Lent Devotion for March 28, in Holy Week
Reader: “He was despised and rejected.”
Response: "A man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.”
SCRIPTURE: Judges 13:1–22
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.
2 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth. 3 The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. 4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. 5 You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
6 Then the woman went to her husband and told him, “A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn’t ask him where he came from, and he didn’t tell me his name. 7 But he said to me, ‘You will become pregnant and have a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb until the day of his death.’”
8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.”
9 God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. 10 The woman hurried to tell her husband, “He’s here! The man who appeared to me the other day!”
11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, “Are you the man who talked to my wife?”
“I am,” he said.
12 So Manoah asked him, “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule that governs the boy’s life and work?”
13 The angel of the Lord answered, “Your wife must do all that I have told her. 14 She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.”
15 Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.”
16 The angel of the Lord replied, “Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the Lord.” (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the Lord.)
17 Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?”
18 He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” 19 Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. And the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: 20 As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. 21 When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord.
22 “We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”
Read Matthew 24-25 as well.
Reader: "The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Have you noticed that quite a few times the length of rule or oppression was about forty years? Forty was a number which was often associated with a time of reckoning or evaluating. (That is one of the reasons the season of Lent is forty days.) There is also a pattern of an angel bringing news from God in addressing infertility issues in several places in Scripture, and in this account as well. (Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth) Manoah’s wife is not even named. In each case, the woman had a son who played a significant leadership part in God’s overall plan. Here the angel gave instructions concerning the son to be born. His hair was not to be cut in accordance with a Nazirite vow nor was he to eat or drink anything from the grapevine. Samson is a very interesting study. He apparently did not particularly care about his family, his people, or his God. Samson’s life was all about Samson. The warlike Philistines were Israel and Samson’s enemies. They had settled more along the coastline of Israel, having come from Greece around 1200 BC, which was about the time of Samson. (The name Palestine is derived from Philistine.) You see the character of Samson when he told his parents he wanted to marry a Philistine woman! Israel was specifically forbidden to intermarry with the pagan cultures. It is clear, Samson had a short fuse, was revengeful, and was extremely self-centered. He wanted what he wanted when he wanted it! Without going into great detail, suffice it to say his marriage situation was a disaster (Chapter 15). During this era of Israel’s history, the Philistines were a continual thorn in Israel’s flesh, and God used a very flawed man to accomplish His will. God worked out His will in human reality, knowing this world was filled with sinful people, yet He was [and is] still able to accomplish His overall purpose. He even uses downright bad people to bring judgment on His people at times. It is important for us always to remember, God is working out His ultimate purpose and He uses the “flawed material” He has to accomplish His will. Another surprise, Samson is also listed in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews as a hero of faith along with King David and Joseph! There is hope for our messed up world.
“Agnus Dei” by Samuel Barber ( Watch on YouTube)
Gracious heavenly Father, as horrible as it was for Judas to betray our Savior, that act did not stop or abort your plan of redemption. It is a great relief to us knowing you are a sovereign God who is all-powerful, whose ways cannot be defeated. May your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This week carries so much emotion when we realize it was carried out by people like us. Lord, thank you that you can and do, use very flawed, self-centered people like us and yet you still accomplish your will. Lord, we look forward to the time with you in heaven when these “flaws” will be redeemed and you will have for the first time, a truly holy people because of the events of this week. Lord, we rejoice and bless your only Son, whose death, resurrection, and ascension have made this all possible. We love you Lord and thank you for loving us. In the gracious name of our Lord we pray. Amen.
- Daniel Sharp