Manoah’s Wife: Defining Sacrifice

You can’t do that.

Have you ever heard those words, and had difficulty listening to them? It seems like they are forever being repeated in our household.”No, you can’t stay out till 1 a.m. you’re only fifteen. No, you can’t watch that you’re only twelve. No, you can’t have mountain dew you’re only four.”

To which all three of the little angels sweetly reply, “Ok, you’re right,” and they skip off to clean their rooms without being requested.

Right, I’m obviously day-dreaming by this point. Saying, “You can’t do that”, incites utter chaos and rioting in the Strand household.

Most people don’t want to hear the word “No”, much less give up something of importance. Yet, having to respect “no” and make sacrifices is a part of growing up and taking responsibility for ourselves.

How does this relate in our spiritual lives? What can we learn from sacrifice, and saying no to perhaps our own wants and desires?

When we say the word sacrifice, it doesn’t typically evoke positive feelings. Kind of like saying the word “diet”, or “exercise”, no one WANTS to do those things but we would all like the end result. Defined sacrifice means an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy (Miriam-Webster).

Judges chapter 13 introduces us to Manoah’s wife (sometimes identified with Hazelelponi in 1 Chronicles 4:3), who was required to give certain things up in her life. Like Sarah, Rebekah, and Rachel we read that she was unable to have children. Although it might seem cruel to point this fact out, during this time period having children was essential to a woman’s worth and place in society. Yet, as we take a closer look, it seems God continues to delight in making the impossible, possible.

An angel appears unto Mrs. Manoah and tells her she is going to have a son. He instructs her not to drink wine, strong drink, or eat anything unclean for her son will be a Nazarite. A Nazarite vow required the person to abstain from wine, wine vinegar, grapes, raisins, liquors, basically anything that contained a trace of grapes.

I wonder how she reacted to these instructions. After all, she wasn’t going take the Nazarite vow. It doesn’t take too much to figure out that the news of having a baby overshadowed everything else. I’m sure, as most pregnant mothers would agree, she was willing to do whatever it took to ensure the safety of her child. A few months of self-sacrifice paled in comparison to the joy of holding her son in her arms.

Over and over we are called to make sacrifices, to make choices that will define and shape our lives in that moment and in the future. Living for God does mean giving up things, in fact, the closer you become to Him the more it seems you sacrifice.

Luke 9:23-24 tells us that to be followers we have to deny ourselves, and goes on to say whoever loses his life for the sake of Christ will save it.

How do we reconcile that? How do we understand that in giving everything we are to serve God, we actually find the completeness people spend their entire lives seeking to acquire?

An answer can be found in Matthew 6:31-33, that tells us not to worry about where our next meal comes from, or if we have clothing to wear. Instead it encourages us to seek first the Kingdom of God and everything we need will be supplied. Can I add that our wants will be supplied as well, for when we give God blesses us with even more than we need (Luke 6:38).

Don’t be surprised as you grow closer to God, as you truly begin seeking Him first, for those wants and needs to become different than before. In fact, many things that seemed important to have or achieve will become secondary to what actually deserves your time, your money, and your life.

I don’t know what sacrifices God will call upon you to make, for it won’t look the same for me as it does you. Some people may be called to give up certain things for a time period, perhaps so they can devout more time to the work of God. Some will be called to missions and give up their homes and leave all that is familiar to them. Some will be called to sacrifice careers, money, time, and relationships.

God will not force you to make a sacrifice. He simply asks you to choose.

Are you willing?

Manoah’s wife followed instruction and made the sacrifice required regarding the food she ate, and became the mother of Samson. Who despite his mistakes judged Israel for 20 years, whose stories of strength and overcoming adversity we continue to teach today.

Be willing. Be open. Just see where God takes you.


Light barely outlined the horizon, as Hazelelponi interrupted nature’s stillness. Finding her way in the dim light, she sat alongside a small brook trickling through the desert valley. Folding her feet underneath her, she took a deep breath and allowed her eyes to take in the red and orange glow filling the morning sky.

She closed her eyes as her mind asked, Why? No tears came. They had all fallen years before, when her desire for a child overwhelmed every other aspect of her life. With time, she learned how to seal her emotions off, place a smile on her face and silence her lips from speaking the longing of her heart.

Those who shared her plight did not want to bring attention to the fact that their homes were empty. Those blessed with family simply could not understand, despite how they cared.

Manoah, her husband, insisted they did not need children so full were their lives with nieces and nephews, even now two of them slept under their roof. She had hoped this time, for the first time in a long while, but the familiar pains awakened her before the day began, erasing that precious thought.

Her womb remained empty.

Her duty to life called her back to present, and with a resolute sigh, she pushed herself to her feet. Turning to leave, light filled her vision, as a man walked steadily towards her and took her hand into his. Her mind told her to be afraid, to move, to scream, to do anything but stand there mesmerized by this stranger. She felt no fear, only a deep calm settling inside her alongside an awareness of something greater than herself.

In a deep tone of certainty he spoke to her. “I know you believe you can’t have children. I am here to tell you that you will soon have a son. I am to instruct you not to drink wine, or anything like it, and only eat of those things determined by the commandments to be clean. You will conceive and have a son, and no razor shall ever touch his head for he will be a Nazarite unto God from the womb. He will deliver Israel from the Philistines.”

In one moment he stood before her, in the next his voice echoed on the wind, leaving her to wonder if she dreamed of his presence.

“Manoah, Manoah,” finding her voice, she ran towards her home. Joy burst in her heart, a deep confidence assuring her the man spoke truth.


Laura S.

© Copyright 2016 | A Closer Look

Deborah: Finding Your Place

Have you ever questioned your place in God?

Have you ever felt like maybe it wasn’t your place, or you didn’t have the right to speak up about a situation? Not because you didn’t know how your felt or what to do, but perhaps you worried what others would say or think?

Most of us would say, “yes”, simply because we have all been faced with that very dilemma.

Before the kings of Israel arrived on the scene, God spoke through and used judges to guide Israel. We read in Judges Chapter 4, where Deborah, the only female judge of Israel named in the Bible, experiences a circumstance that causes her to question her place, and even to give reason for her hesitation.

Deborah, prophetess, wife of Labbidoth, became judge of Israel during a time when they were under the oppression of a Canaanite King, Jabin. Yet, the Israelite army did not go out against them. Deborah sends for Barak, their general, basically to figure out when their next move will take place. He basically tells her—I’m not going unless you go with me.

First of all, I find a general of an army asking for a woman’s support, when the culture of the day held very few women’s rights, to be surprising. My thoughts started spinning concerning the scripture in 1 Peter 3:7 where the wife is referred to as the “weaker” vessel. What exactly does that scripture mean? In relation why did Deborah hesitate, did her emotions get in the way, or was she not intelligent enough to understand battle, or perhaps afraid?

If we take a closer look at scripture, and the life of Deborah, we will not find anywhere that the Bible implies that women are intellectually or emotionally inferior to men. Or any less capable of performing the will of God.

The word, “weaker”, can cause offense especially if applied incorrectly. Peter, when he wrote those words, recognized the weakened position of women in the 1st Century.  The word translated here, into weaker, is also used to describe a prisoner, or someone who has lost their freedom or opportunity. It is not the same word used to describe physical or emotional weakness.

In the 1st Century Jewish and Greco-Roman cultures. women held very few rights. Especially in the pagan cultures a wife was often considered a man’s property. Peter is giving instruction on how the early Christian church should separate themselves from this viewpoint understanding that women were “heirs together of the grace of life.”

 In fact, the scripture is telling men to make sure they are honoring their wives.

Not ignoring her opinion or not allowing her voice to influence him, rather to be her voice in a society that robbed women of freedom of speech. And to do otherwise would hinder their prayers, not help them.

It’s why God created man, and then created a help mate for him, we make a really good team. If a husband is not taking the time to listen to his spouse, his help mate given to him, then he is not behaving in a Christ like manner. We know that Christ listens to and hears the prayers of his church. And Ephesians commands husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. A wife was to submit to her husband as the voice of their family in a culture dominated by men. It did not infer that she should not influence him, or that her opinion held no merit because she was a woman.

Deborah’s position in the Old Testament makes it very evident that God does not view women as an inferior sex. Instead, it strengthens the fact that He can and will use women them equally.

The culture explains Deborah’s hesitancy to her general’s request. She knew going with him would bring judgement, and would take away from his victory. The verse says she warns him they will honor a woman with the victory instead of the general. He, in his wisdom, knew the price of battle and willingly shared his glory with her knowing it would bring victory to his people.  The scripture records she agrees to join him, and the Israelites do overtake their enemies.

How did Deborah find herself elevated as a leader? The Bible first describes her as a prophetess, and I believe somewhere in her life she learned to hear and recognize the voice of God. She didn’t stop there, but found her place as prophetess when she raised up her voice to share the Word of God to her people.

Like with Deborah, God‘s spirit can guide you to make that decision that seems impossible.

He will give you direction. (Psalm 119:105)

He will give you wisdom. (James 1:5)

He will teach you what to say. (Luke 12:11-12)

He will be your voice. (John 16:13)

Our culture has come a long way towards women’s equality, but at times Satan will try to rob every one of the freedom we have in Christ. To the point where we feel like we don’t have the right to say anything, and that we are unworthy to be used by God, that we have no place in the kingdom, and we feel trapped.

Can I encourage you today, don’t think God hasn’t defined a place for you. Like my grandpa would say-Follow your heart. If God has called you remember the words of Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”


Deborah: The VoiceTaking a deep breath, Deborah studied the man’s face before her. Lines furrowed his brow and dark circles highlighted his eyes, revealing the stress he carried.

“Barak,” she began slowly, weighing her words, “it is not because I don’t want to help, but do you understand what will be said? They will say you are weak and needed a woman to win a battle.”

His gaze perused her face for several minutes, words almost unnecessary as their eyes spoke in a language defined by years of friendship. “Do you understand who you are? Do you realize the affect your presence has on those around you?”

Kneeling before her as a statement of honor, the seasoned general held out his hands. “Deborah, judge and mother of Israel, my heart beat is to win the victory for our people for the glory of the Lord God. I would implore you to join us against the Canaanites. Help win this battle, your presence will bring strength, hope, and confidence. How foolish and prideful do you think I am, that I would be willing to sacrifice the lives of my men, to risk losing the battle, simply because I didn’t want to share the victory with a woman? Join us.”

Deborah turned away, allowing emotions to begin circulating through her, and she waited for the confirmation to arrive. Many called her wise and respected her decisions without question. She knew, however, that her wisdom came from a higher source and she couldn’t claim it as her own. Therefore, she waited quietly asking God to guide her choice. Clearing her mind, she relaxed, releasing the tension in her shoulders, and exhaled.

Go. Warmth flowed down her arms and legs as she recognized the voice of God. “Arise Barak, and let us go,” she continued with authority, “the Lord has gone before, and will deliver us.”


Laura S.

© Copyright 2016 | A Closer Look


Achsah: Just Ask

After the battle of Jericho we find the Israelites continuing to make conquests, and continually subduing those lands they took over. We find four scriptures among all of these conquests and land divisions, about Achsah, Caleb’s daughter. Glancing over the verses her story gets lost very easily, but when we take a closer look we find a woman brave enough to make a simple request, brave enough to just ask.

In Joshua 15:16. Caleb, an integral spy and warrior for the Israelites, offers his daughter as a reward to the man who can overcome a place known as Kirjath-sepher. Regardless of all the behind the scene emotions and possibilities of being offered as a trophy, she becomes the wife of Othniel, the victor. Here is where it gets interesting, verse eighteen leads us to believe she persuades her new husband to ask for something in addition to receiving her as a bride, to request a piece of property from her father, perhaps a like a dowry. Something that would sustain their lives and the family she anticipated in the future.

In study this stopped me for a moment. She could have just accepted her place as a new bride, but she wasn’t satisfied with that. She knew and recognized the value of all her father possessed enough to make a request of him.

I realized there is a parallel hidden in this story. Like Caleb, Achsah’s father, we have a heavenly father who possesses everything we need, and at the times in our lives when change is occurring, all we need to do is ask Him for whatever we need to handle the change. Matthew 7:11 says if we in our imperfection and sinful nature, know how to give good gifts to our children how much more can we expect our heavenly Father to supply when we ask Him!

And that’s what Caleb does, he agrees to give the newlyweds a southern portion of land. However, as the events unfolded a thought came to Achsah, enough to cause her to move out of her current position and make another request. She says to her father, “Give me a blessing; for you have given me a southern land; give me also springs of water. “

She understood, and in wisdom realized, that the property he gave them could be cut off from water if the northern property owners chose to block the streams. I can see Caleb smiling a little, as he realized the intelligence of his daughter. In his graciousness he blesses her with upper springs, always guaranteeing they would have water coming down from the mountains, as well as lower springs that would be readily accessible.

I can think of another woman in John 4, whose story is for another day, but who Christ spoke to and offered her springs of living water from a well that would never run dry. This unnamed woman had spent her life looking for love, in all the wrong places, and the sources kept drying up. As she drew water from the well she learned how to quench the thirst within her soul.

Jesus is offering that same living water to you today. All you have to do is ask Him. Not just a one-time request, but if and when you are experiencing situations in life where perhaps your joy, your strength, or your faith seems to be drying up simply ask for a fresh drink. God will supply, and like Caleb did for Achsah, your heavenly father will reward you with what you need now and what you need in the future.

John 4:14 Jesus answered and said whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst, it will become a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. He will satisfy completely.

John 7:38 Whoever believes in me, rivers of living water will flow from his heart. His joy and strength will flow in you and out of you spilling over into every part of your life.

Revelation 22:17 Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely. He already paid the price for your peace.

Isaiah 58:11 And the Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your soul in drought, and strengthen your bones; You shall be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

He will never fail you, there will always be enough to meet your need.

Just Ask

Biting her lower lip, Achsah rehearsed the words in her mind for the hundredth time and prayed they were the right ones. In just a few moments she would leave her father’s tents to live with her husband and his family.

She glanced shyly at the man she’d married only a day ago, as he gathered their small caravan together and attempted to pack her belongings, generously bestowed by her father Caleb, in what little space they had available. Othniel was a good man, known for his wisdom and knowledge of the Law of Moses, and the surprising victor over Kirjath-sepher which also won her hand in marriage. He had not been the strongest, or most skilled, or wealthiest of the warriors who fought for that right but his cunning resulted in the victory.

They would still be residing with her father Caleb if she had not persuaded him to ask for land. And the request, to their delight, had been answered with a sizeable amount of land that almost equaled what her brother’s would inherit someday.

But the property boundaries could not boast their own spring of water.

And now she practiced the words once again that she would bring before her father. Laying a hand on her stomach to ease the nervousness within, Achsah, took a deep breath. She could do this, she must do this, and they would need more water to sustain any crops or herds. How hard can it be to ask? She thought.

Asking for something did not come naturally, in fact, growing up with only brothers she figured out early on how to do things herself, instead of waiting for one of them to agree to do anything. Her father boasted of her capabilities and independence, and now she thought to brave tradition and asks for a blessing usually reserved for the male line.


Activity bustled around her as Othniel approached. “Are you ready then?” he asked, holding out his hand for hers, eyes lit with the new love blossoming between them. Taking his hand he led her to the small donkey she would ride and helped her get seated. She knew she should have asked to speak with her father but found her mouth too dry to speak. Othniel turned to find his place at the front of the line and a small group of servants and family began to call their farewells.

Looking up, Achsah saw her father standing not too far away, his hand raised in farewell. Now, she thought, I have to do this now or there may never be another chance. Sliding off her donkey, she made her way to her father’s side, and stood staring at him.

“What’s this, my little one? You cannot miss me so much already.” He chuckled and pulled her into his familiar embrace, the scent of cedar wood engulfing her. For a moment she realized how much she would miss him, and leaned into his embrace.

Pulling away, the words she so carefully planned came out in a rush, all mumbled and sounding nothing like the confident voice she so carefully practiced.

“What is it you wish daughter?” Caleb asked a look of confusion written on his face.

She slowed her speech and began again. “You have given us land and I am so thankful, but I ask for a blessing. Give me also springs of water.” Achsah held her breath waiting for his response.

Caleb’s eyes twinkled, and a grin played on his lips, although his next words he spoke with a seriousness and authority for all to hear, “Alright. I give unto you my daughter, Achsah, the upper spring from the mountain and the lower spring that it creates.”

Thrilled, she looked to found Othniel looking at her in surprise, and feared he would be angry at her boldness. Instead he called from his horse, “Thank you Caleb, for the springs, and the blessings of a wife who thinks of things I do not. Now come Achsah, the sun grows higher in the day.”

She hurried toward her mount, but then stopped, turning she ran back to her father and threw her arms around him, “Thank you, Abba Father, I am a woman most blessed.” He hugged her in return and Achsah basked in his embrace.

Rahab: Exercising Faith

A Closer Look

Cold bits of rain ran down Rahab’s arm, sending a chill along her spine. She waited, with all of Israel, as Joshua carved the law of Moses into the stones at Mount Ebal. Finally, he spoke aloud, his words carrying the anointing of the Lord God.

Rahab shivered again, this time from the power of the blessings and warnings of God’s commandments being declared. Closing her eyes, Rahab allowed her mind to completely absorb everything spoken. Long after Joshua finished, the congregation disbanded around her, Rahab stood with eyes closed, attempting to grasp a measure of God. A gentle touch brought her into awareness, and Rahab looked up to meet the gaze of Salmon.

“How is it that your God, in all His greatness, spared me? Until this day I have not known or followed any of the law of Moses, but here I am with your people. And I wonder, why do so many seem unmoved by his greatness?” Rahab shook her head in disbelief.

Salmon’s heart ached as he struggled to find the answer to Rahab’s question, one he had often asked himself. “Joshua reminded me, not long ago, that if you look you can find the Almighty in everything, but you have to look. Many of my people have become so used to feeling the power of the Lord that it no longer moves them. They take His presence with us for granted and no longer see Him in everything around them.”

Salmon paused a moment, looking into the distance. “A humble heart and a willing spirit led the God of Israel to you, Rahab. I have watched as you have been faithful to all required of you and left everything, including your family who chose to stay close to Jericho’s remnants, but you have remained with Israel. Even now, you are being led, as am I.”

Salmon took a deep breath and reached for Rahab’s hand. “It would honor my family, and I, if you would become my wife. Become a true daughter of Abraham and a mother of children of Israel.”

Rahab pulled her hand away quickly from the warmth of his grasp. Her heart had been his from the very first moment she met his eyes, but she loved him enough to understand the impossibility of it all. “I am barren. I am not worthy of a prince of Israel. My life before, in Jericho, I served in the temple.” Unable to continue, she turned to walk away, but in doing so she found herself unable to maintain her balance. Salmon’s hand steadied her, and she could not help but to relax into his strength.

“Rahab,” Salmon whispered into her ear, “let me tell you a story. One about a woman named Sarah, and another about Rebekah, and one of Rachel.”

“Who are they?” she asked.

“My grandmothers. Women who were barren. Women the Lord filled with faith and families.”

They married and were blessed with a son, named Boaz who married Ruth, the great grandmother of King David, among whose descendants would be Joseph, husband of Mary, mother of Jesus.

Read Joshua 8:30-35, Read Hebrews 11, Read Matthew 1:1-16.



Rahab: Hidden in Christ

A Closer Look

Watching from her window, Rahab could barely see the Israelite encampment. Three days had passed since the spies escaped from her window, now all of Jericho awaited the Israelites next move. Every gate and entrance had been closed and fortified, like a tomb, Rahab thought.

Rahab's Rope

She leaned her head against the window as the sun started to rise. Staring into the distance, she thought she saw movement. Holding her breath, the minutes ticked by, until a definite band of men could be seen marching toward the city. Immediately, her hand gripped the scarlet cord that hung brazenly from her window. Tugging hard, she reassured herself for the hundredth time that the rope would not come loose.
Running down the stairs, she stopped just short of the door. Standing motionless, her mind screamed, where are they, why have they not come? She wondered if she should go to her family and beg them to find safety with her, but fear held her paralyzed. Outside the door, there was no scarlet rope, no guarantee of life.

A heavy thud, thud, thud broke the silence. Rushing back to her window, she expected to see swords drawn and men preparing to attack. Wave after wave of armed Israelites marched past her, the steady drum of their feet in perfect rhythm with one another. None of them spoke or made a sound, only the resilient sound of rams horns, and the continual beat of their march, announced their presence.

The sound of the horns drew near, and her eyes beheld seven men, bearing a golden box aglow in the sunlight. As they passed beneath her, a wave of power pushed her to her knees. Trembling, she realized the presence of the God of Israel. Toward sundown she noticed the last of the Israelite host making its’ way around the wall. Darkness fell, and then nothing. No attack or war cry, no battle, only silence.

Her breath came in short gasps, and the familiar heartbeat of anxiety made her feel faint. What have I done? They left me, they aren’t going to attack. What if the people of Jericho find out I hid the spies? I still have time to make it to the temple, my lateness won’t be noticed. But I don’t want to go back. I want to be free.

Tears came as the stress and doubt battled in her mind. Taking hold of the window frame, she pulled herself up. Lights blinked from the Israelite encampment, a sign of their continued presence.

Her father’s voice filled the silence. Her family had entered quietly and unannounced, their fear of the Israelites evident on their faces. “How can you trust them? They will kill everyone, how do you know they were not lying to you? How can you be sure? Should we not all go to the temple and sacrifice to the goddess?”

Taking a deep breath, as the silent battle raged within her, she teetered on the precipice of insecurity. Finding her voice, she replied, “It is not them I trust, it is their God. It was in Him they promised. I have been a servant to the goddess Inanra these past ten years and never once has she done anything to guide or protect me, the way their God does for them. He is not locked in a stone statue the way she is, but is living with them. This is what I trust, this is what I believe in.”

Read Joshua 2.

Read Rahab: An Introduction. Watch Rahab: Labeled by the Cross