Tag Archives: Family

Mother of Samson

Recently, I read through the book of Judges, which a very interesting book of the Bible, depicting when everyone does what is right in their own eyes.  One of the common criticisms of the Bible is its depiction of women.  According to some views, the Bible depicts women in two extremes, Jezebel or the Virgin Mary.  There is not room for the “real woman.” Jezebel and Mary were both real, and there are many other depictions of real women facing life’s challenges as well.

I found one such depiction in the story of Samson.    The story of Samson begins in Judges 13.  Samson’s mother was not named.  She was Manoah’s wife.  They lived in a time when the people of Israel had sinned again and God had handed them over to be ruled by the Philistines.  They had no children.  Scripture says that she was barren.  An angel appears to her, not to her husband, and tells her that she will have a child who will be a Nazirite.

And the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”
(Judges 13:3-5 ESV)

She tells her husband, Manoah, who asked the “man of the Lord” come back and explain what they are to do again.  Apparently, he has to hear it for himself.  The angel does so, but once again, he appeared to the wife, not the husband.  She went to get him and when he returned, he asked the angel once again, what they are to do?  The angel basically tells Manoah the same thing he said before, but twice, he emphasizes ‘let her.’  The bearing of the child is the wife’s mission, not Manoah’s, and he is to support her in it.  The rest of the story is interesting, and it is where the wife stands our strongly as a woman of faith, and a faith based logically on whom God has revealed Himself to be.

Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “Please let us detain you and prepare a young goat for you.” And the angel of the LORD said to Manoah, “If you detain me, I will not eat of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD.” (For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the LORD.) And Manoah said to the angel of the LORD, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the LORD, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the LORD went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.

The angel of the LORD appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the LORD. And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the LORD blessed him.
(Judges 13:15-24 ESV)

Notice Manoah’s reaction compared to her reaction.  He was the one who overreacted.  She was the one who spoke with the calm assurance of faith.  It was because her faith was strong that God could use her for the task.  Being Samson’s mother would be no small task.

Sometimes being the husband means being man enough to admit at any given moment that my faith or understanding of God’s will is weak, and that I need to listen to my wife.  It also means that I should be supportive of her as she seeks to fulfill God’s purposes for her life, just as she is supportive of me in my endeavors.  I don’t see this view as opposed to complementarianism, which I think is the most Biblical understanding of the roles of men and women in the Bible.  I see it as a realistic application of what the Bible demonstrates about those roles in different situations.

Failures in Leadership

We often look to Moses as the model of leadership in the Old Testament.  In fact, he was a great leader.  He led a people who had grown up in a polytheistic system and led them to belief in the one, true God.   He took them through perils and dealt with complaints and uprisings.  There is no doubt that he was a great man and a great leader.

Yet, in the end, he did not see the goal fulfilled.  He did not personally lead his people into the Promised Land.  God would not allow him to do so.  The story of why is in the following passage of Scripture:

Now there was no water for the congregation. And they assembled themselves together against Moses and against Aaron. And the people quarreled with Moses and said, “Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the LORD! Why have you brought the assembly of the LORD into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the LORD appeared to them, and the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the staff from before the LORD, as he commanded him.
Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.”

(Numbers 20:2-12 ESV)

God’s order was to speak to the rock.  Tell it to give water.  Moses was not in the mood to speak to rocks.  He was angry.  After all the people had seen, they still demanded more.  They accused him of being a failure as a leader, and he had enough of it.  So, instead of speaking to the rock, he spoke to the people.  He called them rebels and struck the rock with his staff instead of following God’s directions.  It cost him the opportunity to see the Promised Land.  Why was God so ‘mean’ about what was such a small, understandable thing?

One idea is that the people were starting to become more impressed with Moses’s  staff than they were with God.  After all, Moses had parted a sea with it.  Now, God wanted to correct the misconception.  He wanted the rock to give water at the power of His word without any evidence of Moses’s strength being behind it.  Moses made a mess of it.  He got mad and showed his anger.  God had wanted to show Himself holy but Moses did not trust Him to do it.  Instead of God’s word, Moses used his staff and his own strength.  Interestingly, God gave water anyway.  He displayed his compassion and love for the people Moses had called rebels.  However, from Moses he took the privilege of seeing his task through to the end.

When we are in positions of spiritual leadership, whether that be in a church, small group or as a parent, we must have as our goal to display God’s holiness.  When it becomes all about us and how we feel, we are not likely to do that.  We will use our own strength and we may impress those around us with our ‘staff’–our intelligence, our plan and our hard work.  Interestingly, God may give us success anyway though not for our sakes.  It will be because He cares and loves those around us who need His touch.  But we will have missed something, a great opportunity to see the holiness of God on display in our lives, our ministries and our families.  So, let’s take care to let God be God and not stand His way.

Moses made another mistake related to this one.  That will be for another post.

 

 

A Vocabulary Question from My Six-year-old

This morning, my daughter was listening to her favorite children’s radio programs when she heard the word, “forced.”

“What does forced mean?” she asked.

“It is when someone makes another person do something,” I replied.

A look of surprise came over her face as she said, “Without saying please!”

Metaphors in Marriage

Typically, I try to give my wife a day off each week.  I think a stay-at-home mom is one of the hardest working people in the world, especially when that combines with home school for children.  So, one day a week so that she can do some of the things that she enjoys and that refresh her.  On that day, I become the home school teacher, an activity that has raised my respect for all teachers, be they home-school teachers or more traditional school teachers.

One thing that I have to do is go over the literature assignments with my oldest daughter.  During that time, we try to recognize how an author used metaphors and similes.  Metaphors and similes communicate a great deal about how one feels about something.   Men and women often use metaphors for their spouses and not very flattering ones.

For example, when a man calls his wife “the old ball and chain” he is expressing not only his opinion of his wife but his opinion of marriage.  He sees his wife and marriage in general as something that holds him down and takes away his freedom.  When a wife sees her husband as a “beached whale” or “couch potato”, it not only expressed her opinion of  his physical condition but also of his work ethic.  She sees him as something in the way that she has to work around.

Our metaphors for our spouses say a lot about us and how we view what God gives us.  In the Genesis account of creation, God said, “It is not good that man be alone.”  That is not to say that being single in inherently bad and undesirable.  Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7 that there are circumstances when being single is best.  However, God saw Adam and saw that he needed a companion.  So He said, “I will make a helper as his complement.” (Genesis 2:18, HCSB)

The best metaphor for spouse that we can use if think with the Bible in mind is “gift.”  My wife is God’s gift to me for my good.  As we relate together I learn my own short-comings and I seek to grow in the image of Christ.  She helps me and completes (complement) me.  If I use less flatteringly metaphors I show scorn at what God has given and at what God has said is good for me.

Therefore, before we say something scornful about our spouse or to think of them as less than a gift from God, we should think twice, and then thank God for the grace that He shows us in giving us our spouse.

Cause for Humility

My youngest daughter works hard to keep me humble.  Actually, she doesn’t work hard at it.  She seems to come about that ability naturally.

In the past year, I had a number of speaking engagements.  As we were waiting for one program to start, she commented about being bored.  I asked, “Are you still going to be bored when I start speaking?”  Without hesitation, she replied, “Yes.”

After speaking at one engagement, I realized that I could hear a recording in the coming week on the radio.  I said to my family, “I don’t suppose that I will.  I’m not sure I want to hear myself on the radio.”  Once again, my youngest daughter spoke up, “Yeah, especially since we’re heard it before.”

If I were to think more Biblically about myself, I wouldn’t need her help to be humble.  This time of year is a reminder of just how humble we should be.  Sadly, many Christians give the impression that we have it all together.  The message we seem to project to the world is if only they would be more like us, they would be ok.

The truth of the matter is Jesus came because we are not ok, and even more, there is no way that we can be ok without Him.  We are all born sinners with an inclination to sin and to rebel against God.  It isn’t just the big sins that society promotes but the “small” sins that we all commit that separate us from God and from being in a personal relationship with Him.  God didn’t create us to live separately from Him.  He created us to walk in the garden with Him, but through sin, we chose to walk on our own paths.

The only thing that separates a Christian from someone else is that we have realized that our own path isn’t nearly as good as the path God created us to walk on.  His path leads to eternal blessing.  Our path leads to hell.  The problem is that we are so caught in sin that we can’t find our way to His path.

Jesus is the way, the truth and the life.  He came and through His death and His resurrection He made the way for us to get to the path.  Through the  Holy Spirit,  God gives us to new life (being born again). He takes us off our path and places us on His path.  We realize our sin and our need for a Savior, and the Baby in the Manger becomes more than a pleasant thought.  His life in all of its glory in living and horror in dying and glory once again in rising becomes our source of hope and joy.

The problem is that when we get on His path, we sometimes forget that it was He who put us there.  We believe that we have it all together because of our own power and intelligence.  We become like the Corinthians in the New Testament.  Paul had to ask them, if they had received everything they had, why did they boast as if they didn’t?

We have no cause to boast of ourselves, only to boast of Him and to glorify Him.  My daughter shouldn’t have to give me cause to be humble.  Thinking about the Cross should be cause enough.

Our Motivation for Being Biblical Families

My wife and I recently attended a marriage conference where patriotism was mentioned as a reason for having a strong, Biblically based Christian family.  In reading a devotion for couples together, we found the same motivation mentioned.  The reasoning goes that by having strong Christian families we can make our nation great once again.  Personally, patriotism is a poor reason to have a family based on Biblical principles.

Would we apply the idea of patriotism as a reason to have such a family to all believers everywhere, even if they lived in a country that we think of as an “enemy”?  Biblical truth is truth for all people everywhere.  Patriotism as a motivation for Christian conduct reflects an American-centric Christianity that borders on idolatry.  Another reason that I disagree is that it that it elevates family above other areas of Christian obedience such as ministry to others and fellowship with other believers.  How many parents justify missing church with the need for family time?  This can also, at worst, be a form of idolatry and at best reflects a weak understanding of the doctrine of the church.

Finally, it represents a dethroning of Christ and His glory as the motivation of discipleship.  We are created to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.  In Ephesians 4:25-32, Paul wrote a husband’s love for his wife should be the same as Christ love for the church.  I hope to obey the Bible in our Christian family not for the sake of my country but to testify of Jesus’ love for us.  As people see Christian families, our desire should be for them to see a reflection Christ and to be drawn to Him.  As Christian we should seek to be more than family-focused and patriotic.  We should be Kingdom focused, Christ glorifying and God centered families.  His glory is our motivation

Looking for Home

Last week, we took our sons to their new home for the next four years (at least).  Both are entering their freshman years at a small Baptist university. However, their having a new home has left me confused about where my home is.  Since we were married, my wife and I have lived in four different states and three different countries, four if you want to count the one where we unexpectedly had to spend about four or five months.  Our children were born in three different countries, and the two that were born in the US were born in different states.  I have lost count of how many apartments and houses we have lived in.

So, for me, I don’t consider any place to be home. I had come to think of home as the place where we were all together as a family.  For example, if we were staying in a hotel somewhere and went out for dinner, I would say when we were done eating, “Let’s go home.”  Home was wherever we were as long as we were together.

Now, we are not together.  One-third of the family is away making a new home.  So, do I have to change my definition of home?  Actually, I think that I just need to radically correct it.  God created us to be with Him.  Jesus said that eternal life is knowing the Only True God and Jesus Christ, whom He sent. (John 17:3) We are at home when we are close to Him.  In this life, many distractions interrupt our being with Him. Yet, we should pursue the practice of His presence, learning to pray without ceasing, talking with Him as we would a friend standing nearby.  In the end, we will have perfect fellowship with God when we are in heaven.  Heaven is our true home, but heaven is where we will live in complete fulfillment of the purpose for which God created us.

Yes, I still want to be together with my family. I would love for that to be in one place and not to be constantly moving.  But my longing for home should help me to understand my deeper longing to be at home with the Lord and to practice His presence in this life so that I will be ready to stand in His presence in the one to come.

My six-year-old’s excuse

Later this morning we leave to take our two oldest children to college.  For the trip, we rented a car that we picked up yesterday.  It has one of those electronic keys.  My six-year-old daughter found the key and asked about it.  I told her it was a key.

“It doesn’t look like a key,” she said.

I turned my back.  Suddenly, from outside, I heard the car horn blaring over and over.  I started toward the window then realized that my daughter had pushed the panic button on the key.  I took the key from her and told her not to push the buttons.

She responded sweetly, “You should have hid it from me.”