Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 23 Apr 18:
1. Judges 13:1 — “The LORD gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.” God’s discipline of the nation lasted for decades.
2. Judges 13:4 — “Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean.” God expects parents to prepare themselves to raise godly children and then guide them in godliness at the earliest of age.
3. Judges 13:8 — “Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: ‘O Lord, I beg you, let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.” Oh, what a different world it would be if more parents sought the Lord’s guidance and direction in raising their children as did Manoah. The Bible says that a primiary purpose of marriage is to raise up godly children (Malachi 2:15). Parents are accountable before God for how they raise their children. Proverbs tell parents, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it (Proverbs 22:6),” and the key to parenting is to teach children “so that [their] trust may be in the Lord (Proverbs 22:19).” Parents have no greater responsibility in life.
4. Judges 14:2 — “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” Hebrews 11 lists Gideon, Jephthah, and Samson in the “Hall of Fame of Faith,” as men who “were made strong out of weakness (Hebrews 11:34).” These were all men who had been uniquely and mightily empowered by God but let pride, lust, and self-centeredness get the best of them. They failed to guard their hearts – “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life (Proverbs 4:23).” An uninspired book written by men for the sake of a false religion would have made these “heroes” out to be both mighty and noble in character, but the word of God intentionally reveals the truth of these men to reveal the truth of our sinful condition, the truth of God’s holiness, mercy, grace, love and righteousness, and the truth of our need to walk by the Spirit in obedience and not by the flesh. Samson was set apart as a Nazarite (Numbers 6) for a great mission, and he was mightily empowered by God for God’s purposes. However, although empowered by the Spirit, Samson did not walk by the Spirit but rather walked in the flesh, (Galatians 5:16-26) recklessly pursuing self-gratification, never asking God, “What is to be [my] manner of life, and what is [my] mission (Hebrews 13:12)?” He stubbornly and irrationally pursued his own passions. Notice in our readings today that, while his parents had personal, powerful encounters with God, there is no recorded dialogue between Samson and God, no prayer life, no concern for God’s word. It wouldn’t be long before Samson broke every vow of the Nazarite and committed many other sins too. In today’s readings, he marries a Philistine woman (forbidden by God in Deuteronomy 7) because he was attracted to her (Judges 14:3). He eats honey out of the carcass of a dead lion, even offering honey to his parents, blatantly defying the Nazarite requirement not to touch the dead, and he is driven by fits of rage and “hot anger” (see Galatians 5:20). Though God would still accomplish His purposes through Samson, despite Samson’s blatant infidelity, the consequences of Samson’s behavior would be needlessly devastating to him. Already, Samson has lost his first wife — “And Samson’s wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man (Judges 14:20).” What can be confusing in our readings is the fact that Samson’s improper marriage was “from the Lord” (Judges 14:4) and that despite Samson’s incredible sin, the Spirit continued to empower him. Is God condoning or overlooking sin? Did God intend for Samson to sin? No. The Bible is clear that “God cannot be tempted with evil, and He Himself tempts no one (James 1:13).” God used the truth of Samson’s bad character and the inevitable fruit of Samson’s bad character to reveal truth and expose sin. Notice that when the Spirit empowers Samson it is either to protect Samson or to bring destruction upon the Philistines, not to enable sin. As we shall see, God doesn’t overlook Samson’s sin at all – Samson will soon be driven to his knees. The truth can be revealed in a positive way or a negative way. I pray that we will walk by the Spirit, not by the flesh, that the Truth will be revealed to a watching world through our lives in a very positive way.
5. Judges 14:3 — “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” What is right in our own eyes is not what matters but rather what is right in God’s eyes.
6. Judges 14:20 — “And Samson’s wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man.” Samson’s closest relationships with unbelievers were unreliable. God is love. Those who do not know God cannot truly love others.
7. Proverbs 23:1-3 – “When you sit down to eat with a ruler, observe carefully what is before you…. Do not desire his delicacies, for they are deceptive food.” The American Founding Fathers had a healthy distrust of government for good reason. As the saying goes, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. God gives authority to government, and we are to submit to it. Government is necessary as a means to protect life and property. But any government of man will reflect man’s fallenness and shortcomings, and government often empowers sin. There is no such thing as a Christian nation. There are only are Christian people who may influence a nation and its processes. Christians in America are given a unique access to government, which we should use wisely; but it is important that we maintain perspective on the realities of government. When we start to think that our hope is in government, we are in danger. Political leaders promise many delicacies, but it is deceptive food. There are no gifts from the government that don’t have a string attached.
8. Proverbs 23:4 – “Do not toil to acquire wealth; be discerning enough to desist.” Do not think that your security comes from wealth and so neglect your relationship with God. If you cannot find time to study the Bible, pray, fellowship with your church, raise your family as disciples, minister to the needs of others, etc, you are doing something wrong.
9. Proverbs 23:17 – “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the LORD all the day.” Obey and follow God; don’t just do what is popular.
10. Romans 9:1, 2 — “I am speaking the truth in Christ—I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit— that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” Paul loved his people so much that he was willing to confront them with the truth, even at the expense of his relationship with them, even at the expense of his own life. He sought peace – peace between them and God, not peace with them (a truce) while they remained in sin. On the contrary, he was willing to cause conflict in order promote love, true love, love that can only come from fellowship with God. He would rather be hated that they might learn the love of Christ. John the Baptist had the same heart for Herod when he challenged Herod on his adultery. Do you have the heart for those around you to tell them the truth, to call them to repentance in love?
11. Romans 9:8 — “This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” God has spiritual children on earth but no grandchildren. Spiritual birth is strictly between God and the individual and has nothing to do with earthly heritage. Galatians 3:29 — “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”
12. Romans 9:18 – “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.” It is impossible for us to understand what God is doing in the lives of others or who God will draw to His Son. At one point, Paul, still known as Saul, actively persecuted Christians; would you have maintained hope in his salvation at that time, prayed for him earnestly from the heart, and sought opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to him? Or would you have view him as the enemy, seeking ill will towards him? The Bible reminds us that people are not the enemy; Satan who controls them is the enemy. People separated from God are the goal of our mission. Prayer is our primary weapon. It might have been wise to avoid Paul when he was still Saul, but during that time praying for him and remaining prepared to proclaim the Gospel to him in word and deed remained essential. Check your perspective and your heart very carefully when dealing with ungodly people, particularly ungodly people who threaten you in some way. Pray for them with a genuine heart for their reconciliation; and if you find any resentment in your own heart, pray that God will conform your hear to that of Jesus’ who died for those who persecuted Him.
13. Romans 9:32 — Faith without works is dead. Works without faith is also dead. Salvation comes through faith. Obedience is the natural result of faith. Jesus is very clear, those who truly love Him obey Him because they love Him and are compelled to care deeply about what He cares about. Those who love Jesus need not be constrained by the Law. The Law is still valid, reflecting the character and desires of God, but no longer something one struggles over.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 23 April: Today, always speak the truth in love when others need to hear it (Romans 9:1, 2). Remember that you are an ambassador for Christ, and your goal is to bring others to peace with God (reconciliation), not necessarily to keep the peace when sin abounds. Consider the words of Jesus — “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth (John 18:37).”