Saturday, April 22, 2023

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: Anyonymous Women - Manoah's Wife/Samson's Mother

There’s something to be said for being at the right place, at the right time. Have you ever experienced one of those divine appointments? Especially when it would seem that everything going on around you was out of your control.


This was the case for Manoah’s wife. Her story begins in Judges chapter 13. She is also known as Samson’s mother.  Her name is never mentioned in the Bible, but what a great woman of faith she was. She was remembered as one of the 23 truly upright women in the Bible, yet her name is never mentioned. Some Jewish Rabbis have referred to her name being Eshet, Zleponi or Zlelponith, which means “the shadow falls upon me.”  In one of the names she has one “L” and in another name she has two that shows she saw the angel of the Lord twice. When “El” is used in a name or in her case “L,” this is a reference to the name of God. It is said “the third time’s a charm” because when she took her husband to the place where the angel was, she saw him for a third time. And any time we see the angel of the Lord appearing in the Old Testament, this is considered the preincarnation of Jesus.


She and Manoah lived in the town of Zorah, just about 13 miles west of Jerusalem. It is located in the Judean foothills. It is a town where the Amorites had inhabited, but the Philistines were more prominent at this time. Manoah was from the tribe of Dan and his wife was likely a Judahite. The foothills of Judea is likely where both the tribes of Dan and Judah lived. She was a righteous woman, a perfect woman, and considered Jewish royalty being from the tribe of Judah. Unfortunately, she was barren and a barren woman was shamed as it was thought she had some hidden sin.


It was during this time Israel did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so He handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for 40 years. (Judges 13:1). This seemed to be a bad habit that God’s children had. It didn’t take them long to disobey Him after settling in this new land of milk and honey. Just before Joshua died, God had him tell the people that if they worshiped and served other gods, his anger would burn against them, and they would quickly vanish from the good land he had given them. (Joshua 23:16) Today, God’s promise rings true. This city is covered over by centuries of dirt. They call these buried cities Tel’s in Israel. It is now called Tel T’sora and it is being excavated. What they have found are tombs, caves, cisterns, and two winepresses.[1] Keep this in mind as we unfold this story.


This barren woman was who trusted God and obviously God trusted her, was considered a social outcast by Jewish tradition. She was humble, which is probably one of the reasons God chose her. Manoah on the other hand may have been the opposite. He too may have been considered an outcast since he had no children. This disappointment may have made him skeptical and even a bit arrogant to compensate for his shame. He may not have believed he was worthy enough to be visited by an angel. She and Manoah were in different places in their faith. One might consider them unequally yoked.


When the Angel appeared to Manoah’s wife, he said to her “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink, nor eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.” (Judges 13:3-5) She immediately ran to her husband and told him this and he did not believe her. So much so, he prayed to God and asked if the man could visit him.


This righteous woman knew, without a doubt this visitation was an angel of the Lord. She didn’t question him. She listened and took to heart what he had said to her. This shows us the purity in her heart and the trust she had for God. Most of us would either think we were crazy or losing our minds if we were to be visited by an unearthly being. But not her. We see throughout the Old Testament angels interacting with mankind so this would seem to be a normal encounter. The last time we see this kind of encounter in the New Testament is when Paul is blinded on the road to Damascus. This time it is Jesus, himself.  After the Holy Spirit was sent to live in us, we no longer have these messengers to bring us good news. That’s because we now HAVE the Good News living in us and like the Tel’s in Israel, if we could clear out the debris of life, we would be able to hear Him speak clearly and often.


Manoah’s prayer is answered, but not in the way he had asked. Instead the angel of the Lord shows up, once again to his wife and she then runs to get him. He runs back with her and even asks if he was the man that spoke to his wife the first time. He doesn’t even realize he is an angel. The angel responds, “I am.”  Does this response sound familiar? It’s what God called Himself to Moses at the burning bush. Manoah asks the angel how he is to raise the child after he is born. The angel replies by telling him to be sure his wife follows the instructions he gave her. She’s not to eat grapes or raisins, drink wine or any other alcoholic drink, or eat any forbidden food. (Judges 13:13). They were to raise their son as a Nazirite. Nazarites were holy people. They were to abstain from wine and all other grape products, such as vinegar and grapes. They were to refrain from cutting their hair. They also were not to become ritually impure by contact with corpses or graves even those of family members. (As described in Numbers 6:1-21). This is where we see what has been excavated today, tombs and winepresses. The Amorites and Philistines worshiped pagan gods. Possibly even tried to conjure up spirits of the dead. We know later that King Saul did this when he went to the witch of Endor to talk to Samuel after his death. This area was probably a thriving vineyard and the wine may have been a common drink, like water. God knew when He went to Manoah’s wife, she would be obedient to keeping herself pure as she carried this child who was to be one to deliver the people from the oppression of the Philistines. The Nazarite way was like fasting, it was taking a vow to symbolize separation and dedication to the Lord.


Manoah still didn’t believe this “man” was an angel until after he asked his name. The angel replied “It is too wonderful for you to understand.” (Judges 13:18). Whose name is wonderful? That’s right Jesus’ as described in Isaiah 9:6. It wasn’t until Manoah built an alter on a rock and sacrificed a young goat and grain offering and as the flames shot up toward the sky, the angel of the Lord ascended in the fire, that he realized they had just seen God. He said to his wife they will certainly die. But this woman of wisdom responds back to him, “If the Lord were going to kill us, he wouldn’t have accepted our burnt offering and grain offering. He wouldn’t have appeared to us and told us this wonderful thing and done these miracles.” (Judges 13:23) Jesus did say, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." (Matthew 6:8)


What can we learn from this amazing woman of God? She truly is a woman who without an education or even status, had favor with God. We know of another woman who had God’s favor and that was Mary. She had been chosen to birth the ultimate Deliverer, Jesus. It’s possible in God’s big story, this story was a foreshadow to the Hebrew people of how the Messiah would be recognized. Both women were unlikely to have a child, one barren and one a virgin. Both whose faith stood out among others as well as both being from the line of David who was from the tribe of Judah. Another story closely related to this is the birth of John the Baptist, who also was to be raised under the same restrictions as a Nazirite, but he would be filled with the Holy Spirit before his birth. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the temple, like Manoah he had some doubt and because of this he couldn’t speak. Think about that, he couldn’t even tell Elizabeth what happened and that she was going to have a baby! But when Elizabeth discovered she was pregnant she recognized God’s kindness and gave Him glory for taking away her disgrace. (Luke 1:25)


God desires to partner with us in His plan for mankind. He doesn’t want us to live in shame or be buried in our mess. His desire is for us to thrive and live as holy people. Only Jesus can make us holy, but our part is to live lives that are pure, humble, and faith-filled like Manoah’s wife. God has given every one of us, including men, to birth to something that will ultimately lead others to the Living God. As we have seen throughout scripture God loves to use the most unlikely people who have the most challenging situations to do great things through. Manoah’s wife teaches us that when we live with an open and pure heart, God WILL show up and not just once, but all the time. He wants us to trust Him completely for everything. He wants to remove our shame so we can live in His glory.


This chapter concludes with her giving birth to a son, just as the angel of the Lord had promised. She named him Samson which means “like the sun.” The scripture says the Lord blessed him and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him.  What has the Holy Spirit, who dwells in you, been stirring inside of you? We are living in a time much that is much like in the days of Judges when people are doing whatever they want and think is right, even if it’s evil in the eyes of the Lord. It’s time for us to live with pure hearts so we can lead those around us to Jesus. He is The Light in the darkness, the One who sets us free!


Scriptures for daily heart cleansing!


Philippians 4:8 (NIV): Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.


Proverbs 20:9 (NKJV): Who can say, “I have made my heart clean, I am pure from my sin”?


Ephesians 5:25 (NKJV): Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.


Psalm 51:7-15 (MSG): Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life. Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing. Don’t look too close for blemishes, give me a clean bill of health. God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails! Give me a job teaching rebels your ways so the lost can find their way home. Commute my death sentence, God, my salvation God, and I’ll sing anthems to your life-giving ways. Unbutton my lips, dear God; I’ll let loose with your praise.


Psalm 85:7 (NKJV): Show us Your mercy, LORD, And grant us Your salvation.


Psalm 23:6 (NKJV): Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.


Deuteronomy 28:9 (NKJV): “The LORD will establish you as a holy people to Himself, just as He has sworn to you, if you keep the commandments of the LORD your God and walk in His ways.


John 18:9 (NIV): This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”


Hebrews 10:22 (NLT): let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.


*This information was compiled by the R.E.A.L. Women Bible study out of Hills Church in Laguna Hills, CA.










Friday, April 7, 2023

R.E.A.L. Women Devotional: Anonymous Women Bible Study - Moses' Mothers

In 1956, Hollywood produced a movie that airs every year during Passover. It was directed by Cecil B. DeMille called The Ten Commandments. The cast is full of famous and well-known actors. Names such as Yul Brenner, Charlton Heston, Yvonne DeCarlo, Anne Baxter, and Vincent Price to name a few.

The cast of characters found in Exodus 2 of the Bible's version aren't so recognizable. In fact, they aren't named at all. We find out a couple of the names later on, but as we begin unpacking the three women in this story, we see one common characteristic, courage.

The first woman mentioned is the birth mother. She's a Levite and we know she has a daughter who is between the ages of 7 and 15 and another son who is 3 years old. Their names are revealed later. Jochebed, the birth mother, whose name means God's glory and her daughter Miriam, which means beloved and is the oldest form of the name Mary.  The third woman's name is never mentioned in the Bible, but Jewish Rabbis have given her the name Bityah, which means "daughter of Yah" after the Israelite God[1].

Moses was born around 1526 B.C.[2] and at that time Pharaoh had declared an edict that all male babies were to be thrown into the Nile river (Exodus 1:22). As we look at Moses' birth mother, she is a bold woman who was selfless and was willing to make the sacrifice of letting her infant son go that his life might be spared. She hid her pregnancy along with hiding him after his birth until she could not hide him any longer. The Bible says when he was 3 months old, she placed him in a basket made of papyrus reeds, sealed with tar and pitch to waterproof it. She and her daughter, sent the infant baby down the river by faith that he would be found. They put the baby in the water expecting God to do something.

Moses’ sister was also a young woman with a courage not typically found in young girls. Scholars have said she may have been between the ages of 7 and 15. Either way, her child-like faith gave her a boldness as she waited along the river bank to see if her baby brother would be found. Then, Pharaoh’s daughter just happened to show up. This girl had the courage to ask if she could find a Hebrew woman to nurse the baby for her. What wisdom for someone so young. Offering to help the princess by finding someone to care for him and giving him back to her mother. That’s a pretty brave and wise young lady. Jewish scholars believe that Miriam was one of the midwives[3]. As we understand now, midwives never married so it’s likely she never had children of her own. She was also named as one of the 7 female prophets.

What a terrible time to have a child as Pharaoh ordered Hebrew baby boys to be thrown into the Nile as soon as they were born. This probably meant that there were often dead babies found floating down the river. Why then would the Princess bathe there? Could it have been that she had compassion for these innocent babies that her father feared, and by using the excuse to bathe, hoped to rescue some? She had another kind of courage as she had defied her father’s orders by saving a Hebrew boy. Some scholars believe that she was in search of a child as she had no husband or child. Egyptian rule stated that a woman who was an heir to throne must have a son or husband in order to reign. It was a Kairos moment (the appointed time in the purpose of God) that she showed up at the right place at the right time. When she drew him out of the water, she named him Moses, which means to draw out of water. That gives us some insight of her heart to be a mother, by naming him, she's claiming him as her own.  God chose her to be his adopted mother. 

These three women were instrumental in this story. The act of sacrificial love that is seen through these two mothers is bold and selfless. The fact that Jochebed had to give her son up twice, the first time in letting him go to hopefully preserve his life and the second time sending him to live in the palace with his adopted mother, is an example of her trust in God to care for what was precious to her. If any one of them had been the least bit fearful, Moses would have become another casualty of Hebrew babies in Egypt.

Moses story begins after 400 years of the Hebrew people living in bondage and no interaction with God. Generations later there is a similar story. After a 400 year period when God was silent, and the Romans were ruling over God's people we hear of another ruler murdering baby boys. Herod, who was appointed by the Romans to be king of Judaea, ordered all of the baby boys to be killed (Matthew 2:16-18). He had gotten word the king of the Jews had been born. Once again, we see God’s hand guiding and leading people in a world of darkness. All those babies that died at the hand of Herod, just as the babies that died at the hand of Pharaoh, we casualties of evil. God sent His son to deliver His people once again. As history repeats itself, this would be a reminder to the Jewish people that this baby would deliver them once and for all.

As we come to the close of this story, we find God uses unknown women to preserve a nation. One a slave, one a child, and one a princess. No matter where you find yourself in this season, God has called you for a purpose. Whether it’s being willing to let go of expectations and trusting God, being available to be used by God for the purpose of others, or rescuing someone by leading them to Jesus and helping them grow, is really what our purpose is are all about. Building others up and encouraging them to become everything God created them to be. We may never become famous as the cast of actors in The Ten Commandments movie, but our role in God’s big story is more important than we think.

Verses that give comfort and courage:

Psalm 37:18-19, NKJV:  The LORD knows the days of the upright, And their inheritance shall be forever. They shall not be ashamed in the evil time, And in the days of famine they shall be satisfied.


Psalm 30:1, NKJV:  You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness,


Psalm 116:7-9, NLT: Let my soul be at rest again, for the LORD has been good to me. He has saved me from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling. And so I walk in the LORD’s presence as I live here on earth!


Romans 8:1-2, NIV:  Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.


John 10:10b, NKJV:  I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.


Hebrews 13:8, NLT:  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.


Proverbs 16:19, NKJV:  Better to be of a humble spirit with the lowly, Than to divide the spoil with the proud.


Psalm 106:4, NLT: Remember me, LORD, when you show favor to your people; come near and rescue me.


Matthew 11:28, NLT:  Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.


John 14:1, NLT: “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me.


1 Peter 2:9, NLT:  But you are not like that, for you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.


Isaiah 66:12-14, NIV: For this is what the LORD says: “I will extend peace to her like a river, and the wealth of nations like a flooding stream; you will nurse and be carried on her arm and dandled on her knees. As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you; and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.” When you see this, your heart will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the LORD will be made known to his servants, but his fury will be shown to his foes.


 Compiled by the R.E.A.L Women Bible Study out of Hills Church of Laguna Hills, CA.