Sunday – August 23, 2020 Book of Acts – Acts 18:18 to 19:18-7 “Filling in the Right Blank”

Sunday – August 23, 2020

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Word On Worship – Sunday – August 23, 2020

Acts 18:24-25
Meanwhile a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John.

Apollos is a most fascinating fellow, and thanks to Luke’s description, we know he was a gifted Jew from Alexandria. This Egyptian city was where the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) was written. Alexandrian Jews were among those with whom Stephen debated (Acts 6:9). If Apollos was “well-versed in the scriptures” (Acts 18:24) it was probably in Alexandria that he became a great student of the Old Testament. Apollos was not only very knowledgeable in the Old Testament Scriptures; he was also a very powerful speaker.

Luke tells us a great deal about Apollos, but he also informs us that there were some gaps in his understanding of the gospel. The question is, “What were these gaps?” Imagine, for a moment, that you were a God-fearing Jew, who eagerly awaited the coming of Messiah. You knew that Messiah would make His appearance at Jerusalem. You would go there for one of the feasts and when you made your trip, it was during the time when John the Baptist was proclaiming the coming of Messiah. But it was still at a time when John had not yet been informed that Jesus was the Promised One. You would have left Jerusalem with heightened expectation, but without the specific identification of Jesus as Messiah. What you would not (and could not) know is who He was.

I believe that is the situation with Apollos, as perhaps also it might have been with the Bereans, Priscilla and Aquila, and the 12 disciples of chapter 19, verses 1-7. For someone who had finally learned of Jesus, and had come to trust in Him as the Messiah, how strange it must have been to hear a man like Apollos preach, a man who was still living in a past era, still looking for Messiah, but not knowing He had come. As Priscilla and Aquila sat in the synagogue and heard Apollos teach, they must have looked at one another and said, “His teaching points to Jesus, and he doesn’t know it.” What Priscilla and Aquila did was to “fill in the blank” for Apollos, informing him that Jesus of Nazareth was not only Messiah, but that He was Yahweh—God in human flesh.

There was a necessity for these “Old Testament saints” to hear of Jesus and trust in Him personally. That need was met through Priscilla and Aquila, as well as by Paul. If these “believers” in the “Christ to come” had to be told of Jesus and His coming, and to trust in Him, then no one will be saved apart from a personal knowledge and trust in Jesus as the Savior today, either. Unlike these “Old Testament saints,” who had not heard of Jesus, you know all that you will ever need to know about Him. But have you ever really crossed the line, from a knowledge about Jesus to a personal faith and trust in Him? If not, the hour is late and the need is urgent. Cross that line today!

Sunday – December 29, 2019 Book of Acts – Acts 2:1-13 Pt 3 “The Holy Spirit at Pentecost”

Sunday – December 29, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 29, 2019

Acts 2:1-2
“When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.”

God purposed to send His Spirit to the church during the Feast of Pentecost because this Old Testament feast foreshadowed Pentecost. Paul calls attention to this relationship between Old Testament institutions and New Testament realities in Hebrews 10:1 “For the law possesses a shadow of the good things to come but not the reality itself, and is therefore completely unable, by the same sacrifices offered continually, year after year, to perfect those who come to worship.”

The Feast of Pentecost (or, more commonly in Old Testament terms, the “Feast of Weeks”) was to be celebrated 50 days after the offering of the first fruits. In this way, we can see that Pentecost followed Passover, but was actually 50 days after the offering of first fruits. It occurs in the third month of the Jewish calendar, which would be during the months of May or June on our calendar.

Like the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the offering of Israel’s first fruits followed shortly after the observance of the Passover meal. The presentation of the first fruits always occurred on the day after Sabbath, or Sunday. Sunday after Passover was also the day our Lord Jesus rose from the dead, the first fruits from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:20). Fifty days later, Israel celebrated the Feast of Pentecost. This was the end of the barley season (the Old Covenant?) and the beginning of the wheat harvest (the New Covenant?). It was the time when God identified Himself with the church, the time when He endowed the saints with power so that they could carry out the Great Commission. It was the time when God came to indwell His saints in a way that was more intimate than any saint had ever experienced it. It was the time, thanks to the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross, when God could now indwell those who were not yet free from sin and its corrupting influences. God dwells among and in His people, sinful though they will be, because of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus.

What does Pentecost mean to us? The story of Pentecost in Acts 2 tells us how our Lord is now present with His church – through the Holy Spirit, whom He has sent. Pentecost assures us that God is present with His people, even though we are not yet sinless. We are forgiven sinners, who will one day be freed from the suffering and groaning that is the result of sin (Romans 8:18-25). But through the atoning work of Christ and the abiding of the Spirit, God is with us in a way that no Old Testament saint ever knew. He is with us, not only to teach, comfort, and guide us, but also to empower us to carry out the Great Commission. What news could be better than this?

Sunday – December 15, 2019 Book of Acts – Acts 2:1-13 Pt 2 “The Holy Spirit in the Gospels”

Sunday – December 15, 2019

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Word On Worship – Sunday – December 15, 2019

Leviticus 23:22
‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.’

As we saw last week, the Holy Spirit was active before Pentecost. In the Old Testament, we saw the Holy Spirit of God striving against sin (Genesis 6:3), enduing men of faith with skill (Exodus 28:3; 31:2-5; 35:21-35), empowering them for service (Judges 3:10, 34; I Samuel 10:6), and causing some to speak God’s message as prophets (Numbers 24:2; II Samuel 23:2; II Chronicles 20:14). But none of the old testament saints knew Him as the disciples came to know Him at Pentecost. The Pentecostal Person is no less God than is God the Father, and in the Old Testament was even more active than God the Son.

Pentecost was a divinely planned event; not an afterthought with God. The coming of the Holy Spirit was as much a part of the redemptive plan as was the incarnation, death, resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Pentecost was in the Old Testament in type and in prophecy. Pentecost was a solemn festival of the Jews. There was a series of seven of those annual feasts which, like the whole of Israel’s divinely appointed ritual, were “a shadow of good things to come” (Hebrews 10:1).

These feasts are set forth in order in Leviticus 23.  The first of the feasts was the Passover (v. 4- 5). This was the feast of redemption, reflecting upon Israel’s deliverance from her bondage in Egypt. The next was the Feast of Unleavened Bread (v. 6-8). It was closely associated with the Passover and lasted seven days. The third was the feast of Firstfruits (v. 9-14). There was no set date for this event since it came, of necessity, when the grain was ripe and ready for harvest. The fourth of the solemn feasts is called the feast of Weeks, or Pentecost (v. 15-21). The joyous season of the grain harvest lasted seven weeks, and on the day of the seventh sabbath, “fifty days” to be exact, the feast of Pentecost was celebrated. Now we begin to see more clearly the deeper significance of Israel’s solemn feasts. The Greek word for “Pentecost” means fiftieth, and it was celebrated the fiftieth day from the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. It was “the day of Pentecost” (Acts 2:1) when Jew and Gentile were made fellow heirs and of the same body by the Holy Spirit.

There is no record in the Bible of Israel observing the feast of Weeks until we read of Pentecost in Acts 2. The grace of God in Jesus Christ was to reach out beyond the limits of Israel, and Pentecost marked the beginning of the fulfillment of the divine plan, the Gospel into all the world. We should bow in humble gratitude and praise to God when we realize that the birthday of the Church was in preparation through every stage of human history.

Sunday – June 8, 2014 PENTECOST SUNDAY, Ruth 4:1-22 “Gentile Redemption!”

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Ruth 4:5
“Then Boaz said, “On the day you buy the field from the hand of Naomi, you must also acquire Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of the deceased, in order to raise up the name of the deceased on his inheritance.”

Unlike some other cultures, Americans love to link romance with marriage. As the lyrics of one 1950s popular song put it, “Love and marriage … go together like a horse and carriage.” You might be disappointed in the story of Ruth because it does not contain as much “romance” as you are used to finding. Naomi sought to orchestrate a marriage between Ruth and Boaz, based on “romance.” She convinced Ruth to bathe, put on perfume and her best dress, and then crawl under the covers with Boaz on the threshing floor once he had fallen asleep. A sexual union in these circumstances would have consummated a marriage, albeit not by the most honorable means. Such a “marriage” would have been a “shortcut.”

Naomi’s scheme did not produce a “romantic evening,” or a midnight marriage. However, it did give Ruth the opportunity to ask Boaz to become her husband so as to provide protection and security for her (and for Naomi), as well as to produce a child who would carry on the family line. Boaz regarded Ruth’s actions as honorable, and assured Ruth that he would do as she asked if the nearest kin declined to assume this responsibility. They did spend the remainder of the night in close proximity, but it was far from a romantic interlude. When Ruth reported these things to Naomi, her mother-in-law assured her that Boaz would quickly bring this matter to a conclusion.

In stark contrast to the events of the previous night, we come to the seemingly unromantic legal negotiations and commitments of Chapter 4. Quite frankly, such “unromantic” dealings are a beautiful thing to behold. Chapter 4 is also a stark contrast to what we read in Chapter 1. There, Naomi returned to Bethlehem accompanied by Ruth, refusing to be called “Naomi” (Pleasant), but insisting on being called “Mara” (Bitter) instead. She sought to justify this by claiming that God had dealt harshly with her. She claimed to have gone out to Moab “full,” while returning to Bethlehem “empty.” However, when Chapter 4 draws to an end, Naomi’s arms are “filled” with the child that God has given her through Ruth and Boaz.

 I believe that both Ruth and Boaz took great pleasure in doing God’s will, even in those times when this appeared to be contrary to their own best interests. Naomi, on the other hand, could only sit back and complain, and propose actions that were contrary to God’s will. Chapter 4 of the Book of Ruth puts all the previous events and responses into a proper perspective. Understanding this chapter as we should will enable us to understand the entire book, so we should listen well to what God has to say to us in this text.

 

Sunday – June 1, 2014 Ruth 3:1-18 “Undercover Operations”

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Ruth 3:1-4
“Then Naomi her mother-in-law said to her, “My daughter, shall I not seek security for you, that it may be well with you? Now is not Boaz our kinsman, with whose maids you were? Behold, he winnows barley at the threshing floor tonight. Wash yourself therefore, and anoint yourself and put on your best clothes, and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. It shall be when he lies down, that you shall notice the place where he lies, and you shall go and uncover his feet and lie down; then he will tell you what you shall do.”

Naomi has proposed to Ruth a shortcut to getting what Naomi wanted, but by the grace of God, the two principle characters – Ruth and Boaz – remained sterling examples of godly conduct. I have found I have been influenced by some Bible teachers who have tap danced all around the threshing floor, fervently trying to sanctify Naomi’s actions. It is time to take off the rose colored glasses and see the godly manner in which Ruth and Boaz handled the risky situation into which they had been placed by others’ plans.

You might rightly ask why I hold to this position, when others I highly respect and admire see the text quite differently. It all comes down to one’s hermeneutics (the interpreting of Scripture). First, I believe that the Bible is to be understood as it appears. Second, I believe that the Scriptures provide the willing student with all the supporting information one needs to understand what they find in any biblical text. I do not believe that the interpretation of any text hangs upon information discovered outside the Bible whether that is from historical narratives or scholarly commentaries. External information may supplement and illustrate biblical truth, but the interpretation of a biblical text does not hang on something outside of Scripture.

When it comes to the Book of Ruth, many want to see a common cultural practice underlying the actions which Naomi directed. The reality is that we see no such practice in the Bible – anywhere! (Please search for yourself!) Without other biblical texts to support this conclusion, I must take the text at face value. There is no unique cultural interpretation here. In other words, when a woman bathes, puts on perfume and dons her best dress, and then secretively climbs under the covers with a man who has had his fill of food and wine, I don’t think anyone in any culture would read this in any way but what we all assume.

That being said, the godly character of both Ruth and Boaz is dramatically displayed against the backdrop of Chapter 3. Circumstances were far from ideal here but that did not prevent them from living in a way that should command our respect. We often bemoan the fact that we live in dark days and are more than willing to complain about the evil of our day. Is today any different than the times of the Judges of Israel? It is during such times that the light of the gospel should shine ever more brightly from the distinctiveness of His people so God will get the glory!

Sunday – April 27, 2014 Judges chapter 19 to 21 “Saving Private Benjamin”

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Judges 21:24-25
“The sons of Israel departed from there at that time, every man to his tribe and family, and each one of them went out from there to his inheritance. In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

The final five chapters of Judges function as an appendix to the entire book. Instead of focusing on the sins of Israel or of their judges, these chapters look closely at the lives of two Levites. Levites were the priestly tribe in Israel, the religious leadership of the nation. Sadly, we will discover that the religious leadership is not holding the nation accountable for its sin. Instead, the Levites are as messed up as the people they are supposed to lead. Their small, personal failures escalate to tribal and national dimensions and plunge Israel into political and moral anarchy. Thus, Judges concludes with a finger pointing in the face of the Levites.

When the Scriptures tell us each man did what was right in his own eyes, it is not singling out a single level of society or position of leadership. It was across the board. The surface issue is what people were doing, but the elephant in Israel’s room was the standard by which they governed themselves. It was no longer God’s standard but their own eyes and results in people insisting on following the leading of their own lusts, declaring their independence from God and echoing the lie of the serpent from the Garden of Eden.

The message of the Book of Judges is a message for the church today. How many of us are outraged at the conduct of the covenant people of God? They were called to be the people of God by a covenant but still refused to be subject to His commands. We have been saved by a covenant of God, but in our self piety, reject the rule of God for what is right in our eyes. We come to church on Sunday because it is congenial and find our moral standard commendable in our own eyes. Yet in our hearts we are as stubborn and sinful as the people of Gibeah in our rejection of God’s authority and standards in our lives.

Sometimes matters appear quite proper on the surface, but if we are willing to look past the obvious and dig a little deeper we will find the true enemy. We may be shocked at the author’s selection of Gibeah and their sins to document Israel’s depravity. But do not let the outrageousness of the offense blind us from the point that the Scriptures are making. The root of it all is each man doing what is right in his own eyes. That root may show itself in the grossest of sins as we see here at the end of Judges or in the veneer of righteousness that can be seen with the rich young ruler, but it all comes from the same source.

Sunday – March 23, 2014 Judges 18 “The Danites Promiseland Part 2”

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Judges 18:30-31 “The sons of Dan set up for themselves the graven image; and Jonathan, the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, he and his sons were priests to the tribe of the Danites until the day of the captivity of the land. So they set up for themselves Micah’s graven image which he had made, all the time that the house of God was at Shiloh.” The subject matter of the Book of Judges can be very difficult for our generation to study. Many want a technical commentary to simply explain the tradition and history of this book in hopes of finding the background of ancient Israel. They avoid wrestling with the text, having chosen to be distracted with the possibility of a textual problems or reading into the Hebrew idioms so they do not have to hear the clear teaching of the text. The question we need to ask ourselves is why are we so afraid of the Book of Judges?

Since I have found so few Christian teachers who have willingly attempted this task, forgive me if I step on a few toes. The general theme of this book is God’s dealing with false religion. On one hand, we can intellectually agree that God would be upset with false religion and with so many warnings in the preceding books of the Pentateuch and Joshua; we jump on the band wagon and condemn Israel for surely they should have known how stupid false worship is and where it leads.

Do not pat yourself on the back and think how wise you are to see the failure of the Israelites. We are afraid of the Book of Judges because we do not want to see the stupidity of our own false religion. We may not make molten idols but how different are we than Micah, who thought he had the favor of Yahweh because he had an actual Levite as his priest? We have our own forms of such “magic.” For example, by thinking a child is a member of the kingdom because they were baptized as an infant or because they went forward while they were at youth camp. The person who assumes they have entered the kingdom of God because they completed a task is engaging in a false religion and that is just stupid. It does not differ from Micah’s religion in principle or form, only in the details. So our folly remains invisible to us.

We have traded idol worship for subjectivism, but it is still a false religion. The people of Dan made their own convenience store of worship where they could remain in control and worship how and when they chose. They were convinced God was not picky when it came to glory, honor and praise. Modern day Danites tell us worship is an individual affair, and like our toothbrush, a very personal thing. When they come to worship it is not Yahweh, the all powerful saving God they praise. Instead, they want a blob of molten silver that they can squeeze and shape the way they want God to be. And that is self-serving idolatry, unworthy to be called worship.

Sunday – March 16, 2014 Judges 17 “The Danites Promised Land Part 1”

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Judges 17:4-6
“His mother took two hundred pieces of silver and gave them to the silversmith who made them into a graven image and a molten image, and they were in the house of Micah. And the man Micah had a shrine and he made an ephod and household idols and consecrated one of his sons that he might become his priest. In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.”

We are introduced to a man named Micah from the hill country of Ephraim. Micah was not the model son, but then neither was his mother a “Proverbs 31 kind of woman.” Micah had stolen 1100 pieces of silver from her, and she had pronounced a curse on the thief in his hearing. (One has to wonder if she knew – or at least suspected – that it was her son who was the culprit.) It seems to have been the curse which prompted Micah to confess, and not his conscience. She receives back what her son stole, but then sets a portion of it aside for the creation of false idols to be a blessing to her son. Micah went on to make other “household gods” for his private collection.

Micah is a tragic example of the person who has placed their trust in a false religion. During the good times, they feel as though their religion is the cause of their success and prosperity. And then, suddenly, disaster comes their way which their gods are powerless to prevent. They are left with nothing other than a feeling of emptiness and helplessness. Sadly, for many, this realization comes without any repentance and faith. But there are others whom God graciously brings to the end of themselves so that they will repent and embrace God’s only means of salvation.

Micah and his mother are yet another example of doing what is right in their own eyes. Doing what is right in one’s own eyes is living by one’s own assessment of good and evil, of what is right and what is wrong. Doing what is right in God’s eyes is living in obedience to God’s revealed Word. The Israelites, much like men and women today, were “doing their own thing.” If one reads our text in Judges with God’s law (as revealed in the Pentateuch) in mind, it is obvious what evils are being committed – by Micah, by Jonathan, by the Danites, and by virtually all of the Israelites.

All too often people discern God’s will by what they want. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard someone practicing adultery or any other form of immorality looking to justify their sin with the statement, “I know that God wants me to be happy.” Thus, even though the Bible explicitly forbids their behavior some practice it anyway, convinced that God looks on them with favor because their personal satisfaction supersedes God’s clear revelation. God’s Word is the basis for discerning God’s will. When favorable circumstances accompany clear biblical approval, then we can rejoice. But when circumstances are favorable and the Scriptures are not, we must go with what the Scriptures say, not what circumstances permit.

Sunday – March 9, 2014 Judges 16 “Bringing Down the House”

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Judges 16:20-21 “She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.” Let’s face it, from what we have read in Judges, we might not expect to see Gideon, Samson, or Jephthah in heaven, but the writer to the Hebrews tells us that they will be there. These men are listed among those who are included in the hall of faith, and faith pleases God. I am inclined to read Hebrews 11 in such a way as to conclude that it was Samson who, by faith, “gained strength in weakness.” Never was Samson weaker than he was as he stood between the two supporting columns of that Philistine “temple of doom” in Gaza. Here is the time when Samson really gained strength in his weakness.

I fear that Samson’s power along with divine intervention only caused Samson to feel invincible, so that he became more and more reckless. Samson actually began to believe that no matter where he went or what he did no Philistine could do him any harm. Thus, rather than return to Israelite territory and hide from the Philistines, Samson boldly remained in the land of the Philistines, in plain sight, almost daring them to try to do him harm. Samson’s arrogance was about to get him into deep trouble.

And Samson’s silence about where his strength comes from is a far cry from that of David when he confronted another Philistine (Goliath). Why shouldn’t the Philistines know that they are fighting against the Lord when they oppress God’s people? Why shouldn’t they be given the opportunity to recognize how weak and powerless their god, Dagon, is? Samson’s silence is not golden, it is sinful and self-serving. Because Samson has chosen to remain silent about His relationship to God and the source of his power, Delilah sets out to loosen his lips. Through her persistent efforts, she evokes four different “confessions” from Samson, all in the name of proving his love for her.

What a tragic picture Samson was. The power and the presence of God departed from him, and he didn’t even know it. I fear that Samson was not only a picture of the person who turned away from walking with the Lord, but that his example may also be a prophecy for a church today that relies on the world’s means and mechanisms, rather than upon God’s Spirit. How easy it is for Christians to follow the fads of the secular rather than to rely on the power of God’s Spirit. We are weak in the power of the flesh. That is why He gave us His Spirit, dwelling within us and His church. Do not presume to think the successes God achieves in and through us by means of His Spirit are somehow our works, for which we can take the credit. If we do, there may very well come a time when the Spirit has departed from us, and we don’t even know it.

Sunday – March 2, 2014 Judges 14-15 “The Lion, The Wench, & The Wardrobe”

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Judges 14:3-4
“Then his father and his mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she looks good to me.” 4 However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.”

Have you ever known anyone who wasted his or her life? Someone who, based on the subjective standards of the world, appears to have great potential because of their intelligence or creativity or personality and yet never lived up to your expectations of those qualities? Samson is perhaps the most well-known of all of the judges. There have been times when he has been held up as a hero, but in reality he may be the worst of the judges recorded in this book. If anyone knew what Samson’s potential was, it would have been his parents.

Think of the anguish Manoah and his wife experienced as they observed Samson’s disdain for his calling as a Nazirite. How many sleepless nights were there for these godly parents when they realized that in spite of their desire to raise Samson to be a godly young man, he had every intention of going his own way? While some might argue that they did not do enough to stop him from marrying a Philistine wife, they did clearly express their displeasure and sought to persuade him to marry an Israelite woman. In spite of their efforts, Samson was intent on going his own foolish way, more interested in satisfying his desires than in fulfilling his spiritual calling.

Here’s the beautiful thing: Samson’s sin would neither hinder nor thwart God’s purposes. Samson would be a deliverer, or, in the words of the Angel of the Lord, he would “begin” to deliver Israel from the Philistines. God’s purposes are vastly greater than anything we can imagine. What Samson’s parents could not see at the moment was that God would use Samson as an unwilling instrument, and thus He would accomplish everything that He had purposed.

In times like ours, things certainly look bleak, spiritually speaking. Our nation has forgotten and forsaken its spiritual roots. Christians are no longer respected as they once were, and there are indications that greater persecution is coming for those who trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation and believe that the Bible is His inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word. We see Congress out of control, proposing legislation that would have seemed preposterous only a few years ago. Are we as Christians wringing our hands, as though God’s promises and purposes are at risk? Unlike Samson’s parents, we have been told what God is going to do in the future, and we have also been assured that no power on earth can thwart His plans and purposes. The very things over which we may be agonizing may be what God is using to accomplish His sovereign will.