Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Apr 11 2013 - Luke 14:7-35 – Finishing well

Down at the end of our garden is a shed that used to be our bike shed. Now that the children have grown, the remaining bikes have migrated to the Wendy house where they are better protected from the damp. The old bike shed is a store for useful bits of wood and all sorts of other forgotten things. In the far corner sits a Land Rover. Well I call it a Land Rover for that is what it was intended to be – a model Land Rover, about four feet long, made of wood and mounted over the chassis of an old petrol-driven lawn mower. It was made for the young son of the household but technical difficulties (and our lack of competence) meant that it was never finished. Young son is now 26, has left home and has a proper vehicle of his own. The model Land Rover remains mouldering in the corner of the shed. Perhaps you also have long abandoned projects sitting in your shed, a loft or a cupboard.

Jesus tells a parable about a man who began to build a tower but abandoned the project with the foundations and perhaps a course or two of stone. Those who passed by laughed at his lofty ambitions – he intended so much but had produced so little. Jesus told the parable as a warning to the crowds who were saying that they would follow him. Jesus calls us to realistic discipleship. We need to understand what it means the follow him; it demands a complete devotion of all our energy and resources. A half-hearted disciple is one who will not last the course.

Yesterday we looked at how Jesus was determined to go on to Jerusalem even though it would result in his death. He had counted the cost and would let nothing turn him back. He was not going to leave a work half done. And he calls us to follow him with this same resolve; "Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27).

The man who set out to build a tower ran out of resources and could not continue. We need to recognise that we do not have sufficient resources in ourselves to live a life of consistent and persistent discipleship. But Jesus never turned back from the course mapped out for him by his Father. By his Spirit and risen power, he is able to provide us with the encouragement and strength we need to go on following him. In writing to the Philippians, Paul said that he was confident “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6). His confidence lay not simply in the character of the Philippian Christians, it rested in the God who had laid hold of them in Christ. If we try to live the Christian life in our own strength we will fail. But Jesus who first drew us to himself is able to keep us following him. Jesus has no abandoned projects.

Lord Jesus, thank you that you did not turn back from the cross and leave your work half done. You finished the work that had been entrusted to you and saved me from judgment and destruction. Help me to go on following you and never to turn back. Make me continually aware of my own weakness that I may depend entirely upon the presence and power of your Spirit who began the work in me. Enable me to finish the race you have run before me and to finish strong and full of joy.

Apr 11 2019 - Judges 14:1-15:20 – Samson's marriage

Samson is now a young man and his thoughts turn to girls. He has seen a young Philistine girl whom he wants for a wife and tells his parents to get this girl for him. His parents would rather he married a nice Jewish girl, but Samson is insistent that this is the wife for him. The narrator tells us that Samson's choice was prompted by the Lord to create a conflict between the Israelites and the Philistines; there will be no happy-ever-after ending to this marriage.

We now begin to get a better picture of the character of Samson. There is little that is admirable about the man. He seems to have been a spoilt only child of parents who thought they would have no children; he is used to getting his own way. Yet this is a man whom God is going to use to further his purposes. God uses the strangest of people to serve him – don't we know it!

As Samson travels to Timnah with his parents to discuss terms with his in-laws, a young lion leaps towards them. Samson kills the animal with his bare hands.

A while later they travel again to Timnah for the marriage and week-long wedding feast. Samson turns aside to see what has happened to the carcase of the lion and finds it has become a hive for bees. He shares some of the honey with his parents.

As the atmosphere gets merry, Samson sets a challenge for the 30 young Philistine men who are feasting with him. He will tell them a riddle. If they cannot solve it, they will each have to give him a linen garment. If they do solve it, he will give them each a linen garment. The riddle is:

Out of the eater, something to eat;
out of the strong, something sweet.

Through threats against her family, the young men persuade Samson's wife to extract the meaning of the riddle from him. Samson knows he has been tricked and so kills 30 Philistines from Ashkelon, strips them and gives their clothing to his bridal companions. He has fulfilled his side of the bargain while avenging himself on the Philistines. He then storms off home without his wife.

Now the conflict begins in earnest. The bride's father, thinking his daughter has been abandoned by Samson, gives her as wife to one of the 30 young men. In his anger, Samson destroys the Philistine's harvest using blazing torches tied to the tails of 300 foxes. The Philistines respond by burning down the house of his in-laws, killing the whole family. Samson responds by slaughtering the perpetrators.

Sensing that the feud is getting out of hand, 1,000 men from Judah come to take Samson captive and hand him over to the Philistines saying, "Don't you realise that the Philistines rule over us". As he is about to be handed over to a Philistine mob, the Spirit of the Lord enables Samson to break the ropes that bind him as if they were made of grass. Snatching the jawbone of a donkey Samson lays into the Philistines and kills a thousand of them.

Exhausted from battle, Samson cries out to the Lord for help. The Lord opened up a spring of water for him saving him from death – God is gracious even to this violent and conflicted man. Samson lives on to lead Israel for twenty years.

Father, there is much in your word that perplexes and disturbs me. But there is much also that makes me delight in your grace and goodness. Thank you that when the Spirit of the Lord descended upon Jesus, he came in the form of a dove. Thank you for the Lion who is the Lamb; the one who conquers through his own sacrifice and the sword of his mouth. Thank you that you can use people who are far from perfect. But help me always to follow the way of Jesus.

Peter Misselbrook