Stay in Your Lane

Then Manoah arose and followed his wife, and when he came to the man he said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to the woman?” And the man said, “I am.”  Manoah said, “Now when your words come to pass, what shall be the boy’s mode of life and his vocation?” So the angel of Yahweh said to Manoah, “Let the woman pay attention to all that I said.  She should not eat anything that comes from the vine nor drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing; let her observe all that I commanded” (Judges 13.11-14).

Living by Ft. Hood the last four years has allowed me some initiation into Army life.  Soldiers live by strict chains of command mediated through circuitous acronyms.  I’ve yet to figure out all the various levels (it is the Federal government after all) but I have picked up on a few “Armyisms.”  I’ll thrown in a “Roger that” when Amy wants to do lunch.  I am a hopeless romantic.  Why answer “no” to a question when “negative” will do just fine?  And don’t call sargeants “Sargeant” around here unless you want to be pegged a silly civi’ tourist.  Greet them “Sar’nt” with a “Hooah” and you’ll be one of the boys (or girls, as the case may be these days).

There one Armyism, however, that I absolutely love.  Assume Private Jones asks Sar’nt Williams the reason behind a recent order.  Maybe Sar’nt Williams will tell him, but more often than not he’ll say, “Just stay in your lane, Private Jones.  Just stay in your lane.”  In other words, just do your job as commanded and trust that you’ll know what you need to know when you need to know it.  Some information is, as they say, above your pay grade.

I thought about this when reading about Manoah this morning (Judges 13).  Manoah, a Danite, was married to an unnamed and infertile woman.  God (the angel of Yahweh) appeared to her and promised to open her womb.  And during her pregnancy she must give up her nightly glass of Bordeaux and refuse all unclean food.  Her soon-to-be son will be a teetotaling, long-haired Nazirite and the one to deliver Israel from Philistine oppression.  He would be Samson.

She told Manoah this news and he prayed to hear it for himself.  When God appeared again to them Manoah begged for more information (v12).  What will become of this boy?  What will he do for a living?  What sort of man will he be?  What are we supposed to do when he gets older?  Cloth diapers or Pampers?  Football or choir?  College or trade or military?

God responded to Manoah’s questions like Sar’nt Smith does Private Jones.  The Maxwell Revised Libertarian Verson reads vv13-14 thusly: “Manoah, just stay in your lane.  Make sure your wife does what I’ve already told her to do.  Flush all your wine and keep a strict kosher diet.  You need not concern yourself with anything beyond that.  Trust me.  I’ll let you know what you need to know when you need to know it.”  Samson’s parents had no idea, and couldn’t know, what God intended for their son (see Judg 14.4).

A similar interchange happened between Jesus and Peter (Jn 21.18-23).   Jesus assured Peter he would die for loving Christ and serving his sheep.  Peter saw John in the corner of his eye and asked Jesus what will become of his dear ol’ friend.  Jesus responded in v22, “Peter, just stay in your lane.  I love you and have custom-designed your sanctification.  So tend my sheep like I’ve told you and don’t worry about what I’ve planned for John.  That’s between him and me.” (MRLV)

How often we complicate God’s will by demanding to know what God would not have us know yet.  God commands an obedient step and before we take it begin asking about the six steps later.  For examples: If I forgive her then what will happen if she does it again?  If I give my stuff away then what will I do if I might need it again?  If I initiate that difficult conversation then what will happen to our relationship down the road?  If I move there then what will our life look like in ten years?  If I love him again then what if he doesn’t reciprocate?  If I leave this ministry then what will happen with it next year?  If I take on that ministry then what will become of it? Why do I need to this since it wasn’t what so-and-so needed to do in their situation?

Before long we complicate ourselves into paralysis.  Because we can’t know everything we don’t do anything.  But we simply cannot know all that God is doing “under the radar.”  God will be trusted for who he is, not what he can prove.

Stay in your lane.  Take the step in front of you, not the one you can’t see yet.  Obey what God has clearly commanded you now and trust Him for what comes later.   God is not mystical about his will.  He knows us too well for that, which is why he calls us sheep.  He is our Kind Father who knows to light our way just enough.  He is our Gracious Father who gives us all that’s necessary to obey.  He is our Good Father who will always do what is right for us.  The next step may not be easy, but it will be clear.

So go back home, Manoah, and fluff your wife’s pillow.  She’ll need the rest.

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