Flawed Saviors (Judges 13-16)

MOTIVATE

This past week was wonderful weather. 73˚in November suits me just fine. Regardless of weather, this is truly one of the most wonderful seasons as we begin to think about Thanksgiving meal plans, Christmas decorations, and the Advent season.

As we think about favorites, who is your favorite Bible character? Now, apart from Jesus! As persons have favorite seasons, so runs the variety of favorite characters in the Bible. While this next person we will study today may not be your favorite character, for many, he is either their favorite, or most memorable judge. We’ve come to Samson.

It is fitting we are studying Judges 13-16 with the birth of Samson as we also near recognizing the birth of our Savior.

JUDGES 16:23-31 23 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.” 25 And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. 26 And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained. 28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. 31 Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years.

Like Jesus…

  • Samson’s birth was supernaturally promised by an angel.
    • Yet, while Samson’s conception brought joy to a barren woman, Jesus’s conception brought shame to an unmarried woman. God’s greatest Savior would not save the world through earthly admiration but divine atonement.
  • Samson was born to save Israel.
  • Samson was a Nazarite because of a vow his mother and he took.
    • Jesus was a Nazarene because he dwelled in Nazareth.
  • Samson’s childhood is obscure as he lives among those who need saving.
  • Samson’s strength was from the Spirit of the LORD.
    • Samson was extraordinarily strong on the outside yet exceedingly weak on the inside.
    • Yet, Jesus was unexpectedly ordinary on the outside and inordinately filled with faith, truth, and grace.
  • Samson was tempted.
    • Yet, unlike Samson, Jesus was tempted and did not sin.
    • Samson behaved like an entitled ruler, but Jesus, though actually entitled as a royal king, acted like a humble servant.
    • Samson was reckless and broke God’s rules. Yet, Jesus was righteous and fulfilled God’s law.
    • Samson was captured by his enemies reluctantly, but Jesus gave Himself up willingly.
    • Samson was violent and reckless, but Jesus had violence done to Him.
    • The world was in awe of Samson’s power, but all heaven was in awe of Jesus’s submission.
  • Samson died with arms stretched wide and sacrificially to save Israel. The enemies of God looked on with insults and injury toward Samson. Samson cried out to God for strength one last time before his dying breath, and God empowered him to defeat his enemy.

Looking beyond Samson we see the Savior Jesus Christ. Jesus was stretched on a cross with arms open wide. His enemies jeered and mocked but His face looked up to God with meekness. While Samson’s death killed his enemies, Jesus’s death was a demonstration of God’s love to forgive and deliver His enemies.

The remains of Samson’s body were crushed under the weight of heavy rocks. But Jesus’s body was uncovered by the rolling away of a heavy rock. While Samson’s body was buried by his brothers and family, Jesus appeared alive to family and friends with over 500 eyewitness accounts, including those who persecuted Him.   

The point of studying the book of Judges (or any book or any sermon) is not to familiarize with history and fill in the blanks on a notepad. There should come a time when the pen goes down, the eyes go up, and the heart fills with adoration and devotion to Jesus Christ.

COMMUNION

  • Communion is for believers; unbelievers eat & drink judgment.

  • Communion is for renewal; ask God’s forgiving & fueling grace.

  • Communion is for gratitude – thanksgiving.

  • Thankful for the daily bread of God’s provision. (You pray…)
    • Ps 3:3, 5 “But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory and the lifter of my head… I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.”

  • Thankful for the cup of God’s salvation. (You pray…)
    • Ps 3:6-8 “I will not be afraid [of my circumstances]… Arise, O LORD! Save me, O my God… Salvation belongs to the LORD; your blessing on your people!”

EXAMINE 2 principles for faith and following God…

God’s salvation is always merciful and miraculous.

Judges 13:1-8, 17-25 1 And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years. There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children. And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” Then the woman came and told her husband, “A man of God came to me, and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. I did not ask him where he was from, and he did not tell me his name, but he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. So then drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’” Then Manoah prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.”

17 And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that, when your words come true, we may honor you?” 18 And the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” 19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. 20 And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground. 21 The angel of the Lord appeared no more to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. 22 And Manoah said to his wife, “We shall surely die, for we have seen God.” 23 But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” 24 And the woman bore a son and called his name Samson. And the young man grew, and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol”

Observing the pattern of the book of Judges, Israel does evil in the sight of the Lord and God gives them over the enemy – in this case, the Philistines for forty years (number also symbolic of complete wandering and judgement from God). This is also the third time the Philistines are described as Israel’s oppressors (3:31; 10:7; 13:1), and it will not be the last in Israel’s history. The cycle of human rebellion and divine rebuke repeats itself, leading to the last of Israel’s judges to be raised up.

Conspicuously missing in this cycle is Israel’s repentance, yet God still extends mercy. Ultimately, God’s salvation is not humanity pursuing God but God being compassionate and forgiving. God must laugh (Ps 2:4) when churches design every aspect of their service to be seeker sensitive toward a human audience, when the audience of worship is God, the true seeker of worshipers in spirit and truth (Jn 4:23-24).

In fact, Israel’s new deliverer was not even alive. It was as if God was saying: “Israel is so far gone that that I cannot change a heart or increase someone’s faith like past judges. This time, I must start from scratch.”   

The angel of the LORD (Christophany) appears to Manoah and his nameless wife, who was barren, that she will conceive and bear a son. In biblical times, infertility was a sign of shame. Children were not only viewed as a sign of God’s blessing but as extra servants and soldiers for the nation.

  • Today, the barren or those who have miscarried need the reminder that God’s nearness to appear and carry your burden with you and there is still hope for every lost child to escape hardship on earth for eternal joy in the presence of God.

So, God is merciful to Israel, even apart from their repentance. And God’s salvation is miraculous for a barren woman to conceive a son. Further interest is the mother and child taking a Nazirite vow as the child will be one who will “begin to save Israel” from God’s enemies (Judges 13:5).

A Nazirite had 3 requirements (Numbers 6:1-21):

  1. Avoid fermented drink – (contra Judges 14:10).
  2. Avoid anything dead/unclean (contra Judges 14:6-8).
  3. Avoid haircut (contra Judges 15:17-19) – and Samson from birth, which means he probably looked like a mix between a band member of ZZ Top and a character on Duck Dynasty.

Manoah and his wife receive multiple visits from the Angel of the LORD. They want further explanation about this miraculous son but God simply says, “I Am” (Judg 13:11). They ask for the angel’s name and God simply says, “I am wonderful – one who works wonders” (13:18-19).

While Samson’s parents know of their child’s divine conception and missionary calling, it seems Samson has little relationship with God beyond the cursory and contractual demands for help.

  • Religion is based on negotiation but Christianity is based on substitution; where God doesn’t just come to give assistance but take over.
  • Genuine faith is not just viewing God as useful but beautiful. God doesn’t just meet our needs, He is our need!
  • Faith is not casual belief in God but a specific trust in Jesus.

The angel’s comment that Samson will begin to save Israel leaves us to wonder who will finish the salvation? Especially in light of the fact that Samson is the last judge of Israel. Israel’s salvation will not be completed for over a thousand years until Jesus hangs on a cross and hollers, “tetelestai; It is finished” (Jn 18:30).

The point is God’s salvation is not for a righteous people but a rebellious people. Israel had no prospects or hope in themselves. God did not care for them because they were skilled or strong. God doesn’t save the righteous or strong but chooses to save weak sinners. Which means, the most humbling of all realities is that God loves you just because! His grace is available to you right where you are; but His grace doesn’t leave us as we are. His invitation to salvation is not only sufficient to save from sin but with His Spirit to begin changes unto humility and holiness.

God’s salvation is not for a righteous people but a rebellious people… His grace is available to you right where you are, but His grace doesn’t leave us where we are.

  • What holds you back from receiving the merciful and miraculous grace of Jesus in your life? Today is the time to turn from sin and turn toward the Savior. Do this by praying to God and asking for His grace and gift of the Holy Spirit.

God’s sanctification is always through family and friends.

Judges 14:1-3, 10-20 1 Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.” /// 10 His father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do. 11 As soon as the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him. 12 And Samson said to them, “Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can tell me what it is, within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes, 13 but if you cannot tell me what it is, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.” And they said to him, “Put your riddle, that we may hear it.” 14 And he said to them, “Out of the eater came something to eat. Out of the strong came something sweet.” And in three days they could not solve the riddle. 15 On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband to tell us what the riddle is, lest we burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?” 16 And Samson’s wife wept over him and said, “You only hate me; you do not love me. You have put a riddle to my people, and you have not told me what it is.” And he said to her, “Behold, I have not told my father nor my mother, and shall I tell you?” 17 She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted, and on the seventh day he told her, because she pressed him hard. Then she told the riddle to her people. 18 And the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down, “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?” And he said to them, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.” 19 And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave the garments to those who had told the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father’s house. 20 And Samson’s wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man.

Samson travels to Timnah and a pretty Philistine woman catches his eyes. And since Samson cares little for God’s call on his life, he acts impulsively. He’s a slave to his passions and lacks self-control. He has at least three downfalls:

  1. Samson compromises with an unequally yoked relationship (Judges 14:1-3; 16:1; 2 Cor 6:14-18). He chooses a woman based on outward appearance rather than internal character. His parents attempt to warn him about choosing a woman from the Philistines rather than an Israelite.[1] “Samson, if you choose a woman who does not share the same faith as you, then you will be distracted and divided in your devotion to the Lord. Please don’t compromise!” Yet, he caves bc the heart wants what the heart wants – self not God. Samson chooses intimacy with an unbelieving woman not once but twice – the next being dangerous Delilah.

    As a pastor, if there’s one action that I’ve seen cause conflict in marriage/family and spiritual compromise, it is being unequally yoked.

  2. Samson compromises with unclean behavior (Judges 14:6-9).

His Nazirite vow forbids him to contact anything dead. (Remember when Jesus interacted with lepers or opened Lazarus’ tomb – they were amazed Jesus touched them). Samson not only kills a lion but then later scoops honey – but he doesn’t tell parents – like the kid who sneaks Reese’s before dinner.

If you have a question about certain actions, ask:
à What would happen if everyone were doing what I was doing?
à Am I satisfied with teaching my children to follow my example?

à What does God’s word & God’s people say about my actions?

  • Samson compromises with ungodly companions (Judges 14:10-20).

Previously, in Judges 13 when Samson’s parents interacted with the Angel of the LORD, they offered to have a meal and fellowship with the Angel. Yet, the Angel refused because God did not have fellowship or peace with those who were not following the LORD. In contrast, Samson is feasting and partying for extended periods of time with Philistine fools.

Samson tells them a riddle with a reward. Typical men, needs the help of a woman to solve their problem. They ask Samson’s wife to entice him for the answer. She manipulates him with wild accusations (“you hate and do not love me”) and her emotional ploys of crying daily for seven days. Eventually, he relented with the answer and the men echoed the response.

Samson realizes his companions are counterfeit. He says, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.”

*Men three tips of advice

1) Don’t let others plow with your spouse.
2) Don’t plow with another’s spouse.
3) Under no circumstances should you ever call your wife a heifer.
Just because something is recorded in the Bible does not mean you should repeat it.

Needless to say, Samson loses his temper. He commits violence to kill thirty Philistines to pay the reward. He also loses his wife as his friend seduces her. So, the next chapters are Samson’s emotions controlling his actions with anger, rage, lust, immorality, lies, and his sin is more brazen and abundant with spiritual compromise. Sadly, Samson did not know that the Lord had left him. (Judges 16:20).

APPLY/THINK

Judges 16:22 “But the hair of Samson’s head began to grow again after it had been shaved.”

Judges 16:28 “Samson called to the LORD, ‘please remember me and strengthen me only once more”

  • Failure is not final. We need to let our imperfections become our instructors and remember that it’s never too late to turn around. The gospel of Jesus is the only path that leads you beyond the bitterness of failure to the beauty of freedom.

The gospel of Jesus is the only path that leads you beyond the bitterness of failure to the beauty of freedom.


[1] The Bible does NOT oppose interracial marriage. The issue is not color mixing but common allegiance. Examples include: Moses & Cushite Woman, Ruth & Boaz; see also Gen 1:27; Ac 17:26; Rom 10:12; Gal 3:28; Col 3:10-11; Rev 5:9; 7:9.

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