SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 11 July 2021
Sermon Text: Judges 13:25-14:4
Sermon Series: “Judges” (#20)
I. God stirs His beloved
II. God’s glorious plan is hidden to the eyes of man
III. God’s providence is real for His children
I think many of you have heard of a term used in weather science, that is, ‘butterfly effect.’ Although people had mentioned a similar idea earlier, it was an American mathematician and meteorologist Edward Lorenz who formulated this concept in 1961. This interesting concept means basically this – a small change in the air, like a butterfly flapping its wings, could be the cause of larger consequences such as formation of a tornado and its exact path. This concept was firstly used in meteorology, but nowadays this term ‘butterfly effect’ is used widely.
I begin today’s message with this interesting term ‘butterfly effect’ because what we’ve just read from our text passage sounds similar to that, at least from our human point of view. The very last verse of ch. 13 states something very tiny and small which could be read and easily forgotten by many readers. Yet, it causes a much larger consequence in the following chapters which again becomes a part of God’s grandeur plan for displaying His glory. Jdg. 13:25 says this, “And the Spirit of the LORD began to stir [Samson].” Then, he ‘went down to a Philistine town, and saw a Philistine woman; coming back home, he told his parents that he’d marry her. Then, 14:4 tells us that Samson’s parents did not know that all of it was from the LORD.
God stirred a person, thus, his heart beat – like a butterfly’s wings flapped – and that heart-beat rippled out, starting a series of actions and chain reactions to draw a greater consequence later.
You know what follows next in Jdg. 14-15. Samson’s marriage was ruined, and he started destroying the Philistines, causing a serious damage to the relationship between Israel and Philistia. By and through this trouble, the final consequence is revealed, that is, the glory of God who is merciful toward His own.
The unbelievers call things they can’t understand as ‘accidents’ or ‘chances’ or even ‘fate’ or ‘natural selection’ – depending on the areas of their ignorance – and this ‘butterfly effect’ is another term people use to the same extent. But, we Christians call it God’s ‘providence’ – in other words, God’s activity in time and, especially, of providing the needs of His own people.
So, based on our text passage for today, I’d like to focus on the subject God’s providence, God’s activity of providing the needs of His own like us, according to His glorious plan.
I. GOD STIRS HIS BELOVED
Talking about the ‘needs’ of God’s children, we mean both material and spiritual needs. Between these, spiritual need is far more urgent and important. So, God provides His elect as of first importance what is necessary for the salvation of their soul.
This is what we find in 13:25, reading that the Spirit of the LORD began to ‘stir’ Samson. In exactly what sense God stirred him, we don’t know; but we know its consequence. God’s stirring woke him up from his slumber in sin and led him to the salvation of his soul.
Consider the opposite – I mean, if God hadn’t touched Samson and left to himself, what might’ve happened to him? He would never have become involved in God’s plan. Had God left him alone, he would’ve lived like everybody else around him, being satisfied with the Philistines’ rule – in other words, talking the situation in a spiritual term, living content in sin and under the dominion of the devil. He would’ve died like one of numerous sinners, had not God touched him and stirred him. But that wasn’t the case for Samson; God stirred His own beloved one, like He does still, and woke him up.
I don’t usually use my own story as a sermon illustration, but today, let me share my experience with you to explain the way God stirs His beloved. My parents died in less than two years’ time span – in the years 1992 and 93. And their deaths shook me from the root of my heart. Then, in 1998, four of my colleagues were killed in a helicopter crash. And that accident shocked me so hard, actually uprooted the foundation of my worldview which had already been shaken greatly by my parents’ deaths. I was deeply stirred, and my view on life and death was thoroughly and completely changed. Death was no longer a concept or notion, but reality that breathed with me. Life no longer meant to me being alive because one alive did not and could not know when his life would end – that could be in a second or minute or hour. God stirred not only me but also Miyun, and we focused more on praying and seeking a way to serve God in mission, deeply considering using whatever time left to us for God.
I believe each of you had a moment in your life being stirred by God. While God’s stirring was in a milder form for someone, for another it might be shocking and serious. The case of Martin Luther, 16th century Reformer, was a harsh one. On the way home for a visit, he met a thunderstorm. A nearby lightening strike knocked him from his horse, and the terror of death made him to pledge to give his life in service to God. God stirred Martin Luther with a lightening strike. A Christian brother I know was stirred by God, but his case was completely opposite. He suddenly lifted his eyes up to heaven and decided to stop his sinful way of life, and believe in Jesus Christ. So he visited a nearby church next Lord’s Day. His heart was stirred by God extremely softly, but the effect of that was firm and permanent!
God provides spiritual needs to His beloved. He does this by stirring each of them – each of us who believe in Jesus Christ, like the way He did Samson. This is what we call God’s ‘providence,’ His activity of providing the needs of His own people.
II. GOD’S GLORIOUS PLAN IS HIDDEN TO THE EYES OF MAN
What happens after this work of God is usually, if not always, indistinguishable to the eyes of man. See what happened to Samson. Being stirred by God, he went down to a Philistine village, and seeing a Philistine woman, he decided to marry her. That’s nothing special. In fact, anyone would do such a thing. But Samson’s trip was the first effect of God’s stirring and touching, and the second and the third effects would follow like ripples on the surface of water. Man can see neither the first effect of God’s touching one’s heart, nor the full extent of God’s work.
Unless it is recorded in the Bible and openly stated like the cases of people of the Bible (such as Abraham, David, Isaiah, Peter, Paul and so on), God’s ultimate plan for touching someone is completely hidden to our eyes. No one sees God’s plan, no one understands His blueprint for individuals.
Let’s take Martin Luther’s case again to illustrate this. Having survived from that electric storm, Luther gave up his study of law and became a monk and joined a monastery. When he did, his father became furious and did all things to take his son back to law school. At that moment, neither Luther nor all in his families and friends, nor even his fellow monks of the monastery, had an idea what God planned for him, let alone a global-scale reformation of God’s Church!
Anyone could’ve done the same thing Luther did, giving up one thing to do another unexpectedly. Many have done similar things in the past. But none in humankind has ever grasped, let alone glanced at, God’s plan for His elect because His plan is hidden to our eyes. And this hiddenness of God’s plan is a part of His providence for His own people! This is a mystery to us, and I’ll come back to this mystery in a moment, and see why it is left as a mystery to us, especially God’s children.
God’s plan hidden to our eyes is not only about individuals, but also about the whole world. God provides each one what is specifically needed for each one’s life. But the scale of His providence is never private but both global and generational. This truly is a mystery to human eyes and minds.
Let me take the present COVID-19 pandemic situation to explain this. We’ve heard of news of so many deaths so far which is terrible and devastating. Many people have lost their lives and numerous others are still mourning over their losses. The fact is that the whole world is in shock.
If a Christian lost his life, we’d mourn but give thanks to God for taking that Christian brother from this world to be with the Lord in heaven which is far better. Our joy is to know that he has completed his God-given tasks here, and entering his eternal home – our eternal home, he must’ve been welcomed by the Lord, then, by all angels and heavenly hosts alongside the saints above. But with the death of an unbeliever, we’d feel sorry for that soul deeply from our heart because that soul is now lost in eternal damnation.
Then, we think about the cause and effect of this pandemic. Why do we have a virus pandemic? Because we’re corrupt in sin and so is the whole world fallen due to man’s sin. Then, what might be the effect of this global catastrophe? None can answer that because no one knows. But we know one thing, that is, what God will achieve at the end of all these things. What is that? He will achieve His glorious plan and reveal His glory to not only His children but the whole world! How do we know that end? Because the Scriptures, the very word of God, teaches us.
Then, based on this end we already know, we could figure out how God would work in the lives of people. God will stir the hearts of those people He planned to save. The present pandemic and all troubles it has caused, including people’s deaths, could shake the hearts of many people, and for some others, more than a simple shake, but a complete inversion of their view points on life and death. This first ripple would produce another wave of reaction, and that would repeat a series of chain-reactions rippling out. One wave passes and touches and stirs certain hearts, and the next ripple comes from a different angle as a reaction to the first ripple and it touches them again and some others alongside them, which would create another reaction, and this continues sweeping over the face of the earth. The exact picture of God’s work of stirring His elect from the world is hidden to our eyes, but God surely does stir His elect and bring them to faith and deepen their trust in Jesus.
By simply picturing these possible processes, our minds become overloaded and congested. But, I think you see what I mean; even in a global tragedy, God works and provides His elect what is necessary for their salvation and also what is necessary for their continuing growth in faith. Through all, our amazing and awesome God achieves His plan and reveals His glory to the eyes of the whole world.
III. GOD’S PROVIDENCE IS REAL FOR HIS CHILDREN
Then, what does this mean to you and me? This is about the mystery of God’s providence we left earlier.
Let me remind you of v. 4 of our text passage. Samson requested his parents to take the girl he had seen earlier that he could marry her. His parents didn’t like their son’s idea, and asked him why he would marry a heathen, unbelieving woman. About this, v. 4 explains that their dislike and question are based on their ignorance of God’s plan.
This statement pinpoints to us the very nature of the mystery of God’s providence. The reason God hides His plan for individuals is for us to trust God always in all circumstances. He invites us to believe in God, knowing that He is good and faithful always – never changing His mind.
Guess that you know what’s going to happen to you and what each thing happening in your life aims at. If that’s the case, then, you’d trust God less, your faith in God would surely be weakened. Why? Because there would be less reason for you to trust God. Trusting is, after all, firm belief in the Lord’s integrity, ability and character in unknown, uncertain circumstances.
As things are unseen, as our eyes are blindfolded, we’re invited to trust our God fully and never doubt. God’s providence is real and true, thus, have a full faith in Him. This is the mystery of God’s providence; it is the Lord’s amazing grace toward us!
I’d like to go back to the term I mentioned earlier, that is, ‘butterfly effect,’ only to describe the extent of God’s providence. We’ll see more of it in Samson’s life in the following chapters. I mean, how a simple, tiny work of God stirring up an elect of God ripples out to cause the whole nation of Israel shaken to wake up from their spiritual slumber. As real was for Samson and his fellow citizens of Israel, God’s providence, His work of providing the needs of His children is real for you and for me, and by providing us all we need for salvation and growth in faith, our God will draw from us our praises and thanks to the glory of His glorious name! ***