Surprising Quality

Why do “superheroes” have an “alter ego”?  According to the Incredibles it’s to provide some measure of privacy or semblance of a normal life to balance the superhero life.  But what if some normal person suddenly realizes they have “super human abilities”?  Well, that might be what happened to Samson…

Then Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came as far as the vineyards of Timnah; and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him.  The Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a young goat though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done. (Judges 14:5-6 NASB)

So, the setting is a family walk to Timnah.  The major event is a lion roaring toward him.  But it wasn’t that big of a problem, obviously, because his parents didn’t even notice…and, he didn’t tell them about it.  Samson has a “spiritual epiphany”, and simply tears the lion, like one might tear a goat…happens every day, right? Tearing a young goat, doesn’t everyone do that to young goats?  How do you like your goat? Torn in two please…

This is the first piece of weirdness in this chapter which is full of literary weirdness.  It’s as if the literary skill and flare shown so far in this book was simply dropped.  It’s possible that there are several conflicting accounts of Samson the author has to work with, and he’s doing the best he can with what he has.  If that’s true, and this is the same author with such literary skill and flare, he can’t be happy with how it turned out.

Two details here are worth noting for later.  First, Samson’s parents are right there, and miss the entire event.  Second, they’re at the “Vineyards of Timnah”, a place prominent enough to be mentioned as a reference point.  Perhaps the lion rushed out of a row of vines, Samson ducks into the row, tears the lion, and then jumps back out into the road before his parents notice anything amiss…sure, why not?  Would make a funny scene in a movie perhaps.  Also notice that Samson leaves the body of the lion there in the vineyard.  That will also be helpful later.

It seems the purpose of the trip was so his parent could meet the Philistine Timnite girl.  And it was a short “day-trip”.  Samson returns several days later…

When he returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion.  So he scraped the honey into his hands and went on, eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it; but he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey out of the body of the lion. (Judges 14:8-9 NASB)

“Turned aside” is sort of a Hebrew literary marker.  As is what the NASB translates as “behold”.  The point to an important literary element, so, “behold a young lion roaring at him” and “behold a swarm of bees and honey in the body of the lion”, are important details.  The bees and honey in the carcass is certainly weird.  It seems a very unlikely place for bees to make a hive.  Wouldn’t the decomposition of the body spoil the honey?  But it didn’t.  Something this unusual would draw attention, especially as it would be found by anyone working the vineyard, wouldn’t it?

It’s possible that the dead lion is just outside the vineyard, and, since bees and honey were found in it, it may be so dry there, the body didn’t decompose, but actually dehydrated.  So, maybe no one smelled the corpse, or noticed it.  That’s admittedly as thin as a torn young lion, but it’s still possible.  Either way, we find out that no one knows of the honey-filled lion corpse except Samson.

Samson shares his honey with his parents, but doesn’t tell them where he got it.  Who would?  I’m sure “Dead Lion Honey” isn’t the best label to use for marketing purposes.  So, no shock there.  What is odd here is the secrecy of Samson.  Why doesn’t he tell anyone what he does?  Why not brag about it?  Why not become known as the “lion terror” (see what I did there?)?  I suspect that what he did took him by surprise, and he was struggling to get a handle on it.

If Samson was surprised, then perhaps he didn’t look like the pictures (like the one above).  Maybe he looked like anyone else, just with longer hair and beard.  It’s possible that Samson didn’t appear to be someone who could tear a lion, and that he did shocked him.  The Spirit of Yahweh made him successful (which is literally what the word means, normally translated “came upon him mightily”).  I suspect Samson knew it wasn’t him, and so remained silent.  What if it never happened again?  This “alter ego” was discovering he was actually a superhero.

What are we afraid to tackle because we think it’s too big or wild for us?  Perhaps the lesson we can learn from Samson is to tear the lion roaring toward us.  Take on the fearsome deadly thing, and let the Spirit of our Master provide the success we can’t provide ourselves.  Would our families be stronger?  Would our communities be safer? Would our churches be more vibrant?  Have we been listening to the lions from indoors, afraid to get out there to tear it up?  What if the Spirit of Yahweh doesn’t give us success? Then we go home early!  Win-win!

What’s your view of God through your knothole this morning?


Strong Little Father

He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.”  But the LORD said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.” (Judges 6:15-16 NASB)

When the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was torn down, and the Asherah which was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar which had been built.  They said to one another, “Who did this thing?” And when they searched about and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash did this thing.”  Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal, and indeed, he has cut down the Asherah which was beside it.”  But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him? Whoever will plead for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar.”  Therefore on that day he named him Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he had torn down his altar. (Judges 6:28-32 NASB)

Gideon makes excuses.  He asks for proof, repeatedly.  And he seems to stretch the truth.  “My family is weak, and I’m the weakest.”  You may almost hear him whine it out to God.  The truth, as it ekes out in the story, is a bit different.  His family has the local altar to Baal on their “stronghold” (to protect the grain), making his father’s place the center of community life, the strongest, safest place to store grain for the surrounding farms, and probably the village.  So, how weak are they again?

But the most telling diversion from Gideon’s complaint is his father.  Joash is no wimp.  The whole community gathers with their torches and pitch forks, and it’s not for the ogre.  They gather to execute Gideon for tearing down the altar to Baal and offering to Yahweh on a new one he built.  Sorry, but wasn’t the “prophet” just here saying we shouldn’t be worshiping Baal?

Joash faces down the entire community, and harshly.  “But Joash said to all who stood against him…” That took courage.  And what does he say, “Will you contend for Baal?  Will you deliver him?”  Great words!  The altar was in his yard, but it seems, not so deep in his heart.  These words will be echoed, to a degree, later on by a prophet of Yahweh on Mount Carmel.  Let the real god contend for himself.  Hard to argue with that.

But Joash goes further.  He also says, “Whoever will plead for him will be put to death by morning.”  In other words, whoever sticks up for Baal will be executed, which pretty much turns the tables on the community pitch-fork committee.  Consider the courage and faith of Joash.  Honestly, it should make us wonder why God didn’t choose him instead of his youngest son.

Again, the obvious choice may not display the mercy and grace of God as well as the weaker choice.  And so, brave and faithful Joash – well, that’s probably too strong a description.  How long was the altar in his yard, we don’t know.  It took the work of his son in the night to bring out his own faith.  But it did bring out his own faith.  Perhaps Joash winds up being one of the 300 torch-and-pot guys in the next chapter.

Regardless of when the character reveals itself, Joash’s character comes out.  And it’s good character.  He is a good father for Gideon.  Consider how encouraging it would be for Gideon to have his father stand up for him like that.  And the people of the community are cowed by Joash.  They rename Gideon (like it’s an insult), but they don’t lay a hand on him.  Joash is a good father, he’s strong and demonstrates faith.

So, how do we, when faced with our kid or one close to us tearing down that altar we’ve been ignoring in the front yard, how will we respond to the world?  When our culture accuses our family member or close friend of betrayal, will we acquiesce, sacrificing them as they sacrificed for us?  Or will their act of courageous faith inspire the same in us?  Will we be the strong, courageous friend or parent or sibling they need?

The truth is that people do stand against culture, and we, who should back them up, don’t.  We bow to culture way too often.  We have platitudes like, “you can’t fight city hall” or “that’s just how things are in the ‘real world'” and so on.  They’re lies.  They’re the whisperings of our enemy telling us to give up.  Otherwise we might actually win, or, more accurately, his Enemy might win through us.

So, if you’re a father, stand up for your kids’ faithful counter-culture acts.  Defend them from this insidious culture rebelling against their Creator.  If you’re a friend or sibling of one who stands against culture, defend them.  The culture has plenty of defenders, they don’t need another.  And defending someone’s stand for faith may increase your own faith.  And, can’t you live without the altar in the front yard?  Shouldn’t you?

Well, I think I hear someone in my front yard with a tractor and chains doing some damage.  I probably should go get dressed, and help them out…

What do you see of God through your knothole?