- Samson knew his gifts. He wasn’t out trying to sing or put on shows. He smashed stuff. His accomplishments are legendary because he acted in faith with the tools God provided him. Bare hands, donkey jaw, pillars, etc.
- Samson was pretty smart. He loved riddles. He did stupid things but he wasn’t stupid.
- Samson put himself in temptation’s path. Look at how obvious Delilah was and how each time she tried the very thing he suggested. He knew… but he didn’t want to know.
- Samson believed that even though God had left, he would return when asked.
- Samson prayed for a mighty miracle. Something supernatural that could not be confused for something a mere human could do.
- Delilah is never mentioned in the Bible again after she is paid for her betrayal. We do not know her fate. In other words, when you serve the enemy, your story is over the second he is done with you. She was given an ENORMOUS sum of money and lived free… yet we never hear of her again, however, Samson, who was blinded and imprisoned still had amazing moments left to tell about as he served God.
- The more we fall away from God’s plan for us, the more difficult it will be to carry out the tasks assigned to us. Ponder how different life would be for Pharaoh if when Moses said, “let my people go!” the very first time, Pharaoh said, “sure, you may leave, have a safe trip!”. God’s plan was to set the Israelites free, but Pharaoh had to adjust to his own disobedience before it happened. Samson did something similar. He was set aside to free God’s people from the Philistines. Due to his disobedience, God still used him to accomplish this task, but at a much greater cost. When God was with him, he freely conquered on the battlefields. When He left God, he had to operate within prison walls and with no sight. Disobedience reduces our own options to work within God’s plan.
- Samson’s prayer aligned with God’s plans and gifts to him. It wasn’t selfish, it wasn’t a deviation from the path. It was exactly what God called him to do. It was almost like Samson said, “I accept and I’m ready”. It’s difficult to think through this at times, but we aren’t the only ones God is working with. Asking for something that someone else is set aside for, might yield more ‘no’s’ than we would like. Knowing our calling and asking for opportunities within God’s plan yields holy and unbelievable results.
- Samson did not know that God’s powers had left him. This plays into point 10 quite a bit, but it also makes me wonder… how many of us are functioning off a call that we received years ago, yet we do not live the life called out of or into? How many of us think God is with us when He has no reason to be? How many of us think He is just sitting back, watching us play Nintendo, when He is really waiting for repentance and renewal before He will work within us?
- Samson, now knowing that God’s powers had left him, prayed for a mighty miracle and then pushed on the pillars. This is faith. Praying and then pushing. Believing that there is power within a faithful God. If he did not feel God leave, did he feel Him come back? How did He know God returned? Because a called man asked a faithful God to fulfill His will through faith, mercy, and obedience. He prayed… and then he pushed.
To be obedient to God, we must become disobedient to our previous way of living.
We have to rebel against the life of self satisfaction.
We have to reject the tendencies to serve worldly desires and systems.
We have to sin against our former gods. (wealth, reputation, status, legacy, etc)
Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die”. Death to our old way of things. Death through baptism. Death to our lives centering the universe. Death to an old law. Death to prison. Death to loss and pain.
We can’t take on the new without properly burying the old. If we truly nailed our sins to the cross and watched them breath their last, we can burst up from the depths of the waters a new creation by and from God. An obedient servant. Dripping with the holy waters of salvation met with loving freedom and creation.
Then we can follow the Man. The one who said “you are forgiven”. The Man that walked on water and raised the dead… yet came to give up His own life. The definition of power and majesty who decided to yield to frail men with evil agendas. The leader who brought a plan with me in mind and then said, “it is finished”.
Obedience. Following a God who stooped to the level of humanity, so that we could enter the kingdom of a Fatherly deity. He became like us so we could be made like Him. And now, we choose to obey, not because we have to, not because the rules say so, not because we promised or feel guilty… but because it’s the most exciting thing we can imagine. I get to follow God. I get to walk in the footsteps of the greatest sacrifice ever made. I can see the path to follow and treading between its borders is the most wonderful form of worship and praise I can give.
To obey is not to say, “I guess so”. To submit one’s will is to jump up shouting… “there is no other way! This is how life is meant to be!” Psalm 119:97 says, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” A huge portion of that chapter addresses how wonderful the law is. Not as a book of decrees or a hierarchy to submit to, but as a loving and protecting testament to the relationship between God and man.
Obedience is an honor and privilege. It is true freedom. We take off a heavy burden and put on a loving and light one. A burden that is tremendously unbearable when people try and resist it. A burden that is graciously easy, when willfully followed.
Obedient to the one who created us to be eternally happy. We are crafted to sit at the thrown with God. How can we fight the natural way of things? The enemy is near. It is he who deserves our disobedience. It is he we are to die to. Whomever we do not die to, we will live eternally with.
We don’t hear about this much from the pulpit… but there is a talking donkey in the Bible. The owner’s name is Balaam and the donkey is called… his donkey. If you aren’t familiar with the story, you might take a second to get caught up:
In my Bible, the heading of that story is interesting. It’s titled, “Balaam’s Donkey”. After reading that story, I would have thought the angel with the sword was pretty cool… and very important. But Balaam didn’t even notice him. You know what else Balaam didn’t notice?
THAT HIS DONKEY WAS TALKING!!!!! Read the text. After the donkey asked why he beat him so, he simply responded and then added a threat to the donkey to boot. I also think its interesting that the word says that God opened the donkey’s mouth. Note the words it spoke,
“What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”
Balaam wasn’t beating God or the angel. He was beating his donkey. And the donkey spoke. Why ME? Not, why HIM? Not, leave that Donkey alone… it was, “you beat ME”. And the donkey speaks in first person again. Later, Balaam sees the angel and the angel references the donkey directly as a 3rd party. And while all of that is interesting, Balaam responds to the donkey’s questions as though it was a normal conversation.
We don’t receive any physical description of fear, surprise, shock, awe, or confusion. Balaam is so angry at this creature that when it asked why he would hurt it, he had explanation prepared and shouted it readily. Balaam wasn’t quoted with a stutter, nor were any follow up questions mentioned. I was expecting something along the lines of:
“you can talk!?!??!?!” Or how about an, “I’m so sorry!!”. Speaking tends to humanize things a bit, but Balaam was wishing he had his sword to teach this animal a lesson.
This situation screams out crazy. Who could tell this story and not end up in a white jacket after? But I believe that we re-enact this on an extremely regular basis. Consider the following:
- We follow our own path.
- We keep our head down and pay little attention to what is going on around us.
- Circumstances try and steer us clear, but we complain, point fingers, blame, and otherwise try to work around these “obstacles” that are actually there to help us… in hindsight.
- Something amazing happens. Perhaps even miraculous. But it wasn’t what we wanted, or our way of doing it, or in our timing, so we kick it, fuss at it, and wish it harm.
- God performs a holy double face-palm at His efforts to put us on track and our inability to see Him through our own small thinking.
Even when I’m trying to do good, I go about it MY way in most cases. There are two things I think we could all do better: (look and listen).
- Keep your eyes out for sword wielding angels. God cares so much for us. He loves us to death (His Son’s death) and He would, and has done, anything for us. This includes working in our lives today. Keep that head up and look for signs, opportunities, noble paths, people in need, etc.
- Keep your ears open for talking donkeys. Don’t be so entrenched with what you want, that you can’t even hear or notice that God is clearly talking to you. If you are open to the will of God, then you need to be always prepared to step back from the worldly way of doing things. We need to be prepared and expect speed bumps, road blocks, detours, bridges out… If these things derail us emotionally, we will never experience the miracles off the beaten path (which will be most of them).
We can get so wrapped up in our world, we don’t even recognize it when donkey’s speak. Balaam didn’t. Not that I can tell. But I can recognize his exasperation for the situation. It’s a laser focus mentality that refuses to acknowledge anything other than plan A. Balaam was on a mission and this stubborn beast was not going to get in His way.
Be open to the whims of the donkey… it may just be spying a sword wielding angel ready to slice you down. Did you see how the angel talked to Balaam? He told the man that he would have killed him if he kept going… and he would have spared the donkey. The donkey saved his life (and tried to 3 times). Perhaps when things don’t go our way, instead of asking, “why me!!?”, why not pray about what blessings are about to happen? Or what warning needs to be heeded? Balaam learned, in the oddest way possible, to be thankful for unexpected inconveniences.
I know that for me, the next time I blow a tire, I’m going to be looking around the area. Is someone else around? Is there an opportunity here? Should I go another way? Should I turn around completely? Does the hubcap have something to say?
This picture sums up better than I’ve ever been able to with words, how God’s word, His law, and His expectations are lovingly freeing to those obedient to Him.
God doesn’t desire to put us in a boring box. He yearns to be near us. To protect us. And even those that fully understand this start to feel trapped at times. “I can’t do this, I can’t do that. Why is God smothering me and keeping me from fun?” It doesn’t happen overnight. But eventually, it makes sense to us that we need to get out of that cage.
Look back at that picture again. This is more like God’s point of view. He will allow people to come and go… but He really, really wants you to stay. He loves you, wants to keep you safe, and knows that predators literally hide above, below, and on all sides of your life. The enemy is ruthless, cunning, and knows how to work through friends, family, loved ones, businesses, and even strangers on the road.
What is life like inside of the cage? It’s wonderful. I’m safe. I’m loved. I’m accepted. I gave up bad habits that were only holding me back. Now I can go farther. Did you catch that? I have MORE freedom in God’s embrace. He is with me wherever I go. Like children learning to walk, we aim to get further away from the parents that want to keep us on the ground. Do they hate us? No, but they don’t want us to fall either. They construct cages and barriers of all kinds for our safety. If it were up to us, we’d wander into traffic out of sheer curiosity.
Sadly, we never grow out of this reflex. To test our limits and see how far, high, and fast we can go is seemingly born within us. Helmets weren’t invented before the first fall. They were thought up after incident after incident. Eventually someone thought, there has to be a better way. Wear this! It will protect you. God’s love and protection is little different. It’s not just in case… It’s to save eternal lives.
Consider what Jesus has done for you. What lengths He went through to save you. Measure that against His wisdom. It really is freeing to forgive others. It truly is satisfying to not judge others. Telling the truth? Why, its the healthiest thing I’ve ever done. I don’t have to bother with alibi’s, details I may have forgotten, or cross checking stories with others. I’m hoping the next time I’m tempted to wander outside of the cage, I remember how wonderful it really is inside. That Satan wants us out and he will tell any lie he can to get us out from under God’s shield.
And if I can’t remember that, I hope this picture helps. It’s a reminder of how ridiculous the thought is of trying to leave in the first place. And for what? So I can gossip a bit more? Or to make sure my politics are heard? Or I just don’t feel like anyone in here gets who I am? lies, lies, lies. This picture tells the truth of what is outside. I hope you can see it too.