Monday, 02 August 2010 06:08

Samson: A Story of God's Amazing Grace

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Samson. He was a deliverer or judge God gave as Judges 13:5 puts it, to begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. Probably you have heard something of this Bible character. We will begin a series on his life story as told to us in the book of Judges 13 to 16. As we begin, let me ask you, What first comes to your mind when you hear that name, Samson? Do you first think of how strong Samson was? Certainly, he proved to be strong above many. What he had to learn though was that his strength came from God and not from his muscles. Isnt that, in fact, something we all need to learn, and relearn time and again?

It could be in that regard, when you hear the name, Samson, you dont think about how strong he was at all but rather about how weak he was. And it is true, what a weakling Samson proved to be over against sin and temptation! Samson lived in sin all too often, openly so even. He had little or no self-control. He fell for evil every time again. If you should say that the name, Samson, makes you think of someone very weak rather than someone very strong that too would make sense.

But do you know something else you should think of when you hear that name, Samson? That name should bring to mind the grace of God, indeed, the astounding grace of God! Why? Well, Samsons story, as no doubt many of you may know, is quite a wild account. You could even say, respectfully speaking, it is a rather strange story altogether. But then from another reference to Samson in the Bible, in Hebrews 11:32 we learn that Samson is included among the children of God. Yes, he is included in the list of Old Testament believers. And this fact alone, as well as Samsons complete story, shows us in various ways the amazing grace of God. Surely this is the real reason why Samsons story is included in the Bible too. Namely, that you and I might marvel at Gods amazing grace in the deliverance of His people, in the merciful and bountiful salvation of undeserving sinners.

In this introductory sermon on Samson we will have as our theme, Samson: a story of Gods amazing grace. And we will notice this by thinking about:

1. The particulars of Samsons story

2. The picture in Samsons story

3. The point of Samsons story.

Following the text along these points it should become clear that Samsons incredible story is, indeed, about the amazing grace of God.

Looking first at the particulars detailed in Samsons story, lets notice Gods grace displayed in different ways. Just think first of all of the setting of Samsons story. It is found in the book of Judges and took place in that time of Israels history. The book of Judges tells us about the people of Israel in Canaan after the time of Joshua. What must be said about the Israelites especially in that time period? Oh, time and again, they forsook God and His ways; and they mixed with the heathens, and followed after their ways and their idols. A repeated refrain in the Book of Judges is, And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and the book ends by telling us, Everyone did that which was right in his own eyes. That is the way Gods covenant people lived.

Every time the people forsook God and followed after their own ways, the book of Judges tells us that God would send enemy nations to oppress Israel. When the Israelites would cry to Him for help, the Lord would send a deliverer to rescue them from their oppressors. But after that deliverer had died, they would go back to their old ways. The Book of Judges tells us of twelve judges or deliverers that God gave in the period of about three hundred and fifty years after Joshua. And with Samson, God was once again showing mercy to Israel. He would raise up yet a thirteenth judge, or deliverer, to help Israel, this time from the oppression of the Philistines. Judges 13 begins by saying, And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord. And the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years.

Friends, dont you see Gods amazing grace in the fact that God didnt wipe out the rebellious, stubborn, wicked Israelites; and that He set a time limit to the Philistine oppression? That was grace! The LORD would send yet another deliverer to rescue sinful Israel from their oppressors! The Bible says God is long-suffering and slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy. We certainly see this when, once more, God deals graciously with a stiff-necked Israel, in giving yet another leader to rescue them from the Philistines. Gods merciful, kind, patient ways with Israel were so undeserved. And isnt it the case that Gods people today will acknowledge the same about Gods merciful dealings with them? When you are Gods child, you know in how many ways every day we fail and falter, again and again. And all His loving-kindness toward you and me is surely most undeserved. Gods amazing grace comes through in the story of Samson when you think of the setting of the story. It is extra amazing in this chapter in that we dont even read in this case that the Israelites cried to God for relief from their troubles under the Philistines. It is certainly the case, even before they cried at all, God already was preparing a remedy and deliverer for them in their needs. Amazingly even unasked for, and before they called, God was already planning and providing a deliverer for them. Oh, what an amazing God of grace is the God of our salvation, that God as ultimately revealed also in the Person and work of Jesus Christ the Savior of sinners! It is amazing some of the parallels between Judges 13 and Luke 1&2 when you reflect on it.

Surely Gods amazing grace also comes to the foreground not just in the setting of Judges 13, but when you consider too the miraculous birth of Samson. The text tells us clearly that Manoahs wife was not able to have children; she was barren; and without Gods intervention, she would have stayed barren. In a humanly impossible situation, God came through with His almighty power! We see that more often in the Bible in the history of redemption. Think of Sarah and Abram, Rebekah and Issac, Rachel and Jacob. Hannah and Elkanah, and then Elizabeth and Zacharias, and ultimately, of course, think of the virgin birth of Jesus. With the birth of Samson to a woman who had been barren, God, as it were, wants to highlight to the Israelites, and to us, Deliverance comes from me, from the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord! It is His gift, His grace, His doing. What is impossible with men is possible with Him, even also when His help is so undeserved by us, or even asked for. You see, God is a God of amazing grace. The particular details of Samsons story help bring this out.

Indeed, cant we see Gods amazing grace also in the way that God would have Samson especially dedicated to Him from his infancy? Samson was to be a Nazarite Judges 13 tells us, which means someone especially dedicated, specially separated for God, devoted to Him. In Numbers 6 God gives guidelines for Nazarites. In most cases, that special devotion would be for a limited time. But Samson was to be especially devoted to God all of his life! His special devotion was to be marked in three particular ways: Samson was not to drink any wine or any alcohol. He was to keep from all unclean foods, as spoken of in Gods Old Testament ceremonial laws, and he was never to cut his hair. Three times in our text chapter, in verses 5, 7 and 14, the fact that Samson was to be a lifetime Nazarite gets emphasized. And we can learn from this with Samson God would raise up a very special deliverer and judge for Israel.

Gods amazing grace in the story of Samson further comes across in the godly parents he was given. Samsons parents, Manoah and his wife, were from the tribe of Dan, which was not a very God-fearing tribe at all as you can find out if you read Judges 18. But here was a godly couple in the midst of a godless people. The chapter tells how both Manoah and his wife wanted to be faithful parents and to do what God wanted them to do for their child. They wanted to do their outmost in the bringing up of their child in Gods ways in line with Gods Word and will. Isnt this what all true Christian parents are conscientious about as well?

What a blessing and how important it is when both mom and dad trust and serve the Lord, and as are a team together in Gods ways. How many children today are raised in broken homes and divided homes. Samson had that gracious privilege of having a godly father and godly mother. When you and I may be raised as children in a Christian home, even if it is a one-parent home, there is so much reason to be thankful when our parents are Christian. God took care that Samson would have a good upbringing with his godly parents, and in this too Gods amazing grace comes to the fore, especially considering the days of the judges when almost everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.

Certainly, looking at these particulars of Samsons story as given in our text chapter, you can see Gods amazing grace in giving such a leader at such a time for such a people. And then, when you consider further the continued story of Samson as told in Judges 14-16, and as you may be aware of, how miserably sinful Samsons life really was! You will know how he squandered his privileges, how he violated his special consecration as a Nazarite in every respect, as we shall see in the coming weeks. And yet, in spite of all of his waywardness and sin, God still used him to begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines. Finally, as Hebrews 11 tells us, Samson did die as a child of God. Considering all that, dont we have to say how amazing the strange story of Samson is? That God would raise up such a leader, and use such a leader, and spare such a leader, and save such a leader is amazing grace from beginning to end!

But now lets move on to our second main point and see how Samsons story is a story of amazing grace, not just from the particulars of his story but from the picture in Samsons story. Here you will have to listen well to follow me. Taking the whole story of Samson, its quite clear with the sending of Samson, the Lord didnt only give the Israelites another deliverer or judge, but with him God also gave the Israelites a picture of what they were like as a people. Yes, God was holding up Samson before the Israelites as a sort of mirror for them to see themselves.

Let me explain this more. As Samson had all kinds of favors in his birth and upbringing, so did the Israelites, among all the nations of the world. For no reason in themselves, God wonderfully and especially reached out to the Israelites. He favored them, nurtured them, and blessed them. And they were to be a people especially consecrated to the Lord. A holy separate people living to Gods praise and glory! In the way of loving trusting obedience to God, they would be wonderfully blessed, and so also be a great blessing to the ends of the earth. But what had the Israelites done? They squandered their blessings, despised their privileges, and mixed with the heathens in adulterous relations and idolatrous ways, and they brought misery upon themselves and became a weak and shameful people. And it seemed like the Israelites refused to learn their lesson, not to stray from God but to trust and obey Him always. No, time and again, they went back to doing evil and turning away from God!

So now with their next deliverer, the last judge before Samuel and the time of the kings, God gives a leader yet who reflects exactly what Israel was like. Samson, by Gods overruling design, without at all controlling him, was an instrument in Gods hand to exhibit to his age generally a picture. A vivid picture, on the one hand, of the strength that the people of God might have to overcome their strongest foes through faithful submission to the Lord their God. And then on the other hand, a revealing picture of their weakness into which they would sink through repeated unfaithfulness to the covenant and their mixing with the heathens.

In other words, we can say, Samsons life story is like a visible preaching from God, whereby God would yet in another way show the Israelites what they were like, and what their continued waywardness would result in for them. In Samsons story, God visibly teaches what His heroes, what His favored ones come to if once they prostitute their God-given strengths and blessings to the base love of self and to this flattering world. The worlds pleasures and the lusts of the flesh draw the secret of true strength from us. Always sins pathway leaves a person weak and helpless, robbed of power and strength in Gods ways. This also happened so miserably to Samson because of his willful, wayward, ways. And Samsons story reflects Israels story. Do you see this picture with me in Samsons story?

Realizing this picture God would give with Samsons story should help us better understand also this rather strange and wild story of Samson being included in the Bible. Its a true story not so much about Samson as about Gods amazing grace really. Indeed, even in the fact that God by this means also would arrest the attention of his wayward people. Imagine God, as it were, putting this picture of Samsons life before the people of old, and saying as it were, Here! Let me show you with the striking figure of Samson the way things are, and what you are like. And now think of this, dear friends, in Gods amazing grace, He is showing this old picture to you and to me too. Do you think we need to have this picture shown to us as well? Im sure we do! Its a real blessing, in fact, an undeserved favor that God would bother to show us this picture also. Maybe seeing this story of Samson before us in the coming weeks, God willing, is exactly what you need, yes, either as a seed of regeneration and awakening in Gods ways in spirit and truth or as food for your soul and encouragement in Gods ways. Without question, this picture of Samsons life will be something most relevant for us all.

Possibly his picture in fact exactly describes your case too, even your present situation. I mean with that perhaps you too, like Samson, have been blessed with some form of Christian upbringing, and raised in a covenant of grace context, consecrated to God from birth even. But could it be, while given all kinds of gospel privileges from your childhood even, yet you are still unconverted to God, and living basically a wayward, worldly life? Like Samson, could it be the Delilahs of this world and the lusts of the flesh have ensnared you and sapped you of all possible spiritual life, and that explains your half-heartedness in Gods ways? Your lack of zeal for God, your not getting anywhere in your pursuit after God, but just going more and more downhill as it were; and being uninterested and uninvolved in the ways of God and His service. At best you are like John Bunyans Pilgrims Progress character, Mr. Facing both ways, double-minded and double hearted in relation to God and therefore, like Samson, so unstable in all your ways? Is that your case, your picture?

It hardly needs mentioning that the church in the western world is generally quite flabby, lame, and lukewarm, and so much like the world. Samsons picture is relevant for us too, in that regard, isnt it? When God wishes to expose to us the condition in our lives and the generally sad condition of his church today by showing us the picture of Samson, we should see in that His amazing grace. For Gods intention in exposing these realities of our hearts and lives and of our spiritual condition is for our good and not out of ill-will. The Lord seeks to convict of sin that He might lead us on in the way of true and on-going conversion.

Saying this brings me to the third point, in which we consider the point of Samsons story. With Samsons story, God would lead sinners; He would lead His people in the way of true faith, of true repentance, and true devotion before Him. God is not desirous to see anyone perish in sin. Nor does He delight to see His people in a weak and oppressed condition. With Samsons story, Gods point is not so much to condemn and to destroy as to awaken and to stir up in the ways of grace and truth. This gracious point of Samsons story can be confirmed from at least two factors in connection with our text chapter.

For one, think of the Angel who brought the message about Samson to Manoah and his wife: the message about his birth and calling. We may conclude from the text that the angel was actually God, and specifically, the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ. We may believe this because when Manoah asks for his name, the heavenly visitor responds saying, Why do you ask for my name, seeing it is secret? The word secret literally is the word wonderful. And now who alone in the Bible is given that name, wonderful? The Messiah, Jesus Christ, is given this name as prophesied in Isaiah 9:6. We are told there, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called wonderful, counselor, almighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. That name, wonderful, in Isaiah 9:6 is the same word as translated secret in the King James Version in Judges 13:8. And notice we are told this heavenly visitor did wondrously. Here is the same word again. He did wondrously when Manoah and his wife came with their offerings for the Lord. With the pre-incarnate Savior himself being the angel of the Lord in this story, dont we see God, with the sending of Samson, reaching out to His people? And reaching out especially in view of His own once for all sacrifice offered to God on Golgotha? Dont we see too that the Lord is so desirous to protect His people, to guide them, and to teach them in the way that they should go?

Wasnt God, through Samson, preparing His people for a greater Deliverer who was to come? The Israelites and all of us need a deliverer who is not only very very strong, but also very very pure. We need a deliverer who not only begins to deliver us from some of our oppressors, but we need a Savior who completely and perfectly delivers us from all our oppressors, especially from Satan and from sin, and from the world, death, and hell. And Jesus, the infinitely strong one and the infinitely Holy One, who suffered and died on sinners behalf, as the just for the unjust, who arose three days later and afterwards wondrously ascended into heaven, is that great Savior, the great deliverer of His people, even for as many as trust and obey Him!

With the sending of Samson, God in Christ, as the mediator of the covenant of grace, meant good for His covenant people. He meant to protect His people and to lead them onward. His call to them with Samson was, as it were, Dont stray from me! Follow close behind me. Turn from your sin, and trust and obey me; and I will lead you in the way of blessing. Blessings untold are found in and through Me, even as I have promised throughout the generations. And, dear friends, that same call now comes to you and to me, living in the days since the Messiah has come. Are you listening to that loving gospel call always to seek and serve the Lord, looking unto Jesus?

We know that when the call came in the days of the Old Testament, in the days of the Judges, there were people who did not heed the call. There were people who still wouldnt hear what God was saying. Thats the way it is today too, sadly and tragically so. Will you too be one who refuses to listen to Gods gospel call, also as it comes even from Samsons life story in the book of Judges? God forbid that you will turn your back on the only hope of salvation through Jesus Christ the Saviour, even as He graciously reaches out to you again now.

Another fact pointing out the Lords goodwill in sending Samson and having him serve as a mirror for the people and to awaken them is the words of Manoahs wife in vs 23. Manoah thought they would die, having seen a divine messenger from heaven who had come to tell them about the special child they would receive. But his wife, we are told, wisely said to her husband, If the Lord were pleased to kill us, he would not have received the burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands. Neither would He have showed us all these things, nor would He at this time have told us such things as these. These are remarkable words of faith. If God comes in His revelation to us, Hes coming in mercy and in love, she said. She understood Gods revelation of Himself to be a revelation of grace and mercy.

How much better we should understand that in our New Testament age. Do you understand this message of Gods Word even now, dear friends? In Gods Word, including the book of Judges even, God comes with the offer of peace and pardon, and the offer of a blessed and fulfilling life, and the gift of eternal life for undeserving sinners, even as we seek and follow after Him. This nameless woman, Manoahs wife, understood that Gods revelation through the Angel of God and His Word meant that God was being gracious. And when God comes to us now with His Word also, He is being gracious. Hes out to give His grace and mercy to as many as will ask. Its still the time of grace, and God is still, through the preaching of His Word, calling for sinners to be saved by grace alone, by faith alone in Him, and calling for His people to be loyal to Him and to be truly living in His service in accordance with His Word. The story of Samson urges us to take His message to heart today and always.

It is a story of Gods amazing grace as made clear from the particulars of his story, the picture in his story, and the point of his story. Even Judges 13, wrote one commentator correctly, wants us to jump up and sing the doxology. Indeed, for the story of Samson is another story of Gods amazing grace for such undeserving sinful sinners like you and me. Dont let his story be one that further condemns you, but rather let it be a message that causes you to join in the praise of the redeemed. Amen.

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