Have you ever wondered how Samson could turn out so poorly when he had seemingly great parents? How could this be? We see a father who desires to raise a child who is pleasing to God, and yet something goes wrong. When grown, this child will be a slave to immorality, which will lead to his being a slave grinding grain for the Philistines. Maybe there are a few morsels of wisdom we fathers can glean from this section of Scripture.
An angel appeared to Manoah’s wife, Samson’s mother. He gave her instructions on how she was to live and how Samson was to be set apart as a Nazirite. A Nazirite was someone who had such a great love for the Lord that he showed his devotion to God in a special way. Then, when Manoah was told about the angel’s message, he prayed and asked God to send the angel back, “. . . teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born” (Judges 13:8).
In verse 9, we read that God hears Manoah’s prayer and sends the angel back. When Manoah speaks to the angel in verse 12, he asks, “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” What training should he receive and what will be his vocation? Good question, but the angel totally ignores it. Amazing! God sends the angel back as a result of Manoah’s prayer, and then the angel doesn’t answer his prayer. Or does he?
What a disappointment! Here he wants to know about the boy, and God (via the angel) is telling Manoah about his and his wife’s responsibility. We have another example of this in the third chapter of John. Nicodemus makes an opening comment to Jesus, but Jesus totally ignores the comments and speaks to him about what He wants Nicodemus to hear.
The angel begins and ends by saying Manoah’s wife must do everything that she has been instructed to do. The overwhelming emphasis of the angel’s message to the parents is–obedience. Note that this is not the child’s obedience, but the parents’. Manoah was to see that his wife obeyed the word from God.
As fathers, just what is our highest priority? Is it our children’s education, socialization, future vocation, or is it our own responsibilities? I believe God’s Word teaches that a father’s primary responsibility is to love the Lord more than anything or anyone else. “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment” (Matthew 22:37-38).
That means we are to be sure we are in fellowship with Him and living for Him. Our example of being sold-out to Christ is far more important than giving our children hours of instruction on how to live the Christian life. Loving our Lord, and walking in obedience to His Word, is our primary responsibility. I believe that is why the Lord instructed Manoah to be sure his wife did what the angel had told her to. Manoah was to be the leader of the home.
So why did Samson fail in achieving God’s best for his life? Certainly, Samson’s choices had a lot to do with it, but I wonder if it was avoidable. There are even hints in Scripture that the parents might have had outward conformity, but I wonder about their relationship with the Lord and Samson. Why do I say that?
In chapter fourteen Samson was interested in a Philistine woman, and he told his parents to get her for his wife. His father protested, but then proceeded to do what Samson wanted, even though Moses had told the Israelites not to intermarry. “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the LORD be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly” (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). Here the father was more concerned that his son not be angry with him than about whether the Lord would be angry. He should have said, “Son, I will die before I willingly do what is wrong.”
Don’t be distracted by Judges 14:4 where it says the Lord was using this as an occasion to confront the Philistines. God will even use our sin for His purposes. He chose to use Samson’s problem with lust and lack of obedience to his parents to fulfill his plan. That does not mean that there wasn’t a better way if Samson had not had these problems.
Look at Samson’s response to his father. “. . . Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well” (Judges 14:3). We see that Samson did not love and respect his parents, or he would have said, “Father, you are right. God would not be pleased if I was to marry her.”
Dads, we need first of all to be concerned about our relationship with the Lord and pleasing Him. That begins in our hearts and is visible to those around us. It can’t be mere outward conformity. It must be a walk that comes from a deep love of our Lord, not wanting to displease Him. When our relationship is right with Him, we will be able to win and retain the hearts of our children. If we have our children’s hearts, then they will receive the concerns we share with them. They will be grieved when their path is straying from our example.
In verses 14:6 and 14:9, we are told Samson did something he shouldn’t have as a Nazirite and chose not to tell his parents about it. Our children must feel the freedom, and need, to share with us their failures and wrong desires. How else can God use us in their lives? Samson’s father neglected what was most important and lost his son. Dads, may we not fail in a similar way.