Friday, September 11, 2020

A Profitable Combination (1 Tim 6:1-16)

 Dr. Paul Manuel—2020


1 Tim 6:1 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2 Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.

1 Tim 6:3 If anyone teaches false doctrines and does not agree to the sound instruction of our Lord Jesus Christ and to godly teaching, 4 he is conceited and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy interest in controversies and quarrels about words that result in envy, strife, malicious talk, evil suspicions, 5 and constant friction between men of corrupt mind who have been robbed of the truth and who think that godliness is a means to financial gain.

1 Tim 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7 For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8 But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9 People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

1 Tim 6:11 But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. 12 Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. 13 In the sight of God, who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus, who while testifying before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, I charge you 14 to keep this command without spot or blame until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 which God will bring about in his own time—God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings, and Lord of lords, 16 who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see. To him be honor and might forever. Amen.


      I.    Godliness is evident in how you treat others (vv. 1-2).

            A.    You are to be submissive to those in authority.

            B.    You are to be servant to those in authority.

Application: Do not use your position of authority to exploit those under you but adopt the gentle attitude of Jesus (Matt 12:20)

     II.    Godliness is evident in what you teach others (vv. 3-5).

            A.    You must impart truth to others.

            B.    You must avoid controversy with others

Application: Your job is simply to be ready if the opportunity should arise to share the good news and then be sensitive to the needs of the situation (2 Tim 4:2; 1 Pet 3:15).

    III.    Contentment is evident in how you regard your wealth (vv. 6-10).

            A.    You should be satisfied with what you already have.

            B.    You should be aware of the hazards of seeking more.

Application: Look beyond your immediate circumstances, no matter how dire they appear, and consider what God may want to accomplish through you (2 Pet 1:3).

   IV.    Contentment is evident in how you reflect the Lord (vv. 11-16).

            A.    You can pursue what is eternally valuable.

            B.    You can find what is eternally satisfying.

Application: God’s schedule may not correspond to your schedule, but it will always work to your advantage (Jer 29:11).

Introduction: Some things go together naturally, like peanut butter and jelly, or a bow and arrows, or a teenage girl and a mirror.

Jeff’s daughter has just received her learner’s permit and is eager to drive the family car. She gets in the driver’s side, adjusts her seat and shoulder belt. After glancing at all the mirrors, she turns to her father with a puzzled look and complains, “I can’t see myself in any of these.”

Some things go together naturally, like a teenage girl and a mirror. The apostle Paul joins two things he thinks are a “A Profitable Combination,” godliness with contentment. These two attributes are a natural combination, if not a commonly occurring pair.

Background: The apostle Paul writes to his protégé Timothy about his spiritual growth as well as about some problems the young minister is encountering with false teachers in his congregation.

      I. Godliness is evident in how you treat others (vv. 1-2).

1 Tim 6:1 All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered. 2 Those who have believing masters are not to show less respect for them because they are brothers. Instead, they are to serve them even better, because those who benefit from their service are believers, and dear to them. These are the things you are to teach and urge on them.

     Timothy’s congregation consists of slaves (i.e., property) and freeborn. Paul begins his instruction by addressing slaves.

Friday, September 4, 2020

What Does God Want? (1 Tim 2:1-7)

 Dr. Paul Manuel—2019


      I.    The priority of God is a supplication for authorities (vv. 1-2).

Application: When you pray, do not make it all about you, but make God’s priorities your priorities. (1 John 5:14)

     II.    The preference of God is a salvation for everyone (vv. 3-4).

Application: While communicating the gospel is a sober task, it is not something to dread, because it brings life to those who are perishing (Rom 1:16).

    III.    The provision of God is a savior for all (vv. 5-6).

Application: Whatever people think the reason Jesus came, the reason Jesus gives is the most important: redemption from sin (Acts 4:12).

   IV.    The promotion of God is a spokesman for gentiles (v. 7).

Application: No matter how indirect the route may seem at the time, it will always be the most direct route in the end to the destination He sends you (Isa 55:8-9).


 Background: Between Paul’s first and second imprisonments, he pens a letter to Timothy (66/67), who accompanied him earlier on his travels through Asia Minor. After urging his young protégé to remain faithful, Paul exhorts Timothy to prayer, explaining how this spiritual discipline should figure prominently in one’s walk with God and, in part, answers the question, “What Does God Want?”

      Paul begins by explaining that…

       I.    The priority of God is a supplication for authorities (vv. 1-2).

1 Tim 2:1 I urge first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone— 2 for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.

    Paul lists the various means God’s people in the church militant[1] use when communicating with Him: “requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving” (v. 1).[2] Then he recommends the ones who are to be the subjects of such interaction: “everyone [especially] kings and all those in authority” (v. 2).[3] Finally, he gives the intended outcome of such interaction for the supplicants: “peaceful and quiet lives” in “godliness and holiness” (v. 2).[4]

    One of these means of communication is to express “thanksgiving” (v. 1). Ordinarily, “thank you” is a response to someone who has done something favorable for you, but simply being grateful is empty and unfocussed if you do not specify the person responsible for your boon. At that point it is merely a vague and vacuous sentiment. In contrast, a statement of gratitude should identify the responsible party, especially when that party is God. Whenever God is the reason for your benefit, He should be the expressed recipient of your gratitude, the clear object of your appreciation (Manuel 2019).

Application: How is your prayer life? Does it regularly include those in authority as well as stating the intended outcome (e.g., “peaceful and quiet lives”)? If so, then you are praying according to Paul’s instructions. If not, then you should not be surprised when God’s response is not what you request. As James explains:

You want something but don’t get it…because you do not ask God. [And even] when you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives. (Jms 4:2-3)

When you pray, do not make it all about you, but make God’s priorities your priorities. “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us” (1 John 5:14). Whether or not God grants your request, there is comfort in knowing that He is not ignoring you or simply dismissing you out of hand. God pays attention to prayers that reflect His priorities. Whose priorities do your prayers reflect?

Friday, August 28, 2020

Lifestyle Evangelism (1 Thess 4:11-12)

 Dr. Paul Manuel—2020


1 Thess 4:11 Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.


      I.    Maintain a reserved demeanor (v. 11).
            A.    You are to be unobtrusive.
            B.    You are to be productive.

Application: What is most important is not displaying what you believe on your accoutrements but demonstrating what you believe in your actions (Gal 6:10).

     II.    Maintain a regular demeanor (v. 12).
            A.    You will then be admired.
            B.    You will then be autonomous.

Application: Whatever you heard about heaven, the reality will be far grander and will last far longer than you can ever imagine (1 Cor 2:9).

 Introduction: Sometimes we do not realize the impact personal example can have on another’s behavior.

The Snider’s front door was accidentally left open, and their dog ran out. After unsuccessfully whistling and calling, Mr. Snider got in the car and went looking for her. He drove slowly around the neighborhood for some time, calling for her but with no luck. Finally, he stopped beside a couple out for a walk and asked if they had seen his dog. They replied… “You mean the one following your car?

Sometimes we do not realize the impact personal example can have on another’s behavior. The same holds true in evangelism.

 Background: In 1959, Bill Bright’s campus crusade organization developed a short, easy-to-remember method of communicating the gospel using Four Spiritual Laws (and accompanying Bible verses) that it published in a small pamphlet:

   Law #1  God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

I have come that they may have life and have it to the full. (John 10:10)

   Law #2  Man is sinful and separated from God, thus he cannot know God's plan for life.

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Rom 3:23)

The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom 6:23)

   Law #3  Jesus Christ is God’s provision for man’s sin through whom man can know God’s love and plan for his life.

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom 5:8)

What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. (1 Cor 15:3-4)

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

   Law #4  Man must receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord by personal invitation.

To all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved. (Acts 16:31)

It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, [faith]is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Eph 2:8-9)

By learning these four principles and their accompanying verses, a Christian has an easy-to-follow method of communicating his faith. This method grew in popularity making the Four Spiritual Laws the most common way to share the gospel today.[1]

     While many Christians find it helpful to have a prepared presentation of the gospel in case an encounter offers an opportunity to share your faith, it is better to demonstrate your commitment to God for the people you meet by the way you live. Paul often exhorts his readers to emulate him:

        To the Corinthians Paul says:

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).

        To the Philippians Paul says:

“Join with others in following my example…and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you” (Phil 3:17).

        To the Thessalonians Paul says:

“You yourselves know how you ought to follow [my] example” (2 Thess 3:7).

St. Francis, a 13th c. Christian missionary, said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, and if necessary use words.”

     The primary job of spreading the gospel falls to those God has spiritually equipped for the task, those with the gifts of apostleship and evangelism (Manuel 2012, 2013b). That does not mean Christians without those gifts can remain silent about their faith. [mh\ ge÷noito.] “May it never be!”[2] All Christians must speak about what they believe, even those with other gifts. The way to do this is not necessarily through verbal articulation but through physical demonstration. As Paul writes to the Corinthian believers:

You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Cor 3:3)

The gospel need not come through an overt presentation in word but via the subtle illustration in deed. While the “Four Spiritual Laws” booklet offers Christians a way to communicate the gospel, the method it employs, confrontation evangelism, is not one many believers find appealing or feel suited to their personality. Most Christians prefer the more subtle approach of lifestyle evangelism, illustrating their beliefs by their actions. The latter, however, is actually more difficult and more demanding, as it usually requires one’s testimony to extend beyond the brief encounter required to communicate the contents of a small tract. It relies rather on an already established relationship that gives both message and messenger credibility. To be sure, the “Four Spiritual Laws” may be just the right tool for a brief encounter, but it lacks the depth of an extended conversation.

     Lifestyle evangelism is what Paul advocates in this first letter to the Thessalonians, explaining how the believers in that church should live, and giving two ways they can prepare others to hear the gospel, primarily ways their own demeanor can help someone look favorably on the good news. He tells them initially to…

Friday, August 21, 2020

Ark Adventures (1 Sam 5-7)

 Dr. Paul Manuel—2020


1 Sam 5:1 After the Philistines had captured the ark of God, they took it from Ebenezer to Ashdod. 2 Then they carried the ark into Dagon’s temple and set it beside Dagon. 3 When the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! They took Dagon and put him back in his place. 4 But the following morning when they rose, there was Dagon, fallen on his face on the ground before the ark of the LORD! His head and hands had been broken off and were lying on the threshold; only his body remained. 5 That is why to this day neither the priests of Dagon nor any others who enter Dagon’s temple at Ashdod step on the threshold. 6 The LORD’S hand was heavy upon the people of Ashdod and its vicinity; he brought devastation upon them and afflicted them with tumors. 7 When the men of Ashdod saw what was happening, they said, “The ark of the god of Israel must not stay here with us, because his hand is heavy upon us and upon Dagon our god.”

1 Sam 5:8 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and asked them, “What shall we do with the ark of the god of Israel?” They answered, “Have the ark of the god of Israel moved to Gath.” So, they moved the ark of the God of Israel. 9 But after they had moved it, the LORD’S hand was against that city, throwing it into a great panic. He afflicted the people of the city, both young and old, with an outbreak of tumors.

1 Sam 5:10 So they sent the ark of God to Ekron.    As the ark of God was entering Ekron, the people of Ekron cried out, “They have brought the ark of the god of Israel around to us to kill us and our people.” 11 So they called together all the rulers of the Philistines and said, “Send the ark of the god of Israel away; let it go back to its own place, or it will kill us and our people.” For death had filled the city with panic; God’s hand was very heavy upon it. 12 Those who did not die were afflicted with tumors, and the outcry of the city went up to heaven.

1 Sam 6:1 When the ark of the LORD had been in Philistine territory seven months, 2 the Philistines called for the priests and the diviners and said, “What shall we do with the ark of the LORD? Tell us how we should send it back to its place.” 3 They answered, “If you return the ark of the god of Israel, do not send it away empty, but by all means send a guilt offering to him. Then you will be healed, and you will know why his hand has not been lifted from you.” 4 The Philistines asked, “What guilt offering should we send to him?”    They replied, “Five gold tumors and five gold rats, according to the number of the Philistine rulers, because the same plague has struck both you and your rulers. 5 Make models of the tumors and of the rats that are destroying the country, and pay honor to Israel’s god. Perhaps he will lift his hand from you and your gods and your land. 6 Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When he treated them harshly, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way? 7 “Now then, get a new cart ready, with two cows that have calved and have never been yoked. Hitch the cows to the cart, but take their calves away and pen them up. 8 Take the ark of the LORD and put it on the cart, and in a chest beside it put the gold objects you are sending back to him as a guilt offering. Send it on its way, 9 but keep watching it. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the LORD has brought this great disaster on us. But if it does not, then we will know that it was not his hand that struck us and that it happened to us by chance.” 10 So, they did this. They took two such cows and hitched them to the cart and penned up their calves. 11 They placed the ark of the LORD on the cart and along with it the chest containing the gold rats and the models of the tumors. 12 Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh, keeping on the road and lowing all the way; they did not turn to the right or to the left. The rulers of the Philistines followed them as far as the border of Beth Shemesh.

1 Sam 6:13 Now the people of Beth Shemesh were harvesting their wheat in the valley, and when they looked up and saw the ark, they rejoiced at the sight. 14 The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh, and there it stopped beside a large rock. The people chopped up the wood of the cart and sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the LORD. 15 The Levites took down the ark of the LORD, together with the chest containing the gold objects, and placed them on the large rock. On that day the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings and made sacrifices to the LORD. 16 The five rulers of the Philistines saw all this and then returned that same day to Ekron. 17 These are the gold tumors the Philistines sent as a guilt offering to the LORD—one each for Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron. 18 And the number of the gold rats was according to the number of Philistine towns belonging to the five rulers—the fortified towns with their country villages. The large rock, on which they set the ark of the LORD, is a witness to this day in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh. 19 But God struck down some of the men of Beth Shemesh, putting seventy of them to death because they had looked into the ark of the LORD. The people mourned because of the heavy blow the LORD had dealt them, 20 and the men of Beth Shemesh asked, “Who can stand in the presence of the LORD, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?” 21 Then they sent messengers to the people of Kiriath Jearim, saying, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the LORD. Come down and take it up to your place.”

1 Sam 7:1 So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and took up the ark of the LORD. They took it to Abinadab’s house on the hill and consecrated Eleazar his son to guard the ark of the LORD. 2 It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD. 3 And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, “If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.” 4 So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only. 5 Then Samuel said, “Assemble all Israel at Mizpah and I will intercede with the LORD for you.” 6 When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the LORD. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, “We have sinned against the LORD.” And Samuel was leader of Israel at Mizpah.


      I.    God goes to Ashdod (5:1-7).

            A.    He topples Dagon twice.

            B.    He inflicts painful tumors.

Application: Your superstition may involve a meaningless motion to you, but does it strengthen or undermine the perception of your devotion to the Lord (Eph 5:3)?

     II.    God goes to Gath (5:8-9).

                  He inflicts painful tumors.

Application: You can choose an emotional response that reflects not your physical state but your actual state (Phil 4:4).

    III.    God goes to Ekron (5:10-6:12).

            A.    He causes widespread panic.

            B.    He compels sincere repentance.

Application: God has removed the uncertainty in efficacious prayer by issuing a series of guidelines that guarantee your success (Prov 3:6).

   IV.    God returns to Beth Shemesh (6:13-21).

                  He executes seventy Israelites.

Application: Do not postpone till tomorrow what He wants you to do today, lest you run out of time today to do anything tomorrow (Matt 7:13).

    V.    God goes to Kiriath Jearim (7:1-6).

                  He compels sincere repentance.

Application: The prospect of eternal life should forever excite you, eliciting praise and adoration for the generous God you serve (Rom 6:23).

Introduction: A change in the setting of a particular situation does not necessarily mark an improvement in that situation.

Mr. Smith goes to a party and has too much to drink. A friend offers to take him home, but he declines, saying that he only lives a mile away. A few blocks from the party the police pull him over for weaving erratically and ask him to get out of the car and walk the line. Just as he starts, the police radio announces a robbery taking place in a house just a block away. The police tell the celebrant to stay put as they run down the street to the robbery. Mr. Smith waits and waits, finally deciding to drive home. When he gets there, he informs his wife that he is going to bed and to tell anyone who might come looking for him that he has been out of commission all day with the flu. A few hours later the police knock on the door. They ask to see Mr. Smith, and his wife tells them that he has been in bed with the flu all day. The police have his driver's license and ask to see his car, so she takes them to the garage where they find…the police car, lights still flashing.

A change in the setting of a particular situation does not necessarily mark an improvement in that situation. The Israelites assume that their having the ark of the covenant gives them an advantage in whatever situation arises, until the situation changes, and their enemy captures the ark.

Friday, August 14, 2020

The Saga of Samson (Judg 13-16)

 Dr. Paul Manuel—2020


      I.    Samson portends a Philistine defeat.
            A.    Israel anticipates a deliverer with his conception (13:1).
            B.    Israel separates a deliverer during his development (13:4-5).
            C.    Israel receives a deliverer after his birth (13:24-25).
Application: Remain alert to whatever God has in store for you and be confident He will make certain you are prepared as you need to be (Isa 64:3).

     II.    Samson takes a Philistine wife.
            A.    He stumps the groomsmen (14:14).
            B.    He rewards the groomsmen (14:15-20).

Application: Because God demands it means the price is not insubstantial, certainly one that will be dear to pay (Deut 23:21).

    III.    Samson visits a Philistine harlot.
            A.    He destroys the Philistine crop at Timnah (15:3-8).
            B.    He defeats the Philistine men at Lehi (15:9-15).
Application: Your decision to serve God sets you up to receive from God the greatest freedom to exercise your free will you will ever have (Josh 24:15).
   IV.    Samson crashes a Philistine party.
            A.    He recovers his strength (16:21-22).
            B.    He devastates his enemies (16:27-30).
Application: The answers God provides when you pray are proof of His presence in your life, as well as proof of His love for you (1 John 5:14-15).

Introduction: Parents make some decisions for their children that are permanent (e.g., circumcision), but children can also make decisions that are permanent.

Being a teenager and getting a tattoo seem to go hand-in-hand these days. Linda was not surprised when one of her daughter’s friends showed off a delicate little Japanese symbol on her hip. “Please don’t tell my parents,” she begged. “I won’t,” Linda replied. “By the way, what does that symbol stand for?” …“Honesty,” she said.

Parents make some decisions for their children that are permanent, but children can also make decisions that are permanent.[1] Samson’s parents make some decisions for him that are permanent, but he must decide whether or not to abide by them.

Background: The Nazirite vow marks a person’s devotion to God and often accompanies a special petition to God. It is more focused than a person’s normal promise (see “The Use of Oaths and Vows in Israel,” an excerpt from Manuel 2010) in that it is for a limited time and adheres to a limiting set of conditions (Manuel 2020). The Nazirite vow most familiar to Christians is Samson’s, but his vow is different from the regular Nazirite vow in at least two respects.

     The first difference is the source of the vow. The initial promise comes not from Samson himself but from his parents before Samson is even born. Because his mother Hannah is barren, her primary request is for a child. When God responds with a son, his grateful parents dedicate him to the Lord’s service.[2] At the same time, Israel has been suffering under oppression by the Philistines, a seafaring people that moves into Canaan from the west about the same time the Israelites, an agrarian people, move in from the east. The child will eventually grow to answer the nation’s request for deliverance from their Philistine overlords.

     The second difference is the length of the vow. This deliverer will remain set apart to God’s service not for days, weeks, or even months, but for life. He will always adhere to the requirements of a Nazirite, from his time in the womb[3] to his interment in a tomb. Nevertheless, Samson’s sudden death means he is not able to fulfill the final responsibility of a Nazirite, which is to cut his hair and offer a series of sacrifices.[4] “The Saga of Samson” appears in the first book of Samuel with the announcement of his birth.

      I.    Samson portends a Philistine defeat.

            A.    Israel anticipates a deliverer with his conception (13:1).

Judg 13:1 Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, so the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

     After Israel left Egypt, despite the impressive array of miracles attending the people’s departure, God’s care for them in the wilderness, and their conquest of Canaan, God’s people do not have a good record of staying faithful to the Lord. Several times before this one the biblical author notes Israel’s moral decline:

The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served the Baals. (Judg 2:11)

The Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD: they forgot the LORD their God and served the Baals and the Asherahs. (Judg 3:7)

Once again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and because they did this evil the LORD gave Eglon king of Moab power over Israel. (Judg 3:12)

After Ehud died, the Israelites once again did evil in the eyes of the LORD. (Judg 4:1)

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. (Judg 6:1)

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD. They served the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and the gods of Aram, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the Ammonites and the gods of the Philistines. (Judg 10:6)

Despite this abysmal record, God does not give up on His people. He calls them back again and again. More than that, He promises to rescue them.

     An angel appears to Manoah informing him about the son he will soon have and about the special conditions his wife must follow during her pregnancy because of the role the boy will play in the nation’s emancipation.

            B.    Israel separates a deliverer during his development (13:4-5).

Judg 13:4 “See to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, 5 because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”

     Manoah’s wife must follow two conditions during her pregnancy, presumably to ensure that nothing hinders his leadership potential: She must avoid alcoholic beverages, a restriction unique to Nazirites, and she must avoid unclean meat, a restriction common to every Israelite.

            C.    Israel receives a deliverer after his birth (13:24-25).

Judg 13:24 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the LORD blessed him, 25 and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

     Here is an example of the Holy Spirit’s work before Pentecost (Manuel 2004). God moves in Samson’s life from an early age, presumably to develop his great strength and prepare him for the work that lies ahead.