Hear O Peoples, The Messiah Is One

A few people have begun to advocate the notion that Israel believed that they were the seed and Messiah that was prophesied. As I have read more it has become clearer that there was one person that the Hebrew Scriptures attest and point toward.

As Athanasius says in On The Atonement: Did not the nations always regard Israel with implacable hostility? Then it is worth enquiring who it is, on whom the nations are to set their hopes. Obviously there must be someone, for the prophet could not have told a lie [in reference to Matt 12:21 as Matthew interprets Is. 11 and 42]. (St. Vladamir’s Seminary Press, 1996, p. 68).

What's In a Name…Not Much

One of the things that makes me smile is when someone comes up to me and asks me if I knew that some famous person was a Christian. My favorite has been: “Matt, did you know that Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony all became Christians.” For those of you that don’t remember this rap group, they sang a song called “Crossroads”, which is a nominally religious-like song about death and the afterlife (taboot with a weird music video).

Anyway, I am finding out more and more that we should be slower to call people Christians. I am not saying we pass judgment on people…give me the benefit of the doubt. What I am saying is that we wait to see if someone bears the fruit that the Bible tells us will result from a right relationship with God – love for Jesus, for Christians, for the Bible, etc. We should not be so quick to affirm someone when they say they are a Christian. How do they define “Christian”? I am going to deal with this in a series of posts (probably next week as there are a few topics I want to talk about tomorrow).

My reflection comes from my Bible reading yesterday. Jeremiah (the weeping prophet) recounts Israel’s unfaithfulness to God and tells them that they will be exiled into Babylon. The last chapter (52) recounts the fall of Israel’s beloved city, Jerusalem. It closes up the story in the book highlighted in ch. 37:2 – But neither [Zedekiah] nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the Lord that he spoke through Jeremiah the prophet. And 52:2-3 gives the result of them not heeding the voice of the Lord – And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. 3 For because of the anger of the Lord things came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.

In Hebrew names were intended to signify a someone’s characteristic. The name “Zedekiah” means “the Lord is my righteousness”. It is extremely ironic that the king of Israel whose name meant this, is the very person who lead Israel into sinful pleasures with a proclamation of “the Lord is my righteousness”. We find here that a name does not mean that much. Much like today. Many people call themselves Christian or say they believe in God, but their lives have no evidences of saving faith – they don’t love God with their affections, they don’t enjoy reading the Bible, they find no benefit to their souls of going to church…There are a lot of churches in the United States and a lot of people have turned a deaf ear to God’s messengers, like Zedekiah and the people of Israel had done. Judgment will come on those who have been given so much but forsake the mercy of God in forsaking Gospel-preaching churches on so many street corners. For those who find more pleasure in chocolate than the sweet honey of the Word of God – For those who enjoy being seen as acceptable in men’s eyes rather than God’s – For those who enjoy buying a new suit or dress or car or house more than being satisfied in God’s all-sufficiency…Repent and seek Jesus. Take no confidence in calling yourself Christian.

Plucking Eyes Out as a Gift from God?

The book of Judges weaves the tragedy of Samson’s life. Most of us automatically think of his strength, forgetting his most glaring characteristic. Samson was a weak man in his spiritual life. He is the icon of what it means to have all the looks but really being a wimp on the inside. He is like the Wizard of Oz who boomed with his voice, but was a scraggly little man behind the curtain.

A beautiful girl from the oppressing Philistines enamored Samson and we are told: “Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she was right in Samson’s eyes” (Judges 14:7). I talk about this story a little more in detail below, but I just want to highlight how the writer tells us of Samson’s issue with his eyes.

Two chapters later we read: “Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her” (16:1). He had no regard for the ordinances of God, that he should not commit fornication. After all, this is a time in the history of Israel when everyone did whatever he wanted (“what was right in his own eyes).

Finally, he falls in love with the beautiful Delilah (another Philistine). After being seduced by her and being foolish enough to tell her the secret of his strength the writer tells us: “And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. 22 But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved” (16:21-22).

Now some may never think that horrors, such as having your eyes plucked out, is a gift from God. By default we look at situations like this as being awful and out of the hands of God. This is unfortunate. By definition of his very essence, God is in control of all that happens in his creation. Therefore, he is in control of crushes men have on women, eyes that wander toward sin, and eyes being gouged out as an act of divine grace.

Why was it gracious for the Philistines to pluck out Samson’s eyes? Just like in 14:4 – “[Samson’s] father and mother did not know that it [the crush Samson had on the Philistine woman] was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.” The Philistines enslaved Israel and the people cried out for mercy and justice. How did God answer these cries? With lust, deceit, and plucked out eyes – all by the hands of sinful humans.

Back to the question: Samson was never able to break out of his lust for the flesh. His eyes made him wander away from the statutes of the Lord. He had all this strength, but was easily led astray by nice legs. To keep him from being led astray (and to accomplish a greater purpose for Samson’s life) he had the Philistines pluck out Samson’s eyes. For it was not until Samson had his eyes plucked out “so the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life” (16:30).

Next time we think of a tragedy, we must stop and think that God is not far from us, but he is very much aware of the brands that are drawing near our eyes…all the more to purify our souls. And for those who are easily led to destruction by a pair of beautiful legs, you might ask to have your eyes plucked out [Matt. 5:29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell (also Mt. 18:9)]. More is at stake than a disability.

Demise in Delilah's Den

You would think that Samson would have caught on to the fact that certain women cannot be trusted (especially those who have no fear of God in their heart). Some women seek only to promote themselves and move up the food chain of comfort.

So it is with his new crush, Delilah. I begin to wonder about the size of Samson’s brain. He seems to be the proverbial jock who doesn’t connect things. After the first night he tells Delilah that the secret to his strength so that his enemies could overpower him lie in tying him up with bow strings, he wakes up tied in bow strings. This should have told him something. Instead, he gloats and breaks the fetters that should have given him pause.

The second night, he tells her that if he is tied with new ropes he will be powerless. So, if you wake up and find yourself tied in new ropes, what’s the reason? Right. The person who tied you up wants to overpower you. Samson boasts in his strength yet again – this time with a laugh. “There’s nothing that can hold me.” Beware brothers lest you boast in the good gifts of God as though you had earned them and not received them. Whether you can preach well, listen well, study well, argue well, groom well, don’t brag about these things. Be humbled or you will find yourself as Samson found himself the next day.