Bible reading for weekend of Aug 1.
"And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men." (Judges 15:15)
VICTORY, THEN DEFEAT. Samson retaliates for the murder of his wife (ch 15). The Israelites, hoping to appease the Philistines, then hand over Samson to them. Even more Philistines are killed, and God miraculously refreshes Samson after the battle (15:19; cf Ex 17:6; Deut 8:15). Samson is felled (ch 16) through his own moral weakness in the face of seduction. Cutting off his hair represented the end of his separation for God's service as a Nazirite (Num 6:5, 18). How sad was this ending of his public ministry: "And he awoke from his sleep and said, 'I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.' But he did not know that the LORD had left him" (v 20). And yet, he is not abandoned, for the Lord hears his prayer at the end. While 3000 influential Philistines gathered in a great hall after worship of their false god, Samson literally brings down the house. And in this way he is a dim foreshadowing of our Lord Jesus, who, as the true and righteous Judge, by his own death defeated Satan and all his hosts. "So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life" (16:30).
A POEM. Milton's chorus concludes...
"All is best, though we oft doubt, What th' unsearchable dispose
Of Highest Wisdom brings about, And ever best found in the close.
Oft he seems to hide his face, But unexpectedly returns
And to his faithful champion hath in place Bore witness gloriously; whence Gaza mourns
And all that band them to resist His uncontrollable intent.
His servants he with new acquist Of true experience from this great event
With peace and consolation hath dismist, And calm of mind, all passion spent."
From Samson Agonistes, vv 1745--1758
by John Milton (1608--1674)
REFLECT. When has appeasement of an enemy ever resulted in a good outcome? Often, as children of God, we may feel intimidated by the world (John 15:18-19; 17:14; 1 Jn 3:13) and in fear we may try to minimize our differences. But when it comes to matters of truth and falsehood, or right and wrong, God's power does not rest favorably upon compromise and appeasement (Jas 4:4). We must always remember that the world is hostile to the children of God, and if outright persecution doesn't work, then seduction will be used. Also, know that as long as we live, it is never too late to repent. May the Lord grant that we would finish well!
"Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood." (Acts 20:28)
AT EPHESUS (19). In these chapters Paul will be concluding his third missionary journey. We have a chapter on his fruitful ministry in Ephesus. Just as Samson's death [above] brought the end of many Dagon worshipers, so the gospel (through conversions) was beginning to empty the temple of Artemis. Of course, this brings about opposition and conflict. At this time Paul wrote to the church in Corinth: "But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries" (1 Cor 16:8-9). Paul was not frightened by adversaries. We too should not be surprised by opposition, for the gospel brings differing responses: "For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life" (2 Cor 2:15-16).
ON TO JERUSALEM (20). Paul retraces a circuit of the churches he planted in Greece. You will note the narrative by this time mentions "us" (v 5) and not just "he" (Paul) or "they" (the team). Luke, the author, has joined the group by this time and is now writing a first-hand account. Other new associates are listed in v 4. On their way back to Jerusalem they stop at Troas (vv 7-16). "On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread..." (v 7) tells us that Christians had begun meeting together on Sunday rather than Saturday, and that communion was a weekly event. They met in the evening, for this was a work day for most people. They then visit with the elders of the Ephesian church (vv 17-38). Paul's message to them reveals the heart of a shepherd, and that is followed by an affectionate farewell. This also is one of the passages that tells us that in the early church "elders" (v 17), "overseers" (or, "bishops", v 28a), and "pastoral care" (v 28b) are terms used interchangeably to refer to the same group of church leaders (compare with 1 Pet 5:1-3). It will be later in the second century that a hierarchy will begin to develop in church leadership.
REFLECT. Read again Paul's words to the Ephesian elders. What is Paul's view of the church, of ministry, and of the shepherding role? How can this guide you in the way you pray for your own church leaders?
Image credits. Detail from "The Death of Samson", by Gustav Dore, from Wikimedia Commons.
We are following the Robert Murray M'Cheyne (RMM) two-year reading schedule, as arranged by D. A. Carson.
Scripture quotations, unless otherwise noted, are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
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