A Godly Couple in a Godless Time
Hain-Lee Hsueh—East Bay, California, USA
In the era of the judges, God was
repeatedly angry with the Israelites because they did not heed His voice (Judg
2:20). The original Hebrew word translated as “heed” in Judges 2:20 is sometimes
translated as “listen” and “obey.”
After Joshua’s death, the
Israelites failed to completely drive out the Canaanites, and the Angel of the LORD
rebuked them, saying, “But you have not obeyed My voice” (Judg
2:2). When the Israelites complained while under the oppression of Midian, God
sent a prophet to them, saying again, “But you have not obeyed My voice” (Judg 6:10).
It is the same in this generation.
People everywhere, including Christians, often reject the voice of God in favor
of following their own desires, just like the Israelites.
Nonetheless, among all the
Israelites who shut God out of their lives, there was one man whose voice God
explicitly listened to. That man was Manoah, the
obscure father of the legendary Samson.
Again the children of Israel did evil in the
sight of the LORD…Now there was a certain man from Zorah,
of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. (Judg 13:1, 2)
MANOAH AND HIS WIFE
wife was barren, but one day the Angel of the LORD appeared to her and said
that she would conceive and bear a son. After the Angel finished speaking, she
went to her husband Manoah:
So the woman came and told her husband, saying,
“A Man of God came to me...And He said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and
bear a son. Now drink no wine or similar drink, nor eat anything unclean, for
the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to
the day of his death.’” Then Manoah prayed to the
LORD, and said, “O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to us
again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born.” (Judg 13:6-8)
prayer the Angel of the LORD appeared to his wife a second time. In her
excitement, she immediately fetched her husband:
Then the woman ran in haste and told her
husband, and said to him, “Look, the Man who came to me the other day has just
now appeared to me!” So Manoah arose and followed his
wife. (Judg 13:10, 11)
The Angel of the LORD repeated in
front of Manoah the words first spoken to his wife.
Grateful for the good news, Manoah and his wife
offered a sacrifice, and the Angel of the LORD ascended in the flames. After a
period of time, the words of the Angel of the LORD came to pass:
So the woman bore a son and called his name
Samson; and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him. (Judg
might wonder, “What’s so special about this passage? Sounds like many other
stories in the Old Testament.” But this is a story in the chaotic time of the judges.
we go through all the judges and try to find information about their parents,
we don’t get much more than the names of the fathers. Othniel,
the son of Kenaz. Ehud, the son of Gera. Shamgar, the son of Anath.
Yet, the author of Judges thought
it worthy to write an entire account on Samson’s parents, before Samson was
even born. Furthermore, the word of the LORD was rare in those days (1 Sam
3:1), during which the Angel of the LORD appeared only four times: once to
rebuke the Israelites (Judg 2:1), once to Gideon (Judg 6:12), and twice to Manoah’s
wife (Judg 13:3, 9).
From these observations, we see
that Manoah and his wife were set apart by God. What
made God notice them? And more importantly, what can we learn from them so that
God will listen to our voices, too?
Two details worth further study
are Manoah’s prayer to God and his question to the
Angel of the LORD:
Then Manoah prayed to
the LORD, and said, “O my Lord, please let the Man of God whom You sent come to
us again and teach us what we shall do for the child who will be born.” And God
listened to the voice of Manoah… (Judg
Manoah said [to the
Angel of the LORD], “Now let Your words come to pass! What will be the boy’s
rule of life, and his work?”(Judg 13:12)
Manoah requested God’s teaching. He asked God to give him
instruction in regards to raising his son, without considering how he thought it ought to be done. All of
his contemporaries acted according to their own judgment, but Manoah prayed for God’s judgment.
He didn’t just ask, either—he pleaded. The Israelites would
occasionally inquire of God (Judg 20:18, 23, 27), but
only Manoah entreated
to God. And he entreated not for deliverance from famine, plague, or oppression
but for God to lay down the boy’s rule of life. In the Book of Judges, the Hebrew
words for “entreat” and “teach” appear only once—during Manoah’s
tells us a lot about Manoah’s heart and attitude.
While surrounded by ungodly people who sought after idols, he patiently
continued to desire God’s will.
When his wife told him the Angel
of the LORD had just appeared to her, his heart must have skipped a beat in
excitement. After so much yearning and searching for God, he finally had a
direction. He prayed to God, desiring to fulfill His will in His way. And God
listened to the voice of Manoah.
In Jeremiah it is written:
“For I know the thoughts that I think toward
you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and
a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to
you. And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your
heart.” (Jer 29:11-13)
has a plan for all of us, but we often prefer to do things our own way instead.
We receive blessing upon blessing only to use them for personal enjoyment and
gain. But Manoah, when he learned God was going to
give him a son, sought out God’s thoughts and plans on how his son should live.
When was the last time we received
a blessing and sought how we should utilize it for God’s will? When was the
last time we asked—no, pleaded—for God’s teaching? Amidst all the people who
pursue their own plans and personal ambitions, we need to be like Manoah, maintaining a steadfast thirst for God’s teaching
and God’s will. Only if we have this attitude of entreating with all our heart
will God listen to us.
A UNITED COUPLE
It would not be fair, however, to
talk only about Manoah; from the passage, we see that
God set his wife apart as well.
And the Angel of the LORD appeared to the woman…Then Manoah
prayed to the LORD…and the Angel of God came to the woman again as she was sitting in the field; but Manoah her husband was not with her. (Judg
3:3, 8, 9, emphasis added)
So the Angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful.” (Judg
13:13, emphasis added)
This is remarkable among other
accounts of barren women who conceived at the word of God. The Angel of the LORD
appeared to Abraham, not Sarah (Gen 18:1); to Zechariah, not Elizabeth (Lk 1:11). But here, both times, the Angel of the LORD appeared
to the woman. Thus, Manoah did not stand out alone;
God set him and his wife apart.
unity between Manoah and his wife is apparent from
his words. In his prayer, he says,
“Let the Man of God whom You sent come to us again and teach us what we shall do for
the child who will be born.” (Judg 13:8, emphasis
though the Angel of God appeared only to his wife, he considered it the same as
if the Angel had appeared to both of them. Furthermore, when the Angel of the LORD
repeated His instructions, Manoah said to Him, “Let us detain You, and we will prepare a young goat for You” (Judg
13:15, emphasis added), even though Manoah himself
prepared and made the offering (Judg 13:19).
this to Abraham’s words to the three visitors:
“My Lord, if I have now found favor in Your sight, do not pass on by Your
servant… I will bring a morsel of
bread, that you may refresh your hearts. After that you may pass by, inasmuch
as you have come to your servant.” (Gen 18:3-5, emphasis added)
Abraham tells Sarah to prepare
food for the visitors but makes no reference to her in front of them.
interaction between Manoah and his wife further
illustrate their unity. The fact that the Angel of the LORD appeared both times
to Manoah’s wife when she was alone seems to imply
that Manoah and his wife typically spent the day
soon as the Angel of the LORD entered their lives, however, they immediately
came together. After the Angel spoke to Manoah’s wife
the first time, she immediately went to tell her husband. After the second
appearance, she “ran in haste” to get her husband before the Angel could even
speak. And Manoah immediately arose and followed his
wife, no questions asked.
trusted each other fully and, when it came to addressing the matters of God,
were a unit. The image of both husband and wife before the Angel of the LORD ascending
in the flames of their offering is a beautiful one.
In contrast, Abraham spoke to the
three visitors by himself while his wife Sarah was in the tent. Interestingly,
the first thing that the visitors asked Abraham was, “Where is Sarah your
wife?” (Gen 18:9). It was as if they expected Sarah to be present so they could
tell her directly, as the Angel of the LORD told Manoah’s
wife firsthand, that she would conceive and bear a son.
trust between Manoah and his wife also existed
between the couple and God. In a time when it seemed as if God had left Israel,
Manoah believed the words of his wife, and both
believed in the words of God.
God told Abraham, the father of faith, and his wife Sarah that they would have
a son, both of them laughed (Gen 17:17, 18:12). When God told Zacharias that
Elizabeth would conceive, he also doubted (Lk 1:18).
But when Manoah learned that his wife would conceive,
Abraham and Zacharias heard the
news from the Angel of the LORD firsthand; Manoah
heard it secondhand. Yet, Manoah said to the Angel of
the LORD, “Now let Your words come to pass!” And because he trusted and honored
both his wife and God, God listened to his prayer.
In 1 Peter, Peter writes:
Husbands, likewise, dwell with them with
understanding, giving honor to the wife, as to the weaker vessel, and as being
heirs together of the grace of life,
that your prayers may not be hindered. (1 Pet 3:7, emphasis added)
the case of Manoah and his wife, the wife
acknowledged the husband as the head by going to get him, and the husband spoke
to the Angel of the LORD with his wife. They undertook the mission from God
together, and God listened to the husband’s prayer.
Husband and wife need to be
closely united, especially when serving God, because God views them as being
heirs together. Do our interactions and words illustrate that we trust and are
closely united with our spouse? If there is always internal conflict or lack of
honor and respect between our spouse and ourselves, such unity is not possible
and will hinder our prayers.
THIRST FOR GOD’S TEACHING
Just as everyone in Israel in
those days did whatever was right in his own eyes (Judg
21:25), people today often do whatever they see fit according to their own
views and opinions. Consequently, quarrels are often exacerbated because
individuals insist on their own ways of thinking. Many marriages end up in
divorce. Even in church, there may be conflicts or barriers between husband and
wife that result in individual and disconnected spiritual lives.
In this godless generation, the
marriage of Manoah and his wife serves as a model for
married couples to follow. We need to perceive marriage not just as
companionship but also as a means to serve God more effectively. From God’s
point of view, two become one in marriage. Thus, husband and wife need to trust
each other and trust God together, so that they may serve God as one.
are also lessons to be learned for those who are single. In this age, idols of
worldly pleasure and ambition often render us blind to God’s existence. But
just as Manoah differentiated himself from the rest
of the Israelites by maintaining a simple faith and continually praying to God
to seek His will, we need to do likewise among our peers, whether they are
believers or not.
In this society where
individualism thrives and leaves little place for submission to God’s word, we
must persist in thirsting for God’s teaching. In doing so, the Lord God in
heaven can distinguish us from among the worldly throng and set us apart for
His holy work. And when we pray and make our entreaty before Him, He will
listen to our voice.