The Trap of Looking too Low

September 11, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Posted in Traps of Lawless Living | 3 Comments
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Samson: a man known for his tremendous, albeit supernatural, physical strength. Among his various exploits, the most well-known is probably his tryst with, and betrayal by, the Philistine seductress, Delilah. If pressed to name another Samsonite adventure though, the average church-attender would probably say, “One time, Samson killed a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey!”

And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.

Judges 15:14-15

When Samson had accomplished this mighty task, he found that he was parched, but he still had the energy to pause and compose a little ditty to celebrate his victory:

And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.

Judges 15:16

This verse loses some of its lyrical wit when translated into English, but the idea is that there is a play on the Hebrew words for “ass” or “donkey” (chamowr in Hebrew) and “heap” (chamorah in Hebrew). The theologian James Moffatt tried to capture the flavor of the pun by paraphrasing the verse. In his translation, Samson’s song or poem would go something like this:
With the jawbone of an ass
I have piled them in a mass.
With the jawbone of an ass
I have assailed assailants.
With the jawbone of an ass
I have slain a thousand men.

Catchy, huh? From Samson’s point of view it was just another day in a life filled with whatever came to pass as he pursued his passions and battled his personal demons. We might expect a man with Samson’s calling and endued with such power to use this miraculous feat as the launching point for a concerted effort to unite his countrymen, draw near to God in gratitude and trust, and to throw off the yoke of the Philistine oppressors once and for all. Alas, it was not to be. In the very next chapter Samson goes into Gaza to visit a prostitute.

What was Samson’s problem? It appears to have been a vision problem. Instead of looking up to God, he kept his sights trained on the day-to-day, the mundane, and the instantly gratifying sensations of fleshly adventure. In other words, he looked – and aimed – far too low.

May we not fall into this trap ourselves. We were made and redeemed by God for purposes far greater than the temporal pursuit of pleasure. But we need to fix our eyes in the right direction, or we will quickly forget our holy calling.

While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.

II Corinthians 4:18 (emphasis added)

If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

Colossians 3:1-2 (emphasis added)

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2 (emphasis added)

More Strange Weapons: A Bone (Simple, Silly, Serious, and Successful)

July 20, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Posted in II Corinthians, Strange Weapons | 5 Comments
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The jawbone of the donkey that Samson used to slay 1000 Philistines was not only a strange weapon – as we saw in the last lesson:

1. It was a singular weapon.
2. It was a surprising weapon.

Now we will see that:

3. It was a simple weapon.

In other words, it was an unsophisticated weapon. I for one am glad that the weapons of our spiritual warfare in New Testament Christianity are not overly complex or difficult to use. In fact, God sometimes blesses the crudest means when there is both faith and zeal in the one who wields the weapon. Samson had many faults and flaws, but he had two big advantages when it came to fighting: faith and zeal. The jawbone that he picked up must have looked pretty weak to the Philistines who were ready to attack him, and to the men of Judah who were standing by watching. But in our moments of simplicity and seeming-weakness God often shows Himself strong.

For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.

II Corinthians 1:12 (emphasis added)

Samson’s “conversation” on that day was very simple. In fact, he didn’t have to say a word. He let his weapon “speak” for him, and his weapon said, “This is not of the world – this is of God and by His Spirit.”

I find it humorous and fitting that God arranged it so that Samson used the jawbone of an ass. The jawbone is an instrument of speaking, and previously in the Bible (in the case of Balaam), God had spoken through a living donkey. Here, he “speaks” through a dead donkey! God is certainly not limited in His ability to use the simple to confound the wise.

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

II Corinthians 11:3 (emphasis added)

There are times in spiritual warfare when the simplest weapon is the best. What could be simpler than a soft word to turn away wrath? What could be simpler than asking a hard-hearted lost person, “What are you going to do about your sin?

In spiritual warfare some of our weapons are strong in the sense that they are built to last. But sometimes God wants us to use a weak weapon because we are more inclined to use it trustfully and obediently. Many of our specific, situational weapons just are what they are. They don’t need to be adorned to be effective. Your physical appearance is a gift from God to be used in spiritual warfare. He designed you to look the way you look partly in order to help you connect with and influence others. Don’t be too quick to change your appearance in order to make yourself more “attractive” according to worldly standards. God has blessed each of us with certain natural talents. Some are better at teaching publicly; some are better at ministering privately. Some have a great memory. Some have the gift of not being easily offended. Natural talents are some of the simplest, and yet most potent, weapons that God has given us.

4. It was both a silly and a serious weapon.

When I say silly, I mean downright absurd when you think about it! Killing 1000 men with a donkey’s jawbone??? Samson must have looked at least a little ridiculous using the mandible of an ass as though it were a sword or a club! He didn’t look silly for long, though – at least not to the Philistines. What seems silly to us was deadly serious to them.

https://i1.wp.com/www.jentronics.com/bible/Plate_096close.jpg

In spiritual warfare our “silliest” weapon may also be our most serious.

For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

I Corinthians 1:18 (emphasis added)

The Gospel message is life and death to those of us who have been regenerated and are willing to wield it for the glory of Christ. But it is foolishness to those who are unregenerate, and who will not receive it – all the way up to the point where they will be slain by their rejection of it. I wonder if our enemy, the devil, can even comprehend how he is defeated over and over again by the simple preaching of the Truth.

But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;

I Corinthians 1:27 (emphasis added)

When the Apostles were thrown into prison for preaching the Gospel, did it seem foolish that they would sing songs of praise in their cells? Do your lost friends think it’s idiotic that memorizing verses from an ancient Book could drive away something as mighty as a massive wave of depression? Don’t be afraid of looking silly for the cause of Christ. Humility itself can be a weapon in spiritual warfare. Humility is revealed in circumstances. An embarrassed person is not necessarily a humble person. We can be in a humbling situation, but still think about ourselves. Humility is not deciding to think too little about yourself in contrast to thinking too much about yourself. True humility is not thinking about yourself at all.

5. It was a successful weapon.

Samson’s victory with the jawbone was not his last exploit, nor his greatest. In fact, he wound up killing more Philistines in his death than he did in his life. When Christians today talk about “flowing in the Spirit” it conjures up images of a sort of effeminate passivity where church people are just “letting go and letting God,” focusing on their personal worship experiences and hoping that the Holy Spirit will supernaturally bless them without any effort of their own. We would do well to take a lesson from Samson. He certainly isn’t the ideal Old Testament saint to emulate when it comes to victorious Christ-like living, but you have to give him one thing: In the days in which he judged Israel, nobody flowed in the Spirit like Samson! Samson’s problem wasn’t the ability to receive God’s Spirit. His problem was that he could not be consistent – he could not get his life organized. He could not get himself organized and he had little interest in getting the people he was supposed to be leading organized. The jawbone that he wielded so effectively was what the British call a “one-off.” It is a picture of the type of unpredictable, unexpected, spur-of-the-moment weapon we encounter in our spiritual warfare all the time. We pick them up, and we throw them away, forgetting that they were successful weapons. If you have been a Christian for several years, take a moment to look back over your life at some of your spiritual victories. Was there some type of strange weapon that worked then which might work again now? Occasional, circumstances-specific weapons may seem strange and impractical, but it is God’s power, not the weapon itself, which makes a weapon successful. One time a great preacher told me that when you talk to children, you should get down on one knee and look them in the eye instead of towering over them: that has turned out to be a great spiritual weapon for me over the years. A note or a greeting card sent to someone who is hurting or discouraged can be a weapon. A bouquet of flowers delivered to a hospital room can be a weapon. One of the deadliest weapons in my wife’s arsenal is her smile. Many a time I have seen her turn a friendly smile and an unexpectedly kind word on the scowlingest, most negative person you would ever want to meet, and just absolutely route whatever demon was making that person so mean! A telephone can be a weapon when it is used to call up someone and invite him to Sunday School, or to tell someone you are praying for her.

After Samson killed all those Philistines he made up a song about piling their bodies in heaps upon heaps. When you get discouraged in spiritual warfare, and you think God is not coming through for you, take heart! Are there not heaps and heaps of slain sins in your past? Are there not heaps and heaps of slain temptations? Heaps and heaps of slain doubts? Heaps and heaps of slain fears? Sure, we’ve lost our share of battles, but the battleground is strewn with our enemies and we’re still standing. If no weapon formed against us can prosper, then it stands to reason that any weapon formed for us – to God’s glory – must prosper against our enemies.

Samson ultimately surrendered to the Philistines, and God made him the victor only in his death. God is not asking us to surrender to our enemies – He’s asking us to surrender to our King and Father. One day Jesus is coming back to vanquish all His enemies once and for all. Have you made sure that you will be on the right side when Jesus starts conquering HIS enemies?

More Strange Weapons: A Bone (Singular and Surprising)

July 5, 2011 at 11:53 am | Posted in Strange Weapons | 7 Comments
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Strange Weapons (Series 1): A Prod, a Peg, and a Pitcher

More Strange Weapons: A Stone and a Bone

The Bone (Judges 15:15-16)

Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again, and called Jesus, and said unto him, Art thou the King of the Jews? Jesus answered him, Sayest thou this thing of thyself, or did others tell it thee of me? Pilate answered, Am I a Jew? Thine own nation and the chief priests have delivered thee unto me: what hast thou done? Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.

John 18:33-36

Christ’s Kingdom is “of the world” in the sense that He owns everything, but it is “not of this world” in the sense that His followers don’t use the same weapons that warriors involved in worldly warfare use. As followers of Christ, the weapons of our warfare are not carnal (fleshly) or physical, but they are mighty to the pulling down of (spiritual) strongholds. Christ does not say that His followers do not fight, but that we do not fight in a worldly way, and that we do not use worldly weapons. We are not out to conquer by force. We want to conquer by love. Our goal is not to create a worldly government or to some day elect government officials who are Christians. Our goal is to establish the kingdom and government of God in the hearts of men and women and boys and girls. We are engaged in a strange war and we use strange weapons.

Previously we have looked at some the strange weapons in the Book of Judges – cattle prods, tent pegs, water pitchers, millstones – and we have compared them to spiritual weapons. These spiritual weapons may also seem strange, but they seem less and less strange the more you learn about spiritual warfare. Most Christians are aware of the role of the Bible in spiritual warfare, and of prayer, but we are learning to think of other things – such as love, the role of the Holy Spirit, our own bodies, and even God’s sovereign will – in connection with spiritual warfare.

This lesson will focus on some unpredictable weapons which are dependent upon specific circumstances and occasions.

In Judges 15 we find Samson – bound and betrayed by his own countrymen – depressed and discouraged – when the Spirit of the Lord suddenly comes upon him again:

And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.

Judges 15:14-15

The jawbone which Samson found was a “new” jawbone – a “fresh” jawbone. It probably still had some flesh or skin on it – maybe some teeth in it. With it he killed 1000 men by himself.

The jawbone of a donkey was perhaps the strangest of all the strange weapons we have considered from the Book of Judges, and it teaches us about the unexpected and unpredictable nature of some of the spiritual weapons in our daily warfare as Christians.

1. The jawbone was a singular weapon.

As spiritual warriors, God has given us freedom to think creatively within the boundaries of His Word and His will. I am glad that we have a number of Christian organizations. In fact, the Body of Christ, which is more of an organism than an organization, must still be organized, since an unorganized organism will not function properly. We must be organized, but we must have a healthy suspicion of routines.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.

Colossians 2:8

Rudiments are things ordered by the wisdom of man as opposed to God. Traditions are not bad (although traditionalism is), and traditions and discipline are useful in Christian warfare. They are more in the category of training than in weapons. Samson needed a weapon, and God provided a jawbone. It was a singular, unexpected weapon. You may encounter a circumstance where you find yourself having to apply your spiritual disciplines – love, prayer, Bible study – in a way you never have before. So remember, discipline is the way to experience the Person of God, not a means in and of itself. Weapons are gifts from God, and must be seen that way. The jawbone “just happened” to be there when Samson needed it, and he used it effectively even though it was a “singular” weapon.

2. The jawbone was a surprising weapon.

In an intense battle, if we wait around for the perfect weapon to be forged, the battle may be lost. My wife used to like to say, “Some is better than none.” There are times when sudden action is required and we need to use whatever God has placed near at hand. Satan loves sneak attacks and God often calls us when we least expect it. In Acts 27 the Apostle Paul found himself in the middle of a shipwreck and still managed to use it as a ministry opportunity. In the course of Christian ministry you may suddenly find yourself somewhere you never thought you would be invited to go. When this happens, do not keep silent. Pick up whatever “jawbone” or spiritual weapon that God has provided, and by faith start swinging: slaying doubts and fears and demons. We must not think that God is limited in what He gives us as weapons. In the Kingdom of Christ nothing is supposed to be secular – it’s all supposed to be sacred.

The next post in the series will focus on the simplicity of the jawbone.


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