17 Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?”
18 He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding…..
I was reading this passage the other day and something just really struck me. And that is our desire to always want a complete understanding of everything. Or maybe it’s the desire to know what we are getting ourselves into. This passage is interesting because Manoah inquires of the angel several times regarding Samson and how he should be raised, prior to these verses. And as he poses each question, he begins to manuever his way so that his questioning will ultimately lead to the one question he is desiring to know. Ultimately, “What is your name? And who are you?” Manoah, like all of us is wanting something tangible to grasp onto and knowing one’s name is a chance at doing that. Naming gives us a sense of control over someone or something, helping us characterize and stereotype that person or thing based on their name. Manoah is not the first to do this. Moses tried to get a name from the burning bush and only received “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). Jacob tried to do the same in Genesis 32:29, but only received the reply, “Why do you ask my name?” Is this desire a bad thing? I don’t belive so, but it ultimately reflects that the LORD is not tangible in that way, and that He is beyond any type of control that we desire to exert over Him.
Often when I am sitting across from someone in counseling this type of interaction arises. The client will want more personal information from me and my life, in which we are usually taught to say in return, “Why is that important to you? Or, why do you need to know that? Or, what would that mean for you to have that information?” It’s an attempt to level the sometimes power differential that occurs in a therapeutic setting.
As followers of the LORD there is an obvious power differential for lack of a better analogy. And for us to level that out we attempt to gain control or ask questions that maybe are unanswerable. Not because we aren’t allowed to ask them, but because the answers to them are not for us to know. Maybe some things are meant to be a mystery in the relationship between us and God. Maybe it is to remind us that we are not God and that we are not ultimately in control. Maybe it is to remind me that the Christian life is lived out in faith. A life of faith that asks me to leave my homeland and follow the LORD to people and places that I do not understand. Maybe it is an act of trust, that I follow God even when I don’t know why sometimes, or when I don’t understand Him.