In wrath, remember mercy

Remembrance and its opposite - Second in a series

How many have cried out, over all the centuries, for God to PLEASE remember their plight, and to please HELP!

Job cried, O that thou wouldest hide me in the grave, that thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past, that thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me! (Job 14:13)

Hannah cried, …If thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life… (1 Sam 1:11)

David cried, Remember how short my time is: wherefore hast thou made all men in vain? (Ps 89:47)

Samson cried, O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. (Jdg 16:28)

In each case, we have on record that the person was remembered. Indeed, none was ever forgotten, nor were any ever who belong to God, but it feels that way at times.

Let us focus on Samson, the man about to die, to gain insight about God's faithful remembrance of his own.

He was twelfth in the line of judges whose role was to rescue Israel from oppression by heathen nations. Israel had been under Philistine rule for 40 years when he was born. (Jdg 13)

His father, Manoah, was a Danite whose wife was barren. An angel appeared to her to announce she would bear a son: She should not drink wine, strong drink, nor eat anything unclean. Her son would be a Nazarite from the womb and would begin to save Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. (Jdg 13:5)

A brief aside about the Judges

The Lord tried many routes to achieve Israel's sanctified national life. One way was through Judges. Starting with a son of Judah, Othniel; then a son of Benjamin, Ehud; then Shamgar and Deborah, probably of Ephraim (Jdg 4:5; 5:6); next Gideon, a descendant of Manasseh; then Abimelech, Gideon's son whose mother was a concubine, not a wife.

Hmm. Let's stop a moment. There is quite a difference between the first five Judges and Abimelech. Othniel was Caleb's nephew, Ehud was raised up as a "savior" (Jdg 3:15), Shamgar "delivered Israel" (Jdg 3:31), Deborah was a prophetess (Jdg 4:4), and Gideon was assigned to his mission by the angel of Jehovah (Jdg 6:14). But Abimelech nominated himself (Jdg 9:1-2).

Abimelech reigned for only three years. He fought for Israel but then was swiftly punished for murdering his half brothers.

Next, Tola of Issachar, "arose" to judge Israel for 23 years, and then Jair, another from Manasseh, "arose" to rule 22 years. There is no indication they were not chosen by God, and it was after Jair's death that Israel again did evil, requiring a new leader.

In this instance, God told his children he would no longer save them (Jdg 10:13). Left to their own devices, they chose Jephthah who was uncertain whether God would honor his efforts. He was the son of Gilead of Manasseh and a harlot, so his brothers had driven him away early in life. In time of need, they called on him, and returning, God assisted him to succeed in battle.

After Jephthah's rule of only six years came judges of no repute, Ibzan of Judah, Elon of Zebulun, and Abdon, probably of Ephraim.

The Lord had assigned or permitted judges from numerous tribes, from both high and low beginnings, those he ordained and those he merely assisted. No matter what, the people wandered from God's law.

It seems right, then, that when Samson of Dan was raised up, though his rule was divinely ordained, God did not promise he would deliver Israel, but only that he would begin to do so (Jdg 13:5).

Returning to the theme of Remembrance

The Lord had finally given up on providing leaders who would reestablish a separation between his people and their enemies, delivering them from evil. Instead he moved to defeat the enemies of Israel while punishing his own as they pursued relations with them.

When Samson sought a wife from among the Philistines, his parents objected… They knew not that it was of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines. (Jdg 14:4)

Throughout his life, Samson made alliances with Philistine women, till finally Delilah discovered the secret of his great strength and a man shaved his head as he slept.

Samson typified his nation: though a Nazarite from the womb, that is, sanctified as separate from the world for service to the Lord, he was ignorant of his special role in history, and continually went astray, a profligate man with a ruined witness for the Lord.

Nevertheless in the end, in dire need of mercy, the Lord answered when he cried, "Remember me!"

Any nation with a righteous heritage which they disregard or despise, is heading into a death trap. Like Habakkuk of around 612 BC, now, 25 centuries later, we hear many cry out to God for our country, O LORD, revive thy work in the midst of the years, in the midst of the years make known; in wrath remember mercy. (Hab 3:2) And for the beloved of the Lord, mercy in wrath will be shown. The Lord is mindful of his own.

I have seen the Lord!

Rejoicing Women - Seventh and final in a series

Many women lined the Via Dolorosa as Christ went to Calvary. They wept loudly and expressed their grief in words. Christ comforted them:

Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children. For, behold, the days are coming, in the which they shall say, Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bare, and the paps which never gave suck. Then shall they begin to say to the mountains, Fall on us; and to the hills, Cover us. For if they do these things in a green tree, what shall be done in the dry? (Luke 23:28-30)

Jesus was about to be crucified, yet it was a time of green trees, a time in the world for fulness of joy, when the flowers appear on the earth… the vines with tender grape give a good smell. (Song 2:12, 13)

But the evil was palpable. Christ understood that the hour belonged to Satan so the loyalty of these women was precious to him. Some had also accompanied and supported him and his disciples as they traveled throughout every city and village, sharing the good news (Luke 8:1-3).

A passage in Daniel is interpreted by some to mean that the antichrist will not have any Christian sympathies: Neither shall he regard the God of his fathers, nor the desire of women, nor regard any god (Dan 11:37). They translate this verse as "the God desired by women," who would be Jesus. The basis for this rendering is the use of the same word for "desire" in Haggai 2, And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come… (Hag 2:7)

Jesus was and is the desired God of women. His gracious kindness to all of us is made clear in the Word, highlighted by his special care for certain ones, such as Mary Magdalene who was delivered of seven demons. No wonder they followed him to Golgotha (John 19:17, 18) and then to his tomb.

Those specially called out in various Gospels as faithful in his final hour are: his mother; Mary, the wife of Cleophas who perhaps was the mother of James ("the less"); Salome, the mother of James and John; Joanna; and Mary Magdalene who was most prominent for persistence and devotion. Some have confused her with the sinful woman of Luke 7 who anointed the feet of Jesus with ointment and washed them with her tears and hair. (Luke 7:37-39) However, that was a different woman.

Mary's seven demons were not described; whatever sins they locked into her, she had been freed and held to that freedom by wholehearted devotion to the Lord. That seven were numbered may indicate she had been earnest to seek deliverance from a satanic stronghold; but the evil spirit that departed once then found reinforcements and regained her mind and soul, as explained in Matthew 12. From such embattlement and despair there is no deliverance but by Christ himself. (Mat 12:43-45)

Mary Magdalene was at the crucifixion (Mat 27:55, 56), went to his tomb after his death (Mark 15:47), returned there on the first day of the week with spices to anoint him (Mar 16:1), and is celebrated as the one to whom Christ first appeared. (Mark 16:9)

As she alone sat by his tomb weeping, he came to her and she recognized him when he said her name. (John 20:11-18) She then ran to tell the disciples, "I have seen the Lord!"

In all of Scripture, she probably is our best example of a rejoicing woman.

Perhaps Christ appeared specially to her because he understood the depth of her former agony. Now, there is never any evil that can overcome us if we trust in Christ and cling to him, for he has led captivity captive (Eph 4:8; John 20:17). Rejoice!