Judges 16.22-31 Unfaithful Death

November 4, 2012 Series: Judges | Still{Un}Faithful (Part 2 of 2)

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Judges 16:22–16:31


Today, we conclude our study of the 12th of 12 judges, Samson. Samson was a man chosen by God, to be devoted to God, and to fight the Philistines for God. But Samson doesn’t act the part—his devotion makes us suspicious and uncomfortable. Most Christians familiar with Samson’s story dismiss him, relatively easily, as an unfaithful man who gets what he deserves. And in doing so, I believe most of us ignore the fact that our own devotion often works itself out in the same way. Just like Samson, the Christian is called to be devoted to righteousness, and yet we find ourselves following our own right. Just like Samson, the Christian is a walking paradox—a faithful servant devoted to God who still lusts, breaks laws, gets angry, and otherwise falls short. And most of all, just like Samson, our efforts to fight sin apart from God will always fail, resulting in our humility and our own plea for rescue.

The downfall was triggered when Samson fell in love and gave his heart to a world that pretended to love him. In truth, the world hated Samson, and wanted him dead, because when he had God’s Spirit, he couldn’t be ignored. Empowered by God’s Spirit, Samson had spent 20 years ravaging the Philistine nation. Not only had he killed thousands, he had disrupted their economy, mocked their gods, and embarrassed their people—all single handedly. The five lords really want Samson dead. But they would rather capture him alive and humiliate him—and that is just what they did. When Samson turned from the promises of God and devoted himself to the promises of the world, he lost the very thing which set him apart and made him strong. The Philistines blind him, bind him, and put him into the prison in Gaza—the site of his last victory. They force him to serve Dagon, the god of grain, working in a mill grinding corn—work usually reserved for women. For a man of Samson’s power and reputation, this was designed to be a lifetime of humiliation worse than death. When we read the story of Samson (or any story in the Bible) we must be careful focusing too much attention on what unfaithful man is doing, and not lose sight of what the faithful God is doing through him.

V. 22 The Faithfulness of God to Save the Unfaithful
The truth is, Samson gets exactly what he deserves; not because of what how he broke the back of the Philistines, but because of how he broke his vow of devotion to God. The man was a Nazarite from the womb and he knew it. He was not supposed to touch dead stuff, but he grabs a lion carcass and a jawbone of a mule. He was not supposed to drink, but he throws a seven day party. He was not supposed to cut his hair, but he gives it all up for a seductive woman. He did what he thought was right in his own eyes and, even though God uses his choices to accomplish his will, they were unfaithful choices. Samson denied his call. Samson abused his gifts. Samson disobeyed God…just like Israel.

Israel broke their own covenant unfaithfulness to God through ignoring His Word. Though they think they see, they are blind, and live in the world weak and enslaved. And like Samson, their situation is fairly hopeless, that is, if God wasn’t STILL faithful. Though they have done everything to disconnect from their relationship with God. And though God has left him, he has not abandoned them. Verse 21 injects hope for a future redemption. 22 But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. Israel may be devastated, their hero may appear defeated, but God is not done with them. Samson is not becoming more devoted as much as God is rebuilding him.

V. 23-27 The Humility of the Prideful
Samson is not only blind and , he is jeered mocked. 23 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.” 25 And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. 26 And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained.

In his pride, Samson played with the Philistines. Now the Philistines play with him. Samson is brought out of prison to entertain the five lord’s and over 3,000 men and women. He is not doing feats of strength or telling them clever riddles. He is a made a spectacle like an animal at the zoo. They probably walk a blind man around, throwing obstacles in his way to trip him or make him stumble. Samson is an object of shame. The Bible says that pride comes before the fall, and Samson has fallen hard.

And as they humiliate Samson, they rejoice and praise their god—thanking him for delivering their enemy to them. Of course, in their revelry, the fail to realize that Samson’s hair has grown. It is noteworthy that they say nothing about having defeated Yahweh, or even Israel. They only speak of Samson because, essentially, this is who Samson was really devoted to. He did not battle the Philistines in the name of Yahweh, but for his own glory and his own name. As Samson judged, he robbed God of his glory; and now the true Judge has made sure that Samson has been robbed of his. Humbled, he is now led around by a young boy, whom he asks to help him feel the pillars. Samson has a plan.

V. 28-30 The Death of Sinners
28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.

This is the second prayer to God. The first time Samson cried out for life—God answered that prayer. The second time, Samson cries out for death—and God answers that prayer too. With all of his strength, Samson pushes the two pillars, which support the entire temple, and the roof comes crashing down. His sacrificial suicide kills more Philistines in one moment than all the others combined. Some commentators commend Samson here for his willingness to cry out to God; praising him for returning to devotion. But Samson is no innocent martyr or victim of circumstance—he is an unwilling and sinful savior.

Samson’s death is not heroic; it is as tragic as his life. His prayer reveals that he is sacrifice is motivated by personal vengeance. But God still uses his selfish intentions to accomplish his mission. He doesn’t cry out to God, for strength, in order to fulfill his calling. He doesn’t cry out to Yahweh to defend his name and restore the glory they have robbed Him of. He doesn’t cry out to save Israel and restore the freedom they have been robbed of. He cries out in vengeance, asking God to punish the Philistines for robbing him of his sight. He wants revenge on those responsible. The problem is, while the Philistines were responsible for taking his eyes, Samson is responsible for abandoning God which made all of this possible. In other words, the Philistines deserve to die, and so does Samson. The death of Samson reveals God as the true Judge who punishes all sin, and as true Sovereign who can get the job done.

Samson and ME
It is tempting to be sympathetic toward Samson and begin to believe that he doesn’t deserve to be imprisoned, he doesn’t deserve to be humiliated, he doesn’t deserve to die. He does, but perhaps it’s not just that Samson got what he deserved, but what he wanted. Everything he received resulted from God allowing him to have everything his flesh thought was right. As a result, Samsonfinds himself blind, bound, and in bondage. He naturally experiences what rebellions brings, weakness and defeat. He naturally experiences what sin brings, humiliation and sin. He naturally experiences what disobedience brings, death. And we see, quite frankly, his humility didn’t change his attitude. He is STILL UNFAITHFULLY devoted to himself.

Samson and Jesus
Samson what he deserves. Samson gets what WE deserve. Samson represents every sinner, each one of us. Left to ourselves, we will love the world in rebellion and end up blind, bound, and in bondage our sin. Unless we turn from our sin, we will die in them, because the wages of sin is death and God is faithful to his promises to judge. But God is also faithful to his promise to bless. God is merciful and gracious—he withholds what we deserve and gives us what we don’t. Even though mankind, even though you and I have cut off our devotion to God, God has not abandoned us.

On the contrary, God pursued us by sending his Son Jesus Christ—the true Samson to save us. He is the ONLY one every born who didn’t deserve it. We deserve to die like Samson. But Jesus comes save his people from their enemy, sin—and the death of Samson reveals just how that is accomplished:

LIKE Samson, Jesus was strong. UNLIKE Samson, Jesus was meek. Samson possessed great strength and wisdom, but used it to serve himself. Jesus possessed the infinite strength and wisdom, but used it to for others. As God in the flesh, Jesus was stronger than anyone or anything. But he did not enter into the world as a celebrity, and he did not wield his strength so as to control. He took the form of a sacrificial servant. Yet, throughout his time on earth, the Spirit of God empowered an ordinary Jesus to do many extraordinary things. Samson never saved a single person because he did everything for himself. Jesus saved many, because he never did anything for himself.
LIKE Samson, Jesus was set apart from the womb. UNLIKE Samson, Jesus remained devoted. Samson got what he deserved because he cut off his devotion. Even though he knew he was chosen, he knew God had a mission for him, he knew he was devoted to the Lord—he lived for himself. But Jesus worshipped God perfectly, Jesus was sinless, Jesus remained devoted to God’s will. Though he was tempted to abandon his call, tempted to abuse his giftedness, and tempted to seek for his own glory by Satan himself, he remained true. Samson abandoned his called and did what he thought he was right, Jesus remained devoted to God’s will because he knew it was right .

LIKE Samson, Jesus went into the world. UNLIKE Samson, Jesus went into save it. Samson entered into the darkness of the Philistine world. He fought the Philistines alone, because Israel stand with God. Though he was empowered by the Spirit, he went into the world to make a name for himself. Jesus, also empowered by Spirit, went to make a name for God. Samson loved the world, and wanted to be like it. Jesus loved the world, and wanted to change it to be like him.
Like Samson, Jesus was betrayed for money by a close friend. UNLIKE Samson, he was not seduced, he was willing. Samson was captured by the world. His own pride built a trap that he fell head first into. Jesus was not caught the enemy. He knew of the betrayal before it occurred. He delivered himself up to the enemy, the Creator subjecting himself to the creation. His decision was not forced. He delivered himself up to the enemy, silently, without resistance. Samson’s believed the promises of sin, became weak, and was captured by the enemy. Jesus’s believed the promises of God, and crushed the enemy by becoming weak.

LIKE Samson, Jesus was humiliated. UNLIKE Samson, Jesus did not take vengeance. Jesus, though completely innocent, was shamed publicly. He was held up as a criminal, a rebel, and a sinner. More than that, Jesus was humiliated for the entertainment of many. At his arrest, Jesus was blinded and his power was mocked. Samson played the innocent victim, taking vengeance on those who had hurt him, Jesus was an innocent a victim, entrusted himself to the Judge, and forgave those who hurt him.
LIKE Samson, Jesus died. But UNLIKE Samson, he gave his life to save. Samson’s death was a revenge-fueled suicide. What was his life had been taken from him, and his final act was not to save Israel by defeating the enemy. He was not concerned with his mission, only in punishing those who had hurt him—he died killing sinners like himself. Jesus died with sinners unlike him, not between two pillars but two thieves. And Jesus did not die to punish sinners, but to take punishment for sinners. Samson’s life had been taken from him, and he died to punish the world. Jesus he gave it willingly, and he died to bless the world.
Chapter 15 and 16 both end the same way, with prayers. LIKE Samson, Jesus prayed his desire. But UNLIKE Samson, Jesus also prayed for God’s will to be done. Samson prayed two prayers—both to save himself—one for life and the other for death. They were both answered. God sustained Samson’s life so that he could bring death to many. Jesus prayed that God might be glorified by doing His will—and God’s answer was to kill his son so that he might bring life to many.

And how are we to respond to the story of Samson? Pride? Sorrow? Indifference? How about repentance? How about turning from devotion to yourself and giving your life to Jesus? You are Samson and you won’t admit it. You are prideful. You are rebellious. You have denied your creator. You have loved yourself. You have given your heart to the world. You have believed the promises of sin. You are full of shame. . . You think you are strong, but you are weak. You think you are right, but you are blind. You think you are free, but you are in bondage. And you deserve death for your refusal to honor your Lord.

The only way you can live, the only way that you can be forgiven, the only way you can be declared innocent, the only way the only way you can be made righteous, the only way you can be freed from your sin, the only way you can be cleansed, the only way you can find purpose, hope, and joy is for you to trust that died as your substitute, so that you might live.

CONCLUSION: The Resurrection of Jesus
But the story doesn’t end there. 31 Then his brothers and all his family came down and took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had judged Israel twenty years. Jesus was taken by family and friends and laid in a tomb. The difference was that Jesus didn’t stay in his tomb—three days later he rose again and is alive right now. Jesus doesn’t just save us from unrighteousness, by his Resurrection, he saves us too righteousness. By grace, he causes us to consider others more important than ourselves. By grace he causes us to love his way—even if it doesn’t seem right. By grace, He causes us to love Him in the world, and pray for the world to love Him. By grace, Jesus causes us to deny the promises of sin and believe the promises of God. By grace, God protects us from a victim mentality as we are hurt by others, because we are able to entrust ourselves to the one who will judge all. By grace, He causes us to give of our lives for His glory to bless others. And by grace, God causes us to help us live for his glory, even if that means our death. Why, because the love of Christ controls us. 2Corinthians 5.14-15 14 For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.


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

November 25, 2012

Judges 20-21 Faithful Substitute

November 18, 2012

Judges 19.1-30 Unfaithful Acts

November 11, 2012

Judges 17-18 Unfaithful Worship