Then Manoah entreated the Lord and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom You have sent come to us again that he may teach us what to do for the boy who is to be born.” God listened to the voice of Manoah… (Judges 13:8).
The notion perpetrated by some, that the Old Testament is somehow an outdated document and of little use today, has brought immeasurable harm to the church. Furthermore, it is an idea that has no Biblical validity, and thus is a foolish notion that should be rejected out of hand. The scripture plainly tells us that
…whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Ro.15:4).
After His resurrection, when Jesus met up with two of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, He reproved them for their unbelief (Luke 24:25). Then
He explained to them the things concerning Him in all the scriptures (v.27).
Later, Paul gave the Corinthians a somewhat lengthy historical lesson on Israel’s history (I Cor.10:1-10), explaining that
…these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come (v.11).
Quite simply, the Christian educator must be prepared for instruction from any passage of scripture, from Genesis to Revelation,
…for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work (II Tim.3:16-17).
Firstly, we see in this passage from Judges that “the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, so that the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years” (v.1).
This is the seventh time that the scripture records a phrase like this in Judges. (See 2:14; 3:8; 3:12-13; 4:2; 6:1; 10:7). It was nothing new for Israel since coming out of Egypt, led by Moses. Once again, their idolatry led to servitude at the hands of their enemies. The scripture then informs us (v.2) that Manoah’s wife was barren. A nation in idolatry and servitude, and a barren wife! Not such a good start for any husband.
But Jesus said to Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life…” (Jn.11:25). For the repentant individual, family, church or nation, despite a multitude of past failures, there is always hope in the Lord.
And in this bleak family and national situation, God sends an angel, who visited Manoah’s wife, saying,
…Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son… (v.3).
God had visited barren women before (Sarah-Gen.21:1-2; Rebekah-Gen.25:20-22 and Rachel-Gen.30:22-24), and there would be a number more before the closing of the canon, Hannah (I Sam.1:19-20) and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5-7, 57) being only two. In the case of Rebekah, God had spoken to her while the twins were in her womb (Gen.25:21-23), giving her advance knowledge of the nature of the boys, and by inference, a specific obligation towards them (see Ro.9:10-13). Now He spoke to Manoah’s wife in relation to her duties and obligations concerning this promised son, even while in her womb.
What does this mean?
Parents have serious responsibilities towards God in relation to their children, to prepare them in and for their calling before Him. Manoah’s wife was directed by the angel to take certain steps for Samson, even before she had conceived.
Does the scripture give us an earlier direction in this regard, from even before the patriarchs? Yes, it does.
Then God said, “Let us make man in Our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth…” God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Gen.1:26, 28).
Some theologians have called this passage the Dominion Mandate. Children are the responsibility of their parents, and in emergencies, their families. When Esther was left orphaned, she was adopted by her Uncle Mordecai, who “…took her as his own daughter” (Esther 2:7). Churches also, have a responsibility to care for their own, and to protect the church and family from the intrusions of evildoers.
What may be a surprise for some, would be that the angel visited the woman, not her husband. But in the totality of scripture, this was not so unusual. Probably the most famous case of this, was Mary’s angelic visitation from Gabriel, with the news that she would bear a son (Luke 1:26-38). As “…a helper suitable…” (Gen.2:18) and “as a fellow heir of the grace of life…” (I Pet.3:7), husbands should rejoice in this visitation, and if the word of God should come to a family by this means, we should be glad.
(To be continued)