Posts Tagged 'Judges'

Panic Podcast: The Everything Bible Study, Part 16

It’s Wednesday not Monday, but we are doing Monday’s study today since we couldn’t do it on Monday due to website maintenance.

Today we begin an extended look at the books of history in the Old Testament, from Joshua to Esther. There are 12 books of Hebrew history, so you know it will take a few studies to cover them.  I know most of you aren’t too keen on history, but you’ll love our survey these awesome books of the Bible.  So click on the player and we’ll get started!

 

Panic Podcast: Interesting Women in the Bible – Deborah, Part 1

On today’s podcast, we’ll be looking at an amazing woman named Deborah.  She was a prophetess who became judge (or governor) in Israel.  God raised her up to lead His people out of oppression to a thoroughly nasty man named Jabin.  Don’t tell me that God doesn’t use women!  Wait until you discover how able Deborah was and why she was the perfect woman to carry out God’s will.

 

Samson, Part Four

A Sorry End to a Sorry Life

In studying the life of Samson, we notice something glaring: the editor of the book of Judges is about as blunt as any writer could be. He does not even try to paint a pretty picture of this judge of Israel. He states Samson’s sin in a matter-of-fact manner. Another thing we notice is that in spite of Samson’s many sexual misadventures, God continued to use him to accomplish His purposes. That leaves us more questions than answers. But one thing is certain: one who cannot control their passions will find them to be their undoing in the end. This is exactly what Samson found by the end of chapter 16.

A scholar of a bygone era said this:

Samson, when strong and brave, strangled a lion; but he could not strangle his own love. He burst the fetters of his foes, but not the cords of his own lusts. He burned up the crops of others, and lost the fruit of his own virtue when burning with the flame enkindled by a single woman.

There are a great many Christians who like to look at Samson as a type of Christ, largely because of this one verse in Hebrews 11:32,

And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets.

However, I will state that Samson was, in no way, any type of Jesus Christ, despite some of the similarities surrounding his remarkable birth.

We’ll examine the events that led to Samson’s pitiful downfall, namely, his involvements with the prostitute from Gaza and Delilah.

1. Samson at Gaza, 16:1-3

Herbert Wolf has written that these final episodes in Samson’s life “confirm his great physical strength and his great weakness for women.” It had been a number of years since the last time Samson had been in Philistine territory, but the people in Gaza had never forgotten about this strong man.

One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.”

But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.

This judge of Israel was completely insolent and apparently had learned nothing from his past experiences with Philistine women. As he indulged himself with this prostitute, the men of Gaza lay in wait to kill him as he left town in the morning. Outsmarting them, he left early, and with a great demonstration of physical strength, he grabbed hold of the city gates, ripped them off their hinges, and carried them some distance away.

Although the text gives no indication of the Holy Spirit’s involvement, it is probable that the Spirit of God, once again, came upon Samson and enabled him to do this. However, these “gifts of strength” that came from the Lord were of a physical nature only; they did not cause Samson to see his sin or cause him to repent. Clyde Rydall:

Not all the men upon whom the Spirit of God came in the Old Testament times were good men. God used them as instruments to accomplish His historical purposes for His people, much as one might seize a muddy stick to drive off an angry dog.

Further, Samson’s feats of strength and achievements were entirely personal in that they revolved completely around him. What he did here in Gaza, and indeed what he did to the Philistines during his judgeship had nothing to do with his people. In fact, as we have seen, all the acts of Samson were provoked by his own foolish, sinful behavior, and despite the fact that the Holy Spirit “came upon” him from time to time, Samson was not a servant of Yahweh, and spent his entire life doing his own thing and giving in to his sinful nature.

And this would lead to his inevitable downfall.

2. Samson and Delilah, 16:4-20

Younger correctly noted that chapter 16 begins with a great deed and ends with a great deed, but neither one does anything for Israel. The story of Samson and Delilah makes for great reading and is the thing movies are made of. Warren Wiersbe wrote:

Along with David and Bathsheba, Samson and Delilah have captured the imagination of scores of writers, artists, composers, and dramatists. Handel included Delilah in his oratorio “Samson,” and there was even an opera about Samson and Delilah! When Samson consorted with Delilah in the Valley of Sorek, he never dreamed that what they did together would be made into a Hollywood movie and projected on huge screens.

However, there is a very real sense that, one day, when we stand before God, stripped of all our pretenses and our motives laid bare before him, our deepest, darkest secrets will be exposed.

If any man builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, his work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each man’s work. If what he has built survives, he will receive his reward. If it is burned up, he will suffer loss; he himself will be saved, but only as one escaping through the flames. (1 Corinthians 3:12-15)

After Samson escaped from Gaza, and after humiliating the men there, they became determined to find out why this Israelite was so strong. As in chapter 14, a woman led Samson to divulge a secret. Samson was foolish in chapter 14, being tricked by a godless Philistine, but there is good reason to believe that this time, the woman was an Israelite, for she had a Hebrew name. In fact, as an indication of Delilah’s sin, of the four women mentioned in Samson’s life, only her name is mentioned, and at that, no less than seven times. Being led to destruction by one of his own showed the depths of the strong man’s depravity.

The lowlights of the story can teach us some lessons.

  • Samson had become infatuated with one like himself. The Philistines made Delilah an offer she could not refuse. Just as Samson yielded to temptation to get what he wanted, so Delilah did. She would give Samson’s life in exchange for money. It’s always interested me that a person is generally known by the company he keeps.
  • Delilah’s goal must have been obvious to Samson, yet for some reason he played along, toying with Delilah, not knowing that doing so would end in his death. Maybe it was amusing to him, perhaps Samson got a good laugh out of Delilah’s failed attempts to his secret. How many of us toy with the sin in our lives, thinking we can enjoy it “a little,” thinking in our naiveté that we can stop before going too far; before we get into trouble.
  • After several attempts to learn the secret, Delilah got frustrated, and Samson got frustrated with her constant nagging and he gave in and told her. He did exactly the same thing back at his wedding feast, in 14:7. Samson was more willing to break his Nazarite vow than to break his relationship with this woman.
  • Verse 17 is an interesting verse. It shows Samson, called to be set apart from birth as a Nazarite, actaully bearing his soul, sharing his most intimate secret with a pagan woman who wasn’t even his wife. Sadly, verse 17 also shows us that he knew all along he was a Nazarite, yet could care less.
  • Samson, man of great strength, is willing to compromise his very self for the love of a woman. Delilah, has no interest in Samson; love is not on her mind at all. She is using him to get what she wants, just as he has used God his whole life to get what he wanted.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. (Galatians 6:6)

The last sentence of verse 20 is arguably the saddest in the Bible:

“I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the LORD had left him.

Samson, like so many of us, had taken the Lord’s presence in his life for granted. He assumed God would always be there, no matter what his behavior. How many of us assume we can live how we please, and just assume God will tolerate us and put up with us? There is a price to pay for continuing in sin, and Samson is about to pay it.

3. Samson’s inevitable end, 16:23-31

The Philistines seized the weakened Samson and:

  • blinded him, as sin blinds those caught up in it;
  • bound him, as sin bounds those trapped in it;
  • made him grind at the mill. Sin, which seems so pleasant, always takes its toll on us.

During the pagan festival, the drunken Philistines praised their god, Dagon for helping them to capture Samson, their enemy. The people began to shout out for Samson to be brought in to entertain them and amuse them. It must have been a sad scene. The strongest man in the world, being led into a large pagan temple, shackled and blind, being laughed at and mocked by a thousand drunken spectators. But, in reality, he was there because of his life of compromise. God had let him go into the life he showed a constant desire for.

And then an amazing thing happened. Samson prays. Literally, the prayer went like this:

O Lord Yahweh, please remember me.
Please strengthen me! Just this once! O God!
And let me revenge myself with one revenge on the
Philistines for my two eyes.

What starts out as a decent prayer, degenerates into an egocentric plea for personal revenge. Once again, Samson is seen putting his own personal ambition (revenge for what they did to him) ahead of the interests of God. It’s truly amazing how this man’s self-interest dominated his life to the bitter end.

The prayer prayed by Samson is structured similarly to the Philistine prayer to Dagon:

Our god has delivered our enemy
into our hands,
the one who laid waste to our land
and multiplied our slain.

Notice the profusion of personal pronouns in both prayers; five in each prayer. But while the prayers are similar, there is one striking difference. There were thousands of Philistines praying together. But Samson was all alone. His preoccupation with himself left him with the most important person in his life: himself.

In the end, however, in spite of Samson’s personal motive for revenge, God, for the last time, used Samson to glorify Himself. In that pagan temple, when the Spirit of God came upon Samson and Samson pulled down that temple, Dagon was powerless. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob had demonstrated His superiority. But the tragic irony cannot be missed. Samson, for all his strength did more for God dead than alive.

Some lessons from Samson

Samson’s tragic life and death can teach us much, if we have “ears to hear” what the Spirit is telling us.

Samson shows us, in a personal way, what happens when the people of God fail to be obedient to God and fail to fulfill their obligations to Him. God’s will for His Church and the world will be accomplished with or without our help. We may choose to work with Him and be blessed in doing so. Or we may be like Samson, and go our own way doing our own thing, but be used of God anyway, yet not be blessed. It’s our choice to be a part of God’s marvelous work, or be dragged kicking and screaming into it. Either way, we will be a part of it.

On this point, Wolf’s comments are excellent:

Samson was ranked among the heroes of faith. Yet he failed to live up to his great gifts. Unable to conquer himself, he was ruined by his own lusts. He stands as a tragic example of a man of great potential who lacked stability of character. Still, God in His sovereignty used him.

The story of Samson should serve as a warning to all believers. Take seriously your relationship with God. Honor His Word and His will. Be obedient to its dictates. Watch what you look at. And make sure Jesus Christ is the most important person in your life, because nobody should stand before the Judge of the Universe alone when they could stand beside Jesus Christ.

(c) 2008 WitzEnd

Samson, Part One

We spent quite a bit of time dealing with the world in which the last few judges of Israel were born into.  For each one, we made a point of mentioning that they were all, without exception, products of their environments.  In other words, the godlessness of Israel at that time shaped each judge so that each successive judge was further away from the Lord than the previous one, just like the people they led.

When God disciplined the Israelites they ran headlong into their sin, to their detriment.  They are still paying for their hard-hearted forefathers to this very day.  God disciplines us in order to save us from from the terrible damage sin will do to us and to enable us to live a life of righteousness that is fruitful and productive for the Kingdom of God.  Imagine if all the believers in America suddenly returned to God, forsaking their sin and served Him with whole-hearted devotion.  What a very different country this would be.

However, while that may be true, and a valid explanation of their weaknesses, it is no excuse.   For, as we noted, Jesus was born into a sinful world, full of violence, godlessness and hypocrisy, and yet He grew up, seemingly, isolated from the taint of sin.  Of course, He had the advantage of being the Son of God, yet Jesus was also the Son of man, and therefore subject to what all men face in terms of temptation.  He remained sinless.  While common man cannot boast of being sinless, one called of God has a choice:  to fight temptation and trust in the Lord, or yield to the evil and wickedness all around them.

Such was the case of the last few judges.  They allowed themselves to be lured and ensnared by the sinful pleasures of their godless neighbors.  The words of James haunts us all:

Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.  (James 1:14-15)

And so while a sinful world can go a long way in explaining the sin in a man, it does not excuse its presence in his life.

1.  Background to Samson, 13:1

This brings us to the most enigmatic of Israel’s judges, Samson.  There have been scores of movies made about this muscle-bound deliverer, mostly in the 1960’s as part of the Italian “sword, sorcery, and sandals” cycle.  In fact, many movie-goers would be hard pressed to tell the difference between Samson and Hercules!

The chronicle of Samson is the longest in the book of Judges, from chapters 13 to 18.  Most of the action is concentrated in the tribe of Dan, which during Moses’ time was the largest and arguably the most distinguished tribe of Israel.  By now, however, Dan had been decimated by the unrelenting aggression of the Amorites.  Forced to leave their ancestral allotment, the entire tribe journeyed northward to find peace and a new home.

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, so the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

With verse one, we are introduced to the next in a long line of people who oppressed Israel.  The Philistines were described by Herbert Wolf as a constant “thorn in Israel’s side” until David was able to  deal effectively with them.

Since the time of Abraham, this warlike, godless people had lived  throughout Palestine, but by the time of the Judges, the Philistines had settled along the coastal regions.  The last judge that contained the Philistines to that region was Shamgar, back in chapter 3.  His victory, though stunning, proved to be temporary, and the Philistines roared back, exerting considerable pressure on Israel, which amounted to an astonishing 40 year period of oppression.  Conditions were bleak indeed all over the land, but especially in the tribes closest to the Philistines:  Dan and Judah.  These two tribes fell early and came under complete domination by the Philistines.

2.  The inescapable pattern of failure, verse 1a

Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD.

Although we have seen this phrase many times over the past few weeks, it’s safe to say that this time, the “evil” the Israelites did was worse than ever before.  They had fallen farther and faster from God than before.  It was as though He no longer existed.

When we read the word “again,” it’s more than just a “repeated action,” although the people had most definitely been returning to the same rut of sin time and time again.  The word suggests “permanency,” that is, not only did the people return to the same sin time and time again, it never really left them; even when they cried out to the Lord for deliverance, asked for and received forgiveness, the people still harbored that sin in their hearts.

Living that inconsistent, up-and-down life in the face of God had become a habit.  Time and time again the people of God were drawn away from Him by the bright lights, loud music, and sensuality of their godless neighbors.  They lived as though there was no God and no responsibility to God.

Did you know that God sees all that you do?  Did you know there’s a spiritual world all around us that sees how we live our lives?

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  (Hebrews 12:1)

“Look at the nations and watch—and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.”  (Habakkuk 1:5)

It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.  (1 Peter 1:12)

Like it or not, believe it or not, we are being watched!  We are the objects of the curiosity of the unseen spirit world. Not to mention the fact that your neighbors, co-workers, friends and family are all watching you, too!

The people of Israel had left the Lord for the sins of their heathen neighbors.  Worst of all, they had replaced the proper worship of God with terrible and sinful worship of gods made of wood and stone.  They had forsaken the truth for a lie; the lie of the the false gods of a false religion.

They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.   (Romans 1:25)

3.  The Lord’s only response, verse 1b

[S]o the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

God’s only response to the sinfulness of His people, whether Israel in the Old Testament or believers today, is to let them go in their sin.  That was the advice of Paul to the Corinthians in the matter of the immoral brother in 1 Corinthians 5.  In this case, the church was to do two things:

  • hand the unrepentant sinner over to Satan, meaning, kick him out of the church.
  • have nothing to do with “believers” like that.

Why was the church to do such “unloving” things to a fellow believer?  In our politically correct, touchy-feely world today, such actions seem unduly harsh.  Should we not love and accept such backsliders regardless of their sin?

Let’s read Paul’s reasoning for kicking the unrepentant sinner out of church:

  • Reason one:  hand this man over to Satan, so that the sinful nature may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.   (1 Corinthians 5:5)
  • Reason two:  Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough?  (1 Corinthians 5:6b)

And his reason for not even associating with them:

What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”  (1 Corinthians 5:12-13)

So there are two reasons for the church’s actions, both to benefit the Body of Christ and the sinner himself.  By letting him go into his sin–handing him over to Satan–the hope was that the sinner would become so disenchanted with his sinful lifestyle that he would long to be back in to the church.  But the other reason was to protect the integrity of the Body.  Like an infection–yeast in dough–the sin was threatening to spread and contaminate other members.  And the awful reason for not even associated with them:  a form of judgment.  But we must not think of this form of judgment as “punishing” them, rather, it was a means of showing them their sin.  One involved in sin rarely sees the seriousness of it.

And God works the same way.  He certainly did with Israel.  The writer of Proverbs 3:12 made this profound observation:

The LORD disciplines those he loves,  as a father the son he delights in.

This was the Lord’s response to His people’s sin.  As a loving Father, how else could He respond?  However, by now, you will notice that the Israelites did not cry out to the Lord for help.  Sometimes this is the case with the one whose heart has become so hardened to their sinful condition.  The Israelites, oppressed though they were, had grown accustomed to Philistine domination.  They apparently had accepted this oppression as a way of life.

Many Christians find themselves in the exact same situation.  A life of compromise has led them to living far below the place of God’s richest blessing and the constant presence of sin has resulted in a feeling of unrelenting oppressing.

4.  Our response

Everything God allows to come into our lives is for the purpose of causing us to grow closer to Him.  These things may take the form blessings or unimaginable problems, as He disciplines us for our own good.

Discipline, or the old fashioned word “chastisement,” is God’s only response to us if we continue in sin.  We all fall from time-to-time, we all succumb to the various temptations that come our way.  But if we continue in sin–if we harbor that sin in our hearts all the while outwardly denying it–God must discipline us.  That discipline may hurt, but sin and evil will eventually destroy us unless it is dealt with.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?  (James 4:1)

The sin in us, if allowed to go unchecked, is so malignant it reaches out and destroys the lives of others.  Even people we may care deeply for.  James goes so far as to say this:

[D]on’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God?  (James 4:4b)

(c)  2008 WitzEnd

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