Barren. She was barren. Infertile. Sterile. Unable to bear children (Judges 13:2).
And she lived in a land that was barren. Among a people in rebellion to the LORD who had brought them into a land of promise and potential, but a land that bore little fruit from their great calling as the people of God. A people hamstrung by an enemy, unable to live as free because of the oppressive hand of the Philistines — and that for over forty years.
Barren. Bleak. Heavy sigh. Not exactly the sort of situation that primes the pump of hope.
And then, the Angel of the LORD appears to her (13:3). Not an angel, but the Angel of the LORD. Coming in the form of a “man of God” whose appearance was “very awesome” (13:6). One who revealed Himself as, “I am” (13:11) and declared His name as being “wonderful” (13:18). A “man” who ascends in the flames of the altar of sacrifice and is counted worthy of facedown worship (13:20). This Man, this Angel, very awesome and wonderful, engages a barren woman living in a barren land.
Sometimes, it would seem, barren turns out to be a good starting point for an encounter of the divine kind.
The Angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the Angel of the LORD. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.”
(Judges 13:21-22 ESV)
Started in on the story of Samson this morning. What an incredibly complex story. God’s perfect will being accomplished through a less than perfect (way less than perfect!) man. God’s Spirit repeatedly rushing upon a man so driven by the flesh. An intricate interplay of strength and weakness such that against the backdrop of the foolishness of a man the faithfulness of God is manifest. And it all starts with a barren beginning and the appearance of an awesome, wonderful, worship-worthy Man of God.
Another morning of COVID headlines. Another day with things at a standstill. Hasn’t been forty years but it already feels like way too long a time. Perhaps a prime time for a barren land to meet up with a Man of God whose name is Wonderful. The Son of God who came down and revealed Himself as the Bread of Life for the starving soul. Who offered living water to quench the eternal thirst. Who gave Himself on the altar of sacrifice. Was crucified and buried. And on the third day rose again from the dead. Afterward, ascending into heaven.
Going to be a different Easter celebration this Sunday, but celebrate we will. And prepare we must. For we’ve known an encounter of the divine kind. We’ve experienced the good news of God having sent His Son to touch a barren land and bring to life the barren soul.
Fruit made possible, even in times of fretting, because He lives. Strength inexhaustible, and that through our weakness, because He lives. Peace made possible, a peace that passes understanding, because He lives. Hope unshakeable, for faith is the substance of things hoped for, because He lives.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed!
By His grace. For His glory.