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