Judges 14.1-20 Faithful Calling

October 14, 2012 Series: Judges | Still{Un}Faithful (Part 2 of 2)

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Judges 14:1–14:20

 

V. 1-4 Samson or/and God - the NATURE of God’s call
Last week we examined the miraculous birth of Samson. His father Manoah and his nameless mother are told that their child will be devoted to God and begin to save Israel from the Philistines. As he grew, not only did his parents ensure he kept his lifelong Nazirite vow, he was probably told daily just how “special” he was. We can only imagine what both his parents, and even Samson himself, had expectations about how this mission would materialize. In chapter 14, we begin to watch it unfold. As we read the story of Samson, we must be careful focusing so much attention on what Samson is doing, so that we don’t lose sight of what God is doing through Samson.

Sensual or/and Strategic
God hadn’t told Samson’s parents the details of HOW he would begin to save, only that he would. And though they hadn’t a clue this calling from the LORD meant, they were probably certain of what it didn’t mean. Samson’s first act toward fulfilling his “call” is unorthodox, unexpected, and undesirable. Samson returns having spent the weekend down in the border town of Timnah—a Philistine city with a reputation for prostitution. And the first words of the devoted deliverer are: I SAW A GIRL. GET HER FOR ME (arrange a marriage). This disturbs his parents. They ask why he can’t find a nice girl from the covenant family—this Philistine girl is a pagan non-believer. God had prohibited marriage to the Canaanite people (Deut 7.3). Technically, the Philistines are not one of the seven nations God lists. But the Philistines are definitely not worshippers of the one true God. But the Spirit of God has been stirring him since he was young. Contrary to everyone’s expectations, FOR BETTER OR WORSE, he is doing what he thinks is right. But whether or not Samson is sensual or strategic is difficult to determine—perhaps he is both.

Samson’s parents, assume that because they know God calls, they know how He works. We never presume the will of God, the mission of God, the call of God is going to be messy. We want God to work things out cleanly and clearly. But we forget about something—sin. Samson is devoted to God, devoted by God, and devoted for God, but that does not make him SINLESS. With Samson we get a picture of a man who is BOTH a faithful servant of God AND a lustful, disrespectful, flippant, lawless, muscle-head gambler with a temper. When God devotes someone to his service—he doesn’t select only clean sinless servants who only make righteous decisions. Newsflash for you, there are no such people. The calling of God takes all that you are and empowers you to be all that God needs. WHO WE ARE is created and shaped in real ways, godly and ungodly, all which work together to shape our service to the Lord. We are born during real times. We are raised by real parents. We are given real personalities. We experience real pain and real pleasure. And we each possess real strengths and real weaknesses that help and hinder us. And God uses all of that, and accomplishes his mission THROUGH all of our brokenness, not just despite it.

Choice & Control
There is comfort in knowing that, even if we are at times, governed by our flesh, God never is. And for those who feel a sense of call, that is exactly where the enemy wants you to focus—on yourself, your insufficiencies, your mistakes, your lack of faithfulness, your inability to choose the perfectly the “right” thing. Praise God for verse 4 which says: 4 His father and mother did not know that IT was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel. Though Samson’s “right” appears to ignore God’s Word, God’s Law, and God’s Authority in his life—God is still at work. And by “still” I don’t mean that God is surprised by Samson’s sin and is constantly adjusting his plan to accommodate his rebellion. On the contrary, Samson is unknowingly fulfilling God’s plan. God is not surprised by who Samson is, how he thinks, what he says, how he feels, or what he does. God is in control, and the story unfolds exactly how he wants it to. Samson is a maverick, he is a rebel driven by his own selfish desires, doing whatever he pleases, ignoring the claims of God on his life and yet, he ends up doing God’s will. This does not mean that Samson’s parents were wrong to object OR that Samson was virtuous in his bad desires. It means that neither Samson’s foolishness nor his stubbornness will prevent the LORD from completing his plan.

V. 5-14 Spirit and/or men - the POWER of God’s call
As we learn more about slime-ball Samson, we can’t help but believe God should have used someone else. Let us not forget, the problem with Israel is that there is no one stepping up to complete God’s mission, to fulfill God’s command, to free God’s people. God is the one who calls a person to mission and God is the one who empowers that person to fulfill it. As Tim Keller has said, “God does not call those who are qualified, he qualifies those who are called.” He does this through sending His Spirit to effect change. With Samson, we see that God gives his Spirit to him, at specific times, to act. God’s calling doesn’t mean just thinking or talking, it means radical action. And it doesn’t even mean you know EXACTLY where to act. When it is time to ACT, God’s Spirit shows up. He equips you to do what He wants you to do.

But what Samson does with that Spirit, often makes people uncomfortable. God gives his Spirit to Samson to provoke tension between Israel and the Philistines. God is using Samson, the perfect guy for the job he needs to get done. Namely, he uses Samson pick a fight with the Philistines. Why? Israel has refused to do it themselves. They were comfortable living under the Philistines. They liked the Philistines. So God raises up one man, not an army, to WAKE his people up. If God doesn’t send this sensual spirit-filled savior to make things uncomfortable , nothing will change. Lukewarm spiritual comfort is the favorite tool of a hungry enemy. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1Peter 5.8).

The Spirit has been stirring Samson for a long time, even as a young man. But, for the first time, the Spirit comes upon Samson in an unpredictable but powerful and perfectly timed way. The Spirit of God rushes upon him, giving him superhuman strength to rip apart a roaring lion that attacks him. 5 Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah, and they came to the vineyards of Timnah. And behold, a young lion came toward him roaring. 6 Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat. But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done. 7 Then he went down and talked with the woman, and she was right in Samson’s eyes. 8 After some days he returned to take her. And he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion, and behold, there was a swarm of bees in the body of the lion, and honey. 9 He scraped it out into his hands and went on, eating as he went. And he came to his father and mother and gave some to them, and they ate. But he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey from the carcass of the lion.

Weird. Many commentators focus on the fact that Samson may have broken his vow by touching the dead carcass of the lion. They also argue this is why he doesn’t tell his parents where he got the honey. The problem with that is the text doesn’t say that. Again, if we focus on what Samson does, we lose sight of what God is doing—the one who gave him the Spirit to do it in the first place. The story gets weirder.

V. 10-14 Plans and/or Steps – the PURPOSE of God’s Calling
Having returned to Timnah, Samson is preparing a 7-day wedding feast. And as the people see Samson show up, they bring in 30 Philistine “groomsmen” which are probably more like bodyguards—to protect them from Samson. And it is at this time, that Samson proves he is more than just a muscle-head—he is a clever gambler. He makes a wager and tells them a riddle: “Out of the eater came something to eat.
Out of the strong came something sweet.” And in three days they could not solve the riddle.

Why a lion, why a riddle, what is going on? We have considered the NATURE of God’s call and the POWER of God’s call, and I want to try use the story of the lion, the riddle, and the wardrobe to show the PURPOSE of God’s call. Follow along:

1. The Philistines are not Canaanites—they are Egyptians. . Ham, the cursed son of Noah, had four sons named Cush, Put, Canaan and Egypt (Genesis 10). Their cousins.

2. The time of Judges began because a generation of people forgot God—they did not remember who He was or all that He had done. Specifically, they did not remember their redemption from Egypt where God declared HIS NAME by DESTROYING a NATION and RESCUING HIS PEOPLE.
3. Through Moses, God delivered his people from the Egyptians with 10 different plagues, matched to the very gods they worshipped They were all designed to reveal God’s name which in turned revealed the weakness of Egypt’s false pantheon gods.
Throughout the Old Testament, God is constantly calling Israel to remember their salvation from Egypt. In fact, the law of God was designed by God to protect them from going back to being like the Egyptians or becoming like the Canaanites (Lev. 18. 1-3).
In the time of Samson, Israel has returned to slavery under Egypt living like Canaanites. This is the retelling of the same story of redemption.
As for the lion, the word for “carcass” in the Bible is the same word used to describe a fallen nation. In Ezekiel 32.2, the Bible says Pharaoh considers himself a “nation of lions.” Through the hands of a spirit-filled man, the nation of Egypt is again judged by God.
The riddle only further emphasizes the point. The Sphinx, which is the most famous statue in Egypt, pictures a lion’s body with a human head. The Sphinx is known as the master of riddles—protecting his territory by using riddles.

Samson mission was to make declare the rule of God by destroying the oppressor, mocking their false gods, and revealing the supremacy of Yahweh. What does that have to do with me?

The Spirit of God NEVER empowers us serve ourselves. The primary purpose of all service, of all callings, of all devotion to God, is to proclaim his salvation, his greatness, his glory. And if someone feels ‘called’ to do anything else that is not for that primary purpose, then it may not be sinful, but it is not the call of God. There are many good works that can be done to help bring hope in what is a dead world. But all things that are done politically, materially, economically, medically, physically, emotionally, or psychologically, cannot heal dead people living in a dead world. And that is what we are. But like Samson reaching into the Lion, God reaches down into death and, through his savior, brings out sweetness that blesses you, your family, and ultimately the world.

V. 15-20 Betrayal and/or Victory – the RESULT of God’s Calling
In the end, the 30 men who are supposed to be Samson’s “friends” reveal themselves to be his enemies. The world is always your friend until you threaten their security. And the spiritual WORD of God, which Paul says cannot be understood or accepted by “natural” men, will always threaten men’s security. In order to get the answer to the riddle, they threaten his bride and her faith. Having more fear than faith, his wife weeps for seven days and, as any man would, he breaks and tells her. Then, his closest friend, betrays him. 19 And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave the garments to those who had told the riddle. Once again, the Spirit of the Lord rushes upon him. He is angry but it is an anger that is from God. The reality is these are supposed to be WAR conditions—Philistines are invaders. But he doesn’t attack the Philistines at Timnah. He travels WEST to the coast, to the heart of their kingdom, and attacks to one of their five powerful cities, Ashkelon—a city mentioned on an inscription at Karnak in Egypt as having been taken by king Rameses II., the oppressor of the Hebrews. [1] The result of God’s calling is that no one expectations are met but God’s alone.

Conclusion: Samson and/or Jesus
Samson is set apart for God’s service, but that does not make him sinless. Amazingly, unlike any other Judge, Samson screams of a coming savior who also enters into our comfort and makes us uncomfortable.

Jesus enters into a dead world. Jesus is the true Nazarite/Nazarene devoted from the womb. Jesus confuses his parents and blows expectations. Jesus is accused of breaking God’s law. Jesus words/parables cause him to be hated. Jesus is betrayed by a friend. And ultimately Jesus destroys the enemy of God. Jesus saves us from our idolatry by fighting that fight we wouldn’t. And he does this so that we ALL might be called to serve him.

Would you live your life differently if you know God had set you apart from the world with a specific purpose? 1Peter 2.9 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. God in human flesh, entered into is a dead and decaying world to serve you that you might serve him. Instead of unleashing his wrath upon it, he took it upon himself. He became dead like the world. Without death, there is no way for sweetness to come forth.

Something in you must be crucified with Christ. Some of us need to kill our expectations for the mission. Some of us need to kill our self-dependence for accomplish the mission. Some of us need kill our selfish purposes for being on mission. All of us need to submit all that we are, all of our time, all of our skills, all of our resources, even all of our strengths and weaknesses and trust that God can and will accomplish his mission through us.

[1] Easton, M. G. (1996). Easton’s Bible dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

More in Judges | Still{Un}Faithful (Part 2 of 2)

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November 18, 2012

Judges 19.1-30 Unfaithful Acts

November 11, 2012

Judges 17-18 Unfaithful Worship