On April 11, 1970, Apollo 13 launched into the Florida sky on a mission to land on the moon and explore the Fra Mauro formation. Two days into flight, the number two oxygen tank exploded, triggering a series of related problems that endangered the crew composed of James A. Lovell, with John L. “Jack” Swigert, and Fred W. Haise.
After moving the men out of the command module and into the lunar module and steering the ship back to earth, they faced a new challenge: because their flight in space was delayed, they were quickly running out of their supply of lithium hydroxide canisters, which removed carbon dioxide from the air. The command module contained a sufficient supply, but they weren’t compatible with the lunar module, yet the men needed to stay in the lunar module in order to conserve energy so they could make it home alive.
Houston, we have a problem.
With little time on their hands before the astronauts would begin slowing suffocating, the ground crew tackled the problem of literally fitting a square peg in round hole. In the video clip above from the movie by the same name, we witness the stressful process the ground crew faced in transforming items from the ship into a system that would fit the canisters.
In the same way, God can use anything and anyone to accomplish his purposes…as we’ll discover in this weekend’s reading.
Remember that today’s readings cover Saturday and Sunday.
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Judges 13:1-16:31. Israel had reached such a low spiritual place that despite their misery, we see no evidence that they cried out to God…yet God still delivered them. This is a great example of God’s grace. Israel did nothing to warrant God sending Samson to deliver them from their oppressors. In the same way, God still rescues people today—even when they fail to cry out to him.
As chapter 13 progresses, it becomes obvious that the angel who appeared to Samson’s parents was really the incarnate Christ. The presence of the angel of the Lord signifies something significant is happening. If you remember, the same “angel” appeared to Abraham and Sarah, and Joshua.
Samson was called by God to be a Nazirite, a spiritual order of people who made a voluntary vow to God for a limited amount of time. You can read more about them in Numbers 6. Unlike other Nazirites, Samson was “drafted” into the order not for a limited amount of time but for his whole life.
The beginning of chapter 14 is a little disturbing. Samson sought to marry a Philistine woman, which seems like an affront to his Nazirite vows. Then verse 4 tells us, “His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines.” Samson ended up violating his vows all over the place: He defiled himself by touching the lion’s carcass and then attended a wedding feast where he likely indulged in wine.
Yet in the midst of this, God used Samson to deliver Israel from Philistine oppression.
As if he wasn’t messed up enough already, we read in chapter 16 that Samson slept with a prostitute (not coincidentally a Philisinte). Finally, Samson settled on another Philistine woman, Delilah.
Reading through Samson’s sordid life, it’s apparent that the only part of the vow Samson kept was the agreement that he never cut his hair. Ironically, that privilege was taken from him when his hair was cut while in captivity.
Finally, Samson was captured and brought before the Philistines. The New Bible Commentary makes an interesting observation here:
“There is great irony in the repeated claim that their god had given Samson into their hands (16:23–24), for in reality it was the Lord who had done so, precisely to bring about their downfall.”
Yet all the time, he was fulfilling God’s purpose.
John 1:29-2:25. We learn here that Andrew, one of Jesus’ followers, began as a follower of John the Baptist.
In chapter 2 we read the first of seven signs in the gospel of John that point to Jesus’ being the messiah. I love the fact that Jesus performed his first miracle at a wedding. Here are a few thoughts that hit me about the story:
- Mary seems to be a little pushy with son. It almost seems that she intuitively knows the time for Jesus to be revealed has come.
- Jesus served wine to people who were already somewhat inebriated. And it was a lot of wine! Somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 gallons.
- Jesus turned the water into wine in order to save the bridal party from embarrassment. This wasn’t a life or death situation—yet Jesus cared.
Psalm 102. This psalm begins as a complaint to God, yet it evolves into a psalm to praise. In verse 18, the psalmist writes, “Let this be written for a future generation, that a people not yet created may praise the LORD.”
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
The way this weekend’s schedule turned out, we were able to read about Samson’s life from beginning to end. The overarching lesson I learned from Samson is that God is going to do whatever he wants to do and he’s going to use whomever he wants to use.
All too often, I get so hard on myself that I can’t see how or why God would want to use me. This is self-absorption. The subtle trap I create in this scenario is that I make the workings of God all about me. Granted, God desires to work through clean vessels, but he can–and does–use anyone.
Conversely, I tend to limit the ways God speaks to me as if he only communicates through clean vessels. He doesn’t. That means he can even work through the president I didn’t vote for or the person at work whom I don’t like.
Heck, today’s reading shows us that God can even use the jawbone of an ass! Read Judges 15:15.
Perhaps the reason God included Judges in the Bible is to prove that:
- All of us are endowed with an inherent gravitational pull toward sin; and
- While God doesn’t approve of our sin, it certainly doesn’t stand in the way of him using us.
Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done.”
The fact is, his kingdom will come and his will is going to be done–and he’ll use anyone and everyone to accomplish it.
Even if it means fitting a square peg in a round hole.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- What lessons did you learn from Samson’s tragic life?
- How do people limit God in who he can use to speak to them?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.