Six weeks ago, we began looking at a fairly straight-forward question: What does it look like to make disciples? Does it look like Sunday morning…
Well last night we were reminded from Isaiah of God’s infinite greatness. You can read the passage here: Isaiah 40:12-31. We really can’t comprehend how…
I want to begin this morning with a question. And I don’t want you to raise your hand – I’m not going to make you discuss this in small groups or anything. But I just want you to think about it. Here’s the question:
Do you consider yourself to be a success? Are you living a successful life?
And that might be a difficult question to answer depending on how you define “success”.
The dictionary defines success as the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose, so when I ask you “Are you living a successful life?”, I imagine you have some sort of check list in your head that you run through.
Have I done this? Have I accomplished that? And you go through to see if you have accomplished your aims and your purposes.
But I guess before we can answer if we are living a successful life, perhaps the real question is, by which aims or purposes do you measure your success? What sort of things need to be on that checklist?
Because by most North American or western standards – success is measured by how much stuff we have and how nice that stuff is.
We look at the house we live in – the salary we make – the car we drive – the vacations we take – and if we’re about at the same level as our neighbours – (maybe a little above) then we’re a success. Right? Isn’t that how it works?
We might not say that out loud – but isn’t that underlying value system that we live by?
In fact, that’s been the underlying value system of mankind pretty much since the beginning of time. We’ve bought into this idea that gathering nice stuff makes us successful.
But this morning, as we continue to look at the parables of Jesus Christ we’re going to see how Jesus completely turns that value system on its head.
The parable that we are going to look at this morning is found in Luke chapter 12 – and we’re going to start at verse 13. On this particular day, Jesus is teaching a massive crowd – verse 1 tells us that there were thousands of people there – so many that they were stepping on each other. I don’t know how Jesus ever taught out in the public spaces like that with 1000s of people milling about – I have a hard enough time focusing simply being outside with 50 of you. I can’t imagine the distractions that would come with 1000s of people. And actually, this whole parable begins with one of those distractions. Jesus has just been talking about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees, and how we show fear God not man – and how much God values us and how He will take care of us, when we read in verse 13….
13 Then someone called from the crowd, “Teacher, please tell my brother to divide our father’s estate with me.” Luke 12:13
Now this really seems like an out of the blue comment – it doesn’t really seem to fit with what Jesus has been talking about at all. But this guy just shouts out this request to Jesus. And the Bible doesn’t give us any details on his situation – whether there was some unfair dealings going on – whether the brother was in the right or in the wrong. And I guess it doesn’t really matter.
But Jesus recognized that the motive behind his request was based on that value system that we’ve being talking about – where success is measured by our stuff. And so Jesus replies to the man in verse 14.
Well this is our seventh week looking at the unlikely heroes in the book of Judges – and its the 3rd week looking specifically at the life of Samson. And in some ways it seems a bit disproportionate to spend so much time looking at just one of the 15 Judges – especially when we consider that several of the other judges – ones we’re not even going to talk about – did a much better job at leading Israel than Samson did.
However, one of the reasons that we are spending some much time with Samson is because I think in a lot of ways, most of us can relate to Samson fairly well. Cuz we know what it’s like to fail. When Samson does stupid things and he messes up and he falls short of what God has called him to be – we know what that’s like. I’m pretty sure we’ve all been there. But what I really like about Samson’s story when Samson does stupid things and when he messes up and when he falls short of what God has called him to be – God doesn’t condemn him – but instead God gives him grace. And that is so encouraging to me. I trust that you’ve been able to find hope in Samson’s story as well.
And for those of you who have missed the last couple of weeks, I should probably back up a little bit and give you the context for what we’re going to talk about today.
We first met Samson when he was just a baby – actually, he wasn’t even born yet. The Philistines had been oppressing the Israelites for about 40 years at this point and God told Samson’s parents that they there we about to have a son and that their son was going to begin to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines. God also told them that their son was to be a Nazarite from birth. That meant that he was to be dedicate or set apart for God for his entire life and as a living symbol of that, He was to do three things.
#1. Never eat or drink anything from the vine – wine, grapes, raisins.
#2. Never cut his hair
#3. Never go near a dead body.
Those three things were symbols of how Samson was to be set apart for God.
So just as God promised, Samson was born and God was with him as he grew up. We even read that God empowered Samson with incredible strength. The first example of this is when he killed a lion with his bare hands – he ripped it apart as easily if it were a young goat. And that’s just the beginning – today we’re going to read about some of the other incredible things that Samson did.
But despite these promising beginnings, things started going off track for Samson when he met a girl. Well, actually he didn’t even meet her – he saw her from a distance and when he saw how beautiful she was, he immediately wanted to marry her. That’s probably not the best way to find a wife. But the real issue here was that she was a Philistine – and Samson’s God-given purpose in life was to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines – not to marry them.Of course, Samson’s parents tried to talk him out of it, but Samson wouldn’t listen to them. And that was kinda our first red flag – Samson had very little regard for the opinions and advice of his parents. He certainly did not honour them as he should have. The second red flag in that story is how Samson had no regard for his Nazarite vows. We read about how he went back to that lion that He killed and he found that a swarm of bees had made honey in the carcass. He scooped out some honey and ate it – which was a complete violation God’s command for him never to go near a dead body.
Last week we began to look at the life of Samson. And of all the unlikely heroes that we’ve looked at in this series – it seemed, in the beginning anyway, that Samson was actually the most likely. We read how before he was even born, God had specially chosen him and had set him apart as the hero – as the one who would begin to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines.
You’ll remember that an angel told Samson’s mom before He was born that her baby was to be a Nazarite from birth. Being a Nazarite meant that he was dedicated or set apart for God and as a sign of that, he was never to eat or drink anything from the vine (including wine or grapes or raisins) – he was never to cut his hair – and he was never to come near a dead body. Those three things were symbols of how Samson was set apart – dedicated to the Lord.
And things were very promising for Samson right from the beginning – we read that God blessed him as he grew up and that the Holy Spirit began to stir Samson or to prompt him to action as he got older. We even read about the time he was attacked by a lion and empowered by the Holy Spirit, he ripped the lions jaws apart as easily as if it were a young goat. We could clearly see that God was setting up Samson for greatness. It was starting to seem pretty obvious that God was going to use Samson in some amazing ways.
But then we read about two incidents that kinda shook our confidence in Samson. Despite the fact that God had set Samson up for greatness (or perhaps even BECAUSE of the fact that God had set Samson up for greatness), it seems that Samson is starting to become a little bit arrogant.
We read first of all how he totally disregarded his parents by insisting that he marry a young Philistine woman that had ‘caught his eye’. He didn’t even know the girl, but he insisted that she looked good to him and he demanded that his parents ‘get her’ for him. Of course, they saw the foolishness in this decision (knowing that God had specially set Him apart to rescue the Israelite from the Philistines – not to marry them) and they tried to dissuade him – but Samson had no regard for his parents advice. He did not honour his father and mother – as God had instructed in 5th of the 10 commandments.
The second incident that kinda shook our confidence in Samson was his disregard for his Nazarite vows. We read how after he killed that lion that attacked him, he went back later on and found that a swarm of bees had made honey in the carcass. And despite the fact that, as a Nazarite, he was never to go near a dead body, Samson scooped out some of that honey from the lion’s carcass and ate it. This was blatant disobedience to God’s command that he live as a Nazarite – set apart for God.
So we’re started to get some pretty serious red flags about Samson character. He seems to have no regard for authority of any kind – not his parents – not even God Himself. And you can be pretty sure that when someone has no regard for authority, disaster is just around the corner.
Well, today, we’re going to pick it up right where we left off. Samson and his parents have now arrived in Timnah to make the final arrangements for the wedding – this is the wedding that Samson’s parents had tried to talk Samson out of – but Samson wouldn’t listen to them and so the wedding went ahead. So we pick it up in Judges 14 – verse 10.
As most of you know, we have been looking at some of the unlikely heroes in the book of Judges over the past several weeks. And so far it’s been quite a colorful journey for us. We’ve seen our left-handed hero, Ehud, defeat the fat King Eglon. We witnessed the leadership of Deborah, the one and only female judge, and with that we saw Barak following God’s leading, so long as his conditions were met. Another unlikely hero in that story was Jael who took out Sisera with her weapon of choice – the tent peg, and then last week we started looking at Gideon – the least in his clan, the weakest in his family, hiding out in the bottom of the winepress. And yet, God was able to use every single one of these people for His glory. In-spite of their weaknesses, and perhaps sometimes because of their weaknesses, God was able use them to rescue his people – showing them mercy time and time again.
And so today we are going to continue looking at the life of Gideon. We never got a chance to finish the story last week, and actually, we’re not going to finish it this week either. Gideon’s story is almost a mini-series in itself – there are several little stories within the whole story and we’re not going to go through all of them, so if you want to know the whole story, you’re going to have to read through it on your own some time maybe this week. And I would encourage you to do that, actually. Gideon’s story begins in Judges 6 and goes through to chapter 8 – and if you’re really ambitious, you can read about Gideon’s son Jotham in chapter 9.
But for today, we’re going to start right where we left off last time – at Judges chapter 6, verse 33. And in case you missed last week. God has just commissioned Gideon to rescue his people from the Midianites. Step #1 was to get rid of the false idols that the Israelites had been worshipping. God told Gideon to tear down his father’ altar to Baal and the Asherah pole beside it, and so, although he was afraid, Gideon took that first step of obedience and did what God asked. As a result, God began a change in his family, a change in his town, and a change in Gideon himself. And we’re going to see the further results of those changes today. So we start now at verse 33…
33 Soon afterward the armies of Midian, Amalek, and the people of the east formed an alliance against Israel and crossed the Jordan, camping in the valley of Jezreel. 34 Then the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon with power. He blew a ram’s horn as a call to arms, and the men of the clan of Abiezer came to him. 35 He also sent messengers throughout Manasseh, Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, summoning their warriors, and all of them responded. Judges 6:33-35
Now I’ve got to point out a couple of things before we go any further. First of all, when Gideon sounded the call to arms – who was it that came to him first? The clan of Abiezer. If you remember from last week, Gideon was the son of Joash of the clan of Abiezer. In other words – the first people who rallied to his side were his family! There are probably a few lessons that we could learn from that – but I just wanted to point that out in light of our lesson last week – how Gideon’s first little step of obedience began a change in his family. It changed his father – Joash, who used to worship Baal – and in fact, it seems like Gideon’s obedience has had an impact on his entire clan. I thought that was pretty cool.
When we decide to follow God, we have no idea how much it will impact our entire family. I know lots of you have family members who are not following the Lord right now. Be encouraged by this verse. Maybe it won’t happen over night – maybe it won’t happen for decades – but your obedience to God can make a huge impact on your family. Perhaps that’s our Mother’s Day encouragement for today – be faithful and obedient to God – and who knows what God may do in your family through you over time.
Secondly, verse 34 I thought was really cool. It says…