The Israelites again did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines for forty years. – Judges 13:1 (NET)
Round and round they went. It was a never ending cycle for Israel. Israel did evil, they were turned over to their enemies, they cried out for a deliverer, and God provided them with a measure of redemption which would eventually be forgotten and the cycle would begin again. We probably recognize the pattern, to some extent, in our own lives, and it is quite the pronounced theme of this book of Judges. They have been subjected to Aram-Naharaim (3:8), to Moab (3:12), to King Jabin of Canaan (4:2), to Midian (6:1), the Philistines and Ammonites (10:7), and now here in the thirteenth chapter, to the Philistines alone, and now for an extended period of time (forty years). So let us venture forth to see what can be learned from the example that is before us.
We quickly learn about “a man named Manoah from Zorah, from the Danite tribe” (13:2a). Sadly, we are informed that “His wife was infertile and childless” (13:2b). Now, since we are always keeping in mind that the overarching and underlying and dominant theme of the Word of God is God’s faithfulness, and that this faithfulness is demonstrated within the controlling narrative of God’s covenants, our learning about the condition of Manoah’s wife, together with the fact of Israel’s return to evil (idolatry, violation of the Sabbaths, non-reverence of the Lord’s sanctuary), should cause our thoughts to turn, yet again, to the book of Deuteronomy and to the promises of God (the blessings and the curses) that are associated with His covenant with Israel. Though infertility and a dearth of children are not specifically named in the list of curses that God promised to bring upon His covenant people if they failed in their covenant responsibilities, we do find God promising the blessing of greatly multiplying children (28:11) for faithfulness to the covenant. So by a natural and logical extension, failure and evil would lead to the opposite of the multiplying of children, which would be barrenness and childlessness.
What follows? “The Lord’s angelic messenger appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘You are infertile and childless, but you will conceive and have a son” (13:3). This is a miraculous intervention. Though infertile, this woman was promised a son. In the midst of cursing, God breaks in and chooses to render a blessing to one of His chosen people. The messenger repeated the report, saying “Look, you will conceive and have a son” (13:5a), adding “You must never cut his hair, for the child will be dedicated to God from birth” (13:5b). With that, we find that we are in the midst of the story of Samson. It is said of him that “He will begin to deliver Israel from the power of the Philistines” (13:5c). In this, we are able to see the message of God’s salvation, not just for His people Israel, but for those that would come to be His covenant people through Christ (by believing and declaring that Jesus is Lord through faith that is gifted by the Holy Spirit). In addition, we find the message of the salvation of God that is going to be extended to His once very good creation as well. How so?
As we can see, it is in the midst of Israel’s evil that God enters in to provide His blessing. If we make a wider application, we can think of Israel as representative of all peoples. With that, we can then see the promised son as Jesus, as God breaks in to history, amidst a race of people condemned to experience nothing beyond the wrath of God that is death, to deliver the blessing of His salvation---the renewal, re-creation, restoration, and eternal life to be had through the bestowal of His Resurrection power in union with Christ---to people of all nations.
In Christ and in His people, the kingdom of heaven has been established on earth, and is daily extended as His Lordship is declared over all rulers and all powers. Through His people, His renewed Israel under the new covenant sealed by Christ’s blood, God sends His power forth through His people as vessels for the communication of the Gospel; and just as we can see the gift of a Son into the midst of fallen humanity as God’s faithful action for the salvation (deliverance from exile from God) of those that He declared to be His people from before the foundation of the world, we can also see a foreshadowing of God’s intention to restore and renew a world of His creation that was marred by that fall, when we read about the fact that this promised son would “begin to deliver Israel from the power of the Philistines.”
Through Samson, there would not be a complete deliverance, but a beginning. So too can we understand, through the power that is unleashed in this fallen and corrupted world by the proclamation of the Gospel, as a measure of that power that raised up Jesus from the dead is graciously shared, by the Spirit of God, through His people, that even the creation itself is beginning to be delivered from the power of death under which it is held and under which it groans. Creation’s complete renewal will be consummated upon Christ’s return, in conjunction with the resurrection of His people, as they are brought forth into a renewed physicality in the exact same way that Jesus was brought forth from the grave. This beginning of the deliverance of creation (His people and this world) from the bondage of death to which it was unwillingly subjected by mankind’s rebellion against God, occurs because of the deliverance from that same bondage that is realized by those that share in eternal life, here and now, through their union with Christ.