The following story was taken from Judges 13…
A long, long time ago in Israel, before they had kings to rule over them, God was Israel’s King. For more than 300 years, after escaping from slavery in Egypt, under Moses’ leadership, and after wandering in the desert for 40 years, God appointed judges to rule and lead the children of Israel. Now, during the time of these judges, the children of Israel were sometimes very faithful to the Lord, while other times, (often when one of the judges would die, and before another took over), the Israelites would do what was evil in the Lord’s sight, choosing to do what was right in their own eyes, rather than walking in obedience to God. During this time, the nation of Israel did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, and so He handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for 40 years.
Now, it was when the nation of Israel had chosen to go their own way, rather than walking in obedience to God, and were suffering under the oppression of the Philistines, that a woman received a very special visitor, who brought her good news. This woman was married to a man named Manoah, who was from the tribe of Dan, and though they had been married for many years, they had no children, for she was barren.
When she was younger, she suffered from deep depression, especially when her friends were having one baby after another, year after year, while she was unable to conceive even one. For many years, she had cried out to YHWH, the Creator of all life, pleading for Him to give her a child, but finally, she had accepted the fact that she would never know the joy of carrying a new life in her womb. Therefore, she made up her mind that she would make the best of the situation, and though she couldn’t give her husband a baby, she determined to be the best wife any man could want in every other way.
That’s not to say that she didn’t still have bad days, because sometimes, when she thought about what it would have been like to give Manoah the son they both longed for, it felt like her heart would be rent apart. On those days, it was hard to stop the tears from flowing, but she tried not to let her husband see her pain, because it broke his heart to see her so upset. He was a good man, who loved her deeply, and the only thing worse than her own pain was seeing pain in Manoah’s eyes.
And so this precious woman resolved that she would love and serve the Lord with all her heart, and place all of her trust in Him. For though He had given her no children, He had blessed her in other ways. After all, she had a wonderful husband who loved her dearly, despite the fact that she could give him no heirs. She also had a lovely home to live in, plenty of food, clothes on her back and so much more. How could she not love the Lord her Provider?
Yet, as deep as this woman’s love for the Lord was, His love for her was even deeper. You see, long before He laid the foundations of the earth, Elohim had given her a very special place in history, and though no one remembers her name, they do remember her story…
One day, while she was drawing water from the well, a Stranger appeared before her, saying, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.”
She was elated. So strong was her faith in God, that it never occurred to her to question or doubt the Stranger’s words. As soon as He finished speaking and left, she gathered the hem of her robe in hand and took off running, (Yes, running at her age!) to find Manoah as quickly as possible and share the good news with him.
“Manoah! Manoah!” she shouted. “A Man of God came to me; His face was fearsome, like that of the Angel of God. I didn’t ask Him where He came from, and He didn’t tell me His name. But He told me, ‘You will become pregnant and give birth to a son. You must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. For your son will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from the moment of his birth until the day of his death.’”
Manoah was stunned as he gazed down into his wife’s glowing eyes. She was radiant with joy, reminding him of the girl she had once been, before the cares of life had doused her youthful luminescence. Manoah didn’t question his wife’s sanity, for he, too, was a man who loved the Lord, and like his wife, he had a deep and abiding faith in the Almighty One. Therefore, in response to her joyful announcement, he dropped to his knees, praying, “Lord, please let the Man of God come back to us again and give us more instructions about this son who is to be born.”
In answer to Manoah’s earnest prayer, the Angel of the Lord appeared once again to the woman of God, this time, while she was sitting in the field. Hurriedly, she ran to find her husband, telling him, “The Man who appeared to me the other day is here again!”
Quickly, Manoah ran back to the field with his wife to find the Angel of the Lord and question Him. “Are you the One who spoke to my wife the other day?” When the Angel of the Lord responded that He was indeed the one who had spoken to Manoah’s wife, he began to question Him about what rules should govern the child’s life. He repeated to Manoah what He had spoken to his wife a few days prior.
After listening to the Angel of the Lord’s instructions, Manoah invited Him to stay, while he and his wife prepared a goat for Him to eat. The Angel of the Lord agreed to stay, but informed them that He would not be eating the goat. Instead, He instructed them to offer the goat as a sacrifice to the Lord.
Manoah, still unaware that this was the Angel of the Lord, agreed to do so, asking Him for His name. “Why do you ask for My name?” He responded, “since it is Wonderful?”
Manoah then offered the goat and a grain offering as well, on a rock. Then, what happened next, caused both Manoah and his wife to fall to the ground on their faces in worship, as a flame of fire shot up from the altar toward heaven, and the angel of the Lord soared up to heaven in the flame. It was then, that Manoah realized that this was the Angel of the Lord. As he grabbed his wife’s hand, and the two stood, looking up to heaven, he whispered fearfully, “Now, we shall surely die, for we have seen God!”
Tenderly, this woman of great faith looked up into her husband’s eyes, taking his face into her hands, as she responded softly, “No Manoah. If the Lord was going to kill us, He wouldn’t have accepted our offering. And surely, He wouldn’t have appeared to us to give us such wonderful news and shown us such miraculous things!” Tears slid down both of their faces as they held one another in the field that day, and worshiped their Creator…
And so it was that before the year was over, the faithful woman truly did give birth to a son, as the Lord had promised, and she named him Samson, which means, “sun,” perhaps in homage to the brilliance of the Lord that flashed before her and her husband, the day they saw the Lord ascend into heaven in a flame…