July 30: The Eighth Sunday after Pentecost

July 27, 2017

Note: Pastor Mark will be out of town this Sunday for family vacation. Brad Billheimer is preaching on the birth of Samson. He offers the following “preview”:

Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.” And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained. 

Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years. – Judges 16:23-31

There is a phrase that you will sometimes find used in the sports world; it is called “being a Monday Morning quarterback.” This is where the sports fan watches the ballgame on Saturday or Sunday and then takes the following several hours to dissect every detail so that by Monday morning, they can perfectly identify all of the mistakes that were made by their favorite team. No one associated with the game is safe in this situation. The coach’s mistakes are on full display with their play calling and clock management. The players’ mistakes are plentiful on the field, and don’t even get the sports fan started on the referees. And it goes without saying that the sports fan does all of this critical analysis from the comfort of their favorite chair while also complaining that their frozen lemonade is too cold. The Monday Morning quarterback has all the answers with all the luxuries of hindsight and the time to process it. Of course, those are luxuries that the actual team and officiating crew never possessed.

It is easy to look at Samson’s final moments with the luxury of hindsight, and think, “If Samson had only done X instead of Y then he would not be in this situation.” We so easily assume the role of judge, but we are not the judge in this story. We are the people who need to be delivered! And we need to be delivered in the midst of a seemingly impossible situation. As Samson cries out to Yahweh, we are left to wonder if there is any hope for sinners like us? But this passage does not leave us any time to ponder that question. As soon as Samson cries out, Yahweh immediately and definitively remembers his deliverer with the returning of his strength.

Samson’s story reminds us that there is hope for sinners in need of deliverance. Yahweh brings hope to dark places even to the main chamber of Dagon’s Temple and even to the darkest of all places, Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, where our Lord’s Cross was raised. Out of such darkness, our Lord delivered us from our sins so that we might live with Him forever in the age to come.

And that’s the gospel.

Come hear it preached and enacted in the supper with Jesus this Sunday.

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