For the week of June 10, 2006 / 14 Sivan 5766
Torah: Bemidbar / Numbers 4:21 - 7:89
Haftarah: Shoftim / Judges 13:2-25
Something from Nothing
A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless. The angel of the LORD appeared to her and said, "You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son." (Shoftim / Judges 13:2,3)
One of our favorite children's book is Phoebe Gilman's Something from Nothing (by the way, Ms. Gilman and yours truly are not related as far as I know). In Something from Nothing the grandfather of newborn Joseph makes him a blanket. Years later, when his blanket is worn out, Joseph's mother wants Joseph to throw it out. But Joseph replies that his grandfather can fix it. Out of the old and tattered blanket, Joseph's grandfather makes a jacket. When the jacket wears out, Joseph's grandfather makes it into a vest. The story continues in this way with Joseph always being confident that his grandfather can do something. Eventually there is only enough material left to make one small button. When Joseph loses that button, he still believes that his grandfather can do something about it, to which his mother replies, "Even your grandfather can't make something from nothing." That's not the end of the story, however. But if you want to know the rest, you'll have to read it for yourself.
Unlike Joseph's grandfather, God can make something from nothing. He did it when he created the universe and he continues to make things from nothing until this day. When God makes something from nothing, we call that a miracle. As a believer in God, I believe that God does indeed do miracles today, but to be honest I have an easier time trusting him for miracles that are similar to what Joseph's grandfather did with his worn out things. I find it easier to believe that God will make something out of something, than make something out of nothing. It is easier for me to believe that God will do difficult things, than to do something that deep down I believe is impossible.
But God is able to make something from nothing. This is what we read in this week's Haftarah. Before Samson was conceived his mother was not able to have children. When the angel of the Lord appeared to her, he acknowledged that fact, but proclaimed that she would have a child anyway.
This is not the first time that God told people they would have a child when in the natural they could not. This is the story of Sarah, the mother of the Jewish people. In her case, not only was she sterile her whole life, she was past the age of child bearing. But that did not stop God. He said she would have a baby, and she did. Many years later another one of Sarah's descendents would experience an even greater miracle by conceiving a child without normal human intervention. Do you find that too hard to believe? But if God can make a sterile woman conceive, can he not also do the other? Something from nothing.
I wonder how many times God speaks to us, saying that he wants to do the impossible in and through our lives, but we just shrug him off, because we don't really believe he can make something from nothing. I also wonder how many times we face impossible situations, but fail to go to God, since we don't believe he can or will do anything about it.
We need to remember that God is the God of the impossible. He doesn't depend on anything to do what he does. Unlike Joseph's grandfather, God can make something from nothing.
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