Let the one without sin cast the first stone….

27 05 2011

DAY ONE HUNDRED AND THIRTY THREE : Judges 16 v. 1 – 17 v. 13; John 7 v. 45 – 8 v. 11; Psalm 60 v. 1 – 4;


JUDGES

Samson and Delilah – okay, we’re getting the full picture. Samson is often filled with the Holy Spirit for acts of great strength and power. His downfall is his attitude to women, and his lust for them. Chapter sixteen begins with him visiting a prostitute in Gaza, and goes on to his relationship with Delilah who is manipulated to get the secret of Samson’s strength.
Samson nearly gets caught in Gaza, the people want to kill him at dawn, but he escapes and uses his strength to pull down the gates of the city.
His romance with Delilah is doomed from the start, when the Philistines bribe her (each of the rulers offer her 1100 shekels of silver) to ‘lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him’.
First attempt – Delilah simply asks Samson what his secret is. Samson tests her out with lie – all they need do, he says, is tie him up with seven fresh thongs !! Delilah passes that on to the Philistines, who get the thongs for her to try out. Delilah ties Samson up (with men hidden in the room), but he easily breaks out of the thongs – ‘and the secret of his strength was not discovered’.
Second attempt – Delilah complains that Samson has made a fool of her, and that he should tell her his secret. This time, Samson tells her that if he is tied up with new, unused ropes, he will be weakened. Again, Delilah tries this out (with men hidden in the room). He snaps the ropes easily.
Third attempt – Delilah complains even more about Samson fooling her. This time, Samson tells her that if his hair braids are woven into the fabric on the loom, and tightened, his strength will leave him. Unbelievably, Delilah tries this, also, but Samson easily frees himself from the loom.
So, three times now Samson has deceived Delilah.
Delilah becomes a real nag….how can Samson say he loves her, when he won’t confide in her….she nags him ‘until he was tired to death’, such that he finally tells her that his strength is in his Nazirite long hair – cut it, and his strength will go.
Delilah summons the Philistines again, and once Samson is sound asleep on her lap, one of the men cuts off his seven braids of hair.
‘And his strength left him’.
Samson is woken by Delilah’s shout that the Philistines are about to set upon him. Of course, Samson doesn’t realise straight away that his strength is gone (not a magical sort of strength in his hair, but that the Lord had left him, because of his disobedience), but the Philistines grab him, gouge his eyes out, and take him with them to Gaza.
They set Samson to hard labour in prison, and slowly, slowly, as his hair grows back, so his strength returns.

The Death of Samson – there’s a celebration amongst the Philistines, worshipping their god, Dagan, and praising him for delivering Samson into their hands. They summon Samson from prison ‘to entertain them’.
Blind Samson asks to be placed between the supporting pillars of the temple. The scene is pictured with the temple full of men and women, all the Philistine rulers, and with 3,000 people on the roof to watch the entertainment.
Samson prays to God :
‘O Sovereign Lord, remember me, O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.’
Then Samson pushes in hard against the pillars either side of him, and, willing to die with the Philistines, he is given the strength to push the pillars down, and the whole temple with them, killing many more in his death than in his life.
Samson is buried alongside his father, Manoah, having been a leader in Israel for more than twenty years.

Micah’s Idols – there then follow several chapters outlining the results of verse six in this chapter :
‘In those days, there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes’.
Here’s a story about Micah and his mother. Micah initially stole some money which was originally given for some religious purpose, but now returns it to his mother. She uses it to make molded and carved idols. Micah makes a shrine, an ephod and other idols, and appoints one of his sons as a priest over this shrine to false gods.
We also get a glimpse in this story of the corruption of the Levite clan, as a Bethlehemite stays at Micah’s house, and is drawn into the worship at this shrine. Micah installs the Levite as his own personal priest, and Micah expects the Lord to bless him and be good to him now that he has a Levite attending to the shrine he has set up.

No judgement of this episode is offered, but clearly, it stands to show how far God’s people are falling from the covenant relationship which brought them into the promised land, and how vulnerable the Levites and others are to being drawn into false ways….

JOHN
The Jewish Leaders’ Unbelief – here’s part two of the story, the journey, of Nicodemus. The chief priests and Pharisees are angry with the temple guards for not having arrested Jesus. The guards claim Jesus is speaking unlike any other, and the Pharisees are furious that Jesus seems to have ‘deceived’ their guards as well as the ‘mob’ who are believing in Him, in contrast with the religious elite who stand against Him, disbelieving.
It is Nicodemus who, in that intimidating setting, speaks out, suggesting the law, itself, instructs people not to judge and condemn someone without first hearing from them. He receives a rebuke for daring to speak out like that, asking if he, too, is Galilean (a term which sounds increasingly derogatory, labelling the peasant northern folk Jesus has gathered as disciples).

Jesus is on the Mount of Olives (favourite place to withdraw to, to be with His Father), returning to the temple in the morning, to teach the people. As a further attempt to test Jesus, a woman caught in the act of adultery is brought into the temple courts by the religious leaders. She is brought to stand in front of the group. The law of Moses is quoted – ‘we should stone her’ – and Jesus is asked for His opinion.
Jesus knew it was a trap. They wanted another reason to challenge / accuse Him.
Then Jesus bends down and writes something with his finger in the dust. The leaders are still questioning Jesus, when He stands back up and proclaims:
‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’. Then He goes back to writing on the ground.

 What does Jesus write on the ground ? My study bible suggest Jesus is writing a list of other sins which those standing round would have found difficult to deny having committed….
I guess I’ve always thought Jesus is creating a distraction, buying Himself some think/pray time and that, interestingly, no-one stays around long enough to read what He’s written…..another glorious mystery !!

As the people turn to leave, one after another, Jesus turns to the woman and asks her if there’s no-one left to condemn her? She acknowledges that there is no-one left to condemn her (of course, Jesus is left there, but maybe she has already picked up that there is no condemnation of her in his eyes). Jesus tells her that He doesn’t condemn her either, but commands her to ‘go and leave your life of sin’.

Jesus always offers the repentant, humble, broken soul an uncondemned second chance, a new start, free from a life of sin.

PSALM
again, there’s a tune mentioned in the introduction to this psalm – ‘The Lily of the Covenant’ – and the psalm is credited to David, during some of his significant battles.
‘You have rejected us, O God, and burst forth upon us…You have been angry, now restore us…
but for those who fear You, You have raised a banner to be unfurled against the bow.’

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