Friday, June 23, 2017

In Death Samson Defeats the Philistines

God's Urgent Call
Called to Be Strong

Samson's Call

Judges 16:23-31 The Message

23-24 The Philistine tyrants got together to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon. They celebrated, saying,
Our god has given us
Samson our enemy!
And when the people saw him, they joined in, cheering their god,
Our god has given
Our enemy to us,
The one who ravaged our country,
Piling high the corpses among us.
25-27 Then this: Everyone was feeling high and someone said, “Get Samson! Let him show us his stuff!” They got Samson from the prison and he put on a show for them.
They had him standing between the pillars. Samson said to the young man who was acting as his guide, “Put me where I can touch the pillars that hold up the temple so I can rest against them.” The building was packed with men and women, including all the Philistine tyrants. And there were at least three thousand in the stands watching Samson’s performance.
28 And Samson cried out to God:
Master, God!
    Oh, please, look on me again,
    Oh, please, give strength yet once more.
    With one avenging blow let me be avenged
    On the Philistines for my two eyes!
29-30 Then Samson reached out to the two central pillars that held up the building and pushed against them, one with his right arm, the other with his left. Saying, “Let me die with the Philistines,” Samson pushed hard with all his might. The building crashed on the tyrants and all the people in it. He killed more people in his death than he had killed in his life.
31 His brothers and all his relatives went down to get his body. They carried him back and buried him in the tomb of Manoah his father, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
He judged Israel for twenty years.

For Reflection
"With Samson, you always get a little bit of good, and then a lot of bad. He seems to have been a mixed bag in almost everything that he did."* Samson seemed to do what he thought was good.  In this modern culture, there is a presumption for us to do what we think is right.  We celebrate this entitlement as freedom when in fact it may be a sign of enslavement to the cultural norms.  Many times such thinking ignores the common good and leads to spiritual blindness.  It is the worship of self-determination and the rejection of a superordinate obligation to the good of a community.  Being accountable only to one's self is the ultimate idolitery.

Pray that you will acknowledge the attraction and seduction of the pressure to conform to the material world. Pray for the courage to strengthen your faith and reject cultural conformity in times of temptation.  Pray, "Lead me not into temptation. Deliver me from evil. Preserve my soul."

*Richard T. Ritenbaugh, Sermon: Samson And The Christian (Part 6)

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Samson Conquers the Philistines

God's Urgent Call
Called to Be Strong

Samson's Call

Judges 15:1-8 The Message

15 1-2 Later on—it was during the wheat harvest—Samson visited his bride, bringing a young goat. He said, “Let me see my wife—show me her bedroom.”
But her father wouldn’t let him in. He said, “I concluded that by now you hated her with a passion, so I gave her to your best man. But her little sister is even more beautiful. Why not take her instead?”
3 Samson said, “That does it. This time when I wreak havoc on the Philistines, I’m blameless.”
4-5 Samson then went out and caught three hundred jackals. He lashed the jackals’ tails together in pairs and tied a torch between each pair of tails. He then set fire to the torches and let them loose in the Philistine fields of ripe grain. Everything burned, both stacked and standing grain, vineyards and olive orchards—everything.
6 The Philistines said, “Who did this?”
They were told, “Samson, son-in-law of the Timnite who took his bride and gave her to his best man.”
The Philistines went up and burned both her and her father to death.
7 Samson then said, “If this is the way you’re going to act, I swear I’ll get even with you. And I’m not quitting till the job’s done!”
8 With that he tore into them, ripping them limb from limb—a huge slaughter. Then he went down and stayed in a cave at Etam Rock.

For Reflection
Vengeance belongs to God, not to humankind.  Samson sought reconciliation with his wife only to be crossed by his father- in-law. Letting anger take hold of him, Samson, in a fit of vengeance, burned the Philistine crops. The act of revenge yielded more vengeance which spiraled into even more violence.   Only evil results from getting even.  It is not for us to give into anger and be tempted into Godlessness.

Pray that you will never give into the hate that is inherent in vengeance. Pray that you will find the grace to forgive those who trespass against you.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Samson Marries a Woman of Timnah

God's Urgent Call
Called to Be Strong

Samson's Call

Judges 14:1-9 The Message

14 1-2 Samson went down to Timnah. There in Timnah a woman caught his eye, a Philistine girl. He came back and told his father and mother, “I saw a woman in Timnah, a Philistine girl; get her for me as my wife.”
3 His parents said to him, “Isn’t there a woman among the girls in the neighborhood of our people? Do you have to go get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?”
But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the one I want—she’s the right one.”
4 (His father and mother had no idea that God was behind this, that he was arranging an opportunity against the Philistines. At the time the Philistines lorded it over Israel.)
5-6 Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother. When he got to the vineyards of Timnah, a young lion came at him, roaring. The Spirit of God came on him powerfully and he ripped it open barehanded, like tearing a young goat. But he didn’t tell his parents what he had done.
7 Then he went on down and spoke to the woman. In Samson’s eyes, she was the one.
8-9 Some days later when he came back to get her, he made a little detour to look at what was left of the lion. And there a wonder: a swarm of bees in the lion’s carcass—and honey! He scooped it up in his hands and kept going, eating as he went. He rejoined his father and mother and gave some to them and they ate. But he didn’t tell them that he had scooped out the honey from the lion’s carcass.

For Reflection
In spite of the warnings of his mother and father Samson's choice of a bride (by divine intention), is strategic Because Israel is under Philistine rule.  His marriage would let Samson get among them so that he could understand them and ultimately overcome them.

Samson's physical might is shown by his ability to kill the attacking lion and reap the rewards of honey.   This action is a strong metaphor which parallels the flight from Egypt and God's willingness to provide all thaa is necessary to sustain life both physically and spiritually.

Praise God for God's everlasting love of God's people.  Thank God for infinite second chances.  Pray for forgiveness, mercy and justice for all.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Vow of Separation to the Lord

God's Urgent Call
Called to Be Strong

Samson's Call

Numbers 6:1-12, 13-17 The Message

Nazirite Vows

6 1-4 God spoke to Moses: “Speak to the People of Israel; tell them, If any of you, man or woman, wants to make a special Nazirite vow, consecrating yourself totally to God, you must not drink any wine or beer, no intoxicating drink of any kind, not even the juice of grapes—in fact, you must not even eat grapes or raisins. For the duration of the consecration, nothing from the grapevine—not even the seeds, not even the skin—may be eaten.
5 “Also, for the duration of the consecration, you must not have your hair cut. Your long hair will be a continuing sign of holy separation to God.
6-7 “Also, for the duration of the consecration to God, you must not go near a corpse. Even if it’s the body of your father or mother, brother or sister, you must not ritually defile yourself because the sign of consecration to God is on your head.
8 “For the entire duration of your consecration you are holy to God.
13-17 “These are the instructions for the time set when your special consecration to God is up. First, you are to be brought to the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. Then you will present your offerings to God: a healthy yearling lamb for the Whole-Burnt-Offering, a healthy yearling ewe for an Absolution-Offering, a healthy ram for a Peace-Offering, a basket of unraised bread made of fine flour, loaves mixed with oil, and crackers spread with oil, along with your Grain-Offerings and Drink-Offerings. The priest will approach God and offer up your Absolution-Offering and Whole-Burnt-Offering. He will sacrifice the ram as a Peace-Offering to God with the basket of unraised bread, and, last of all, the Grain-Offering and Drink-Offering.

For Reflection
Many of us have consecrated our lives to the Living God. But, I am not sure that we followed the rituals that God outlined to Moses. The Nazirites set themselves apart from all others, binding themselves to the law of love. These rituals were a reflection of the signs of purity and in those days, were fitting to emphasize the righteousness of the consecration.

Few of us who consecrate themselves these days follow the rituals of the Nazirites.  Today what are the signs that we remain holy to the Lord? How do we keep ourselves pure in heart and life?

That you will remain obedient to the will of God.  Pray, that in binding yourself to the Livin God, you keep yourself pure in heart and life.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Samson's Birth

God's Urgent Call
Called to Be Strong

Sampson's Call

Judges 13:8-18 The Message

8 Manoah prayed to God: “Master, let the man of God you sent come to us again and teach us how to raise this boy who is to be born.”
9-10 God listened to Manoah. God’s angel came again to the woman. She was sitting in the field; her husband Manoah wasn’t there with her. She jumped to her feet and ran and told her husband: “He’s back! The man who came to me that day!”
11 Manoah got up and, following his wife, came to the man. He said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to my wife?”
He said, “I am.”
12 Manoah said, “So. When what you say comes true, what do you have to tell us about this boy and his work?”
13-14 The angel of God said to Manoah, “Keep in mind everything I told the woman. Eat nothing that comes from the vine: Drink no wine or beer; eat no ritually unclean foods. She’s to observe everything I commanded her.”
15 Manoah said to the angel of God, “Please, stay with us a little longer; we’ll prepare a meal for you—a young goat.”
16 God’s angel said to Manoah, “Even if I stay, I won’t eat your food. But if you want to prepare a Whole-Burnt-Offering for God, go ahead—offer it!” Manoah had no idea that he was talking to the angel of God.
17 Then Manoah asked the angel of God, “What’s your name? When your words come true, we’d like to honor you.”
18 The angel of God said, “What’s this? You ask for my name? You wouldn’t understand—it’s sheer wonder.”

For Reflection
Manoah's wife received a messenger from God to announce that she would bear a child.  The angel instructed her in rituals of purity so that the child would be pure at birth.  This visitation was a sign that the birth of Solomon was a sacred event that carried the promise of God's people. A birth of a child is as the angel proclaimed about his name, "sheer wonder."

Pray for the children.  Pray that they will grow to know God and follow God's precepts.  Pray that their lives will be full of realized promise.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Leaders Discern a Way Forward

God's Urgent Call
Called to Be Strong

Jephthah Answers the Call

Acts 15:6-21 The Message

6-9 The apostles and leaders called a special meeting to consider the matter. The arguments went on and on, back and forth, getting more and more heated. Then Peter took the floor: “Friends, you well know that from early on God made it quite plain that he wanted the pagans to hear the Message of this good news and embrace it—and not in any secondhand or roundabout way, but firsthand, straight from my mouth. And God, who can’t be fooled by any pretense on our part but always knows a person’s thoughts, gave them the Holy Spirit exactly as he gave him to us. He treated the outsiders exactly as he treated us, beginning at the very center of who they were and working from that center outward, cleaning up their lives as they trusted and believed him.
10-11 “So why are you now trying to out-god God, loading these new believers down with rules that crushed our ancestors and crushed us, too? Don’t we believe that we are saved because the Master Jesus amazingly and out of sheer generosity moved to save us just as he did those from beyond our nation? So what are we arguing about?”
12-13 There was dead silence. No one said a word. With the room quiet, Barnabas and Paul reported matter-of-factly on the miracles and wonders God had done among the other nations through their ministry. The silence deepened; you could hear a pin drop.
13-18 James broke the silence. “Friends, listen. Simeon has told us the story of how God at the very outset made sure that racial outsiders were included. This is in perfect agreement with the words of the prophets:
After this, I’m coming back;
    I’ll rebuild David’s ruined house;
I’ll put all the pieces together again;
    I’ll make it look like new
So outsiders who seek will find,
    so they’ll have a place to come to,
All the pagan peoples
    included in what I’m doing.
“God said it and now he’s doing it. It’s no afterthought; he’s always known he would do this.
19-21 “So here is my decision: We’re not going to unnecessarily burden non-Jewish people who turn to the Master. We’ll write them a letter and tell them, ‘Be careful not to get involved in activities connected with idols, to guard the morality of sex and marriage, to not serve food offensive to Jewish Christians—blood, for instance.’ This is basic wisdom from Moses, preached and honored for centuries now in city after city as we have met and kept the Sabbath.”

For Reflection
"God's War" is one to counter the effects of idolatry.  False gods of power, wealth, self-determination, or anything that denies the sovereignty of God and leads one away from obedience to God's precepts has its source in idolatry.  Believers can be seduced by idolatry and become convinced wrongly that their action is righteous and justified by God.

We must be careful to see ourselves as God sees us, in the context of a loving relationship.  If we dare assign a worldly event to the hand of God, we should do so with great care and examine the action in the context of inclusion into God's household.  Measure with the standards of compassion, love, forgiveness and distributive justice.  Look for the love in all things.

Pray that you will find the love of God and God's love for humankind in all matters.  Pray for the inclusion of all peoples into the household of God.  Pray long and often so that you will be able to discern the righteous path.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Ammorite King Rejects a Diplomatic Solution.

God's Urgent Call
Called to Be Strong

Jephthah Answers the Call

Judges 11:23-28 The Message

It was God, the God of Israel, who pushed out the Amorites in favor of Israel; so who do you think you are to try to take it over? Why don’t you just be satisfied with what your god Chemosh gives you and we’ll settle for what God, our God, gives us? Do you think you’re going to come off better than Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab? Did he get anywhere in opposing Israel? Did he risk war? All this time—it’s been three hundred years now!—that Israel has lived in Heshbon and its villages, in Aroer and its villages, and in all the towns along the Arnon, why didn’t you try to snatch them away then? No, I haven’t wronged you. But this is an evil thing that you are doing to me by starting a fight. Today God the Judge will decide between the People of Israel and the people of Ammon.”
But the king of the Ammonites refused to listen to a word that Jephthah had sent him.

For Reflection
Having tried and failed to establish a peaceful solution to the Ammonite threat, Jephthah has no other rational choice but to defend his people.  The King of the Ammonites has, for whatever reason, (perhaps because of the King's confidence in false gods) decided to pursue a bloody solution.

Convinced that his cause is righteous, Jephthah is sure that God will allow him to win the coming conflict.  To what extent is the defense against an aggressor justifiable?

Pray that you will be reluctant to settle matters with violence. Pray for those who prey on others in the hope God's word will satisfy their needs.  Pray for confidence in the realization of God's will for humankind.