Monday, March 21, 2011

The Way of the Cross (11)

Having settled in the land of promise, the children of Israel soon became like the previous generations, in turning from the LORD to go their own way. Enemies would arise, leading the people to call out to God to save them - which God did, through the hand of the judges. When we hear that word, we think of a wee man or woman sitting in a court with a funny wig, but the judge restores justice, and acts to save God's people.

The book of Judges shows how God saved his people using these judges, people like Gideon, Ehud, Deborah, and Samson. Rather than wanting to be like these people - because they were as flawed as the rest of us - the book of Judges flags up clearly that we need a Saviour who will save perfectly; we need a king who will rule over us; we need a guide who will help us live for God.

Yet even in the stories of the judges there are glimpses of what that ultimate salvation will look like. Here, we think of just one - right at the end of Samson's life. When I think of Samson, I think of one of those pro wrestlers - WWF (if you're as old as me), WCW, WWE or whatever it is these days. Muscleman, ladies' man, long hair, and a bit surprising in lots of different ways.

Eventually (why, why, why) Delilah traps him, having uncovered the secret of his strength - his Nazirite vow to the LORD - and the shorn Samson is quickly captured. Imprisoned and blinded, he becomes a bit of a freak show, brought along to a big feast and taunted. In that moment, he remembers the LORD, and prays for one last burst of strength:

Then Samson called to the LORD and said, "O LORD GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, htat I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes." And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines." Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. (Judges 16:28-30)

What has this got to do with the way of the cross? In Samson's death, he destroyed his enemies, and gained his greatest victory. In a similar way, in Jesus' death, he destroyed our greatest enemy - death, and won the great victory.

Samson only achieved a small, temporary victory. By the time Saul has been chosen as king, the Philistines are back, attacking God's people again. But the victory Jesus won will never be reversed; death will never have the final say on God's people.

Dying, you destroyed our death,
Rising, you restored our life,
Lord Jesus, come in glory!

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