Short daily devotionals for the socially distanced. These are thoughts from my daily time in the word. I use a bible reading plan that will have me in a different section of Scripture every day.
I hope they serve to give you courage and hope. You can subscribe to receive them as a daily email at the bottom of the page.
Tuesday, April 13th
Reading: Judges 15-18
30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.
— Jdg 16:30.
I grew up in church, and so I have a lot of memories from childhood Sunday school classes. I can remember the felt board lessons on Noah’s ark, where the ark’s depictions always had a couple of giraffe heads sticking out from the roof. I can remember the lessons about Joseph’s technicolor dream coat, and I can remember being sympathetic to his brothers, because he kinda came across as pretty full of himself, and having been from a house with lots of kids, I knew what it felt like to deal with the insecurity that suggested that your parents might have favored one of the other children, and in the case of Josephs’ brothers, they were right!
I also remember lots of lessons about Samson, and how he pushed down the pillars at a great Philistine party and killed thousands of people. Even as a young kid, the story felt strangely inappropriate for children, and I didn’t even know at the time that most of the HBO parts of Samson’s story were left out. They didn’t have felt board characters for Samson’s crazy anger outbursts, his cruelty to animals, or his … um … interest in the ladies. But, I can remember a felt board depiction of Samson, eyes gouged out, hair sprouting out of a recently shaved head in just a few desperate clumps, hands on two great pillars, and he was pushing, with all he had, and the building was falling down. It was striking, and startling, and tragic and even then I had no idea what to make of it. I am not sure my Sunday school teacher did either.
“Okay kids. The moral of the story is … um … well … watch out for girls called Delilah, and try to not cut your hair and stuff … that’s all the time we have. See you next week, now eat some sweets while we wait for your parents.”
When I re-read the story of Samson today, it was no less tragic but I could see some of the strands of grace. A man with low impulse control, who is remarkably gifted by God’s Spirit but who cannot control his ego, his temper or his sex drive ends up being weakened and humiliated, and the only glimpse of redemption comes in the form of self-destructive revenge, and yet, God uses Him in the ongoing advance of His Kingdom, and gifts him grace and power, in spite of himself. That’s just like God, to love and empower and work through really flawed people.
But, as I thought about Samson’s last minutes, I couldn’t help but think of the greater evidence of God’s grace that we see in the last minutes of Jesus, and how He points us to something so much greater than Samson ever could.
Both Samson and Jesus were mocked by great crowds. Samson sought revenge, while Jesus remained silent.
Both Samson and Jesus uttered prayers about their attackers. Samson asked God for the death of the Philistines, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
Both Samson and Jesus cried out to God. Samson asked for God to fill him with power for destruction, Jesus loudly mourned His sense of being forsaken by the Father in His greatest weakness.
Both Samson and Jesus died with outstretched arms. Samson’s life was taken in the destruction of many others, Jesus’ life was given in the saving of many others.
Friends, when reading the Bible, we have the accounts of the great characters of old, and they are helpful in giving us examples and in showing us how God’s grace works towards sinners, AND, we must view these stories through the lens of our Lord Jesus Christ who came to show us a better way and to win us ultimately for His Kingdom. Our hope is not in the strength of Samson, but rather in the apparent weakness of Jesus, who is better than Samson in every possible way.
You have a mighty strong warrior who stretched out His hands for you. Instead of crashing a building on our heads, He took the destruction on Himself. Now, that is worth a Sunday school lesson.
Courage, dear friends.