The book of Judges in the Old Testament holds many stories of those whom the Lord raised up to deliver the tribes of Israel from their oppressors. My personal favorite is Gideon because of the experiences he had where the Lord reassured him and built up his confidence to do something that conventional wisdom said he had no chance of doing. And to try involved great personal danger. But this post isn’t about Gideon.
Samson sits at the other end of the spectrum for me because he seems to be an example of someone who could have done great things, but what he wanted was more important to him than what the Lord had planned for his life. As a result, he met a tragic end.
The part of his story that feels more positive, however, begins before his birth and is told in Judges Chapter 13. An angel appeared to the wife of Manoah (unfortunately we don’t know her name) and told her, “Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:3–5). Samson was to be a man dedicated to God, the best sort of person to be His representative.
The record doesn’t say how long before Manoah’s wife conceived, but one aspect of this story I find significant is that for the greater promise of deliverance from the Philistines, they were going to wait longer than for conception and pregnancy. What would it have been like to be told by an angel that you would get your heart’s desire of having a child—but that you would have to wait for that child to grow up before he could deliver Israel? The promise of deliverance meant that the oppressions of the Philistines would continue for at least two more decades, and it proved to be closer to four (see Judges 15:20).
This angel’s visit was echoed centuries later by Gabriel’s visitation to Mary. He told her, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31–33).
Being a righteous woman, Mary would have known that this promise made the baby that would be born of her the Messiah, prophesied to deliver Israel. He was born dedicated to God. I would guess that the prophecies entered her mind frequently over the course of Jesus’s childhood, and she looked forward to the works He would perform to save His people. That waiting must at times have been difficult. Jesus’s birth did not bring with it an immediate deliverance, either temporal or spiritual.
Of course, we know that temporal deliverance was not His mission at that time; instead, it was to begin the organization of His Church by selecting apostles and seventies and sending them out to preach, and then ultimately to suffer the penalty of our sins, be crucified, and break the bands of death through resurrection. But given the common understanding of the purpose of the Messiah’s coming at the time, it could have been difficult to wait for that expected deliverance to come, just as it might have been for Manoah and his wife.
The annunciation of Samson’s birth and mission by an angelic visitor to his mother is a clear foreshadowing of the First Coming of the Messiah, thereby reminding us of and pointing us to Christ.
Today, we aren’t sure how long we have to wait for the Savior’s Second Coming. Most times, we have no idea how long it will be before we are delivered from a current trial. However, the most important deliverance we can wait for is the deliverance Jesus brings from sin and from the grave (2 Nephi 11:5; Alma 7:13). And though at times the wait may feel long, He has promised “they shall not be ashamed that wait for me” (Isaiah 49:23).
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I had not thought before about the waiting either of Mary or her cousin Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s mother) or many other mothers in Biblical accounts of promised children. Thanks for your insight.
It was a new thought for me too. It reminds me of a point someone made in a Liahona article that while Jesus often healed people upon meeting them, many had suffered with an affliction for many years before that, such as the woman with the issue of blood or those with a lifetime of blindness.