Handed Over By His Own People

January 13, 2019 Speaker: Drew Narmour

Topic: Default Scripture: Judges 15:9–15:20

Handed over by His Own People

Well, before we get started, I just want to say thank you for letting me be here this morning.  A few months ago I booked my plane ticket in order to be here for my hybrid courses at RTS and I thought it would be nice to get here a few days early so I’m not so rushed and be able to check out Orlando Grace and see all my friends and get to hear Jim preach again.  It didn’t quite turn out that way, but nonetheless, I am more than happy to be able to step in on short notice and help.

I also want to say that I only know four people here.  Jim, Michael, and Robert and Skyler.  And if those men and their families are in even a small way a resemblance of the whole church body here then I would say that this is a special group of people.  

9 Then the Philistines came up and encamped in Judah and made a raid on Lehi. 10 And the men of Judah said, “Why have you come up against us?” They said, “We have come up to bind Samson, to do to him as he did to us.” 11 Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so have I done to them.” 12 And they said to him, “We have come down to bind you, that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.” And Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not attack me yourselves.” 13 They said to him, “No; we will only bind you and give you into their hands. We will surely not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him. Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. 15 And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men.

  • And Samson said,

“With the jawbone of a donkey,     heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of a donkey

    have I struck down a thousand men.”

  • As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand. And that place was called Ramath-lehi.
  • And he was very thirsty, and he called upon the Lord and said, “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19 And God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came out from it. And when he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore the name of it was called En-hakkore; it is at Lehi to this day. 20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.

But the passage for us today is Judges 15 - and as you’re turning I want to note that we will be pretty much all over Judges 13-16 not just in this passage.  We will look at Samson’s life or mostly just the first 2/3s of his story.  

I have to imagine Samson is among the most misunderstood people of the Old Testament.  Im not sure what image of Samson you get in your head when you first hear his name, but if we were to play a word association game and you were to say the first word that came to mind when I mention the name Samson, Im sure most of the responses would be “strength.”

And for good reason.  It is easy to associate a man, who tore a lion open with his bare hands (ch 14:6) and although he had nothing in his hand, he tore the lion in pieces as one tears a young goat.  I’m not sure what that last part means because I’ve never torn a young goat, but I guess that means he made it look easy.  Tearing a young goat doesn’t seem all that easy, but that seems to be the implication.   

It’s easy to think a man who, in our passage, killed a 1000 men with the jawbone of a donkey, who at the end of his life brought a massive building down by pulling two pillars together it’s natural to associate him with incredible strength.  

Especially because Samson has been sort of immortalized in our culture today by Hollywood and other media or literature.  There have been at least nine movies that I counted for a character that appears in only four chapters in the Bible.  And of course Im sure in all of them he is picture as a hulk-type figure.  One actually came out this year in February and I meant to watch it before this, but it got such bad reviews I just couldn’t put myself through it.  (IMDB)

So Samson’s life is often portrayed positively.  Someone we ought to look to as a hero.   And if he’s not a hero, we should look up to, at least we should try to emulate in some way.  I read an article the other day about how we should be like Samson or have a similar relationship to God because of how he turned to God.  

With all due respect with that author, I believe they completely missed the point of

Judges - especially the Samson narrative.  We are not supposed to want to be like

Samson we are supposed to identify with the wickedness, and yes, the weakness of Samson.  Because the story of Samson is not a story of how a great warrior defeated thousands of his enemies that were oppressing his troubled people, the story of Samson is a story of how God began to deliver a wicked people with a weak person.  

So that’s what I want to look at this morning - the grace and power of God as he accomplishes his will for a stubborn Israel through Samson.  

Narrative - look at the four main characters in this passage.  

  1. The Philistines 2. The Israelites 3. Samson 4. God

1. The Philistines

What we need to know in any good story is the setting.

The Philistines had the power

  • The Philistines were brutal/wicked
    • In the OT the Philistines are constantly nagging the Israelites. They were a great terror for them for many years.  They were like many nations around them, barbaric  in their conquering of other nations.  Some commentators have highlighted the gruesome mutilation and execution of groups of people they saw as threats.  Their weaponry was highly advanced, they were the first ones to make iron for their weapons.  
    • Not only this but they were also known for their breweries and wineries in which they used heavily. Their wedding celebrations which we see an example of at Samson’s weeding in chapter 14 were referred to as “Misteh” which translates to “drinking feast” which lasted 7 days.  Most of the time at wedding receptions Im ready to go home at like 10:30 and I’m tired, I don’t even have a category for seven days.  
  • The Philistines were militarily superior/larger
  • The Philistines were architecturally superior
    • These are things you never think about like when did people start doing two story buildings? Well the Philistines are some of the earliest cultures we see who have developed this.  In chapter 16 the building Samson brings down had 3000 people on the second level.  
    • They had more impressive buildings, bridges, pottery, etc.  
    • They were more numerous and were no doubt economically well off.

All of this comes at a time when Israel was none of these things.  Israel by these standards, were far inferior - no where close to the prosperity, security, and no earthly king to lead them.  You have to imagine what it would have been like for a common Israelite.  The grass would have definitely looked greener on that side of the middle east.  

The Philistines were attractive.  Here’s the thing, this is a big problem for Israel.    

See God is set on having a people for himself, and if the Israelites begin to assimilate with the Philistine culture, eventually they would ignore Yahweh and begin to worship other gods, eliminating Israel altogether.   

This is very dangerous because it’s enticing to Israel.  Israel’s problem is not that there is an enemy that they must run away from, but there is an enemy they are tempted to run to.  This has always been the most dangerous thing for Israel.  Elimination not by extermination, but by assimilation.  That’s the dilemma - how does Israel do?

  1. The Israelites.

How does Israel respond?

Ch. 13:1 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

What is so insightful about the beginning of the Samson narrative is that it is unlike the previous judges leaders in a major way.

RRRR - Rebell, Repent, Rescue, Rest

No repentance. Israel is exactly where God did not want them to be.  

It is so bad that in our passage in chapter 15: 11 Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so have I done to them.”

And then they bind him up and hand him over.  His own people take him and bring him to what they assume is his death.  

So how has Israel responded?  By completely giving in to Philistine rule.  It has gotten so bad they don’t even realize what they done, they don’t realize there is a problem they just give in.  How often we give in as well?

See it may not be the Israelite nation vs. the Philistines today, but there is still a battle between two kingdoms.  The kingdom of heaven and earth.  Just as dangerous as assimilation with other nations was for Israel so is assimilation with the world for New Testament Christians.

This battle is referenced often in the NT..

Phil 3:20 - But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,

Romans 12:2 - Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

1 John 2:15-17 - Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

We have a God we are all too ready to ignore because of how enticing the things of the world can be.  And we have to deal with a very tough question - are we falling into the same trap as Israel was?  This is not an easy question to answer because at the heart of the issue is ignorance right?  Israel didn’t repent because they didn’t realize a need.  

So how do you draw out ignorance in your heart?  Because if I just say go home and pray and read your Bible, those that have given into the world won’t because, like the Israelites, - you will just either forget or undervalue it.  

Im going to try a few questions that will only begin to help us wrestle with our deepest emotional attachments.  Is it the heavenly kingdom or the earthly one?  Again this is just scratching the surface.

  • So two general questions - first, where do you spend your time?
  • Something that has convicted me lately has come with latest OS update from Apple for their iPhone. If you have an iPhone which is all but probably 2 people in the room - you know where Im going with this.
  • There is a new feature that shows time spent on your phone
  • Breaks down daily, what apps, what categories you are spending the most time in - SM, Internet, Reading.
  • I have been very disgusted by my results to say the least. I have found it hard to bring my time down to under 3 hours a day.  
  • What is it like for you? Of course there are many other ways we ought to check how we are spending our time, but the smartphone has changed life as we know it.
  • What are you spending your money on?
    • And when you are deciding your budgets, what is the barometer. Is it decided through prayer or is it largely based on what those around you have?
    • Some other quick questions:
  • What drives the decisions you make? Other people?

- Is the most important factor in the person you chose to marry, how attractive you find them?

  • Parents - do you find your self more concerned with the popularity of your high school kids than if they are pursuing a godly life?

- Do you find yourself more concerned that your college daughter will marry someone successful or that she will marry a godly man?

Folks I could continue, I don’t want to - but we have to see how important this is!  If the world is driving the way we spend our money, spend our time, how we parent our kids what decisions we make in life - if earthly prosperity is our motivation for everything then that is fairly good evidence we look more like Israel than we do a regenerate Christian.  A question we must ask ourselves is it the world having its way with us?

Screwtape illustration - Uncle Screwtape writing to his Nephew Wormwood about how best to deceive people, how to make sure they don’t become Christians -  

“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is "finding his place in it", while really it is finding its place in him. His increasing reputation, his widening circle of acquaintances, his sense of importance, the growing pressure of absorbing and agreeable work, build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth which is just what we want. You will notice that the young are generally less unwilling to die than the middleaged and the old.

So inveterate is their appetite for Heaven that our best method, at this stage, of attaching them to earth is to make them believe that earth can be turned into Heaven at some future date…Real worldliness is a work of time”

Its a slow painful elimination by assimilation with the world.  Just like the soil in the parable of the soils that gets choked out by the weeds.

James 4:4 - You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

So in Israel we see a people that has rebelled in one way and in our next character we see a different type of rebellion.   

3. Samson

Samson falls more clearly with the traditional understanding of rebellion.

One of the most fascinating things about the Samson narrative is how strikingly similar his birth narrative is to the birth narrative of Jesus.  

  • Just like Jesus Samson had a miraculous birth
    • Mary was a virgin and Samson’s mother was barren
  • Just like Jesus, Samson was given a special duty to save
    • 5 the angel of God says that Samson will “begin to save Israel”
  • But that is almost where the similarities end.  
    • Samson was supposed to be a deliver of his people. A person that was to have his people’s well being on his mind at all times. Instead - Samson is portrayed as one of the most selfish people in the Bible
    • Samson was given a special status by God and at every turn in his life we see him fail. Because he was a Nazarite, he had 3 special obligations.  He was to abstain from alcohol - He was to never touch a dead body and he was to not cut his hair.
  • Not only does Samson fail miserably at all three of these, you can almost read the Samson narrative as being about how he failed all three.
  • Chapter 14 Samson decides he wants to marry and he chooses a Philistine which was prohibited for Jewish people. When his parents push back he responds by saying in 3 - Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.
  • 6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes,
  • If I had to choose a statement that describes Samson best it is this one right here. Someone who simply does what he wants - and listens to no one.   
  • He reminds me of the character Veruca Salt in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory - whatever he wants he makes sure he gets.
  • Lastly he is motivated by vengeance.
  • Each action against the Philistines is because of something they have done to him and the cycle continues to his death
  • 15 the Israelites ask him why he has done what he’s done he says in v.11

“As they did to me, so have I done to them.”

So again here is a person living in open rebellion against God.  Maybe you’re here this morning and your life looks more like Samson’s than the Israelites.  Maybe you grew up in the church and at some point walked away from the faith and have been living like Samson - without concern for the things of God.  Maybe you have been far away from God and done things in which you deeply regret.

If that’s you, Im honestly honored you are with us this morning.  There are so many other things you can do other than listen to me talk, but thank you for being here.   

Well whether you find yourself relating more to Samson or the Israelites the good news for both people is the same.  That brings us to the final character in the Samson narrative - the one that is sadly often overlooked and that’s of course God.  

4. God

If you ever doubt that God can love someone that’s not worthy of His affection turn to the book of Judges.  Specifically Samson - No one is more undeserving. God goes to great lengths to remind us of that. 2 Reasons he does this

1. To highlight his strength

In chapter 15 Samson has been handed over by his own people to the enemy and how did Samson get out?  By his own strength? No! v.14 says the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him - this was the source of victory - the unsolicited Spirit of God that rushed upon him throughout his life at each victory - It wasn’t Samson’s strength! It was God.  

But how did Samson react?  Instead of giving glory to God he gloats over their body’s with a little rhyme -  

“With the jawbone of a donkey,     heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of a donkey

    have I struck down a thousand men.”

So he still hasn’t learned his lesson - continuing on we see him praying which all commentators point out this is not a legitimate prayer, this is Samson just offering lip service to God - at the end of his prayer he says he’s thirsty.  Instead of just letting Samson just die there of thirst, God without hesitation springs up a well for Samson to drink from.   

It’s silly to try and make Samson someone he isn’t - even much has been said about the jawbone.  Fresh - Still a jawbone!

It is said that once upon a time a man exceedingly curious desired to see the sword with which a mighty hero had fought some desperate battles; casting his eye along the blade, he said, “Well, I don’t see much in this sword.” “Nay,” said the hero, “but you have not examined the arm that wields it.”

And so when men come to hear a successful minister, they are apt to say, “I do not see any thing in him.” No, but you have not examined the eternal arm that reaps its harvest with this sword of the Spirit. If ye had looked at the jaw-bone of the ass in Samson’s hand, you would have said, “What! heaps on heaps with this!” No; bring out some polished blade; bring forth the Damascus steel! NO; but God would have all the glory, and, therefore, not with the polished steel, but with the jaw-bone must Samson get the victory. So with ministers; God has usually blessed the weakest to do the most good.

  1. To point forward to Christ.

Samson is the 12th and final judge in Israel’s history and because he is the last he is supposed to be the big finisher!  He’s supposed to be the one to finally deliver.  And it looks like he might - so much promise early - but fails at every turn.  This does not mean God has given up, it simply means the true savior has not come yet.  

Samson is not to provide for us a role model of strength, but for us to be captivated by the unmerited love of God.  This is good news - because I said earlier for those that identify with Samson or Israel…the truth is we all at some point have been like Israel - just going through the motions, perfectly content ignoring God and pursuing the world.  We all at some point have been like Samson - driven by our lusts, selfish and proud.  

So Samson can’t be the hero here - he was never meant to be the hero he was only meant to point us forward to another.

Jesus is the true Samson.  He finished what Samson began.

  • Where Samson would only begin to save his people, Jesus would come to complete the salvation of his people.
  • Like Samson, Jesus’ strength would reside not in how he was built, nor in his personal charisma or beauty, but in the indwelling power of the Spirit.
  • BUT UNLIKE SAMSON... Jesus never compromised. He would keep every facet of God’s law, without sin.
  • Instead of being controlled by his impulses, Jesus would be controlled by God’s will.
  • He, like Samson, was betrayed by someone who acted as a friend and handed over to the Gentile oppressors.
    • And instead of lashing out in vengeance like Samson did, Jesus prayed for his enemies - father forgive them for they know not what they do.
    • But unlike Samson, Jesus was not put in chains for his sin; he was put in chains for ours.

When you see that - it changes you.  To the degree you understand the grace Jesus has personally shown you will the things of the world become less tempting.