I’m not sure I’d ever want to be in the Bible. Some of the more prominent characters have their shining moments of awesomeness, but the vast majority of them have at least one terrible aspect about their lives on display in the Word of God. And, according to Jesus, these stories will remain forever, even as the world and heaven pass. Bummer.
For example, we all know about Noah, how he demonstrates incredible faith by building a boat in the middle of land and waiting for rain that didn’t exist yet. But later on, he gets completely plastered to the point of shaming his own family.
A handful of chapters later, Abraham exercises tremendous trust in God to the point of nearly sacrificing his miraculously conceived son, but this is preceded by a horrible misstep resulting in an illegitimate child, and then Abraham casts his son out altogether.
Jacob, a liar. David, a womanizer. Peter, foot-in-mouth disease. I’m sure you’ve seen this list before. But we know that God uses these people, despite their terrible flaws, to do incredible work.
In Judges 13, we run into Manoah, certainly not a big Bible character. He’s relatively obscure because his son is Samson, an prominent figure famous for his great physical strength and, almost equally, his awful weakness with women.
But Manoah and his wife have an entire chapter devoted to their son’s conception, so they deserve fair treatment. Unfortunately, like the other big fellas in the Bible, Manoah’s life is magnified to an uncomfortable degree, and we can’t ignore it.
We know at the start that he’s a good guy because he remains faithful to his wife. The woman can’t have kids, and that’s a cultural no-n0, signifying a curse on the family line. Manny sticks it out despite this terrible reality.
But, much like every other human, Manoah a flawed man.
He has big trust issues. The angel presents himself to Manoah’s wife, but when she brings the report to him, he asks God to send the angel again (who just tells Manoah the same thing he told his wife), and doesn’t believe it’s an angel until he ascends into the sky into a fiery burst.
It seems God notices his lack of faith and sends the angel to his wife the second time around. And upon her second report, he has to ask the angel anew to verify it all. What a boob.
Manoah is eventually impressed with this guy, who he perceives to be some representative deity at this point, and he insists on worshiping him by making sacrifices. It didn’t dawn on him that, if he were really looking directly at God, he would’ve exploded or burned up or something. Or, it’s possible that he understood the man to be an independent deity, so we can call idol worship on him. Either way, he’s blowing it.
Once he understands the angel is of God, Manny loses his head and freaks out to his wife. The more composed spouse rationalizes that he would’ve already been incinerated and the angel would’ve accepted Manoah’s offering if he were God.
The story of Manoah teaches me of a couple of things:
1) I’m just like this guy: I’ve got some issues to work out.
2) God uses this ordinary guy to do something awesome. This is great news for me.
Manoah is still Samson’s dad. He raises a devoted Nazirite, a man set apart to do God’s work. That’s one thing Manny certainly didn’t screw up — and God uses this flawed man to do something great.
Don’t ever sell yourself short. You are useful. Your terrible misdeeds might be the legacy of your ordinary life, but the Lord’s arm is not too short, and His grace is always sufficient. Any deviation from this is a lie. This actually makes you quite extraordinary.
Remember, Jesus picked twelve pretty ordinary dudes to do some awesome work. A life in Christ means that nothing you do is insignificant. If you’re feeling ordinary today, good. You’re useful to God.