Eat Up

Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “Allow us to detain you, and prepare a kid for you.” The angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat your food; but if you want to prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.) Then Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your words come true?” But the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name? It is too wonderful.”

So Manoah took the kid with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to him who works wonders. When the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar while Manoah and his wife looked on; and they fell on their faces to the ground. The angel of the LORD did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Then Manoah realized that it was the angel of the LORD. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” (Judges 13:15-23)

God is not a bean-counter. He is not a bureaucrat shuffling forms, concerned that all the paperwork is in order, every box filled in. And he’ll repeat himself over and over if need be.

Samson’s father Manoah was a member of the tribe of Dan. His wife was sterile and thus unable to have children. But one day an angel appeared to her and told her that she would have a son. She told him that the angel said he had to be a Nazarite from birth. Manoah then asked God to send the angel back again with instructions on how to raise him. So, the angel returned, repeated to Manoah what he had said to his wife—who was never named in the story. Manoah then offered to give the angel a nice meal. Unlike the angels who had come with Yahweh to Abraham and ate a nice meal with him, this angel refused, suggesting instead that he offer a burnt offering to God—which he promptly did.

This, despite the fact that he was not even a Levite, let alone a descendent of Aaron. But God accepted his offering, anyhow. Manoah was understandably frightened, fearful that he would drop dead for having seen God; his wife reassured him, pointing out that they’d already be dead if that had been God’s intent, and besides, God had accepted the offering and given them a promise about having a son, which would be hard for him to accomplish if they died.

God seemed more concerned with attitude and sincerity than he did with the details of the law: a reminder that the law boils down to two things: loving God and loving people. Do that, and the details will take care of themselves. God is more concerned with people than with rules.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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