The Sixteenth in a Series of Sermons on the Book of Judges
In the days of the judges, the nation of Israel had become so thoroughly Canaanized that even though the people living in the southern part of Israel were forced to endure forty years of oppression at the hands of the dreaded Philistines, we read not a word of the Israelites crying out to YHWH for deliverance. In fact, the Israelites were living side by side with the Philistines, one of Israel’s traditional enemies and fiercest foes, who are described throughout the Old Testament as the “uncircumcised,” a reference to their godlessness. Because YHWH loves his people, he refuses to allow the Israelites to assimilated by the pagan Philistines. Even though the people of Israel are so comfortable living in the midst of the Philistines that they do not cry out to be delivered, YHWH intervenes by sending the angel of the Lord to an unnamed women from the tribe of Dan. The angel informs her that even though she is barren, she will give birth to a son (Samson), who will live as a Nazirite–he will not drink wine, nor strong drink, nor cut his hair. God will use this child to disrupt the cozy relationship between Israel and the Philistines. Samson is a man who is given God’s Spirit, but who struggles with his temper and narcissistic personality, the lusts of the flesh, and who becomes one of the most tragic figures in all of redemptive history.
As we near the end of our series on the Book of Judges, we come the account of Samson, the sixth and final Judge recounted in this book. When we left off last time in Judges 14, Samson had been born to Manoah and his unnamed wife, he had killed a lion with his bare hands, and despite the objection of his parents, had taken a Philistine wife. Although the angel commanded Samson live as a Nazirite, he broke his vow by touching the corpse of a dead animal, and by participating in week-long drunken bash at his new bride’s home. Although Samson was feared by the Philistines because of his great strength–so much so that they posted thirty security guards to keep things from getting out of hand during the wedding–Samson’s response was to mock the guards with a riddle about the lion he had killed, making a bet that they would not be able to come up with the answer to his riddle.
But the Philistines in her home town of Timnah, pressured Samson’s new wife to get her husband to reveal to her the meaning of the riddle. When Samson refuses to tell her what the riddle means, his wife spends the honeymoon week crying, pleading with her husband to tell her his secret. When Samson finally gives in to her at the end of the week, his wife immediately tells the Philistines, who now mock Samson with the answer to the riddle. Samson has lost his bet. In a rage, Samson kills thirty men from a neighboring town, and then gives the thirty security guards in Timnah their countrymen’s clothing and weapons as a payoff for coming up with the correct answer to the riddle. Still in a rage, Samson angrily returns to his father’s house and abandons his wife, leaving her with his best man. Such is the man (Samson) whom God uses to rescue his people (Israel).
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