Psalm 105:1–7; Judges 14,15; Luke 22:1–13

Psalm 105:1–7: This psalm, which reviews Israel’s long history and its relationship with God, asks us to rejoice in what God has done for Israel down through the centuries: “Acclaim the Lord, call out His name,/ make His deeds known among the peoples.” (1) The primary theme here in the introduction is one of rejoicing and worship as the congregation actively participates aloud in celebrating God’s glorious beneficence toward Israel: “Sing to Him, hymn to Him,/ speak of all His wonders.” (2) And not just reverent singing, but to behave as if we are at a party: “Revel in His holy name./ Let the heart of the Lord’s seekers rejoice.” (3) I particularly like the felicitous phrase, “let the heart of the Lord’s seekers rejoice.” Our relationship with God is not to be passive, but it is an active quest on our part.

This idea of active engagement with God continues in the next verse: “Inquire of the Lord and His strength,/ seek His presence always.” (4) It’s not that God isn’t always present with us, but by seeking we become increasingly conscious of his presence, which further deepens our relationship with him.

Our psalmist moves on to the main theme of the psalm, Israel’s history and its relationship with God: “Recall the wonders that He did,/ His portents and the judgements He issued.” (5) Notice that the psalmist’s audience is called to remember both the joys and the judgements of God. Something we would also do well to remember. God has never promised us a life of smooth sailing.

The target audience of the psalm is Israel itself, whom God has chosen out of all the tribes on earth: “O seed of Abraham His servant,/ sons of Jacob, His chosen ones.” (6) The poet reiterates that “He is the Lord our God—/ through all the earth, His judgements.” (7) reminding Israel—and us— that all are subject to God’s justice.

Judges 14,15: Now grown, Samson asks his father to obtain  Philistine wife for him. The father understandably objects to Samson marrying outside the tribe, but our omniscient authors observe,  “His father and mother did not know that this was from the Lord; for he was seeking a pretext to act against the Philistines.” (14:4) The ‘he’ in this case is God, but I’m not sure why God requires a pretext to do anything.

On the way to Philistia Samson tears apart an attacking lion”as one might tear apart a kid.” (6) Our authors make the crucial point that “the spirit of the Lord rushed on him,” accounting for his strength. On the next trip to Philistia Samson passes by the carcass of the lion, now (rather improbably) a bee’s nest. Samson scoops up honey, eats it and gives some to his parents, who are still in the dark about their son’s strength.

Samson marries and at the wedding feast with thirty of his friends makes a wager: “Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can explain it to me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty festal garments.” (14:12) The answer to the riddle, Out of the eater came something to eat./Out of the strong came something sweet.” (14:14) eludes Samson’s erstwhile friends.

As a clear demonstration of the Philistine’s rapacity, the friends, who cannot figure out the riddle, approach Samson’s new wife, demanding the answer and threatening to burn down the house if she refuses. The unnamed (again!) wife nags Samson for the answer, using all her feminine wiles and she eventually wheedles it out of him. The men provide the riddle’s answer and Samson justly accuses them, “If you had not plowed with my heifer,/ you would not have found out my riddle.” (18) [We can let Samson’s metaphorical reference to his wife as a ‘heifer’ pass without further comment.]

Again, the author’s point out that “the spirit of the Lord rushed on him” and he kills thirty men, takes their spoils and tosses them in the faces of the thirty men and “in hot anger he went back to his father’s house.” (14:19) The erstwhile wife “was given to his companion, who had been his best man.” (20)

So, what’s the point of this story? It’s certainly an object lesson of the risks and consequences of an Israelite marrying a Philistine woman. The authors also make to clear that Samson’s strength occurs only when “the spirit of the Lord” comes on him.” We also learn that Samson is highly emotional and not a little devious.

His anger cooled, Samson returns to visit his wife, but his father-in-law informs him “I was sure that you had rejected her; so I gave her to your companion.” (15) He offers the wife’s younger and prettier sister to Samson, who refuses. Samson vows revenge which he accomplishes via the bizarre tale (pun intended) of capturing 300 foxes and putting a torch “tail to tail” and “and burned up the shocks and the standing grain, as well as the vineyards and olive groves.” (15:5)

As is still the nature of the tribal Middle East today, vengeance is the order of the day. The Philistines take vengeance on this act and cremate Samson’s wife and father-in-law. Samson in turn vows revenge, and “He struck them down hip and thigh with great slaughter,” (15:8) and goes into hiding.

The Philistines come up to Judah demanding that the Jews hand over Samson, who are understandably upset at Samson’s acts against the people who rule over them. Samson agrees to be bound and handed over to the Philistines. Once again, “the spirit of the Lord rushed on him, and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands.” (15:14) Samson grabs a donkey’s jawbone and slays 1000 Philistines by hand.

Samson is thirsty following this exertion and speaks rather imperiously to God, “You have granted this great victory by the hand of your servant. Am I now to die of thirst, and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” (15:18) God complies by producing water from a rock a la Moses in the wilderness. Samson drinks, is refreshed, and “he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.” (20)

Personally, I’m convinced that while there may have been a historical Samson who judged Israel for 20 years, his exploits are a highly creative myth—honey in a lion’s carcass? 300 foxes tails tied together with torches? A donkey’s jawbone as a weapon? These elements make for an colorful story with a clear moral about power given to a man by the spirit of God. But history? I don’t think so.

Luke 22:1–13: Luke turns his attention away from Jesus’ words to the active plot to kill him off. However, there’s a difficulty: Jesus is wildly popular so they can’t just arrest him in broad daylight without creating a riot.

Demonstrating that darker, more malevolent spiritual forces than mere human priests and Pharisees were at work here, Luke states, “Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot,” (3) who “conferred with the chief priests and officers of the temple police about how he might betray him to them.” (4) Delighted, they “agreed to give him money.” (5) interestingly, Luke does not say how much. Judas’ task is simple: find a way to have Jesus arrested out of public view. But does Luke’s observation let Judas off the hook, implying that Judas was effectively demon-possessed and no longer in control of his decisions? Personally, I don’t think so.

While the plotting and conniving was going on, Jesus “sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover meal for us that we may eat it.” (8) In an echo of the donkey affair when Jesus entered Jerusalem earlier in the week, Jesus seem to know exactly who needs to be followed and what is to be said in order to find a place for the Passover meal. Peter and John are to follow a man carrying a jar of water [Unusual I presume because water-carrying was usually woman’s work,] to his house and tell its owner, “‘The teacher asks you, “Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ (11) Jesus knows exactly what the man will say and tells his disciples that “He will show you a large room upstairs, already furnished. Make preparations for us there.” (12)

So why does Luke include these details about how the house and room is to be found? I think it’s to make it clear that no detail about anyone’s life eludes Jesus. As God, he simply knows, and Luke records these seemingly insignificant details to demonstrate that while Jesus was 100% human he was also simultaneously 100% God.


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