Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Chronological Reading Plan for April 3, Judges 13-15

Today's readings are Judges 13-15. Tomorrow's are Judges 16-18. 

Ah, yes. Samson. If you read his story carefully, it runs through ch 16, you get an overview of how Israel is in total disarray and confusion. Samson is a snapshot of what Israel looks like in his day. 

Far from the courageous hero we learned about in Sunday School, Samson is a living dichotomy.  Samson is of the tribe of Dan. You remember them. They were the ones who could not take their allotted land and went North to take the land of a passive and weak people (Josh 19:40-48). Samson is physically strong but morally weak. He made incredibly poor decisions and was unable to control his emotions, yet God continued to use him. Samson held true to his Nazarite vows (except when he touched the carcass of the lion!) but totally disregarded his Hebrew tradition and tenets of his faith. He married the wrong women (Timnath was a Philistine), did questionable things and was so enamored with pleasing himself, became astoundingly naive with Delilah, who seduced him the same way the Philistines were seducing Israel. Delilah was clearly Samson's enemy but Samson was so blinded by lust that he was unable to see it. Israel was in the same position with Philistia, opposed to them but lusting after the things they had. 

There is something to be learned about practicing faith (Samson's dedication to the Nazarite vows) without having your heart committed to being faithful (his disregard for God's commands). God gave Samson life through a barren woman, blessed him with extraordinary strength and gave him victory. In the end, it was his own self-centeredness that defeated him.

Samson's victories, while spectacular, are short lived and have no real significance. The Philistines will remain a problem until well after David becomes king.  

Samson is a perfect example of how easy it can be to read a text through long-established filters. In wanting to conform Samson to ideas that may have been planted decades ago, we miss the fact that many of Samson's decisions are incredibly poor (Judges 14:1; 16:1) and get him in trouble. God delivers, but that deliverance never mitigates poor decisions. 

In the end, the Philistines are wounded but healthy. Samson is dead. The people he led for 20 years are startlingly weak and theologically inept (wait until you see ch 17). 

Israel is on a downhill slide. The mistakes and failings of their invasion of the Promised Land are starting to catch up to them. Everything God warned them about is coming to pass. They are marrying into the native tribes, calling out to their gods and living like they do. 

The most amazing thing we see here is that God remains faithful. He continues to send redeemers. For certain, there is a price to pay but, through it all, the Israelites remain His children. 

The good news for you and me is that whenever Israel calls out to God with a truly repentant heart, He delivers them. Why? Because He loves them. Notwithstanding the consequences of their wrong actions, God wants to refine them, not destroy them. He wants to bring them closer, not punish them. It's a beautiful life-lesson. He wants the same thing for us.

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