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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:God's strength is displayed through Samson's weakness
Text:Judges 14:4 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Covenant faithfulness
 
Preached:2014-09-14
Added:2015-04-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from 2010 Book of Praise

Bible Translation:  NKJV

Psalm 111:1,2

Psalm 111:5

Psalm 106:1,3,22

Hymn 53:1,2

Psalm 106:23

 

Read:  Judges 13:24 – 14:20.

            2 Corinthians 6:11-18.

Text:  Judges 14:4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

There is a danger that by the year 2750 the nation of South Korea as we know it today will disappear, cease to exist.  Unless things change the whole population of South Korea – which stands at 50 million today – will be extinct.  South Korea’s problem is a very low birth rate.  Back in the 1980s there was a fear of over-population and so there were widespread campaigns to restrict family sizes.  But now the population is falling so quickly that current predictions are that the population of South Korea will fall to just 20 million by the end of the century and the capital Soul will be void of South Koreans within 500 years.

Of course those predictions may never come true and things can rapidly change.  But nations do die out, and even larger groups of people do, in effect, disappear from the face of the earth.  Some groups of people no longer exist because they were all killed, wiped out.  Others were taken from their land and went into exile, where they lost their distinctive and were absorbed into the culture of the people around them.  But at other times, another nation just moved in, changed the culture, changed the language over time, and the people who were before simply are no more.

For a nation to die out is a sad thing for with it we lose a language and a culture.  But how much worse would it be for the church to die out, for God’s people to no longer exist? 

In the days of the Judges, that was the danger that the people of Israel were facing.  Turning their back on the LORD, they had begun to serve the Baals and the Ashtoreths, the gods of Syria, the gods of Sidon, the gods of Moab, the gods of the people of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines.  In other words, they were taking on the culture and the gods of the people around them.  And in the meantime others began to move in to their territory – the Philistines, for example – squeezing Israel out until within a few generations they would cease to be a nation.

That’s bad news for any country that seeks to retain its identity, but for the people of God, that would be a disaster!  These were the people whom the LORD had redeemed out of Egypt to be His own special possession.  These were the people whom God had promised to Abraham would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.  And most importantly, it would be from Israel that the LORD would send His Son, the Messiah, to save His people from their sin.   But if things did not change, soon there would be no people of God left!  That is how serious things were in the days of the Judges.  And it is for that reason, to be true to His covenant promises, to always keep a church chosen to everlasting life, that the LORD raised up Samson, the man who would begin to deliver His people Israel.

But for all his strength, Samson was a weak man.  A fallen man.  A sinful man.  Of himself, Samson could never have even begun to deliver God’s people from the Philistines.  But the LORD had marked Samson from birth, marked him as a Nazarite.  And despite Samson’s weakness – yes, even through Samson’s weakness, the LORD would show His strength, the LORD would save His people.

I preach to you the Word of the LORD under the following theme:

God’s strength is displayed through Samson’s weakness.

1. Samson’s weakness.

2. God’s strength.

1. Samson’s weakness.

When Samson was a child growing up, his parents would have had high hopes for their son.  He was their miracle baby.  Every time they saw his long hair they were reminded of the Angel’s visit, of God’s command that Samson be set apart as a Nazarite all the days of his life and of His promise that Samson would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines.  And as Samson grew up, the LORD blessed him.  He blessed Samson with godly parents, He blessed him with all that he needed, and He blessed Him with His Holy Spirit.

And if we were to be reading the story of Samson for the first time, coming to the end of chapter thirteen, we would have had high hopes for this Samson too!  In many ways some of the other Judges had been a disappointment: the Bible points out the sins of Barak, of Gideon and of Jepthah.  But with Samson we hope that things will be different, things will be better.  And how Israel needed a better judge – for their sin was getting worse.  If the LORD did not do something soon, Israel would be lost and His covenant promises would come to nothing.

But Samson was a weak man.  Samson had been called to be separate.  He was set apart even from his own people, dedicated to God.  As a Nazarite he was not to touch a dead body, he was to avoid all things alcoholic and he was never to cut his hair.  Samson was to remember at all times that he belonged to God, that he was called to obey God and to do what the LORD required of him.

  And in that sense Samson was like all of Israel.  The people of Israel were God’s people, the children of His covenant, set apart from all the nations around them to serve Him.  But like all of Israel, Samson felt the pull of the nations around him and he did not live as one who was holy, set apart unto God.  Samson was weak.  Samson was a sinner.  Judges 14:1,2

Now Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.”

Just what was going on in Samson’s head to cause him go to the Philistine town of Timnah is not clear.  We know from verse 4 that this was of the LORD, meaning that the LORD had His own plans in all of this, but what was Samson doing, checking out the girls of Timnah?  He should not have been there!  Or at least, he should not have been there with thoughts of marriage, he should not have given his heart to a Philistine woman.

And so, like all godly parents, Samson’s parents were distressed.  Verse 3 –

Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?”

Samson’s father and mother were right in what they said.  The matter at stake was not so much that Samson was marrying a non-Israelite but that he wanted to marry outside of the covenant community, get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines.  God has always been concerned about His children marrying unbelievers – and He still is today.  In both Exodus 34 and Deuteronomy 7 the LORD had warned His people not to marry in to the people around them, not to given their daughters to the sons of the nations, nor to take their daughters for their sons.  For, the LORD said in Deuteronomy 7:4,

“For they will turn your sons away from following Me, to serve other gods.”

And that ought not to be since, verse 6,

“For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth.”

And so the people of Israel were to be set apart, separate, from the nations around them, and holy to the LORD.  They were not to marry the heathen people around them, nor take a heathen woman to be their wife.  They were to take care to obey the LORD in this do this because the LORD loved them and He would not allow anything to get between Himself and His people.  

And that is still true for us today.  2 Corinthians 6:14 says,

“Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers.  For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness?  And what communion has light with darkness?”

And 2 Corinthians 6:17,

“Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the LORD.  Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.  I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”

Now this unequal yoking refers to more than just marriage.  It means that we must remember that since we, body and soul, belong to God in Christ, we cannot have fellowship both with Him and with the world, that is, the works of darkness.  There is a radical separation between life without God and life with God – and we need to both remember that and live accordingly.  But the call not to be unequally yoked does also refer to marriage.  We are, the apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 7:39, only to be married “in the Lord.”  God’s Word is very strong about this, and we have to take His warning seriously.  Being a Christian, being joined to God must be the first and most important thing in the lives of each one of God’s children.  Your belonging to Him comes first, and all other relationships come out of that.  Now the Bible also says that if you are married to someone who is not a Christian, you should, if possible, remain married to him or her.  And, 1 Peter 3:1 says, wives are to live in such a way that even if their husbands do not obey the word, they, without a word might by won by the conduct of their wives.  But if you are not yet married, you should not get married if we are not first one in the true Christian faith.  A marriage will either draw you closer to God or pull you away from Him.  And so since we must love the LORD our God with all our heart, all our mind, all our soul and with all our strength, it is of the utmost importance that first you both be joined to the Lord by a true faith, and only then be joined to one another in a Christian marriage.

So Samson’s parents were right to object to Samson’s desire to marry a Philistine girl.  But then verse 4 says something surprising.

But his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord—that He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

 They did not know that this was of the LORD.  Now this does not mean that God was pleased with Samson’s desire to get a Philistine wife.  God’s Word is firm and it never changes:  the girl of Samson’s dreams was not a believer and it was therefore a sin for Samson to take her as his wife.  However what verse 4 means is that the LORD was still working through Samson at that time, even through his sinful actions!  The LORD would use Samson’s desire to marry in and be joined to the Philistine enemy to bring about His plan to bring division between Israel and the Philistines. 

  And the LORD did this because, verse 4 says, “at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.”  Israel, particularly the southwestern part of Dan and Judah, had been dominated by the Philistines and not just from a military perspective but also culturally and religiously.  The village of Timnah was deep in Israelite territory, no more than 7 km from Zorah, the place of Samson’s birth.  The Philistines had moved in, they had settled in Israel and they were there to stay.  But the problem was that Israel was not crying out the LORD.  Instead, they had begun to embrace these Philistines.  They liked the cultural changes, the beautiful pottery and other things that the Philistines had brought with them.  Some of Israel began to marry in with them and so they became one with them.  And as they did this, they also turned to the gods of the Philistines and worshipped them.  Instead of Israel being a light to the nations, calling them to worship the LORD, they had become one with the nations, adopting their values, their customs and their idols.  And so Israel was in danger of disappearing as a nation, disappearing as the people of the LORD.  Unless the LORD would intervene, within a few generations Israel could be so assimilated into the Philistine and other nation groups around them that as a nation they would be no more.

And so we see that Samson’s weakness was Israel’s weakness.  Samson had been called to be an Nazarite, holy and separated unto God.  But like Israel – who were also called to be holy unto the LORD – Samson turned away from God and followed his sin-filled heart to Timnah, allowing himself to be lured away by a heathen Philistine, by a woman who did not know the LORD.

But Samson’s weakness is also our weakness.  Although the Bible warns us in James 4:4 that friendship with the world is enmity with God, we still like to think that we can have both the world and God.  We think we can have both God in our lives and also live as one of the world, as one who is not redeemed in Christ.  As sinners we like to test the boundaries, see how far we can go in our relationship with the godlessness of this world.  As sinners we are also in danger of adopting the values, the customs and the idols of the world.  But the LORD has called you out of these things!  He has called you out of the world, He has marked you as His own and He is jealous for your love! 

 

2. God’s strength.

It is devastating when you bring your child up, teaching them to love the Lord but then at a certain age he or she turns away, rejects Him and rejects God’s people.  But for Manoah and his wife this must have been doubly difficult since the Angel of the LORD had told them that Samson would begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.  But now Samson is wanting to join them, to marry in to them!

When his parents warned him not to take a wife from the Philistines, Samson did not listen but he said to his father,

“Get her for me, for she pleases me well.”

Or more literally,

“Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.”

Samson was living like the rest of Israel in those days: doing what was right in his own eyes, rejecting both the word of the LORD and the words of his parents. How this must have hurt Manoah and his wife!

But the LORD had not forgotten His promise and the LORD would display His strength even in Samson’s weakness.  As Samson went down to Timnah, suddenly there was a lion roaring towards him!  Samson was surprised but then something amazing happened.  The Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon Samson and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat.  And he did this with his bare hands!

But Samson was not some sort of a superman.  He possessed such strength not in himself, but only through the Spirit of the LORD who enabled him to do this.  That is clear from verse 6, when Samson killed the lion and also from verse 19, when Samson attacked and killed 30 men from the city of Ashkelon.  Samson might have been going down to Timnah to marry a Philistine, but God had other plans.  He would use Samson’s weakness to drive a wedge between the Philistines and the people of Israel.

Some time later after killing the lion, Samson went by that way again, and to his surprise, he discovered that the carcass had dried out and that some bees had made their home in it.  So Samson reached inside the carcass of the lion, took some honey, ate it, and gave some to his parents.  And from there they went on to Timnah where the wedding feast was about to be held.

Then at Timnah, Samson gave a feast, as the young men used to do.  And Samson had thirty Philistine companions who joined him at the feast.

12 Then Samson said to them, “Let me pose a riddle to you. If you can correctly solve and explain it to me within the seven days of the feast, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing. 13 But if you cannot explain it to me, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothing.”

And they said to him, “Pose your riddle, that we may hear it.”

14 So he said to them:

“Out of the eater came something to eat,

And out of the strong came something sweet.”

These young men would have racked their brains, trying to discover the answer to this seemingly impossible riddle and after a while they got frustrated.  And then they started getting angry:  there was no way they were prepared to give in, nor would they want to pay Samson the 30 sets of clothing.  And then things got nasty.  Turning to Samson’s wife they said,

“Entice your husband, that he may explain the riddle to us, or else we will burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us in order to take what is ours? Is that not so?”  (Judges 14:15)

And we know from chapter 15:5 that this was no idle threat.  For later the Philistines did indeed burn Samson’s wife and her father with fire.  Samson’s wife got worried, but she did not tell Samson about the threat.  Instead she turned on the tears, wept on Samson and said in verse 16,

 “You only hate me! You do not love me! You have posed a riddle to the sons of my people, but you have not explained it to me.”

Samson then got angry with his wife’s tears but she wouldn’t stop her crying so that by the end of seven days he got desperate for the tears to stop.  And so he gave in and told the woman the answer to the riddle.  She then told it to her people and on the last day of the feast, just before the sun went down, the Philistines had their answer to Samson’s riddle.

Now Samson should have been ashamed at this point, he should have repented and called off the wedding and gone home.  (He still had time to do that since the wedding had not yet been consummated.  But he did not.  Instead, filled with anger at the Philistines in general, he went to Ashkelon and, empowered by the Spirit of the LORD, killed thirty of their men, took their clothing and gave it to the thirty men.  And in a rage, Samson went back to his father’s house.

But God was working here – even through Samson’s sin.   Along with the rest of his people, Samson seemed all too ready to marry in to and sleep with the enemy.  But God would not allow this.  The LORD would use Samson’s weakness to drive a wedge between the Philistines and the children of Israel.  Through Samson’s killing 30 men in the heart of Philistine territory, the LORD was declaring war.  It would be a messy war and a long war, with death and destruction.  But in all of this we see evidence of God’s grace!

You see, the problem was that Israel was in danger of getting used to the Philistines living among them.  Israel was in danger of giving in to them, of accepting their presence and even of marrying in to them, of becoming one with them, of exchanging the God of truth for the false god Dagon.  But God would not allow His people to live at peace with the enemy.  He had declared war between the Seed of the woman and the seed of the Serpent back in Genesis 3, and that war would continue. 

And we are still at war today.  No, we are not and we may not be like the terrorists of the Islamic State.  We do not go about picking fights, nor do we blast all those who are not Christians.  But we are at war.  We are at war with the world, with the values of the world and with the gods of this world.  We are at war with the devil and his whole dominion.  And we must be at war.  As one Bible commentator wrote,

“There is no such thing as harmonious co-existence between the church and the world, for where there is no conflict it is because the world has taken over.”

To be at peace with the godlessness of this world is to be at war with God.  And God will not allow that:  He is jealous for your love.

In this post Christian era, things are changing and changing rapidly.  The battle lines are becoming clearer and the world is hating the church more and more.  It is becoming increasingly clear that the message of the gospel is incompatible with the message of the world.  But that is not altogether bad for God’s Church!  In this we can see God’s care and mercy for us also.  One of the greatest dangers that we Christians in the western world are facing today is that we forget that we are at war.  The Lord warned us of this in Matthew 24:12.

“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.”

The danger is that we no longer see the battle line, we no longer see the difference between the church and the world.  The danger is that we begin to talk like the world, drink like the world, party like the world, think like the world and act like the world until we become one with the world.

  But in His grace the LORD will not allow that!  In His grace the LORD shows us time and time again that we are not of this world, that we do not belong with the wickedness and the godlessness of this world.  We have been set apart, separated unto God to live for Him, to praise Him and to reflect His holiness. 

Samson was a weak man, a flawed judge.  He was a sinner like you and like me.  But God raised up Samson so that in time He might raise up the true Saviour, the right Deliverer, our Lord Jesus Christ.  And Jesus Christ is the One who is truly set apart by God.  And this Jesus came that He might win the war, that He might overthrow the principalities and the powers that threaten to devour the Church of God.  And under this Jesus, our Lord and Saviour, the church will stand firm, yes we will stand firm.  In Him we will thrive even in the midst of a hostile world.   Amen.

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2014, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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