Judges 18 School of Hard Knocks

Israel was permeated with a spirit of unbelief and a lack of courage. This is clearly seen in the tribe of Dan who failed to believe God, failed to lay claim to their inheritance in the Promised Land.

Remember, Joshua had led the Israelite army to conquer the major city-fortresses throughout Canaan. He had broken the back of the enemy so that a major alliance could not be formed against the Israelites. Once the Promised Land had been divided among the twelve tribes, it was up to the individual tribes to complete the conquest of their inheritance.

Only small pockets of resistance remained. But as the Israelites settled down in their various inherited territories, many of them became lax and complacent, failing to continue the conquest. Dan was one of these tribes.

The Danites become complacent, lax, comfortable, “at ease in Zion”; and they failed to lay claim to their full territorial inheritance in the Promised Land. As a result, throughout the decades they became squeezed between the Amorites and the Philistines. And their faith in the LORD weakened so much that they did not trust Him to help them drive the enemy away.

Thus, the Danites had to search for more land. Their leaders appointed five spies and sent them out on a reconnaissance mission to find land that would be easier to conquer. As the spies made their way north, they came to Ephraim, to the house of Micah, where they spent the night.The Israelites had become lax, lethargic, and complacent, “at ease in Zion”—so much so that they failed to lay claim to the full inheritance promised by God. The tribe of Dan never received its full inheritance.

This speaks strongly to us. How often we become complacent and lethargic, comfortable enough to compromise with the world. We become satisfied with what we have in Christ. Laying hold of any more of His promises or committing any more to Him would cost too much: too much energy or effort, too much money or personal sacrifice.

The result is tragic: we fail to give as we should, we shrink back from bearing strong witness to Christ, lest we be embarrassed, ridiculed, or persecuted. We fail to exert the energy and effort to teach or visit or serve in other capacities when requested by the church. Our list of failures due to complacency, lethargy, comfort, and “being at ease in Zion” could go on and on.

Are you at ease in Zion?

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Judges 17 The Contradiction

Warren Wiersbe has an excellent application on the priesthood or ministry: If the Levite in our story is typical of God’s servants in that period of history, then it’s no wonder the nation of Israel was confused and corrupt.

He had no appreciation for his high calling as a Levite, a chosen servant of God. Not only were the Levites to assist the priests in their ministries (Numbers 3:6-13; 8:17-18), but also they were to teach the Law to the people (Nehemiah 8:7-9; 2 Chronicles 17:7-9; 35:3) and be involved in the sacred music and the praises of Israel (1 Chronicles 23:28-32; Ezra 3:10).

The Levite gave all that up for comfort and security in the home of an idolater. The Levites ministry, however, wasn’t a spiritual ministry at all.

To begin with, he was a hireling and not a true shepherd (Judges 18:4; John 10:12-13). He didn’t serve the true and living God; he worked for Micah and his idols. Jonathan wasn’t a spokesperson for the LORD; he gave people just the message they wanted to hear (Judges 18:6). When he was offered a place involving more money, more people, and more prestige, he took it immediately and gave thanks for it (Judges 18:19). And then he assisted his new employers in stealing his former employer’s gods!

Whenever the church has a “hireling ministry,” it can’t enjoy the blessing of God. The church needs true and faithful shepherds who work for the LORD, not for personal gain, and who will stay with the flock to feed them and protect them.

True shepherds don’t see their work as a “career” and run off to a “better job” when the opportunity comes. They stay where God puts them and don’t move until He sends them.

True shepherds receive their calling and authority from God, not from people (Galatians 1:6ff); and they honor the true God, not the idols that people make. It must grieve the LORD today to see people worshiping the idols of ministerial “success,” statistics, buildings, and reputation.

In today’s “consumer society,” self-appointed preachers and “prophets” have no problem getting a following and peddling their religious wares to a church that acts more like a Hollywood fan club than a holy people of God. And to make it worse, these hirelings will call what’s happening “the blessing of God.” The Levites of this world and the Micah’s will always find each other because they need each other.

The sad part of the story is that Micah now thought he had the favor of God because a genuine Levitical priest was serving as his private chaplain. Micah practiced a false religion and worshiped false gods (with Jehovah thrown in for good measure), and all the while he rested on the false confidence that God was blessing him! Little did he know that the day would come when his priest and his gods would be taken from him and nothing would be left of his religion.

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Judges16:23-31 Restored

Samson’s cry to God led to his spiritual restoration, but also to his death. This is a clear picture of being heard by God, but still having to bear the consequences of sin.

The just, judicial chastisement and judgment of God are seen throughout the end of Samson’s life. The Philistines held a national, religious celebration in honor of their false god Dagon. Two significant events happened at the festival.

First, the Philistines gave praise to their false god for helping them capture Samson. Picture the praise and prayers being offered up to this false god, no doubt thousands of people praying and praising Dagon for the great victory they had been given over their arch-enemy Samson. What a tragedy, and what a terrible legacy Samson was leaving behind. Instead of bringing praise to God for his life, Samson’s life had given an opportunity for the enemy to praise their false god. The Philistines remembered how Samson had burned their fields and orchards to the ground and how he had killed so many of their people. They were ever so thankful for his capture, and they were praising their false god for delivering him into their hands.

Second, at some point the worship was replaced by partying and feasting, drunkenness and loose behavior, laughter and joking. And the people began to shout for Samson to be brought out to amuse them. Just what kind of entertainment they forced Samson to do is not stated. But the purpose of the Philistines was to mock and ridicule him. Imagine the scene! The strongest man who had ever lived standing in the midst of a huge temple, blind and helpless and being used as the object of mockery and ridicule. But keep in mind: it was Samson’s own fault. He was there because of his unbridled lust and passion, his compromising, permissive, and inconsistent lifestyle.

God now demonstrated His mercy and justice in hearing the prayer of His broken servant. Samson was saved through death, an early death that was due to the consequence of his sin. Being blinded, Samson was led about by the hand of a servant. At some point, he requested this servant to place him between the two major pillars that supported the temple. All the rulers were in the temple and about 3000 men and women were on the roof watching Samson’s amusing performance. As soon as the servant had placed Samson between the two support pillars, he prayed to the Lord, asking the Lord to remember and strengthen him. He requested God to execute justice and judgment on the Philistines. In answer to the prayer, Samson knew that he would die. Nevertheless, he placed his hands on the two support pillars and actually cried out for God to let him die with the Philistines. While crying out, he pushed with all his might, and the temple came crashing down upon all the rulers and all the people who were within the temple and sitting on the roof. More Philistines were killed in his dying than while he was living.

The fact that God heard his prayer is strong evidence that God restored him spiritually, that in his death, all was made right between him and the Lord.

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Judges 16:4-22 The Agony of Defeat

Delilah discovered the secret of Samson’s power. In frustration, she complained and questioned his love for her. How could he conceivably love her if he continued to make a fool out of her? And, how could he not trust her if he truly loved her?

Day after day, she nagged him, doing all she could to break the will of Samson. She was determined, setting a deliberate, unceasing plot to break the secret and personally betray her lover.

Finally, Samson broke under the weight of the nagging and the pressure until his soul was vexed to death, feeling as though he could take it no more. Samson told her everything: his secret, the source of his strength. He revealed that he was a Nazirite, a man who had been set apart to God from birth; and that if his head were shaved, his strength would leave him.

At long last, Delilah had what she wanted, and she betrayed Samson. She sent word to the Philistine leaders who long ago had given up and were no longer hiding at her house while she carried out each plot. But now, the leaders had been convinced by Delilah that she had seduced the truth out of Samson. So they returned with the payoff.

When they arrived, she no doubt had drugged him and had his hair shaved off. As before, in the other three attempts, she called for Samson to awaken from his drugged stupor. He awoke, thinking that he would escape just as he had done before. But this time it was too late: he had revealed the truth, the source of his strength.

Samson was captured and led into captivity by the Philistines. The Spirit of God had left him and the Philistines seized him. They gouged out his eyes, shackled him, and forced him to grind grain in the prison. But they made a very serious mistake: they allowed his hair to grow back.

This was probably a deliberate plan in order to control and use his strength for their own purposes once his hair had grown back. Whatever the case, this was to be a serious miscalculation on the part of the Philistines. Samson was not stupid; therefore, at some point he must have figured out the plot of Delilah and the Philistines. Only she knew the deceptive lies he was telling her about the source of his strength. Every time she awakened him, he was tied up and the Philistines were standing there.

The moment Samson became aware of the plot, he should have fled as quickly as he could. But unbridled lust and passion had gripped his heart and blinded his mind so that he could not think clearly, much less act rationally. He was driven by the desire for Delilah, her companionship, softness, and passion. He was infatuated and had a burning desire for her that blinded him to the commandments and call of God. He had compromised and lived a permissive lifestyle so long that he became insensitive to God. He neglected and ignored God, disobeying His commandments. Can this be said of you?

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Judges 16:1-3 Playing Games

In our text this week we are confronted with Samson’s sin with a prostitute, a sin that almost destroyed him. This is a clear picture of yielding to temptation and giving in to unbridled lust and passion. Again, Samson’s inconsistent life, and his compromising with the ways of the world almost cost him his life. The scene is graphically painted by the Scripture, Samson’s sin was that of illicit sex – immoral womanizing. He made a trip to Gaza and spent the night with a prostitute. Gaza was one of the five major cities of the Philistines, a major seaport of the Mediterranean Sea. It was about 40 miles from Samson’s hometown of Zorah, and just why Samson had made the trip is not stated. But as soon as he arrived, he obviously saw the prostitute, and his tendency toward unbridled lust and passion was aroused. The lust of the eyes and the flesh took over, and he yielded to the temptation, breaking the clear commandment of God. At some point, Samson’s presence was discovered; unknown to Samson, the authorities immediately sent guards to surround the house of the prostitute, and the officials plotted to assassinate Samson at dawn. But Samson discovered the plot and escaped during the middle of the night. The city gates being guarded, Samson had no way to get out of the enclosed or walled city. But either the guards posted at the gates had either fallen asleep, or else Samson threatened or frightened them away; whatever the case, Samson walked up to the gates, unlocked them, took hold of the doors of the gate, and either tore each one from its hinges and then pulled up the posts or he took hold of the gate and post and broke them both out of the ground simultaneously. In either event, he lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill facing Hebron.

How could one person conceivably do such a feat? Obviously, Samson was a very strong man, most likely the strongest who has ever lived. But even for him, even as the slaying of 1000 men is a phenomenal feat for any single person, so this feat astounds human imagination. The only way a human being could perform either of the two feats, is by an astounding, incomprehensible empowering of the Holy Spirit of God. Daniel I. Block wrote, “How could Samson pick up these huge gates and their bars, place them on his shoulder, and then carry them away? Based on previous incidents, the most likely answer is to be found in a special divine empowerment, as the Spirit of Yahweh rushes upon him.” The point to see is that all of Samson’s feats of strength and achievements are personal. They revolve solely around him. The Israelites are not involved. They have not been mobilized to stand against the evil, oppressive Philistines, not mobilized to throw off the yoke of subjection and enslavement to the cruel foreign power. All the feats of Samson were provoked by his own wrongful behavior. More than any other judge, he had been born with the great hope of being a mighty deliverer of God’s people. But he spent his whole life doing his own thing and giving in to the lustful cravings of his flesh. Is this to be your legacy?

Judges 15:7-20 An Army of One

With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of a donkey, I have slain a thousand men!

In our text we have a clear picture of God’s power to overcome all enemies, no matter their strength.

Samson was now a criminal and a fugitive in the eyes of the Philistines. They were determined to hunt him down until they captured him. The hunt, capture, and consequences are dramatically portrayed in the Scripture. The Philistines assembled and sent a battalion of soldiers into Judah to arrest Samson. The leaders of Judah promptly investigated the troop movements of the Philistines; for they were very concerned about the disturbance and threat it posed to their lives. They came up with a quick solution to the problem, agreeing to arrest Samson themselves and turn him over to the Philistine enemy. As the story proceeds, notice how this event provided a unique opportunity for the Israelites to rally around Samson and throw off the oppression of the Philistines. But sadly, they meekly submitted to the oppressors and offered to arrest and turn Samson over to them. They were willing to do this, knowing that Samson would probably be executed as a criminal. The leaders of Judah mobilized and sent an army of 3000 men to track down Samson. When they found him, they interrogated him and charged him with being a trouble-maker and threatening the peace. Notice how Samson justified his vengeful behavior; he was merely doing to them what they had done to him. When the officer in charge swore that he would only arrest Samson, not kill him, Samson surrendered. They tied him with two new ropes and led him to the Philistines. Thereafter, a stunning and remarkable victory over the Philistines took place. Samson demonstrated an amazing feat of strength; as he was being led toward the Philistine battalion, the Philistine soldiers began to walk toward him, shouting a triumphant battle cry. As would be the case for anyone experiencing such a scene, energy surged through the body of Samson, and the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, empowering him with enormous, supernatural strength. Samson snapped the ropes that were binding his hands and grabbed the fresh jawbone of a donkey. He began to swing away at the enemy troops fighting for his life. Finally, when the enemy troops gave up trying to capture him, 1000 enemy soldiers lay dead upon the ground.

Being supernaturally empowered by God Himself, Samson, the Lord’s deliverer, had executed judgment against the cruel, evil Philistines. Samson, who had a gift with words, shouted out a short poem, and named the battlefield to commemorate the great victory God had given over the cruel enemy of God’s people. He named the battle site Ramath Lehi, which means “jawbone hill.” Samson was completely fatigued and felt as though he was dying of thirst, so he did the only thing he could – he cried out to the Lord for help. He acknowledged the Lord, giving credit for the great victory to the Lord. He prayed for help, for God to give him water to drink and to deliver him from being arrested by the unbelieving Philistines. The Lord heard the prayer of Samson, providing water and renewing his strength.

Judges 15:1-6 The Revenger

As we return to our story we see Samson is seeking revenge for the loss of his wife. Remember, Samson had never consummated his marriage because his wife had betrayed him to the Philistines. Being gripped by a violent anger, he stormed out of the wedding and away from his newly wed wife, returning to temporarily live with his parents. After some length of time, his anger cooled off, and a desire to be reunited with his wife filled his heart. In his mind, it was now time to consummate the marriage. So Samson took a young goat as a gift and went to visit his wife. But when he arrived, he was greeted with shocking news. The shocking news was that his wife had been given to his friend or best man of his wedding. The news of this predicament was explained to Samson by his father-in-law. Because Samson had stormed out of the wedding, the father-in-law had concluded that he would never return to his wife because of her betrayal. The father-in-law offered his younger daughter to Samson as a compromise. But again Samson burned with anger and vowed revenge against the Philistines. He actually claimed innocence in seeking revenge against them; keep in mind that three very serious wrongs had been committed against Samson. The 30 guests at his bachelor party had won a costly bet with Samson by cheating. They had secured the answer to a riddle from his wife by threatening her and her family’s life. Samson’s wife had been given to the friend or best man. These were very serious wrongs, cruel acts against Samson. Anger against the Philistines surged through him, and revenge gripped his spirit, and Samson was aroused to strike out against the Philistines. Samson always seemed to have trouble getting motivated to fight the Philistines for the right reasons; for the cause of God he initially had little concern; he was very apathetic about the things of God. This attitude was reflected in his attitude toward his Nazirite vow. However, when the cause concerned Samson,he was highly motivated.

Is this your attitude? Are you most outraged over issues that only affect you? Or are you concerned with that which concerns God for righteousness sake?

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