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His Name Is Wonderful

Sermon passage: (Judges 13:1-25) Spoken on: June 15, 2009
More sermons from this speaker 更多该讲员的讲道: Pastor Wilson Tan
For more of this sermon series 更多关于此讲道系列: Judges

Tags: Judges

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About Pastor Wilson Tan: Pastor Tan served as a youth executive at the Presbyterian Synod, and as a pastor in Jubilee Church. He continues to serve in church as a cell leader in zone ministry.

Sermon on Judges 13:1-25


“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” (v. 1). Even though we have heard this statement countless of times, one thing that stands out in this account is that the Israelites no longer cried out to God for help. This is quite unique and it tells us that Israel is now at the lowest point in their history. They are now furthest away from God. They did not even bother to cry to God for help any more. God simply gave them over into the hands of the Philistines. But yet in this period of total chaos and apostasy, God is still at work. A faithful couple can still be found: Manoah and his wife, Samson’s parents. For the next few weeks, we will be exploring the life and exploits of Samson. And so today, I will not talk much about him, but instead I will talk about his parents. In the miraculous birth of Samson, Manoah and his wife had shown great faith in God. Even though they did not recognize that the man of God was the angel of the Lord, they believed in him.

So, how were Samson’s parents faithful?

God blesses the childless

The angel of the Lord first appeared to Samson’s mother, who is unnamed. Knowing that she was “sterile and remained childless” (v. 2), the angel told her that she “is going to conceive and have a son” (v.3). The angel went on to tell her that she and her son have to obey the Nazirite vow. She had every reason to doubt his words, but she chose to believe. It was not fear but reverence which filled her heart. She was not afraid but had shown great faith in believing the words of the angel! Even though she did not ask the angel where he was from or what his name was, she knew that he was a man of God.

After such an amazing experience, she went and told her husband, Manoah that “a man of God” came to her. His appearance was like an angel of God, very awesome. Wow! What a beautiful description! She was in the presence of someone awesome and great! This man of God brought to her a message of hope, and a miracle! And she is the recipient of such a miracle.

Sensing her excitement and joy, Manoah prayed to the Lord for a similar experience. He showed great faith in his prayer. “O Lord, I beg you, 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” (v. 8). It was not to confirm what his wife had experienced, but to seek guidance in how to raise this special child.

God answered Manoah’s prayer but instead of sending the angel to him, the angel re-appeared to his wife again. This time she was out in the field, but her husband was not with her. So, she ran to tell her husband that the man of God is here again! When Manoah met the angel and after confirming that he was the same one who talked to his wife before, he asked him, “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy’s life and work?”(v.12) Note that he did not say, “If your words are fulfilled” but “When your words are fulfilled”. In his mind, Manoah already knew that what was prophesized to his wife will come true. What he needs to know is how to raise up this child. He was seeking the ultimate parenting advice! Who better to teach you how to raise your child than a man of God himself?

Despite Israel being far away from God, Samson’s parents were faithful. They were childless but God grants them a son. Barren wives are often vulnerable to their husbands’ whims and fancy. And according to the marriage laws then, it was permissible for her to be divorced on such grounds. Alternatively, it often led to the taking of other wives. So when Manoah’s wife came to him to tell him that a man of God has told her that she is to conceive, most husbands would be doubtful. But this was not the case for Manoah. He believed her and prayed to God to send the man to them again. Not only to verify his authenticity, but to inquire the rule for the boy’s life and work.

God sets Samson apart to be Israel’s deliverer

Samson’s life and work is to deliver Israel from the hands of their enemies, the Philistines, their most persistent and threatening enemy. They were also known as the “Sea People”. To fulfill his call as Israel’s deliverer, Samson was to be a Nazirite. The rule is for him to observe the Nazirite vow.

What is the Nazirite vow? This vow can be found in Num. 6:1-12. Primarily, Samson is to obey three restrictions: 1) Not to drink wine or any other fermented drink, 2) Not to cut his hair, 3) Not to touch a dead body. Nazirite is from the Heb. nazar meaning ‘to separate, consecrate’. A Nazirite is a person who has consecrated himself to the Lord by taking a special vow, very much like Catholic priests today taking the vow of celibacy. Before Samson was born, he has already been set apart for God. Prophet Samuel’s mother, Hannah, also made the Nazirite vow on behalf of Samuel.

Most Nazirite vows are taken voluntarily and only last for a specific period of time but for Samson, it was to be a life-long vow, “until the day of his death”. Samson’s mother was also commanded not to drink any wine or other fermented drink. Every Israelite is not allowed to eat anything unclean, but the fact that she was reminded of this shows that Israel has not been observing such a prohibition.

God’s name is beyond understanding

What follows was also quite amazing. Manoah invites him to stay for awhile longer and eat with them. The angel refuses and instead tells them to offer the young goat up as a burnt offering to the Lord. Still unaware that this was an angel of God, Manoah asks, “What is your name?” The angel replies, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” In another translation, it is “wonderful.” From this reply, it is believed that this angel of God is actually God himself in the manifestation of an angel. For only God is beyond understanding.

Job tells us, “How great is God—beyond our understanding…God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding” (Job 36:26, 37:23). Isaiah 9:6 declares, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Some commentators even suggest that this man of God may be Jesus Christ himself.

How do we understand our God being beyond understanding? An important theological lesson can be learned here. As Christians, we seek to know God better each day. We try our best to comprehend God and about all that He does. But as humans, we do not have full understanding of who God is and all his ways. We can only know as much as what God wishes to reveal to us.

We know God from reading His Word as revealed to us in the Bible. We can also know God from our prayers, testimonies, from church and tradition. But remember that all of these are not all of God. God is bigger than our minds can imagine. God is greater than all of nature can display. What we know of God is only what God reveals to us. There is more to God than we can even fathom to understand. But before you think that this limited knowledge of God is inadequate, rest assured that all that is revealed is more than sufficient for us. For the best way to know God is through Jesus Christ. In John 14:6-7, 6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.” His name is wonderful.

The birth of Samson – his name, his life and work

When Manoah offers up a burnt offering, the angel of God ascends in flame up to heaven. Immediately, they knew now that this man was an angel of God. They fell with their faces to the ground, for fear that they will both die for having seen God “face to face”, The more calm and logical wife rationalized that if the Lord had meant to kill them, he would not have accepted their burnt and grain offering, nor shown them these things or told them about their child. True, true, women can be rational at times. J

Nine months later, Mrs. Manoah gave birth to a son and she named him Samson, which literally means, “sunshine” or “sun”. He was named after the town of Beth Shemesh, trans. as house or temple of the sun. Yahweh is sometimes depicted as the sun in times of darkness. During this period of apostasy, the faith of the Israelites has reached a new low, they no longer even cried out to God to save them. Against this background, Samson’s birth was all the more remarkable. It was an act of pure grace from God and it showed God’s commitment to his people even thought they did not keep their end of the bargain. Samson’s mother was barren, just like Israel was barren. And the Lord brought life to her womb by giving her a son; likewise, Samson also brought life to Israel. He was to be the “sunshine” which pierces through their times of darkness.

Samson’s birth was miraculous and it parallels many other similar divine interventions. God grants a child to three other famous barren wives: Sarah’s Isaac, Hannah’s Samuel; and in the NT, Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist, fore-runner of Jesus.

Each of these divine interventions marks an important part of history. Through Isaac, the birth of a nation with twelve tribes known as Israel became a reality. Samson, from the tribe of Dan, is the last of the great judges. His birth marks the end of the judicial era. And at around the same time, prophet Samuel’s birth marks the beginning of the monarchic era with King Saul, King David and King Solomon. And John the Baptist marks the beginning of Jesus’ salvation work, who prepared the way for our Lord, calling for repentance, announcing that the kingdom of God is at hand.

Samson is also the only judge to have been blessed by the Lord. The text even tells us that the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he was in Mahanen Dan, which literally means, the camp of Dan. Throughout his growing up years, the Lord was with him. His blessing came in the form of his great strength. It is also believed that he only discovered his great strength when he turned 12. He is the biblical Hercules! Today, he might be referred to as a jock, beefcake, or hunk. The incredible Hulk! He was a local hero, strong and mighty but not very smart. Time and time again, he was deceived by Delilah, who was sent to inquire the source of his great strength. He had so much potential to be a great deliverer but he wasted it on personal pleasure and pride. But, what can we learn from Samson’s birth?


As parents, we are often very concern about how to bring up our children. If we firmly believe that every child is a gift from God, then as parents, we are recipients of God’s blessings, as care-givers to them. Each child is entrusted into our care and we are to provide guidance and care for them, to the best of our abilities.

As parents our only hope for our children is for them to be faithful. We always wonder if our children’s generation will be a faithful generation. This is the core of parenting: to pass on our faith to our children and for them to pass it on to theirs. Our daily prayer for our children, Ezra and Eden, is that they will be God-fearing. I hope that this would also be every parent’s prayer for their child.

On one hand we seek knowledge of the ways of God, we ask God to teach us how to raise our children. But in the process of parenting, God is in fact teaching us to trust in Him. We may not comprehend all that occurs in our lives but if there is an important lesson to learn, that is to trust in Him and lean not in your own understanding. God’s ways are sometimes mysterious and beyond our understanding.

Samson’s birth was miraculous. His parents had an interesting encounter with God. They had the ultimate parenting advice. They were faithful and obedient. Even though Samson receives the call to be a Nazirite through his mother (i.e. he did not voluntarily make the vow), his parents would have made sure that he understood the significance of this vow from the day he was born. The Spirit of the Lord was already stirring him throughout his growing up years. He had faithful parents, a good up-bringing, and God had blessed him greatly but yet things did not turn out as well as we have hoped. His life ended in tragedy. But yet God had a purpose for him. In his death, he killed many more Philistines than while he was alive.

Samson’s parents did not know exactly how Samson was to deliver Israel from the Philistines. Even his marriage to a Timnite woman, a pagan, was intended by the Lord. Despite his flaws, God used him nonetheless. Samson’s life was indeed exciting! But I shall leave the rest of Samson’s humorous but tragic life story for the other preachers to talk about. Instead I would like to end with a simple story about the mysterious ways of God.

“The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, un-inhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him. Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming.

“Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect himself from the elements, and to store his few possessions.

“One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, with smoke rolling up to the sky. He felt that the worst had happened and everything was lost. He was stunned with disbelief, grief and anger. He cried out, ‘God! How could you do this to me?’

“Early the next day, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island! It had come to rescue him!

"‘How did you know I was here?’ asked the weary man of his rescuers.

" ‘We saw your smoke signal,’ they replied.”

Sometimes it’s hard to see God’s hand at work in our lives. He may seem hidden, far away, or totally out of reach, yet nothing could be farther from the truth! Our tender Savior is always watching over us, and always at work behind the scenes. Although we can’t see His hand, we can trust His heart. He may appear before us, but we may not recognize him. But if there is one thing we can be certain of, it is that He is constantly working behind the scenes. He is the light that shines in darkness, the key to a locked door, the music in silence, the quiet in a storm.

8 "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. 9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa. 55:8-9)

His name is indeed beyond understanding. His name is wonderful.