Judges 13-16 records the tragic and yet triumphant life of Samson, an utterly flawed individual who nevertheless began the work of liberating his people from the bondage of a foreign oppressor, the Philistines. Along the way, the Scriptures preserve for us a powerful lesson about parenthood.
An angel of the Lord appeared to the barren woman who became Samson’s mother, announcing to her that she would conceive and bear a son who would “begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (13:3).
She is told that he was to be “a Nazirite to God from the womb” (13:5), and so was never to drink wine or strong drink, touch any unclean thing, or cut his hair. She was to begin by observing the Nazirite vow herself during her pregnancy.
Once she had received this message, she immediately ran to get her husband, who in turn prayed that God would send the same messenger again to give them lessons on parenting. “O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born” (13:8). There, of course, is a rich lesson there, as Manoah modeled for every parent the importance of seeking guidance from God for the challenging and often overwhelming task of raising children to maturity.
In response, God did send the angel of the Lord a second time. Manoah probed the angel with the kind of question any parent would ask of God if he could: “What is to be the child’s manner of life (lit. “judgment”) and what is his mission (lit. “work”)(13:12)?”
Manoah knew God had significant plans for the life his son, but he did not know exactly what they were or how they would be accomplished. Here was an opportunity for God, who knows the end from the beginning, to show a loving father the arc of his son’s life. He had the opportunity to show him all the triumph and tragedy that Samson would know over the course of his life.
But God didn’t do that. Through the angel (likely a pre-incarnate manifestation of Christ), he simply repeated his initial instructions to Manoah. “Of all that I said to the woman, let her be careful. She may not eat of anything that comes from the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. All that I commanded her let her observe” (13:13-14).
He spoke nothing of Samson’s future exploits, of killing lions with his bare hands, striking down 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, or killing 3000 of the enemy with one last mighty exertion of strength.
But nor was there any mention of his many affairs, his blindness, and his tragic death. Perhaps God knew that the full story of Samson’s life would simply be too much for his parents to bear.
So he simply instructed Samson’s parents to raise him in “the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:2). It is as if God was saying to them, “Look, you must focus on your responsibility as parents. Be the best parents to him you can be. And then you must trust me with the path of his life, with all its twists and turns. I assure you I have plans and promises for his life, and they will be fulfilled, even should he stray from the path. You must trust me, even in your darkest hours and through your pain, and know that in the end I will accomplish my will and my larger purposes through your son.”
No parent knows when his children are young what their lives will turn out to be. Perhaps God knows it’s best for us not to know too much about the journey ahead lest such knowledge hinder us from beginning the journey in the first place.
A famous man once said, “Duty is ours; results are God’s.” That’s never more true than in parenting. So let’s make it our aim, by God’s grace, to be the best parents we can be and trust that our children’s Heavenly Father knows just what he is doing with their lives.