10/14/2018 = Judges 13-16 = Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS: Samson & Delilah – “Strength vs Weakness”

Mark Wheeler

Judges 13-16

Everything I Need to Know I Learned in VBS:

Samson & Delilah – Strength vs Weakness

10/14/2018

Lidgerwood Presbyterian Church

 

Through the Written Word,           

And the spoken word,

          May we know Your Living Word,          

Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.                

 

Have you ever been the victim of a bully? Most of us know bullies – most of us probably are bullies sometimes, maybe without even knowing it. One of the main ingredients into the making of a bully is the simple ingredient of self-importance.

I think my opinion is more vital than your opinion, therefore I might bully you without even recognizing it. If I happen to have more power or authority than you, bullying is even easier and more naturally develops.

That’s not to make excuses for bullies, it is, rather, a warning that we all ought to be aware of ourselves.

 

The point for us is that, more than likely, the “stuff of life” really NOT all about us!

 

Today we read a Bible story about a Bible hero who was also a bully – one who took advantage of those who were weaker, of lesser position in life, and with fewer resources. But before he died, he confessed his bullying sin and prayed for one more chance to do what was right, to be the right kind of person.

 

We are making progress through our current Sermon Series as we look at some of our favorite VBS and Sunday School lessons – stories of Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the flood, and a few about Abraham & Isaac & Jacob, & Moses, & Joshua & Rahab, & Ruth & Boaz. Today we go back one book (but not in time) to the history book of Judges and read about probably the most well-known of these Jewish leaders – the great strongman named Samson.

 

Listen to the Word of God from Judges 13-16 (Pp. 180f)…. —-

For context – two weeks ago we read the Joshua story when the Israelites crossed the Jordan River and entered the Promised Land. In that story we met Rahab. The rest of Joshua tells us about the Israelites filling the land of Canaan, from east of the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea, from just north of the Egyptian wilderness to the Syrian and Lebanon border.

Last week we read Ruth, which takes place, “in the days when the judges ruled…”. It is those days that we read about today!

The book of Judges tells of the days before there were any Jewish kings – and there are a lot of stories here – but none that have been told and retold, in movies, in books, in plays, in cartoons, as many times as the one we look at today. Hear the Word of God …. —-

 

In the days after Joshua leads the Israelite nomads from their 40-years in the wilderness after 400 years in Egypt into the Promised Land, the Israelite people have no king, in part because their theology teaches them that they follow God, God is their King! We all know that that did not last forever, but for about 700 years this nation is led by a succession of 14 men and one woman known as “Judges” – leaders, deliverers/saviors, even.

(Last week we read about Ruth, the Moabite woman who married Boaz and became the great-great grandmother of the future King David. Ruth and Boaz lived during this time, probably early on – during the leadership of the second or third Judge.)

There are dozens of good, fun, worthwhile stories from the book of Judges. We are going toward the end of the book to visit the 13th Judge (13th of 15).

As is true with many of the stories of heroes in the Bible, this one starts with a couple who can’t seem to have a baby. When they have just about given up an angel appears to the wife and tells her, “For many years you have wanted a son; soon you will have one. Your child will be very special. God will make him strong, so that he can begin to rescue, to deliver, to save the Israelites from the Philistines. But you must raise him very carefully. From the day he is born he is to be dedicated to God, so you must never cut his hair!”  (Quick one-second pop quiz: what is this Judge’s name? SAMSON!)

Not cutting one’s hair was part of the Nazirite vow of dedicating one’s self to the service of God! This was always a self-imposed dedication, and always one with an end-date! Samson’s mother was told to make this vow on behalf of her son, and that it would last a life-time!

As Samson starts to grow he displays some amazing skill. He was like Barney and Betty Rubble’s son BamBam – boy, does that age me?! – super strong! But Samson is also a little like a spoiled brat! Because he is so strong, he gets whatever he wants! Eventually, after he grows up, he marries a Philistine woman – those are the enemies! But if Samson wants her, Samson gets her! (Is this a sort of #MeToo thing, maybe …) While his parents do not approve of this marriage, it certainly appears that God doesJudges 14 tells us, “His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.”

And there are stories of Samson killing a lion with his bare hands. Later while going down that same road, he finds the skeletal remains of that lion, and a beehive, with a honeycomb, inside the ribcage. He challenges his Philistine wife’s family and friends to a riddle that he is sure he will win: “Out of the eater came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet. What is it?

The Philistines are baffled by this riddle, and when they are just about ready to give up, they bribe Samson’s Philistine wife to tell them the answer – so she tricks Samson into revealing the riddle to her (honey inside a lion), and she tells her relatives, and when they give Samson the correct answer he is furious!

For years after that he fights and kills Philistine armies, singlehandedly! He catches 300 foxes, and ties their tails together in pairs, and attaches a lit torch to their tied tails! Of course the foxes run around like crazy, catching fire to every crop the Philistines have! What Samson is doing is saving the Israelites from the Philistine rule!

In another story, his own Israelite people turn him over to the Philistines, with his permission. He walks in to the Philistine encampment, his hands tied with a rope, and the Israelite people think they have won a peace agreement with the Philistines. But Samson uses this as an excuse to be inside the enemy territory, he breaks off his ropes, and grabs the jaw bone of a donkey and kills 1,000 Philistine soldiers, singlehandedly!

Years later the 1949 Cecil B. DeMille movie takes over (I actually found something like a dozen movies about Samson and Delilah – most of them do not tell the same story as what the Bible tells!)! Yes, Samson marries another Philistine woman – a beautiful woman named Delilah – another foreign-woman, another daughter of the enemy, who betrays her husband and reveals the secret of his strength being his obedience to the vow to never cut his hair – and she cuts his hair!

Samson is now captured, blinded, and bound with chains to serve as a slave! But over the course of the years as he is slaving away at the Philistine grainyards, grinding the grain into meal. He is dejected, of course, but he remembers what his mother had taught him about being specially called by God, about his vows to serve God his whole life, and about the importance of keeping those vows.

Samson renews his vows, and while a slave his hair grows long again. And while in the city of Gaza, the Philistine leaders are having a huge party, and with the wine flowing and the feast going, someone hollers for some entertainment – “How about that ‘strong man’ coming out and doing something special?!

And, boy, howdy, does he ever! Bound and shackled, blind and humbled, Samson, literally, tears the house down – his strength is back, his vows are renewed, he has confessed his selfish, greedy use of his strength, and he is recommitted to serving God – he tears the house down on top of himself and some 3,000 Philistine officials died at Samson’s singlehanded, last ditch, effort to be faithful to God!

 

So, what is God doing with this story? It’s much more than a mere romance story of two star-crossed lovers. It’s much more of a dark-comedy with a heroic-tragic end. I see at least two lessons about what God does with and for His people:

  • God sovereignly rules the courses of life. From the birth of a late-born son to the marriage of two enemy-reared wives. From the biggest blessings in life to the most difficult circumstances we find ourselves in. God is in charge.
    • That’s what God does for you, too. He sovereignly ordains the events of our days – the healthy births of our babies to the tragic losses of our loved ones. Our Almighty God is in charge of our days and our nights.
    • Over all the earth, You reign on high… over every thought, over every word … won’t You reign in me again! – Let’s pray that prayer every day.

 

  • With God all things are possible! One man, by himself, conquers the entire enemy armythat’s the work of God!
    • And God absolutely holds that promise for us. God can save even the bully Samson. He can, and does, send His one and only Son because He loves you that much, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life!

 

What does this story ask of us? How do we respond to this Samson-story?

  • Samson, in the end, blind and beaten, confesses his sin of self-seeking and self-importance.
    • Let’s confess our tendency to want things our way, confess our culture’s inclination to take advantage of those with less ability, confess our personal propensities to please ourselves at the expense of doing what’s right.
      • Paul tells us, I Corinthians 12, “But [the Lord] said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
      • We, too, can find our strength to endure, the patience to wait it out, the forbearance to not give up, the faith to keep hanging on, when we believe and trust in God’s grace through Jesus Christ His Son.

 

  • Samson’s mother made a Nazirite vow to God that Samson would serve God his whole life.
    • When we make a vow to our Lord and Savior – or when we recognize His role in our lives – do everything we can to actually live like we believe what we say we believe!!

 

Friends, God loves you, and He longs to give that love to you.

 

Thank You, YHWH God, for not hiding this embarrassingly self-centered bully from us, for using his stories of lust and greed and violence to remind us how You, YHWH God, created the universe, and as its creator You own Your creation! Thank You for reminding us that in Your perfect will You can even use our very imperfect decisions and actions to bring about Your ultimate purpose. Thank You for our Moms whose faith instills in us our own faith in Your saving grace. Forgive my self-centered life style and bring me back to Your perfectly powerful and grace-filled presence. Through Christ our Lord, in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Resources:

Batchelor, Mary; The Children’s Bible in 365 Stories; Lion Pub.; Oxford; 1985; Pp. 114-120.

 

https://www.biblica.com/articles/7-things-you-didnt-learn-about-samson-in-sunday-school/

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