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.
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.