Husbands are supposed to be the spiritual leaders in their households. We infer this from passages where Paul describes household roles in Christian homes. It’s a tough gig for guys in modern America to live out. There are a lot of pressures to do anything but believe in, and obey, the Supreme Creator of the universe. In fact it’s easier to just worship the universe (an irony I’ve always found humorous). Samson’s father had struggles in this role as well. And his were probably mostly cultural as well.
There was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had borne no children. (Judges 13:2 NASB)
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; and the angel of God came again to the woman as she was sitting in the field, but Manoah her husband was not with her. (Judges 13:8-9 NASB)
Then Manoah arose and followed his wife, and when he came to the man he said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to the woman?” And he said, “I am.” Manoah said, “Now when your words come to pass, what shall be the boy’s mode of life and his vocation?”
So the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “Let the woman pay attention to all that I said.
(Judges 13:11-13 NASB)
Now the angel of the LORD did not appear to Manoah or his wife again. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. So Manoah said to his wife, “We will surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have let us hear things like this at this time.” (Judges 13:21-23 NASB)
It’s not easy to get a deep picture of Manoah from these few verses, but at least one facet of his character emerges. Manoah tries to be the spiritual leader of his wife. It could be one of the many ironies of Scripture that God seems to just want to deal with his wife, yet Manoah tries. It’s also clear Manoah’s not very good at being the spiritual leader.
God appears to the woman (no name given…ever), and she relates to her husband, Manoah, what He said to her. Rather than this being enough, Manoah prays that God will speak to him. What says he wants is to know what to do for the boy to be born. But what he asks is what he will become. That was already told to his wife, the boy will be a Nazarite his whole life.
When faced with this “man of God”, it’s possible that all the brilliant stuff Manoah planned to say went right out of his head. Happens all the time. Or, it’s also possible that Manoah just wanted to see this person for himself, that he wanted to be the one to whom God went, not his wife. Didn’t happen that way either time, though, God still goes to his wife both times. But there’s a question he asks that gets at his possible lack of qualifications as a spiritual leader.
In verse 16, the author lets us in on a secret, that Manoah didn’t know he was speaking with the Angel of Yahweh. That being true, look at the very next verse. Why would Manoah, the spiritual leader of his home, want to honor someone not Yahweh, after the child comes? What spiritual leader wants to worship someone else for what God is clearly doing? Okay, so you don’t shoot the messenger, but you don’t worship them either!
Unfortunately, Manoah gets another black mark on his “spiritual leader card” when he realizes that the Person was the Angel of Yahweh. He says, in his spiritual leader wisdom, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God!” How could that be true and what Yahweh told him also be true? Manoah hadn’t thought this through. His wife had, and she calls him on it.
Manoah stands as an example of men striving to be the spiritual leaders in their homes. It’s not easy. You’re expected to know stuff you probably don’t. You sense this expectation to be wiser than you suspect you really are. And you have to exude this sense of faith you probably don’t believe you have. But take heart, oh men of God, for Paul says in Romans 12:3,
“For I say to all the ones being in us, through the grace having been given to me, to not be conceited beyond what is necessary to think, but to think as the sound mind, as God distributed to each a measure of faith.”
Manoah may not have been given the faith he wanted, and he may not have attained the level of understanding he believed he needed (or had). While we look at these qualities lacking in Manoah, and criticize, from what Paul says, we should rather accept Manoah. We too have been given a “measure of faith” distributed to us by our Master.
Manoah seems to be out of his depth, but consider that he deals with the Creator of the vast universe. Who isn’t out of their depth? The lesson I learn is that his character brings out my pride, and reveals to me where my arrogance separates me from my fellow disciples. Fortunately, my Master is still willing to work with me.
That’s my lesson from Manoah, what do you see through your knothole this morning?