SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 17 July 2021
Sermon Text: Judges 14:5-20
Sermon Series: “Judges” (#21)
I. The strange way of God’s providence
II. The obvious weight of man’s guilt
III. The overflowing joy of Jesus’ salvation
We’re continuing with the Book of Judges, and continuing today with the subject we dealt with last week, that is, God’s providence. The beginning of the Lord’s providence – or His act of providing the needs of His children – is stirring them as He stirred Samson. Then, He leads each of them, each of us, according to His glorious and gracious plan. How He leads each of us is hidden to our human eyes, yet He reveals His glory at the end. So, we’re invited by God to trust Him, our Heavenly Father, taking refuge in Jesus Christ and depending on the power of the Holy Spirit. In fact, the entirety of Samson’s life is a proof of God’s providence for His children, proving how hidden it is to human eyes and minds, and how He would reveal His glory at the end. So, we’ve read, in 14:5-20, about the hidden hand of God providing Samson what was necessary for him.
I’d like to follow the storyline of Samson in this chapter and focus on the truth of how mysteriously God provides and leads His beloved, first of all, then how we should engage with God’s guiding hand or respond and work together with God who provides us our needs. These points, then, will naturally lead us to ponder upon the joy of Jesus’ saving grace which is His free gift for all who believe in God through Jesus!
I. THE STRANGE WAY OF GOD’S PROVIDENCE
So, let’s begin and think about the strange way of God’s providence. I say ‘strange’ because what God does is indeed unfamiliar to us and difficult to account for. None of us can anticipate or comprehend God’s works, especially when He provides and guides the path of His beloved like us. Samson in our text passage is a typical example of that.
Let’s see what happened to him. First of all, he saw a Philistine woman and decided to marry her as she was right in his eyes. This is the beginning of numerous questions for things happened in his life, such as, ‘Why did he choose a heathen as his wife?’ I believe you remember what his father and mother reminded him earlier in v. 3 – they told him to turn his eyes to any of the Israelite women. But Samson’s mind was set.
Then, as he and his parents went down to the town where that girl lived to arrange wedding, Samson departed from his parents and passed through vineyards. ‘Why would he walk apart from his parents, and why would he go through the vineyards?’ I believe you also remember that Samson was from birth a Nazirite who was to abstain from touching anything unclean – including anything dead – or from drinking anything made of grapes. So, a question: ‘What did he have to do with the grape vines and walk through the vineyards?’ Nowhere do we find any answer to these questions.
That’s not all. A lion appeared and attacked him. ‘What was that lion doing in a vineyard?’ A Bible commentator says that that lion could be God’s messenger to force Samson to stay away from the grape vines. Samson tore the lion, however, and killed it, and continued his way.
Then, on his second visit to that same Philistine town to marry the girl, he deviated once again and visited the site of his kill in the vineyards. There he saw the acme, climax of all strange things ever happened to him – that is, a swarm of bees with honey in the carcass of the lion. What shocks us more is Samson’s behaviour – he scooped the honey with his hands and ate it, then, rejoining his parents, he gave some to them.
The rest is also full of strange things. The riddle and Samson’s wife’s teasing till the last day of the feast which was literally a ‘drinking party’ and, finally, Samson’s murder of thirty Philistine men, and so on. None of these are ordinary; every point makes our eyebrows raised and question, ‘Why?’
We wonder simply because God’s work of providing and guiding the way of His beloved is hidden to our eyes. We cannot see to where each happening in our life would lead us. Only thing we Christians know by reading and hearing from the Scriptures is the end of all things, that is, God’s glory will be revealed as we’ll be blessed in His grace. So, although our questions are left unanswered at present, our conclusion is that all things happened to Samson would surely expose at the end God’s glory and His blessing upon Samson, His chosen one.
The same conclusion applies to us. I mean, various things happen to each of us and God’s intention and purpose with those things are unknown to us. But, as reminded by the Scriptures, all are necessary for us and for our good in this world and the next. Our confession should be consistent, therefore, saying, through all things God’s glory will be revealed and His grace will overflow in this life and the next. Samson’s life is one of numerous proofs of this conclusion.
This faith draws all believers to thank and praise God for His grace. This faith produces appreciation and gratitude from our heart as we face each one’s life. Although our finite human eyes are blinded and unable to see the full plan of God, we are urged to trust our gracious Father and rejoice in Jesus now and always, no matter what.
II. THE OBVIOUS WEIGHT OF MAN’S GUILT
The next point we need to consider is how an ordinary man reacts to God’s providence. In this sense, Samson represents all in humanity; he represents you and me. What he did was to reject God’s goodness and despise His guidance. Samson is guilty of this sin as all in humanity are.
When Samson thought he would marry a heathen, God-hater, God gave His guidance through his parents. But he rejected that gracious way of God. About the lion’s attack in the vineyards, it is quite reasonable to see that lion as a hand of God working for Samson’s benefit to keep his Nazirite vows by staying away from grapes. But Samson tore it and killed it, and continued his way. He desecrated himself further from his vows and showed no concern for desecrating others – that is, his own parents – by giving them the honey he scooped from the lion’s carcass. By the OT ceremonial law, touching a dead body made an Israelite unclean and required a ceremonial ritual of cleansing from that sin. But Samson showed no interest at all in God’s law.
Moreover, he not only disregarded God’s law, but also made fun of it. That’s what his riddle was about. He should’ve laid that specific sin of his before God in repentance and sought God’s forgiveness, but he brewed to further his sin to impoverish and rob others!
The same effect was with the rushing of the Spirit of the LORD upon him. The Holy Spirit was given to Samson not to kill and destroy lives, but to bring glory to God and save His people. But the two occasions we read in this passage of the Holy Spirit’s empowerment are only for killing lives – firstly, the innocent lion which could’ve been a God-sent warning toward him, and secondly, the thirty Philistine men of Ashkelon for collecting and paying the prize for the riddle. He surely misused and abused the Spirit of the LORD.
Truth is that Samson was not the only one who committed these awful sins – we all have done the same. We disregarded God’s commands; we rejected God’s warnings and His guiding hands. We altogether had no interest whatsoever in keeping our calls or vows; instead, we simply kept our own ways. Then, when the Holy Spirit came to us through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, we misuse and abuse the Spirit of God. How do we misuse and abuse the indwelling Holy Spirit? By repeating sins we’ve already repented from, clearly knowing what that means. We often, if not frequently, think that the indwelling Spirit would forgive us while we never repent but forget what we’ve done, thinking, ‘Ah, God is gracious; He’ll understand how weak I am, how vulnerable I am toward sins; so, although I don’t pray to Him, although I don’t specifically ask His forgiveness, He’ll cleanse me of this sin, He’ll again make me righteous, He’ll hold me in His right hand always, never rebuking me.’ Don’t we say this to ourselves? When we do, we’re misusing and abusing the Holy Spirit who indwells us believers!
But, as Samson was obviously guilty of his sins in God’s eyes, so are we.
Having said, all of us need to know clearly about the relationship between God’s providence and man’s sin. This is a huge subject to deal with which would require several sermons to cover, but let me make it as brief as possible today. As the case of all people, Samson was responsible for his sins of rejecting and abusing God’s goodness.
Hearing it, some people would argue and say that Samson was simply following God’s plan for him and Israel. Samson’s rejection of God’s guidance was a part of God’s plan and that’s why things happened as recorded in the Bible and Samson killed the enemies of Israel through which God delivered Israel. Is this so? Not quite. Such an argument is of a fatalist, not Bible-believing Christian’s understanding of the Scriptures.
Let me explain it this way. Samson distorted God’s way and followed his own desires, but God drew out of all things Samson distorted the result He had intended in the first place. God called Samson as a Nazirite from birth and to live a consecrated life before God as God’s chosen one. But he perverted it by drinking wine – as I mentioned earlier that the wedding feast he held in Timnah literally meant a ‘drinking party’ – and before that occasion, probably eating grapes when he had walked through the vineyards. He touched a carcass and broke his Nazirite vows, and so on. By all these things, God’s call was bent, disfigured and nullified. Yet, despite all awful things he did, the end result was God’s glory and deliverance of Israel from enemy’s hands. Moreover, Samson’s soul was delivered!
Consider what might’ve happened if Samson received God’s way in deep appreciation, if he honoured God in all things? This chapter of Judges would’ve been greatly different. Yet, the end result would be the same – that is, God’s glory and Israel’s deliverance!
So, when anyone follows Samson’s way as recorded in ch. 14 and up to the first half of ch. 16, that person is surely responsible for his/her own guilt before God! Such a person is guilty of bending and twisting and rejecting God’s goodness.
III. THE OVERFLOWING JOY OF JESUS’ SALVATION
This reminds us of the ultimate reason for our endless appreciation and praise to God for Jesus Christ and His free saving grace. What He cancelled by His death on the cross is this guilt of sinners, specifically God’s elect.
Each man’s guilt of perverting God’s call is eternally condemnable because what he/she rejects is the standard or value the King of the universe has set upon each person. Trying to alter it, trying to substitute it by one’s own norm is in grave contradiction to the highest law and authority. It could be pictured as someone’s act of touching a smelting furnace, rejecting a warning, or, denying the gravity of the earth, walks into the air from the top of a 100-story building. The consequence of that person’s venture is immediate, irrevocable and eternal. Yet, Jesus shed His blood on the cross to take this immediate, irrevocable and eternal guilt of sinners like us! What a grace and how joyful it is for all forgiven sinners!
For this reason, Rom. 5, especially in the section we read earlier today, describes this removal of our guilt Jesus’ ‘free gift.’ Eph. 2:3 explains this ‘free gift’ as ‘God’s great love’ through Jesus with which God saves us who used to be by nature ‘children of wrath.’
Simply put, by nature we were guilty as we rejected God, thus, sentenced to death penalty. We have been under the weight and curse of this penalty until the moment a free gift of God is granted through Jesus. And this is an amnesty, the pardon of our guilt and its punishment as Jesus the Saviour has already paid our penalty on the cross! What a joy!
Samson the destroyer’s obvious and brazen-faced guilt reminds us of the joy of Jesus’ free grace of forgiveness and salvation. Truth is that, if Samson was forgiven, any sinner can surely be forgiven because there’s no sinner whose sins are too great to be pardoned. Only hear the call of Jesus and come to Him, confessing one’s own sins and seeking Jesus’ forgiveness.
All who walk with Jesus in faith should examine themselves and see whether they grieve the indwelling Holy Spirit by following Samson’s path. If anyone does, each one must stop and bow in repentance, seeking a renewal of faith in Jesus Christ. ***