Who’s the Good Guy?

Scripture Focus: Judges 15.18-20
18 Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19 Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. 

20 Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.

Student Writers Month:
In July, The Park Forum welcomed college and seminary student writers pursuing ministry careers. This year, like last year, we have one more “bonus” student writer for you writing on yesterday’s reading, Judges 15. We will start with your selections of our most meaningful and helpful devotionals tomorrow. For more info about our yearly Student Writer program, see our website. To submit a Readers’ Choice post, follow this link.

Reflection: Who’s the Good Guy?
By Ava Ligh

We love the “Lord of the Rings” films and the entire Marvel repertoire because we long to root for a good guy. In these stories, we are spared the difficulty of figuring out who is good and who is bad.

Judges chronicles the moral decline of Israel once they occupy the promised land. By the time we get to Samson, it is no longer clear who the good guys are and who the bad guys are. On the surface, it would appear readers should root for the people of God, the Israelites. But it becomes confusing when the actions of God’s people are indistinguishable from the actions of God’s enemies.

Samson appears to be a hero when, with superhuman strength, he kills 1,000 Philistines, the enemies of God and his people, with the jawbone of a donkey. Except we know that the Philistines raided the men of Lehi because Samson had struck and killed some of their men.

Because the Philistines had set Samson’s wife and father-in-law on fire. 
Because Samson set their harvested grain and olives on fire. 

Can one be a hero if he created the problem that he then solves?

Bible stories like this are confusing. It is easier on us if we flatten out real people by making complex human beings either all good or all bad. This is a form of dehumanization. It takes mental strength and energy to tolerate ambiguity. However, we can tolerate that people are complex mixes of good and bad because there is someone we can look to who is purely and only good.

For all of his faults, Samson knows who is truly good, and the author of Hebrews recognizes his faith (Hebrews 11.32-34). Samson knows that it was God who “granted this great salvation” to the Israelites. Samson also knows that it is God who can provide water for his thirst.

We, like Samson, often need to be reminded through our limitations that our strength comes from the true hero and that we depend on his living water to sustain us. Jesus is unambiguously good and the source from which we receive our strength and living water. With his help, we can love and accept complex people. And he says to each of us “whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again” (John 4.14).

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
“This is my son, the Chosen One. Listen to him.” — Luke 9.35

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 16 (Listen – 5:59)
Acts 20 (Listen – 5:22)

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 Do Not Hold Men (or Women) Up as Sinless
We must stop confusing a man failing with the gospel failing.

Hope Sees Us :: Editor’s Choice

Luke 19.4, 9
So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.
…Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house…”

Reflection: Hope Sees Us :: Editor’s Choice
By John Tillman

The post quoted below, Hope on a Limb, was originally published on December 5th as a part of our Advent series. It struck a chord and resonated, picking up so much traffic in the remaining twenty-five days of December that it was our most viewed page on our entire website in 2018. Seven more months have passed and it is still keeping ahead of other posts. People are still looking for hope.

The post is about hope and where we place it. But it is also about how Jesus is not the king that our flesh cries out for. Instead, Jesus is the king that our broken and busted souls need.

As much as we do not understand why Jesus chooses to, he still loves us. Our problem is that we don’t like all of the people whom Jesus also loves…

“He gave the gift of his presence, salvation, and peace to Zacchaeus—a traitor, a government thug, and a corporate thief.
He gave a warning parable about an unwanted king, “because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.”
He gave, in his parable, more resources to the already rich, over the objections of the crowd.
Then he ran the rich and powerful out of the Temple in order to give it back to the outcasts, the foreigners, the blind, and the lame.

Jesus is, for some, the unwanted king of the parable. His Advent will frustrate those who wait for earthly adulation and success.

But Jesus is for others, the yearned-for King of Glory. He endlessly supplies those whose hopes rise higher.

What we hope for in Advent is not a political power broker.
What we hope for in Advent is not a market economist.
What we hope for in Advent is not a government regulatory watchdog.
What we hope for in Advent is not a resource of earthly wealth, success, fame, and power.

The king we hope for brings healing.
The king we hope for brings peace.
The king we hope for brings love.

In the season of Advent, we climb out, hopefully, on a limb with Zacchaeus.”

Not just in Advent, but in every season of the year, if we climb out on a limb searching for Jesus, he will come by. Hope sees us out on that limb. He will call us down. And he will make himself at home at our table.

Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened, and I will give you rest. Shoulder my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Yes, my yoke is easy and my burden light.” — Matthew 11.28

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

Today’s Readings
Judges 15 (Listen – 3:13) 
Acts 19 (Listen – 5:47)

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