This morning, as I finished reading about Samson in the One Year Bible, I was struck once again by a thought that first came to me when I read the Book of Judges as an adult: Samson was an idiot.
It is important that we teach the Bible to our children in ways they can understand: children don’t generally understand nuance and the Bible is a nuanced story, so I understand why we play up the heroic qualities of the Bible characters and gloss over their many faults. But, I think we make a mistake when we teach the Bible stories in such a way that leave children with the impression that the Bible is a series of stories about moral exemplars that they should emulate. In fact, almost no one in the Bible is a moral exemplar and the primary point of the Bible is not to inspire us to live better (though it contains much wisdom about living), but rather the primary point of the Bible is to tell us about God and the lengths to which he will go to save his people.
Samson is not a hero; Samson is an idiot. Samson’s story occurs at the end of Judges as yet one more example of Israelite society spiraling out of control. The point of Samson is not Samson himself; the point of the Samson story is to clearly show the effects of sin and pride and to show that, despite all their idolatry and idiocy, God has not abandoned his people.
In other words, the point of the Samson story is the same as the entire Scripture: it is about the grace of God.
Though, at the end of today’s reading in John, Jesus is referring to himself as the temple, the actual temple really was destroyed, twice, in fact. In 586 B.C. the temple was destroyed when the Babylonians defeated and deported the Israelites. The Israelites then spent decades in exile. It was rebuilt but then destroyed in 70 A.D., after Jesus’ death, by the Romans. It has yet to be rebuilt. Currently a mosque is on that site and all that remains of the temple is the Western Wall also known as “The Wailing Wall”.
- 11-16 – Samson was known for his incredible strength.
- 18-20 – It is a common theme that Biblical characters have some sort of extreme, miraculous experience with God and then panic and cry out to God for something that seems like an easy fix. God always comes through in both the easy and the hard.
- 4-17 – Clearly Samson is smitten by Delilah because she continually betrays him and tries to trap him into being overtaken by the Philistines even though she acts like he is in the wrong for lying to her about his source of strength.
- 25-30 – Samson’s strength is restored and he’s able to use it to take down thousands of Philistines. His death is seen as honorable and as retribution for how the Philistines treated him.
- 1-11 – This is considered Jesus’ first miracle. It seems clear that Jesus does not feel ready to begin his ministry of miracles.
- 13-17 – In Matthew this story occurs in the last week of Jesus’ ministry, but also during Passover. This story is often referenced when confirming that Jesus felt true human emotions.
- 18-23 – The temple was in fact destroyed after Jesus’ death, in 70 AD, but here, Jesus is referring to himself as the temple.
- A beautiful Psalm. One to focus on in a variety of situations, but particularly as a reminder of God’s abundant grace and great love for us.
- 9-10 – Even though Jesus had not come yet, God still offered grace. Though people received some punishments, the punishment for sin is death, so most Israelites were given the opportunity to repent and receive a second chance.
- 11-12 – A beautiful image of how God does not hold our past sins against us.
- 17 – There are several references in the Proverbs that equate quick decisions with foolishness. This would suggest that steadiness and quality of thought is considered more prudent in almost all cases.
Reading the word “priest” means a number of different things in Scripture. It is most commonly referring to Levitical priests. These are the descendants of Levi who were in charge of the liturgy of the temple. They had various jobs including playing music, tending to the temple vestments, etc. But there were other types of priests, such as Nazirites who had different jobs and regulations and didn’t require you to be born into a particular family. Today we’ll read about Samson, a Nazirite.
- 5 – Nazirites were set apart for God’s service and had special rules including never cutting their hair, drinking alcohol, or coming into contact with a dead body.
- 8 – A prayer we should all pray for our children.
- 12-19 – Though the riddle is a little odd, it was obvious that Samson’s wife had betrayed him and cared more for his people than for him by telling the men the answer. Only Sampson had had the experience with the lion and bees and no one else could have known the answer.
- 31-34 – The other gospels give accounts of John baptizing Jesus and the Holy Spirit descending and landing on him.
- 45-46 – This is the greatest evangelism tool ever – simply inviting someone to come and witness for themselves the goodness of God that you’ve witnessed. The context is that Nazareth was a small town not known for anything great.
- 51 – Jesus referring to the angel’s ascending and descending harkens back to Jacob’s dream of angels going up and down a ladder in Genesis 28. Jesus is intended to be the connection between heaven and earth, that’s why the angels are able to ascend and descend on him.
- The description just before the Psalm is helpful. This is a prayer that would be good for those who are afflicted and weary and need to offer their complaints to God.
- 16 – This is similar to the familiar phrase, “look before you leap.” The foolish tend to jump into things without weighing the consequences while the cautious are able to turn away from evil because they seek God’s wisdom first.
If you need a reason to jump back into our daily readings, this week will give it to you. We’re starting 2 new books! One today, and one on Friday!
In the Old Testament, we’re finishing out Judges and beginning Ruth. In Judges, you will read about a very famous judge named Samson. Samson was known for his strength, but it’s also noteworthy that he’s a Nazirite. This is a special form of priest – John the Baptist was one too – who holds strictly to certain standards. Nazirites didn’t drink alcohol, cut their hair, come in contact with dead things, and much more.
And Ruth is a fascinating book! If you want to learn what it means to be loyal or see how God can use anyone, even if they seemingly have nothing to offer, this is the right book for you. Ruth is also one of only two books with a female lead character, so pump up “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” and get to reading.
And today we get to start the final gospel, John. John is very different from the other three gospels, which tend to share stories and sound somewhat similar. John uses more poetic language. It even begins with a brief poem. Here are a few things to notice in John:
- A “beloved disciple” is mentioned frequently. It’s assumed this “beloved disciple” is John, but no one knows for sure
- There is no narrative of Jesus’ birth, but he is introduced as “the Word”
- Jesus makes a number of statements attempting to define himself that start with the words, “I am…”
Note also in your Proverbs readings this week the continued emphasis on acting and speaking slowly and avoiding rash decisions. This isn’t always natural for us, but it is wise.
Keep up the good reading! We’re already at Week 18! Before we know it, we’ll be half way finished!!
Today we start a new book, Judges! Isn’t it crazy that the Israelites went from strong leaders like Abraham, Moses, and Joshua to a system of judges and then to kings? To shed a little light on the concept of judges, it’s important to note that they weren’t just like the judges we think of today. They were looked to for leadership for the people. Many of them led the Israelites in military engagements and all of them were called to help the Israelites remain true to God’s law and commands. You may have heard of names like Samson or Gideon, these were some of the judges. And though this system of leading the Israelites didn’t last, it is an important part of their history.
This week we’ll also read through the majority of Luke’s account of the final week of Jesus’ life. Do your best not to skim it even though it’s our third account to read and we just heard it all during Holy Week. Let yourself recognize the anguish Jesus experienced as he was abandoned by his friends and rejected by the whole city. Notice the great symbolism of Jesus dying for the people during Passover, when they were celebrating another time God had saved them with the blood of another. This story should never become old hat. It is the story that changed history forever but it also changes each of our lives individually. Take the time this week to experience the greatest story ever told.
At the end of this week, we will have finished 9 books of the Bible! And these aren’t just any 9, they are 9 big, thick books that teach us a great deal of how we got to where we are today both through our initial history and through Jesus’ life, death, and ministry. We still have a lot of great stuff to read, but give yourself a high five for a job well done so far.