The Bible is full of faithful women whose names we will never know. We could quite easily miss them, as they are generally bit-part players in stories of other biblical heroes.
One of those is Samson's mother; so insignificant we don't even know her name. We read about her only as Manoah's wife or Samson's mother.
How does an unnamed mother fit our profile of woman of faith? Well, how often has an angel of the Lord met with you face-to-face to give you directions for your future?
Many of us are just like Samson's mother. Both we and our faith are often known only to those who know us. We are not written into history books, barely remembered outside our own communities, and have small funerals recollected by few. But, is that what counts? We have a Lord who loves us dearly and appreciates our faith even in our invisibility.
We find the Samson story in Judges 13-16, and his mother's relationship to her heavenly Father is sown throughout. Reading her story is like looking at one of those puzzles where a face eventually becomes noticeable the more we look at it.
Mrs Manoah enters our lives in Chapter 13:2 as another barren wife. I am continually amazed at how often the Lord used barrenness, and the emptiness of the soul that goes with it, to bring his purpose to pass.
Equally as amazing is the number of times heavenly beings from outside our earthly realm appeared or spoke to men and women, sharing with them the miracles God was going to do in their future. Breathtaking are the dialogues between beings from these two very different dimensions. They provide us with another reason why we believe in the living God, as we recognise that absolutely everything is at his disposal and command.
Despite the faith of this woman, she was from the tribe of the Danites, who were known for their idolatry, and were overlooked by God, unrecorded in the Book of Revelation.
They lived in an era of Philistine rule. For the past forty years which would have been most of their lives, all they had known were hard taxes, promiscuity and mass idolatry. Not much different to our own lives now. Growing up under that regime, they wouldn't remember much of the free life before it.
The angel of the Lord appeared unto Mrs Manoah, not her husband, informing her she will have a son who will grow up to deliver Israel out of the hand of those Philistines. We are not told why God chose her, or why he even used a barren woman. When we look at the strict dietary requirements set out by the angel for her during her pregnancy we may understand a bit more about God's selection.
There is a saying that the longer we wait the sweeter the arrival. The Lord could expect a barren woman to focus entirely on the wellbeing of her new child without the distraction of other children, and maybe this was the level of commitment the Lord was after. Judges 13:4 sets out her diet, Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing:
The Lord created DNA and understands how lusts get passed down from parent to child. We also know from drug and alcohol statistics today, that many children are born with the identical dependencies of their mothers. Even in the womb, she needed to keep Samson clean. As Samson was called to be a Judge of Israel, God didn't want lusts tampering with his judgments as they do.
Furthermore, she was told that no razor was to come upon his head, as the child shall be a Nazarite, consecrated unto God from birth. (Further understanding is found in Numbers 6:1-21). People who made a vow of a Nazarite had certain restrictions placed on their lives for the term of the vow. Samson's vow was for life, as that was his calling. Being consecrated unto God meant he was God's servant, an instrument in God's service to be used where and when God desired.
Our walk as Christians is similar. Matthew 7:13-14 says to us, "Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it."
Strait means narrow and shows us that we also have restrictions placed on our lives. Very sadly most people prefer the broad way that leads to their own destruction. They don't appreciate that with those restrictions comes a life with the Holy Spirit, a life so wonderfully different and beautiful that the mind cannot comprehend it.
Anyhow, Mrs Manoah told her husband what the Lord had said, and it's in this coming dialogue we find his spiritual weakness and lack of understanding, but not hers.
The husband wanted to speak with the angel himself, so he, entreated the Lord, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born. The Lord hearkened unto him but specifically sent the angel again to the woman when her husband was not around. This would have made any husband either irate or embarrassed.
Yet, Mrs M ran to get her husband, and the Lord allowed him to speak to the angel personally. During their conversations, neither Mr nor Mrs realised it was an angel they were talking with, thinking it was man of God, perhaps a prophet.
After being advised by the angel, Manoah prepared a burnt offering for the Lord. It was only when the angel was taken up in the flames to heaven, that they realised he was an angel.
Manoah then made a very uneducated statement, and said, we will surely die for we have seen God. Mrs M had to correct him, responding with, if he wanted us dead we would already be dead, and why would he tell us all that stuff if he was just going to kill us? Again giving us a view of her faith and belief.
Like Abigail in our last message, Mrs Manoah could see the bigger picture. I think this is what God wants from all believers. That is, to take in the whole picture of our walk with the Lord. It's only when we have that vision can we make clear sense of the smaller bits. Manoah was simply reacting to a small part of it.
As Samson grew, some of his antics with women were a burden to his mother. She understood the honour and commitment required for Samson to fulfil his part of the Nazarite contract. Today, like Mrs M during her pregnancy, we are called to a purity the world cannot understand, and in fact, thinks is very odd. However, the Holy Spirit is named Holy for a reason, and we are to also be holy. We are called for a spiritual purpose, a higher calling, a separateness in our hearts to God through Jesus Christ.
We are not told of the spiritual life of Manoah or his wife, but we don't need to guess either. God does not send his angels to anyone. Somewhere in their lives, there was a faith strong enough to carry out God’s wishes.
We see angels came to both Joseph and Mary, and one indeed came to Manoah’s wife. A practical woman, Manoah’s wife wasn’t in a state of fear, just belief. She displayed the wisdom to take the man of God at his word. How many of us would have done the same? Even Gideon, whose name we do know, required two fleeces.
Mrs M had the faith and courage to overcome personal temptations to carry out her part of the vow and reared her child accordingly.
Again, we salute another woman of faith, with a name we do not know, but whom God knows very well indeed.