Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 15 August 2022:
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. The Bible also points out that, while Samson’s parents had personal, powerful encounters with God, they never seemed to intervene in his life to hold him accountable to God’s standards. 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 and others. 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.
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.
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.
Luke 16:8, 9 — The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are shrewder in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
The dishonest manager was a steward to his master, responsible for representing the master’s interests and responsible for dealing with those indebted to the master. Jesus’ parable of the dishonest manager is directed at those “sons of light” who are unfaithful, uncommitted representatives of God and “those who justify [them]selves before men” – “God knows [their] hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15)
This parable was a real attention getter particularly because the manager (who is commended for his shrewdness) is an unsavory sort, the type that was particularly loathed by the poor crowd listening who had regularly been victimized by such unscrupulous middlemen. Jesus wasn’t commending the manager’s dishonesty but rather his shrewdness and willingness to recognize his perilous situation and change his ways before his judgment came. In this regard, Jesus is saying that the listener should learn a lesson which even the most unrighteous seem to understand.
The main point is that this unjust steward acted shrewdly. He took careful advantage of the opportunity he had to execute a well-devised scheme to secure his future. This is what people do in the sinful world, and some people are really good at it – they cleverly scheme and work very hard to secure their own futures, to build their kingdoms on earth. “See, this alone I found, that God made man upright, but they have sought out many schemes.” (Ecclesiastes 7:29) If only God’s people were as committed to seeking His Kingdom on earth as it is in Heaven and fulfilling the Great Commandment and Great Commission.
Throughout history, many brilliant people have acquired for themselves massive fortunes through clever schemes and much hard work, often at the expense of others. Jesus is contrasting what the world will do to build unrighteous, temporal, temporary kingdoms on earth with what the “sons of light” won’t do for sake of the Kingdom of God. If only the sons of light were as shrewd and committed as the sons of this world!
- Ephesians 5:16 – [Make] the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
Jesus rebukes his stewards (managers of the Master’s affairs) for showing less concern and commitment for His Kingdom than the unrighteous show for their kingdoms, and He gives them a warning – “And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.” What was He saying to them and to us? It is the same message He has been delivery all along –
- Matthew 6:19-21, 24, 33 — Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…. No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money…. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
- Matthew 28:18-20 — And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Our “unrighteous wealth,” the things of this broken world, will perish, but God’s Kingdom is eternal. Jesus tells us to use what unrighteous wealth (not that we earned it unethically but that it is part of the world’s corrupt system) we have to invest in the Kingdom, to be good stewards for God with what He has entrusted to us on this earth. We should be far shrewder and have a far greater sense of urgency than the unrighteous do for what is guaranteed to fail.
But how do we “make friends for [ourselves] who will receive [us] into the eternal dwellings”? Again, Jesus told us – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” The word “steward” is used many times in the Bible in various forms, but if you do a word search, you will notice that, in the Old Testament, it is used to refer to the management of resources, but in the New Testament, it is used primarily to refer to the stewardship of the Gospel message – We are entrusted by the Master with His riches of the Gospel to share with others on His behalf. Our God-given responsibility is the share the Gospel in word and in deed, and Jesus says, we must all show a greater commitment for the Gospel than the richest people on earth show for their temporal estates. How many people will welcome you into Heaven because you personally shared the Gospel with them so they could have eternal life and meet you there? How many?
- 1 Corinthians 4:1 — This is how one should regard us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.
- 1 Corinthians 4:2 — Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful.
- Titus 1:7 — For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain….
- 1 Peter 4:10 –As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace….
- 1 Corinthians 9:17 — For if I do this of my own will, I have a reward, but if not of my own will, I am still entrusted with a stewardship.
- Ephesians 3:2 — …assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you….
- Colossians 1:25 — …of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known….
- 1 Timothy 1:4 — …nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith.
How shrewd are you willing to be for sake of the Gospel? Do you have a greater sense of urgency for the Gospel than the unrighteous steward in today’s parable had for his own future security? Have you been a righteous steward with the Gospel, or is the Holy Spirit convicting you otherwise with this parable given to you by Jesus?
- 2 Corinthians 5:17-20 — Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
Luke 16:10 – One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.
“God rewards those who are faithful. Throughout your life God will seek to grow you in your faith. He will continually bring you to times when you must trust Him. He will lead you into situations that require a “little” faith, and if you are faithful, He will then take you into situations that require even greater trust in Him. Each time you are able to trust God at a higher level, God will reveal more of Himself to you. Your faith and experiencing God are directly linked.
The best way to tell if you are prepared for a greater revelation of God is to see how faithful you have been with what God has given you. This is a foundational principle in God’s relationships with us: If you have been faithful with the little He has given you, you are ready to be entrusted with more. If you failed to trust God with the little He gave you, He will not trust you with more. God will not lead you beyond your present level of trust and obedience to Him. He will return you to your area of unfaithfulness until you are prepared to trust Him. The children of Israel were unwilling to trust God to lead them into the Promised Land, and their generation never again was able to move forward with Him.
You stand at an exciting new door of opportunity to know God more intimately every time you believe Him. Every step of faith leads you to a deeper relationship of faith with Him. It is an open invitation to know God more intimately.” (Henry T. Blackaby)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 15 August 22: Today, be shrewd with the Gospel, and find ways to share it with as many people as you can.