Thursday, 19 August 2010 13:05

Samson: Such A Gospel Instructive Chapter

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This will be our third sermon now in connection with the life story of Samson in the Holy Bible found in Judges 13-16. In this message we look at chapter 15 under the theme, Such a Gospel Instructive Chapter! All Scriptures testify of Christ, Jesus teaches us in John 5:39, and so we shouldnt be surprised that also from Judges 15 we learn more about Jesus Christ as only Saviour and Lord, for us to know and to follow, to trust and obey. Very simply, notice with me five gospel points that are wonderfully laid out for us in our text chapter. We can learn from a great fact observable in this chapter, and from the grievous foolishness seen in this chapter. Following that we will learn from the glorious fight in this chapter, and then look at the glaring frailty told of in our chapter and last, consider the glowing faith in this chapter. I encourage you to read Judges 15 to see also how this message now is all based on the inspired, infallible, holy Scriptures given to us from God to teach us the way we should go and not go.

What is the great fact to notice here? It is that every time the Philistines thought they finally had found the solution to their problem with Samson, then all of a sudden their supposed solution would dissolve or fail because of something else Samson does. Remember here that Samson, as mentioned in Judges 13:5, was used by the Lord to begin to deliver the Israelites from the oppression of the Philistines. Especially in chapter 15 now we see the Philistines out to get Samson and to stop him in his tracks. But what develops for the Philistines is, as someone called it, a solution-failure pattern. This means every time they thought they had him lock, stock, and barrel so to speak, then it would backfire, and they would end up being the losers. Winning losers is what the Philistines were before Gods appointed judge and ruler, Samson.

Let me prove my point so you know better this is what the chapter is teaching us. The cycle began already in the last chapter and is evident right to the end. Samson had a riddle which the Philistines through some cheating and bribery solved triumphantly, only to end up the losers with 30 of their men from Ashkelon killed by Samson. Now Samson looks for restoration with his Philistine bride only to be told she was given to another, and the result is the flaming fox episode, with much of the harvest and crops of the Philistines destroyed by fires that Samson set. Then, when Samson finds out how the Philistines retaliated by burning his Philistine bride and her father in their house, we are told Samson responds with killing many Philistines. We dont know how many, but with a great slaughter it says in vs. 8. Samson proved to be a strong man, who when he let fly, you better watch out!

After the single-handed slaughter of many Philistines we are told Samson went to a hill area called Etam to see what would happen next. And here things began to escalate. The Philistines sent in a whole army contingent of at least 1000 troops to a place called Lehi, a village most likely somewhere along the border of Judah and Dan, and in the territory of Judah. We are told the result of these 1000 Philistine soldiers plus some alarmed the people of Judah, and they ask why the invasion of Philistine soldiers in their area? They tell them how they are after just one man, Samson. We want to bind him and take him. Well, the men of Judah, what do they do? They gather 3000 soldiers to capture Samson to hand him over to the Philistines. Imagine that - 3000 security men because of one man thought to be dangerous. We are told when Samson is assured that the men of Judah wont themselves kill him, he lets them capture him and tie him up with two new cords, and so they hand him over to the Philistines. Then we are told that as the Philistines give their victory shout, that now at last they had their man, all of a sudden at that point, the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon Samson and those thick cords binding him literally, as it were, melt away. And Samson, seeing the fresh jawbone of a dead donkey, grabbing those donkey dentures, he begins swinging away tirelessly and most effectively, shocking and knocking to death one after the other, till a thousand Philistine soldiers are dead at his feet. It is the Jawbone Hill story, a true story, where again the Philistines are the losers!

Following this, in chapter 16 you have the planned ambushing of Samson trapped in Gaza, only to have him walk away with the gates of the city, and carrying those gates 60 kilometers and dropping them close to Hebron, the center of Judah, giving thereby proof of his victory over the Philistines, and leaving the town of Gaza as one put it, with a gaping gap in their city walls, and a dent in their municipal budget. Then, of course, lastly you have the final story of Samson shaved, shackled, sightless, and made a sport of by the Philistines. But then too, in the end, just when the Philistines were celebrating their successes and sneeringly saying, Our god [Dagon] hath delivered Samson our enemy into our hand (16:23), at that point Samson prays, and pushes, and in one final incident, he kills more Philistines than he had killed in all his lifetime, as thousands of Philistines lay dead in the collapsed temple of Dagon.

Dear friends, if it wasnt so serious it is almost hilarious what unfolds. Do you notice the success-failure pattern? The Philistines just cant win! Whenever they think to succeed, they actually lose terribly. But what comes across also in our text chapter with the flaming fox episode and the donkey denture slaughter of a thousand men is that God here really is making a mockery of those who will oppose Him and His people and His cause. Be sure you dont treat Judges 15 as simply just a strange story that says nothing at all. No, we are dealing here with the Holy Spirit inspired gospel word of God, remember. In Psalm 2 we read that the Lord who sits in the heavens shall laugh [at those who oppose Him], the Lord shall have them in derision. How important and urgent that we all see this clearly here and that we learn from it! You cant be opposed to the one true God and think it is no big deal, but you can handle it. No, God will not be mocked! Oh, as one said our text passage tells of the awesome fearfulness of Israels God! His enemies, and theirs, are kids stuff for Him; He toys with them, and shows what a laughing stock they are! Most seriously so! And the point is, dear friends, young and old, as this person wrote, It is a ghastly thing to make oneself the object of divine laughter. Friends, will you all take this lesson to heart, or, will you not?

The question is in order. Do you know why? Well, as we continue to glean gospel instruction from this chapter, notice next what there is to learn from the grievous foolishness shown in our text passage. What do I mean? Looking at verses 10-14 just notice the grievous foolishness of the men of Judah. It is truly most shameful and even painful what we read of the men of Judah here. The tribe of Judah was supposed to be the strongest tribe in the way of the Lord and His service, but observe how low they have fallen as they now go to capture Samson to hand him over to the Philistines. The men of Judah dont want this Samson to rock the boat and upset the situation more, and notice, they have totally accepted with pathetic apathy that they were a captive people to the Philistines. They say to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us, what is this that thou hast done to us?[vs. 11] And see them take Samson, as he lets himself be taken and bound, and hand him over to the Philistines.

What we see here is so sad really. In Judges 1:1-20 we read how the tribe of Judah was yet so valiant for the Lord and His cause. But here now, so many generations later, the people of Judah too, with all of Israel, had become a collection of spineless weaklings. The leaders and people of Judah, you see, are so comfortable in their sins and in the world they lived in, and they dont see their sins or their bondage to this heathen nation as a problem even. They regard the Philistines as their rulers and Samson as the God-given deliverer for them as their enemy. As one commentator put it, Israel is a people who can forsake [Jehovah God] instantly, but who would not think of being faithless to the heathen Philistines! What a pitiful [situation]!

Yet again, isnt this set before us as a mirror to show us what you and I can so easily be like as well? What is needed in every generation is the Holy Spirit work of each person being born again, and becoming truly converted to God, and earnestly consecrated to God. Are you acknowledging this as well, and do you pray God so to bless you and not to leave you to yourself, in your natural foolishness, ever? By nature we are all like the men of Judah here, not seeing our need of the one deliverer from God and wanting to get rid of Him so we can continue in our own ways undisturbed.

Can you not see too, dear friends, in that regard the direct line from our text to more than a thousand years later when Jesus was taken and arrested by a mixed multitude of Jew and Gentile, to be handed over to Pilate for to be crucified? The people then too didnt see their need of a Saviour, and refused to submit to the one true deliverer promised by God and they took Jesus and bound Him. The Lord Jesus has come to loose the cords with which you and I are tied to sin and to Satan and this world. As one preacher put it, Do you feel those cords? Do you long to be set free from Satans bondage? Or is everything fine for you, and you dont want to upset the status quo. Let sleeping dogs lie, as it were. Away with Jesus! Is that what you say and do too, could it be still? Oh listen, Jesus Christ came to be the almighty deliverer from our worst and eternal enemies, Satan, sin, death, and hell, and only with Him is there deliverance for us and for our children and childrens children too.

We know Jesus, like Samson in our text passage, let Himself meekly be taken. He could have resisted for did He not have twelve legions of angels He could have asked the Father to send to rescue Him and to deal with all those wicked people who would arrest Him? But Jesus lets Himself be taken, being bound not just by the cords of men, but by the cords of divine justice and eternal love for sinners. Jesus would bear the punishment for sin in the sinners place; He surrendered Himself that He might save rebels like you and me, He would suffer the punishment for sin as the just for the unjust, and like Samson here, Jesus would accomplish and endure this all on His own. As God still worked in a merciful saving way for Judah, even when not acknowledged by them, so Jesus gave His life a ransom for many, and the gospel today, also from Judges 15, is that Jesus, the greater than Samson, is able to help the most deeply fallen and troubled and needy sinner. You may be ensnared by a thousand ropes and chains to the service of Satan and sin, but Jesus Christ can set you free through His grace and power, without a doubt. He is able and willing to save and ready to forgive. What a champion Saviour the Lord Jesus is for all who call upon Him!

All who to Jehovah cry, In their trouble He will save;

Throw the prison open wide, where they live by sin enslaved;

Bid the gloomy shadows flee; break their bonds, and set them free! That is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We can learn still more gospel instruction from Judges 15 going to our third point about the glorious fight that the text speaks of. We are told in verses 14-17what happened when Samson was delivered over to the Philistines and the Philistines shouted in triumph against him [vs. 14]. Then all of a sudden, and it was not so much an adrenalin rush, but rather the Spirit of God came upon Samson, giving him supernatural power over his enemies. So Samson, with those donkey dentures as his only weapon, single-handedly slew 1000 men right then and there. The Philistines victory whoop quickly turned into shrieking wails and then in not too long a time all was still on Jawbone Hill. When the Spirit of God came on Samson in the service of God, what a mighty man he became! Samson made up a little poem as it were, which if you put it in English something like it is in the Hebrew, then this is what he said, as kind of a celebration chant after his victory over his captives. With the jawbone of an ass, I have piled them in a mass. The fact is, it was quite an amazing accomplishment. Indeed, it was from God enabling him, or it could never have been done.

Is it not the same today still, also for you and me? And no, thankfully, we are not to fight physically in such a fierce glorious fight as Samson was involved in here, but spiritually speaking, surely, Gods people are called today to be faithful to the Lord, and earnestly to fight the good fight of faith against all our foes. But what can we accomplish really apart from Gods Holy Spirit working in us to enlighten us, renew us, lead us, sanctify us, and fill us? Didnt Jesus say to His disciples in John 15, Without me ye can do nothing? Without Gods Spirit in us and guiding us, you and I can know nothing of the truth and not come to faith and repentance, and also surely not accomplish anything to Gods praise and glory. Very strikingly the book of Acts also teaches us how it was only always when the Holy Spirit was present with the early church believers that they prospered in the faith, and that the Christian church mightily grew and expanded, and the cause of the Lord flourished and spread, even worldwide.

In the Christian life, are you and I then looking time and again to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Is this also your regular, indeed, daily prayer, to be led and guided by the Comforter sent from above, the Holy Spirit, that we might know the things which are freely given to us of God and that we might live in true service to God and His gospel cause, helping set many captives free, by the grace and power of God in us and through us? Paul the missionary said, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. [Philippians 4:13] How important to learn and relearn again and again what we read in Zechariah 4:6 that Gods cause wont ever be furthered in us or through us or by us, except by Gods Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit of God, in us and with us. Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Absolutely nothing can stop the progress of the gospel when the Spirit of God is upon us while absolutely nothing will further the gospel cause in us and through us when the Spirit is departed from us. Do you live as one knowing this in your heart and life, and does it cause you also to live daily being wholly dependent on the Holy Spirit as sent from the Father and the Saviour, Jesus Christ?

How encouraging our text passage is also in showing us when Gods Spirit is with us and upon us, how much we may and can do in Gods service. Samsons case was unique of course, but still today is anything too hard for the LORD? Are we too by Gods Holy Spirit seeking to be a light on a hill, you in your small corner and I in mine? Are we sufficiently burdened for the lost all around us? Let us not be lethargic or apathetic or content with the status quo. Oh, in that regard have you ever asked yourself in connection with our text passage, Where were the 3000 soldiers of Judah when Samson by the Spirit was preoccupied against the enemy? Were they cowering on the sidelines and refusing to become involved? How many sit too on the sidelines feeling they have nothing to offer. But look what Samson did with just donkey dentures when supplied by the Spirit of God in the way he should go. Let no one plead lack of talent as an excuse for lack of service, for when filled with the Spirit you will find manifold opportunities to serve in one way or another. Do you see all these gospel challenges from out of our text as well? How much gospel instruction we can find in this Old Testament narrative.

And again, our theme comes out in our next point too, dear friends, where we learn all of a sudden after Samsons mighty fight, how weak and frail he became in his own strength. His glaring frailty, do you see it too in this Scripture passage written by the Holy Sprit? Samson does a mighty work and then the next moment, literally, he is about to die of thirst! We can imagine how much energy it took in a warm climate to do what Samson did. Understandably as a human, it left Samson just totally drained and needing water. But there was no water anywhere nearby. There were no taps and no nearby fountains, no water bottles at hand. Samson cries to God for His mercy and help in his time of need. We see here Samson while at this weakest point in some sense the strongest of all.

Was the Lord maybe teaching him a lesson here too? You notice how when he celebrated his victory, his little chant never mentions the word, God, but more just what Samson had done. I have slain, he says, jubilantly, a thousand men. But God is not acknowledged. It is as if Samson chucks that donkey jawbone away, proudly smug of his accomplishment. And God now teaches him a lesson. One we all too often can forget. One we always need to keep learning and learning more and more. Samsons hill of boasting becomes his place of tears. His jawbone heights, which Ramathlehi means, becomes now Enhakkore, which literally means the criers well. Samson, you see, as one rightly said, is anything but self-sufficient. And the same is true of you and me.

Verse 18 is such an instructive verse telling of Samsons utter weakness in himself! How it should humble us to the dust. Do you know about being knocked down from the heights of your own importance and the boastings of your accomplishments? Do you acknowledge we live and move and have our being from God, and except He sustain us and supply us, we are nothing? As you and I are dependent on the Lord for our physical wellbeing, how much more is that the case in regards to our spiritual wellbeing? Away with boasting then, ever! Do you hear this and receive this in your mind and heart as gospel truth so urgent to remember and receive? There is only one eternally self-sufficient Saviour and almighty Deliverer for us and that is the Saviour Jesus Christ Who is none other than God Himself come in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us. In Him we find the exact Saviour we need, and with Him alone is all our salvation and refuge and safety from sin, Satan, death, and hell. Oh, dear friends, will you learn from Judges 15,

Trust not in man who soon must die, but on the living God rely;

Most blest the man whose help is He,

That made the heaven, and earth, and sea.

[Psalm 146:3-5 in song version]

This also brings us to our last point, where we see yet in these last two verses also glowing faith in God. As Samson looked to the Lord for His mercy and help, notice how this needy person pleaded Gods honor and Gods cause and His people. Would the LORD after so great victory yet allow the heathen nation of the Philistines to triumph over Samson? Samson cries in humble faith to His Saviour God and did God answer his prayer? Yes, the Lord always answers the cry of faith in Him. Wonderfully the Lord opened up a spring of water from between the rocks on that jawbone hill, and Samsons thirst is quenched, and he is given, as it were, the water of life and his life is spared, and his strength is renewed. God was merciful to Samson, a sinner in need. And surely, this passage should have us think forward to when Christ, the great Champion Deliverer, was on the cruel cross, and He then cried out thereon, I thirst.

Consider what Jesus was all single-handedly accomplishing on the cross of Calvary! Nothing less than the death blow to Satan and the redemption of all His people from sin, death, and hell! But when in His agony of body and soul in and with that salvation work, Jesus Christ then also expressed His being sore athirst, I ask you, was there a water bottle given to Jesus? Even a little drink of cool refreshing water? No, nothing! God the Father left Jesus to bear the full punishment for sin, even to the exact measure of the physical and spiritual torment of eternal hell, that so, by grace through faith in this Saviour, fountains of living waters might always be there for all of us who cry to the Lord for His mercy and help. Jesus has become, as the promised Messiah from the day of mans fall, the Rock of ages from out of Whom, as the crucified and risen Saviour, flows living water. Are you thirsty? Go to Him for drink that fully satisfies. Dont drink from the wells of sin and this world, for those wells are all poisoned and will only result in death and, before you know it, eternal thirst in the place of everlasting torment for our sins and sinfulness. God Word still calls out as we read in Revelation 22, Whosever will, let him take the water of life freely. With Christ the Saviour is the Fount of living waters!

Yes, and I pray the Lord will bring many, indeed all who hear this message to Christ the Saviour, either afresh or for a first time even. You have to admit what an amazing Scripture Judges 15 is in regards to being so full of gospel instruction. Let us by the grace of God receive this precious gospel and then go and tell others of Jawbone Hill become the Criers Well, and even more of Golgotha become the fount of living waters. What an amazing gospel for undeserving sinners! Oh, may the Triune God so prosper His Word to us and through us to the praise of the glory of His grace. Amen.

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