So Great A Salvation
Brad Mills / General
Judges: So Great A Salvation / Judges 12:1–7; Judges 13:1–25
We need to wrap up our look at the end of the Jephthah narrative, before going to another controversial figure in the book of Judges.
The Samson narrative provides another good opportunity to remind us that the book of Judges is ultimately about how God operates through Israel to bring about redemptive history. Colorful characters should not become central. Yes, they are examples for us in their faith and obedience, but their primary function is to point us to the true hero of Scripture, namely Jesus Christ.
The primary purpose of Samson’s narrative, as it could have been said of all the judges, is that…
Salvation belongs to the Lord.
Read Judges 12:1-7
1. The Death of a Savior (12:1-7)
Once again, the hotheaded Ephraimites are stirring up conflict. Gideon diffused their anger with a kind word. Jephthah and the Gileadites fought and killed 42,000 Ephraimites.
What are we to make of this response? If we have interpreted Jephthah to be irrational in his vow, then we will be quick to pile it on at this point and declare him to also be prone to conflict and violence. Note: If this were some kind of judgment from God for his unlawful vow, it is odd that the one condemned is victorious.
On the other hand, if we have been more gracious to him and interpreted his vow as being “not so tragic”, then we are left wondering how to understand the conclusion to his account. The author is not explicitly or implicitly negative about Jephthah’s actions, even here. But that doesn’t mean he is positive either. It just means we should not read more into the account than is actually provided.
However, much like Gideon’s unfortunate end, Jepthah’s narrative lacks any reference to his dependence upon the Spirit, and once again we have civil warfare. It seems to me that the Spirit gave them victory over the Ammonites, but their victory over Ephraim was counterproductive.
Once again, Ephraim wasn’t innocent. They were short-tempered and easily offended. They began their accusations with a threat to “burn your house over you with fire” (v.1). Jephthah had not done anything to offend them. In fact, it was just the opposite (vv.2-3). They provoked the Gileadites calling them fugitives, which suggests they don’t belong (v.4). At the very least, there is a bit of ambiguity about how Jephthah was supposed to respond.
But Ephraim was still a part of God’s covenant people. The Lord had not cut them off. There was never any instruction for the judges to attack fellow Israelites, so I find it hard to see it any other way but as another negative ending, to an otherwise faithful and exemplary judge.
Obviously, the differences between Jephthah and and Jesus are significant. As I have already pointed out in previous weeks, I believe Jephthah’s character and commitment were exemplary and they foreshadow what is perfected in Christ. But this section of conflict and death provide a contrast with the superior nature of Christ’s sacrifice.
Whereas Jephthah slaughtered his fellow Israelites in order to establish temporary peace, Jesus Christ was slaughtered for his people in order to establish everlasting peace!
Attacks from within the covenant community are often the most damaging to her witness. Both parties could claim their innocence. They would both suggest that they were provoked. Yet, in the end, the entire community suffers. The Ephraimites, like so many in the church, were more interested in their own agenda than the will of the Lord. They fought to protect their own interests, rather than the good of the community.
Proverbs 18:19 ESV
A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.
It’s easier for a military to defeat a city than to reconcile an offended brother. Is that not a picture of this passage? If it is, then Jephthah actually took the easy way out by going to war. After showing so much patience in his diplomatic response to the king of Ammon, we have only a few verses in response to Ephraim.
Although this is the first time I’ve asked it in the sermon, this is now the third week we’ve had this question in your handout (it must be an important one for us to consider):
What can you do this week to promote unity and peace within the covenant community?
Jephthah’s Conflict reminds us just how hard it can be to maintain peace and unity within the church. We can point our finger at the Senate all we want with their dysfunctional approach to everything. But, every community will face conflict. Shouldn’t the Church be known as a place that resolves those conflicts with grace and peace?
In this case, the result was civil war…again. Jephthah’s reign was quite short at six years. After his death, we have three minor judges (which we dealt with previously). The cycle continues…
› Now let’s jump ahead to Judges 13:1-25
2. The Birth of a Savior (13:1-25)
The Angel’s Promise and Reiteration (1-14)
What’s missing? There isn’t any mention of the people of Israel crying out to the Lord (cf. 3:9, 15; 4:3; 6:6-7; 10:10).
Praise God He doesn’t only work when we ask him to!
Dale Ralph Davis:
For if Yahweh’s help were given only when we prayed for it, only when we asked for it, only when we had sense enough to seek it, what paupers and orphans we would be.
1. Manoah was a Danite. Gen. 49:16-17 “Dan shall judge his people as one of the tribes of Israel. Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that his rider falls backward.” Also see Judges 1:34-36; Judges 17-18.
2. Samson will only provide a partial deliverance from the oppression of the Philistines (v.5).
1. Barrenness led to miraculous births (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, Elizabeth). All of these miraculous births foreshadowing the virgin birth of Jesus. As with creation, so in redemption: The Lord brings salvation out of nothingness. (DRD – He builds a savior from scratch.)
2. He was to be a Nazirite from birth.
Numbers 6:1–8 ESV
And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried. All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins.
“All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.
“All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. Not even for his father or for his mother, for brother or sister, if they die, shall he make himself unclean, because his separation to God is on his head. All the days of his separation he is holy to the Lord.
1. Abstain from products of the vine (blessings of the harvest, joy).
2. Hair to be uncut during the vow.
3. No contact with a dead body (death = curse, but Nazarites were consecrated in purity).
Manoah clearly took his responsibility quite seriously. He seeks the Lord’s favor of another visit and further instruction. He wanted to hear the promise for himself and ensure that he did his part in raising this child up.
In response to God’s covenant promises to us and our children, like Manoah, we should seek the Lord’s favor and instruction in raising them up. How are you raising your children under the nurture and admonition of the Lord?
› Although God hears his prayer, and the angel of the Lord returns, no new information is received. But the couple did receive an opportunity to show their gratitude…
The Couple’s Worship (15-23)
Similar to Abraham’s hospitality (Gen. 18:3-8) and Gideon’s worship (Judg. 6:19). The name of the angel is to provoke wonder.
Psalm 139:6 ESV
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.
The angel’s name is beyond comprehension. Names = character, nature of the person. The first thing you should know about God is that you cannot know him exhaustively. For God to be God, he must be transcendent, superior, above, and beyond us.
On that note, the angel ascends in the flame of the sacrifice (v.20), a wondrous display of his divine nature. Fire and smoke are often theophanic elements (Abraham, Moses).
Manoah and his wife’s response are typical of all those who had an encounter with the Holy God.They fell on their faces in worship (v.20), and that worship was accompanied by a reverent fear (v.22)!
Worship and fear so often go hand-in-hand in Scripture, yet we struggle to understand it. There is something about the holiness of God that should strike fear into the heart of man, and yet his love draws us in with anticipation.
I’ve always appreciated the way C.S. Lewis captures this in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. It’s when Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are teaching Susan about Aslan:
“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion.” “Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…”Safe?” said Mr Beaver …”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again; if you want a “safe space” you shouldn’t come to Church. We cannot promise you that you will never be offended by something we sing, pray, or preach. But I will say it is my hope that you will find God to be a good God who offers you something much better than temporary safety…He offers you everlasting peace!
Manoah’s wife provides the necessary balance to his fear:
Judges 13:23 ESV
But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.”
God didn’t reveal his power to Manoah and his wife in order to leave them devastated and trembling, but in order to leave them comforted and assured in his ability to save.
Do you worship God with reverence and joy? How do you keep in balance these two reactions to God’s holiness and power?
That balance is most perfectly seen on the cross. We see the power of the unmitigated wrath of God poured out upon his only Son. And we see the Son enduring that wrath for the sake of all who place their faith in him. The result is peace and assurance that no matter what we’re going through, God the Father did not withhold from us his Son. He’s already given us the most gracious gift we could ever imagine.
› The passage closes with…
The Savior’s Birth (24-25)
Judges 13:24–25 ESV
And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lordblessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Here we see the beginning of the Spirit’s work which is more prominent in Samson than any other judge (cf. 14:6, 19; 15:14).
The parallels with several significant birth narratives are obvious (Samuel, John the Baptist, Jesus). Whatever we conclude about different episodes in the life of Samson, we would do well to keep the big picture in view.
The New Bible Commentary 13:1–16:31 Samson
The climax of the story casts a long shadow before it. Like a far greater one to come, this deliverer will fulfil his mission at the cost of his own life.
The Lord set apart Samson as a Nazarite from birth, but he was also born in sin. The One greater than Samson was not only set apart for the Lord from birth, but He was also born without sin. Samson would provide a partial deliverance for a finite period of time. Jesus saved to the uttermost.
Hebrews 7:23–27 ESV
The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.
For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.
Let us praise the Lord, to whom our salvation belongs!