Saturday, 5 April 2014

(96) April 6: Judges 15-17 & Luke 10:1-24

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note how Israel’s degeneration is evident.

To ponder:
Having lost his wife to his best man, Samson sets the Philistines’ corn alight, they therefore burn Samson’s wife and her father, and Samson responds by “attacking them viciously.” There’s warning here about how vengeance spirals.
Contrasting Judah’s intended primacy in battle (1v1-3), rather than taking the opportunity this gave for an uprising, they tied Samson and handed him over. However, “the Spirit” came upon him,” and he struck down a thousand men with just a donkey’s jawbone. This seems far fetched. But that’s the point. It could only be done through God. And here we see Samson is still a man of faith (Heb 11v32), acknowledging this, and then praying for water – albeit in a petulant way. In grace, God provided. And we read Samson led Israel for twenty years. The point about God’s use of a fallible man is therefore made again, but with emphasis on just how much can be achieved in God’s strength (Phil 4v13).
            Lust and love follow. The Gaza gates Samson tore off and carried to the top of a hill would have been two stories high! This seems to be recorded simply to stress how strong he was. But not for long. Like Judas, Delilah betrays Samson for money. The game Samson plays with her shows how flippant he was about his strength, whilst his final revelation shows he knew it depended on his remaining a Nazarite. Once more he patterns Israel. She shows little regard for her privileges, and is strong only as long as she remains set-apart to God. To make this point, as soon as Samson’s head was shaved “his strength left him,” because “the LORD had left him.” And so he was seized, had his eyes gouged out, and then imprisoned in Gaza in “bronze” (so strong) shackles.
            As the Philistines celebrate that their god Dagon had delivered Samson to them, we know it was God’s doing. With Samson’s hair re-growing, the story’s tension mounts as the Philistines bring him out to entertain, but he asks to be where he can feel the pillars. Once more he prays. And it is an imperfect prayer for strength to take vengeance not to glorify God. But he is strengthened nevertheless, and the temple collapses so that his greatest victory is actually in his death. Again, this looks us to Christ giving his life to defeat all false gods. And where the devil or Christ's enemies might be credited with his death, we know it was actually God's doing and for his purposes (Acts 4v27-28).
            Chapter 17 begins the first of two terrible stories that show just how far from remaining set-apart Israel have become. Stealing from one’s parents was terrible. Yet on admitting it, Micah’s mother blesses him in the LORD’s name, and then “solemnly consecrates” the money for him to make an image and idol for his home! Yet Micah also makes a shrine, other idols, a priestly ephod which is first worn by one of his sons, and later by a Levite whom he pays to do the job. This is serious not only because of the idols, but because priests were to be from the line of Aaron and minister only at the place God designated. So Israel had embraced religious relativism, in which everyone could do their religion their way, and think this acceptable to God. Micah’s conclusion is deeply ironic: “Now I know that the LORD will be good to me.”
Things can be so bad within the church too, that those who confess Christ think they are actually honouring him by sanctioning the very things he forbids, whilst seeking out teachers who will teach “what their itching ears want to hear” (2 Tim 4v3). Obedience not sincerity is the mark of faithfulness. And without it, like Samson, the church cannot expect the LORD to remain with her, nor enable her to remain strong against the world, the flesh and the devil.

Praying it home:
Praise God that he is so gracious to us. Pray that the church and those who confess Christ would be convicted of where they are sanctioning what he forbids in his name.

Thinking further:
None today.

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  1. On 96, Judges 15-17, just wondering if there is a reason for substituting 'fiancee' for 'wife'?

  2. Well spotted Cora. It should read "wife" - I was still writing with her state when Samson just sought her out in mind. Jon