Last week was a look into the heart of the Evangelist - the follower of Christ. In a similar way as Moses stood before God willing to give up his own eternal inheritance for the people of Israel who were blaspheming God (Exodus 32), God is testing our hearts as well.
Love is not compromise of truth and every day, soldiers who are Christians still have to shoot people so they are not compromising love by having to take a life. In fact, you may face someone breaking into your home to kill you and you may have to defend yourself - but our mission is to love people with truth on our lips.
God still allows death (including those of His own followers). Israel still had to fight and nations and cities were destroyed because God, as a holy perfect judge cannot tolerate nor allow us to continue in sin once we have the truth, for He is holy. But our battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 4). However, if people are not with Jesus then by default they are, by sin, against God and thus susceptible to the enemy's influence.
“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Matthew 12:30.”
Genesis 15:16 says there is a measure that God can only tolerate so much and Romans 1:32 says that once we have the truth and then defy the truth and even approve of the defiance - He must judge - because He is holy and the standard is perfection.
The Bible tells us that calling evil good and good evil will bring disaster on those who do it (Isa. 5:20, Rom. 1:18-32) – “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil,…If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” (Isaiah 1:4,10,12,15-17a, 19)
He could have wiped out Adam and Eve after the moment they sinned but in His love, He clothed them and cared for them despite themselves. That is parental discipline. Read 1st John for a greater overview of loving people, sinners, and yet being able to stand firm against sin.
We have a holy God who judges nations and like Jonah we have to remind them of truth - there is a hell and a heaven but our job is the mission field. Like Sodom and Gomorrah, God will even seek out 10 righteous so He doesn't have to destroy it, which is why we must be intentional to use our influence for His glory.
He is a God of justice (II Thess. 1:6) and sin cannot go unpunished no matter how much He loves us (Romans 3:25-26).
God sent Jonah to Nineveh - Iraq - but God still had to judge Nineveh for their disobedience after they knew the truth and lived in sin. Thus the city fell, with all 120,000 residents and 600,000 surrounding residents approximately 150 years (612 BC) after repentance and revival through Jonah’s message. The Loving Father still has to discipline through His love. He loves us too much to let us wallow in sin – and He will hear the prayers of His people being oppressed by another (Psalm 34:15; 1 Peter 3:12).
Like a parent who loves a prodigal - you still love the child but you cannot condone their sin. Thus we cannot support agendas or organizations that go against the Word of God but we can still have the heart of our God that all should be saved.
“…God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4
“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9
A Storm is Coming
In 1969, in Pass Christian, Mississippi, a group of people were preparing to have a "hurricane party" in the face of a storm named Camille. Were they ignorant of the dangers? Could they have been overconfident? Did they let their egos and pride influence their decision? We'll never know.
What we do know is that the wind was howling outside the posh Richelieu Apartments when Police Chief Jerry Peralta pulled up sometime after dark. Facing the Beach less than 250 feet from the surf, the apartments were directly in the line of danger. A man with a drink in his hand came out to the second-floor balcony and waved. Peralta yelled up, "You all need to clear out of here as quickly as you can. The storm's getting worse." But as others joined the man on the balcony, they just laughed at Peralta's order to leave. "This is my land," one of them yelled back. "If you want me off, you'll have to arrest me."
Peralta didn't arrest anyone, but he wasn't able to persuade them to leave either. He wrote down the names of the next of kin of the twenty or so people who gathered there to party through the storm. They laughed as he took their names. They had been warned, but they had no intention of leaving.
It was 10:15 p.m. when the front wall of the storm came ashore. Scientists clocked Camille's wind speed at more than 205 miles-per-hour, the strongest on record. Raindrops hit with the force of bullets, and waves off the Gulf Coast crested between twenty-two and twenty-eight feet high.
News reports later showed that the worst damage came at the little settlement of motels, go-go bars, and gambling houses known as Pass Christian, Mississippi, where some twenty people were killed at a hurricane party in the Richelieu Apartments. Nothing was left of that three-story structure but the foundation; the only survivor was a five-year-old boy found clinging to a mattress the following day.
There is a storm coming for all of us in our lives. Some have been through the thick of it while others are only getting started but the truth of the matter is that we will all have to stand before a living God and give an account for actions while on this earth (II Cor. 5:10; Romans 14:12) – every word spoken (Matthew 12:36) and every action taken. It is a humbling thought and every day that reality draws closer. So, we can tuck our heads in the sand or choose this day to get right with God.
Today, we continue in our study of the man, Samson. This is part 3 in our 4-part study and Samson is a man who acts like many of us do today – empowered for greatness while fleeting away the Sonship of God on temporary pleasures that get us further and further into trouble – drowning out our sorrows with more sinful choices. So, we must make the decision right now that we will pray, read, learn and walk the path lest we find ourselves in the same pit the Lord already pulled us out of.
Some time passed. I would think this time period could be measured in weeks, rather than in days. Samson had cooled off, and once again he was in a mood for love. Hopefully his “heifer” was also ready to greet him with open arms, but just in case, he brought along a goat as a gift. I’m not going to try to defend Samson here; he was an insensitive brute. Instead of bringing flowers, he brings a goat. But then he didn’t call his wife “honey,” either; rather he called her his “heifer.” This man has a long way to go in the romance department.
Nevertheless, he has romance on his mind. He is now good and ready to consummate his marriage. He has every intention of going to her room, and it wasn’t to look at her scrapbook of wedding pictures. It must have been quite a surprise to be greeted by her father and told that his “wife” was no longer available, that she had been given as a wife to his best man. The father, a real romantic in his own right, tried to soften the blow. He not only explained that he assumed Samson didn’t want his daughter as his wife, but offered his younger, better looking, daughter as her replacement. How much do we expect this poor woman to endure? 1) She’s threatened by 30 Philistine thugs (“rent a friends”), 2) called a “heifer” by her husband, 3) left by the groom at the altar and 4) then spoken of as less attractive than her younger sister. And her troubles are not over yet.
Samson is in no mood for a wife upgrade. He is angry, and he intends to make the Philistines pay for it. It is just a bit difficult to see the connection between the crops of many Philistine farmers and the offense Samson has taken. Why wouldn’t the father of the bride assume Samson was never coming back? Why doesn’t Samson take out his wrath on his wife’s father or her new husband? Somehow Samson takes out his anger on the Philistine farmers. No mention is made of the Spirit coming upon him mightily. Somehow Samson catches 300 foxes (or jackels), attaches them in pairs by binding their tails together, and then he attaches a burning torch to each pair and releases them.
You can probably visualize what happened as you read about it. The foxes would not have run in a straight line, but would have raced hither and yon as one of the foxes prevailed and then the other. We must remember that this happened during the time of the wheat harvest. The wheat was cut, but was not yet threshed. Shocks of wheat were standing upright in the fields, and there was sufficient stubble left that when it was set aflame the fire spread quickly, not only destroying the wheat crop, but also the vineyards and the olive groves. Samson thus struck a devastating blow to the economy of this whole valley.
The Philistines “Fight Fire with Fire”
The Philistines were enraged and promptly learned the identity of the culprit – Samson. They learned that Samson was taking vengeance on the Philistines because his wife was given by her father to the best man. The Philistines were decisive in handling this matter, burning the woman and her father to death. All this did was to escalate matters, for now Samson felt justified to attack and slaughter a large but undesignated number of the Philistines. And having done so, he retreated to a cave in the cliff of Etam.
Betrayed by His Brethren
Here is the part that catches us by surprise. The men of Judah find themselves caught in the middle, between their Philistine masters and a trouble-making Samson. The cliff of Etam was in the territory belonging to Judah. When the Philistines came in force to capture Samson, they spread out near Lehi, close to where Samson was hiding. The Philistines were prepared for battle, and it looked as though they might engage the men of Judah. The men of Judah were most eager to avoid any hostilities with the Philistines, and so they employed more diplomatic means to avoid conflict. The men of Judah evidently agreed to locate Samson, arrest him, and hand him over to these Philistines.
The men of Judah must have feared that Samson would resist. Why else would they need to take 3,000 of their own men to secure Samson’s arrest? Finding Samson, they rebuke him for putting the people of Judah at risk. They did not look on Samson’s rule as a judge in Israel with favor. While he had been very successful at killing many Philistines, this was not perceived as a victory for Israel, but rather as an offense against Israel. Thus their rebuke: “Do you not know that the Philistines rule over us? Why have you done this to us?” They did not see Samson doing them any favor and, likewise, Samson did not view it that way either. He was merely getting even with the Philistines for what they had done to him.
Samson and the men of Judah came to an agreement. They promised not to kill Samson if he would surrender to them and allow himself to be bound. They would then deliver Samson to the Philistines so that they could kill him. Samson’s Israelite brethren are overflowing with the milk of human kindness. And so Samson is bound and led from his place of hiding to be handed over to the Philistines not far away.
SAMSON WAS FILLED WITH PRIDE.
“I have killed a thousand men."
Now this is a God-feat. The mighty men of David also did incredible things like this – so Samson wasn’t the only one. I Chronicles 11-12 highlights Jashobeam, Abishai and Eleazar (II Samuel 23) to name a few. Men who would take down hundreds – certainly not the 1,000 men that Samson took down with a jawbone, but impressive nonetheless.
It is interesting to me that Samson uses the jawbone of a donkey. The donkey always symbolized peace and the donkey has died with no one to properly dispose of it symbolizing a nation in disarray.
I think I could take down 3 small punks on a good day – like the ones who flipped me off with my young son in the car. In fact, when I was a Jujitsu student, we would have a king of the hill battle and 3 guys was my max. I was physically exhausted after that. I mean, I have watched martial artists fight for 3, 5-minute rounds and barely able to lift their arms afterward. So, this action by Samson was physically impossible for a man. HOWEVER - Samson immediately took credit. “Look what I have done!”
A man’s pride is always born out of his insecurities! Pride always comes before the fall (Proverbs 16:18).
Former heavy-weight boxer James (Quick) Tillis is a cowboy from Oklahoma who fought out of Chicago in the early 1980s. He still remembers his first day in the Windy City after his arrival from Tulsa. "I got off the bus with two cardboard suitcases under by arms in downtown Chicago and stopped in front of the Sears Tower. I put my suitcases down, and I looked up at the Tower and I said to myself, 'I'm going to conquer Chicago.' "When I looked down, the suitcases were gone."
Pride is the only disease that makes everyone sick except the one who has it.
We want to prove ourselves!
Don’t know how to receive help! I have no weaknesses!
We want to be the main character in the story! Control!
Emotion driven—not Spirit Led.
God is the main character! It’s all about Him.
If we put our own agenda on the altar, then God will become the main character in our story and we no longer need the approval of others. God fills our every void and our every need because it is all for Him and through Him. But we must release.
2 weeks ago, I will be honest - - It takes me about 3 days of study and prayer to prep and write a sermon – just ask Paul. I put in hours of study and 2 weeks ago, I was excited to launch this new study into Samson after our introduction. I had the videos, the PowerPoint, the message – all prepped and ready to go and then I started getting text after text, message after message of many of you who were going to be traveling or at the retreat and wouldn’t be here to receive all my hard work. So, I started to sulk a little thinking that maybe I should save it for another week and let a guest speaker share. Well guess what, the message was titled “Pride.” How is that for irony? God was working on me right after I had just written the message. That is how thick I am people. I write a message on pride and then find myself succumbing to it immediately thereafter.
“There is perhaps no one of our natural passions so hard to subdue as pride. Beat it down, stifle it, mortify it as much as one pleases, it is still alive. Even if I could conceive that I had completely overcome it, I should probably be proud of my humility.” – Benjamin Franklin
Two biggest problems that Samson is battling against in himself: Anger and Pride
Without restraint these conditions – especially in a man – will lead to:
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Working longer hours
- Spending more time away from home
- Consuming more alcohol
- Behaving recklessly and/or violently
Why because there is a void that keeps getting wider and worldly solutions foster world-sized problems.
SAMSON IS IN NEED
- IF YOU LET YOUR NEEDS DRIVE YOU TO GOD, GOD WILL MEET YOUR DEEPEST NEEDS.
When our needs drive us to God – God can and will revive us. We will never be kicked to the curb when we seek Him with all our heart.
This is hardly an example of humility nor is it an expression of worship. It is Samson’s tribute to himself, with no mention of God nor of the Spirit who empowered him. Do you suppose Samson composed this for the men of Judah who looked on with mouths gaping? He then threw the jawbone away, and from this time on, the place was called Ramath Lehi, meaning “hill of the jawbone,” or “Jawbone Hill.”
Imagine the thirst and fatigue Samson must have felt after such an intense exercise. We have here the first recorded prayer of Samson, and I think we would all agree that it is not a model prayer. Nobody is going to be tempted to do with this prayer what some have done with the prayer of Jabez!
“You have given your servant this great victory. But now must I die of thirst and fall into hands of the Philistines?” (verse 18)
At least Samson finally gives God credit for his victory, but his request for water is hardly that of a humble man making his request of a sovereign God. Samson would have never gotten away with his request for water at our house with this attitude.
Nevertheless, God graciously granted Samson’s request. He did so by creating a permanent source of water – a spring – which Samson named En Hakkore (Spring of the Caller). The author tells us that it remained there in Lehi to the day of his writing. That would mean that every time an Israelite passed by (or, better yet, paused to drink from it) he would be reminded of what God had done through Samson. The chapter ends with the author’s statement that Samson led (or judged) Israel 20 years. This statement will be repeated again at the end of chapter 16.
Samson was in need and God answered.
I am reminded of the movie, “What About Bob?” Bob Wiley (played by Bill Murray) is totally consumed with his own needs. At one point in the film, Bob manages to make his way to the lake where Dr. Leo Marvin (his recently acquired psychiatrist) is on vacation with his family. Trying to persuade Dr. Marvin to spend time with him, Bob cries out, “I need! I need! I need!”
I believe that Samson (individually) and the men of Judah (corporately) were in trouble spiritually because they were driven by illegitimate needs, needs which they so intensely pursued that they were willing to sacrifice their relationship with God to meet them.
It may be best to put this matter into a much broader biblical perspective, so let’s begin at the very beginning. When God created Adam and Eve, He made provision for their every need. They were placed in a garden which they were to cultivate. In that garden were trees producing all kinds of fruit. They were permitted to eat freely of every tree of the garden except for one – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Satan approached Eve, needless as she was, and convinced her that she really did have an important need, a need for which God had apparently made no provision. She was deceived into believing that she needed that forbidden fruit, even at the price of disobeying God. As you know, the consequences of their decision to eat the fruit of that forbidden tree were severe – death – and a whole lot more.
From this point on, we see God’s plan for saving men from the consequences of the fall (and from their own personal sins). God promised Eve that He would provide a Deliverer from her own offspring (Genesis 3:15). Moses, Joshua, and the judges foreshadowed (to some degree) the Great Deliverer, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, who would come and save people from their sins.
But there is a very important lesson that God has been teaching men in the meantime: Man has but one great and all-consuming need – God. God worked in Abraham’s life to show him that He was his great need. Abraham did not need to lie (about his wife Sarah), but to trust God. Abraham did not “need” his only (at that time) son, Isaac; he needed God. And so Abraham was willing to sacrifice Isaac if that was God’s command.
Later, God demonstrated His power over Pharaoh, the great nation of Egypt and their gods, and the forces of nature when He delivered the Israelites from bondage in Egypt. For 40 years, God led the Israelites in the wilderness, and the goal was to teach them to trust in Him, rather than in the gods of the heathen:
1 You must keep carefully all these commandments I am giving you today so that you may live, increase in number, and go in and occupy the land that the Lord promised to your ancestors. 2 Remember the whole way by which he has brought you these forty years through the desert so that he might, by humbling you, test you to see if you have it within you to keep his commandments or not. 3 So he humbled you by making you hungry and then feeding you with unfamiliar manna. He did this to teach you that humankind cannot live by bread alone, but also by everything that comes from the Lord’s mouth (Deuteronomy 8:1-3).
Israel’s “wilderness wanderings” were for a purpose. On the one hand they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years so that the first generation (who doubted and disobeyed God) could die off. But on the other hand, God led His people in the desert to demonstrate to them that they could trust God to meet their every need. Yes, they needed bread, and shoes, and God provided for these needs. But most of all they needed to trust God to provide their every need. What they needed most was the Word of God, by which they were to live.
Samson failed to live up to the standard set for a Nazirite. Likewise, all of Israel’s leaders fell short of the standards God had set for Israel’s leaders. In every case, these leaders in Israel were so flawed by their own desires and needs that they could not adequately deliver or judge Israel. This of course was to demonstrate that Jesus would be the only one who could truly deliver His people.
One of the great contrasts between Israel’s leaders and the Messiah is that they all had needs (legitimate or not), needs which they sought to meet independently of God; Jesus was the perfect God/man, free from any and all defects, and free from any need other than to fulfill His mission and thus glorify His Father.
“The God who made the world and everything in it, who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives life and breath and everything to everyone” (Acts 17:24-25, emphasis mine).
Have you noticed how needy the pagan gods are? They “need” someone to fashion them out of wood or metal. They need to be carried about. They “need” people’s offerings to keep them going. But the God of the Bible is the One who has created everything, and who continues to sustain it:
18 To whom can you compare God?
To what image can you liken him?
19 A craftsman casts an idol;
a metalsmith overlays it with gold
and forges silver chains for it.
20 To make a contribution one selects wood that will not rot;
he then seeks a skilled craftsman
to make an idol that will not fall over.
21 Do you not know?
Do you not hear?
Has it not been told to you since the very beginning?
Have you not understood from the time the earth’s foundations were made?
22 He is the one who sits on the earth’s horizon;
its inhabitants are like grasshoppers before him.
He is the one who stretches out the sky like a thin curtain,
and spreads it out like a pitched tent.
23 He is the one who reduces rulers to nothing;
he makes the earth’s leaders insignificant.
24 Indeed, they are barely planted;
yes, they are barely sown;
yes, they barely take root in the earth,
and then he blows on them, causing them to dry up,
and the wind carries them away like straw.
25 “To whom can you compare me? Whom do I resemble?”
says the Holy One.
26 Look up at the sky!
Who created all these heavenly lights?
He is the one who leads out their ranks;
he calls them all by name.
Because of his absolute power and awesome strength,
not one of them is missing (Isaiah 40:18-26).
When Jesus came to this earth, it was not to gain something that He needed, to fulfill some unmet need that made Him less than He should be. It was quite the opposite. The Bible speaks of what our Lord laid aside to come to this earth, not what He needed to gain. He did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as the payment for our sins.If His sacrifice was out of need then it would have been selfish by motive rather than pure and selfless.
At His temptation, Satan tried his time-proven tactic of creating some felt need that could only be met by disobeying God (just like he did with Eve). Satan sought to convince our Lord that His interests would best be served by acting independently of the Father. Our Lord’s answers to Satan came from the Book of Deuteronomy. In essence, Jesus responded that He had but one need, the need to trust and obey the Father by keeping His Word. Satan’s offers had no attraction because Jesus was the only person on earth that had no unmet needs because He was complete in God the Father. This relationship is what tends to be missing in our lives and thus we are desperate to fill with countless fillers that are unfulfilling.
If you wait until you are starving to eat, what do you tend to do – grab what is fast and easy, i.e. usually unhealthy stomach fillers. It would have been better for you not to eat than to eat a garbage supplement. Today your soul may be aching for something real and it is time to embrace the only substance that can truly fill that void.
Samson was thirsty and cried out to God!
19 Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. 20 Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines. Judg 15:19-20
He got on the right track and there was 20 years of peace, prosperity, relative freedom as a result!
This is the best news so far! He falls, cries out to God and God lifts him up!
We will find out what happens next as we wrap up our study of Samson in Judges 16.