A friend once asked me to write a book. The idea of having to put into words my life experiences almost intimidated me. Yet, when I began to really think about it, we all are writing a book of sorts. We might call it the "book of decision". You see, each action we take is somehow "writing the next chapter" of our lives. Our response to today's events go a long way in determining the events of tomorrow. We had a horrific tragedy less than a quarter mile from our home this week - four adults and one child less than two years old killed in an apparent murder / suicide. The events of those few moments in time have such a ripple-effect on all the families involved. Ex-spouses, the remaining brothers and sisters, grandparents, and even their neighbors who knew them. The events of that one "chapter" open up many other chapters of tragedy, loss, and grief for many more. The same is true of our obedience - although it seems to us as less likely to affect as many or to be as profoundly impactful.
1 And then the People of Israel were back at it again, doing what was evil in God's sight. God put them under the domination of the Philistines for forty years. 2-5 At that time there was a man named Manoah from Zorah from the tribe of Dan. His wife was barren and childless. The angel of God appeared to her and told her, "I know that you are barren and childless, but you're going to become pregnant and bear a son. But take much care: Drink no wine or beer; eat nothing ritually unclean. You are, in fact, pregnant right now, carrying a son. No razor will touch his head—the boy will be God's Nazirite from the moment of his birth. He will launch the deliverance from Philistine oppression." (Judges 13:1-5 The Message)
There are two groups to consider in our passage today. The first is the People of Israel. The "chapter" they were writing was one of "being back at it again" - doing what was evil in God's sight. Seems like a familiar chapter, does it not? We see ups and downs in the lives of the many people God brought out of Egypt those many years earlier. Moments of close attention to the decisions which would be recorded in their "book" as moments of obedience. Then moments of inattention which lent themselves to being recorded as "chapters" of disobedience, self-will, and compromise.
Then, we see a "new chapter" dawning for the nation - through the actions of one mother and father. Manoah and his wife would be instrumental in changing the course of a nation - by their obedience. Let me set the "chapter" up for you. As this couple were going about their normal routine, an angel of the Lord appears to them. No trumpets sounded announcing his arrival, or revealing his identity. He just came in a simple way, almost unnoticed because of his "ordinary" appearance. You know, I wonder how many chapters in our own lives have been opened in just such a manner? God coming to us in an "ordinary manner" - almost unnoticed for the significance he brings.
The woman was barren - unable to bare children. A tragedy by all accounts in the community in which she lived and worshiped. In fact, others may have looked upon her and made the assumption she was somehow not in right standing with God since she had not been blessed with the gift of life from her womb. Others may have been writing the "chapter of rejection" or "pages of judgment" in her book. God was going to change all this by one simple action of "opening" a new chapter for them!
The angel announces they will have a son. Yet, they had a part to play - begin to nurture him well, even while he is in the womb. Then, after he is born, raise him as a devotee of God (a Nazarite). Indeed, a new chapter was dawning - simply by the actions of one moment. The chapter goes on to describe Manoah and his wife spending some time questioning the angel, wondering how this boy should be raised. Still not recognizing this individual as an angel from God, they ask for his name. I wonder how many chapters of our book have been opened by God without us recognize who was actually doing the "writing" upon our pages?
At the very end of this chapter, we see the words, "The woman gave birth to a son. They named him Samson. The boy grew and God blessed him. The Spirit of God began working in him..." The boy grew and God blessed him. A new chapter is indeed being written for the nation of Israel. If you know anything at all about Samson, you know his life and actions were instrumental in delivering the nation from the hands of the Philistines. He was raised to be a "deliverer" for the nation. His life was to be dedicated to this purpose and each "chapter" written reveals the actions which God uses to accomplish his purpose. I wonder how many chapters of our lives will be found to add up to a story of God's grace and actions within us which he uses for his glory? Probably more than we think!
Don't discount the small decisions of today. They begin to write the chapters of tomorrow in multiplied ways! Let God write upon your "page" today - it will be the beginning of a great chapter for tomorrow!