What you dont’ know can hurt you!

(Judges 16:20 KJV)  And she said, The Philistines be upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times before, and shake myself. And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him.

You could argue that this verse shares the saddest commentary that could ever be made about a human being. “And he wist not that the LORD was departed from him.”

The word “wist” in this verse comes from a Hebrew verb that is very similar to the English infinitive “to know.” It means to be aware or quite literally to ascertain by seeing. A very literal 21st century rendering of this verse would tell us that Samson did not see that the Lord was departed from him.

The only thing sadder, or scarier, than being out of the will of God and out from under His protective care, would be not being aware that you are out of His will and protective care! This was the case with Samson.

Samson was a champion, even a hero, to God’s people. God had blessed Samson with great strength. God used Samson as an instrument of judgment against the Philistines during a time that the Philistines were oppressing God’s people. According to Judges 15:20, Samson “judged” (or lead and protected) God’s people for 20 years.

God chose to bless Samson. God gave Samson a very important work to do among His people. According to Judges 16:20 God also withdrew His hand and blessings from Samson. Why? While we may never know all the reasons, I believe one very important reason was because Samson fell away from the standards and life of Holiness to which God had called him. God had called Samson to live under the vows of a Nazirite (Judges 13:5). Samson’s inappropriate relationship with a woman outside of the community of faith leads to a violation of those vows.

So it is with us. We are often blinded to the consequences of our actions when we choose to live outside the standard and limits that our Creator has set for us. Often we fail to understand the eventual consequences of what we see as “small violations” of “less important” standards. We should always bear in mind that our loving God knows the end result of any choice we could ever make. His standards not only reveal His character and priorities, they also reveal His protective love for us.

How could a man so blessed by God lose those blessings without being aware of it? Perhaps it happens in the same manner that we “less-blessed” children do the same thing. We often lose sight of the fact that the things we enjoy are not things of our own creation or accomplishment. They are gifts and blessing from our loving Heavenly Father. When we allow ourselves to become estranged from God it often takes time before the blessings become scarce.

(Matthew 5:45 KJV)  … for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Unfortunately for Samson, he was physically blind before he realized how spiritually blind his lifestyle had become (Judges 16:21). Let us all take inventory of our hearts, minds, and lifestyles while we still have the spiritual (and physical!) sight to comprehend what we see before us! Take heart and be encouraged by the fact that God still can, and still will, use us to further his kingdom even after we have strayed, if we will simply and sincerely turn back to Him. He did with Samson! (Judges 16:28-30)

Scott Sheriff

 

Submission

(Luke 2:48-51 KJV) And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. {49} And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? {50} And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. {51} And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

Jesus, God incarnate, came to Earth not only to be a perfect sacrifice for our sins, but also to be a perfect example for our lives. As humans we often struggle to understand how The Creator of all things could willingly subject Himself to creation. Perhaps it would be more productive to accept the fact that He did do so than speculate as to how He did it.

(Philippians 2:7 KJV) But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

One of the more amazing ways that Jesus provided us that perfect example of perfect obedience to the will of God was by subjecting Himself to the God ordained system of authority. God has established a hierarchy of authority with Himself at the very top. Below God we find such institutions as family and government.

Scripture bears witness to the fact that God has ordained “layers” of authority in human life:

(Exodus 20:12 KJV) Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

And again:

(Romans 13:3-4 KJV) For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: {4} For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.

It is quite obvious that Jesus understood submission to authority evidenced by the fact that Jesus submitted to the will of the Father and died on the cross.

(Philippians 2:8 KJV) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

While we are not able to be perfectly obedient to God the Father at all times most would agree that we should strive toward that goal. God is all knowing, loving, and gracious. There should be no perceived danger in submitting to His authority.

The hidden beauty in today’s text (Luke 2:48-51) is the fact that Jesus was able to submit to an imperfect authority. Jesus parents, Joseph and Mary, were fallible human beings just like me and you. The Bible tells us clearly that Jesus’ parents did not understand all of Jesus’ words and actions.

(Luke 2:50 KJV) And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.

The reality of the situation is that all the authorities placed over us, with the exception of God, are very imperfect. Our parents, our employers, our public servants, and our governments are imperfect. This, however, does not excuse us from submitting to the God ordained authorities in our life. The Bible tells us specifically that Jesus did submit to His parents’ authority.

(Luke 2:51 KJV) And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart.

If the Holy Spirit of God enabled a perfect Jesus to submit to the authority of His imperfect parents, rest assured, the Holy Spirit will enable us to live in submission to the authorities placed in our lives as well. Father, help us to follow Jesus’ perfect example of submission so that others might be able to see your Son in and through us!

Scott Sheriff

Forgiveness or Restoration?

(Psalms 51:7 KJV) Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51 is a prayer written by King David. The occasion for the writing of this prayer was following David’s confrontation with the prophet Nathan after David had sinned with Bathsheba. This Psalm beautifully displays David’s penitent heart and broken spirit that resulted from being confronted with his sin.

In Psalm 51:1 David seeks God’s forgiveness. This is nothing unusual for God’s people. We often and almost routinely ask for God’s forgiveness. We are not unlike a willful child saying, “I’m sorry,” to a parent in order to avoid the consequences of wrong actions. Where David begins to show repentance is in the next verse. In Psalm 51:2 David ask that God “wash” and “cleanse” him.

The wording in Psalm 51:2 indicates that David desires not only to be forgiven, but he hopes to be made “blameless”, “guiltless”, and “innocent”. In other words David is not seeking to simply avoid punishment or chastisement. David is seeking to have that intimate fellowship, which his sin interrupted, restored to him. When we seek God’s forgiveness is our goal to elude the punishment of God or to include fellowship with God? I pray that God would enable us to seek fellowship with Him, even if it takes chastisement to make that fellowship possible.

In Psalm 51:7 we learn just how serious David is about having that fellowship with God restored. In Psalm 51:2 he asked to be washed and cleansed. Those words bring to mind a loving mother gently bathing a newborn baby. To be washed or cleansed sounds much like a pleasant, relaxing experience to me. In Psalm 51:7 David uses drastically different language. David asked God to purge him with hyssop. Let’s take a moment to fully understand this request.

The Bible mentions hyssop in several different situations. Hyssop was often used in cleaning and housekeeping chores. In Leviticus 14:49 we learn that hyssop was used in the cleansing of a lepers house. It would sound as if David is asking God to scrub him with a scouring pad or even steel wool! In John 19:29 we learn that hyssop is a sturdy plant capable of holding a sponge soaked in vinegar held up to one hung on a Roman cross. This would almost indicate to me that David is inviting God to “take a switch” to him if necessary.

The strong language, vivid imagery, and bold prayer contained in Psalm 51 should help us understand that David is seriously seeking not only a restored fellowship with God, but a sustained fellowship as well. When we seek God’s forgiveness we need also to seek to be “purged” of our sin as well. A fellowship worth restoring ought to be a fellowship worth preserving.

Very often there is a cost to leaving our sin behind. We may need to suffer pain, loss, or even embarrassment to gain freedom from some sins. Are you, like David, prepared to bear the cost of defeating the sins in your life? Are you willing to ask God to “take you out behind the woodshed” if necessary. I assure you the reward will outweigh the cost!

Scott Sheriff

 

Consider This…

(Psalms 8:3-4 KJV) When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; {4} What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Have you recently slowed down enough to take notice of all the wonderful things around you? It appears that King David, the author of Psalm 8, took a moment to survey the wondrous works of God while composing the beautiful hymn we find recorded in today’s scripture.

Some might ask, “Where can I look to see the wondrous works of your God?” I struggle to find a place where His works cannot be found! In Psalm 8:3 David surveys the vast expanse of space which our Creator crafted in order to have a suitable place to host this planet we call home. David looked with awe and wonder at the other celestial bodies, the moon and the stars, that our Maker scattered around our earthly home. As the majesty and magnitude of God’s creation began to settle on David he was overtaken with a troubling question. What is man, that thou art mindful of him?

When we realize and appreciate how powerful and wonderful our Creator and His creation really is it could easily make us feel quite insignificant. Standing in comparison to God we would certainly be found to be quite insignificant. We should be thankful that God is not a supernatural measuring stick bent on condemning or belittling us. He is a loving and gracious Heavenly Father who yearns to know and perfect us!

In Psalm 8:5 David delights in the knowledge that God has crowned mankind with glory and honor. This glory and honor is not the reward for any inherent goodness on our part. It is simply an expression of God’s love for us! In Psalm 8:6-8 David celebrates the fact God has set us over all else that He created.

As we return to David’s question, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him…” we should bear in mind that apart from God we are nothing. However, when we are in fellowship with God we are something very special! When we find a relationship with our Creator through His Son Jesus we are His children, His companions, His friends, and the crown jewel in all of His creation!

The days we live in are difficult and often mean. Many in this present world would seek to trample, belittle, and discourage you. Take heart, and take comfort in the fact your Creator loves you, cares for you, and earnestly seeks to have an intimate relationship with you.

Father, we pray that you would helps us as we seek answers to David’s question, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him…” through a faith based relationship with Your Son Jesus!

Scott Sheriff

 

An After Easter Devotion

(Luke 24:30-31 KJV) And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. {31} And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

For most of us the festivities of the Easter Holiday are now behind us. Many of us go back to work today. Students will return to school this week. All the eggs have been colored, hidden and hopefully found by now. As the pretty clothes go back in the closet and the Easter baskets go back on the shelf I sincerely pray that the hope and joy of Easter are not “stored” away with them.

Luke 24:13-53 tells of two men traveling to Emmaus. They knew many of the details of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. They were able to recount the events of the past few days quite eloquently to their traveling companion. Despite being aware of the all the details of the greatest event in human history they were still unable to recognize their Savior when He entered into their presence. Luke 24:10 states:

(Luke 24:16 KJV) But their eyes were holden that they should not know him.

This verse rendered in more modern English would read something like, “But they didn’t know who he was, because God kept them from recognizing him.” Why would God restrain us from recognizing and enjoying our Savior? I believe the scripture will explain that for itself.

Further in Luke 24 the Bible tells us this:

(Luke 24:27 KJV) And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

Jesus was a masterful preacher and teacher. Listening to Jesus in person would have been a tremendous blessing and a wonderful experience. But even after Jesus explained all the scripture concerning Himself they still were not able to recognize Him. If a wonderful church service and a rousing sermon cannot secure us a firm grasp of our Savior and all His glory whatever could?

Luke answers our question a few verses later…

(Luke 24:30-31 KJV) And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. {31} And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight.

Fellowship with Christ is the answer. Enjoying his company, spending relaxed quality time with Christ, this is how we can grasp the full joy and beauty of what Jesus accomplished during the Easter season. If we are not able to spend unhurried, quality time with our Savior we also might be unable to enjoy Him, His beauty, and His unmatched glory while He walks along side us on life’s journey.

If you are a true believera born-again Christian, Jesus walks with you daily. As Paul tells us in Romans chapter 8 nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. Despite Christ’s unending love for us, our failure to spend time in sweet fellowship with Him can steal away the joy He longs to bring into our lives!

Slow down and take a little time to concentrate on Jesus as you journey to “Emmaus” or wherever life might take you.

Scott Sheriff