The history of the nation of Israel was a vicious cycle of rebellion, repentance, and restoration. They would serve the Lord for a while, but then distractions would inevitably come, and they would forget God’s wondrous works on their behalf. Then God would bring judgment in one form or another to drive them to repentance, and when they repented, He was always ready to forgive and restore them to fellowship with Him. It was at one of these times, when judges ruled the land, that the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord, and He delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.
There was a certain man from Zorah, of the tribe of Dan, whose name was Manoah. He fell in love with a young woman named Amy.* The two of them were married, but as time passed, no children were born to them. After a while it became evident that Amy was barren. Barrenness was a sign of judgment from God, but they loved God. They did not follow the crowd of the scoffers and evil workers. They served the true and living God even though it was not popular. So why was Amy barren? They searched their hearts and asked God to show them the reason, but in silence they learned to trust that God knows best.
One day the angel of the Lord appeared to Amy and said, “I know you are barren, but you will conceive and bear a son. Yet take heed, and do not drink any wine or eat anything that is unclean. For this son that you will bear will be a Nazarite from birth. No razor shall ever touch his head, and he shall never drink any wine or eat anything that is unclean. By him will I begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”
Then just as suddenly as the angel had appeared, he was gone. When Amy recovered from the shock of the news, she went and told her husband what had happened. “A man of God came to me. His face was like the face of an angel, very majestic. I was so awed that I didn’t even ask him where he came from or what his name was. But he said to me that I will conceive, and bear a son, and that I should drink no wine or eat any unclean thing, because our son will be a Nazarite to God from the moment of conception to the day of his death.”
Then Manoah prayed to the Lord, “O my Lord, let the man of God whom You sent come again to us, and teach us what we shall do to the child that shall be born.”
God honored the prayer of Manoah, and the angel of God came again to his wife as she sat in the field. Manoah was not with her, so Amy ran and got him. Nearly out of breath, she panted, “He’s here! He came back!”
Then together they returned to the place where the man of God stood waiting in the field. Manoah asked him, “Are you the man who spoke to my wife?”
The angel said, “I am.”
Manoah said, “I know your words will come to pass, but I must ask: when they do, how shall we raise this child?”
The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to your wife, let her beware. She may not drink any wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing.”
Manoah said. “Please let us prepare a meal for you.”
But the angel replied, “Though you detain me, I will not eat of your food. Do not cook a kid for me. Offer it instead as a sacrifice to the Lord.”
Manoah, still thinking this was a man of God from another tribe, asked, “What is your name, that when these things come to pass we may honor you?”
The angel of the Lord said, “Why ask after my name, seeing it is secret?”
So Manoah offered the sacrifice of a kid to the Lord. When the flame went up from off the altar, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame and disappeared into heaven. Manoah and his wife looked on the scene astounded, then bowed their faces to the ground. Now there was no doubt that this was an angel of the Lord. Terrified, Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die because we have seen God!”
But Amy said, “If the Lord were pleased to kill us, He would not have received an offering at our hands, neither would He have shown us all these things, or told me that I would have a son. The Lord keeps His promises. We can be sure of that.”
Sure enough, Amy had a little boy, and they called his Samson. The child grew, and the Lord blessed him, and the angel of the Lord never appeared to Manoah and his wife again.
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The above narrative is based on Judges 13:1-24.
*Manoah’s wife is not named in the Bible. I gave her the name Amy based on the Hebrew word for “mother,” which is translated ame.
We cannot study Manoah’s wife without also observing him. They work together as a couple in this narrative, both playing key roles.
“Teach Us What We Shall Do”
When I read this story in Judges 13, I was struck with the great faith and humility of this couple. They never doubted for a minute that the words of the Lord would come to pass. Their only concern was that they would not know how to properly raise the child.
Not only that, but I also see Manoah’s high regard for his wife. He respected her, knowing that she was a virtuous woman. His heart safely trusted in her (Pr. 31:11). Manoah did not ask for the angel to return merely to corroborate his wife’s story, but so that he might ask the angel how to be a good father.
I’m sure all of us who are parents, especially as brand new parents, feel just as helpless as Manoah and his wife did. We rejoice when we find out that first little one is on the way, but then we wonder if we will be good parents. Will we know what to do when that baby comes into the world? Well, we all make mistakes, to be certain. And it is also certain that children are born with a will of their own, and the outcome of their lives is not entirely dependent upon their upbringing. But the fact remains that we all should do exactly as Manoah and his wife did—we should ask God for wisdom regarding the care and upbringing of our children.
“What Is Your Name?”
Angels made many appearances to men in Bible times. They did not have the complete canon of Scripture, as we do, so God spoke to them in other ways, including through His messengers, the angels. But sometimes the angel who came was actually the Lord Jesus Himself, in His preincarnate form. I don’t know offhand how many times He appeared to men before coming in the flesh as a child, but this was certainly one of those times. How do I know that? Well, let’s look at some contextual clues.
- Manoah’s wife described him as having the face of an angel of God, “very terrible” (v. 6). This does not mean “horrible,” but “venerable, worthy of awe, full of majesty.” Jesus laid aside His glory when it came time for Him to be born of Mary. But before that, whenever He appeared in the Old Testament, His countenance was the full expression of His Majesty, and it was natural for people to have a reverential fear in His presence.
- He refused to eat the food Manoah offered Him, and He further instructed Manoah to offer his burnt offering to the Lord (v. 16). This does not suggest that He was not worthy to receive the offering, but only that Manoah did not yet understand to whom he was speaking. Manoah still thought He was a man, yet he was willing to pay homage to this man when his words would come to pass. The angel of the Lord did not want Manoah to give glory to anyone but God alone, and He had not yet revealed His identity as God. Jesus said something similar during His earthly ministry. A man had come to Him and asked, “Good Master, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” Before answering his question, Jesus first corrected him, saying, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but God.” Jesus was not denying His deity even then, but merely helping the man see for himself that Jesus is God.
- When Manoah asked the angel for His name, He answered, “Why do you ask after My name, seeing it is secret?” (vv. 17-18). This same word translated secret in the KJV could also be translated wonderful, which coincides beautifully with Isaiah 9:6, where it says of Jesus, “His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” So one way of looking at the conversation is to say that Manoah should have understood the angel’s name is Wonderful. But another perspective is that it was not important for Manoah to know His name, for it was yet a secret, not ready to be revealed. God revealed His name to Moses because he had a valid reason to know (Ex. 3:13-14). God answered Manoah’s question about how to care for the child, but He was not going to satisfy mere curiosity. We may take this to heart as well, understanding that not all of our questions will be answered this side of heaven. God will reveal to us what we need to know; but as for the rest, we must be content with silence.
- After the angel ascended into heaven in the flames of the offering, Manoah feared greatly, for he and his wife had seen God (v. 22). In fact, he thought they would die. For when Moses asked to see the glory of God, God told Him that He would not show His face, “for there shall no man see Me, and live” (Ex. 33:18). Of course, Manoah’s wife was a little more practical, for she recalled the promises of God, and settled her husband’s fears with the assurance that God would not have made these promises to them if He did not intend to keep them. We too can rest on the promises of God, for “there has not failed one word of all His good promise” (1 Ki. 8:56). God cannot fail. Period.
He Came to Her
Did you ever think about the fact that the angel of the Lord visited Manoah’s wife as opposed to Manoah? Over and over in the Bible we see examples of the value God places on women. All people are precious in God’s sight, but He has a special place in His heart for women, for orphans and widows, and for the poor and outcast.
And the angel knew Manoah’s wife, having never met her. Right off the bat he said, “Now you are barren.” How could he have known she was barren? This thought must have played in her own mind and helped her to conclude that this was a man of God, for he knew things about her that no ordinary stranger would know. Jesus knows all about each and every one of us. He knows our weaknesses, our longings, our failures, our hidden secrets—and He loves us in spite of it all!
What’s the Take-Away?
These summary applications were already alluded to above, but I’ll repeat them here:
- When we need wisdom, whether it be for parenting or any other responsibility, the only right place to go is to God.
James 1:5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
- All honor and glory belongs to God alone.
Revelation 5:13 And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, “Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.”
- By all means, make your requests known to God. But be prepared for Him to remain silent on some matters, for silence may be the best answer.
Philippians 4:6 Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Acts 1:7-8 And He said unto them, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
- You are known and valued by God.
Psalm 40:5 Many, O LORD my God, are Thy wonderful works which Thou hast done, and Thy thoughts which are toward us: they cannot be reckoned up in order unto Thee: if I would declare and speak of them, they are more than can be numbered.
- God keeps His promises.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
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Next week: Euodias & Syntyche
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