Day 131

Endless Energy, Boundless Strength

Wisdom Psalm 59:9-17
New Testament John 6:60-7:13
Old Testament Judges 12:1-13:25

Introduction

We often tell the story of when John Wimber first visited our church. We saw a remarkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit and several healings. One incident, which occurred on the second night, is indelibly printed in my memory. One of our closest friends was eight months pregnant at the time. The Holy Spirit came upon her with great power. She started to whirl around at high speed. As she did so, she exclaimed over and over again, ‘I feel so strong!’

A few weeks later she gave birth to a son who, from his earliest days, showed not only spiritual and emotional strength but also extraordinary physical strength. He became an outstanding rugby player, a superb athlete and is now a successful model.

To some (like Samson, who we read about in today’s Old Testament passage), the Holy Spirit gives extraordinary physical strength. To all of us, the Holy Spirit gives spiritual strength.

The apostle Paul describes God’s ‘incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead’ (Ephesians 1:19–20).

It was the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead (Romans 8:11a). The Holy Spirit is ‘his mighty strength’. That same strength now lives in you and ‘will give life to your mortal body through his Spirit, who lives in you’ (v.11b).

I love Eugene Peterson’s translation (of the Ephesians passage) where he speaks of God giving ‘endless energy, boundless strength’!

Wisdom

Psalm 59:9-17

9 You are my strength, I watch for you;
  you, God, are my fortress,
10 my God on whom I can rely.

 God will go before me
  and will let me gloat over those who slander me.
11 But do not kill them, Lord our shield,
  or my people will forget.
 In your might uproot them
  and bring them down.
12 For the sins of their mouths,
  for the words of their lips,
  let them be caught in their pride.
 For the curses and lies they utter,
13 consume them in your wrath,
  consume them till they are no more.
 Then it will be known to the ends of the earth
  that God rules over Jacob.

14 They return at evening,
  snarling like dogs,
  and prowl about the city.
15 They wander about for food
  and howl if not satisfied.
16 But I will sing of your strength,
  in the morning I will sing of your love;
 for you are my fortress,
  my refuge in times of trouble.

17 You are my strength, I sing praise to you;
  you, God, are my fortress,
  my God on whom I can rely.

Commentary

O my strength

Are you struggling with some issue in your life? Do you feel deeply troubled?

Like David, who was in deep trouble, call out to God today: ‘You are my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely’ (vv.9–10a).

The psalm ends in triumph: ‘But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God’ (vv.16–17).

Prayer

Lord, thank you that you are my ‘Strength’, my loving God. Please give me your endless energy and boundless strength.

New Testament

John 6:60-7:13

Many Disciples Desert Jesus

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! 63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. 65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

67 “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”

70 Then Jesus replied, “Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil!” 71 (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray him.)

Jesus Goes to the Festival of Tabernacles

7After this, Jesus went around in Galilee. He did not want to go about in Judea because the Jewish leaders there were looking for a way to kill him. 2 But when the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles was near, 3 Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave Galilee and go to Judea, so that your disciples there may see the works you do. 4 No one who wants to become a public figure acts in secret. Since you are doing these things, show yourself to the world.” 5 For even his own brothers did not believe in him.

6 Therefore Jesus told them, “My time is not yet here; for you any time will do. 7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify that its works are evil. 8 You go to the festival. I am not going up to this festival, because my time has not yet fully come.” 9 After he had said this, he stayed in Galilee.

10 However, after his brothers had left for the festival, he went also, not publicly, but in secret. 11 Now at the festival the Jewish leaders were watching for Jesus and asking, “Where is he?”

12 Among the crowds there was widespread whispering about him. Some said, “He is a good man.”

Others replied, “No, he deceives the people.” 13 But no one would say anything publicly about him for fear of the leaders.

Commentary

A tough call

Do you ever find the teaching of Jesus very hard to live out? Do you sometimes find it difficult to be a Christian, in the workplace, for example? Do you sometimes find people seem to dislike you for no good reason? Do you ever feel like giving up following Jesus?

If you want an easy life I don’t recommend following Jesus. It was not easy then. It’s not easy now. Alice Cooper, the rock singer said, ‘Drinking beer is easy. Trashing your hotel room is easy. But being a Christian, that’s a tough call. That’s real rebellion.’

Following Jesus is a tough call. And yet, at the same time, it is the way to life in all its fullness. This fullness of life comes, Jesus explains, from the Holy Spirit.

The teaching of Jesus is not easy. The disciples said, ‘This is a hard and difficult and strange saying... Who can stand to hear it?’ (6:60, AMP). In fact, some of the teaching of Jesus was so hard that ‘many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him’ (v.66). The chapter begins with many people following Jesus. It ends with many people turning away from him.

It is not so much that the hearers found Jesus’ teaching difficult to understand, but that they did not like its content. They actually found his teaching offensive (v.61). It seems that they were particularly offended by Jesus’ huge claims. He claimed to be ‘the bread of life’, he called them to believe in him and he offered eternal life.

Not only was this teaching ‘hard’, it was ‘hated’. Jesus says, ‘The world... hates me because I testify that what it does is evil’ (7:7). He was accused of being a deceiver (v.12). There was a very high cost in following someone who was hated in this way.

When many turned back and no longer followed him, apparently, deeply wounded in his heart, Jesus asked the Twelve, ‘You do not want to leave too, do you?’ Simon Peter, the spokesperson for the group, answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God’ (6:67–69).

This is such a powerful truth. Jesus has the words of eternal life. He is the Holy One of God. He is the only one to go to.

In this passage, we see the whole Trinity. Peter recognises Jesus as ‘the Holy One of God’ (v.69). Jesus is unique. He embodies the holiness of God. He is divine. He speaks about the Father (v.65). He also speaks of the Holy Spirit (v.63).

Jesus says, ‘The Spirit gives life’ (v.63a). Just as physical flesh gives birth to physical life, so the Holy Spirit gives birth to spiritual life. He says, ‘The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life’ (v.63b).

All this takes place just before the ‘Festival of Tents’ (7:2, ISV). Families would leave their homes and live in tents for eight days of joyful celebrations (rather like our summer church holiday!). They would give thanks to God for water that brings life. This was the setting Jesus chose to teach them about his life-giving Holy Spirit.

When Jesus speaks of eternal life, he is speaking of a quality of life that starts now and goes on for ever: ‘life in all its fullness’ (10:10). This is the kind of life that the Holy Spirit brings. That is why, although there is a cost in following Jesus, the benefits far outweigh the cost. In fact, there is no real alternative. Only Jesus can give you the Holy Spirit. Only Jesus can give you fullness of life.

Prayer

Lord, I need your Holy Spirit to give me life. Please fill me with your Holy Spirit so that the words I speak today may be ‘spirit’ and ‘life’ to those who hear (6:63).

Old Testament

Judges 12:1-13:25

Jephthah and Ephraim

12The Ephraimite forces were called out, and they crossed over to Zaphon. They said to Jephthah, “Why did you go to fight the Ammonites without calling us to go with you? We’re going to burn down your house over your head.”

2 Jephthah answered, “I and my people were engaged in a great struggle with the Ammonites, and although I called, you didn’t save me out of their hands. 3 When I saw that you wouldn’t help, I took my life in my hands and crossed over to fight the Ammonites, and the Lord gave me the victory over them. Now why have you come up today to fight me?”

4 Jephthah then called together the men of Gilead and fought against Ephraim. The Gileadites struck them down because the Ephraimites had said, “You Gileadites are renegades from Ephraim and Manasseh. ” 5 The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan leading to Ephraim, and whenever a survivor of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead asked him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he replied, “No,” 6 they said, “All right, say ‘Shibboleth.’” If he said, “Sibboleth,” because he could not pronounce the word correctly, they seized him and killed him at the fords of the Jordan. Forty-two thousand Ephraimites were killed at that time.

7 Jephthah led Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in a town in Gilead.

Ibzan, Elon and Abdon

8 After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem led Israel. 9 He had thirty sons and thirty daughters. He gave his daughters away in marriage to those outside his clan, and for his sons he brought in thirty young women as wives from outside his clan. Ibzan led Israel seven years. 10 Then Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem.

11 After him, Elon the Zebulunite led Israel ten years. 12 Then Elon died and was buried in Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.

13 After him, Abdon son of Hillel, from Pirathon, led Israel. 14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys. He led Israel eight years. 15 Then Abdon son of Hillel died and was buried at Pirathon in Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.

The Birth of Samson

13Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

2 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth. 3 The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “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.”

6 Then the woman went to her husband and told him, “A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn’t ask him where he came from, and he didn’t tell me his name. 7 But he said to me, ‘You will become pregnant and have a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb until the day of his death. ’”

8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: “Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.”

9 God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. 10 The woman hurried to tell her husband, “He’s here! The man who appeared to me the other day!”

11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, “Are you the man who talked to my wife?”

“I am,” he said.

12 So Manoah asked him, “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule that governs the boy’s life and work?”

13 The angel of the Lord answered, “Your wife must do all that I have told her. 14 She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.”

15 Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.”

16 The angel of the Lord replied, “Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the Lord.” (Manoah did not realize that it was the angel of the Lord.)

17 Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?”

18 He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” 19 Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. And the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: 20 As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. 21 When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord.

22 “We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”

23 But his wife answered, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.”

24 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him, 25 and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Commentary

His extraordinary power

Do you ever get frustrated by the length of time God seems to take to answer your prayers? God is never in a hurry, but he is always on time.

We see in this passage God’s elaborate preparation for the birth of Samson, whose extraordinary power was to save the people of his day. But this only prefigured something that would take even longer. Hundreds of years later, John the Baptist arose (who was in many ways like Samson) to prepare for the ultimate Saviour of the world.

God often specially blesses the children of those who have waited a long time to have children and have thought it was an impossibility, for example: Sarah with Isaac; Elizabeth with John the Baptist.

Samson was like John the Baptist in many ways:

  1. In both cases, it was thought that the mother could not have children and something of a miracle was required (Judges 13:3; Luke 1:7)
  2. In both cases, the angel of the Lord spoke clearly to the parents (Judges 13:7; Luke 1:13)
  3. Both children were set apart for God from birth (Judges 13:7; Luke 1:14–17)
  4. Neither of them was allowed to touch any alcohol (Judges 13:7; Luke 1:15)
  5. The Spirit of the Lord came upon both of them from a very early moment in their lives (Judges 13:25; Luke 1:15).

Again, we see a hint of the whole Trinity in this passage. We read of ‘the Lord’ (Judges 13:1), but we also hear about the awesome ‘angel of the Lord’ who appeared to Samson’s parents (vv.3,6) and who then ascended towards heaven in a flame (v.20).

Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground… Manoah realised that it was the angel of the Lord: ‘“We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have seen God!”’ (vv.19–22). (Thankfully he had a ‘sensible wife’!, v.23, AMP.)

Could ‘the angel of the Lord’ be the second person of the Trinity? Jesus uses the language of the Son of Man ascending (John 6:62). Earlier in John’s Gospel we read of ‘the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man’ (John 1:51).

The third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, is clearly at work here at the birth of Samson: ‘The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him, and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him…’ (Judges 13:24–25). The Holy Spirit gave Samson endless energy and boundless strength.

Prayer

Lord, thank you for the extraordinary strength you gave to Samson. Please fill me with your Spirit today. Give me spiritual strength and power to resist the enemy and power to live a holy life.

Pippa adds

Judges 12:8–9a

‘After him, Ibzan of Bethlehem led Israel. He had thirty sons and thirty daughters.’

Wow! He was busy!

Verse of the Day

Psalm 59:17

‘You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.’
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References

The One Year® is a registered trademark of Tyndale House Publishers. Used by permission.

Alice Cooper quote from http://www.godscare.net/witness/alice_cooper.htm 3 May 2012

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture quotations marked (AMP) taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

Scripture marked (ISV) taken from The Holy Bible: International Standard Version. Release 2.0, Build 2015.02.09. Copyright © 1995-2014 by ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission of Davidson Press, LLC.

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