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Chris Appleby Ministries

Chris Appleby Ministries

 

Samson - A Strong man’s Weakness     Audio

Judges 13-16

I love movies. I especially love those thrillers where the hero overcomes all odds to defeat the villains and save the weak and helpless victims. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Bruce Willis overcoming incredible injuries to win out in Die Hard, or Arnold Schwarzenegger finally getting the better of the evil Terminator or one of the countless James Bonds overcoming whichever evil enemy of civilisation it is this year, I love to see justice done and the helpless helped.

But of course these are all fictional characters. They’re not real, are they? No more so than Superman or Batman. But then they’re also the stuff of myth and legend, the sort of stories that have been told from time immemorial, often stories based on real events, real people, in the time before history was written down.

Well, today we’re going to be thinking about one of the real heroes of history, a man who was Arnie and Bruce and Bond put together. Samson was a real person, born around the 12th century BC, but endowed with supernatural strength by God, who had chosen him to save his people from their oppressors, the Philistines. The sign that he’s chosen by God for this special task is that he’s to be a nazirite. That is, he’s to drink no wine or strong drink, eat nothing unclean and not cut his hair. And as a result of God’s special calling he grows up to be the strongest man in the universe. Unlike Gideon, who we looked at last week, he doesn’t need to be encouraged to stand up to his enemies. He doesn’t need to call out the tribes of Israel to fight the Philistines because he’s a one-man army. All he needs is the jawbone of a donkey and he can kill any army that stands against him.

Yet as we read through the story we discover that he isn’t entirely the man of steel that we thought he was. Far from being a He-man he’s really just an ordinary hu-man. In fact, he could well be one of the heroes of modern literature: a flawed specimen of a man who never quite lives up to his potential until the final fateful act of heroism that takes his life.

Gideon - An Unexpected Hero   Audio

Judges 6 - 8

Gideon isn’t exactly your Hollywood image of a hero is he? In fact he’s the exact opposite. He’s much more the indecisive, timid type. He’s one of those people who want every ‘i’ dotted and every t crossed before they make a decision and even then they still have doubts. You can see the sort of person he is from the situation in which we find him at the beginning of this story.  “11Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press, to hide it from the Midianites.” Just to make the situation clear, you need to understand that in those days wine presses were generally dug into the ground, so that if you got inside a wine press you’d be out of sight, in Gideon’s case from their enemies, the Midianites.

Yet the encouraging thing for those of us who relate to Gideon as this timid, nervous type, is that despite the unpromising material from which he was made, God takes him and makes him into a hero of Biblical proportions. So let’s spend some time thinking about the process through which Gideon was changed by God into a leader and saviour of his people.

The Power of God for Salvation   audio

Jonah 3 & Jonah 4

Last week we saw how Jonah had been called by God to go and proclaim the gospel to Nineveh, to the Assyrians, the enemies of the people of God. We saw how he instead went in the opposite direction until God stopped him, and sent a great fish to transport him to the shores of Assyria.

Well, today we come to the next exciting instalment of the story. Jonah is now back on dry land, suitably chastised, and the word of the Lord comes to him again. “Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.” It’s the same message as before, but this time he’s learnt his lesson. This time he goes.

We’re told that Nineveh is an exceedingly large city, three days' walk across. That makes it sixty or so miles across. That would make it the size of Melbourne. Now in fact Nineveh proper  at this time was probably not much more than 2 kilometres across, so it’s probable that he means Nineveh and the surrounding cities which together formed greater Nineveh, the region that was at the centre of Assyrian life. So let me suggest why this narrative might choose the larger city area.

Deborah & Barak - Lessons from history   Audio

Judges 2-4

One of my favourite lines from the TV series, Mash, was the statement that this was the latest ‘war to end all wars’. The point they were making of course was that we never seem to learn from history. In fact, isn’t this the one lesson we have learnt from history: that we never learn from history? No matter how bad our experience of history is, we never seem to be able to learn our lesson so we avoid the same mistake the next time.

But that begs the question of course, whether there are patterns in history from which we can learn. Historians and thinkers have debated that question over many years. Some would say, “Yes, there is a meaningful pattern to history, and if we can find it we can do something to change the way things happen.” Karl Marx thought he’d found a pattern in history revolving around the unequal distribution of power and resources. If you followed his model you’d eventually arrive at a Utopian, classless society that he called Socialism. Well, that didn’t work out did it? No more than any of the utopian communities set up in the 19th century. Socialist societies have been found to fail just as badly as the capitalist societies he was critiquing.

Jonah, The Reluctant Prophet  audio

Jonah 1 & Jonah 2

Well, it’s a familiar story isn’t it? Jonah is told to go and preach to the people of Nineveh, to warn them of God’s judgement and what does he do? He heads off in the opposite direction, to Tarshish in Spain. But he doesn’t get away with it. God knows where he is! He sends a great storm, so that the ship is foundering, until the sailors discover the truth. Jonah’s running away from the Lord who made the sea and the dry land. So they throw him overboard, the storm stops and a great fish comes and swallows up Jonah, only to spit him out on the shore of Assyria three days later.

But you know, there’s a bit more to this story than just a morality tale of someone who brings bad luck to those he travels with because he’s disobeyed God. Jonah is one of those Old Testament books that point forward so clearly to the gospel and its implications for us as Christians.

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