Sermon on Acts 8:26-40

This sermon was delivered by Brother Alan Parry on 19/7/2015. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Brother Alan said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.

Baptism. Many pastors and preachers give interesting sermons on why you should undertake this step of obedience as a Christian. We’re going to look at a passage today and I’m going to take a slightly different approach. I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t get baptised.

In today’s passage, we see the Ethiopian version of Joe Hockey (the current Federal Treasurer in Australia) returning from worship in Israel, sitting in his chariot and reading Isaiah the prophet. He was most likely in quite a procession with a contingent of professional soldiers guarding him. As it would have been hard for him to read in a little chariot standing up, we can surmise that he was probably in something much larger and more salubrious. It is interesting to reflect that our Lord quoted many books during his earthly ministry but the only book He ever read publicly was Isaiah – the book the eunuch was also reading.

Verse 29 of Acts 8 reads: “Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.” From this we can learn that it is important to be attentive when the Spirit says to do something – the person has been gotten ready by His activity and is waiting for you to close the deal. In earlier verses we have learned that the Ethiopian would have been quite limited in how he could worship at Jerusalem, as he would only have been allowed access to the outer court of the Gentiles within the temple. He would not have been able to worship quite as he wanted to. He clearly knew much about the Word of God and the truth of God but he hadn’t quite figured it all out. The passage he was reflecting on before Philip joined him was Isaiah 53:1-12:

1 Who hath believed our report?
and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?
2 For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant,
and as a root out of a dry ground:
he hath no form nor comeliness;
and when we shall see him,
there is no beauty that we should desire him.
3 He is despised and rejected of men;
a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief:
and we hid as it were our faces from him;
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
4 Surely he hath borne our griefs,
and carried our sorrows:
yet we did esteem him stricken,
smitten of God, and afflicted.

5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
he was bruised for our iniquities:
the chastisement of our peace was upon him;
and with his stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way;
and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.
7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he opened not his mouth:
he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
so he openeth not his mouth.
8 He was taken from prison and from judgment:
and who shall declare his generation?
for he was cut off out of the land of the living:
for the transgression of my people was he stricken.
9 And he made his grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death;
because he had done no violence,
neither was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him;
he hath put him to grief:
when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin,
he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days,
and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11 He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied:
by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many;
for he shall bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he hath poured out his soul unto death:
and he was numbered with the transgressors;
and he bare the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

In Acts 8:34 the eunuch asks an insightful question of Philip, saying effectively, “Is the prophet speaking of himself or someone else?” If he’d asked a rabbi this, he would most likely have been directed to Isaiah 49:3: “…Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” In other words, he would have been told that Isaiah 53 referred to the nation of Israel, to the righteous ones in that land. But the Ethiopian would soon have realised that this didn’t fit. How do the righteous redeem the unrighteous, or suffer for them?

In verse 35 of the same passage Philip solved the Ethiopian’s dilemma by simply preaching Jesus to him. In other words he said, “This is the One who fits the picture. In Isaiah 53:2 the beating He suffered at the hands of the Romans disfigured Him, so He had no beauty to inspire sympathy from others. He was rejected by His own people (Isaiah 53:3) and crucified on a cross so that most who witnessed this assumed that He’d been cursed (Isaiah 53:4). Isaiah 53:6 reveals that He suffered for our sins while Isaiah 53:9 tells us that He died with the wicked yet was buried with the rich. The tenth verse shows that all this was done by the express plan of God, satisfying His requirements for holiness and justice.”

In verse 36 on Acts 8, the eunuch says, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” It is interesting to note that the words “here is” (italicised in the King James version) are not in the original Greek. They’ve been put in afterwards to make the passage read a little better grammatically. In the original verse the eunuch would simply have said, “Look – water! Why can’t I be baptised?”, which brings us to the first reason we will consider as to why this shouldn’t be done. And that is, if you don’t believe that Jesus was prophesied about in the Old Testament, that He died for your soul, then don’t get baptised. It’s the wrong thing to do.

How did the Ethiopian fare in this first spiritual test? Verse 37 of Acts 8 clearly shows that he passed with flying colours, declaring Jesus to be “the Son of God.”

Which brings us to the next reason why a person shouldn’t undergo this step of obedience: if there’s not enough water, don’t get baptised. At this point some may object, asking, “Does it really matter how much water you use?” Well, Baptists didn’t invent baptism. Other Christian denominations didn’t either. John 3:22-23 tells us that John the Baptist, Christ’s forerunner, baptised by immersion, using “much water”: “…And John also was baptizing in Ænon near to Salim, because there was much water there: and they came, and were baptized.” Mark 1:1-5 also gives us a picture of John’s baptisms, stating that he did so in the “river of Jordan.” What was John doing? He was calling the people to a baptism of repentance for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. He was getting people ready spiritually for the Messiah when He came. And he was doing this as proof of a change of heart (repentance) that had already happened within the people who came to him to be baptised. The practice of full immersion baptism went back further than this, however. In rabbinical teachings priests were to wash themselves before they taught the people. And anyone who became Jewish was baptised fully in a large font of water. So John didn’t invent baptism either. The concept of full immersion in water as a ceremony was already well understood by the Jewish people of Jesus’ time.

So what are we doing when we baptise people in Christian churches today? We’re giving it a special symbolic meaning, effectively showing everyone that you’re serious about God. Baptism is an object lesson for a Christian as Romans 6:3-5 declares:

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

A picture makes the lesson easy to understand, as God well knew when He caused it to be written down for us in His Word. The passage above begins with the words, “Know ye not…” This is Paul’s way of saying, “Haven’t I already taught you this and you’ve forgotten?” So baptism then is an object lesson. As Christ died literally, so believers in Him will die figuratively. As He was buried, so are we – though symbolically. As He was raised, so we are too as we are lifted from full immersion in the baptismal font. You can’t do this with a mere sprinkle of water as there’s no picture there. It just isn’t right.

What about infant baptism, which is practiced by many churches in Christendom? Babies can’t understand the gospel therefore they fail the first test of baptism and should not undergo this rite. At this point some may direct us to Acts 16:25-33, where it states that a jailer’s whole house were baptised with him when he believed. A closer look at this passage shows that yes, the whole house was baptised by nowhere is there any mention of children. The phrase “he and all his” most likely refers to all his servants, both free and bond. All of these people heard the Word of God, believed, and were baptised accordingly.

Now for a final look at Philip in Acts 8. Was he an Apostle? No, he was not, though Acts 6 reveals that he was chosen by them with six other men to minister to people while they preached the Word of God. Did he have a title? No. This shows that the church can delegate the rite of baptism to anyone it wants to. The important thing is the heart and soul of the person being baptised, not the status of the one baptising them. Which underscores the importance of the first reason for undergoing this step in your Christian walk: if you’re heart’s not right, don’t do it.

We are now at the point where we can reveal the answer to the Ethiopian’s question in today’s passage: “what doth hinder me to be baptized?”

  • If you don’t believe
  • If there’s not enough water

However, if you fulfill the requirements above, then nothing hinders you from making this beautiful step of obedience and we’re going to see this done with five new believers today.

God bless you.

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Sermon on Judges 14:1-9

This sermon was delivered by Pastor Frank Guglielmo on 15/05/2016. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Pastor Frank said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.

Today’s message concerns Judges 14:1-9, which reads:

1 And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. 3 Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. 4 But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

5 Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. 6 And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done. 7 And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well.

8 And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion. 9 And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion.

In general, women tend to be more romantic than men. A number of stories illustrate this in the Bible, including the famous Song of Solomon. Perhaps the best example of loving obedience concerns Sarah, who called Abraham “Lord”…even though he did a few things wrong during their married life (1 Peter 3:6). Today’s story, however, is not like that. Instead it concerns an impetuous young man with a very hard head who was infatuated with a girl and willing to sacrifice everything for her. The name of this young man was Samson.

Interestingly, Samson is listed as a hero of the faith in the New Testament:

32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
(Hebrews 11:32)

Yet we may at first find it unusual that Samson would have so many issues yet still be saved. 1 John 2:15 warns us to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Sadly, the love of worldly things comes out clearly in Samson’s life. He lusted after a girl regardless of the consequences and chose to have her. And he would have been critically aware of the consequences: he was both a Nazarite and judge in Israel, so was supposed to remain ceremonially clean whilst knowing and administering the Word of God. As we shall see, Samson failed to keep himself pure concerning both roles he had in his life.

Moving on to the first two verses of today’s passage, it helps to learn that Timnath was a Philistine village or town about 7 kilometers away from Samson’s house, or approximately an hour’s walk away. At the time it was assigned to the tribe of Dan, which Samson was a member of. The Philistines had not yet been pushed out of the area so dwelt within its borders. That Samson wanted a woman from an enemy nation for a wife directly opposes God’s warning to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 7:1-3:

1 When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; 2 and when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: 3 neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.

The Israelites were not supposed to marry unbelievers and we can understand why there was this injunction once we consider the history of the latter’s religious practices. They had declined so severely morally that some were sacrificing their babies to their “gods”, causing a spiritual stink to rise up in the nostrils of God. Verse 4 of Deuteronomy 7 underscores the reason for God’s warning, essentially stating that rebellious nations would turn Israel away from following Him if intermarriages occurred. The enemies of Israel were engaged in worshiping the earth through fertility rites including prostitution: God knew this would have corrupted His people so He sought to protect them.

Returning back to today’s passage, we see that Samson’s woman should have been automatically excluded from marriage to a Nazarite, let alone a judge.

Other passages in the New Testament also warn about mingling with people who are unbelievers as it leads to trouble down the track. For example, 2 Corinthians 6:14 states:

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?

If we are unequally yoked it is akin to tying a lamb to a bull. They will pull against each other and sooner or later one will win out…and there are no prizes for determining that the most ungodly one usually does. So don’t be too eager to get married and don’t begin your married life with a compromise. Again and again I’ve seen sincere believers do this and it almost always leads to a shipwrecked faith. Some consequences:

  1. Your children may grow up to be unbelievers, being consigned to hell
  2. Your expectations of your partner’s thoughts and values may not match theirs moving forward
  3. Making your partner happy may become more important to you than pleasing God
  4. Marriage in Biblical terms is for life…this can be for a very, very long time with an unbeliever!

When people are young, instead of seeing danger signs in the Bible as being for their ultimate good and protection, they tend to see them as a way of robbing their happiness. When we are older we see that rules in the Bible were made by Someone who has gone before you, who knows about life and is shepherding you through it. It may help at this point to think of flags on a beach, warning swimmers about a rip. Those flags were not put there to take away your freedom and joy but to prevent injury or death for all who come across them.

In today’s passage it is undoubtedly true to say that Samson knew that what he wanted in a wife wasn’t right. His parents duly warned him and so did Scripture. But the desires of his flesh and the lust of his eyes took hold of him and he allowed those feelings to control him, rather than the Word of God. In verse three he says in essence, “She makes me happy. Get her for me!”, ignoring his parents’ protests. He insisted on taking a wife from his nation’s enemies.

Then, in verse four, we come to a puzzling phrase, “…it was of the Lord.” The Philistines at the time were oppressing Israel. This phrase at first glance seems to imply that God instigated Samson’s rebellion against him. Yet we know from earlier passages that Samson was a gift from God to his parents who was set to deliver the people from their enemies. What was going on here? Why was Samson so hard-headed?

We need to understand more about God’s dealings with sinful man by considering other passages in Scripture. Firstly we should realize that God did not lead Samson to the lawless position he took concerning his wife. James 1:13-15 states:

13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

So God does not tempt anyone with sin, including Samson. Secondly, we should consider that God did use Samson’s sinful choices to achieve His own purposes. We see this sort of thing all throughout Scripture, as when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. Genesis 50:20 then tells us that God prepares plans to save people through (and in spite of) their evil acts:

20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.

The same can be said of the crucifixion of our Lord. In Acts 2:22-24 we clearly see that God allowed Jesus to be brutally executed. In reporting this, Peter condemned the evil act but said it was intended for the good of mankind:

22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.

The above contrasts the sinfulness of man against God’s love, mercy and patience. Again and again in Scripture, then, God’s response to us is glorified. And the pinnacle of this was in God’s sending His own Son to die against a backdrop of absolute evil and hate. In Judges 14:4, we see that God was about to use Samson’s sinfulness to achieve His own purposes:

4 But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

We might be tempted at this point to think that the above gives Christians a license to sin, as per the following passage: “Let us do evil, that good may come?” (Romans 3:8). Yet the end of the line strongly condemns this: “whose damnation is just”. The genuine mark of a Christian is your desire not to sin, which then lines up with God’s own desires.

The next section we will examine is Judges 14:5-7, where we see that Samson pushed hard for what he wanted and got it. His parents, after an initial warning, gave in to their son’s desires. Verse 5 then sees Samson apparently separated from his parents on the way to his proposed wife’s house. Possibly, being a headstrong young man, he had an argument with them and then ran on ahead in order to meet with her more quickly. Instead he met with a lion, which he summarily killed after it attacked him. It is interesting to note that the Spirit of the Lord gave Samson the strength he needed to dispatch the lion but he didn’t tell his parents about it. Maybe something like this had happened before? At any rate, he went straight to the girl he was lusting after once he reached Timnath.

Verse 8 of Judges 4 reads:

8 And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion.

In the above we learn that Samson had to return back to his home town to build a house for his wife, a process which surely would have taken some months. This is similar to what Jesus is currently doing for us as believers:

In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
(John 14:2)

It also would have taken many months for an effective beehive to have developed in the carcass of the lion Samson had previously killed.

The next verse, verse 9, sees Samson taking much honey both to eat for himself and to keep for his parents. Was this a sin? The answer is clearly yes. It was forbidden for Israelites to touch anything dead, let alone to eat from it. The commandment against uncleanness would have been even more strictly enforced for a Nazarite like Samson, as Judges 13:7 reveals:

7 but he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.

So today’s passage shows that Samson not only had a blatant disregard for his own vows (and God’s laws) but managed to embroil his own parents in his sin. A very sad scenario indeed and a lesson for younger people in church as well as some older ones. Your respect for your parents is a barometer for your respect for God. As 1 John 4:20 reminds us, we can’t see God but we can see our parents, whom the fifth commandment also tells us we must honour and love:

20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?

In other words, he who loves God must love his brother (and his parents) also. How can you say you honour and respect God if you cannot do it to people you can see? How much you love, respect, and worship God is reflected in the relationships you have with the people around you.

One thing we can rejoice in is that the salvation we have, and the grace we keep receiving, is given to us in spite of our weaknesses. We were dead in our sins when God first encountered us, having no chance whatsoever of saving ourselves. Yet as it is written:

“…My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)

As we learn to rely on the Lord Jesus more and more, His strength is revealed in our weakness and this continues on past the initial point of our salvation. So don’t rely on your own strength to look good to others spiritually. True peace comes from trusting in Christ alone to give you the strength and patience to get through each day with grace. The sustaining thing in your life is to know God and have a relationship with Jesus Christ:

https://aeon01.wordpress.com/do-you-have-5-minutes-click-here-to-be-saved/

There is hope for us today arising from what we can learn about Samson’s blunders. God’s grace and persistence is evident even when we fail to meet the mark.

God bless you all.

The painting at the beginning of this article is Samson and Delilah, an oil painting attributed to Peter Paul Rubens. Rubens was a prolific Flemish Baroque painter well-known for a variety of 17th Century masterpieces. The painting depicts a candlelit room, with a sleeping Samson in the lap of Delilah, and a group of Philistines in a doorway off to the right. Samson’s strength was from his hair, cut by a Philistine to try and diminish his (Samson’s) strength. The oil painting is full of symbolic icons and gestures: the statue of Venus and Cupid, the crossed hands of the Philistine that signals deceit and the old woman is believed to be a procuress.

Sermon on Judges 14:10-20

This sermon was delivered by Pastor Frank Guglielmo on 22/05/2016. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Pastor Frank said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible. The image below depicts Samson eating honey from a ceremonially unclean source, a dead lion. It was taken from the Layman’s Bible, a blog I have just started following and recommend.

Every day we are faced with hundreds of decisions. Most of them we make quickly and easily, especially those that are seemingly insignificant or along the lines of…should I wear a tie today, should I wear my hair one way or another, etc? Other decisions are made for us: for example, our decision to rug up with winter clothing when faced with unfavorable weather outside. Other choices need more stamina: for example, how much time to devote to reading the Lord’s Word and prayer.

When we have God’s Word, we always have a choice regarding whether or not to obey it. And when we listen to the murmurings of our flesh the consequences, as we will see in today’s message, affect not only us but those around us.

Galatians 6:7-8 in the King James Bible reads:

7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

The passage above makes a clear distinction between sowing to the flesh and making choices that are lead by the Spirit of God. Sadly, the unsaved don’t have this choice: they almost inevitably choose to please the self.

We see an example of the latter in Samson. As the previous message on him showed, he was meant to live a consecrated life as both a Judge and a Nazarite. Yet he willingly joined himself to a woman of an enemy nation who was most definitely not clean. We saw that Samson was driven by his desires, lead by his flesh, in that he again willingly took honey from a dead body. In this chapter of the book of Judges, his choices begin to have consequences for both himself and his family.

Verse 11 of Judges 14 tells us:

11 And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him.

These “thirty companions” were given to Samson as part of his marriage feast. At this point, Samson had finished building his bride-to-be’s house at his father Manoah’s place. Samson and Manoah then headed down to Timnath to get the bride but we find in this passage that the ceremony was inexplicably happening at the bride’s father’s house, not Manoah’s. Something had gone terribly wrong.

Samson was suddenly surrounded by his new wife’s family and friends, all of whom were enemies of Israel, the Philistines. Imagine being at a wedding where you were not surrounded by the people who love you. This was a bad wedding for Samson, a disaster of a wedding. We know that the Philistines had very different traditions to the Israelites yet now Samson and his family were forced to endure these differences.

There are lessons we can learn from their situation:

1. Choosing to sin normally brings further compromise
The main sin for Samson was in choosing a Philistine woman to marry, not a woman from his own people. Now his wedding was compromised: Samson was surrounded by people who would be doing the very things he wouldn’t be doing as he was both Jewish and a Nazarite.

Judges 14:5 mentions the “vineyards of Timnath” so we can infer from this that there was probably strong drink at the wedding. They were also most likely eating unclean foods as well. And we know that thirty young men had been chosen to help celebrate the marriage feast with Samson – all Philistines.

We also know from this chapter that the wedding didn’t just go for a few hours. Samson and his family had to put up with it for 7 days! Samson was effectively stuck for a week spiritually.

2. Before you choose to compromise with sin, consider the following:

There are always consequences that come about as a result of the decisions we make.
You will probably have to give up more as a consequence of sin. The bad situation normally progresses, in a descending spiral, away from the Lord.
Sin always affects other parts of your life. It is almost impossible to compartmentalize. Sadly, it usually spreads like a cancer, affecting not just yourself but the people around you.
Never think that you can sin and that your sin will bear no consequences. We learn from this chapter of Judges that Samson’s sin also affected his parents. And rather than being a godly witness to the Philistines, Samson instead demonstrated how much he hated them. The company you keep often reveals what you actually believe in your heart. Samson, who had forsaken God’s Word, now found himself in the company of those who hated God.

From this we can infer that if we keep company with the world, and with people who reject God’s Word, eventually we will start to like their conversations and may end up giving up our faith. The company you keep reflects where you are in your heart with God, what principles you hold dear. So be careful who you spend time with.

We should not spend too much time with people who are lead by their flesh and not by the Spirit of God. The Bible says we are to be witnesses in this world, salt and light, standing against corruption so that people might more easily come to God:

13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

We are to be an example to those who do not know God, being willing to share the gospel with them so they escape hell with us. A true friend will do this for the unsaved.

From the life of Samson we see, however, that if you want something badly enough God will let you have it (after warnings)…but there will be consequences.

Verse 13 of Judges 14 shows Samson proposing the consequences of the thirty companion’s failing to guess his riddle:

13 But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it.

Could Samson afford this? We will see shortly that no, he could not, but he was ready to gamble because he thought he was onto a sure winner. Samson’s attitude to his guests was anything but charitable: he was preparing to fleece them. And in trying to take advantage of them Samson displayed contempt for both them and their culture. He was also in this exchange clearly trying to demonstrate how wealthy he was. In other words, he was grandstanding.

In verse 19 of this chapter we see that in fact Samson couldn’t afford the bet as when he lost it, he had to kill thirty people to obtain their clothing:

19 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle.

The riddle Samson gave to his thirty companions is expounded in verse 14:

14 And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.

We know the answer to this as we have followed along with Samson since he first desired a wife from an enemy tribe. To be fair to Samson’s character, he may have thought the Philistines had a fighting chance to find the truth as the lion he killed was lying near the vineyards so could well have been visible. By verse 15, however, it is clear that his companions had become desperate. Things had progressed to the point where they were prepared to threaten Samson’s bride if she did not get the answer for them:

15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson’s wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father’s house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so?

In verses 16 to 17 we see that Samson’s wife was offended with him the very first day he proposed the riddle. She then “wept before him” for seven days and, on the last day of the feast, really pleaded with him. We should remember from verse 15 that it was on the last day of the feast that the companions threatened her and her family.

At this point we learn that Samson’s relationship with his wife was not good. She didn’t tell him about the threat she’d received from the thirty companions…while he didn’t tell her the answer to the riddle for seven days. Already, there was no trust between them. Genuine love between them (clearly lacking here) would have shown:

– Faithfulness
– Consistency
– Concern
Yet there was no trust between anyone at Samson’s wedding, as the exchange in verse 15 showed. Here the companions effectively asked his new wife, “Have you called us here so we can be ripped off?” There was no trust between the Philistines and Samson, between the Philistines and his wife, nor between the wife and Samson.

In verse 17 Samson’s wife really laid the guilt trip on her husband and he caved in, telling her the answer to his cryptic riddle.

Verse 18 then reads:

18 And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion? and he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.

It is interesting here that Samson’s guests chose to tell his the answer just before the closing of the final day of the wedding. In other words, they chose to drag the matter out for as long as possible. Samson by this stage most likely thought he had won the bet. Yet we see the Philistines tormenting him, answering the riddle with questions to further infuriate him. And Samson worked out very quickly that they could not have gotten the answer without his wife.

The phrase “plowed with my heifer” is insinuating and at first seems to have almost a sexual connotation. Yet it most likely means Samson was effectively saying, “You have stolen my cow and plowed your own field with her.” Nevertheless, it is clear that Samson knew his wife had betrayed him. She chose not to let him know about the threat she had received earlier from the thirty companions so that he could do nothing about it in time.

Samson was now in a dilemma. He had to pay for the bet. Verses 19 to 20 describe the aftermath: he went to Ashkelon, a city under dispute between the Philistines and the Israelites. He then jumped into the fray, killed thirty men, then brought their loot back to Timnath:

19 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house.

20 But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.

So Samson fulfilled his obligations to the winners of the bet, then became angry and went back to his father’s house. It seems clear to us from this that he couldn’t face his wife. Unfortunately, her father then tried to do the right thing by the abandoned woman and gave her to someone else: a Philistine. Things were going from bad to worse for all concerned. This was not a good way to finish a wedding.

Learnings we can take from the life of Samson:
The first thing we see is that a man can slay a lion with his bare hands (through God’s strength) yet have very little control over his passions. Samson continually made the wrong choices. There are victories that God gives us in life: we should never forget (as Samson did) that we owe every one of them to the Lord. And the greatest victory we can have is victory over sin. To win obedience to God, we must overcome the flesh.

God protected Samson from a roaring lion: the benefit Samson received here was physical in nature. But he needed spiritual sustenance as well, the sustenance New Testament believers in Christ now have as we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit:

14 that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:14)

17 even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:17)

Samson sought to gratify his desires and emotions, not the Lord. As a result, his life became more and more tumultuous and this was, sad to say, completely his own doing. God has called us to operate on a different plane to Samson:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

We are not just promised our daily bread, or physical sustenance, but to be upheld spiritually as well. Our motivation should therefore be for what the Lord calls us to do. Don’t focus too much on the world. Your mind and heart need to be in heaven as we are cautioned that:

…where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21, Luke 23:34)

When we focus on earthly things, there cannot be peace in our lives. This reflects Samson’s life, and the life of many Christians today.

Final reflections before closing

Philippians 4:11-13 says:

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Do you see where Paul’s mind and heart is? Earthly joys come and go so our hearts and minds must be focused on Christ in heaven. This brings peace in all circumstances.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 also reminds us that:

6…godliness with contentment is great gain.

7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

So let’s be happy with the food we have, and the clothes we also have on our back. Don’t have your heart too firmly attached to the world. And don’t fight against the boundaries God puts in your life, as Samson did. They are there for your protection.

As a final thought: don’t have your eyes focused on the things of this world but rather on the One who created this world.

God bless you.

The Ministry of Anna Beth Wivell

How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 and how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
(Romans 10:14-15)

The passage above highlights a real dilemma for those attempting to minister in Africa, for reasons which will be outlined below.

Today at church we were treated to a presentation by Anna Beth Wivell, a bible translator who left Australia to spend the last 15 months in Chad (Africa). She accepted the Lord as her Saviour at age 5, was baptised at 6, then completed bible translation work in seminary. Anna now works as a translation consultant for an organisation called Bibles International.


Some background on Anna’s life in Chad:

Chad is 1.3 million square kilometers, which is roughly the same size as Australia’s Northern Territory. About 12 million people live in the area, most in the South where the land is more fertile. Chadians have large families so there are many children. Though the people are very poor Anna took pains to let us know how resourceful they are as providers for their young. The life expectancy of Chadians is very low compared to the West, at around 50, and is largely due to the high mortality rate of mothers and young children. Sadly, the literacy rate in Chad is only 35%, being especially low in women, older people and villagers. Anna said this fact alone provides a significant challenge for ministry.

There are two official languages in Chad, French (spoken mostly by pagans and Christians) and Arabic (spoken mostly by Muslims). Yet most people use one of 129 native dialects as their day to day speech. Of these dialects, only 8 have been translated into the complete Bible. This means about 75% of Chadians are without a complete Bible translation, a shocking statistic.

As noted above, Anna Beth works as a translation consultant. She assists local churches to translate the Bible into their own languages, comparing texts back to the original Hebrew. After a draft is completed, a quality check is performed to ensure all is as it should be before printing. I was amazed to learn of the level of commitment and staying power Bible translators have to have. Anna told us it takes 5-10 years to translate the New Testament into one of Chad’s native dialects, and 10-15 years to translate the Old Testament. In short, Anna and her coworkers really need our prayers.

If you’d be so kind as to take on Anna Beth’s prayer requests, here are some areas to lift up to the Lord:

  • Pray for the health of Chadian churches
  • Pray for the spiritual growth of Chadian Christians, for them to have a true understanding of their need for a Saviour
  • Pray for progress on the translation work
  • Pray for God’s work to be done in the hearts of the readers
  • Pray for the health of the translators and committee members
  • Pray for Anna Beth, for her to have wisdom in day to day life
  • Pray for more labourers for the harvest field

Anna Beth has a very interesting and uplifting blog. If you’d like to follow along with her journey in Chad, you can do so here:
http://annawivell.blogspot.com.au/

Finally, a link to the very worthwhile organisation she is affiliated with, Bibles International:
http://biblesint.org/biNew/online-donations/online-giving

It was a real blessing hearing Anna Beth speak today. I felt very encouraged to witness a person of integrity and faith walking so closely with the Lord.