Remember Me

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“Lord, Eternal One, remember me” (Judges 16:28, The Voice).

I was reading a very familiar passage about Samson and Delilah when I saw something I had never seen before. It almost literally jumped out of the page.

The story may or may not be familiar. Samson was a Nazirite and a Judge over the people of Israel. Basically, a Nazirite was someone dedicated to God from birth who had certain restrictions, like no alcohol, no haircuts, no touching dead bodies. As a judge, he essentially ruled over the Israelites. He had extraordinary strength and could not be bound by any ropes or chains.

Most of the time, he was ruled by his appetites. He saw what he liked and went after it, no matter what the consequences. Even though God said for His people to have nothing to do with the Philistines, Samson continually wooed their women and spent time in their cities.

Then Delilah showed up. She agreed to betray Samson into the hands of the Philistine rulers for a hefty sum, or a king’s ransom, you might say. Of course, Samson fell in love with her.

She asked three times how he could be bound. Three times he fibbed. You would have thought he’d catch on to her motives but apparently his love blinded him to her wiles.

Finally, she nagged him to the point where he gave in. You can probably figure out that she got her reward and Samson got captured. He ended up with his eyes gouged out, working at the grindstone as a slave, reduced to a joke.

Samson’s very last actions were his best ones. The Philistines brought him out to taunt and mock him in a celebration to their god, Dagon. He ended up between the two main pillars of the temple. He prayed one last prayer for strength and pushed out the pillars, toppling the temple and killing everyone inside, himself included.

I’d never paid much attention to his last prayer. “Remember me.” Suddenly, it dawned on me. I remembered someone else in the Bible whose last words were the same. It was the¬†¬†thief on the cross next to Jesus who said, “Remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”

Such a beautiful prayer that says so much in so few words. It’s not so much that God has forgotten who we are but that we’ve forgotten who He is.

It’s a declaration of dependence, an acknowledgement of great need. It says to God, “I’m unworthy to ask but still I know you are a gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love. Come to my aid and save me.”

The Bible is still living and active. God still speaks through His word to those with ears to hear. Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.

 

Lessons from the Book of Judges

My church is currently going through a sermon series on the book of Judges. It’s not the kind of book when you want to feel good about yourself or the people of God. It’s a book where God’s people failed miserably and repeatedly, continuing a vicious cycle that involved them being hounded by a foreign people, crying out to God for deliverance, and God sending a judge to do just that.

I realized something today. In the book of Joshua, God commanded the people of Israel to utterly annihilate the enemies in the land they were claiming. At first, all went well, but further in, they fall into idolatry and are no longer able to drive out all the peoples in the lands they are taking.

These people are the very ones whose idols will enslave the people of God. These are the very ones whom Israel will serve as a result of that idolatry. Disobedience and sin always have consequences.

I also see that God never spurns the cry of His people. At some point, He probably would have been justified in bailing on them. After all, they did turn their backs on Him and run after other gods. They even forgot what He had done to bring them into this Promised Land.

God is faithful to His promises even when we’re not. God’s faithfulness often makes up for our lack of it. I’m thankful that God’s mercy isn’t dependent on my spiritual fervor or His grace dependent on my obedience.

All those judges that brought deliverance were pointing toward a coming Deliverer who would deliver His people once and for all. My pastor pointed out that while people may recoil from all the violence and bloodshed in the Old Testament, there is just as much of that in the New Testament. It was all directed at one man– the promised Messiah and Deliverer Jesus– who endured a very violent death on the cross for us.

That still doesn’t make for an easy read of Judges. I’m glad to be past it and into the book of 1 Samuel.

 

Judges: A Book Review

So here I am, reading through the Bible again. I just finished the book of Judges. In my opinion, that has to be the most depressing book in the Bible.

In the first few verses of the book, it tells us that after the generation that claimed the Promised Land died out, the very next generation that came after didn’t know the Lord or what He had done for His people.

That didn’t take long.

There is a familiar pattern in judges, repeated ad nauseum. The people run after the next available god, fall into sin, get into trouble, and call on God. God sends a deliverer who bails them out and there is peace in the land — until another cheap idol shows up.

I read the Bible and I see the people of God by and large acting like anything but the people of God. It can be very frustrating.

Then I remember that I am one of those people of God. I find myself falling into familiar patterns of sin over and over, despite the guilt that remains from the last time. I find myself renewing the old promise of “never again,” which lasts until the next opportunity presents itself.

So I can relate.

I’m not excusing my (or anyone else’s sin). I’m just saying that doesn’t have to be the end of the story. It doesn’t have to be the familiar refrain.

I’m thankful for a grace that goes deeper and longer than any sin. I’m also thankful for a God who refuses to let me wallow in my self-destructive sin, but will provide me a way out. He won’t rest or quit with me until I am 100% sin-free.

I know that my story is your story. It’s the story of every child of God. But I also know that story doesn’t end with sin. It ends with grace.

 

 

When You Know the Ending

I’ve mentioned it before (I think) that I have a few books that I like to re-read every year. One of those is The Lord of the Rings, which is actually one novel with three parts and not a trilogy of novels as is commonly believed these days– but I digress.

You might think that for me to already know the outcome would diminish my enjoyment of this book. Actually, it’s quite the opposite.

For me, knowing the end makes some of the darker parts of the book more bearable. Knowing that Frodo and his faithful Samwise will come out alright in the end (spoiler alert) helps me through some of the passages when it seems that all will be lost.

It’s like that when I read the Bible. If you look at the metanarrative of the Bible story and keep the ending in mind, it makes some of the Old Testament passages (particularly Judges and the majority of the writings of the prophets) easier to stomach. Knowing that the Messiah is soon to arrive helps me get through all the apostasy and idolatry of the people called out by God.

In my own story, there have been many times when I’ve had to remind myself of the happy ending that awaits me. I am no different than most of you who have gone through dark and difficult chapters where the villain seems to be winning and hope seems all but lost. Sometimes, you think that if your life were a novel, it would be either a black comedy or a dark tragedy with no chance of a redemptive ending.

But the ending has already been written. God wins. Love does actually win in the truest sense. Not the warm fuzzy kind of love that comes with butterflies in your stomach, but the kind that lays down its life for a friend. That’s the love that wins in the end.

Everything good about this life will be redeemed. All the evil will be undone and all the lies exposed and banished forever. All the best parts of your deepest longings and dreams will be fully realized.

You are allowed to skip ahead and read the last chapter, Revelation 22. It’s my favorite ending of all time.