Today's reading covers the start of the Samson story which I will be preaching on one week from Sunday. Because of that I will keep my Samson thoughts to a minimum here. That said, his life, his choices, the way he handles the blessings of God seem to me to be foreshadowed by something we saw just a few chapters ago...I used part of this in a recent post but my thoughts keep floating back to the passage delivered by Jotham back in chapter nine:
“Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. 8 One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, ‘Be our king.’
9 “But the olive tree answered, ‘Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and humans are honored, to hold sway over the trees?’
10 “Next, the trees said to the fig tree, ‘Come and be our king.’
11 “But the fig tree replied, ‘Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?’
12 “Then the trees said to the vine, ‘Come and be our king.’
13 “But the vine answered, ‘Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and humans, to hold sway over the trees?’
14 “Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘Come and be our king.’
15 “The thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’ Judges 9:7-15
Seems to me that our gifts are wonderful but that they can also be used to "hold sway," to be the boss, to take control, to get what we can get. So, how are we using our gifts? How are we avoiding the temptations that our God given gifts might help us to excel at? Where are our strengths being used in such a way to weaken us? What might we experience if our gifts were fully submitted to his kingdom rather than tools to make us feel like the Sovereign?
When we consider where we pour our effort out into this world what do we really see as valuable?
Is it honoring God and people?
Is it bringing chear to everyone?
Is it being sweet and good?
Or is it holding sway?
I am reminded of a verse from a classic Neil Young song.
Love is a rose. But...
You'd better not pick it.
It only grows when it's on the vine.
A handfull of thorns and you'll know you've missed it.
You lose your love when you say the word mine....mine...mine...