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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Providence Canadian Reformed Church
 Hamilton, Ontario
Title:The Spirit of Yahweh empowers Samson to begin the deliverance of Israel
Text:Judges 14:5-6 (View)
Topic:The work of The Holy Spirit

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note:  all songs from the 2010 Book of Praise

Psalm 67

Hymn 28:2

Psalm 143:4-6

Hymn 48

Hymn 49

Scripture reading:  Judges 14

Text:  Judges 14:5-6

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of Christ,

This morning we’re commemorating the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost.  Fifty days after the resurrection, Christ kept his promise and the Holy Spirit was poured out on his church.  The disciples were gathered together in Jerusalem, they heard a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and what appeared to be tongues of fire rested on each one of them.  Then, Scripture says, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).

One might think that the Holy Spirit was not really active before Pentecost.  However, we find plenty of evidence of his presence and activity even in the Old Testament.  In fact, the second verse of the Bible, Genesis 1:2, tells us that “the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.”  He continues to be present on many of the pages of the Old Testament.

He was definitely working in the life of Samson.  That’s where we find ourselves this morning.  Our text tells us that the Spirit of the LORD (Yahweh) rushed upon him and then he violently counter-attacked this lion.  Now the temptation for the casual Bible reader would be to draw a straight line between Samson and us.  We’re always eager to apply what Scripture says directly to ourselves.  So someone might be tempted to say that the point of this text is to teach us that when the Holy Spirit rushes upon you, you’ll be able to conquer the lions that are attacking you.  But that sort of reading of our text fails to do justice to the special office of Samson.  It fails to look at the context of what was happening in the life of Samson and how that connects to the unfolding plan of God’s redemption.  Most significantly of all, it also fails to address the question of how this passage speaks to us of Jesus Christ and the gospel.

This morning as we commemorate Pentecost, we’re going to look closer at what happened with Samson in Judges 14.  We’ll look at it through the lens of verses 5 and 6.  Our purpose is to understand how the LORD was working in Samson’s life, working for his people, and what this all means for us today.  I preach to you God’s Word with this theme:

The Spirit of Yahweh empowers Samson to begin the deliverance of Israel

We’ll consider:

  1. The background of this empowerment
  2. The nature of this empowerment
  3. The result of this empowerment

With this text, we’re in the period of the judges, about the 11th century before Christ.  Through Moses, God had led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.  Through Joshua, God had given the people of Israel the land he promised them.  So the people are now in the Promised Land.  Their time started off in a good way.  When Joshua was about to die, the people committed themselves to following the LORD.  They vowed to live as faithful covenant people.  Unfortunately, this commitment was short-lived.  It didn’t take long before things started going off the rails.  Judges 2:11-15 says it all [read].  Four times in the book we find the refrain, “there was no king in Israel.”  Twice the author of Judges adds, “and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  The time was one of leaving the LORD behind, forsaking him, and then paying the price through the LORD’s discipline.  Yet the LORD never totally gave up on his people.  He heard the cries of his people and then raised up judges who delivered them.  One of those was Samson.

Judges 13 tells us about Samson’s birth.  His father’s name was Manoah – we’re not told his mother’s name, but we are told that she was infertile, unable to have children.  Then one day an angel from God appears to her and tells her that she will have a son.  This son would be special – he would be a Nazirite.  We read about what it means to be a Nazirite in Numbers 6.  Normally, a Nazirite would voluntarily take a vow, separating himself for God.  Normally, the Nazirite vow would only be for a limited time.  It involved abstinence from alcohol, no cutting of the hair, and no contact with the dead.  This baby would be under those provisions, but it would not be voluntary for him and it would be for life, from the womb to his death.  You see, this was to be a very special and unique Nazirite.  In fact, Judges 13:5 says that this baby was the one who “shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”  That’s important, because we learn from 13:1 that Israel had been under the oppressive hand of the Philistines for 40 years.  Baby Samson was therefore not only a gift for Manoah and his barren wife, but a gift and type of saviour for the people of Israel as a whole.

Nine months later, the baby was born and he was named Samson.  The Bible doesn’t give any clues as to the significance of that name, though it means something like “sunny boy.”  Of far more significance is what we read about him in verses 24 and 25 of chapter 13.  He grew and Yahweh blessed him.  Furthermore, the Spirit of Yahweh, the Holy Spirit began something in Samson at an early stage in his life, perhaps when he was in his teen years.  What the Spirit began to do was something surprising.  He was pushing Samson towards his office as a judge.

Chapter 14 explains how that started to happen.  Samson lived near the border with the Philistines.  It wasn’t far from his home to the Philistine town of Timnah.  Timnah had been allotted by God to the tribe of Dan, but the Israelites had been lax in conquering the land as they were supposed to.  Samson goes down to this Philistine town and there he spots an attractive girl and he wants her for a wife.  His parents are not impressed.  They want him to marry someone from their own people, and not a Philistine girl.  Did they say this because they cared so much about following the will of the LORD in such things?  After all, God did forbid the Israelites from marrying unbelieving foreigners, just like today Christians are told not to marry unbelievers.  Perhaps Manoah and his wife were thinking about that, but they don’t say it.  There’s no indication that God factored into their reasoning.  They seem to be thinking more along the horizontal (what will people think?), than along the vertical (what does God think?).  They’re still saying what’s right, but not necessarily for the right reasons.

But Samson didn’t care about what his parents thought.  He told his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.”  Now remember that line that summarizes the period of the judges:  everyone did what was right in his own eyes.  Samson is no different.  This girl was right in his eyes and he was going to get her, no matter what his parents said and no matter what God said.  Let’s be clear:  this was not right.  Samson should not have done this.  He should have pursued a godly and believing girl from among God’s covenant people.  Instead, he wants this attractive unbeliever from among the Philistines. 

However, there’s more going on here than first meets the eye.  Verse 4 clues us in.  The author of Judges tells us that all of this was from Yahweh.  He was working behind the scenes to engineer the deliverance of his people.  The Philistines were ruling over Israel, oppressing them.  Samson was going to be God’s man for saving his people and setting them free.  He was going to work through this whole scenario with the Philistine girl to do it.  His Holy Spirit was pushing Samson towards this work of deliverance. 

Loved ones, this background reminds us that the LORD can even work through things that are sinful to deliver his people.  The best and greatest illustration of that is found with what happened with Christ’s suffering and death.  On the day of Pentecost, Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and he explained it well to the crowds listening.  In his Pentecost sermon, Peter said that the Jews were responsible for killing Jesus.  It was a sinful thing for them to kill an innocent man, to murder the Son of God.  Yet, Peter says, this was all in God’s plan.  Acts 2:23 tells us that it was “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.”  God was going to work through sinful people and their actions to deliver us from sin and its oppression.  That’s what he was doing with Samson too and in this he was pointing ahead to a greater deliverance, the one we have through Christ.                              

So Samson goes back to Timnah, this time with his mom and dad in tow.  They’re going to try and make the arrangements for their son to marry the Philistine girl.  Along the way they travel through a vineyard for some reason.  It seems like an unusual spot for a Nazirite.  Nazirites were not only forbidden from drinking alcohol, they couldn’t have any contact with anything related to grapes.  But there he is, in a vineyard.  His parents seem to be somewhere else, maybe ahead or behind him.  He’s all by himself walking among the grape vines.

All of a sudden, out of the blue, this young lion comes storming towards him.  If it isn’t obvious, this big cat is out for blood – it wants to make cat chow out of Samson.  But the lion gets far more than it bargained for.  It didn’t know that the Holy Spirit of Yahweh would rush upon Samson and give him super-human strength to make a successful counter-attack.  The lion didn’t know that this lone man would suddenly be able to tear it limb from limb like it was a young goat. 

The author of Judges is careful to tell us that this happened because the Spirit of Yahweh rushed upon Samson.  As a result, Samson had this unusual power to defend himself from this vicious wild animal.  But what is the exact nature of this empowerment?  What does it mean that the Spirit of Yahweh rushed upon him?

To answer that, we should note that this is not the first time that the Holy Spirit has done this in the book of Judges.  He came in a similar way to Othniel, Jephthah, and Gideon.  Later on, in the book of 1 Samuel, he will also rush upon Saul.  What do all these figures have in common?  They all have a special office among God’s people.  They’re all either judges or kings.

There’s something else we need to note.  This is about the work of the Holy Spirit in general.  Sometimes you’ll hear people wondering about whether the Holy Spirit was present and working in all believers in the Old Testament.  To answer that, we should ask:  did people have faith in the Old Testament?  That’s a good question to ask because if they did, then the Holy Spirit must have been present and working in people.  After all, Ephesians 2:8 reminds us that faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit – and there’s no indication in Scripture that this is something that changed with the coming of Christ.  I mean, can you imagine that in the Old Testament people came to faith in their own power, but suddenly in the New Testament faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit?  That wouldn’t make any sense.  So, if there was faith with people in the Old Testament, it must also have been a gift of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit must have created this faith.  It should be pretty clear that people did have faith.  There’s no doubt that people believed in God and trusted his promises before the coming of Christ.  This was because the Holy Spirit was working in them. 

When it comes to Samson, we know for sure that he was a man of faith.  Not only do we see him calling on God in faith in the book of Judges, but he’s explicitly mentioned as a man of faith in the New Testament.  Samson is mentioned in Hebrews 11:32-34, “And what more shall I say?  For time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets – who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions…were made strong out of weakness.”  Samson was a believer.  He was weak – that’s quite clear in this chapter and the ones following.  But there can be no doubt that he believed in God and his promises.  Scripture tells us that straight up.         

So is our text telling us that Samson became a believer at this precise moment in the vineyard?  Was this a sort of conversion experience?  No, that’s not what’s in view here.  That would be like saying that everyone at Pentecost became a believer when the Holy Spirit was poured out.  The disciples were clearly believers before Pentecost.  So Pentecost was not about becoming a believer.  It was about the Spirit being poured out on God’s people to equip them for the calling to bring the gospel to a lost world.  Similarly, the Holy Spirit suddenly comes upon Samson here in our text to equip him for his calling to be a judge and deliverer.  Just like with Othniel and Jepthah, and later Saul, the Holy Spirit is empowering Samson for a specific task for the redemption of God’s people.

Prior to this, there’s no indication that Samson had any super-human strength.  We’re not told whether as a little boy he was able to do incredible things that no one else could do.  He would have known that he was a Nazirite, but apart from that, there’s nothing to suggest that he knew of how he would deliver Israel from the Philistines.  But now the Spirit of God rushes upon him and he becomes incredibly mighty.  This happens in a way that’s rather violent.  The Spirit is forceful so that Samson very much realizes that he is now so mighty that even the king of the beasts can’t touch him.  With this strength he is being readied to begin saving the people of Israel from their oppressors.

In his office as a judge and deliverer, the imperfect Samson points us ahead to the perfect ultimate deliverer, Jesus Christ.  Think of how Christ was prepared for his office and calling.  In Matthew 3, after Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan, what happened?  The Spirit of God descended upon him like a dove.  Did the Holy Spirit dwell in Jesus before this?  Of course he did.  But this was the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and the Holy Spirit fell upon him to push him on his way to begin carrying out the deliverance of God’s people.  Unlike with Samson, the Spirit did not need to rush upon Jesus in a violent way.  He knew full well what was happening and what it meant.  In his case, the Spirit could simply descend on him gently like a dove.    

But now what was the first thing that Jesus did after his baptism and the Spirit’s falling on him?  He took on a roaring lion.  One of the most powerful descriptions of Satan is found in 1 Peter 5:8.  Peter says, “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  Our Saviour Jesus Christ took on that lion.  Revelation 5:5 tells us that Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the one who conquers.  That roaring lion Satan has no power when confronted by the Spirit-empowered Lion of the tribe of Judah, Jesus.  In Matthew 4, Jesus began defeating him, began his mission to release us from his power, just like Samson was beginning his mission to release the Israelites from the oppression of the Philistines in our text.  Samson could only do that in a limited way, but our Saviour has done it in the most comprehensive and fulsome way imaginable.  What he began in Matthew 4, he finished on the cross.  On Golgotha, he tore that roaring lion to pieces for us.

Brothers and sisters, the same Holy Spirit who empowered Samson and who empowered our Saviour, is also given to the church today, to you and me.  He doesn’t empower us to deliver ourselves or others.  That’s not our calling.  That was the calling of Samson and that pointed to the calling of Christ.  Our calling is laid out in Lord’s Day 12 of the Catechism.  Lord’s Day 12 summarizes what the Bible teaches about the three-fold office of Christ and our three-fold office.  He was anointed with the Spirit to be Prophet, Priest and King.  We share in that anointing.  Part of that is that we as kings “fight with a free and good conscience against sin and the devil in this life.”  We are Christian warriors called to make war against sin and Satan.  The Spirit who equipped Samson for his calling is the Spirit who equipped Christ for his, and will equip us for ours.  He will give us the strength to be able to fight against our enemy, this roaring lion who wants us dead.  Loved ones, let’s keep on praying for his power and strength to help us in this.  Let’s keep on trusting that he will hear our prayers, live in us, and give us what we need so that we can and will fight.

The Holy Spirit certainly gave Samson what he needed.  He empowered him so that the stage was set for the downfall of the Philistines.  After killing that lion, Samson kept it to himself.  It’s not clear why, but it is clear how the LORD worked his deliverance through that too.  No one but Samson knew about the dead lion.  Verse 7 continues the story and we see Samson going to talk with the object of his affections, that Philistine girl.  The author of Judges again tells us that she was right in his eyes.  Not in the eyes of God, but in Samson’s eyes.  This is another reminder that Samson is not the ultimate deliverer, but a sinful man being used for God’s purposes at this point in redemptive history.

A few days later, Samson came back to Timnah to take the woman for his wife.  He wanders through the vineyard again, curious to see what became of the lion he killed.  What he sees surprises him:  inside the carcass is a beehive.  That might sound surprising.  You would think that a rotting carcass would more likely harbour flies than bees.  But in that Middle Eastern climate it apparently often happens that carcasses become almost mummified, dessicated, completely dried out within 24 hours of death.  They can skip decomposition altogether.  If that happens, then no flies.  If that happens, then bees can come along and definitely make a hive within.  That’s what seemed to happen in this case.  There’s a beehive and there’s honey and Samson helps himself.  In passing, we can note that there’s a commentary here again on Samson’s weakness.  Now he’s not only in a vineyard with the grapes, but he’s handling a corpse, a definite no-no for a Nazirite.  Nazirites were to have nothing to do with dead bodies, whether human or animal.  Moreover, he takes some of this honey and brings it to his father and mother and he makes them unclean too, without them even knowing it.  Samson might be a believer, but he’s not a very strong one if you go by the fruits in his life.

Well, eventually he gets to the wedding.  There Samson decided to have some fun and put a riddle to the Philistine guests.  He challenged them to solve it.  If they did, they would get thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.  If they didn’t, he would get that.  The riddle was related to the lion he had been empowered by the Spirit to kill.  “Out of the eater came something to eat, out of the strong came something sweet.”  Sure enough, they figured out a way to solve the riddle.  They blackmailed his wife with death threats and she got it out of him and passed it on.  They brought the answer back to Samson, “What is sweeter than honey?  What is stronger than a lion?”  Their backhanded ways infuriated Samson and the Spirit rushed upon him again and he was empowered to get the garments he owed.  He got them by attacking the town of Ashkelon and killing 30 Philistines all by himself.  That was the beginning of a Philistine blood bath at the hands of Samson.  Single-handedly, Samson began to take apart the Philistines, just like he took apart the lion that started it all.  With the Spirit’s power, Samson was able to begin lifting the Philistine yoke, even though he was a weak and sinful man.  It wouldn’t be until sometime later that the Philistine yoke would be completely lifted.  That would happen through another lion-killer.  Before David killed Goliath, he told Saul of how he would kill lions and bears single-handedly.  He would kill Goliath too, and later, as king, he would decimate the Philistines, defeating them and subjugating them.  But Samson was the one through whom God began all this.   

Loved ones, God worked through Samson to save his people, even though they didn’t deserve it.  Because he loved his people and was bonded to them in the covenant of grace, he went after them and began to set them free.  In the results of the Spirit’s empowerment of Samson then, we see the grace of God for his people.  This too foreshadows the grace of God in our deliverance through Christ.  Though we are prone to wander, God in his love sent his Son to live a perfect life in our place and die on the cross as our substitute.  Though we are more like Samson and his contemporaries than we might care to admit, we have a perfect Saviour in Jesus Christ who has set us free from all the oppression of sin.  Moreover, in his grace, God has also poured out his Spirit on his church.  Through that Spirit, we are empowered to begin living holy lives in preparation for our final deliverance.    

Today on this Pentecost Sunday, we give thanks to God for the gift of his mighty Spirit.  Without him, we would have no faith, no connection to Christ.  Without the Spirit, we would have no strength to fight against sin.  Without him, we would have no freedom, no life.  Beloved, he has been poured out on us, so indeed, let’s sing and exalt his name, “Come praise the Holy Spirit!” AMEN.


O God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit,

We praise your Name as our God who graciously delivers from oppression.  We exalt in you as the One who saves from Satan and sin in Jesus Christ our Saviour.  We lift up your Name as the One who gives us power to fight.  O Holy Spirit, we especially praise you for what you did with Samson in our text.  What an amazing thing:  to tear apart a lion as if it was a young goat!  And then you gave him power to kill 30 Philistines single-handedly.  These things amaze us and lead us to stand in awe of your might.  But we are even more amazed at what you did through our Saviour.  You gave him the power to resist Satan in the wilderness and to conquer him at the cross.  Then you came in power upon the church at Pentecost.  We praise you, Holy Spirit, for being present with us in power so that we can hate sin and fight against it.  Please equip us and strengthen us more and more to do this.  We want to make war, but we need help.  Please give us the help we so desperately need.  We ask you to empower us for our calling so that we can live for the praise and glory of our God. 

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Dr. Wes Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

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