Samson – Fatal Attraction (Sermon, March 3, 2019)
Samson is the last judge, the end of the story – he is the “anti-peak”, the bottom of the spiral.
The story is layered like an onion:
- Samson, the man. His birth is foretold by an angel and he was to be dedicated to God – never to cut his hair or drink alcohol. He is set apart to God. Instead he is self-indulgent. He scoops honey from the carcass of a lion. This is a symbol of his life – he takes what is sweet, he takes what he wants. He has to have it. His vows are broken. His heart is fickle – he is more interested in the next pleasure rather than being faithful to God.
- It is also the story of Israel. Like Samson, Israel did not have time for God. They wanted to be like the people around them and this is what they pursued.
- It is a story about us. We may protest – but, like Samson and Israel, God calls us to be holy. We are fickle and desire more to fill our desires than to cling to God.
- It is a story about Jesus – really? Samson is an “anti-type.” He drives us to look for something better, a better savior – Jesus. The point is to make us long of something better. Samson's story ends with salvation. God saves his people at any cost and by any means. This is the story of the one who came to save us.
Thoughts on Devotions – LD38
Q. 103 What is God's will for you in the fourth commandment?
J. V. Fesko, in The Rule of Love, explains how the concept of Sabbath has changed during the story of salvation. In the garden of Eden, Adam was to rest from his labors and contemplate the goodness of God. After being delivered from Egypt, the Sabbath was to remind God's people of his deliverance. All along, however, it looked to God's eternal rest and proclaimed that we enter that rest not by our works but by grace – that is, through Christ's fulfillment of the required works. In this he notes that the death penalty associated in the OT with breaking the Sabbath is still in effect – if we try to enter on the merit of our own works instead of resting in Christ's work we will merit death. The Sabbath rest is a celebration of Christ's completion of the work required. Our attitude to the Sabbath may be telling – is it an obligation or is it a pleasure? Do we see it connected with Christ's work and our salvation? DeYoung, in The Good News We Almost Forgot, emphasizes that we are no longer held to strict Sabbath keeping. While Jesus kept the law perfectly, his discussion and demonstration of the Sabbath was of a day of freedom and for doing good. He notes that Calvin outlined three principles in regard to the Sabbath: 1) one day in seven should be set aside for worship; 2) we should trust Christ to provide for our material needs – we show this by resting from our labor; and 3) we need to rest in Christ for our spiritual needs and trust in him for salvation.
Monday: The Sabbath day of rest was established at the time of Creation, and then was incorporated into the law of the covenant with Israel in the Ten Commandments. Jesus, in keeping the Law, faithfully kept the Sabbath (even though the Pharisees would beg to differ). In the new covenant, the day of Christ's resurrection is defining moment that it became the day Christians gather to worship, replacing the Sabbath as outlined in the OT.
Genesis 2:1-3 The heavens and the earth were completed with everything that was in them. By the seventh day God finished the work that he had been doing, and he ceased on the seventh day all the work that he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because on it he ceased all the work that he had been doing in creation.
Exodus 20:8-11 “Remember the Sabbath day to set it apart as holy. For six days you may labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; on it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your cattle, or the resident foreigner who is in your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth and the sea and all that is in them, and he rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and set it apart as holy.
John 20:19-20 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the disciples had gathered together and locked the doors of the place because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Tuesday: The NT practice is to meet one day in seven to worship and do two of the church's most important tasks – Gospel proclamation in the preaching of the Word and teaching the “full counsel” of God. Churches are easily distracted from these two important tasks – we want to be attractive to the outside world, or sometimes we have just lost our way.
1 Timothy 3:14-15 I hope to come to you soon, but I am writing these instructions to you in case I am delayed, to let you know how people ought to conduct themselves in the household of God, because it is the church of the living God, the support and bulwark of the truth.
1 Tim. 4:6-11 By pointing out such things to the brothers and sisters, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, having nourished yourself on the words of the faith and of the good teaching that you have followed. But reject those myths fit only for the godless and gullible, and train yourself for godliness. For “physical exercise has some value, but godliness is valuable in every way. It holds promise for the present life and for the life to come.” This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance. In fact this is why we work hard and struggle, because we have set our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of believers. Command and teach these things.
Wednesday: The Lord's Day is to be a “festive day” - a celebration! We rejoice in hearing the Good News proclaimed, we participate in the sacraments (signs and seals of our faith) and we take joy in meeting with brothers and sisters in Christ – to encourage and be encouraged, to be nourished as others use their gifts (e.g., teaching) so that we can grow in the Lord.
Psalm 95:2 Letʼs enter his presence with thanksgiving! Letʼs shout out to him in celebration!
Isaiah 58:13-14 You must observe the Sabbath rather than doing anything you please on my holy day. You must look forward to the Sabbath and treat the Lordʼs holy day with respect. You must treat it with respect by refraining from your normal activities, and by refraining from your selfish pursuits and from making business deals. Then you will find joy in your relationship to the Lord, and I will give you great prosperity, and cause crops to grow on the land I gave to your ancestor Jacob.” Know for certain that the Lord has spoken.
Hebrews 10:23-25 And let us hold unwaveringly to the hope that we confess, for the one who made the promise is trustworthy. And let us take thought of how to spur one another on to love and good works, not abandoning our own meetings, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and even more so because you see the day drawing near.
Thursday: What are the things that God's people do when they gather on the Lord's Day? They are largely the same things that we read about in Acts when people gathered to worship: read the Word and hear it preached and taught; celebrate the sacraments; pray together; and bring offerings and gifts to support ministry and to care for the poor (both physical and spiritual poverty).
Acts 2:42-44 They were devoting themselves to the apostlesʼ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Reverential awe came over everyone, and many wonders and miraculous signs came about by the apostles. All who believed were together and held everything in common,
1 Timothy 4:13 Until I come, give attention to the public reading of scripture, to exhortation, to teaching.
1 Cor. 11:23-25 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
1 Tim. 2:1,8 First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people... So I want the men to pray in every place, lifting up holy hands without anger or dispute.
1 Cor. 16:1-2 With regard to the collection for the saints, please follow the directions that I gave to the churches of Galatia: On the first day of the week, each of you should set aside some income and save it to the extent that God has blessed you, so that a collection will not have to be made when I come.
Friday: The Sabbath is more than we see just on the surface – I is also a picture of what we have in Christ. It is a picture of the “rest” that Christ has earned for us – and one day will experience fully when He returns.
Hebrews 4:3, 8-10 For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said, “As I swore in my anger, ʻThey will never enter my rest!ʼ” And yet Godʼs works were accomplished from the foundation of the world... For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken afterward about another day. Consequently a Sabbath rest remains for the people of God. For the one who enters Godʼs rest has also rested from his works, just as God did from his own works.
Saturday: Jesus called people and promised to give them rest – he has finished the work of perfect obedience to God. When we trust in him we receive it as a gift – we must rest, stop any ideas of earning God's favor on our own. Jesus also gives us new hearts and we are free from having to be slaves of sin. In Jesus we also have rest as his Spirit within us produces fruit for God's glory. God's will for us is that we make every day a Sabbath day – resting in Jesus by faith and rejoicing in God's love for us.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”
Acts 13:38-39 Therefore let it be known to you, brothers, that through this one forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by this one everyone who believes is justified from everything from which the law of Moses could not justify you.
Romans 6:17 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to,
Romans 8:6-10 For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness.
Reading between the lines...
Paul tells us to submit to the governing authorities - “the powers that be”. Authorities have been established by God. But since they have been established by God as his servants, they are also answerable to him. Their role is to execute justice. Jesus shows how power is to be used in service – the Son of God became the slave of all.
Romans 13:1-7 Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by Godʼs appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad). Do you desire not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its commendation, for it is Godʼs servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be in fear, for it does not bear the sword in vain. It is Godʼs servant to administer retribution on the wrongdoer. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience. For this reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are Godʼs servants devoted to governing. Pay everyone what is owed: taxes to whom taxes are due, revenue to whom revenue is due, respect to whom respect is due, honor to whom honor is due.
Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
The world looks for God in two ways: 1) a miracle encounter, or 2) rational proof. Paul recognized these two groups in writing to the Corinthians. The Jews he was writing to wanted miraculous signs; the Greeks were used to rational understanding. In both cases members of the group were setting the terms on which they would deal with God. Paul says that God frustrates every such demand – in a world of power lovers and wisdom seekers, God shows up on a cross! It is scandalous - “stumbling block” is a translation of the Greek term skandalon, something that trips you up. The miracle lover is given weakness and a bloody corpse on a cross. The wisdom seeker is given foolishness – a God who dies. It is not what they want, but it is what God wants preached. But to those called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This is the greatest miracle imaginable – someone can stumble on the cross and say, “My Lord and my God!” and recognize it as God's power and God's wisdom. Death is defeated through dying; the curse defeated through condemnation. The Son glorified in shame. The living God is not found in the human search for power and wisdom – instead he serves and dies. He does not enforce our goodness; instead, he forgives our badness. The stumbling block is more wonderful than what we can imagine.
1 Cor. 1:22-25 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles. But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
People try to distract themselves from their feeble and mortal condition. In Paul's letter to the Corinthians he tells them to “stay put” – he gives three reasons: 1) remember your calling – God has called us into fellowship with the Son. If we are not content in that, changing our circumstances will not make a difference. We are to flee from sin, but not from our situation. 2) Mission – as we build up a witness in our station we can have a tremendous impact. 3) Because “the time is short” - don't live for our earthly circumstances; instead, live for “that day”. The message is not that our time to live is running out, but the time is short and then at the end of that time we will really live in the resurrection. We should look for contentment in Christ. If we are in difficult circumstances we can pray that we will have relief or be taken out of them, but that is not our “hope”. Instead we seek to know Jesus in the place that we are and to serve him there – take heart! The time is short.
1 Cor. 7:17 Nevertheless, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each person, so must he live. I give this sort of direction in all the churches.
1 Cor. 1:9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into fellowship with his son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
“All things to all men” does not refer to slick marketing campaign or devious social strategy – instead Paul is presenting a mission strategy of deep integrity which seeks to honor something far deeper than cultural expressions. In every situation Paul adopts cultural practices that are appropriate so that he can engage the person before him. Because he belongs to Christ, Paul is free from the claims of culture and can be flexible, and uses that flexibility and freedom to serve others so that some might be saved. But in all of this Paul's true allegiance and commitment is to Christ – his constant phrase is “in Christ”. His vision is that the Gospel is big enough to touch all people and that one day he will sit down at the feast with people of all cultural backgrounds. Paul is following Jesus in this endeavor – Jesus went so far as to become one of us in offering us salvation. We too can take this strategy in reaching out to all types of people that we encounter.
1 Cor. 9:19-23 For since I am free from all I can make myself a slave to all, in order to gain even more people. To the Jews I became like a Jew to gain the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) to gain those under the law. To those free from the law I became like one free from the law (though I am not free from Godʼs law but under the law of Christ) to gain those free from the law. To the weak I became weak in order to gain the weak. I have become all things to all people, so that by all means I may save some. I do all these things because of the gospel, so that I can be a participant in it.
Psalm 23, John 1 and 1 Corinthians 13 are some of the most recognizable parts of the Bible. People see 1 Cor. 13 as a scriptural “bubble bath” - warm, soothing and inoffensive. But it was a strong rebuke when read by the Corinthians. The first paragraph revoltionizes our thinking – Paul is saying that without love our spirituality is bankrupt. Impressive gifts without love are just noise. Impressive gifts of teaching or leadership without love are nothing. Gifts without the Spirit – manifest in love – are nothing. Without love, gifts are nothing. Is he saying put the gifts aside and focus on sacrificial service? He is not saying that either – love is still what qualifies the service as worthy. Love is the source and substance of the Christian life. We are loved by Christ and because of this we love others. The question to ask is, “Is the love of Jesus in you and does it come out of you?”
1 Cor. 13:1-3 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but I do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I give over my body in order to boast, but do not have love, I receive no benefit.
1 Cor. 13 is dynamite, exploding all our ideas about spirituality. Love never fails. We often can act loving to a certain point, but when we are faced with one thing too many, we lose it. When love is flourishing, boasting and envy are not issues – but they are huge issues for us. So what does that say about us? We must consider what Paul is describing – it is not an abstract noun with lots of adjectives to make it look really great. But love here is a concrete living thing that performs actions. Love is a power; love is a person. Christ exemplifies this in Gethsemane – he is overwhelmed, yet says yes to the fierce suffering that brings us peace. He exceeds all adjectives in the list – he never fails. We ask “what is love?” The better question is “who is love?” Love is a person – we love because he has first loved us. Love is first down to us, and then is done in us and through us.
Paul is not assessing the level of love a person has – either one has it or one does not. Either you have Jesus or you do not.
1 Cor. 13:4-7 Love is patient, love is kind, it is not envious. Love does not brag, it is not puffed up. It is not rude, it is not self-serving, it is not easily angered or resentful. It is not glad about injustice, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
1 John 4:19 We love because he loved us first.
We think of the present as reality. Paul says that when we compare our current life to resurrection life in Jesus, the present experiences are not the substantial ones. Paul uses 3 illustrations to compare now and then. In verse 10 he calls the future “perfection” - all things have come to the goal and completion. Verse 11 describes the future as maturity. Paul says that we are like children now compared to our wisdom and maturity in the resurrection. In verse 12 Paul talks about seeing “face to face”. It describes openness, adoration, intimacy with Jesus. Now we see “through a glass darkly” - we see Christ but things can be indistinct or confusing. We think that we are now seeing in technicolor, but Paul says that we cannot even imagine what it will be like then.
1 Cor. 13:8-13 Love never ends. But if there are prophecies, they will be set aside; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be set aside. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when what is perfect comes, the partial will be set aside. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I set aside childish ways. For now we see in a mirror indirectly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know fully, just as I have been fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.