Samson Begins

Scripture Focus: Judges 13.5 (ESV)
And he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.

Student Writers Month:
This month, The Park Forum welcomes college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website.

Reflection: Samson Begins

By Carolyn Westendorf

Humans struggle to understand why God does what He does. The life of Samson is no exception. An angel announces his birth. Only a few receive this honor (Issac, John the Baptist, Jesus Christ). We expect him to be special, important, or worthy of emulation. Unfortunately, by the end of Samson’s story, we feel a sense of failure. We feel as if Samson did not reach his potential.  We feel as if God failed.

Did God’s purpose fail? What did God prophesy concerning Samson? The angel declared, “He will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines” (Judges 13.5 ESV). Samson was to begin the process of deliverance. The angel never said he would complete the task. A different expectation was given. There was an enemy in the Promised Land, so God sent Samson as a lone man to start a fight. In Samson’s story, we see him confront the Philistines. He starts to reverse the Israelites’ complacency under Philistine rule.  

He brought partial freedom to his people by lighting the fires of liberation for later generations. No one expected this from Samson, even though God revealed a brief glimpse into Samson’s future.

Samson’s parents received instructions on the child’s purpose and way of life. He was to be a Nazirite – devoted to God. Yet, even with these instructions, they had no idea how the Lord would use Him (Judges 14.4).

Today, we have the complete word of God. We see what God is doing from beginning to end. Yet, we still question what God is doing. When it appears God is unfaithful we blame Him. We hold Him responsible when our expectations go unfilled. When we read about Samson today, we hope for a hero deliverer; yet we get a flawed man who disappoints us. However, God’s purpose prevailed. Perhaps we should reevaluate our presuppositions.

Samson’s origins show us God does not leave us to guess His purpose. He tells us from the beginning. However, our expectations often get in the way of understanding it.

God consistently acts through unexpected people in unexpected ways. Yet, He remains trustworthy even when we don’t understand. When surprised by God, we must take the opportunity to question our expectations and evaluate our reactions. Take the initiative to listen to God’s word. As He transforms and renews our minds, we become better equipped to comprehend God’s ways. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer

Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; let those who love your salvation say forever, “Great is the Lord!” — Psalm 70.4

– Divine Hours prayers from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Springtime by Phyllis Tickle

Today’s Readings
Judges 13 (Listen – 3:44)
Acts 17 (Listen – 5:28)

This Weekends’s Readings
Judges 14 (Listen – 3:35), Acts 18 (Listen – 4:06)
Judges 15 (Listen – 3:13), Acts 19 (Listen – 5:47)

Read More about Readers’ Choice 2021
It is time to hear from you about the posts from the past eleven months (September 2020 – July 2021) that have challenged, comforted, and helped you find new meaning in the scriptures.

Read more about Faith of the Flawed
These women and men found their place in God’s story not because they were flawless and perfect examples of obedience.

A Berean Palate

Acts 17.11-12
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

Reflection: A Berean Palate
By John Tillman                                                                                                                                     
The contrast between the Bereans and the Thessalonians has come up in our devotionals before. Despite the Thessalonians having two epistles in the New Testament, Luke tells us in Acts that the Berean culture was more intellectually mature. Maybe Thessalonica just needed more help.

Truthfully, most of Paul’s letters were intended to be read by all the churches in the area. So Thessalonian letters were likely read to the Bereans as well.

But as for us, there is little doubt that our modern culture is more Thessalonian than Berean. 

The Thessalonians were prone to being riled up by exaggeration and falsifications. Just like we are. From our earlier post on this topic:

“If you think people today are more sophisticated, more cultured, or more intellectual than those of the ancient world, you have been paying attention neither to ancient history nor to Facebook.”

The Bereans’ nobility is specifically related to their openmindedness, and their mature evaluation of new information according to the scriptures. We may need this discipline now even more than they did.

Our social media feeds and the 24-hour news channels we frequent are like a neverending buffet of poorly-cooked, unsanitary, and ill-prepared foods. It is no wonder that uncareful consumers end up vomiting thinly veiled racism or totalitarianist dogma masked as a joke or a critique or a supposedly “logical” argument. We need to develop a more discerning palate concerning the articles, posts, and even memes that form the majority of our information consumption. If the posts we see were all simply political, that would be bad enough, but many posts, especially contentious political posts, either directly or indirectly address theological concepts. 

As Acts and much of the New Testament teaches us, “Fake News” is not new. Mobs and riots are not new. Hate-mongering political leadership is not new. What is new is that too many Christians care less about the facts, than they do about political victory. To this point, we often quote Ed Stetzer, who has said, “Facts are our friends.” 

May we develop a discerning, Berean palate that we not only apply to scripture but to our reading of our culture and our reading of all the information that algorithms and the hysteria factories called “newsrooms” can throw at us.

“Christians need to develop a more Berean attitude about not only the scripture we read, but the news we share. It’s hard to share the incredible news of the Gospel when the rest of what we share is in-credible.”

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “I give you a new commandment: love one another; you must love one another just as I have loved you. It is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples.” — John 13.34-35

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
Judges 13 (Listen – 3:44) 
Acts 17 (Listen – 5:28)

Thank You!
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Read more about A Berean Take on Fake News :: Readers’ Choice
It’s hard to share the incredible news of the Gospel when the rest of what we share is in-credible.

Read more about Honoring The Truth
Seeking the truth is not only a spiritual quest. It is sometimes a civic one. Or a legal one.

Readers’ Choice Submissions

It has been so good to hear from many of you about posts for Readers’ Choice, but we still have some room in August for your input.

Share with our community about the post or posts from the past eleven months that have challenged and comforted you.

Follow the link to fill out the form. Please limit your submissions to posts published this calendar year, between September of 2018 and today.

For any questions contact John Tillman at