The Second Encounter
We arrived again at the family estate near Zorah, where Toivo had encountered the young woman caring for her sheep. We found her at the same place again, sitting upon the same rock overlooking the pasture. Toivo again approached her. This time she saw him coming, for she was facing in our direction. Sipporah and I, the horses, and the lions, remained hidden beyond the trees, for we did not want to interfere in Toivo’s calling as a messenger.
When the woman saw Toivo, she stood to her feet and ran toward him, falling down before him. “Please, sir, if you are a man of God, please remain long enough so that my husband may hear what you have to say. 89 He must hear the word from God that you told me yesterday.”
“Go, find him, and bring him here,” Toivo replied. “I will not leave until I have spoken with him.”
Immediately, she stood to her feet, turned, and ran toward her house. A few minutes later, she returned breathlessly with her husband and was relieved when she saw the man of God still present.
“Are you the man of God who spoke to my wife yesterday?” he asked.
“I am,” Toivo answered.
“I am Manoah, and this is my lovely wife, Naamah,” he said. “I prayed yesterday that you would return so that I might hear the word for myself that you have been given. I bless God for allowing you to return today. My wife tells me that she is to bear a son. Is that correct?”
“That is so,” Toivo said.
“Then what will be the boy’s mode of life and his calling?”
“He will be called a Nazirite from birth,” Toivo answered. “For this reason, she herself must live as a Nazirite as well, drinking no fruit of the vine nor eating any unclean food, so as not to disqualify her unborn son. He will begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines, who are soon to put your people under tribute.”
“Tribute!” Manoah said. “Then is there no deliverance for Israel? No way to avoid divine judgment?”
“No, the decree from heaven has already gone forth on account of the idolatry in Israel,” Toivo said sadly. “But the word that I have spoken to you should give you comfort and rest, even in such times of tribulation. It was the same when God prepared to send the great flood upon the earth. He then called a man named Noah, whose name you bear, to give comfort and rest 90 to those who believed the word of God. Those who believed were able to rest in that word.”
“So will my son deliver Israel?” Manoah inquired.
“I can say only that he will begin to deliver Israel,” Toivo said. “Whether he completes his calling or not depends upon the hearts of the people of Israel, for he can deliver only to the extent that the people return to God with their whole heart.”
“Why is that?” Manoah asked with a puzzled look. “Is not God all powerful and well able to defeat the Philistines?”
“Yes, certainly,” Toivo answered. “However, the purpose of this captivity is to bring judgment upon Israel for sin. The judgment of the law must be fulfilled, and so God will not fully deliver Israel unless Israel repents. Only repentance has the potential to shorten the sentence of the law or to lighten its yoke.”
“I do not have much confidence in Israel’s ability to keep away from idols,” Naamah interjected. “Many in our own tribe have been caught up in the worship of idols. Many now live far from God.”
“God will send me and others to Israel from time to time,” Toivo said with confidence, “to search the hearts of the people. There is always hope, especially when one remembers the covenant that God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. His covenant was not based upon the will of man, but upon the power of His own will. He cannot break His covenant, so always know that victory is assured in the end. Only the road to that victory is obscure.”
“Is there a way to shorten that road?” Manoah asked anxiously. “What must we know to find our path more easily?”
“The key is to understand the covenant with your fathers,” Toivo said. “That covenant expresses the mind of Yahweh Himself, both His will and His plan. Know that His will is to bless all nations, not just Israel. He will bless them by causing all nations to repent and to turn to Him in the end. This includes the Philistines themselves, for though they labor under bondage to Nephilim, God will yet turn their hearts.”
There was a short pause. Then Naamah spoke, saying, “That, I think, answers a difficult question that has plagued us for a long time. Because we live so near to the Philistines and often see Philistine merchants traveling along the road, we have wondered how we ought to treat them. Should we be friendly with them? Should we despise them as idolaters? Should we hate them as enemies of God? What is His will?”
Manoah added, “We have been torn and have asked God what to do in this regard. Should we consider them to be without hope, or, when they ask about the nature of our God, should we tell them of His glory and goodness?”
“God intends to turn them from their idols in the end,” Toivo told them. “Never consider any man to be beyond God’s reach. Neither will He take them to Himself only to enslave them. What He has promised to Israel, He has promised to all men. Remember the second covenant that He made with Israel in the plains of Moab, where He vowed to make all men His people—even those who were not present to hear the words of Moses. It is only a matter of time.”
“Meanwhile,” Toivo added, “show love to all men, but do not love their idols or imitate their ungodly ways. Lead by example. Remember that all men are sinners and that God loves them even when He chastises them. You see how God has treated Israel as His son that was called out of Egypt. His great love for Israel did not prevent Him from disciplining the nation when they were disobedient. So also will He treat all nations according to their level of knowledge.”
“We will remember that,” Manoah said solemnly, “and we will teach this to our son.”
“Very good,” Toivo said, “But I must now leave you.”
“Please,” Manoah said, “let us detain you so that we may prepare a lamb for you.”
“You may do so,” Toivo replied, “but you must understand that I cannot eat with you. Prepare the lamb as a burnt offering and offer it to Yahweh to thank Him for this revelation.”
“I will do so, if you can wait for a little while longer,” Manoah said. “Naamah will take a lamb from the flock, and I will prepare it for a burnt offering to Yahweh. But please forgive my bad manners, for I have not even asked your name!”
“Why do you ask for my name, seeing I have kept it secret?” Toivo said. “It is enough to know that I am a man of God.”
Manoah went home to pick up a handful of wheat, an armload of wood, and a few coals in a jar, while Naamah went to fetch her favorite lamb from the flock. Soon both of them returned, and Manoah put the wood on the flat rock where Naamah had been sitting as she watched over her flock. Naamah held the lamb tightly, then kissed its head, and finally, with tears in her eyes gave the lamb to her husband.
Manoah looked toward heaven and prayed, “Yahweh, God of Israel, accept this lamb as an offering from the depth of our grateful hearts, which are broken as we dedicate the son you are giving us by the life of our beloved lamb. May our son serve You always, and may he deliver Israel from the rule of idolatry.”
With that, he cut the throat of the lamb, and as the life left its body, he put the dying lamb upon the wood. Next to the lamb, he placed the handful of wheat and lit the fire with coals that he had brought from home. Manoah and Naamah then knelt down beside the rock and bowed their faces to the ground to worship Yahweh.
After a few minutes, they rose from the ground and stood respectfully, watching as the flesh and grain burned. The offering was acceptable in the sight of Yahweh, the God of Israel, and as the smoke from the fire ascended from the rock altar, Toivo said with a loud voice, “By the lamb that was slain, I ascend!” Immediately, he was caught away, ascending in the smoke as Manoah and Naamah looked on. Both of them immediately fell on their faces to the ground once more, saying, “He was an angel of Yahweh! An angel of Yahweh!”
Yes, indeed, he was a messenger of Yahweh, sent to answer their prayer for a son and to prophesy of his mission to Israel. Sipporah and I remained hidden in the trees, not wanting to interrupt the sacred moment, for such events are seldom seen, and when they do happen, they come usually just once in one’s lifetime.
“We will surely die, for we have seen God,” Manoah said with an apprehensive tone.
“If Yahweh had desired to kill us,” Naamah answered, “He would not have promised us a son, nor would He have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands. No doubt the death of the lamb has been on our behalf, for all sacrifices are animals that are killed on our behalf so that we do not have to die personally.”
“Woman,” Manoah said, “God has truly given you understanding and wisdom of His mind and of His ways. What would I ever do without you?”
“I love you, too, my dear,” she said.
They held each other tenderly as the fire crackled and the smoke rose high into the heavens. We wondered if they noticed the open heavens above them, a door of life over the tiny portion of Dan where they dwelt. Did they see the soft glow of light coming from the eye of God as He looked down upon them. Did they understand how proud He was of His children? Could they yet comprehend His tender love toward them? Could they know that their heavenly Father wept with them and felt their pain, every wound in their hearts, every heartache from the sacrifice of love which they offered?
- Judges 13:10, 11
- Genesis 5:29. Noah means “rest,” but his alternate name was Menachem, “comfort.” Manoah is a longer form of the name “Noah.”