There are many women mentioned both by name and by title throughout the Old Testament. Their stories have been used in countless messages to illustrate truths that can be applied and implemented into our own life. Of all the women, Ruth is my number one favorite in the Old Testament but right beneath her is the Shunammite woman. Her story has intrigued and encouraged me the more I continue to study it. She lived her life by two major statements, you could almost call them her life phrases and they have so much to teach us.
Who is the Shunammite woman?
To understand her it is important to know more about her story. We are never to know her name but the Bible gives us a few insights into who she was as well as her character.
And it fell on a day, that Elisha passed to Shunem, where was a great woman; and she constrained him to eat bread. And so it was, that as oft as he passed by, he turned in thither to eat bread. 2 Kings 4:8
She lived in Shunem, a small village located in the section of land that belonged to the tribe of Issachar. This woman is also described as great which means noble. The dictionary defines noble as “having or showing fine personal qualities or high moral principles and ideals. This is a beautiful definition to be given for anyone and this is an accurate description of this woman as her story unfolds.
Her humble village was a place of no real importance but it seems that it was positioned in such a way that the prophet Elisha journeyed through it to get to where he needed to go and revealed more about this woman. She is also given to hospitality, a woman who reached forth her hands to others, as she looked with intention and attention to the needs of those around her. She noticed Elisha and invited, really insisted, that he and his servant to dine with her and her husband. Her insistent invitation showed that it was no imposition at all to have two more people at her table, in fact it was her pleasure. I believe it was such a delightful experience that every time he came though he made it a habit to stop by for dinner and maybe even timed his trip to coincide with dinner time. This is a wonderful reminder of the importance of creating a home that is such a sweet haven that people want to come frequently and linger within.
The Shunammite woman was not satisfied with just serving them a delicious meal. Since her guests seemed to come by on a regular basis she took it a step further and asked her husband if they could renovate their home.
And she said unto her husband, Behold now, I perceive that this is an holy man of God, which passeth by us continually. Let us make a little chamber, I pray thee, on the wall; and let us set for him there a bed, and a table, and a stool, and a candlestick: and it shall be, when he cometh to us, that he shall turn in thither. 2 Kings 4:9-10
It can be easy for us to just breeze by these two verses but consider what that meant for them. They had to use their own resources to build an addition to their home, not to mention the extra time it took for them to build it as well as buy some extra furniture. She was willing to do all of that to accommodate her guest and her husband agreed to her request. Her desire was of the purest motive and her attention to detail was exceptional. She gave him a bed which was an obvious need but also a table and stool in case he wanted to write plus a candlestick so he could have light whenever he needed. She was the perfect hostess in every way and completely surprised Elisha on his next visit.
A statement of contentment
Her generous gesture caused the prophet to do something nice for her.
And it fell on a day, that he came thither, and he turned into the chamber, and lay there. And he said to Gehazi his servant, Call this Shunammite. And when he had called her, she stood before him. And he said unto him, Say now unto her, Behold, thou hast been careful for us with all this care; what is to be done for thee? wouldest thou be spoken for to the king, or to the captain of the host? And she answered, I dwell among mine own people. 2 Kings 4:11-13
Elisha calls for her and in some ways asks how he can grant a wish for her. Can he take a particular matter to the king for her or anyone else of importance. She has a chance to be heard on any need she has but her response leaves you only admiring her more. “I dwell among my own people.”, the word “dwell” means to sit in quiet, to settle, to keep house. She was a woman who understood what it meant to be content. She was perfectly happy to sit in quiet, to sit in the shadows, in her settled life and keep house. She had everything she needed in life and was content. How many of us can say the same? How many of us, instead, find these words coming out of our mouth? “If only I had this or that or could go here or do this.” And marketers are quick to take advantage of our discontentment by targeting us with another new product that we just have to have but they would have had a hard time with this woman. She was content. The dictionary defines content as a state of peaceful happiness or it can also be a state of satisfaction. Both definitions are convicting, especially as Christians.
Christ is all we need but how much of our time is wasted wishing we had something else and what do we lose because of this distraction? Consider that for a moment. If our focus is always on the next thing or thinking about what we don’t have we are not able to give our full attention to what needs to be done today. That is the danger of discontentment; it distracts our focus from what really matters. For this woman she lived in the present and her focus was on the current needs which is why she was able to see Elisha's needs. She was happy where she was and it enabled her to utter a statement of contentment, “I dwell among mine own people”.
Contentment is not given
But there is something else about contentment that is interesting, it is not a trait or character quality that is given, it must be learned. Paul tells us:
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. Philippians 4:11
Contentment is not a trait that comes naturally or can be received like grace, it has to be learned. The world is good at bombarding us with things it believes we have to have, that our life would be so much better if we only had this one item. And our own natural desires can work against us and cause us to be discontent especially when we see others enjoying something we wish we had and this is not limited to material possession. It can also be good desires such as a spouse or children, or even a better job. But this woman is a beautiful example of what happens when a person chooses, learns, to be content with where they are, where God has led them and with what He has given. The first verse in Psalm 23 illustrates this idea of contentment.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
The phrase, “I shall not want” carries the idea that I decide to not desire more than what the Lord my Shepherd gives. I decide. This is a choice I make to be content with what I have been given by my Good Shepherd, the One who gave His life for me and will not withhold any good thing from me. We could also say that the choice to be content is built on trust. I am trusting in the goodness of my Shepherd and perhaps the greater our trust the easier it will be to choose contentment. This does not mean that we cannot pray for something but it should be done with a will that trusts the heart of our Father.
Contentment doesn’t mean a desire goes away
Even though the Shunammite woman told the prophet that she was content, his servant was perceptive and voiced a desire his master could grant.
And he said, What then is to be done for her? And Gehazi answered, Verily she hath no child, and her husband is old. And he said, Call her. And when he had called her, she stood in the door. And he said, About this season, according to the time of life, thou shalt embrace a son. And she said, Nay, my lord, thou man of God, do not lie unto thine handmaid. 2 Kings 4:14-16
She was married to an older man which seemed to imply that the possibility of her having children was unlikely. This was the lightbulb moment for Elisha and he calls for the woman to tell her she will have a child but notice her response is not one of delight but almost fear. She tells him not to lie to her. It seems that Elisha had managed to prick her one desire, not a discontentment but a desire. There is a difference between the two. She had learned to be content but that did not mean her desire to have a child just magically went away. This is something that we may confuse about the nature of contentment. Sometimes we think that in order to be content we have to quench the desires of our heart and that is not true. The truth is that we cannot let them dominate our life and make us discontent or even complain. We may have a desire, a natural one that is embedded deep without our soul and it has been the cause of many tears as the years slip by and hope slowly diminishes. It is not wrong to cry and we are told that God sees those tears and even collects them in a bottle. He knows our hearts and our hurts and He never says no or wait without purpose. In those moments it is important to remember that choosing to be content means we are happy with what we have and trust in God whether we should have that desire or not.
This woman longed to have a child as any woman in Israel would, but she did not have a pity party because of it. However, the ache was still there and she did not want to be given false hope. And that is one reason why verse 17 is so beautiful.
And the woman conceived, and bare a son at that season that Elisha had said unto her, according to the time of life.
In a most unexpected way this Shunammite woman had received one of her greatest desires. She had a son of her very own. Sometimes God does grant our desires. It just may not be at the time we hoped or wished but when it happens it is a beautiful thing. You may still be waiting or perhaps discouraged as the hope for your desire to happen begins to dwindle. I don’t know the future, I can’t definitively tell you that “yes God will give it to you, just be patient” but what I do want to do is gently ask if you have learned to be content where you are? There is so much we have been given and God has a purpose for your life exactly where you are and with what you have. He wants to use you to do something for Him, and that is one of the highest honors we can receive, to be of service to the King of Kings, to be entrusted with a task from Him. The more content we become the more we will see things to be grateful for, things that we can do, people we can help, and the list goes on. Please, don’t let discontentment rob you of your focus, joy, and gratitude.
A statement of faith
It would be easy to wrap up this story with a “and they lived happily ever after” if verse 17 was the last in the chapter but it is not. There are quite a few more though we don’t know the span of time that has gone by between them and verse 17
And when the child was grown, it fell on a day, that he went out to his father to the reapers. And he said unto his father, My head, my head. And he said to a lad, Carry him to his mother. And when he had taken him, and brought him to his mother, he sat on her knees till noon, and then died. 2 Kings 4:18-20
Her beloved son has died. The child given by promise to her by the Lord’s prophet took his last breath in her arms yet instead of falling apart or screaming in anger she does something quite remarkable.
And she went up, and laid him on the bed of the man of God, and shut the door upon him, and went out. And she called unto her husband, and said, Send me, I pray thee, one of the young men, and one of the asses, that I may run to the man of God, and come again. And he said, Wherefore wilt thou go to him to day? it is neither new moon, nor sabbath. And she said, It shall be well. Then she saddled an ass, and said to her servant, Drive, and go forward; slack not thy riding for me, except I bid thee. 2 Kings 4:21-24
She laid the body of her dead child not in his bed but on the prophet’s. She had a plan and was preparing for a miracle. The Shunammite woman set her plan in motion by calling her husband and asking for the loan of a donkey and a man to walk in front so she could see the man of God. Of course her husband is curious and wants to know why she needs to go see him since there is nothing special about today. Her simple four word response of “it shall be well” shows just how composed she is at the moment. She has just placed the body of her son in a room yet she does not reveal it to her husband. The word “well” means safe, happy, health. She told her husband it shall be well, it shall be happy, healthy. This was an answer of faith and reminds me of another story as a father prepares to ascend a mountain with his only son following behind carrying the wood for what was intended to be his own sacrifice. Abraham told his servants to wait and that both he and his son would return. This unnamed woman from Shunam exhibited the same faith, even though her heart was heavy, she was moving toward the answer.
Moving in faith
So she went and came unto the man of God to mount Carmel. And it came to pass, when the man of God saw her afar off, that he said to Gehazi his servant, Behold, yonder is that Shunammite: Run now, I pray thee, to meet her, and say unto her, Is it well with thee? is it well with thy husband? is it well with the child? And she answered, It is well: And when she came to the man of God to the hill, she caught him by the feet: but Gehazi came near to thrust her away. And the man of God said, Let her alone; for her soul is vexed within her: and the Lord hath hid it from me, and hath not told me. Then she said, Did I desire a son of my lord? did I not say, Do not deceive me? 2 Kings 4:25-28
Even before she arrived, Elisha knew her well enough to recognize that she was coming to see him with a purpose. Her visit causes him to worry about what the reason could be and it also reveals that he truly cares about this family since he sends his servant to investigate. This woman of courage gives the servant the same response. Only when she reaches Elisha do all the emotions come pouring out of her soul. Gehazi attempted to push her away but Elisha was quick to shield her. He recognized her pain, that her soul was vexed, the word means to be in bitterness, to be grieved. You can see his care and compassion for her, this woman who had been nothing but kind to her, who had gone out of her way to make sure he had a welcome place to rest every time he passed through her town, was in absolute agony. You can almost hear that his own heart is breaking for her as he waits to hear what has happened since the Lord had chosen not to reveal the reason beforehand, he was completely in the dark. Finally she says something, a reference to a conversation that had taken place years ago but was instantly understood. She asked him two things. “Did I desire a son of my lord” and “did I not say do not deceive me?” The answers are no and yes. She never asked for a son, she had said she was content to dwell with her own people. Elisha was the one who had promised her a son. She had told him not to deceive her, she didn’t want to be given something so precious under false pretenses yet her worst nightmare had come true. It is interesting to note that she never specifically said that her son had died but Elisha understood that’s what she meant and it moved him to action.
A lesson in tenacity
Then he said to Gehazi, Gird up thy loins, and take my staff in thine hand, and go thy way: if thou meet any man, salute him not; and if any salute thee, answer him not again: and lay my staff upon the face of the child. And the mother of the child said, As the Lord liveth, and as thy soul liveth, I will not leave thee. And he arose, and followed her. And Gehazi passed on before them, and laid the staff upon the face of the child; but there was neither voice, nor hearing. Wherefore he went again to meet him, and told him, saying, The child is not awaked. And when Elisha was come into the house, behold, the child was dead, and laid upon his bed. 2 Kings 4:29-32
Elisha quickly hands his staff to Gehazi along with some specific instructions: get there as fast as you can, don’t even stop to say hello to someone and lay this staff on the child. As the servant takes off, this woman has something to say to Elisha. She informs him that she is not leaving until he comes with her. This is an incredible lesson in tenacity. She refused to leave Elisha, insisting that he come with her. Do we have the same desire when we bring a petition God? Do we come into His presence with a heart that is shattered or heavy ladened looking to Him to fix it, to heal it, and comfort it? Do we linger in His presence refusing to leave without an answer? My mind thinks of Jacob and how he refused to let go of the angel until he blessed him and the story Jesus told of the woman and the unrighteous judge. She came daily until this judge answered her request. What would happen if we exhibited the same commitment as this woman? Remember that faith pleases God, in fact, we cannot please Him without it. And for this woman, she was about to receive according to her faith. Elisha arrives and is told that even though his servant did as he was told, nothing happened. So the man of God goes to the child and shuts the door.
He went in therefore, and shut the door upon them twain, and prayed unto the Lord. And he went up, and lay upon the child, and put his mouth upon his mouth, and his eyes upon his eyes, and his hands upon his hands: and stretched himself upon the child; and the flesh of the child waxed warm. Then he returned, and walked in the house to and fro; and went up, and stretched himself upon him: and the child sneezed seven times, and the child opened his eyes. 2 Kings 4:33-35
I will say that this is a very unique miracle and I don’t believe there is another account where someone was so personally invested. Did you notice that Elisha laid on this child face to face so that he was mouth to mouth, eye to eye and even hand to hand. He prayed to the Lord, though we are not told what he prayed it must have been heart felt as we have seen just how much he truly cared. After all it had been his idea to give her a child and the Lord had granted this petition. Maybe he asked God not to take away this precious miracle child because it would make Elisha seem like a liar to the woman’s request of not wanting to be deceived. Another interesting thing to notice is that Elisha leaves the room which must have been disappointing to the mother as he appears without her son and simply paces around the house then disappears upstairs. Again, he laid on the child, you could almost say that he was pouring his very soul into the boy. And then the child sneezed, not once or twice but seven times and then he opened his eyes. This part of the story always makes me smile because it is so interesting that he sneezed, a clear sign that he was no longer dead. Now it was time for a sweet reunion.
A faith rewarded
And he called Gehazi, and said, Call this Shunammite. So he called her. And when she was come in unto him, he said, Take up thy son. Then she went in, and fell at his feet, and bowed herself to the ground, and took up her son, and went out. 2 Kings 4:36-37
Gehazi summons her up to the room where she is greeted by her son, who has been restored to her. This child owed everything to his mom, in fact, two fold because it was his mother’s kind heart that resulted in his birth and her faith that restored his life when it seemed lost. This is a testament to the power of a praying mother. Countless stories have been told where a mother has brought her children to the throne of God, begging for Him to do a work in their life. Continue to pray. Continue to pour out your heart to the One who hears each cry and sees every tear. In those moments when the words can’t make it out, the Holy Spirit is there to utter them for you. The heart of our Heavenly Father loves us with an everlasting love and when we come to Him in faith we can rest assured that He will move on our behalf and answer our request in the way that is best for us. This woman never wavered in her faith and the words she spoke to her husband were rewarded, all was well.
Let's talk about two women who had a common connection though they would never meet. I am referring to Samson, his wife and Delilah. We have already discussed his unique birth announcement to his parents and their desire to do what is right but sadly it seems that Samson grew up spoiled in many ways. His parents had not taught him respect for authority as is evident in how he addresses his parents in Judges 14:1-2.
And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife.
Samson decided he wanted to get married to this particular girl. Usually it was the parents who had the biggest say in their child’s spouse but for Samson he took complete control. He seemingly demanded his parents do this for him, this is the language of a spoiled child. They are giving orders to parents instead of seeking their counsel and discussing the matter with them in a respectful manner. Samson is aware of what he is asking, he looks outside of not just his own tribe but his country something that was not allowed. His parents raise the same concerns in verse 3
Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.
A matter of respect
They are shocked that he has chosen a bride on his own, from outside their people, and know that it will not go down well with the neighbors. Again Samson displays his spoiled, disrespectful attitude when he said, Get for me; for she pleaseth me well. That is very strong language, something that should not come out during a parent/child conversation. This is a challenge to us on how we speak to our own parents. They are our God given authority during our childhood but when we become adults it doesn’t mean we can speak to them however we like. They will always be our parents and should be given respect even if we disagree with them. God places great emphasis on this. Not only is it one of the ten commandments given to Israel, it is the only one with a promise which we can read in Exodus 20:12:
Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.
And Paul reminds us again in Ephesians 6:2-3
Honour thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise; That it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth.
God promises a longer life to those who honor their parents, who give them the respect their position is due. This, of course, does not mean you have to do things that go against God’s principles when you parents ask but you can disagree respectfully. You should, however, be willing to hear your parents out, to hear their side of the matter, and to be ready to admit when you are wrong. Samson refused to heed their words and disregarded their concerns. Could it be that this was one of the reasons his life was cut short? Perhaps.
When we have no respect for the authority or position of our parents we will struggle to have respect in other areas including God and in the workplace. Samson’s actions reveal that he did not care for what God had to say about this matter either. He openly sinned against the Lord but as if often the case, God still uses bad things to accomplish good. We read in verse 4
But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
God would allow Samson to have a victory over the Philistines but it should be mentioned that Samson did suffer for his rebellion and eventually reap the full bounty of his disobedience. Remember, we are free to make our own choices, God does not force anyone to obey Him but He does decide the consequences of our actions. This is a good thought to keep in the forefront of our mind when tempted to think that we can do as we please since others have gotten away with it, but so often we don’t see the rest of the story or even forget that God will judge us one day for all our actions both good and bad. No sin goes unpunished as the life of Samson will reveal.
A crying bride
No matter the wrong, his parents make the arrangements as their son demanded and the engagement party commences. Samson decides to have some fun and puts forth a riddle for the men to answer giving them a week to do it. After spending time thinking about it and coming up short, they, out of desperation to win, threaten Samson's bride.
And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson's wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father's house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so? Judges 14:15
Women often were placed in such a position, they had little to no rights and men felt they could manipulate them to get what they wanted. The tactic seemed to work in this case. Of course the fact that these men really did mean what they said was no doubt enough to scare her severely. It is interesting that they encouraged her to entice her husband, as much as the men felt they had authority over a woman, they subtly were admitting that a she could bring a man down, especially one like Samson who had a weakness for women, with her words. In verses 16 and 17
And Samson's wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told it me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told it my father nor my mother, and shall I tell it thee? And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people. Judges 14:16-17
It is almost uncanny how she used the same tactics Delilah would on Samson later. The young bride cries and makes accusations to her husband that he must hate her because if he really loved her he would have told her the answer to the riddle. Samson gets defensive and tells her that he hasn’t even told his own parents the answer so why should he tell her. The tension can almost be felt in these verses. A word of caution when it comes to using the words, "always" and "never". It is easy to throw these words around in the heat of the moment but how true are they really? A once said pastor that these words should be rarely spoken, if ever, in a conversation. How often have we found ourselves saying, "You never listen or you always ignore me", in our hearts we know that is not true and we need to guard against it. Another point is the fact that Samson is completely unaware of the pressure his wife is under since her and her family's lives have been threatened. This is the root of the problem and the cause of her desperation to know the answer to the riddle. What would have happened if she had simply opened up to him, after all, he was the strongest man in the world and able to protect her from anything. Sadly, so much is lost by lack of communication between couples, friends, and families. When we take the time to talk about things, especially things that are bothering us, solutions can be given and conflict avoided. For Samson's wife, she chooses, instead, to manipulate him by crying. This is a little humorous, here is a spoiled man who demanded his parents get him this woman for his wife only to marry her and have her make demands of him. In fact, she cried for seven days to get her way and it worked, she wore him down until he finally gave her the answer.
Ruled by emotions
Unfortunately the story continues down the road of decline, there is no happily ever after in store for either of them. It's obvious to Samson how the men got the answer to his riddle which made him very mad. After fulfilling the wager he storms off, leaving his wife behind and goes to his father’s house….just like a spoiled child would do.
His actions made the father-in-law rethink the marriage, assuming that Samson no longer wanted his daughter. He makes the decision to give his wife to Samson's companion which was a big mistake. At this point in the story your heart goes out to this woman in some ways, she was simply tossed about from here to there. Threatened by a mob of angry men, her husband angry with her and now her father decides she should be married to another man. What transpires next is even harder to read. Samson, after cooling down, goes to visit his wife.
But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in. Judges 15:1
To be honest, his thought process is stunning. He thinks he can make a big scene, throw a tantrum, stay away for a while, and come back to find everything as he left it. That is quiet the arrogant assumption. The fact that he decides a baby goat is an acceptable gift is also a little funny, not flowers or fabric, a baby goat. Can you picture it, "Hi honey, here’s a goat for you, can I get a kiss?"
Regardless of the presentation, Samson gets the news that his bride was given away to someone else. In retribution, he seeks revenge. Samson let his emotions rule, in fact that is one way to sum up his entire life and serves as a warning to us. When we let our emotions determine our actions we are in for trouble. Anger, fear, hate, these all will cause us to make poor choices and react badly. Often they will lead to regret as well. We must rule our heart, our emotions, not the other way around. What Samson did was wrong and it was cruel since he burned down the Philistines fields using foxes tied together and set on fire. Samson acted on his own, not according to God’s command. Even though Samson is listed as a judge that does not mean he was always good, just like we saw in the life of Jonah who was a disobedient prophet. Samson’s life was mostly guided by his own selfish desires which would cost him and many others a high price.
The Philistines were not happy with his actions and they took it out on the father and Samson’s wife by killing them with fire. It was so tragic and of course, Samson retaliates for that too. As you read these passages you almost feel like it is a feud, each side seeking revenge on the other with no end in sight. Again, this is another problem with letting your emotions take control of your life, there is no telling just how far it will go and how many will suffer because of it. Determine to keep your emotions in check, live your life under the influence of God’s word. We are to be a people who are self-controlled, it is a fruit of the Spirit, an evidence that Christ dwells within you and it applies to every area of our life.
With the passing of his wife, another chapter begins in the life of Samson, one that would lead to his tragic end.
And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. Judges 16:4
That one sentence, one decision would alter his life forever.
The danger of sexual sin
A pastor made an interesting point regarding the dangers of sexual sin and how our response to this sin is different than any other. He said that this is the only sin we are told not to withstand but to flee. We find the perfect example in the life of Joseph. When Potiphar’s wife grabbed him, to try and make him come with her, he left his coat behind and ran. Sexual sin, when it is allowed to rule you, will always lead to death and not just spiritual death but also physical. Proverbs tells us on numerous occasions that the ways of the strange women are the ways of death, her path leads to hell.
Samson had a weakness and it was the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes. He was a man ruled by his emotions, as we have already discussed, and by his lust filled passions. These problems would lead to his destruction, as evidently the Philistines already figured out his weakness for women which is why they sought Delilah’s help. We don’t know much about Delilah’s background, only that she is a harlot and willing to do anything for money. Without any hesitation she immediately sets to work, manipulating Samson into giving her his secret.
Samson sees it more as a game. He gives her false information three times in a row with her trying it each time. To most normal people this would give you cause to stop and realize that this woman has no good intentions but sadly Samson would yield after Delilah used the same tactics as his wife had earlier. She declared that he didn’t love her plus she nagged him daily until his soul was vexed unto death. In the end Samson was betrayed and captured by the Philistines. Someone made the comment once that the members of his body that he struggled to control the most, his eyes, were the one thing they took from him.
Most of us know the fate of this once strong man, the one who had such a miraculous beginning, he would be made a laughing stock to the Philistines but would one more time bring destruction to them when he placed his hands between two pillars, asking God for strength one more time, and collapse the building killing himself in the process, a request he also asked for. Samson’s life truly teaches us what happens when we let our emotions and our passions rule our life instead of following after God.
Persistence and focus
Let’s drift back to Delilah for a moment because there are a couple of interesting traits she possessed that we can learn from. Persistence and focus. Three times Samson lied to her, three times she was made to look a fool in front of the men who hired her yet she continued on. Her desire to receive the promised reward was so great that she kept asking Samson to tell her what it was. This should cause us to stop and consider how focused are we on eternity? God tells us that there is a reward for those who follow Him, who seek Him, who obey His commands yet so often we lack the persistence needed to accomplish the tasks in front of us. How many times have we lost our focus on what really matters? Are we easily distracted or dissuaded from doing what is right? Paul says he presses toward the mark, he lays aside the weights and the sins that so easily beset us so he can run the race before him. If we want to say these words with Paul we have to run our race with persistence and stay focused on what is ahead of us. When we remember where we are going, it will be easier to say no to the bad and yes to the needful thing, our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Be persistent in the race we call life and stay focused on the Lord. We do this best when we spend time in His word every day and learn to be still in His presence.
Very little is known about her including her name. Her story begins in Judges 13 verse one:
And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.
Barren, that seemed to be her title, and she was in good company. Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel all were barren, wives of the patriarchs. But she had no hope that she would lose that title, it seemed to come with a lifetime warranty, so you can imagine her surprise when she saw an angel standing before her telling her that she could expect to have a son. Without even giving her time to react the angel continues to rattle off some instructions to her in verses four and five.
Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.
And just like that he is gone, no hello or goodbyes, no additional explanations, nothing. Her response to the message is to find her husband. In verses six and seven we read:
Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told he me his name: But he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.
If you take the time to imagine the scene, it can become quite humorous. Let's retell it just a little:
Manoah is quietly doing his work when his wife arrives, breathless and tells him between deep breaths, a man of God came, and his countenance, Oh, it was like the countenance of an angel of God, terrible, very terrible, but I didn’t ask him where he came from or who he was and he didn’t bother to tell me. BUT he told me that I was going to have a baby, a son. AND he said I could not drink wine or strong drink or eat any unclean thing because the child will be a Nazarite to God from the womb to his death.
This must have been a lot for Manoah to take in, after all, it is not everyday that your wife comes running up to you saying an angel told her she was going to have a son. Whatever his reaction to the message, we do know that he had a request to ask of God. Verse eight:
Then Manoah intreated 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.
A Desire to Learn
Manoah's response is moving. It is no stretch to say that both he and his wife longed to have a child. Children were so important in their culture, they were their legacy and social security. Manoah did not treat this heavenly news lightly. He desired to learn how he should raise the child, he wanted to do it right, to be a good father and possessed a heart that was teachable. In proverbs 1:5 we read
A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels:
And in Proverbs 9:9 it says:
Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.
A trademark of a wise person is that they are teachable. They recognize that they don’t have all the answers. They know they can always learn more and are humble enough to ask questions and seek help, like Manoah did. He understood that this child was meant to do something great which is why he needed to know exactly what he and his wife should do. What a great lesson for us as well as a reminder, nothing we have is ours alone, it is from the Lord. Every talent, every possession and even every person in our life, they are all from the Lord and if we want to be good stewards of what He has given to us then we should ask Him how to manage it all.
The gifts we have been given should be used under the direction of the Lord. The possessions He has poured out on us should be used as He guides us. And above all, the people God entrusts to us such as children should be handled with the wisdom He gives. This can also apply to how we treat our parents, siblings and friends, they are all a gift from the Lord and are the only possession we can take to Heaven with us. Relationships matter to the Lord, each person is made in the image of God so we should look to Him for guidance in how we interact with those He has blessed us with. Another lesson we can learn from the Manoahs is this. They had waited a long time for a child and God was giving them a desire of their heart, their first response was to seek the Lord’s wisdom. How many times have we spent years asking God for something but when we receive it we do as we please with it instead of continuing to pray over it?
A Request Granted
Manoah treasured his gift from the Lord and wanted to do his best in raising this child, so he intreated the Lord to send the man of God to them again so they could know what to do. God's sweet response is found in verse nine:
And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her.
God honored his request, remember that in James 1:5 we are told,
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
Manoah asked and God responded by sending the angel back, however, it is not to him directly but through is wife again. She quickly makes her back to Manoah as the scene unfold in verses ten through fourteen.
And the woman made haste, and ran, and shewed her husband, and said unto him, Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day. And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman? And he said, I am. And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him? And the angel of the Lord said unto Manoah, Of all that I said unto the woman let her beware. She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe.
Manoah and his wife eagerly took in all that the angel had to say. She was going to be on a special diet all through her pregnancy and while there is a specific reason for this it is an interesting thought that our actions and choices can have an impact on others. The decisions we make rarely affect just us which means we should be more conscious of others when making them. What we say, where we go, even the things that we recommend to others can all influence someone for good or bad. We each have a realm of influence whether we realize it or not. People, both lost and saved, are watching our actions and our reactions. This is another reason to seek the Lord’s wisdom daily, letting Him influence our life so we can be ready to influence others for good.
A Voice of Reason
For Manoah, he had one final request of this messenger and we read that in verse fifteen and sixteen.
And Manoah said unto the angel of the Lord, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee. And the angel of the Lord said unto Manoah, Though thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a burnt offering, thou must offer it unto the Lord. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the Lord. And Manoah said unto the angel of the Lord, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour?
Though the angel agreed to this request, he did tell Manoah that he would not eat the food nor did he want praise when asked what his name. He didn't want Manoah to honor him. The angel kept the focus where it needed to be, on the Lord. It's easy to get caught up in the desire to be honored by man but we should seek to have the same attitude as the angel of the Lord. He understood that he was merely a messenger sent to do the bidding of the Lord. We are also ambassadors for Christ, His messengers sent to do His work, to spread the gospel, to share His love, and be a light to the world. We should never seek our own glory or praise our own “accomplishments”, because none of it is ours to begin with. God has blessed each of us with a specific gift that was intended to be used for His glory and His honor. May we always remember that and have an attitude of humility, careful to not yield ground to pride.
Manoah and his wife prepared an offering and the angel though he doesn’t reveal his name, reveals that he is a heavenly being. We read this in verses nineteen through twenty-two.
So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the Lord: and the angel did wonderously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground. But the angel of the Lord did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the Lord. And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God.
It must have been interesting to watch the look on Manoah’s face as the realization sinks in, he has just seen an angle. This was not a regular man of God, this was an angel of the Lord and you probably could have knocked him over with a feather. Of course, he actually fell to the ground all on his own along with his wife. Most of us would probably have had the same reaction, absolute shock and a good bit of terror. Manual seems to almost cry out in a voice of absolute panic, "we shall surely die, because we have seen God". It’s as if he is almost saying, "we are doomed!".
His wife's response is the exact opposite in verse 23:
But his wife said unto him, If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these.
As you read these words you can hear the calm sound of reason. She is so practical, so factual, "why would God go through so much trouble to tell us we would have a child, accept our burnt offering, give us the instructions only to kill us." While Manoah seems almost unhinged, his sweet wife simply states the facts which made perfect sense. They also reflect an understanding heart of God’s character. She believes what God has told her and knows that God is not double minded. He wouldn’t tell them they would be parents then kill them for seeing an angel. Her perspective of the situation was guided by her knowledge of God. Manoah panicked but his wife remained calm. When we look at our circumstances through our eyes we will become anxious and troubled but when we remember who God is and that He is in control, everything changes. The Psalmist expresses the same confidence in Psalm 4:8
I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety.
Why could he say he will lay down in peace and sleep? Because the Lord makes him to dwell in safety. He could rest because he knew who was in control, who was his shield and protector. We have the same assurances, the same promises, this is what happens when you know God more, when you dwell in His presence, you find rest. Manoah’s wife is a beautiful example of how knowing God influences our perspective and gives us peace. When life gets crazy and our circumstances leave us feeling worried or fearful may we take a moment to be still and shift our focus on the One who never leaves nor forsakes us, the One who promises to be by our side, holding us in His right hand.
A Title Replaced
In the end, Manoah’s wife would join a long list of women who traded their title of barren for another one, Mother which we read in verse 24:
And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him.
What a wonderful and exciting day that must have been for both of them. She who had longed to have a child, she who lived in the shadows of other mothers now had her moment of fulfillment, her arms now were full as she cradled her miracle, her gift from the Lord, a son called Samson. God had been preparing her for this moment, all those years of waiting, longing, hoping were not in vain. And God has not forgotten you. We have to trust in the Lord that He knows what is best for us. His timing is always perfect, He is never early and He is never late. There are many out there who have a longing of their own, to be married, to have children, maybe you are even wishing for a spouse or grandchildren for your own child. Be willing to trust the Lord with these longings and desires. He who formed you and your children, knows your every need. The best thing we can do is commit these things to prayer and leave it in His capable, loving hands. Never forget that He wants the best for you and no good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.
May we choose to be a people that trust His word, His timing, and above all, believe that He loves us more than anyone else. May we be like Manoah’s wife and walk in the confidence of one who knows their God and we can only do this if we spend time in His word, take the time to quiet our souls and let Him whisper His truths into our hearts.
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I am just an ordinary girl who is loved by an extraordinary God and I seek to love others the same way. I love to bake, read, do puzzles, watch Hallmark movies, and go shopping with my mom! This blog was created as a place where I could share some thoughts that the Lord has shown me and to be an encouragement to others who desire to know Him in a deeper way. My prayer is to learn to sit still and trust God with my future.