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What Does God Say When People Pray? (Part 9)
Judges 13:3-5 


These were dark days. Because of Israel's evil ways, God allowed them to fall into the hands of their arch enemies, the Philistines, for forty years. In the midst of the darkness, an angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah and his wife telling them God was about to bless them with a son. 

For years, they'd tried to have children, but couldn't. But now their dream would come true. There were, however, strings attached to the good news. Let's read our text:

"The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah's wife and said, 'Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. [4] You must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink or eat any forbidden food. [5] You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will rescue Israel from the Philistines.'" Judges 13:3-5 

Samson wouldn't be an ordinary child. From his conception, Samson was dedicated to the Lord. The angel instructed his parents that he was to take the vow of the Nazirite. 

Nazirites are people that are "consecrated." Included in the vow was total abstinence from alcohol and restraining from eating any fruit of the vine, including grapes or raisins. Besides the dietary requirements, they also were restricted from cutting their hair or shaving their beard.

Samson didn't choose to be a Nazirite. It was predestined by God and his parents began his consecration from his conception. During her pregnancy, his mother abstained from the forbidden dietetic elements of the vow.

In many ways, Samson was a contradiction. He was consecrated, living a life set a part for God, and the scripture says, "the Spirit of the Lord began to take hold of him." (Judges 13:25) Yet, some of his behavior was outlandish and he certainly had his weaknesses.

His greatest weakness was his relationship with women. I suppose you could say, he was a fighter, not a lover and explain this character flaw away, but I think it is deeper than that. Really, that one area of his life was his Achilles heel.

Take his first wife, for instance. He insisted that his parents arrange for a marriage with a Philistine girl from Timnah. Try as they might, they couldn't talk him out of it, so they conceded. 

On the way to Timnah to make the wedding arrangements, a Lion attacked Samson. With his legendary strength, Samson killed the beast with his bare hands, leaving its carcass behind.

As the wedding day approached, Samson went to Timnah again, and as he did, he walked past the carcass of the lion and noticed bees swarming in it. He reached into the carcass and ate the honey it contained, and shared some with his parents. But he told no one where it came from or that he had killed the lion.

At the wedding feast, Samson bet 30 local boys a suit of clothes each that they couldn't solve the following riddle: "From the one who eats came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet." (Judges 14:14 NLT)

Try as they might, the boys couldn't figure out the riddle, so they approached Samson's bride and threatened to harm her and her father's house if she didn't tell them the answer. She cried and nagged Samson, until he broke down and told her. She in turn told the boys who gave Samson the answer in Judges 14:18 : "What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?" 

In the same verse, Samson responded by saying: "If you hadn't plowed with my heifer, you wouldn't have found the answer to my riddle!" 

Now I'm not the brightest candle on the cake, but even I know that calling one's bride a "heifer" is not a good idea. Samson went to Ashkelon, killed 30 Philistines, and took their garments, paid his debt with their clothes, then went home to his mother and father leaving his bride behind. Another major mistake. Honeymoons are for the new couple, not the husband and his parents.

Later on, Samson returned to Timnah to claim his wife, but his father-in-law wouldn't let him in the house. He told Samson that he gave her to Samson's best man. Samson was furious!

He captured 300 foxes and tied their tails, with a torch between them, together in pairs. After lighting the torches, Samson released them into the fields. Then it got ugly. 

When the other Philistines discovered why Samson did this, they killed his bride and her father. Their revenge on Samson's revenge, only made Samson madder. The scripture says: 

"Because you did this," Samson vowed, "I will take my revenge on you, and I won't stop until I'm satisfied!" [8] So he attacked the Philistines with great fury and killed many of them. Then he went to live in a cave in the rock of Etam. (Judges 15:7-8 NLT)

When they heard what had happened, Samson's own people turned on him. They tied him with new ropes and took him to the Philistines. But the Spirit of the Lord overtook Samson and he killed 1000 Philistines with a donkey's jaw bone.

We won't mention Samson's next encounter with a woman, a prostitute from Gaza, instead we'll fast forward the story to his love affair with Delilah. Once again, the Philistines triangulated with Samson's woman to try to defeat him. They persuaded Delilah to discover the source of Samson's strength and report it to them.

One time Samson told her that 7 wet bowstrings would rob him of his strength. She tried it and it didn't work. Another time, he said that tying him up with brand new ropes would do the trick. She did it, but it didn't work either.

The next time, Samson told her she would have to weave 7 braids of his hair on her looms he would become weak as any man. She did it, but he remained strong.

Finally, because of her persistence, Samson told her about the source of his strength-his vow. That night, Delilah cut his hair. The next morning, the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes, bound him and took him to prison.

Defeated, Samson did the labor of a beast, grinding grain in the prison. The Philistines had won, so they threw a party. And gave this praise to their god Dagon: "Our god has given us victory over our enemy Samson!" (Judges 16:23 NLT)

Samson had squandered away his opportunity. His poor stewardship of God's gift to him disgraced his family, and brought shame on all his people. Though he could control others with his ferocious strength, he didn't have the self-control he needed to keep a secret. He couldn't with his first wife or with Delilah. That lack of self-control was his ruin.

In the middle of the festival, the drunken Philistines brought Samson from prison and put him on display in the middle of the temple, like a side show freak to entertain them. 3000 Philistines mocked him.

With his hands on the support pilars of the temple, Samson prayed this prayer: "Sovereign Lord, remember me again. O God, please strengthen me one more time so that I may pay back the Philistines for the loss of my eyes." (Judges 16:28 NLT)

What does God say when people pray? Sometimes He says, "Yes, I'll give you the strength you need to fulfill your life mission."

"Then Samson put his hands on the center pillars of the temple and pushed against them with all his might. [30] 'Let me die with the Philistines,' he prayed. And the temple crashed down on the Philistine leaders and all the people. So he killed more people when he died than he had during his entire lifetime." (Judges 16:29-30 NLT)

What is your life mission? What has God uniquely called you to do? Samson's mission was to live a consecrated life and be a vessel God would use to disciple those who persecuted His chosen people? What's yours?

Samson got off track at times, but in the end, he came back to his calling. Don't waste valuable years living out of God's will.

Will you find your mission? Will you pray for the strength to accomplish your mission? Will you do whatever it takes to fulfill God's mission for your life? Will you depend on God to use your weaknesses as well as your strengths? 

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