"Then the people of Israel cried out to the LORD for help." This is a common refrain in Judges. Judges 3:9 says, "But when the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, the LORD raised up a deliverer for the people of Israel, who saved them."
Reading about these people crying out for help reminds me of the parable Jesus told in Luke 18:9-14. A Pharisee and a tax collector went to the temple to pray. In his prayer, the Pharisee pointed to his piety by comparing himself to others, especially the tax collector. The tax collector positioned himself away from everyone, would not lift his eyes to heaven, and simply cried out "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!" Jesus' response is "I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled but the one who humbles himself will be exalted."
Lord Jesus, You are the One who truly humbled Himself. Lord God, thank You for exalting and raising up Jesus. He is the true deliverer who saves those who cry out "Be merciful to me, a sinner."
Don't you find the story of Simon fascinating? He must have been quite a magician for the people to proclaim "This man is the power of God that is called Great." When God, through Philip, displayed power greater than Simon's, he believed and was baptized. When Peter and John prayed and laid their hands on the believers in Samaria to receive the Holy Spirit, Simon displayed his true nature. He wanted the power God demonstrated through Peter and John and was willing to pay for it. Peter rebuked Simon, commanding him to repent because his heart was not right before God.
We aren't told what became of Simon but isn't it interesting that he asked Peter to pray for him rather than responding like the tax collector in Luke 18, who cried out "God be merciful to me, a sinner."
In Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus provides an insightful parable. He compares the kingdom of heaven to a farmer who planted a wheat crop, only to have his enemy sow weeds that looked like wheat among the crop. Until the plants began to put on heads of grain, the wheat and the weeds were indistinguishable. In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus says you know people by the fruit they produce. That is what happened in this parable. You could not tell the wheat from the weeds until each produced its fruit. The farmer's employees ask if they should pull out the weeds from among the wheat. The farmer instructed them to leave both the weeds and wheat until harvest time for fear of damaging the wheat while removing the weeds. At harvest time, the wheat is placed in his barn, and the weeds are burned.
We don't know if Simon was wheat or weed, but we trust the One who searches the heart and tests the mind, to give to every man according to his ways, according to the fruits of his deeds. (Jeremiah 17:10)
We should not be surprised that there are weeds which appear to be wheat in the church. In Matthew 7, after saying you will recognize people by their fruit, Jesus declares "Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.'"
Thank You, LORD, for waiting until harvest. For a long time, I looked more like a weed than wheat, and I fear others may have thought it appropriate to root me up. I must confess my weed-like nature is still evident. God, be merciful to me, a sinner! Thank You for Your mercy and patience with me.