Cover to Cover
In verse 48 Jesus says, “…for he who is least and lowliest among you all – he is [the one who is truly] great.” In some places, I have seen where certain carnal men and women were given the pulpit because of their popularity, charisma, gifting, and money. Sometimes they’ve been exposed for their sin, but sometimes their sin is hidden and overlooked because they produce results. The anointing is sometimes on their lives for a season because God is merciful with a mercy we all want; however, sometimes that anointing is manufactured. At times we still see miracles and results because people are calling out on God from their own faith. However, as I grow in God, I look for Him, whether it is from a preacher in a pulpit or from whomever and wherever. I want to hear HIS voice, whatever the vessel. I want to have HIS touch, through whatever conduit He chooses. It’s my Father I long for, not the person He chooses to use.
A person is great when a person is humble to allow God to move through him or her.
In verses 55-56, after the disciples asked about calling down fire from heaven to consume people who did not receive Jesus, Jesus responded, “You do not know of what sort of spirit you are, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them from the penalty of eternal death…” From a natural perspective, the disciples thought it would be helpful to remove the rebellious from the earth; however, Christ kept the door open for the opportunity, hoping that one day they would receive Him. If we ever hope for anything other than God’s best for a person, our heart isn’t right.
At the close of this chapter, we read about the cost of kingdom ministry. Maybe we don’t attend a funeral because we have a kingdom obligation. Maybe we don’t have a goodbye dinner with friends because of responsibility to kingdom work. Christ isn’t against us going to funerals or having dinners, but when duty calls, we need to prioritize the call over our natural life. This may seem extreme to some, but with eternity in mind, the kingdom has a heavier weight to it. We have to be dedicated and make choices that put ministry first.
This price is not just for church leadership. Let’s challenge ourselves: do we go to church each week to serve, to give, to tithe, to attend? How committed are we? Are we neglecting areas that God has given to us through His Word and by the Spirit? If so, why? Some people trust God, but they don’t trust Christians or church leadership enough to submit to spiritual authority. Some have given their time to a career when there is no room for God or church participation. Some don’t have the revelation that their participation even matters much; they don’t see themselves the way God sees them. Oh, if they only saw their value! Some battle guilt, shame, and fear of judgment, so because of condemnation, they stay at a distance. There are multiple reasons why people shrink back from participation, but these are just a few.
In chapter 12, we read about a conflict between Jephthah and men from the tribe of Ephraim. The conflict was about not being included in the fight against Ammon (verse 1) or because Ephraim insulted the Gileadites (verse 4). As a result of this inward struggle, the men who died were 42,000. This reminds me of today’s church conflicts, brother against brother. It shouldn’t happen, but it does. The results can be heartbreaking and disastrous to the kingdom of God. Sometimes we focus on ourselves more than our collective whole.
We learn about the ninth, tenth, eleventh, and twelfth judges:
The story of Samson’s life goes from chapter 13-16. In chapter 13, we see the Angel of the Lord appeared to Samson’s mother, who like many other mothers of miracle babies, was barren. Before she even conceived, the Lord had a plan for her son. He was called to be a Nazirite. We know from Psalm 139 that God forms us in our mother’s womb. Here, we see that God has plans for Samson before he was ever born.
A Nazarite, meaning “devoted” or “consecrated,” was a person who took a vow as part of their consecration to the Lord.
1. Nazirites did not drink wine or intoxicating drinks.
2. Nazirites did not eat anything considered unclean.
3. Nazirites restrained from cutting their hair.
4. Nazirites did not go near a dead body.
Samson’s father, Manoah, asked the Lord to appear to them again for additional instruction. The Angel of the Lord was sent to the mother, once again. She ran and got Manoah. He asked the messenger to give them more information on the boy’s life and work. Manoah did not know the man was the Angel of the Lord, but only a messenger. Angels do appear in human form, as we know from Hebrews 13:2.
Manoah asked the Angel of the Lord for his name, and the messenger said, “It is wonderful,” meaning, “beyond understanding.” Then Manoah offered a sacrifice to worship the Lord, and as the flame went up, the Angel of the Lord ascended into the flame of the altar, which is said in Judges 13:19 to have done a wondrous thing. The Hebrew word for “did a wondrous thing” is pala, meaning, “To perform a miracle, marvel, wonder, or supernatural deed, that is, something beyond the human ability to grasp, do, or achieve.”
Samson found a wife among the Philistines. At this time, the Philistines had dominion over Israel. The Hebrews were instructed not to marry outside their people group, not because God was racist, but because these other nations worshipped other gods. There is only one God, Jehovah. His parents were not happy about Samson’s choice for a wife; however, in Judges 14:4, we learn that this was actually the Lord working a plan to move against the Philistines. I wonder how many times God is working, and we don’t know it?
The anointing that was on Samson gave him supernatural, physical strength. I have heard more recent stories of people in situations where they needed strength, and God provided it. God can do anything.
There is a 7-day wedding feast for Samson and his wife, a customary tradition of the ancient Near East. At the beginning of the feast, 30 men are brought to help Samson celebrate. Samson gives a riddle and a wager. Halfway through the feast, on the third day, the men are not able to answer the riddle, so they ask his new bride to find out the meaning and help them. She did. Samson lost the bet, had to pay off the men by providing 30 garments, which he got from killing 30 other Philistine men. One man kills 30 men, and Samson does this by the strength under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Samson went back home, angry. The father of the bride decided to give her in marriage to Samson’s best man.
Remember, God’s plan was to use Samson to defeat the Philistines, and at this point, Samson is angry and offended. God is working His purpose in Samson’s heart, even if he doesn’t recognize it yet. Let’s be ever looking to the Lord for what He wants to accomplish in us and through us!