SUNDAY MORNING WORSHIP SERVICE, 1 August 2021
Sermon Text: Judges 15:1-20
Sermon Series: “Judges” (#22)
I. Samson the reckless
II. The Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness
III. The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groaning
IV. All things work together for good for whom God calls
Samson is surely one of the great men of the Bible. Although he pursued his own way at some part of his life, he served God and His nation. His extraordinary physical strength was a gift from God according to God’s divine purpose. I guess he must’ve been the strongest man ever lived.
But, as we read these chapters of the Book of Judges, Samson is still in his own way rather than following God’s guidance. He does not care about the purpose of his call; he does not care about God’s word and command either. Up to this moment, he simply lives his life in a way he likes and desires. Yet, guess what. Although he does not care about the honour or glory of God, what he achieves in his life is exactly what God has foretold. Although his life so far has proved that he is not suitable for a judge of Israel, God fulfills His purpose through the hands of this man, Samson, and delivers His people from the enemy.
What does this mean? It means the ultimate universal truth, that is, ‘Man is sinful, but God is faithful; man is selfish but God is gracious.’ This man, Samson, is not just one among billions of Adam’s descendants; he is a representative of all in humankind as he is a typical man who proves our corporate fallenness in sin. However, the gracious and faithful God is with us sinners, like the way He was with Samson despite his sinful cravings.
In today’s message, I’d like you to be reminded of who we truly are, first of all, then, understand God’s grace toward sinners like Samson and like you and me. Moreover, I’d like you to focus on God’s faithfulness toward His elect – I mean, those whom God had planned to save even before He created the world and everything in it. God has a plan for each of His beloved children, and this 15th chapter of Judges proves that God is faithful to us, like the way He is toward Samson, thus, achieves His plan for Samson.
I. SAMSON THE RECKLESS
Having this in mind, let me begin and remind you how sinful and rebellious Samson has been as recorded in today’s text passage. He is, in a word, reckless. And let’s see what it means to us.
As we read and considered ch. 14 two weeks ago, we know that Samson married to a Philistine woman. But on the last day of his wedding feast, he left his wife in anger, and went back and stayed at his parents’ place. Some days have passed, as ch. 15 begins, and he returns to the Philistine town called Timnah to see his wife.
By this, he pursues his sin, that is, intermarriage with an unbeliever. Then, he adds more to his sins, taking vengeance in his own way, never leaving it to God who says, “Vengeance is Mine.” By taking vengeance himself, Samson plays God. As we’ve read, he burned Philistines’ crops and olive orchards for the evil his father-in-law and former wife have done. But in fact, he avenges on an unspecified number of the general Philistines for the trouble he has caused in the beginning. He blames others, pointing his finger at everyone around him, never considering his own wrongdoings.
Truth is that all in mankind are exactly like Samson of this chapter. We blame others; we never count ourselves wrong or unrighteous, but accuse others. One blames another for his inability to understand her and vice versa. Every trouble between two people and between two nations begins from blaming and accusing others. Man blames even God, his Creator, despite his evident sin and rebellion against God. I heard someone saying that God was responsible for Adam’s sin from the first place because He had not put a fence around the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Samson’s evil deed is a reminder that we all are alike, self-centred and self-indulgent, thus, sinful before God.
The Philistines of the town are not different. Although they seem to be more righteous than Samson in their response toward the trouble by investigating the cause of the trouble, they burn Samson’s former father-in-law and wife. Like these Timnahites, some people seem to be more reasonable and logical than others, but no one is spotless, none is perfect – everyone is equally sinful in heart and words and deeds. These inhabitants of Timnah thought that burning two people was to restore justice, but who were they to call murder of two people by burning justice? God alone is just, whereas all in humanity are not!
Samson is totally reckless when he reacts and strikes those people in Timnah. He is uncontrollable in sin. Consider that if he did not want his former wife and her father to be punished, why would he burn the crops and the orchards of the Philistines? If he wanted them to be retaliated, then, would not the Philistines’ burning them be a favour to Samson? Do you see what I’m getting at? Samson’s deeds show no logic whatsoever; he does whatever seems pleasing to his eyes; he does whichever direction his mind leads him. He was angry with his father-in-law and his former wife, and the unspecified general Philistines. So he burned their properties. Yet, when he sees what the Philistines have done to his former in-laws, he kills those Philistines. What he does is far from fulfilling God’s purpose of calling him. He simply follows his reckless heart and cruelly harms others’ life and property.
Let’s be honest to the nature of all in mankind. Are we not cruelly reckless like Samson of Jdg. 15? If anyone possesses physical strength like that of Samson, he would’ve done whatever pleases his eyes like Samson, wouldn’t he? Isn’t it why the whole world goes wildly excited over super-hero stories and movies?
Reading the rest of ch. 15, nothing new grabs our attention. Samson hides himself in the bush. Then, his fellow Israelites are in a great trouble as the whole Philistine have come up against Israel. So, Samson’s own people bind him and take him to the angry Philistines. As he faces the Philistine army, interestingly the Spirit of the Lord rushes upon him, and he strikes down a thousand men in a day.
By the way, have you noticed what he used as his weapon in this fight? A fresh jawbone of a donkey. Once again, this jawbone vividly displays his carelessness. This weapon Samson used shows his disrespect of God and His words. Grabbing a fresh jawbone of a donkey is, in fact, a clear violation of God’s word for Samson who is a Nazirite. According to God’s command, a Nazirite was forbidden to touch any unclean thing, including a carcass. But, Samson doesn’t care about that law of God; he picks up not simply a jawbone, but a ‘fresh’ jawbone which could’ve been still a part of the carcass of a dead donkey. He does not care about anything; there was no conscious or logical or sensible consideration of good or evil; he grabs what is next to him, what seems to be good to his own eyes. He only follows what his eyes see, and the word of God is not in his heart.
I don’t want you to miss the very last absurdity Samson showed in this chapter. That is, his narcissistic, self-loving pride. When he finished killing one thousand men, he sang a poem which is recorded in v. 16, and says this: “With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps; with the jawbone of a donkey have I struck down a thousand men.” We see his point – right, he has accomplished a miraculous victory. But, where is God in his victory song? Where is God whose Spirit rushed upon this man and enabled him to let the ropes loose and slaughter that many enemies in a day? Samson boasts on his strength, rather than praising God who is the only reason for his achievement!
Moreover, Samson calls that place of his victory as ‘Ramath-lehi,’ meaning, ‘the hill of the jawbone.’ To him, that place is a commemoration of none but his own achievement. This proves again that Samson is a typical human being, representative of you and me and all in mankind. Man never gives praise to his Creator; we hardly ascribe glory to God when we achieve anything. We claim that we have done it, not by the power and grace of God. Because of this, his prayer to God for his thirst can hardly be regarded as a genuine petition for God’s mercy.
I pray that you’d be able to see in this chapter the true face of Samson, and, through him, the true recklessness and sinfulness of us all. As you see your true face through Samson, you’ll truly appreciate God for His grace toward you as His dear one. After all, this is God’s purpose of calling such a careless person as Samson and telling his story to us.
II. THE HOLY SPIRIT HELPS US IN OUR WEAKNESS
As you see Samson’s recklessness and, through him, find your sinfulness, let me ask you this question. Is Samson’s physical strength still meaningful to you? Is his great victory still meaningful to you? I don’t think it does any more. I believe that you see his weakness instead – I mean, his weakness in his narcissistic heart, through his contempt of God’s command which reveals his spiritual blindness! As you see Samson’s weakness in sinfulness, I believe that your own weakness in sin becomes clearer to your eyes.
Then, I want you to focus on what God does to Samson in this chapter. God helps him as the Spirit of God has been with him at all times. Sometimes, the Holy Spirit remained silent in his life, yet, in other times, acted mightily by rushing upon him. You must remember that it is the Spirit of God who has been with Samson always, not because he was worth, but because God is gracious toward His own elect. And the Holy Spirit is kind toward him, helping him in his weakness.
This is, in fact, what the Holy Spirit does to all children of God. He cares for each of God’s elect and leads them to repent of their sins and come to Jesus and trust Him as their Saviour and Lord. So, it’s not a surprise to hear the Apostle Paul firmly says in Rom. 8:26 that “the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” You and I have been and still are reckless, exactly like Samson. In many cases, we don’t care about God’s word and do things in our own ways. We grab and use whatever seems fit to our own eyes to achieve anything our hearts desire, and when it is achieved, we ascribe it to our own glory, hardly remembering God who has enabled us in His own grace and strength. But, as the Holy Spirit did to that reckless Samson, He continually and ceaselessly cares for us and helps us. This is the lesson for us to learn through the life of Samson.
III. THE HOLY SPIRIT INTERCEDES FOR US WITH GROANING
Moreover, the Holy Spirit does another truly important work for us who believe in Jesus Christ. That is, He prays and intercedes for us. Jdg. 15 does not specifically mention this work of the Holy Spirit in the life of Samson. But, if you read between the lines of our text, you can realise that the Spirit of God has prayed for Samson with ‘groanings too deep for words,’ as Rom. 8:26 describes.
Let’s briefly consider this. Samson’s life was planned by God before his birth. It was God who planned and gave him life to be a judge of Israel for the mission of saving Israel from the enemy’s hands. Then, ever since his birth, God cared for him as Jdg. 13:24 summarises and says, “the young man grew [that is, Samson], and the LORD blessed him.”
God had always been with him throughout his life, caring and strengthening him. But what was happening as soon as he reached an age of responsibility? The very first thing he wanted to do was, as in the beginning of ch. 14, to marry to a Philistine girl, against his parents’ will, against the very word of God. What would’ve been the prayer of the Holy Spirit when He interceded for Samson for his rebellion? Would it not be a prayer with groanings too deep for human words? God’s plan never comes to its fruition without the Holy Spirit’s active involvement in the life of God’s chosen ones. No human farmer would work in a way that he spreads seeds in spring and forgets about them during the summer, then, in autumn he suddenly harvests from his field. No human farmer does that. Neither is the work of the Triune God in the life of God’s elect! Just like human farmers care for the seeds and sprouts every day and every night, then, with sweat and tears harvest in due season, God’s plan for every child of God is carried out by the Holy Spirit and His work is incomparably deeper and complete in caring and nurturing and guiding God’s beloved ones. The only anthropomorphic expression that could describe this work of the Holy Spirit is groanings too deep for human words!
So, when Samson importuned his parents for a marriage arrangement with a pagan girl, when he showed no concern whatsoever for God’s commands for a Nazirite, when he ran here and there harming many people with his reckless heart and strong arms, and even when he referred all glory of victory to himself rather than to God, the Holy Spirit must’ve felt deep pain, and groaned too deep for human words!
The important point is that the Spirit of God still does for you and me whenever we disobey God, whenever we do not care about God’s words, when we give glory to ourselves rather than to God! He prays for us and intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words even now as He has been! And He never stops from doing it for us, leading us to repentance and faith until we enter the glory of Jesus Christ!
IV. ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER FOR GOOD FOR WHOM GOD CALLS
Yet, there’s one last truth you and I must take to our heart – that is, God through His Spirit and in the name of the Lord Jesus, makes all things work together for good for whom He called – that is, you and me, alongside Samson. That’s what Rom. 8:28 says, and that’s exactly what happened to Samson, and likewise to you and to me.
Remember the end of all things with Samson. What is the end of Samson’s destroying, killing and being unfaithful and self-loving attitude in this chapter? The very last verse of ch. 15 says this: “And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines for twenty years.” Do you see what this verse tells us? Despite the carelessness of Samson, despite Samson’s sinful heart that dishonoured the Lord’s name and made the Holy Spirit grieve, God made all things work together for good for Samson and His people of Israel! He judged Israel for two decades according to God’s will! How about that?
This is not at all ‘fatalism’ – that’s not what it teaches. This is, rather, a brief yet vivid explanation of God’s love for His children! When the world says ‘fatalism,’ they mean that ‘men are powerless to do anything to influence the future but passively face the inevitable future.’ But, ‘God’s working to make all things for good for His own’ means a completely different thing. It means that everyone without exception is rebellious and sinful before God, and does things according to each one’s sinful desire, just like Samson in Jdg. 15. But, God’s love will bring His children back to Him. In love, He grieves for His children and teaches them constantly, reproving, correcting and training them to turn from their evil ways and walk God’s blessed way.
My dear brothers and sisters in Jesus, let us, therefore, bow to this loving and gracious Heavenly Father, and give thanks to Him! If God brought Samson the reckless back to be God’s faithful servant, He’ll surely guide you and me, enabling us to see His love for us and come to Jesus, calling Him Saviour and Lord!
Know that He grabs you with His mighty yet caring hands now and always. Knowing His love for you, come to Jesus. And coming, give your thanks to Him who is your marvellous and mighty God and Father! ***