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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