Today’s reading: Judges 13; Acts 17; Jeremiah 26; Mark 12
fortitude: noun. Courage in pain or adversity. Synonyms include courage, bravery, endurance, resilience
Following along in the book of Judges, we continue to read about various groups or clans: the Ammonites, the Ephraimites, the Gildeadites, the Israelites, the Zebulunites, the Baals, the Ashtoreths and more. At times, all these names are confusing (we almost need a family tree or an org structure to keep track!) Some of these clans follow God’s plan demonstrating their fortitude and some “do evil”. Some are patient for a very long time, but then fall away from his word as we read about on Wednesday this week in Judges 10:
11 The Lord replied, “When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, 12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites[c] oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? 13 But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!”
In this passage, God clearly says I saved you but yet again you have gone astray. Then, on Thursday, we read about God helping Israel in overtaking the Ammonites. God supported those who believed. Can you imagine back in that time how hard it might have been to fight for your land? Can put yourself in their shoes? How about Paul and his time in jail? How about the story yesterday of seventy years of captivity? Yet these people listened and followed God’s direction. They demonstrated great fortitude.
Today in Judges 13, we read about Samson. We know the story of Samson and Delilah and his famous hair. I personally did not remember hearing about his parents. It sounded a lot like Mary and Joseph before Jesus’s birth. The angel appeared to Samson’s mother, a women from the Danites, and said:
3 …“You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. 4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. 5 You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
Wow. Whoa. Unbelievable. Whatever describes your vision of an angel appearing and telling her she will bare a child. She believed! Then, the angel appears again to Manoah to tell him the same thing (just in case he doesn’t believe her?). They bow down, humbled by what the Lord has said. They want to do everything right so that this miracle can be performed. They even want to know how to raise Samson and start to ask for more help. They are true believers and want an exact plan for this child’s future. We too want an exact plan for our children, but God doesn’t always clearly lay out that plan, nor did he for how Samson would eventually change once he was confronted with the evil Delilah. But, Manoah and his wife believed. They did exactly what they were told.
I thought to myself as I have been following along in Judges, if they could do it, so can we, right? It’s not the easy. We have many distractions. We have many forces working against us. We have evil we see in the world and question the path forward. We don’t have “angels” appearing at our doorstep on a daily basis to tell us exactly what we are supposed to do in tough situation. We “hope” that things will work out instead of trusting in God. He does have our path forward and does try to guide us along the way.
Fast forward to today and the troubling situations we read, hear about and even experience. From Orlando to Munich, people are going astray. They are making bad decisions; they are “do(ing) evil”. Yet, God asks each of us to follow his path. Isn’t it hard sometimes? How do we stay the course each day? How do we help others who might want to give up?
Throughout this past year, God has give us numerous examples in our bible journals and our daily readings to set examples for how he wants us to carry out his word. He gives us the Ten Commandments, he demonstrates his word through parables such as our verses in Mark Chapter 12 today, and he performed many miracles from healing to feeding of the 4,000 and the 5,000 as we have read about through our bible journal. He shows us compassion when we go astray. All we need to do is follow and believe.
Let us pray together: Dear Lord, please grant us the fortitude to fight the good fight. Let us not go astray from your word and your teachings. Help us to see our path forward and stay strong, knowing you are with us along the journey.
Extra credit: Samson and the “Hall of Faith”. I refreshed myself on the story of Samson and Delilah by reading through these heroes in the “Hall of Faith”. Take a peak and think about the fortitude these heroes demonstrated: