Summary:

A. INTRODUCTION

1. This morning we conclude our study of Samson, the most famous of those who served as judge over Israel during the historical period before the monarchy. God willing, we shall begin a study of that period in the autumn of 1997, beginning with the book of 1 Samuel.

a. Nearly everyone knows all about Samson's miraculous physical strength.

b. The Bible record also presents an unvarnished picture of his great and fatal weakness: complete pre-occupation with s __ __ __.

(1) We became aware of this in last week's study, particularly when he demanded that his parents get him the Philistine woman from Timnah for a wife, in spite of their protestations and his knowledge that such a marriage would be set deliberately outside the will of God.

(2) We also see in Samson the need to a __ __ __ __ __ himself for any and all perceived wrongs. This is one of the tell-tale by-products of self-centeredness.

(3) There is also his unbridled l __ __ __ for physical pleasure. This is explored fully in today's text passage.

(4) Finally -- and most terribly -- he used God's gifts for his own selfish ends. Samson's strength was s __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ in nature, a special gift given to him by God for the accomplishment of His perfect will for Samson, to b __ __ __ __ to deliver Israel from the oppression of the Philistines. But Samson very often chose to exercise that gift for personal reasons.

The perplexing mystery of last week's study was the fact that God used even Samson's foolish and selfish choices to accomplish His will. As we shall see in Judges 15 and 16 this morning, God's will continues to be done in spite of His appointed steward's lack of faithfulness.

B. TEXT

1. Judges 15:1-19 is the record of the vengeful and bloody aftermath of Samson's ill-fated wedding feast at Timnah. We recall that, after losing his foolish wager with some of the guests, he paid off his debt by murdering 30 wealthy Philistines, stealing their fine garments, and giving them to his rivals. Then, in a snit, he returned to the home of his parents, jilting his bride-to-be.

a. In 15:1-2 Samson learns that his wife had been given to his best man! Our western sense of propriety is shocked by the concession made to him by his would-be father-in-law, the giving of his younger daughter to the infuriated Samson. But Samson will have none of that; he chooses instead to avenge himself.

b. V.3-7 records the eternal truth that violence begets violence. Samson's assault on the food supply of the Philistines is seen by them as much more than a rash act of vengeance. They recognize him now as their mortal enemy, and the rest of this chapter and all of the next reveals that his removal became a national priority.

(1) Key verse (15:3): And Samson said to them, "this time I shall be blameless regarding the Philistines if I harm them!"

If it was God's will for him to accomplish the beginning of the end of the Philistines, is this statement true?

(2) The "fruits of the land" in the Near East -- the staples of their economy -- had always been g __ __ __ __, g __ __ __ __ __, and olive o __ __ ( Deuteronomy 7:13, Haggai 1:11 ). Samson's attack on the very source of their sustenance led to the decision of the Philistines to destroy him.

(3) Their initial response -- the murder of his former wife and her father -- seems cruelly irrational, but if their ultimate aim was to draw him into a large-scale confrontation, it worked. In v.7 Samson vows again to take personal revenge, and in v.8 we are told that he attacked them h __ __ and t __ __ __ __ with a great s __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __, then fled into hiding.

c. V.8-16 is the record of one of Samson's most famous exploits.

(1) It is terrible to learn that the only Israeli army assembled during Samson's lifetime appears to be one of 3,000 men of J __ __ __ __ , called out by their Philistine rulers to assist in the capture of their own judge (15:9-12).

(2) We might question Samson's decision to capitulate and submit himself to bound delivery to his Philistine enemies, but we see again in v.14 God's hand in all this. As the overjoyed Philistines came shouting against him:

Then the S __ __ __ __ __ of the L __ __ __ came mightily upon him; and the r __ __ __ __ that were on his arm became like flax that is burned with fire, and his b __ __ __ __ broke loose from his hands.

(3) The well-known slaughter of __________ Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey follows, as does Samson's self-congratulating rhyme of whimsy (15:16). Some texts treat it like a psalm, but in the original Hebrew it is a play on the similarity of the words for "donkey" ( hamor ) and "heaps" ( homer ), resulting in this little ditty:

"With the jawbone of an ass I have assailed my assailants;

With the jawbone of an ass I have heaped them in a mass!"

d. Samson's great thirst after the battle and God's miraculous provision for it teaches us two lessons.

(1) Samson's great regard for himself can be seen in the arrogant nature of his prayer (one of only two attributed to him in the Bible):

"You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant; and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?"

(2) God will always balance our triumphs with trials. It's His way of keeping things in the proper perspective for us, reminding us that He is in control, no matter how well we may have performed and no matter how great we think we are. Christians who are allowed by God to accomplish great things for Him are in danger of becoming proud and self-confident while God desires that we remain humble and confident only in His goodness, power and provision.

"If Samson had only heeded this warning and asked God not only for water but for guidance! 'Lead us not into temptation' would have been the perfect prayer for that hour. How quick we are to cry out for help for the body when perhaps our greatest needs are in the inner person. It's when we're weak that we're strong (1 Corinthians 12:10); and when we're totally dependent on the Lord, we're the safest." - Warren W. Wiersbe: Be Available

e. V.20 records Samson's _____ years of judgeship in Israel.

2. Judges 16 is the record of Samson's rapid decline, fall and final hour. He will be shown to have been brought to personal ruination by his life of moral compromise, where God will be shown to have used even this "broken vessel" to accomplish His will.

a. V.1-3 tell a story of lust, foolishness, and an incredible feat of strength.

(1) A judge of Israel frequents p __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __?!

(2) A judge of Israel allows himself to be trapped in a Philistine stronghold, the city of

G __ __ __?!

(3) A man can rip out a city g __ __ __ and move it to the mountain-top?!

(4) Yes, Yes and, again, y __ __!

b. V.4-21 presents the familiar story of Samson and D __ __ __ __ __ __,

(1) Was she just another dalliance, or did Samson really l __ __ __ her (v.4)?

(2) Was she a Philistine? Her name is thought by many scholars to be Hebrew in origin. Was she a prostitute? She is not identified as one (in contrast to the lady in v.1).

(3) Why did she betray Samson? The promise of _________ pieces of silver from each of the five rulers of Philistia! That amount could easily have provided financial security for an entire lifetime.

(4) Why was Samson so stupid in this episode? Maybe he was in love!

c. It is interesting to note that the Philistines were convinced that there was some special secret in regards to Samson's incredible strength. Samson knew it was supernatural, too, even if he had limited understanding of the Nazirite vow he was born into -- we know that it involved more than just the "no haircut" rule.

(1) He seemed to know that this last vestige of his vow was all that separated him from utter weakness (v.17).

(2) We are left to wonder why God removed his strength only when his hair was cut. Why not when he broke the other Nazirite vows?

d. It is also curious to read in v.19 that his strength left him while she "tormented" him upon awakening him after his haircut, before the Philistines arrived. When he hears them coming, Samson goes out to meet them confident that his strength would still be there for him. It might have been that Samson's strength was not a constant factor in his life, that it only manifested itself when he truly needed it. If that were the case, he would have gone out to face the Philistines believing that everything would fall into place like it always had for him. Sadly, the text records in v.20: But he did not know that the Lord had d __ __ __ __ __ __ __ from him.

ref: Psalm 51:11

John 14:16

Ephesians 4:30

When believers disobey God, the Holy Spirit's power is lost to them!

e. V.22-31 begins with the account of Samson's sad descent into his own personal hell and ends with his reconciliation to God and his death with his Philistine tormentors.

(1) His e __ __ __ were gouged out -- a common cruelty inflicted upon defeated foes.

(2) He was pressed into slavery as a g __ __ __ __ __ __ in the city of Gaza. This, of course, was the city whose gates he had ripped out and carried away. It is probably no accident, then, that this is where the Philistines held him in captive slavery. The work of grinding grain was done either by women using small hand-grinders or by donkeys or oxen pulling on great mill-wheels. That the Philistines allowed Samson's hair to grow out indicates perhaps that they had plans to harness and use his great strength for their own purposes.

(3) The great celebratory feast to the Philistine grain god, D __ __ __ __, was used by God as the time and place for His last great use of Samson as the one who would begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines. The man from whom entire armies of Philistine soldiers fled was led before the drunken guests by a single boy (v.26). Archaeological diggings have indicated that some of these pagan temples could hold as many as 3,000 adults. It is easy to assume that among the guests at so great a feast would be some of the most prominent Philistine leaders and dignitaries.

(4) V.26-28 indicate that Samson had done much thinking during his time of enslavement.

- His request to the boy who led him to be "shown" the location of the support pillars would result in his being positioned perfectly to "bring down the house."

- His prayer is extremely formal, utilizing three Israeli names for God.

(a) Adonai ("Master") indicates God's lordship over His people.

(b) Yahweh ("LORD") was the most formal use of the name of the "God of the

C __ __ __ __ __ __ __."

(c) Elohim ("God") indicates God's irresistible power.

- True to form, however, Samson's prayer still smacks of personal selfishness! He pointedly asks God for the strength to take v __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ for the loss of his two e __ __ __.

- Missing from his prayer: any indication of c __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ and r __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __.

C. APPLICATION

1. For the Christian, perverted s __ __ __ - confidence blinds one to spiritual reality.

ref: Psalm 27:1-3

Psalm 46:1-2

Philippians 4:13

2. Moral c __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ always makes one vulnerable.

ref: Ephesians 6:11-12

Ephesians 5:1-17

1 Peter 5:8-9

3. re: Temptation

a. It is not of God ( James 1:13 ), but it is allowed by God:

(1) as a t __ __ __ ( James 1:2-4 );

(2) as an indication of His provision for us ( 1 Corinthians 10:13, James 1:12 ).

b. It always comes in attractive packages ( James 1:14 ).

c. It zeroes in on our perceived strengths ( Proverbs 16:18 and 18:12; Jeremiah 49:16, and Romans 12:3 ).

d. It bears fruit only when we make wrong choices.

(1) associations ( 1 Corinthians 15:33 )

(2) behaviour ( James 1:15 )

D I S C U S S I O N G U I D E

1. God declared in Judges 13:5 that He would set aside Samson for the special purpose of beginning to deliver Israel from her Philistine oppressors. Our study has shown that He used Samson's strength and his temper to judge the Philistines. In light of this, Samson's declaration in Judges 15:3 might be used by any self-appointed ( "God-appointed?" ) "righteous avenger" to justify lawless deeds done on behalf of a Greater Purpose. How would you respond to such an argument? Cite Scripture to support your answer.

2. 20th century Christians are greatly distressed at what they perceive to be a complete breakdown of moral values and the absolute rejection of their contemporaries to the role of God in our society. Read Psalm 37:1-11.

a. List the four positive steps the psalmist suggests for us in such circumstances.

b. Given God's words in v.9-10, would it be right for Christians to petition the promised destruction of the wicked people in the world? _______ Why, or why not?

3. Discuss ways in which Christian parents should encourage their children to do what is right in a pluralistic society where values and morality are seen as relative. Cite Scripture wherever possible.

4. Read Judges 16:6-17.

a. Delilah appears to have been a master of emotional manipulation. What was her chief weapons?

b. Why did Samson finally "cave in?"

c. Read Luke 11:5-10 and Luke 18:1-8. Discuss any parallels we can draw between these passages and the story of Samson and Delilah.

5. Provide Bible verses which provide insight on how you should respond the next time you find your resistance weakening by someone's persuasion (it might even be an advertisement!) against what you know is right.