I read Judges 13 this morning and it kinda felt like I had never read it before. It was like maybe little elves (spiritual elves, of course) came and added it to my Bible overnight. (C’mon…it could happen.) It is a whole chapter – 25 verses – describing the encounter(s) of Samson’s parents with the angel of the LORD.
The account happens during yet another downward cycle of Israel in their rebellion and disobedience to God, they are being run over by the Philistines (again), but God is preparing to help them (again), despite their repeated rejection of Him. (again). Don’t let the cycle of Judges blow past you either – our God is faithful – he works his plan. We are like Israel – disobedient, prideful, doing what is right in our own eyes – and yet he offers us grace and redemption.
Like Abram/Sarai, Elizabeth/Zechariah, and Mary/Joseph the/an angel of the LORD appears and declares that a child will be born. The angel of the LORD (if you ask Mark Driscoll, anytime we see “the” angel of the LORD it’s a Christophany – an appearance of Jesus himself) appears to Manoah, the father of Samson to announce this and give them instruction, the angel leaves. Manoah, wanting more information prays to God and asks that the angel return to teach them how to fulfill this mission and the angel returns. After a little instruction (oddly enough to the mother, not about Samson), the offer of a snack, and a little burnt offering the angel leaves. Time goes by, Samson is born…end of chapter. So what do we see?
- God working his plan of redemption – I said it above but it bears repeating. God’s plan cannot be stopped, he is working his plan to bring about redemption for all nations in Israel, a stubborn and rebellious people. (Hmm…sounds familiar) Ultimately, this will be revealed to be thru Jesus.
- Look at the diligence of Manoah – he asks God to have the angel return so that he can learn more in order to follow instructions exactly
- Look at the faith of Manoah – note v12 and v17 “When your words come true…” not “If…” Do we have that kind of faith?
- Look at the self-control and dedication required of Samson and his mother – Samson is to take a Narzirite vow – a temporary vow dedicating oneself to God involving several provisions, one of them being no alcohol. This verse isn’t teaching it’s wrong to drink alcohol (though being drunk is clearly a sin), but rather look at the conditioning of the soul and spirit for a life devoted to God. God teaches big things through self-discipline with a spirit to honor Him. Have you ever fasted? Try it…you’ll see amazing things about your heart revealed…
Lastly, look at the reverence of Manoah – much like Isaiah, Manoah says that they are definitely dead because they saw God. (If you ask me, I think this was an appearance of Jesus, as they refer to the angel as “God” and well…contrary to what the Jehovah’s Witnesses will tell ya…Jesus IS God and that’s clear in many places in Scripture.) We are human, sinful, selfish, rebellious…like Israel in the OT – God is perfect, 100% sinless and holy, sovereign, full of mercy and grace. Thus we cannot approach God in our sinful state – our sin prevents us from doing so. What’s the hope? Nothing. Apart from Jesus Christ that is – that thru faith in who Jesus was (God in the flesh) and what he did (lived the perfect life we could not and died as our substitutionary sacrifice and giving us HIS righteousness) we can be restored to God.
Whether or not this is actually Jesus appearing to Samson’s Mom and Dad is yet to be confirmed – but there is no denying that there are shadows of our need for a Savior because of our sinfulness, and God’s holiness in Judges. The plan of God moves forward and redemption is available to us still today in Him alone.
You may have heard me say it a lot – worship is not only just singing. In fact, singing is a very small percent of worship – we worship with our entire being and person. We are all created to be worshipers, therefore we all worship something – so what is it?
God created the world and created us to enjoy him and his creation that points back to him and his greatness. In Romans 1 he says that this is obvious – just walk outside or sit by the ocean or the Grand Canyon, or the mountains and it smacks you in the face – there is a Creator.
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:19-20, ESV)
Knowledge that there is a God and that he is eternally powerful and divine (not human) is “plain to” us in Creation. The Apostle Paul then uses stronger language and says that we are “without excuse!” We can’t say to God that “Oh, gee, I didn’t know you existed.” He made everything in such obvious complex beauty and structure it is obvious that he exists.
And so if it so obvious that he exists, it also should be a given that he is to be worshiped. C.J. Mahaney once said something to the effect that there are two categories- the created things and the Creator. By nature and design the created things worship the Creator.
We are part of the created things and therefore need to worship the one who created us, but this isn’t just singing songs – it’s devoting our whole lives in worship to God. He has provided a way for us to worship him fully in Jesus Christ. For as created things, we sin and that sin separates us from a 100% sinLESS God. This is a cosmic dilemma for we cannot fix this separation ourselves. God in his grace has provided a mediator for us in Jesus. Thru faith in Jesus and perseverance of a life dedicated to God we are restored and the separation repaired – this is the gospel. God’s Gospel. His design and creation to reconcile us to himself.
Paul also uses strong language that we are to “obey” this – calling it the obedience of faith in v5. The bad part is that if we do not obey, we’ll still be worshipers – however we’ll worship the created things, instead of the Creator (v25) – and when worship is directed at the wrong things – it all goes wrong. The list of sins that stem from this worship problem is astounding, and we see it everywhere today. Check out v26-32 for a commentary on much of what we see today.
No one will deny that this world is jacked up, that’s obvious too. But, God is working his plan to fix what sin has broken and restore his creation back to him. Let’s remember that creation itself screams out that God exists and the sin we see is an indication of a fundamental worship problem – and let’s all rightfully worship our Creator thru faith in Jesus.
I found myself in a very familiar place this AM in Philippians 3:12-15
“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you” (Philippians 3:12–15 ESV)
- We continue to press on – literally ‘pursue’ this
- This is our work to take hold of what God has worked in Jesus
- We strain forward – literally ‘stretch forward’ like a runner for the finish
- The goal is God himself – finding all our satisfaction, purpose, identity, worship in Him
- This is maturity – we need to be speaking to our own selves that this is truth, resist the enemy and to this. Confirm this word in our lives (Deut 27:26; James 1:22-25)
As I prayed thru this verse, and iChatted with my wife (Hey, I’m a multi-tasker…)- she encouraged my soul, as the good, Godly woman that she is with Zechariah 2:5 where God promises Israel that he himself will be their wall of protection – as the Piper post she forwarded me said -
And it gets better. Inside that fiery wall of protection he says, “And I will be the glory in her midst.” God is never content to give us the protection of his fire; he will give us pleasure of his presence.
God gives us strength and endurance, but he also gives us HIMSELF in Jesus. This is the end of it all – the true worship of our Creator with our entire lives. May we all have strength and maturity to pursue that today, the upward call of God in Christ Jesus!
“Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
(Ephesians 4:16–24 ESV)
As believers in Jesus, we are called to think differently – if you’ve ever noticed the way non-believers live their lives – sometimes we are shocked when they sin so openly – why? In a sense they don’t know any better because their minds are darkened and their hearts are hardened.
We see a contrast in how believers in Jesus are to be thinking and living – three important things – (1) put off sin (2) renew the way we think and (3) Put on new self
The old self belongs to the old way of thinking, the hard heart, the non-believing heart and we are called to put it off. We are called to think in line with how we are as new creatures in Christ. Align our thoughts with the spiritual reality of who we are. – this is work that we are called to do – Jesus has done the perfect work on the cross, but now we are called to do the spiritual work of living up to the reality of who we are in Chirst. That leads us to number 3 – we are created in the likeness of God, but in Chirst we are righteous and holy – we “put on” (as in outward actions) our new self – we wear it out – the last part of our passage tells us what that looks like:
“Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
(Ephesians 4:24–32 ESV)
Let our lives be outwardly characterized by speaking truth and not lies, not letting anger and other emotions rule our actions, doing honest work, being a responsible contributor to others’ needs. Watching our words – are they corrupting? (tearing down?) or building up (and giving grace to everyone, by standards included). Are we bitter? or are we kind, tenderhearted, forgiving?
All of this is because of what God has done or us in Jesus – we did nothing to attract him – we only offer our sin, and in the grace and love of God in Jesus he restores us, reconciles us, forgives us. How much should that dictate the way we live our lives? Not walking in the old self, but continuously renewing our minds to align ourselves to our new spiritual selves in Jesus.
Psalm 86 is a very powerful Psalm – you can tell that David is writing this as someone in the midst of a trial as v1 shows a man desperately seeking God as he is “poor and needy,” v2 asks for God to “preserve his life,” and “save your servant.”
David is crying out to God in a desperate time in his life – in the Hebrew “Lord” in v3 (and 6 other places” is “Adonai” which is “Sovereign.” Here we see a very important thing about David’s perspective – he is in a desperate situation,but he knows who God is and he is calling up on the Sovereign nature of God. God is in control of all things, and is working his plan for his glory.
It’s interesting to note what David does not pray for – that God would get him out of this situation, or simply ‘make the pain go away.’ Verses 11-13 a great summary of what he is praying for:
Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
He wants to know God’s ways more, he wants to live them, he want his whole being to be one to honor, respect, revere God. As one commentator puts it:
[David] does not mean ‘teach me how to get out of this trouble’ but ‘teach me, while the trouble still rages, to live your way’. Undivided heart, ‘unite/unify my heart’, deliver me from being double–minded, two–faced with God; give me ‘a single, steady aim, unmoved by threatening or reward, to you and your great name’.
As comfy Americans, this goes against everything we know in our blood. God is there to make our lives more comfortable and take the pain away. When we are facing pain, we just call out to God and ask him to make it stop. Yet, that is not what we see here from David – God is sovereign above all, and yes, even the pain he is working in for his purposes and our growth. This Psalm should change the way we pray, moving the focus from us to God himself – that we may turn over all of our selves to him and seek to know him more. As v12-13 says:
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.
God has rescued us from our sin and the penalty of it in Jesus. May our focus on Him create thankfulness in our hearts and outward lives lead for his glory.
The book of Deuteronomy is largely a restatement of the law that was given to God’s people, but now as they are ready to enter the promised land after their 40 years in the desert, they are hearing it again before their mission continues to drive out the inhabitants of the land.
Thus…when something gets said twice or summarized, it’s usually pretty important. In 6:4-7 we see a very famous summary:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. 6 And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. 7 You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
We see a few things here:
- There is one God, and you are one in God. Written in a world of many “gods” this is a powerful statement – there is only one true God. Also the word “you” in v5 is singular – the people of God are united in the one God.
- Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. This phrase carries the meaning of “the whole person.” Israel was being called to love the one true God with their whole lives, let no part of your heart, soul, or mind be not serving God in loving worship. One God – your many lives lived as one all with everything you have for God’s purposes and glory.
- Teach with your life. As parents we are to pass on our 100% love for God to our kids – both in teaching with actual words of God in the Bible – but also in everyday life – when we’re sitting at home, walking (or driving now as the case may be), when resting…all the time. All of our time with our family – redeemed for one purpose – loving God. Fathers, we are called to lead the way here – Eph 6:4
Lest we think that these are only commands given to ancient Israel and no longer apply to us today…(1) He is still the same God. The God of the OT is not a different God from the NT. Why would we not continue to love him with everything we have? (2) Jesus famously sums this as the greatest commandment in Matt 22:36-38.
If we have repented of our sins, put our full faith and trust in Jesus for restoration and healing, and are persevering in our walk today – we are united in Jesus. We are part of the new covenant that the old covenant laid the foundation for – Jesus fulfilled it for us! How much more now shall we love God with all of our being? We live and work not for God’s acceptance and love, but because we are loved and accepted by God in Christ!
Sometimes we hear people say that they want to get back to a sort of “Acts 2″ philosophy of church ministry, and that isn’t always a bad thing. We see a powerful, growing church in Acts 2 – devotion to God’s word, building each other up in the faith, spending life together (both in the church and at homes), and an intentional prayer life – not to mention a very strong others-orientation – some even selling their material things in order to make sure that other members had their needs met.. Those are all good things.
But what struck me this morning, perhaps it’s because of Good Friday being 2 days away are two things:
- The amazing foreknowledge of God. Peter in his sermon to the crowd states that Jesus was “delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” (2:23) The cross was not a reaction, it was not a “Plan B” – as Pastor Matt Chandler says in his book Explicit Gospel “The cross of Jesus Christ was not some surprise, not some plan B for God, but rather the plan known within the Godhead since the beginning. God’s response to the belittlement of his name, from the beginning of time, has been the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on a Roman cross.” As we celebrate this weekend, let’s also celebrate the amazing, intentional, unstoppable redemptive plan of God to bring a sinful human race back to himself.
- David saw the resurrection of the Christ. 2:31 says something amazing about David, and I think it’s another passage that answers the questions “How did God see David – the adulterer, murder, etc – as ‘man after his own heart?” – “David foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ.” David was looking ahead to the Messiah and understood that he would come and be sacrificed for the sins of the world and would rise again. This is where he placed his faith. Yes, he had massive personal sin issues – but if the cross of the Christ is powerful enough to cover them – isn’t it then powerful enough to cover our sins? Then what is stopping us from running to God instead of running away from God when we sin? Look at the amazing knowledge of our God – he knows it all anyway.
Foreknowledge and other attributes that show God’s massiveness should bring us comfort that there is nothing that God doesn’t know and control in line with his beautiful merciful plan of redemption. David knew this truth and even applied it to the Christ, according to Peter in our text today. This brings peace and fullness of joy.
For David says concerning him,
“‘I saw the Lord always before me,
for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken;
therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced;
my flesh also will dwell in hope.
For you will not abandon my soul to Hades,
or let your Holy One see corruption.
You have made known to me the paths of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ (Acts 2:25-28, ESV)