Vengence is Mine Judges 15
The 3 Strong men. Judges 15
Little Jenny was in the garden filling in a large hole when her neighbour peered over the fence. Interested in what the youngster was up to, he politely asked, “What you doing, Jenny?” “My goldfish died,” replied the girl tearfully, without looking up. “I’ve just buried him.” The neighbour was concerned. “That’s an awfully big hole for a goldfish, isn’t it?” Jenny patted down the last heap of earth, then replied, “That’s because he’s inside your dumb cat.”
Revenge is sweet, most people would agree. If we are honest none of us like losing out or being wronged by someone. I can remember when Maggie was first allowed visitors after her car accident, nearly all of her friends said I bet you could kill the man who caused the accident. When you look at these before and after photos of Maggie you can see their point! To their amazement she would reply, no, that thought has never entered my head.
In today’s reading we have this story of Samson’s double revenge on the Philistines. Martin has encouraged those of us involved in this preaching series to read Jeff Lucas’s book ‘There are no strong people’ based on the life and ministry of Samson. In his normal humorous but informative style, Lucas reminds us that God can use anyone and any situation to His glory. In the book he uses the analogy of God working on and with the rubbish tip of which most of us including me are part of.
Although Martin mentioned last week that some theologian commentators think he never actually existed, and we have to accept that the Old Testament is a mixture of historical facts, legends, folk law, poetry and Prophecy. Something I struggled with as I started my Old Testament studies from St. John’s Nottingham, but as I worked through my studies with the help of a tutor I realised that this fact never took away the importance and relevance of every page contained in the Old Testament. In fact it gave me a greater perspective and understanding. I personally believe he did exist, after all isn’t he mentioned in the hall of fame in Hebrews 11 as one of the great men of faith along with such people as Noah, Abraham, David and Moses just to name a few, and he is still revered in the Jewish faith today. Certainly in old testament times some of the priests and rabbis, like fishermen and children, or some politicians, were known to exaggerate or be economical with the truth, for instance one piece of ancient manuscripts mention Samsonâs shoulders were over 300 inches wide! But to summarise Samson had great potential. Miraculously born to a previously barren woman as as part of God’s plan to begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines. He was gifted with supernatural strength to accomplish the task. However like us he had weaknesses and made many mistakes. He violated his vow to God’s laws on many occasions. He was controlled by sensuality and confided in the wrong people. He often used his gifts and abilities unwisely. Lacked humility giving himself credit when it alone belonged to God. Although he wasted most of his life and never realised his full God given potential he did at least at the end of his life, begin to fulfill God’s purpose to rescue Israel from the Philistines.
Under God’s microscope I have to ask these question, are we being obedient and fulfilling our God given potential? When things go well who gets the credit us or God? When things go wrong as they surely will, do we blame God or human failure often seeking revenge? Still take heart, God can use a person of faith in spite of his or her mistakes. God used Samson’s short temper to judge and defeat the oppressors. As my Life Application Bible points out âGod can cause even sinful human wrath to bring himself glory (Psalm 76 v10 . He is not limited by our weaknesses.
Let’s take a closer look at today’s reading particularly v11 which features Samson’s reply to his fellow countrymen in response to their question ‘I merely did to them what they did to me.’ Payback time!
The story is told of two long-time golfing buddies who decided one day that they would play the ball where it lies, no matter what. On the 14th hole, one of them sliced his drive and it ended up on the concrete cart path. As he reached down to pick up his ball to get relief, his friend said, “Wait a minute! We agreed that we would not improve our lies! Remember? No matter what!” The first player tried to explain that he was entitled to this relief, that it was in the rules of golf. But the second fellow would not allow it.
Throwing up his hands in disgust, the man went to the cart and grabbed a club. As he stood near his ball, he took a few practice swings, each time scraping the club on the pavement and sending out showers of sparks, leaving scratches on the bottom of his club. (PP11) Finally, he took his shot. The club hit the path again, sparks went flying, but his ball shot straight towards the green, landed and rolled to a stop –two inches from the hole. “Great shot!” his friend exclaimed. “What club did you use?” The man gave him a smile. “Your 7 iron!”
It seems human nature when we feel aggrieved is how can I get my own back, revenge! Deuteronomy 32v35 tells us ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay. In due time their foot will slip; their day of disaster is near and their doom rushes upon them.” Vengeance belongs to God not us! Again my Life Application Bible points out that revenge is an uncontrollable monster. Each act of retaliation brings another. It is a boomerang which cannot be thrown out without cost to the thrower. The revenge cycle can only be halted by forgiveness. Paul warns the Romans in 12v17-21 . (PP14) âRepay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honourable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord. To the contrary,if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
I don’t know about you but I don’t always find it easy to forgive, I mean truly to forgive, not just a sweet smile and the refrain ‘that’s ok’
Although as Christians as we mature in our faith we should be able to walk the walk not just talk the talk! I guess the proof of the pudding is in the eating as the saying goes! When things get tough do the tough get going?
I’m sure most of us have seen on TV recently Maureen Greaves whose husband was murdered Christmas Eve for no reason, a cold blooded act by 2 yobs. Yet as a Christian she found the strength to forgive. How? She recognised Christ came as Saviour for all, to forgive all those who sin. She recognised nobody is perfect and asked for God’s help to forgive and was willing to leave the killers in God’s hands. Although she forgave, rightly so she still wanted justice to be done by the due proceeds of the law.
Jesus himself was unjustly murdered, his only crime was that he healed the physically, mentally and spiritual sick. However though his death and subsequent resurrection we too can call on him in our hour of need, to sustain, strengthen and give peace and comfort that passes all human understanding.
Being a practicing and committed Christian, although giving many benefits can also be mentally and physically draining at times. How often do we hear of church leaders getting burnt out and I don’t mean by fiery foxes! The second point I want to bring out of our reading is that Strongman Samson was physically and emotionally exhausted. After a great personal victory, his attitude declined quickly into self pity v 18 ‘Must I now die of thirst?” You see emotionally we are most vulnerable after a great effort or when faced with real physical needs. Severe depression often follows great achievements, such biblical people as Elijah, Saul and David and more recently such famous people as (PP18) Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Dickens, Michelangelo, Isaac Newton, Darwin, and Ludwig Beethoven just to name a few. So don’t be surprised if you feel drained after a personal victory. Although not in their league, I guess I’m not alone in sometimes being tired after giving a sermon or talk, especially if a challenging one. During these times of vulnerability avoid the temptation to think God owes you for your efforts. It was in His strength that gave you victory. Concentrate on keeping your attitudes, actions and words focused on God instead of yourself. God will refresh you as he did with Samson. However be prepared to listen and respond to his voice, sometimes he might just say Be Still and know that I am God. Although it’s good to do battle for God, never forget that the battle belongs to Him. Let him dictate the strategy and pace. Yes some need to get off their backside and do more but some may need to relax in his love and power.
The story of Samson the strongman whether fact or fiction, gives us much to think about in our walk with God. Whist on holiday in Tunisia last November, I meet another Strongman. As part of the evening entertainment at the hotel he did a cabaret act displaying amazing feats of strength and enduring pain. Part of the act was walking over a large pile of broken glass bottles. If that was amazing enough, he then told us he would do it again but this time carrying someone on his shoulders. As he walked amoungst the audience seeking his prey, I thought to myself he would never pick me! After all he was fairly short although well built. Wrong! He asked me how much I weighed and although having consumed a few Bacardi and cokes I was able to convert my 22 stone into 140 kilos. Apart from my friend who is probably 4 stone heavier, he choose me, not the easiest or safe option! With fear and trepidation, and wondering if my travel insurance would cover such a reckless act, I was coerced onto the stage and hoisted onto his shoulders where he walked the walk over a huge pile of broken glass. Fact not fiction. Here is a photo to prove it!
What a wonderful illustration of Jesus another strong man. Fact not fiction! He came to earth to carry us with all our sin and iniquities. He searches us out, even humbling himself to grovel in the rubbish tips of society, nobody is beyond the capability of His saving grace. No task is bigger than he can handle. You know many people, like me before I discovered fact from fiction, think that becoming a Christian and such acts as compassion and forgiveness, turning the other cheek, to be a sign of weakness. Let me tell you people, like Maureen Greaves, who place their lives and total trust in Christ have amazing strength not weakness. Maybe there are people here who like me watching the strongman from a distance found it entertaining and enjoyable yet frightening when he wanted me to personally get involved, feel the same about Jesus the strongman. They probably believe, even come to church but keep him at a distance. Can I encourage you to climb upon his shoulders, let him take all the weight of life that can burden us. Be assured he will never drop you or hurt you. Do you know the difference between insurance and assurance. Insurance like my travel insurance covers risks that might happen, although certain risks may be excluded. Assurance pays out on certainties i.e death assurance, because it will happen! Can I challenge you today, even if you think you have sufficient cover, take out a new life policy with Jesus. It will cover you for all eventualities, even after death and whilst holidaying in heaven. If you need reassurance or need to sign up for the Jesus Policy and life plan please do speak to me, Martin or any of the fellowship you feel comfortable with. Don’t delay do it today none of us know what tomorrow brings!