March 31, 2015

Judges 13-14 - And then the People of Israel were back at it again, doing what was evil in God’s sight. God put them under the domination of the Philistines for forty years.

At that time there was a man named Manoah from Zorah from the tribe of Dan. His wife was barren and childless. The angel of God appeared to her and told her, “I know that you are barren and childless, but you’re going to become pregnant and bear a son. But take much care: Drink no wine or beer; eat nothing ritually unclean. You are, in fact, pregnant right now, carrying a son. No razor will touch his head—the boy will be God’s Nazirite from the moment of his birth. He will launch the deliverance from Philistine oppression.”

The woman went to her husband and said, “A man of God came to me... ‘You’re pregnant. You’re going to give birth to a son. Don’t drink any wine or beer and eat nothing ritually unclean. The boy will be God’s Nazirite from the moment of birth to the day of his death.’”

Manoah prayed to God: “Master, let the man of God you sent come to us again and teach us how to raise this boy who is to be born.”  God listened to Manoah. God’s angel came again to the woman....The angel of God said to Manoah, “Keep in mind everything I told the woman... Manoah had no idea that he was talking to the angel of God....As the flames leapt up from the altar to heaven, God’s angel also ascended in the altar flames. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell facedown to the ground. Manoah and his wife never saw the angel of God again.  Only then did Manoah realize that this was God’s angel... 

The woman gave birth to a son. They named him Samson. The boy grew and God blessed him. The Spirit of God began working in him while he was staying at a Danite camp between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Samson went down to Timnah. There in Timnah a woman caught his eye, a Philistine girl. He came back and told his father and mother, “I saw a woman in Timnah, a Philistine girl; get her for me as my wife.”  His parents said to him, “Isn’t there a woman among the girls in the neighborhood of our people? Do you have to go get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the one I want—she’s the right one.” (His father and mother had no idea that God was behind this, that he was arranging an opportunity against the Philistines. At the time the Philistines lorded it over Israel.)

Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother. When he got to the vineyards of Timnah, a young lion came at him, roaring. The Spirit of God came on him powerfully and he ripped it open barehanded, like tearing a young goat. But he didn’t tell his parents what he had done....Some days later when he came back to get her, he made a little detour to look at what was left of the lion. And there a wonder: a swarm of bees in the lion’s carcass—and honey! He scooped it up in his hands and kept going, eating as he went. He rejoined his father and mother and gave some to them and they ate. But he didn’t tell them that he had scooped out the honey from the lion’s carcass...

Because the people were wary of Samson, they arranged for thirty friends to mingle with him.  Samson said to them: “Let me put a riddle to you. If you can figure it out during the seven days of the feast, I’ll give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of fine clothing. But if you can’t figure it out then you’ll give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of fine clothing.” They said, “Put your riddle. Let’s hear it.” 

So he said, From the eater came something to eat, From the strong came something sweet.

They couldn’t figure it out. After three days they were still stumped. On the fourth day they said to Samson’s bride, “Worm the answer out of your husband or we’ll burn you and your father’s household.... So Samson’s bride turned on the tears, saying to him, “You hate me. You don’t love me. You’ve told a riddle to my people but you won’t even tell me the answer.”
He said, “I haven’t told my own parents—why would I tell you?”  But she turned on the tears all the seven days of the feast. On the seventh day, worn out by her nagging, he told her. Then she went and told it to her people.

The men of the town came to him on the seventh day, just before sunset and said,  What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion? And Samson said, If you hadn’t plowed with my heifer, You wouldn’t have found out my riddle.

Then the Spirit of God came powerfully on him. He went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of their men, stripped them, and gave their clothing to those who had solved the riddle. Stalking out, smoking with anger, he went home to his father’s house. Samson’s bride became the wife of the best man at his wedding.

Mark 10:1 - 10:34 - From there he went to the area of Judea across the Jordan...Pharisees came up, intending to give him a hard time.  They asked, “Is it legal for a man to divorce his wife?”  Jesus said, “What did Moses command?”  They answered, “Moses gave permission to fill out a certificate of dismissal and divorce her.”  Jesus said, “Moses wrote this command only as a concession to your hardhearted ways.  In the original creation, God made male and female to be together.  Because of this, a man leaves mother and father, and in marriage he becomes one flesh with a woman-no longer two individuals, but forming a new unity.  Because God created this organic union of the two sexes, no one should desecrate his art by casting them apart.”  

The people brought children to Jesus, hoping he might touch them.  The disciples shooed them off.  But Jesus was irate and let them know it.  “Don’t push children away.  Don’t ever get between them and me.  These children are the very center of life in the kingdom.  Mark this:  Unless you accept God’s kingdom in the simplicity of a child, you’ll never get in.”

As he went out into the streets, a man came up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, “Good teacher, What must I do to get eternal life for I have kept all of the commandments from my youth?”  Jesus looked him hard in the eye--and loved him!  He said, “There is one thing left.  Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor.  All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth.  And come follow me.”  The man’s face clouded over.  This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart.  He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let go.  Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, “Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who ‘have it all’ to enter God’s kingdom?”  The disciples couldn’t believe what they were hearing but Jesus kept on:  “You can’t imagine how difficult.  I’d say it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s kingdom.”  That set the disciples back on their heels.  “Then who has any chance at all” they asked.  Jesus was blunt: “No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself.  Every chance in the world if you let God to it...This is once again the Great Reversal.  Many who are first will end up last, and the last first”

Back on the road, they set out for Jerusalem with the disciples still puzzled and just a little afraid so Jesus gathered them again to go over what to expect next.  “Listen to me carefully.  We are on our way up to Jerusalem.  When we get there the Son of Man will be betrayed to the religious leaders and scholars  They will sentence him to death.  Then they will hand him over to the Romans, who will mock and spit on him, give him the third degree, and kill him.  After three days he will rise alive.”