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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: Samson's Failed Attempt at Domesticity (Samson Part 2)
Text:Judges 14:10-15:8 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Added:2022-01-22
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Reading: Philippians 2:1-18

Text: Judges 14:10-15:8

 

SAMSON’S FAILED ATTEMPT AT DOMESTICITY

  1. He Started Alone

  2. He Ended Alone and Angry

 

  1. Psalm 63: 1, 2, 4

  2. Psalm 141: 1, 2, 4, 8

  3. Hymn 23:1-4

  4. Hymn 45:1-3

  5. Hymn 23:5-6

  6. Hymn 54:1, 2, 8

 

Words to Listen For: fifth, street, naked, playground, match

 

Questions for Understanding:

  1. How did Samson’s first outing spell disaster for his marriage?

  2. How is Jesus the opposite of Samson? (multiple examples throughout)

  3. What was so strange about the “friends of the bridegroom” ?

  4. What was so horrible about Samson’s riddle?

  5. Who is the hero in Samson’s story?

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


Beloved in Christ our Lord,

“No man is an island.”

These are the famous words of poet John Donne.

There is no such thing as a completely independent individual.  The collective needs the individual, and the individual needs the collective.  We’re all in this together...essentially.

This was not just thought up by John Donne, but this is a thought original to God.

Genesis 2 - It is not good that man is alone.

As human beings, we were created for intimacy.  We were created for relationships.  For Adam, God created a woman - Eve.  God created a wife for Adam and he rejoiced in her.  But this does not mean that every unmarried man or every unmarried woman is in the state of being “not good.”  Singleness is not a curse...because singleness is not the same as being alone.

Our Lord was single...and He is THE GOOD ONE.  THE RIGHTEOUS ONE.  The Apostle Paul was single...and God used him powerfully in service of the church.  Paul actually  celebrates his singleness.  Because though he was single, he was never alone.

In our text this morning, Samson both started and ended off single.  But this isn’t the problem.  Samson started and ended off ALONE.  He was alone...and that was NOT GOOD.

Let’s examine together Samon’s decidedly NOT GOOD life, this week, we will examine his

[SAMSON’S] FAILED ATTEMPT AT DOMESTICITY

  1. He Started Alone

  2. He Ended Alone and Angry

This past week, I had the privilege of officiating my first wedding.  It was a joyous day, in a picturesque location, with a graceful bride and groom.  It was truly wonderful, and afterwards, I had guests coming up to me, complimenting my message, marvelling that, not only was this my first wedding that I officiated, but that I was also unmarried!  And I do not say this to toot my own horn, but the exact opposite.  The reason that I was able to speak so wisely on the topic of marriage HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ME.  It has everything to do with God.  He speaks so clearly about what is required of husband and wives in His Word.  He gives us examples of good and godly marriages to emulate, and examples of poor marriages to avoid.

And even in Jesus Christ, a man never-married, we have a wonderful picture of what married life is supposed to look like.

I ended off the message by quoting Philippians 2 - our reading this morning.

If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others - your spouse - more significant than yourself.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Both husband and wife are meant to show this kind of maturity.  This kind of humility, this kind of sacrificial leadership and sacrificial submission.

It is interesting...the very qualities in Samson that left him alone are also the qualities that made him a failure as a judge.  Single or married, man or woman, leader or follower, Philippians 2 is the example for you to follow, and Judges 14 is the example for you to avoid.  Let’s dive right in.

The last time we were together, we were introduced to Samson - a man who had everything going for him...every option, every talent, every skill...filled with the Holy Spirit.  A man who could have been such a wonderful SERVANT LEADER to God’s people...this man is one of the most disappointing characters in the whole Bible.  In his first outing as a judge, Samson fell in lust at first sight with a Philistine woman - becoming morally defiled.  He demanded that his parents arrange a marriage, ignoring their good advice, and showing a complete lack of respect - becoming relationally defiled.  A complete lack of submission, not only to his parents and their earthly authority, but a lack of submission to God, and His divine authority.

Samson refused to obey the fifth commandment, and he refused to obey God’s specific commandment against marrying pagan women, an outworking of the 7th commandment.

And then, through his playing around with the corpse of the lion, and through his kegger with his friends, Samson broke 2 of the 3 aspects of his Nazirite vow, becoming ceremonially defiled.

Now, this was right at the beginning of Samson’s ministry...and so we might have a little sympathy for him.  Meeting Samson’s father the last time, we can safely assume that, growing up, he didn’t have good solid, wise guidance in that area.  Having a faithful mother can only go so far.  

We have some sympathy for Samson - deserved or undeserved.  He was a little rebellious in his youth, but now he’s met a nice girl...well...he’s met a woman from the nation of Israel’s enemies...well...even that isn’t quite accurate.  Samson hadn’t even spoken to her until after he demanded to have her as his wife.

So really...what happened here is that Samson has lusted after a woman from his enemies...and now he wants to settle down.  But it’s all downhill from here. Samson shows up in Timnah, says, “I’m new in town” and it just gets worse.  In Samson’s first outing, and in his continued story this morning, we cannot see any kind of sacrificial bone in his body.  Samson’s focus was ME ME ME ME ME.  Nothing else.

I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it.  This was Samson’s motto in life.

  • This is what he thought of women - I see her, and she’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.  I must have her!
  • This is what he thought of where he walked - it seems nicer in the vineyard than on the road.
  • This is what he thought of his hunger - I’m hungry, and here’s some defiled food.  This seems good to me, so I’ll eat it.
  • This is what he thought of his pleasure - this is what the young men used to do, throw keggers - so this is what I will do too.  Who cares if it’s against my vow.

This constant stream of narcissism - ME ME ME ME and NOBODY ELSE...it spelled trouble.

Compare Samson to our Saviour.  Compare the bad, sinful, horrific example to the good, perfect, and shining example.

Jesus Christ had every right to come to this earth in glory, and make it all about Him.  But instead of grasping onto His rightful glory, He released it...for us.  He didn’t count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but He emptied Himself - of His glory, His station, HIs recognizability as God...and was born as a servant.

He was God, and took the form of a servant.

Samson was born, essentially in slavery to the Philistines, and he acted like he was a god.  He was certainly his own god.

And there were consequences.  Whether Samson never had any friends, or if he simply alienated them by acting in a prideful manner every day of his life, when we see him...he is alone.

Never, in Judges 13, 14, 15, or 16, does Samson march with an army.  Never, in his story, does he work with a band of soldiers, or strategize with other leaders.

And we see that in his wedding too.  Samson is alone.

What does our text say?

His father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do.  As soon as the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him.

They brought thirty companions to be with him.

This may have struck you as strange, but... “Maybe it was normal for the time - that you don’t know your bridal party!”  But it’s not normal.  It was just as strange then as it is now.  And, if anything, Jewish tradition in the days of Samson, had even higher standards for the “friends of the bridegroom” as they are typically called.  According to tradition, the friends of the bridegroom were the most important people at the wedding.  These friends were to:

  • Prepare the wedding ceremony

  • Prepare the reception

  • Protect the bride and the groom from any harm

  • Deliver love notes between the two

  • Make and send out the wedding invitations

  • And even guard the bridal chamber, making sure that only the husband would enter.

These friends would be the most trusted friends of the bride and the groom, the most responsible, the wisest and most faithful.  These friends would be chosen with the utmost care.  But not for Samson!  These were just 30 guys from off the street!  If Samson BARELY knows his wife-to-be, he definitely did not know these men.

Samson did not bring his own friends because he didn’t have any friends.  He wasn’t just the independent TYPE, he defined himself by his independence.  It wasn’t just a PART of him, an ASPECT of his character...it was Samson’s defining feature.  A lone ranger.  A loose canon.  A man who thought he was an island, and could do it alone.  But we know that man was not created to be alone.  It is not good for man to be alone.

We are supposed to follow the example of our King, not this judge.  We are supposed to follow the example of Christ, not Samson.

For Jesus Christ was not independent in how He acted or in how He lived.  One of the first acts in His earthly ministry was to gather followers to Himself.  He went and gathered the 12 disciples that would be His companions for the next few years.  Jesus did not ACT independently.  And He did not LIVE independently.

These sound exactly the same - acting and living - but here is the distinction - you can be surrounded by friends, and still live for your own purposes.  You can gather minions around yourself, never be ALONE...but still live a selfish and prideful life.

But Jesus did neither.  He surrounded Himself with FRIENDS, not SERVANTS.  He lived, not for Himself (if He wanted to do that, He would have stayed in Heaven), but He lived and worked and struggled and sweated and BLED for others.  For those who were, by nature, His enemies.  For those who didn’t understand Him or hated Him and tried to kill Him.

Now, there are definitely some differences here between us and Christ...Jesus surrounded himself with disciples for THEIR BENEFIT - Jesus is God.  He could not be alone, but He was always in constant communion with the Father and the Spirit.  His friends weren’t for HIS BENEFIT, but for THEIRS.

Samson also should have surrounded himself with people - for their benefit - if he was a faithful leader, but also for his own benefit! Because sinful people like us...we need others to keep us accountable, to call out our sin.  We are flawed and fragile, always veering off the right path into sin.

Think of it like this - you know spellcheck, on your computer?  Sometimes you type too fast, misspell a word, or you put in completely the wrong word.  Your spell-check catches it, draws it to your attention, and offers a few solutions.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have spellcheck for your life?  A little pop up when we are starting to go wrong and say: What about these other options instead?

But here’s the thing!  We HAVE this spellcheck in our life!  They’re called friends.  When you surround yourself with good friends, they will see you walking down a bad road and say to you: I know your track-record, don’t do this!  I love you enough to get in your face and tell you that this isn’t good!  Please do one of these things instead!

But Samson refused friends.  Samson decided to act alone, and it WAS NOT GOOD.  He rejected God’s plan for his life and had to live with the consequences.

God still worked through Samson...but He worked DESPITE Samson.  At every turn, Samson got in God’s way.  We know, of course, no matter how strong Samson was, no matter how many lions he tore apart with his bare hands and how many gates he lifted and carried to the top of a hill...his strength could not equal God’s strength.  And so God’s will WAS done.

But think of how great an example Samson COULD HAVE BEEN if he let go of his pride and submitted to his God?

But instead, Samson blocked his ears, and refused to submit.  He only had ears for his own opinion.  Samson started alone, and he would end alone, and angry.  Our second point.

You wouldn’t think that a story about a wedding would end with the groom alone and angry at his parent’s house…. Let alone with  the bride and her father burned to death, and 30 corpses lying naked 25 kilometers away.  But this is Samson’s story.

Marriage is such a blessing when it’s done right, and such a curse when it’s done wrong.  And Samson’s marriage, even though it lasted all of a week...caused more trouble than most other failed marriages.  And we know exactly why.  Samson refused to listen to God.  This is what God said about marriage in Ephesians 5- Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church...giving Himself up for her.

Samson would not be prepared to do that!  He was not a Philippians 2 sort of man, nor an Ephesians 5 sort of man.  Not ONCE do we read of Samson acting in the interests of anyone but his own.  Let’s take a look.

As soon as the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him.  And Samson said to them, “Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can tell me what it is, within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes, but if you cannot tell me what it is, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.” And they said to him, “Put your riddle, that we may hear it.”  And he said to them,

“Out of the eater came something to eat.

Out of the strong came something sweet.”

This riddle is actually a horrific example of Samson’s continued rebellion.  This might seem like an overreaction, but truly, it’s not.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with riddles in and of themselves, and some sources even say that it was typical and expected at a wedding feast to test each other with riddles.  But this particular riddle...it is horrible.  First off, it’s not even really a riddle. It’s a poetic description of what happened THIS ONE TIME...TO HIM.  It’s a foolish teasing song like you would see on the playground.  This doesn’t test the intelligence of his opponents with clever wordplay...it’s a “riddle” designed to make them fail and humiliate them.

But secondly, and far more importantly than the integrity of Samson’s riddle was Samson’s own integrity.  In this riddle, Samson was making a joke out of his own sin.

Remember - Samson was a Nazirite.  Touching a corpse was forbidden to him.  He was set apart from God as a Naziritie and a judge, and he was an utter failure at both.

And what’s worse than Samson’s failures...because we all sin, we all have fallen short of the glory of God...what is worse...is that he didn’t care.  What’s worse is that he made it all into some kind of big joke.

It takes a special kind of person, not only to be CASUAL about becoming ceremonially defiled, not CARING that you have broken this vow that you had followed since the womb...but there is a special and horrific kind of callousness when you make a joke out of disobeying God.

Samson is the worst kind of leader - worse, in many ways, than even the Philistines who took over the land.

Samson is the leader, specially ordained by God for this task, and, at every turn, Samson shows that it is Samson that sits on the throne of his heart and not God.

It is not that Samson is an unbeliever.  It is not that Samson is a pagan, whose mind and heart and actions are all aligned in their nefarious, anti-God goals for their life.

But Samson is worse than a pagan, because, outwardly, he is one of God’s people.  Outwardly, he serves God.  Remember that the Nazirite was very obviously devoted to God, devoted to a different sort of life.  A higher sort of calling.

Remember, at this point, Samson still had long hair.  No man at this point in history had long hair.  This was an outward symbol to the world that Samson cared about more than his appearance.  He cared about something more than how the world would perceive him.  But what did his actions show?  His actions showed that he was a loose canon.  A lone ranger, with no hint of submission, no hint of servant leadership.  Only anger, only selfish pride.  As such, he made God into a laughingstock.

“THIS IS THE BEST that Yahweh has?”

“THIS is Yahweh’s champion?”

It can make you think of David and Goliath.  They laughed at David, because, in his appearance, he was weak.  In his appearance, he showed no threat to this mighty warrior.  But his strength was in God, and his actions displayed it.

Samson was the opposite.  His appearance was that of a holy man, but his actions were quite the opposite.

 

The Philistines couldn’t solve Samson’s non-riddle riddle, and, concerned only about their wallets, not wanting to give 30 linen garments, threatened Samson’s new bride and her father: On the fourth day they said to Samson's wife, “Entice your husband to tell us what the riddle is, lest we burn you and your father's house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?” 

Hold up.  WE WILL BURN YOU AND YOUR FATHER’S HOUSE WITH FIRE...BECAUSE WE DON’T WANT TO SPEND MONEY…

When we read the story of Samson, when we read the story of most of the Judges, we are meant to be shocked.  These stories are meant to shock us, because there are no good characters.  We look for someone to root for, and we come up empty.  Each and every character is devoid of any sense of morality.  Samson is a foolish, narcissistic, laughingstock.

The Philistines put no value on human life, willing to utterly destroy their own people.  This is a land with no hope.  A people with no goodness or wisdom.  They are morally bankrupt.  These are Samson’s groomsmen.

And so Samson’s new wife, on what should be one of the happiest days of her life, faced with her imminent death, begins to weep.  She weeps and weeps.  What a good start to a marriage - your wife crying through the honeymoon.

She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted, and on the seventh day he told her, because she pressed him hard.

Samson’s wife got her way, not because he showed her any love, but just because he wanted her to stop crying.

So, to save her life, she told the Philistines.  And it’s interesting.  Samson’s wife, in this way, seems to be a good match for her husband.  They are both lying, manipulative, horrible people!  If either one of them had been honest with each other, one of the pillars of a good marriage, if either one of them had seen and understood their call for sacrificial authority or sacrificial submission, they would not be in this mess.  But each of them made the other one WORSE.

She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted, and on the seventh day he told her, because she pressed him hard. Then she told the riddle to her people.  And the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down,

“What is sweeter than honey?

What is stronger than a lion?”

And he said to them,

“If you had not plowed with my heifer,

you would not have found out my riddle.”

There is no love lost between Samson and his wife.  The lust he felt at first sight seems to have dimmed, and there is no foundation of love underneath.  He calls her a heifer - a young, immature, female cow.  And there is no cultural nuance here - this was just as insulting then, as it is today.

Samson had lost, and it was his own fault.  But instead of taking responsibility, instead of showing wisdom and restraint, Samson flew into a rage.  At any point, Samson could have de-escalated the tensions.  He should have listened to his parents and never married this woman.  He should have wondered to himself why the friends of the bridegroom were no friends of his.  He should have wondered why not knowing the answer to a riddle would make his new wife cry for days upon end.  He should have lost with dignity.

But the Spirit of the LORD still filled him.  We read that in the very next verse.

The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave the garments to those who had told the riddle.

The Spirit of the LORD is not only there to provide supernatural strength.  He is not there to obey your commands, but rather the opposite.  The Spirit of the LORD is also the Spirit of wisdom.  But Samson foolishly refused to listen and shut off that part of himself.  Again, compare your judge and your King.

Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit, went through the countryside, casting out demons, healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching the good news of the Kingdom.  The same Spirit who filled Jesus filled Samson.

But what did he do?  Did he do ANYTHING to help those who were suffering under the oppression of the Philistines?  No! Instead, he used his supernatural gifts for his own benefit, for his own foolish, selfish interest.

The Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave the garments to those who had told the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father's house.

In the power of the Spirit of the LORD, Samson once again showed his lack of holiness.  His lack of reverence for the things of the Lord.  He broke his vow...again.  In order to get 30 garments of clothing from dead men, you have to touch...the corpse.  AGAIN Samson broke his Nazirite vow - and all because of his anger and pride!

And we see that this mighty act of murder did not satisfy his bloodlust, because he is still in hot anger when he goes back to his father’s house.  He goes back to his father’s house and not to be with his new bride, because it was anger and not love that controlled Samson’s heart.

And how does this story end?

Samson’s bride is given to his best man, Samson again flies into a rage, and this time, he doesn’t DIRECTLY kill anyone, but rather, he ties foxes together, lights them on fire, and sets them loose, destroying not only the wheat, an entire season of work, but also what was stored from previous years.  Samson directly caused hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage, throwing a tantrum like a child...only Samson was a very large child, capable of real damage.

Samson DIRECTLY caused property damage, and indirectly, his actions led to his wife and her father being killed, burned with fire, as the Philistines were initially threatening to do.

So what do we learn from Samson’s story?

  • Samson was a failure

    • He was a failure as a judge

    • He was a failure as a husband

Conclusion: Samson’s story is a superhero story with no hero at all.

Is this true?  No.  Even though each one of the points leading up to the conclusion is true, each one of these points is indisputable fact...the conclusion itself is wrong.  

Because Samson’s story...isn’t about Samson.  We can see that from the start.  What we heard last time.  Israel didn’t make the first move.  They didn’t cry out...but God visited them anyways.  Samson’s mother didn’t ask for a special baby, but she was given one.  Samson didn’t ask to be filled with the Spirit, but he was.

Samson, for all his bluster, Samson, for all his proud pretenses, pretending to be his own god...Samson isn’t even the main character in his own story.

God is the Saviour.  God is the hero.

Sometimes we get this idea in our heads that God only BECAME the Saviour in the New Testament.  That all throughout the Old Testament, there were just these failed attempts, and finally God got out of his chair and said, “I’ll do it myself.”  But God was not sitting back for thousands of years simply watching humanity fail…He was at work since the first rebellion in the garden.  God is the real power behind Samson, not Samson himself.  God was the real power behind every leader that Israel ever had.  Whether foolish Samson, wicked King Saul, faithful David, or even the cruel and corrupt King Herod.  It was all God, and His purpose still came to pass.  His purpose of sending His Son to save His people.  His purpose of Christ as King.

Jesus Christ is the true King that we should worship, follow, and imitate, not Samson, the lone-ranger, the angry, foolish judge.  No man is an island.  And when you choose someone to depend on...don’t settle for a sinful human judge, when you can have a perfect divine King.

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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