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Author:Rev. Jeremy Segstro
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Congregation:Cloverdale Canadian Reformed Church
 Surrey, BC
 cloverdalecanrc.org
 
Title:The Strong Judge Who Was Weak: A Strange and High Calling Rejected (Samson Part 1)
Text:Judges 13:1-14:10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-01-21
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Note: PM Liturgy

Reading: Numbers 6: 1-21

Text: Judges 13-14:10

 

THE STRONG JUDGE WHO WAS WEAK: A STRANGE AND HIGH CALLING REJECTED

  1. Israel Didn’t Understand - and never asked

  2. Samson’s Parents Didn’t Understand - and continued asking

  3. Samson Didn’t Understand - and lived his own way

 

  1. Psalm 66: 1, 2, 5, 6

  2. Psalm 45: 1, 2

  3. Hymn 79:1-5

  4. Hymn 2

  5. Psalm 34:1-3

  6. Hymn 43:1, 2, 3, 4

 

Words to Listen For: garlic, rock, stutter, puppet, millimeter

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. How is Samson like a (marvel) superhero?

  2. What’s the cycle of sin in Judges?  How does it fit with Samson?

  3. What are the two truths of prayer?

  4. How are we like Manoah?

  5. How does Samson break his vow?

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of Jesus Christ,

In the past decade or so, Superheroes have become extremely popular again. Headed up by Marvel, superhero movies became the new summer blockbuster, producing 23 movies and 22.5 billion dollars since 2008.  They were doing something right.  It was a mixture of the improvements in technology that allowed for some great CGI fights, and a new kind of snarky humor, that produced these results.

But fans have started demanding more.  The flashing lights, bright colours, with the occasional one-liner mixed in, weren’t good enough anymore.  The viewers wanted more substance.

And Marvel listened.  3 separate Marvel TV shows have come out in the past year, diving into the topics of grief, trauma, and identity, respectively.

This afternoon, we are starting our new sermon series.  A sermon series focused on a real life superhero - Samson.  The man whose strength puts him alongside superheroes like Hulk and Thor, and whose riddles and sarcasm put him alongside Iron Man.  But where Marvel matured, Samson did not.  Not until the very end.  Samson was a man who had been given every option, every talent and skill, a man who had been filled with the Holy Spirit.  But he squandered all of these gifts.

He was a

[THE] STRONG JUDGE WHO WAS WEAK: A STRANGE AND HIGH CALLING REJECTED. We will hear:

  1. Israel Didn’t Understand - and never asked

  2. Samson’s Parents Didn’t Understand - and continued asking

  3. Samson Didn’t Understand - and lived his own way

For those who know the book of Judges, you probably know the cycle of sin.

Israel is disobedient to the Lord

          God punishes them with a foreign nation

       The people cry out

       God raises up a judge and the people are saved

       There is peace and faithfulness until the judge dies

                    And then it starts all over again.

God raised up judge after judge, but the people never learned from their mistakes.  And so the cycle continued.  We need to know this cycle, this formula, because the story of Samson is different. Something is missing here.   Listen carefully to the beginning of our text: And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years...and the Angel of the LORD appeared.

The cycle starts the same, disobedience, then punishment...but the people never cried out for help.  And why?  Why is it absent in the story of Samson?

Well, Samson is the last official judge in Israel’s history.  This is the last cycle, and it’s broken - the people were different, the judge was different, the result was different - there was no peace.  After 400 years of alternating between peace and slavery, the spirit of God’s people had been broken.  

The longest period of peace was 40 years - a single generation.  Those who grew up in peace would not know it for their entire lives.  Peace was fleeting, and a conquering nation was always around the corner, waiting to pounce.

They had no lasting peace because they had no lasting obedience.  Generation after generation stubbornly refused to learn from the mistakes of their parents and grandparents and great grandparents.  THIS TIME WILL BE DIFFERENT!  I can enjoy the pleasures of sin and still live in God’s favor...if God even exists.  And this cycle isn’t just in the book of Judges.  It’s throughout Israel’s history:

  • The Israelites were slaves in Egypt for 400 years.  They cried out to God, and He sent them a deliverer in the person of Moses.  But their prayers weren’t even faithful. They prayed to Yahweh...but also worshipped the idols of Egypt.  And when He answered them they weren’t interested.  But they were still His people, and He still saved them with His mighty hand and outstretched arm.

  • In the wilderness, they complained and longed to be back in Egypt, where they feasted on fish, cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic - and it cost them nothing!  This is what they said...completely forgetting that they received this food at the cost of their freedom, and at the cost of their children.  But God still saw them as His people, and so He persisted in His love, and sent them manna and quail.

  • At the mountain, when God gave them His law, they worshipped a golden calf of their own making.  But they were still His people, and He still led them to the Promised Land.

  • At the border of the Promised Land, the people complained, fearful of the nations already there.  They refused to enter and trust the Lord.  But they were still His people, and even through the punishment of 40 years of wilderness wandering, He preserved His nation, and He then led them into the Promised Land.

  • And what happened when they entered those borders?  After some initial victories and short-lived faithfulness, they turned aside to other gods.  They imitated their neighbours, and their neighbours invaded, turning them back into salves.  But they were still His people, and He raised up Judges to save them.

God always listens to His people’s cries.  Even when the prayers are not faithful.  The prayers of the Israelites in Egypt were not faithful, but He still heard them cry.  The prayers of the Israelites in the Promised Land were not faithful, but He still heard them cry. 

Sometimes are prayers are not faithful, and so we have to ask God to forgive us...even for our prayers.  But.  This does not mean that we should never have prayed...or that we should hold off praying until we are PERFECT...for then we will never pray again.  Instead, here are the two truths of prayer:

  1. You will get it wrong

  2. You should still pray

In Israel’s unfaithfulness, they still called out to God.  Sometimes feebly, sometimes sinfully, but they still called out.

Until the days of Samson, that is, when the people seemed to have forgotten God.

The people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.

There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children.  And the angel of the Lord appeared

Let’s pause here.  The story of Samson goes on for another 3 chapters, for another 93 verses.  There is no lack of space for the Holy Spirit to tell us that Israel cried out.  It’s absence is SCREAMING OUT to us here.

For 40 years, the Israelites were enslaved under the Philistines.  And they said, “This is fine.”  This is our lot in life - we were made to suffer.  And so, even without the Israelites calling out to Him, God begins to work salvation for His people.  They were still His people, and He still cared for them.  And 1000 years later, the Israelites were in the same position.  The people were in the Promised Land, but they had not found rest.  They were enslaved - not to the Philistines, but the Romans.  The people had lost hope of being free.  Apart from a few Tax Collectors on one extreme and violent zealots on the other, nearly all of them were sitting in slavery, saying “this is fine.”

But it was in this time...when every heart that wasn’t confused or corrupt was rock hard...it was in this time that God acted and sent a deliverer.  A deliverer whose birth was announced by an angel.  A deliverer whose death brought about salvation.  He came to bring light into a dark world.  He came to deliver His people and He actually succeeded.  He came to be the better Samson - and He was.  He came for us, and His name was Jesus.

But when He came, the people didn’t understand.  They hadn’t understood the punishment, and they didn’t understand the salvation.  This too is pictured for us in the story of Samson.  The people of Israel didn’t understand God’s plan, and so they stopped crying out.  But when He did appear to them, there was no end to the questions of Manoah and his wife.  Our second point.

There was a certain man of Zorah, of the tribe of the Danites, whose name was Manoah. And his wife was barren and had no children.  And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son.  Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean,  for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”

Now there are a few interesting things to note about this couple.  First of all, they have no children.  Manoah’s wife is described as barren.  Today, not having children is not necessarily a sign of the displeasure of God, but in the days of the Judges, this was a sure sign of God’s curse.  Manoah’s wife herself seems to be faithful, from the little that we know, but the rest of the nation were not.

Secondly, though Manoah’s wife is never named, she is, by far, the more faithful spouse.  Her actions and her speech, her understanding and obedience, all point to a real spiritual maturity.  And to Manoah’s wife, this message is given - her womb would be opened, and she would bear a son - Samson - who would be a Nazarite.

And it is telling that the angel of the LORD felt the need to describe what was required of a Nazarite - drink no wine or strong drink, eat nothing unclean...and no razor shall come upon his head.  It seems Israel didn’t know it anymore...they had forgotten.

We read the description of the Nazarite vow in our reading from Numbers 6.  It’s likely not very familiar to you...but you are not Israelites.  The Nazarite vow belongs to the Old Testament ceremonial law, and so has been fulfilled by Christ.  But Manoah and his wife lived over 1000 years before Christ - these ceremonial laws were central to their worship, but they didn’t know them.

And so, not only did the Angel of the LORD describe what is required of a Nazarite - and more on that in our third point - to Manoah’s wife, but when she shared it with her husband, he seems confused, and wants confirmation.

Then Manoah prayed to the LORD and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom you sent come again to us and teach us what we are to do with the child who will be born.”

Manoah believed...but he doubted.  Manoah prayed...in weakness and in doubting, further exemplified in his constant questions, but he still prayed.  He still sought the Lord and His instruction, and his prayer was answered.

When the angel returns, Manoah proceeds to ask various questions, but note the angel’s response - She may not eat of anything that comes from the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink or eat any unclean thing. All that I commanded her let her observe.

The words are nearly identical to what the angel first said, and identical to what Manoah’s wife told him.  God, through His angel, is saying in effect: “Did I stutter?  This is the commandment, it is for you to obey.”

But Manoah continues to ask questions and make offers - and honestly, our heart goes out to Manoah.  He doesn’t understand, he doesn’t have a strong faith, but this is an interaction with God - even through the angel.  After so long without hearing from God, we can sympathize with him - we would be the same, wanting to cling to this angelic being and learn everything we can about him.  Learn everything we can about God.

But we miss exactly the same thing as Manoah missed - GOD HAS SPOKEN.  Manoah had heard the word of the Lord, from his wife, and then directly from the angel.  God had spoken.

And for us, GOD HAS SPOKEN.  He has spoken to us through His Word.  We don’t need to continue to pry into the hidden things of God.  We want revelation...forgetting that we have so much more than we would ever need...right here.

But eventually Manoah understands.  He understands when he offers a sacrifice, which is burned up, with the flame going off into heaven, and the angel following it.  When this happens, Manoah fears for his life - We shall surely die for we have seen God!

But again, his nameless wife wisely comforts and corrects her husband - If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.

She is faithful in her wisdom, and he is faithful, even in his confusion and doubt.  Samson’s parents were faithful...but their son?  The man who had been chosen to be the final judge?  He was unfaithful.  He was foolish.  He was weak.  Our final point.

At the end of chapter 13 we read: The young man grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

The promise of God was fulfilled in Samson.  He was blessed by the Lord, and the Spirit began to stir in his heart.  If we didn’t know the story of Samson, we would think that maybe he is set to be the greatest judge in all of Israel’s history.  With a wise mother and a well-meaning father, with the Lord working in him even in the womb.  He had been given every option, every talent and skill, trained in righteousness when Israel needed him the most.

The end of chapter 13 ends on such a high note - it leaves us with so much hope.  But this hope is dashed in the very next few verses.  Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines.  Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.”

Samson’s first public act recorded by Scripture, is to go into the land of the Philistines, not to fight them, not to defend his people from slavery...but he goes to explore, perhaps tempted by his lusts.  Whatever the reason he went to Timnah, he came back, having fallen in lust at first sight.

You can receive all the promises of God and throw it all away.  With sadness, many of us, if not all of us, know someone who has done this.  Receiving all the beautiful and powerful promises of God, promises made to us already in the womb, promises signed and sealed through baptism, and completely rejecting them, choosing to go their own way, trading in a Godly life for a life of sin and temporary worldly pleasure.  It is tragic whenever it happens, but perhaps even more tragic when it is done publicly.  Perhaps more tragic when it is done by one of God’s chosen leaders.

Samson became morally defiled, gawking at a Philistine woman.  According to the custom of the day, he went back home for his parents to arrange the marriage - Then he came up and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.”  But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.”

Samson, already giving into his lusts, and being defiled by sinful thoughts, went a step further and became what we could call RELATIONALLY defiled.  When his parents reminded him of the commandments of God, not to intermarry among the people of the land, he did not care, and demanded that they be complicit in his sin.  And they gave in.

But here is something interesting - a curious statement in verse 4: His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel.

His father and mother did not know THAT IT WAS FROM THE LORD.

What does this mean?

Can it be “from the Lord” and also be a sin?

Yes.  Yes it can.  It seems strange, it seems contradictory, but it is true.  This is the intersection of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.  God allowed this evil thing to happen, contrary to His law, allowing Samson to act in sin, while at the same time, turning it for good.

This does not make God the author of Samson’s sin.  This does not make Samson innocent, as a mere puppet.

Samson sinned, but God would use it for good.

Samson, a believer, already morally and relationally defiled, would continue to go south spiritually, even as he travelled south geographically.

Then Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnah, and they came to the vineyards of Timnah. And behold, a young lion came toward him roaring.  Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat.  But he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done.

That last sentence is telling - but he did not tell his father or his mother what he had done.

Why?  Why didn’t he tell them?  Because he was embarrassed?  No!  For a young man around the age where he starts to notice women, around the age where he wants to get married to give in to his lust in a somewhat appropriate way...this is the age where posturing and bragging is what happens.

Let me speak personally here - If, coming to church this afternoon, I would have been walking, and a lion attacked me out of nowhere, and I managed to fend it off with my bare hands...not only would I use it as an illustration in the sermon, but I would probably drag the body up here with me and show all of you - LOOK AT WHAT I JUST DID!!

So...what’s going on here?  Is your pastor more prideful than Samson? I hope not!

But Samson doesn’t tell his parents, because he knows that they would disapprove.  Already he is on thin ice with the Philistine woman...but now...in these two verses, he put himself in a position to break his vow, and then he actually broke his vow.  Do you remember the three parts of the Nazarite vow, as explained in Numbers 6?

  1. A Nazarite shall have nothing to do with wine or strong drink.  He is not allowed to eat grapes or raisins.

So what then is Samson doing walking through a vineyard?  Samson, living his life his own way, decides to flirt with temptation.  To flirt a little with sin.  Children, it’s like the game that many of you probably play, annoying your brothers or sisters - you put your finger about a millimeter from their face and say, “I’m not touching you!  You can’t be mad, I’m not touching you!  What are you going to do...tattle on me that I’m NOT touching you?”  This is how Samson was acting.  I’m not actually breaking the vow!  As I walk through the vineyard, my hands might brush against some grapes...but I’m not drinking their juice!  I’m not eating them.  I’m just touching them!  That’s not against the vow!

This was the first part of the Nazarite vow.  What was the second?

  1. No razor shall touch his head.  Nazarites were supposed to grow their hair long.

And for now, Samson kept this part of the vow.  But if you know Samson’s story, you know that he would break this too, before too long.

And third

  1. He shall not go near a dead body.  Not even if he father or mother died.  He could not go near a dead body, or touch it.

Samson flirted with sin by walking through a vineyard, but he dove right in when he killed the lion.  We see after that not only did he break this aspect of his vow out of necessity - being attacked, but we see in verse 8, that some days later, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcass.  So he scooped it out and ate it, giving it to his parents - but again, he did not tell them where it came from.

And then, to cap this all off, in verse 10, we read: His father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do.

And this is where our text for this morning ends.  It ends in a rather strange spot, as the story continues...but more on that story next time. 

Why I wanted to include verse 10 this week, is because, in this verse, Samson goes from flirting with sin, he goes from saying “I’m not eating the grapes!  I’m not really sinning!” to outright sin and rebellion against the first part of his vow.

For the word “feast” here does not only refer to rich food.  This type of feast, the feast that the young men used to do...this is what we would call a kegger.  The word here for feast also can be translated as “drink.”  This is a feast where drinking not only HAPPENED, but where drinking was the MAIN ASPECT - 7 days of drinking and debauchery.

So let’s recap: In his first public outing as a judge, Samson had become morally defiled (lusting after the Philistine), relationally defiled (disrespecting his parents), and ceremonially defiled (breaking two of the three parts of his Nazarite vow).

What shall we take away from this, beloved?  

It’s hard to use just one aspect of Samson’s life as a lesson...because his story continues for another two chapters.  There’s more to his story than his first outing.  And yet, even from the beginning, we can still be encouraged and fed and strengthened for the week to come - in a deeper way than just: Don’t be like Samson.

And yet, this is a good place for us to start.  It’s simplistic, but it’s true.

Do not be like Samson.  God has chosen you, already in your mother’s womb.  He has chosen you, not to be a judge over His people but to be His son or daughter.  He has chosen you, not to be a Nazarite, abstaining from wine and death and haircuts, but to abstain from sin and evil, instead, being clean and holy and pure.

You, like Samson, have received every option, every talent and skill, being filled with the Spirit from the womb.  Do not squander your gift, do not squander your calling as he did.  Do not flirt with sin, because you are playing with fire, and you WILL get burned.

Secondly, do not be like Israel.

Instead, keep crying out to God, do not give up on Him, because no matter how desperate the situation, no matter how much you may believe it...God has not given up on you.  Continue to cry out, even when it seems hopeless.  Continue to cry out ESPECIALLY when it seems hopeless.

Thirdly - since this seems to be too high a task for any of us to fulfill...let us remember the curiosity of verse 4 - His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.

What Samson intended for evil, God intended for good.  Do not take this as a license to sin - God will use it for good no matter what I do…

But rather, if you have sinned, and each one of us has...do not despair.  Do not think that you have out-sinned the grace of God, and that He no longer has a purpose for you.  Let me be blunt - this kind of thinking (and each one of us goes here from time to time), this kind of thinking is theological stupidity.  It's a straight up lie from the devil himself: "Jesus said he was willing to save you? He's not." "Jesus said come to him and he will never cast you out? Jesus didn't know about YOU when he said that"

YOU CANNOT OUT-SIN THE GRACE OF GOD.  YOU AREN’T THAT POWERFUL.

You cannot out-sin His grace, you cannot out-run His love.

Because your sins and wickedness cannot hope to compare with the power of the cross.

And what was the cross?  It was the greatest evil ever committed.  It was the greatest evil, the greatest joy for Satan, the father of evil.  On that day, human responsibility failed.  Humanity sinned the worst sin, but God accomplished the greatest good.  His sovereignty did not fail.

Do not despair in your sins, and do not continue in your sins beloved.  But remember Jesus Christ - remember what He did, all those years ago, for you here today.

Our Saviour is Jesus Christ, not Samson, and thanks be to God!  Samson couldn’t save the Israelites, even with every opportunity and blessing.

Our Saviour is Jesus Christ, not us, and thanks be to God!  We can’t save ourselves, let alone others, even with every opportunity and blessing.

God knows that only one Saviour would do, and so He sent Him.  The better Samson, the perfect man, who was also God.  He gave up every blessing and emptied Himself, but He was successful in His mission anyways.  He was the superhero who would save the day...not every week, fighting off a new villain, but the superhero who would save His people, once and for all.

AMEN.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Jeremy Segstro, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright, Rev. Jeremy Segstro

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