Friday, November 01, 2013

Bring Jesus With You Into Old Testament Stories

I just wrapped up my four week series on Samson. I got more feedback on Samson than I've gotten in some time. I think people came to know his story AND God better through this series. I closed by talking about how God enabled Samson to make a comeback in the last moments of his life. 
One thing I never got to was the issue of how to interpret a story like this from the Old Testament. If you go out on the internet and read other sermons on Samson, you might get a totally different slant. Some people present Samson as the hero all the way through the story and even justify the atocities committed saying that God anointed him for those acts. Since they were committed against the Philistines, they were justified. 
Be careful with that kind of thinking. When you read the Old Testament, you need to remember that Jesus had not yet been revealed. People didn't have a full picture of God. They communicated God in ways that made sense to them.  A strong military leader who crushed his subjects was their view of a great leader. God is often cast in that light. 
But when Jesus showed up, we got a better picture of who God really is. He contradicted many of our concepts in some striking ways. If you want to do a little digging, compare Psalm 110 to Samson's story. The psalm plays off of Samson's killing spree to present the coming messiah in the same way.  The nations are his footstool (literally, a pile of dead enemies are a place to prop his feet).  
But we know better now.  Psalm 110 is true in that God's messiah rules the nations, but not in the way thought.  Jesus even warned his disciples, saying that the Gentiles lord it over others but it is not so with them.  Jesus called them to influence people by serving them. one ever saw that coming. I like what Abraham Lincoln said about overcoming enemies: Don't I overcome my enemies by making them my friends?  I think Jesus would agree with that. 
I've compared reading the Old and New Testament to one of those "connect the dot" pictures. In the Old Testament there are very few dots. You have to be very careful how you connect the dots. It's easy to create a picture of God from those dots that doesn't reflect the true nature of God. 
In the New Testament, there are many more dots, much closer together. Jesus gives us a full picture of who God is. When you read the Old Testament, you need to bring your picture from the New Testament to help you see what God was actually doing.  There is so much more I could say here, but it's enough to get you headed in the right direction. 
I hope you'll listen to all of the Samson series.