Christianity 201

May 27, 2019

Samson Was Not Akin to a Greek or Roman God

Today we return to the writing of Mark DuPré who is an associate pastor, a film professor, a writer and a musician. There are more good articles on his devotional page.

Samson: The Lord, the Man, and the Myth

Judges 13:4-5 [God to Samson’s mother] “Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

Judges 16:17 [Samson to Delilah] “No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”

Judges 16:19-20 Then [Delilah] lulled [Samson] to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.

The story of Samson has somehow slipped from out of the Bible and into legend. Samson has become a kind of ancient Greek or Roman god, who has super-human strength and abilities, and gets defeated by his own hubris. Part of the “myth” of Samson (as opposed to the Bible story about him] is that his strength was in his hair. If we believe that, we’re making the same mistake Delilah and the Philistines made.

Numbers 6:1-20 tells about the Nazarite vow. In brief, it says no wine, no cutting of hair, no contamination through contact with dead things, and a call to holy living. If we read Samson’s story in Judges 13-16, we see that Samson did the opposite of all these things, breaking every last condition of the vow and more.

Yet as with most stories about Bible characters, the story is really more about the Lord. First, it was the Lord’s strength and the Lord’s presence with Samson that accounted for his strength, not something as random as the follicles on his head. Notice Judges 16:20, when Delilah cut his hair and the Philistines captured him: “But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.” How regrettable for Samson that he didn’t realize this, and how foolish for us not to see that the arm of the Lord is greater than any aspect of a person’s physical body.

Secondly, a wrong understanding of where Samson’s strength came from can make God seem arbitrary, or the story like a fairy tale. Let’s not be confused. God didn’t invest Samson’s hair with anything. The Lord “left him” when he broke the last condition of his vow. God still gave Samson strength when he drank, caroused with prostitutes, and touched dead things, contaminating himself spiritually. No, the Lord waited until every condition was broken before taking His strength away. And then we see how gracious the Lord is to restore His strength when nature simply took its course, and Samson’s life began to reverse the pattern of his sin.

How patient God is! How slow to anger! How gracious He is to keep working with us, demonstrating His faithfulness to us by His mercies toward Samson. Let’s leave the myth of Samson behind, and embrace the story of God’s great faithfulness, patience and love that we find there.

Prayer: You were so patient with Samson, not bringing any kind of judgment against him until he violated the last part of the covenant. Help me to be encouraged to keep loyal to my covenant with You, thanking you with my obedience to Your word.


January 29, 2017

The Implication of a Small Word


by Russell Young

The word “if” appears many times within the New Testament.  According to the Merriam Webster’s Deluxe Dictionary, if means “a. in the event of; b. allowing that; c. on the assumption that; d. on condition that.”  It is a conditional word making one state or promise conditional upon another state or promise.

There are many promises that are presented with conditions attached and the fulfilment of these promises should be considered as invalid until the condition applied has been met. Unfortunately, from experience, it seems that insufficient consideration is often given to the condition attached.

In Colossians 1:21─23 Paul wrote, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation—if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel.” (NIV)

The word “if” is used in this passage. The state of being “holy in his sight, without blemish and free of accusation” is conditioned upon a person’s continuing to be faithful, and is necessary for anyone to dwell in the presence of God. (Heb 12:14) When examining this passage, the reader needs to appropriate the same mind as Paul had concerning his understanding of “faith.”  Unfortunately, many are left to their own interpretation and may end up with a faulty perception of his teaching.  Paul used the same thoughts concerning holiness in Philippians 2:14 and states that the believer is to “Do everything (to act according to [God’s] good purpose) without complaining or arguing.” (NIV) That is, one’s acceptable state of holiness before God is conditional to his doing everything God asks without complaining or arguing. The writer of Hebrews called this the obedience that brings eternal salvation (Heb 5:9), while the Lord said that it was doing the Father’s will, allowing the believer to enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mt 7:21)

The word “if” in this passage challenges teachings concerning ‘eternal security.’ If the state of holiness depends upon the believer’s “obedience” or “continuing in faith” following confession of faith, his or her eternal salvation cannot be said to be secure unless ‘obedience’ to God by the confessor can be assured.

There are many other passages in which the word “if” presents a condition and they, too, must be considered in the light of having a condition attached.  Paul taught, “For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”  (Rom 8:13─14 NIV) Accordingly, a person’s actions are important.  Unless he or she lives according to the leading of the Spirit and defeats the misdeeds of the body they will not find eternal life.

Further in Romans 8 Paul wrote, “Now if we are God’s children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may share in his glory.” (v. 17 NIV)

The condition that Paul required is that believers “share in [Christ’s] sufferings.”  What does that mean? The writer of Hebrews gave explanation. “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted.” (Heb 2:18 NIV) Christ was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet did not sin.” (Heb 4:15 NIV) To affirm the reality of his suffering for victory over temptations, it has been recorded: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Heb 5:7 NIV) (This should not be confused with the Lord’s petition before his crucifixion since it was during his life and he did suffer a physical death.)

With the conditions provided by the word “if” and comparative replacements in the Word, many teachings that are often accepted as absolute must be given careful thought.

Consider: Mt 6:15, 19:17; Mk 11:26; Jn 8:51, 12:26, 14:15, 15:6, 15:10; Rom 6:5, 11:22; 1 Cor 3:14, 17, 15:2; Gal 2:18, 5:18; 2 Tim 2:11; Heb 3:14, 6:6, 10:26; Jas 2:17; 1 Pet 1:17; 2 Pet 2:20; 1 Jn 1:7, 9, 2:3, 15, 29, 3:21, 4:20; Rev 3:20.

The little word “if” bears big impact on gaining truth and upon the believer’s eternal hope.

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August 8, 2012

Listen and Obey

Today we make a return visit to the blog of Kalamazo, Michigan pastor Jeff Jones on hearing and obeying God’s voice.  Click here to view at Jeff’s blog.

“Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God.” Deuteronomy 28:1-2

Today’s text is both inspirational and instructional in nature. On the inspirational side, who wouldn’t want to have God set them on high and have His blessings overtake them? But, did you notice that God gives us some pretty clear instructions in terms of actually qualifying to receive those blessings? The key is found in just one word—a big one, “if”. If we will listen and if we will obey, the blessings come, if we don’t, they don’t. Pretty simple, huh? Our ability to receive these promised blessings from God requires our willingness to diligently obey the voice of the Lord. There are a lot of voices in our world that are daily trying to influence us. Advertisers have a voice, our friends and family’s have voices, and even popular opinion has a voice. But those voices are always changing. The voice of what’s in and what’s not, what’s today and what is so yesterday. Aren’t you glad that God’s Word never changes?

“Forever, O Lord, Your word is settled in heaven.” Psalm 119:89 

While these voices may speak to us, we need to establish ourselves firmly on the ONE voice that will see our through our whole life—The Word of God. God’s voice should always have preeminence in our lives because His voice never changes. We can always take Him at His Word. His voice in our lives is not moved by current culture or by popular opinion. He is the Lord and He doesn’t change. Do you remember what He said in Malachi 3:6, “I am the Lord I change not…” God’s positions on life and social issues don’t evolve; they stay the same, because He stays the same. We can place our trust in Him.

“God is not a man, that He should lie, Nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” Numbers 23:19 

Finally it’s important to note, that we’re required to do more than just hear the word of God, we are to obey it. In other words, we’re not to debate it, massage it, manipulate it, nor are we to try to adjust it to fit the times. We’re to obey it, period! We don’t ask God to adjust His Word to fit us; we adjust our lives to fit His Word. We don’t have an option, either we build our lives upon the truth of God’s word or we don’t. There is no middle ground, no room to compromise, only obedience. But because we’ve chosen to listen and obey, our faith is now under attack. Because of our love for God and His Word we are called haters, bigots, intolerant, or even simply minded. So let’s make our stand upon the Word of God. Let’s stay strong in our trust in the truth we find within its pages. Let’s continue to diligently obey the voice of the Lord our God.