December 29, 2013   Judges 13   Offerings 

    Judges takes place after Moses and Joshua dies.  The Children of Israel are in the Promised Land.   They never unfortunately take all of the land that God has for them and the nations around them become thorns in the flesh for them.     There are 13 judges mentioned in the book of Judges.    These judges carry a sword and not a gavel.   As a nation they sin and God allows other nations to afflict them.   Then generally they cry out to God and God will send them a deliverer or a judge to lead them.   The judge dies or goes off the scene and then they fall into sin again.  The cycle happens over and over again.  Their walk with God is up and down much like many Christians today.   We need to remember that God corrects his children Hebrews 12 for our own good.   God allows things to happen to us to bring us into a closer relationship with him.  We would be wise to pray that God would search our hearts and point out anything that is wrong to us as David prayed in Psalm 139.   It is also important to know that many things that happen to us have nothing to do with our sin.  We live in a broken world. 

     There are 13 judges mentioned in this book and Samson is last one and he is one where we are today.   There are 2 verses in the book that could be considered the theme of this book and tells us a lot about the book of Judges.  One of those verses is the last verse of Judges which says in those days Israel had no king everyone did as he saw fit to do.   That is not the right way to live but that is how many folks want to live.   You can have so much freedom that you end up living in total bondage in my opinion. 

   This chapter opens with God’s people doing evil and they were delivered into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years.  God’s people sinned and were doing evil.   Gods loved his people but hated their sin.  Most of the time they would bow down, worship and serve false idols.   They would bow down to manmade objects that were lifeless.   They would turn from the living God.  Jesus sadi  in the New Testament that they would not come to him that they may have life.   Life is in God.   And then of course they would turn from righteous living.   What vanity and what a waste.   They paid for their sin.   Sin always cost something.   It promises satisfaction but delivers other things.   It brings bitterness and brokenness.  They are far from the living God.   They are far from the well spring of life.   Joy is far from them.   On top of that God allowed the Philistines to control them.  Forty years of bondage is tough.  Forty years of being enslaved to another people group.   Forty years of serving others and taxes and for years they did what each person saw fit.   There is no indication that they cried out to God in this passage.  They are in terrible shape and many perhaps are so enslaved that they just say well that is just life and life is not perfect.   Generally in the book of Judges it is recorded that the people would cry out to God and then God would raise up a judge or deliverer.  That is not recorded in this situation.   I would suspect that at least some of them called out to God at this time for God to do something for them.    These people needed a miracle.   They needed a change.  They needed relief and help and God was there in all of their pain and suffering. 

    In this situation God was involved with his people and God does not like it when His people are in bondage.  God wanted them to enjoy the good land that He had given them.  God wanted to bless his people even though they did not deserve it.   God wanted to do something new.   When God wants to do something in this world often he raises up a man or woman.   God raised up Noah, he raised up Abraham, God raised up Moses.   Later it was King David, prophets, John the Baptist, Jesus and the Apostle’s including Paul and millions more.  Today God still calls people to make a difference.   If you know Jesus he has a calling on your life.  Your work is not done yet on this world.  God has important work for you to do in 2014.    We do not know the details of what God has for us to do.   We do not know all that he has for us in this coming year.   The most important work we do is to pray because nothing happens without prayer.  The most important spiritual work we do is to pray and believe because nothing happens without prayer and faith.  Do not be discouraged in your prayer life and do not give up.   Our God is a mighty God and he is the God of miracles. 

    Many times when God wants to do something in this world he sends a baby and God sends a baby into this situation.   If they have been in bondage for 40 years they have a few years to wait yet for this baby to be born and to grow up.   This was a special child and every child is special.   The angel of God comes to this childless couple to explain how this child is to be raised.  I can only think of 3 times where the angel or visitor from heaven came to say that there was a child that was going to be born.   Some believe that this was Jesus himself.   

     This child is to be a Nazirite.   The rules for a Nazirite are found in Numbers chapter 6 which says he or she must abstain from grapes and raisins and not drink fermented drink.   They could not cut their hair and they must stay away from the dead.   They were to be separated and different than others.  It is interesting to think about Samson being a Nazirite and staying away from the dead because he kills a lion and kills 1,000 men with a jawbone.   It seems that he breaks the conditions of being a Nazirite.   His life seems like quite a paradox in some ways.   He was mighty with men but lost it with women and weak when it came to women.    He would do God’s work in the day and lose it at night.   Samson never struck a huge decisive blow to Israel’s enemies we would think.   I wonder how much Samson delivered them.   It is interesting that at the end of chapter 3 we read after Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath who struck down 600 Philistines with an ox goad.   He to saved Israel.  We have no idea how he saved Israel.   I do not think he killed them all at once but probably one at a time.   Samson may have been an average size person.  It was the power of God that gave him strength.   The power of God would fall on him.   It was the Holy Spirit that worked through him.   The power of God is mighty.   A Holy Spirit filled person can accomplish much.   Think of the power of God that can flow through a person when they use their spiritual gifts.   God does extraordinary things even through someone like Samson.   Even though Samson was not perfect God used his life.   God wants and will do extraordinary things through this church and through your life.   That is exciting!   He may allow your heart to be broken but God will pour it on you and through you. 

    This child was to be separated to God.    Everything we own should be separated and dedicated to God.   As we think about a new year we need to give it all to God.   Is your car dedicated to God?   Is your house set apart for God?   Are your eyes set apart to God?   Are your computer and your mind set apart for God?   Is your family set apart for God?   Is your business set apart for God?   These things at one point may have been set apart for God but are they still given to God?   Can God do with all of these things what he wants to do in 2014?       Our kids need to be given to God.    Our children should be different and have a proper separation from the world and parents have to set the pace.  It is do as I do and not only do what the parent says but follow word and deed of the parent.      This child was to be set apart for God from birth.  Have you set your child apart for God?  When you pick up a child or a baby do you pray for their salvation and claim them for God?  May the anointing and power of God fall on our kids.   May God’s blessing and presence be with them.  

    The angel comes to Manoah’s wife and tells her that she will have a child.   It is believed that it was Jesus who came to her.   It is interesting that we do not know Manoah’s wife name and it is interesting that the angel or Jesus comes to her twice and not to Manoah.  She tells her husband about the visit and Manoah prays that God would send them again.   God answers his prayer.   I suspect that he prayed fervently and God listened to him but the angel comes again to his wife.   It seems s like there is no additional information given about the child.  It is the same thing that was shared before.  

     How does Manoah return thanks to God for this child?   What do you offer to someone that has everything?  What can you offer to God who really owns everything?   Hebrews 13:15-16 “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise— the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”   Do you struggle with gift buying?   Manoah wants to prepare a meal for the angel even though they did not know it was an angel yet.   The angel told him he could prepare a burnt offering to the Lord.  The Jews were to do their offerings at the temple and with the priests according to Leviticus but it was OK because the angel said so.  As the flame blazed on the altar the angel of the Lord went up to heaven in the flame.   It is believed that the offering was acceptable to God.   I believe that they offered themselves, the child and the offering to the Lord.   I suggest that we do the same.  What great things are you asking God for this coming year?   I think we write them down and offer them to the Lord.   We will collect them in this bucket and offer them up to the Lord. 

           For those that missed last week I want to share the story I closed with last week and give you a chance to write down your sins and we will burn them up in the bucket.     Story: A Korean Pastor shared this story some years ago, when he came to Switzerland.   In the 4th century AD in Korea a man had two sons.    The elder rose to become Chief Justice in the land and the younger became an infamous bandit.   The elder brother loved his younger brother but was unable to persuade him to change his ways.   Eventually the younger son was caught and brought before his brother, the Chief Justice.   Everyone in the courtroom thought the younger brother would get off because it was well known that the Chief Justice loved his brother but at the end of the trial, the Chief Justice sentenced his brother to death.    On the day of the execution, the elder brother came to the prison and said to his brother “Let’s swap places”.   The younger brother agreed thinking that once they realized that it was the elder brother, the execution would not go forward.    On he went up on the hill to watch proceedings.   His brother was brought out at dawn and to his horror executed.  Filled with remorse, he ran down the hill and told the guard his name and that he was the criminal who should be executed.    The guards said to him.   “There is no sentence, there is no warrant, and there is not broken law outstanding for anyone with that name”   The price was paid and the books were clean.   In the same way, Christ has died for our sins so there is no sentence outstanding.    All we have to do is to accept his death in our place, totally trust Jesus to save us, ask for forgiveness, receive him into our life and walk with Jesus.