Text: Judges 13:1-14
In the hustle and bustle of life, it is easy to be careless in our daily devotions and Bible reading. Our quiet time with the Lord becomes more like fulfilling our dues than a whole-hearted season of seeking Christ and His Word. Soon we let ourselves become spiritually dull, fooling ourselves that such apathy and complacency towards God’s Word is of little consequence.
Such disregard for God’s Word was also present in Israel just before the birth of Samson. In fact, Israel was in her spiritual doldrums. Whenever Israel was oppressed in the past, she would cry out to the LORD for help, and the LORD would raise up a judge to deliver His people. But now Israel had been oppressed by the Philistines for forty years, yet was there no sign of repentance from the children of Israel.
Nevertheless, the LORD would not forsake His people. In His great mercies, He would raise up a deliverer for Israel. That deliverer would be the son of Manoah from the tribe of Dan.
Interestingly, the Angel of the LORD (i.e. the pre-incarnate Christ, c.f. Judges 13:15-25) appeared first to Manoah’s barren wife. In His message to her (v. 3-5), the Angel of the LORD mentioned three things:
1. Manoah’s wife will conceive and bear a child (v.3).
2. The son will be a Nazarite from birth, and follow all the regulations of the Nazarite (v.4-5a). Therefore, Manoah’s wife is not allowed to drink any wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing.
3. The son shall deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines (v.5b).
However, when the wife recounted the incident to Manoah, she only men-tioned the following:
1. She will conceive and bear a child (v.3).
2. The son will be a Nazarite from birth, and follow all the regulations of the Nazarite (v.4-5a). Therefore, she will not be allowed to drink any wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing.
The wife omitted the words pertaining to the son’s call to be a deliverer of Israel from the hands of the Philistines. This is astounding when we consider how greatly Israel needed to be lifted from their oppression! She was so used to the tyranny of the Philistines that the promise of deliverance fell upon dull ears.
As a result of the wife’s careless hearing and recounting, Manoah was left confused concerning the son’s calling. When Manoah finally met the An-gel of the Lord, he enquired – “What shall be the judgement of the child, and his work?” (v.12) The Angel of the LORD simply replied, “Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware. She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe.” The message was clear – All that you are enquiring, I have spoken to your wife before; let her recount all the words faithfully and obey.
Sadly, due to the careless hearing of Manoah’s wife concerning this one detail, Samson grew up to be a judge lacking any semblance of clarity concerning His call to be a judge. His behaviour mirrored that of an unbelieving hooligan rather than that of a saint. This is the tragic consequence of an attitude which is lackadaisical and complacent towards God’s Word.
God says in Deuteronomy 8:3 that “man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live.” Every detail matters when it comes to the Word of God. Neglecting or misunderstanding any doctrine or portion of the Holy Scriptures can lead to disastrous practices, with tragic consequences that could impact present and future generations.
One Bible teacher illustrated this truth by comparing Bible readers to the butterfly and the bee. The careless reader is like the butterfly that floats about gracefully from flower to flower in the summer, seemingly care free in the world. On the other hand, the careful reader is like the worker bee which urgently scrummages every portion of the field for a flower to make its honey. Not one flower is spared from its scrutiny. When the winter comes, the butterfly is no more, but the bee is safe in its warm hive with its store of honey.
Dearly beloved, let us not be careless readers, but diligent students of God’s Word. Every detail matters!
Lovingly in Christ,
Preacher Clement Chew
WHEN LOVE DIVORCES DOCTRINE AND UNITY LEAVES TRUTH (V)
By John C Whitcomb
Love Corrects Error
Why? Because for the sake of Truth, even families (the closest-knit unit on earth) will be split with hostility and enmity so that at least someone within that unit can perpetuate God’s Truth. How will the Lord Jesus Christ build His church? It is through separation from error. Consider Matthew 18:15-17, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.”
This means that error, either moral or doctrinal, must be eliminated from the body, or the church cannot grow in the way which alone can honour God. In Romans 16:17 the apostle Paul says, “I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.” We are to be markers, watchers and observers. If we honour and love the Lord Jesus, we will watch for anything which may destroy His Truth. We will avoid such people, and we will turn from them.
It is very significant that the size of the company in error, or the majority or minority balance is not discussed here. Martin Luther was able to mark or discern those that caused divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which he had learned from Holy Scripture, and he avoided them. Thus he excommunicated the entire Roman Catholic Church. He said to the whole vast majority of Christendom in Western Europe—anathema! Praise God for that decision, which involved enormous courage.
Dealing with the Corinthians who had failed to excommunicate a moral apostate in their midst, Paul said in 1 Corinthians 5:9-12, “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators: yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?”
Notice this amazing statement of biblical separation. We do not separate from immoral people who are not Christians. We are to associate with publicans and sinners who are the potential recipients of the Holy Spirit’s convicting, converting work, through our witness. But the one group we are to separate from are Christians who are immoral, or who are doctrinal heretics. These are the people we must excommunicate, or separate from. We are not even to eat with them. Why not? Because if a worldling or a young, untaught Christian watches you having fellowship (which is what I understand “eating with” to mean) they could interpret the outward form of fellowship to be an endorsement of the heresy or moral misdemeanour.
Result of Compromise
The apostle Paul states the reason. It is that the testimony of Truth might at all costs be protected from misunderstanding on the part of untrained or unenlightened observers. In 1 Corinthians 15:33 the apostle declares, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” A good way of life, or good doctrine, is always contaminated by a bad environment or bad associations, whereas a mere association of the good with the bad will never make the bad thing better. The good gets worse; the bad does not improve. It is the same with a rotten apple in a barrel. The bad one never gets better, but the good ones go rotten.
Is it right for doctrinal purity to be blatantly submerged for the sake of outward ecclesiastical unity? Surely this is a total denial of the Holy Spirit’s Word through the Scriptures.