One of my great joys as a pastor is visiting and praying with families who have just welcomed a new child. Even if the child is their third or fourth, there is still a palpable sense of joy in the room. No parent I’ve spoken with in the hospital has shown me their newborn child and said, “Look at him. He’s so ordinary.” In Scripture, God often interrupted dark days with the announcement of a child’s birth. The birth of the child signaled hope, that God was at work even when things were dark.
Think about the beginning of Exodus. Pharaoh forgot about Joseph and enslaved Israel for 400 years. The dark days of Israel’s slavery seemed as if they would continue unabated. But then God protected Moses, one of the Hebrew children who should have been put to death. Here in Judges 13, Israel repeated the cycle of falling away from the Lord, and the Philistines ruled over them for more than a generation. Then the angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife to announce that she would have a son. Ruth gave birth to Obed during the days when the judges ruled in Israel. The book of 1 Samuel begins with the narrative of Samuel’s birth, and uses wording reminiscent of Judges chapter 13.
We know where this is headed, don’t we? The Old Testament narrative concluded, and then Israel did not hear from God for 400 years. They languished under the yoke of Roman rule, but God ended His silence with an angel visiting Zechariah, telling the priest that his barren wife would give birth to a son, John (Luke 1:5–25). And then the angel Gabriel visited a young virgin to tell her she would have a Son who would save His people from their sins (Luke 1:26–38).
The announcement of Samson’s birth came with the declaration that he would be “a Nazarite to God from birth” (Judges 13:5). Following the instructions of Numbers 6:1-12, he would be “holy to the Lord” all the days that he was separated from the things forbidden by the vow.
The hope God brings to His people is always accompanied by a call to be holy. This summons is not a call to abstain from cutting our hair, but rather a devotion of the entire heart, soul, mind, and strength to God. We give Him our whole selves, cutting ourselves off from the influence of the world around us, and putting our indwelling sin to death in Christ Jesus. We are not alone in the fight to be holy. It does not rely on us having enough fortitude to say “no” to temptation because God is always at work in us through the power of His Spirit.
Written by Scott Slayton