“A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah…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. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines.’ Then the woman went to her husband and told him…[and] Manoah prayed to the LORD, ‘O Lord, I beg you, let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.’”
Judges 13:2-6, 8
Whenever I read this story that tells about how the famous Samson came to be born, I am always so impressed by Manoah and his wife. (And speaking of his wife, why don’t we get to know her name, too? Just sayin’…).
For one thing, I think it’s a fairly safe assumption that the two of them had a marriage based on love and trust. I say that because when the wife told Manoah her crazy-sounding story of an “angel of God” who came to her announcing the promise of a miraculous birth, he believed her without question! Not only did he believe her, but he immediately prayed a faith-filled prayer asking God to send the Visitor again. Even more impressive is that he didn’t ask this for the purpose of confirming his wife’s story; no, he was convinced that the child would indeed be born. He was just seeking further instructions on how to raise him!
Verse 9 says that God heard Manoah’s prayer and graciously answered. The Angel of God, who most commentators believe to be an appearance of the pre-incarnate Christ, visited once again; this time to both husband and wife. After confirming that this was the same Being who had appeared previously, Manoah’s first utterance was, “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy’s life and work?” (v. 12, emphasis mine). The faith of this humble man is incredible; he never once questioned the miracle that was about to happen or the ability of God to perform it. His only (rather desperate) appeal was:
“…so how do we raise this kid?!”
What parent cannot relate to that? If only children came with a detailed instruction manual!
But it’s interesting to note that the Angel of God does not answer or even acknowledge Manoah’s question. Instead, he simply repeats the same instructions for the mother-to-be: “…[she] must do all that I have told her” (v.13-14). Isn’t that just like God? We have so many questions about the future; we want to know where we are headed and what we need to do when we get there. But instead of answering those questions, God reiterates the instructions for today. He calls us to be faithful in carrying out the things we have already been told to do…one day at a time, one step at a time.
Implicit in that instruction is the expectation that we will surrender our worries, and trust Him with whatever comes tomorrow.
Back to Samson’s parents. Getting no answer to his first question, Manoah tries again in verse 17 with a different one: “What is Your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?” (And again, we see the evidence of faith in his word choice of “when”…not “if”!).
Poor Manoah; he is destined for another disappointment. Even though he asked a faith-filled question, he still does not receive an answer…at least, not the one he expected! Instead, the angel says, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding” (v. 18). Some versions say, “It is beyond comprehension;” but the word used here is most accurately translated as “wonderful.”
“Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” ( ESV)
Literally…full of wonder!
The Name that is above every name is so full of wonder that it was beyond anything Manoah and his wife could comprehend on that never-to-be-forgotten day. Awestruck, they responded by offering a burnt sacrifice to their Divine Guest whose Name is Wonderful, and then watched in astonishment as He ascended to heaven in the flames before their very eyes (v. 19-20).
Even without the fullness of understanding the nature of His Name, they were nevertheless able to fellowship with their Visitor. They asked Him their questions, sat in His presence, experienced the joy of the promise, and witnessed the miracle. And the wonder of His unspoken Name gave them the courage and the faith to go forward into the unknown.
While the fullness and beauty of His Name is still beyond our comprehension today, we too can experience the joy of His presence and His promises. We too can gain courage and strength to go on even in the face of our unanswered questions, by putting our hope and trust in that Wonderful Name. One day at a time, one step at a time.
"The questions that truly matter in life are remarkably few,
and they are all answered by these words--'Come to Me.'
Our Lord's words are not, 'Do this,' or 'Don't do that,' but--'Come to Me.'
If I will simply come to Jesus, my real life will be brought into harmony
with my real desires. I will actually cease from sin,
and will find the song of the Lord beginning in my life."