WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday August 7, 2011
OUR CHILDREN HAVE POTENTIAL AND PROMISE
(We must help our children reach their full GODly potential)
In biblical times, the Jews had a saying that, with the birth of every child there are three parents, the father, the mother, and the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD. They believed that no child could be born without the approval of the SPIRIT. I believe that too. And it may well be that Old and New Testament stories of childbirth, are little more than just lovely and poetic ways of saying, that, whether our father is human or not, the HOLY SPIRIT of GOD is operative in child birth, in a very special way. And, as for men, while it may not make life easier, it has always been what makes men great. The paradox for women is that, it confers upon her, at one and the same time, perhaps, her greatest emotional joy, and hopefully the greatest physical pain, that she will ever have to endure.
The forty-years of oppression that was suffered by the Israelites at the hands of the Philistines, that are chronicled here in chapters 13-16 of the book of Judges, is the longest such stint of suffering that is recorded in the whole 340-year period, which this historic book covers. In these verses, the author of GOD relates to us, the colorful life of Samson, who judged over Israel for 20 years.
Samson, whose name itself means “distinguished”, was a man whose great physical strength, and equally great, moral weaknesses, made him both famous, and infamous, throughout the land of Canaan, in his day. In fact, even today, the story of his life, and his divinely and un-divinely inspired exploits, serve to make his tenure as the last judge of Israel, a legendary one. And, even though his parents, Manoah and his unnamed wife, exhibit evidence of their great faith in GOD, Samson, on the other hand, seems quite clearly to be a product of his era, or, a “man of the world”, probably, most of his life.
The LORD had instructed Samson’s parents through the Angel of GOD, even before his birth, that he should be raised as a “Nazirite”. This meant that Samson would be dedicated to GOD from birth, and would serve as an example to Israel, personifying a commitment to GOD forever, by abstaining from all the unnecessary things of the world (Judges 13: 3-5). He is one of only three men in scripture who were born under a “lifetime nazirite vow”. The other two are Samuel, and John the Baptist.
Samson, however, fell far short of living up to his parent’s nazirite vow to GOD, and most likely, so did they (Judges 14:1-11). Samson’s passion for pagan women led, first, to his physical blindness and enslavement (Judges 16:21), and then ultimately, to his untimely demise during a festive celebration of his own capture by the Philistines (Judges 16:23-30). In the dramatic conclusion of his colorful life he prayed to GOD for the strength to push down the pillars that held up the pagan idol temple of Dagon. GOD granted his request, and as a result, Samson was able to kill more Philistines in one day, than he had slain in his entire life combined, including the time he slew 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey (Judges 15:14-17).
Samson fell victim to the world because he desired greatly to have what he saw in the world, and out of his weakness, he was made strong by the power of GOD. He was a person with great potential, who fell short, because of his sin and disobedience to GOD. His life represents a clear warning against the dangers of self-indulgence, and lack of discipline, which both, most likely stemmed from poor parenting. Verses 1-3 and 10-11 of chapter 13 suggests that Samson was accustomed to having his way with his parents, even when they knew he was wrong.
Fortunately for him, Samson was able to come to his senses in end, but it is always better late, than never. His captivity, and, GOD’s taking away of his strength, caused him to reflect on his dependence on the LORD to survive, and in the end, GOD used his weakened state to lure the Philistines into a state of complacency, and thus, set the stage for their own demise.
GOD blesses each of us with gifts, talent, and potential, that may be uniquely our own. And when we are motivated first by our parents to begin to seek GOD, and, to establish a personal, experiential relationship with HIM, GOD begins to show us what our unique gifts and talents are, and, just how HE wishes us to use them in HIS service. If we, as parents “don’t”, “won’t”, or “can’t”, lead our children by exhibiting GODly principles to them early in life, then satan, surely stands ready to show them how to use those same gifts and talents, in ways that are un-pleasing to GOD, or, anti-CHRIST.
Samson, had not, himself, asked for the gift of great strength, but rather, it was granted to him by GOD, from birth. The “Nazirite Vow” was not his own, but rather, had been laid upon him by GOD, through his parents. Nevertheless, it is just that way with any of us, who have been born into this world. No person has ever asked to be born. However, hopefully we will eventually come to realize the full purpose for which we came into this world, and that is, to serve GOD.
Perhaps William Barclay said it best when he wrote, “The great paradox of Christianity is that, the only way to victory is through surrender, and the only way to power is by admitting one’s own weakness”. GOD has something in mind with the birth of every child, from the moment they are conceived in the womb. And just like in the case of Samson, all people have a special calling and mission that requires help and strength from GOD. However, GOD chose to use parents, or parent figures, in the life of every child, in order to help that child to achieve his or her full potential for HIM. And so, we as parents fail GOD, when we first, fail to lead our children in ways that are pleasing to GOD, and we have all been guilty of that, at one time, or another. Amen.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
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