Judges 13:1-25; John 1:19-28; Psalms 102:1-17; Proverbs 22:8-9
OT: “The Israelites again did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines forty years. There was a certain man from Zorah, from the family of Dan, whose name was Manoah; his wife was unable to conceive and had no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Although you are unable to conceive and have no children, you will conceive and give birth to a son. Now please be careful not to drink wine or beer, or to eat anything unclean; for indeed, you will conceive and give birth to a son. You must never cut his hair, because the boy will be a Nazirite to God from birth, and he will begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines.” …So the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The boy grew, and the Lord blessed him. Then the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in the Camp of Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.” (Judges 13:1-5, 24-25 CSB)
The book of Judges describes cycles of Israel’s disobedience to the Lord, the Lord handing them over to be judged by a godless nation, and then God providing a deliverer (or judge) after a time of judgement to win Israel back. Once again, as this story begins, we see that Israel had rejected the Lord’s ways and had been given over to Philistine oppression for 40 years. It is interesting that often times in the Bible, when things are hopeless, God sends – not a conquering hero – but a baby… and God promises that baby to the most hopeless of all: a barren woman. God promised a baby to barren Sara, when it seemed that God’s promise of a nation to Abram was going to die before it ever had the chance to begin. Later, God would promise a baby to barren Hannah who became the great judge and prophet Samuel. And even later still, God would promise a baby to barren Elizabeth who would prepare the way for another baby that would grow up to save the world. In this story, the Angel of the Lord (a pre-incarnate Christ) came to a seemingly insignificant barren woman who was part of a remnant of a small tribe of Israel. To this woman, the Lord promised a baby who would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines. Babies are weak, fragile, and incapable of surviving on their own… yet babies carry tremendous potential and hope. Each baby is a gift of God, a chance for a new beginning, and a reminder that life doesn’t end with me.
NT: “This was John’s testimony when the Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” “…Who are you, then?” they asked. “We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What can you tell us about yourself?” He said, “I am a voice of one crying out in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord — just as Isaiah the prophet said.” …So they asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you aren’t the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?” “I baptize with water,” John answered them. “Someone stands among you, but you don’t know him. He is the one coming after me, whose sandal strap I’m not worthy to untie.”” (John 1:19, 22-23, 25-27 CSB)
Similar to Manoah and his wife, God promised a baby to Zechariah and his barren wife Elizabeth. That promised son grew up into the man known as John the Baptist… and similar to Sampson, John the Baptist was a Nazirite. A Nazirite was someone who was completely consecrated to the Lord. The mark of their vow of consecration was uncut hair. After John began his ministry of calling the nation of Israel to repentance, the religious leaders sent an entourage to find out who he was and what he was doing. John responded to them out of Isaiah 40. Isaiah 40 begins with a word of comfort and hope… that the time of oppression was coming to an end… that the people should prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord… that the Lord would be coming soon to make everything right, and the whole world would see His glory. John said that he was that voice calling the nation to get ready. He was baptizing people in a baptism of repentance – but he was not the coming hope. He was simply there to prepare the way for someone else who was coming – the Hope of the World.
Psalms: “Lord, hear my prayer; let my cry for help come before you. Do not hide your face from me in my day of trouble. Listen closely to me; answer me quickly when I call. For my days vanish like smoke, and my bones burn like a furnace. My heart is suffering, withered like grass; I even forget to eat my food… My enemies taunt me all day long; they ridicule and use my name as a curse. I eat ashes like bread and mingle my drinks with tears… My days are like a lengthening shadow, and I wither away like grass. But you, Lord, are enthroned forever; your fame endures to all generations. You will rise up and have compassion on Zion, for it is time to show favor to her — the appointed time has come… Then the nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory, for the Lord will rebuild Zion; he will appear in his glory. He will pay attention to the prayer of the destitute and will not despise their prayer.” (Psalms 102:1-4, 8-9, 11-13, 15-17 CSB)
This psalm was written during a very low point in Israel’s history. The situation, as the psalmist looked around, appeared hopeless – and it was bringing personal pain and anguish. Yet, instead of dwelling on the hopelessness around him, the psalmist fixed his eyes on the hope that he had in the Lord. “But You, Lord, are enthroned forever…” No matter how out-of-control things get here on earth as its inhabitants forsake God and try to manage on their own, with the Lord, everything is in order and under His control. That is how we, as faithful disciples of the Lord, can be at peace when everything around us is being destroyed: we serve an unshakable King and we are citizens of His unshakable Kingdom… and beyond that, we can look with hope to the day when the Lord’s appointed time comes – when the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God and His Christ, and He rules forever and ever. Though the world is full of hopelessness, in the Lord there is always hope.