Too Wonderful to Understand


And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?”  And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?”  Judges 13:17-18

This week’s passage in the book of Judges opens with a now familiar refrain that we view with incredulousness, “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord...”  The passage goes on to introduce us to a man Manoah and his wife who are unable to have children.  Being “barren” and unable to have children was considered to be one of the greatest misfortunes a family could face.  It meant no way to preserve the family and no way to extend and continue a family’s knowledge of God.

This all changes when the family receives a visitor as described by the wife in verse six “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome.”  Later in verse twenty we learn, “And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord went up in the flame of the altar.  Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.” 

This is similar to the encounter Moses has in Exodus three:

2 And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Many theologians believe the angel of the Lord of the Old Testament, sometimes described as God and other times described as man, is a “pre-incarnate” or a preview visit of our Lord Jesus Christ.  This is both wonderful and difficult to understand.  This led me to think, are there things in my life that I “understand” that may be more wondrous than they first appear? Like Manoah asking for a name, I believe I often have a “man-sized” simple view of God’s grace rather than a God sized vision of His grace.

I came across an online article by Paul Tripp ( that truly helped me to reflect on God’s wondrous grace.  He writes:

Grace will confront you with profound weaknesses, and at the same time bless you with new-found strength. Grace will tell you again and again what you aren't, while welcoming you again and again to what you can now be. Grace will make you as uncomfortable as you have ever been, while offering you a more lasting comfort than you have never before known.

May God help us all to understand and rest in the grace that is given to us through his Son Jesus!

Todd Plummer