A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless. 3 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. 4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, 5 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."
6 Then the woman went to her husband and told him, "A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn't ask him where he came from, and he didn't tell me his name. 7 But he said to me, 'You will conceive and give birth to a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from birth until the day of his death.' "
8 Then 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."
9 God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. 10 The woman hurried to tell her husband, "He's here! The man who appeared to me the other day!"
11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, "Are you the one who talked to my wife?" "I am," he said.
12 So Manoah asked him, "When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy's life and work?"
13 The angel of the LORD answered, "Your wife must do all that I have told her. 14 She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her." - Judges 13:2-15
David and I read the Bible together just about every night. Lately, we've been going through Judges. I have trouble sometimes with reading the Old Testament in snatches at night because there is so much food for theological thought in the passages. There are lots of stories without much explanation of which parts were/were not sinful, and just before bedtime isn't the most fantastic time for us to be racking our brains for exactly where the specific biblical injunctions are against, say, killing your daughter because you made an oath that you'd kill the first thing that came out of your door to greet you. I don't like stories like this before bed. Or ever. They're sad. And they make me mad at the sinful people involved. But, I digress...
This is a happy story! It's about a barren couple who are told that they're going to have a child! What could be better than that? =) An angel comes to give them the news and some instructions.
One thing I noticed right away was that they didn't doubt for a single second that the angel was telling them the truth. They didn't laugh in disbelief. They didn't have a wait and see approach. Nope, they were so sure that they were going to have this baby, despite years and years of infertility, that they wanted more specific instructions on how to raise the child... the child that she wasn't even pregnant with yet.
Another thing that I noticed was that they wanted to prepare right away to be godly parents. They didn't have copies of Babywise they could pick up from their local Lifeway. They could look around them and see how the other families were doing things, but that wasn't good enough for them. No, they wanted to hear from God exactly how He wanted them to raise this child for Him. They knew that he'd set aside the baby to do something special for Him.
I can almost hear the desperation in Manoah's voice as he begs God to send the angel back to tell them how to raise this child. I have a familiarity with that tone of voice. All Christian parents can recognize it pretty easily. We've all been there. Before the baby is born, as we're painting the walls and registering for 4 different children's Bibles, we're asking, "Lord, please tell me how to raise this child for you."
God hears their desperate, faith filled prayers, and he sends the angel of the Lord back. I can imagine Manoah's wife running back to the tent for some goat's blood and camel skin to write down the detailed instructions that he will be sure to give them. This is what they've been waiting for! God has sent somebody to give them the instruction manual. Now there's no way they can screw this up!
They wait, with bated breath, and the angel tells them... exactly the same thing he told Manoah's wife before. He doesn't give them anything more specific. He stays around while they make a sacrifice to the Lord, and then he ascends back to heaven. He leaves them right where they were before, with a baby on the way, and with no additional information. Nuts.
We read this last night, and we smiled at each other, because just as God didn't give Manoah and his wife a detailed instruction manual for raising the mighty warrior, Samson, He doesn't give us one either. We have His word, and it is up to us to seek what we need there. When we're worried and confused, He comes in person to comfort us... but He's not going to tell us exactly which devotional curriculum will be most effective when Johnny is 4. The Bible is not going to tell us specifically whether or not time outs are ever appropriate or if spanking is the only way to go. I've looked for that verse, believe me. God is probably not going to show us the perfect Bible song CD to play in the car and tell us exactly how many times a day to play it. He's not going to give us the minute details we sometimes crave in our desire to get it this godly child rearing thing exactly "right."
If He did, we wouldn't have to trust Him. We'd trust the program He handed to us on the day they were born, and we wouldn't look up along the way to ask Him for grace and guidance in the every day battle for little souls and minds. But, as in the story, I'm glad He shows up in response to my heartfelt call. I hope when He does that I'll always prepare my offering instead of tapping my pencil impatiently because He hasn't answered my list of questions.