Summary: The Bible is filled with stories of fractured lives and messy situations. From these we can learn truths about how God works.
Bob Dylan wrote a song called “Everything is broken.” Here are some of the lyrics.
Broken bottles broken plates
Broken switches broken gates
Broken dishes broken parts
Streets are filled with broken hearts
Broken words never meant to be spoken
Everything is broken.
He’s right. Whether it is things or people or systems, everything is broken. Many of us are in this place today because we know how broken we are. Some of you may feel you are so broken that there is no hope or that you cannot possibly be used by God. But the Bible is filled with stories of fractured lives and messy situations. Over the next four weeks we are going to study one example of that. The series is called Broken: How God uses defective people. The focus is the infamous strongman Samson. From his life, we can learn truths about how God works, even through broken situations and broken people.
Samson’s story begins in Judges 13. Notice the circumstances of his birth, vv. 1-2. Everything is broken. The entire nation is in crisis, and on top of that there is a family in turmoil. God’s people Israel have failed spiritually, running after the gods of their neighbors, breaking the laws of the Lord. This spiritual failure led to social upheaval. God allowed the enemy to conquer and oppress them. 40 years of suffering at the hand of the Philistine army. Although God sent this discipline on his people, there is no record of them repenting or calling out to him for help. On top of this national spiritual failure and social upheaval, we meet a couple who struggled with infertility. Manoah and his wife are surrounded by brokenness. For 40 years they knew nothing but subjugation and defeat. The present looked as dismal as the past. And there was no glimmer of hope for the future. They couldn’t raise a family. There was no one to carry on the name, help their struggle to exist, or take care of them in old age. Everything is broken.
Some of what’s broken is because of the failure of others. Mess in the world, in the nation, in the church. Troubled by sin’s presence all around us. The sin done to us. (Troubled teen boy, whose Dad has never been in his life, whose mom has a string of husbands, boyfriends) (the hard working family who are now destitute. Dad and mom both worked minimum wage jobs with no benefits. Mom gets sick and not only do they lose her income, but the medical bills are more than they can pay.) (Elderly couple who worked their entire lives, and now lost everything due to the greed and corruption of a financial planner) (a church, founded on the good news of Jesus, but no longer holds to the truth of Scripture or the tenants of faith. The once strong ministry slides into error, irrelevance, and decline by the spiritual rebellion of its leaders. Pushed aside are a handful of people of love Jesus and cannot sit under the teaching and leadership of those who have left the faith.) (young woman who can’t form healthy relationships, struggles with self-worth, depression, suicidal thoughts because she was sexually abused by a family member and no one did anything about it. No one protected her, or listened to her.)
Some of what’s broken may be due to your own sinful choices. Even when surrounded by the sinfulness of others, we can choose not to sin. Because sinful things were done to us does not mean we are free to do them to others.
Everything is broken. But into that wreckage, God’s plan enters.
vv. 3-5a Of course a baby would be the answer to this couple’s personal struggle. The angel emphasizes the barrenness of this family. The word “sterile” means “to pull up by the roots.” In other words, this isn’t just a fertility problem. The ability to have children did not even exist in this couple. In Manoah’s day, this was a grave condition. It was seen as a sign of God’s disfavor. From a social and economic point of view, childlessness was tragic in the ancient world. The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery: “Barrenness is one of the Bible’s strongest images of desolation and rejection.” The angel confirms the dire nature of this couple’s condition. “You don’t have children, and you are incapable of having children. But that is all going to change.” This is one of many times when God used barrenness as a springboard to amazing deliverance and displays of his power. But even though this answers the personal struggle of Manoah and his wife, from the beginning, God is clear that this birth is about far more than one family.
v. 5b This birth is the answer for the brokenness of a nation. It is difficult for us to see beyond our own problems. Our individual needs obscure the bigger picture. But realize that if God is sovereign, the things you are going through have a purpose greater than you. Your decisions, contributions, and experiences have a wider sphere of impact than your immediate family. That God’s answer to the brokenness of a nation would come in the form of a baby is characteristic of how God works so often. We look for immediate answers, quick solutions, dramatic interventions, and yet God tends to choose a more subtle response. Babies are so fragile and take time to grow up. This was no instant answer for Israel. Avoiding alcohol and unclean food would be smart for any pregnancy. But there is more to it than good prenatal care. This child was set apart from God’s use. This would be displayed by the Nazirite vow. This vow is described in Numbers 6. Following it meant you would ingest nothing connected with grapes. You would never have a haircut. You would never touch a dead body, not even a family member. However, the only part of the vow this boy was to keep concerned not cutting his hair. This would be a lifetime sign that this child had a special purpose.