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Judges 14: A Lion Brings Honey

Monday, April 10, 2017

Samson is of age now and goes to visit Timnah. While there, he sees a Philistine woman and is enamoured of her. Samson tells his parents that he wants this woman for his wife, but they are not in favor because of her Philistine heritage. The Philistines were in control of the Israelites at this time; Samson’s parents preferred that he take an Israelite woman for a wife. But see verse 4: this was all part of God’s plan. 

So Samson went to Timnah with his parents to pursue the marriage. At one point, he is separated from them and encounters a lion. The Spirit of the Lord giving him great physical strength, Samson tears the lion apart with only his hands. He keeps this a secret from his parents and from the young Philistine woman he wants to marry. 

Samson visits with the young woman, then returns to his parents. Along the way, he finds the lion carcass again and notices that there is a honeycomb with honey inside. He takes it out and eats it, also sharing some with his parents. But he does not tell them where he found it. 

As according to custom, Samson throws a feast for some of the people of the area as part of the wedding festivities. Thirty Philistine companions joined the feast and Samson was compelled to pose a riddle to them:

“Out of the eater came something to eat,

And out of the strong came something sweet.”

If the thirty could answer within seven days, Samson would give new clothes to each of them. If not, they would give thirty new changes of clothes to him. Of course this riddle is in reference to the lion Samson killed, and the men could not answer it. So on the seventh day, the men compel Samson’s betrothed to get the answer out of him by threatening her. She accuses Samson of not loving her, of hating her in fact. Samson at first resists telling her, saying that he has not even told his mother and father, why should he tell her? But ultimately he relents and tells her due to her persistence. 

In turn, she tells the companions and they guess rightly:

“What is sweeter than honey?

And what is stronger than a lion?”

To which Samson replies: 

“If you had not plowed with my heifer,

You would not have solved my riddle!”

Samson’s retort shows us that he knows exactly what is going on. The Philistines conspired against him to find the answer. In an act of both honor and violence, Samson goes to Ashkelon and kills thirty men, takes their clothes, and makes good to the companions according to the terms of the riddle; he gives them the clothing. This he also does with strength from the Spirit of the Lord. After all this, the woman that Samson had been so enamored with, and who had betrayed him in telling the riddle answer, was given to another man in marriage, Samson’s best man. 

God is working through Samson to bring down the Philistines, who have dominion over Israel at this time. Even though the entire experience for Samson is not positive, the sequence of events serves God’s will. For us, remembering this hard truth during times of trial will help us to serve Him better. It may seem darkest just before the dawn when we find ourselves cheated. Or, as we will see in the coming chapters as Samson’s story unfolds, it may remain dark forever. 

The relief we seek is not always the relief we receive. Despite conditions, if we serve and seek God, He will be with us and we can do our small part in advancing His will. And that is the greatest honor of all.

— Cory Byrd

This post originally appeared on Monday Night Bible Study.

2 Corinthians 9

Sunday, April 09, 2017

The first section of this chapter deals with some of the details about how the financial gift for others was going to be handled. He simply wants them to have everything ready when he returns so that no collections have to be made then (remember 1 Corinthians 16:2?).

He reminds them that their example has been an encouragement to others in this area of giving. A good example always challenges others in a positive way. He uses words and phrases of praise, like willingness, ready, zeal, and generous to describe their attitude.

A general principle of giving, either in individuals helping others or through what the local church does, is stated in verse 5 when he says that it should be given “as a matter of generosity and not as a grudging obligation” (verse 5). He continues on to say that our giving should not be “of necessity” (verse 7), that is, because we feel like we have to give but don’t really want to. And, it is in that context that Paul states that “God loves a cheerful giver” (verse 7).

This chapter is a living, breathing example of those who understood the attitude of Christ when He said, “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Children do not understand this and it is a sign of real maturity in life when we finally catch on to the blessing of helping others and quit caring about what we can get out of it.

“’Give, and it shall be given unto you,’ was our Lord’s promise; and it still holds true (Luke 6:38). The ‘good measure’ He gives back to us is not always money or material goods, but it is always worth far more than we gave. Giving is not (merely) something we do, but something we are. Giving is a way of life for the Christian who understands the grace of God. The world simply does not understand a statement like Proverbs 11:24, ‘There is one who scatters, yet increases more’ and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty.' In our giving, our motive is not ‘to get something,’ but receiving God's blessings is one of the fringe benefits.” (adapted from Warren Wiersbe, Be Encouraged, page 97).

--Roger Hillis

2 Corinthians 8

Saturday, April 08, 2017

“Chapters 8 and 9 of the second letter are given over to a discussion of and an exhortation concerning the contribution which they had promised more than a year before for the relief of “the poor among the saints in Jerusalem.” He uses the brethren of Macedonia, who in the deepness of their poverty, had abounded in liberality and given beyond their ability for this same cause, as an example, and exhorts the Corinthians to exercise themselves in the fulfillment of that which they had obligated themselves to do in the grace of Christian liberality and as a demonstration of the sincerity of their love” (Roy Cogdill, The New Testament, Book by Book, page 64).

It is often difficult for preachers to mention the subject of money and giving, because it can appear that they are looking for a raise. (If you will give more, I can be paid more.) But two facts made it easier for Paul to deal with the subject here.

First, he was not paid by the church at Corinth for the work he did in preaching the gospel there. His financial support seems to have come from two different sources. Initially, he worked with Aquila and Priscilla in tent making (Acts 18:1-3). That would have provided some income for him. Also at some point in his work at Corinth, Paul received wages from other churches to help the church in Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:7-8). He did not want anyone to draw the false conclusion that he was “preaching for the money.”

By the way, it would not have been wrong if he had taken wages from the Corinthian church or any other church for that matter. He clearly taught in several places that “those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14).  See also 1 Timothy 5:18 and Philippians 4:15-18.

Second, the specific subject of his teaching here about cheerful giving is not preacher support, but what we commonly refer to as “benevolence.” Christians in other places were suffering from famine and deprivation and the disciples in Corinth were determined to help them, “according to their ability, yes, and beyond their ability.”

So Paul was not serving his own interests and needs as he reminds the Corinthians of their need to first give themselves to the Lord and then, to use their financial abilities to help others.

--Roger Hillis

2 Corinthians 7

Friday, April 07, 2017

As a result of God’s promises to walk with Christians, to dwell among Christians and to be a Father to Christians, as His sons and daughters, we are expected to seek to live pure, holy, godly lives. We do so by getting rid of “all filthiness of the flesh and spirit.” That is not always easy for us to do; we have grown accustomed to enjoying certain sins, but with God’s help, we can cleanse ourselves of these sinful habits and desires.

Perhaps the key to success in seeking holiness is true repentance. (There is not really such a thing as false repentance, except when we deceive ourselves into thinking we have repented, when we really have not.)

“Paul’s description of true repentance is one of the most powerful passages in all of the Bible (2 Corinthians 7:8-12). The theme of comfort in suffering which was first introduced in 2 Corinthians 1-2 is fully understood in light of this passage. Often it takes confrontation, conflict, and sorrow to help us come to terms with the sins that are deeply rooted in our characters. Through love, hard talks, and facing such issues, we find God’s power to overcome. We see the damage that the devil has done to us through such sins, and then we work hard because of our love for God to correct our characters and avenge the wrongs done. Evidently, Titus had visited Corinth and had reported back to Paul that the Corinthian disciples had repented of the sins about which he had written them in the book of 1 Corinthians (2 Corinthians 7:12-16)” (Preston Shepherd, Manna for the Morning, Book 11, page 35).

The sorrow of the world can lead to an apology or “confession of sin.” But, in reality, this type of sorrow regrets only having been caught doing wrong. Godly sorrow, a proper to response to the Holy Spirit’s conviction in our hearts (John 16:8-11), will cause us to genuinely change our minds (that’s what real repentance is) about our sin. Worldly sorrow will lead us to try and figure out more clever ways to commit our favorite sin without being discovered.

When Titus returned to Paul after his visit to Corinth (verses 6 and13), he convinced Paul that the repentance of the Corinthians was genuine and so the apostle states, “Therefore I rejoice that I have confidence in you in everything.”

--Roger Hillis

2 Corinthians 6

Thursday, April 06, 2017

As he further defends his reputation among the Corinthians, Paul describes himself and the Christians in Corinth, as workers together with God. Surely such language would stir up in their memories some of the highlights of Paul's work in their midst. 

He reminds us all that “now” is the only time we have and that we must, therefore, serve Him while we can. This is the accepted time and the day of salvation that He extends to us. We have no assurance of anything else. We cannot save up any of yesterday to use today and we have no promise of tomorrow (James 4:14 and Proverbs 27:1).

Paul's next appeal is to their understanding of his personal character. When Paul left the comforts of his Jewish upbringing behind in order to follow Christ, he did so, not because of what he would gain, but in spite of what he would have to pay.

Their awareness of the many sacrifices Paul had endured for the cause would show them again about his trustworthiness.  He speaks of His patience, tribulations, needs, distresses, stripes, imprisonments, tumults, labors, sleeplessness, fasting, purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, sincere love, etc.

If they would only recall the open love that he showed them and received from them in return (verses 11-13).

The chapter concludes with a reminder not to get caught up in the sinful activities of the world. As Christians, we must live in the world (1 Corinthians 5:10), but we are not to live like the rest of the world.

In verses 16-18, Paul quotes numerous Old Testament passages referring to a close, personal relationship with God, as His sons and daughters. “I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God and they shall be My people.”

--Roger Hillis

2 Corinthians 5

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Paul describes the future hope of God's people by comparing a common, ordinary tent to a mansion built by the Great Architect.

“This ‘building of God’ is not the believer's heavenly home, promised in John 14:1-6. It is his glorified body. Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3) and here he used a tent as a picture of our present earthly bodies. A tent is a weak, temporary structure, without much beauty; but the glorified body we shall receive will be eternal, beautiful, and never show signs of weakness or decay (See Phil. 3:20-21.). Paul saw the human body as an earthen vessel (2 Cor. 4:7) and a temporary tent; but he knew that believers would one day receive a wonderful glorified body, suited to the glorious environment of heaven” (Warren Wiersbe, Be Encouraged, page 55).

He spends considerable time in this chapter comparing the time we are at home in this body and absent from the Lord with the eternity he sought, being absent from this physical body, but present forever with God.

In the last part of the chapter, Paul gives two motivations for the work we do for the Lord.

One is the coming judgment. Paul never lost sight of the reality that all of us, Christian and unbeliever, will all stand before the Lord Jesus Christ and give an answer for the things we have chosen to do in this life. There will be both a reward for the faithful and an eternal punishment for the ungodly. He says, “Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men…”

The other is the forgiveness we have received in Jesus Christ and the “ministry of reconciliation” we have been given. When one obeys the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9) of Christ, his sins are taken away. This is what makes it possible for sinful man to be friends with God again. That is the meaning of the word, reconciliation, to make friends again. After a person’s sins are remitted, we become a “new creation.” Old things have disappeared and all things have become new. This is why the Lord is often called, the God of second chances.

All of this is possible through the sacrificial offering of the sinless Son of God on the cross of Calvary. “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Amen.

--Roger Hillis

2 Corinthians 4

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

This chapter opens with a statement of Paul’s confidence in the gospel message and, therefore, in his own ministry. Although false teachers were accusing him of deception and craftiness, it was he who had renounced such duplicity and had openly proclaimed the truth.

He places the blame on “the god of this age” (that is, Satan), who had blinded the minds of many so that they did not recognize the truth when the apostle preached it. Paul had faith that the light of God’s word would penetrate the darkness and be clearly seen by those who had honest hearts.

Paul discusses further the reality of hardships faced by those who would stand up for God and His will. There will always be opposition from Satan and those who serve him. But to a person of faith, there is no choice - we must speak. And when we do, God will be glorified.

This great apostle had been mistreated and abused by false brothers. He describes himself as hard-pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down. But he wanted these first century brothers to know that he would continue “carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus.”

No matter what the hardship (verses 8-10), we must tell others of what the Lord has done for us. He wants us to understand that, those who have “the same spirit of faith,” would continue on speaking God’s will.

As the chapter ends, Paul reminds them of “the big picture” and encourages them to adopt an eternal perspective, not an earthly, short-sighted one. The things we can see are temporary, but Paul was dealing with things that were eternal. He makes it very clear that he considers the mistreatment he has experienced as “our light affliction, which is but for a moment.” He would press on toward those things “which are not seen,” knowing that God has a reward for the faithful.

--Roger Hillis

2 Corinthians 3

Monday, April 03, 2017

Speaking directly to one of the issues raised by the Judaizing teachers, Paul discusses the superiority of the New Covenant over the Old.

The Judaizing teachers wanted to go back to the Law of Moses (at least for some things) and tried to influence others to do the same. Galatians and Hebrews deal with this problem in their entirety.

It is probably an overstatement to say that the goal of these false teachers was a complete return to the Old Testament. They liked many parts of both laws and their real intention was to form a hybrid of the two covenants, combining parts of each testament to suit their own desires.

They liked what Christ offered; they were just unwilling to completely let go of what Moses (and other Old Testament writers) had delivered.

In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul wants to reassure the Corinthians that the new law of Christ is “much more glorious” (verse 11) than the old Law of Moses.

He compares a practice of following the Law of Moses to looking through a veil. The Old Testament is called “a shadow of things to come” in Colossians 2:17. The reality (the real thing) that cast the shadow (or type) is the fulfillment of those images (or antitype) in the New Testament.

He says that the Old Law is the “letter” and the New Testament is “the spirit.” He also points out that “the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”

And he wanted them to know, without question, that “the veil (the Old Testament) is taken away in Christ” (verse 14). We are to learn and obey the New Testament today.

--Roger Hillis

Judges 13: Samson’s Arrival

Monday, April 03, 2017

The cycle continues as the Israelites are given over to the Philistines by God because they turn away from him once more. 

Manoah and his wife (unnamed in this chapter) have tried to have a child, but have been unsuccessful because Manoah’s wife is barren, unable to bear children. 

Manoah’s wife is visited by the Angel of the Lord, an emissary from God sent to deliver a special message from God. This Angel of the Lord tells her that she will bear a son, he will be a Nazirite, and that he will deliver Israel from the Philistines. She is also told to abstain from wine and to not eat anything unclean. These are restrictions placed on the diet of a Nazirite, and Samson’s mother should not ingest these while pregnant with Samson, lest they pass to him in her womb.

In Numbers 6:1-21 the Nazarite vow is explained. A Nazirite was one that dedicated himself to God. He was consecrated, set aside for service to God. Among other things, a Nazirite was to abstain from drinking wine and to not cut his hair. There was also a series of sacrifices he was to make. Manoah’s son was designated to become a Nazirite before birth. 

Returning to our text, Manoah’s wife tells Manoah that she was visited by an Angel of the Lord and what he said a about her bearing a son. Manoah wants to meet this man himself and prays to God that he come again. At this point, it appears that Manoah does not recognize that the man actually is an angel from God, and his wife, having seen him, seems to have an inkling that he was not merely a man. 

God hears Manoah’s prayer and sends the man again. When Manoah meets him, he wants to know what his son’s life and work will be like. The Angel simply repeats the Manoah’s wife ought to take care to abstain from those things previously mentioned while pregnant. Manoah wants to offer a sacrifice for this man, who he does not yet know is an angel, but the angel deflects this offering, iterating instead that it ought to be offered to God. The angel also does not give them a name for himself, instead drawing attention to the miraculous gift from God this yet unborn Nazirite son will be. As Manoah offers a young goat to God, the angel ascends in the fire on the altar up to God. It is at this point that Manoah realizes that this man was actually an Angel of the Lord.

Manoah is fearful at this realization and believes that they will die because they have seen God. But his wife, with sound reason indicates to him that if this was going to happen, it would have already. Instead, they simply receive the blessing of the birth of Samson, and the Spirit of the Lord begins to influence the child.

Notice the similarities of Samson’s birth with Jesus’s. Samson’s mother was not a virgin as Mary was when she conceived, but she was barren. Also an angel came from God to announce the birth of both, and to stress the importance of their arrival. Samson’s birth was an event, realized by God, just as Jesus’s birth was, although of course Jesus’s life and death had a much greater impact. 

Nevertheless, the lives of both Samson and Jesus follow the savior pattern. Samson’s saving is on a lesser scale as we will see in the coming chapters. When God decided to illuminate the importance of one whose birth was to fulfill a portion of His will, He made it known. 

Just as Manoah’s wife did in this chapter, we should also receive God’s blessings out of hand, with unquestioning acceptance. If God blesses us with a gift, it is His will that we have it and it is then our responsibility to express gratitude. An increase of faith and a renewed motivation to do His will should logically follow.

— Cory Byrd

This post originally appeared on Monday Night Bible Study.

2 Corinthians 2

Sunday, April 02, 2017

The theme of this chapter is “Victory in Jesus.”

It shows us God's victory when one who is caught in public sin repents and begins his walk with the Lord again. The person mentioned in these early verses (1-7) is the same man who was written about in 1 Corinthians 5, the man who had “his father’s wife.” He was immoral and ungodly, yet they were continuing to allow him to be in fellowship with the church. Paul even said to them, “And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Corinthians 5:2). The rest of that chapter had discussed the procedure and importance of church discipline.

It shows us the victory of forgiveness over bitterness and resentment. Verse 8 lets them know that the best thing they could do, now that the man has repented, is to “reaffirm your love to him.” Paul makes it very clear that he had personally forgiven this man and that the Corinthian Christians should do the same. If not, he warns them that Satan would take advantage of the situation to weaken the entire church.

He reminds them that “we are not ignorant of his devices.” We usually realize how the devil works in situations like this to cause disciples to take sides, argue with one another over what it would include if they were to forgive this penitent man and to seek to cause division in the body of Christ. We must not give in to our lower impulses to continue to hold grudges and anger against each other.

It shows us the victory enjoyed by those who will walk through the doors that the Lord opens for them. When the apostle saw such an opportunity in Troas (we don’t know exactly what that involved), he says that “I had no rest in my spirit.” He could hardly wait to take advantage of a chance to further the gospel and the cause of Christ.

And it reminds us of the ultimate victory that will be experienced by those who choose the Lord (the aroma of life leading to life) as contrasted with those who reject Him (the aroma of death leading to death). He prompts us to sincerity in sharing the gospel of Christ with others.

--Roger Hillis

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