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While We Were Yet Samson
Reading the Book of Judges While the World Celebrates Pride
Forgot to say! The bat was found alive, though anxious and sad, and released safely into the garden. Phew! Now onto other matters….
Here we are on June 1st. Twitter is a flame of fire this morning as the US, at least, gears up for all the happiness and joy we’ll be sharing together over the next thirty days. I clicked over to my thesaurus to look at antonyms for Pride and there are a lot of really good ones:
Shame, Dishonor, Ignominy, Discredit, Humiliation, Humility, Infamy, Opprobrium, Disgrace, Disrepute, Odium
Those are all in dark blue as the best matches. In lighter blue are some other good options:
Obloquy, Timidity, Disesteem, Diffidence, Modesty, Humbleness, Meekness, Demureness, Down-to-Earthness
I had to look Obloquy up, just to remind myself, and this is what the internet dictionary said:
harsh insulting language/ unable to mount a rational defense of her position, she unleashed a torrent of obloquy on her opponent
Boy, that does not sound pleasant, but also seems an apt description of the many “conversations” going on on Social Media this morning. I’m a little shocked that Merriam-Webster would presume the pronouns of their example. What if it is a “they” who is unleashing a torrent of abuse?
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Not changing the subject at all, but I am in the middle of Judges as I try to catch up on my Bible reading plan. I’m a good two months behind where the app says I should be. Even by listening to three of the apportioned amounts a day, I won’t catch up in time to start again on Advent One unless I spend at least a whole day, sometime this summer, only listening to the Bible. Though perhaps, now that I think about it, that wouldn’t be such a bad thing… I know you were probably awfully curious about how my Bible reading is going. What I meant to say is that the Samson chapters are so hard to get through that I always start to avoid them when I get close.
Samson, you might remember, was one of those miracle babies. His mother, the text says, “was barren and had no children.” I think there must be a cosmos of heartbreak in that spare line. But then the Angel of the Lord appeared to her personally to tell her that she would have a child who would be set apart for God. She was to drink no wine, and neither was the child when he was born. And, of course, he was never to cut his hair.
I sometimes feel that God, in the scriptures, is occasionally heavy-handed in his typological pictures of his forthcoming salvation wrought by his own mighty hand. Samson is full of strange, uncomfortably bright flashes of the cross. His birth, his betrayal, his standing, hands spread apart, to push asunder the pillars of the house so that he is crushed by his own judgment.
What is hard about Samson, too, is how unlike Jesus he is. He isn’t patient. He isn’t just. He isn’t merciful. He isn’t loving. He is petulant. He is selfish. He is ruled by his own feelings and appetites. His fall is so very great and so many people are caught in the ruin and devastation of his pride and self-reliance. And yet, there he is for us to look at, a suitable picture of what we are like and what we could have expected to accomplish had not God himself come to save us. Shame, dishonor, disgrace—these are the intolerable fruit of human pride.
Throughout the Old Testament, many of those same words are used over and over by God himself to talk about Israel. He called her out to humbly love him, to accept him, to worship him only. And she, stiff-necked and proud, went her own way. Therefore, shame and disgrace cover her. Poverty and ruin are her wilderness. Anxiety and sorrow are the pathways for her feet.
It is so very strange, then, that God, in Jesus, comes and stands in the midst of all the degradation and dishonor and ruin that is the consequence of all our choices. Why would he do that? Why would he take our place? I think sometimes even Christians think that it is obvious that he should—of course God should come and die. He brought all this about in some way. He is culpable for our misery. They look at the cross and commit themselves ever more firmly to their pride. Love is love, they say, taking the very thing that most perfectly describes God and turning it around to destroy and corrupt both it and themselves.
And yet, knowing even this, while we were yet sinners, while we were all Samson, Christ died for us. What an astonishing mercy. What a marvelous grace. Earlier this week I got to have a glimpse—I think anyway—of what it will be like when Jesus returns again in glory to finally and completely sweep away all the corruption and ruin of human pride. For about an hour I thought that the worst possible thing that I could imagine had actually happened to someone I love. A terrible and tragic thing that would destroy the lives of many people. For a whole hour, I contemplated with horror this sure and certain thing…and then, another call came, and all of it wasn’t true. Not a speck. None of it happened. It was all a lie.
I didn’t get anything done that day, even though there was a lot to do. I sat and stared at the wall in total astonishment. How could it be that one minute everything was destroyed and the very next minute it was all put back together?
There is a way even though there had been no way. Jesus, on the cross, dealt with the sickened core of who we are. He gave the medicine to heal our pride in his own blood. He drank the cup we were meant to drink. He bore the shame. He was subsumed under the flood of his own just wrath. When he comes again, we will see what that means in real and alarming clarity. We will see with our own eyes, and not another, everything put back the way it was supposed to be.
Have that sort of day—the one where God himself arranges everything for you the way he wants it, and you humbly and meekly walk in that way.