Judges 13:12-14 “Manoah asked him (the Angel of the Lord), ‘When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy’s life and work?’ The angel of the Lord answered, ‘Your wife must do all that I have told her. She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.’”
God had special plans for Samson and his parents. Those plans involved making special sacrifices. The Angel of the Lord had appeared to promise them a son. He gave special instructions about how the boy was to be raised and live his life. He had revealed that Samson was to be a Nazirite. This meant a unique life of dedication to the Lord. A Nazirite was forbidden to cut his hair. He couldn’t eat grape products or drink alcoholic beverages. The Lord required him to have no contact with dead bodies.
None of these things is immoral, of course. We expect people to get haircuts. We eat grapes without a guilty conscience. Though some think alcoholic beverages are a sin, the Bible tells us that they are a gift of God as long as we use them in moderation (Psalm 104:14-15; 1 Timothy 5:23). A Nazirite sacrificed these things in his life as a way of demonstrating his dedication to the Lord’s special use.
The difference for Samson and his mother was that Nazirites were usually volunteers. Neither Samson nor his mother were given any choice in the matter. God told them to alter their lives and make these sacrifices. In living the life of a Nazirite, Samson was constantly reminded by God, “I have a special plan and purpose for you.”
God asking someone to live as a Nazirite was unusual. Asking us to make some sort of sacrifice to live out God’s plan for us is not. Abraham had to give up his home near his relatives. The Lord moved him 1000 miles to become the Father of the nation of Israel. Prophets, though not Nazirites, often served under unique instructions. God told the prophet Jeremiah not to marry. He forbad the prophet Ezekiel to mourn his wife’s death. He required Hosea to marry a prostitute. These unusual demands enabled these men to deliver specific prophetic messages. After his resurrection, Jesus told Peter the day would come when Peter sacrificed his life for Jesus as an apostle.
Sacrifice enters our lives if we are living God’s plan for us as well. If it involves forgoing earthly pleasures, it may not mean they are wrong to have or do. God’s plan simply leads us in a different direction. A friend once told me he had risen as high in his company as he could possibly go. Though his abilities would have made him good material for the highest levels of management, the next step would have taken him into a world that required him to compromise his Christian ethics. Living God’s plan meant sacrificing his full earning potential. Some Christians make sacrifices in the area of family. It’s not what they envisioned because the person they thought they were marrying turned out to be quite different after “I do.” For some, the Lord unfolds life in a way that leads away from marriage altogether.
Such sacrifices may also present temptations. The things we have to let go as we live the life the Lord has charted for us may lead to feeling sorry for ourselves, sulking, coveting, accusing God of not being fair, worrying, even despair. We resent the Lord daring to have a different idea than my own about how my life should go. This tests our trust in God and love for him.
But we still have every reason to trust God’s plan. No one knows us, our needs, or our future like he does. He tailors the life each of us lives to fit us perfectly.
And no one has made greater sacrifices to serve others than he has. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you, through his poverty, might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9). Life on earth cost him everything—heavenly comforts, an unquestioned reputation, freedom, justice, and finally his life.
These sacrifices weren’t made for nothing. “You, through his poverty, …become rich.” They provide our forgiveness, restore us to God, promise us life that never ends. We can trust God to make our own sacrifices rich with blessing, too.