Summary: Two men made for God’s purpose: one chooses his own pleasure and becomes a terrorist bent on revenge, fighting a holy war. He commits suicide bringing down a building, killing thousands. The other gives up his rights, chooses death, and redeems the world.
Samson’s Revenge and Jesus’ Redemption, Judges 13-16
Restorative Justice Series #4
Trinity United Methodist Church, Providence, RI
October 7, 2001
Rev. Anne Grant
We have been hearing some powerful stories about heroism
Over the past few weeks.
We read them in newspapers and magazines.
We hear them on television and radio.
Friends repeat them to us.
Stories help us grasp the enormity of what has happened.
Around the world,
In every culture, people love stories.
People need stories
To help interpret and understand
the meaning of life and death.
Today, we’re going to hear about a hero of Israel
Who was set apart by God even before his birth.
He was called to live a life of holiness, devoted entirely to God.
Instead he chose a life of selfishness,
devoted to himself, to his pride and his pleasure.
He believed he was fighting a holy war against the enemies of Israel, and he became a terrorist, destroying much of the land,
hundreds of animals, and thousands of people.
He ended his own life by committing suicide,
bringing down an awesome building in a single act of terror
that killed at least six thousand Philistines.
His name is Samson, and a lot of folklore grew up around him.
He was a judge who lived 1100 years before Jesus.
And his story appears in the Book of Judges, Chapter 13.
Judg. 13:1-5 ¶ Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, so the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.
A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was sterile and remained childless.
The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, "You are sterile and childless, but you are going to conceive and have a son.
Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean,
because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines."
Judg. 13:24 ¶ The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him,
Judg. 13:25 and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him ….
It doesn’t take Samson long to decide to do things his way.
He is intrigued by the Philistines. They are exotic and alluring,
But he doesn’t really love them.
He doesn’t really want to get to know them.
He insists on marrying a Philistine woman.
Their wedding is a seven-day party of drinking.
Samson knows he’s called to be a Nazirite, set apart to God.
He knows Nazarites have a strict rule against drinking.
But it’s his party and he’ll drink if he wants to.
Samson introduces a party game—he tells a riddle
And makes a bet that his guests can’t figure out the answer.
If they can’t solve the riddle in seven days, he declares,
they will have to give him a wardrobe of 30 outfits.
He loves to show people up
and lord it over them.
Samson is a bully.
We can see what this young man’s priorities are—
He wants to win, he wants to control other people,
And he wants to look good doing it.
He’s concerned about outward appearance, about superficialities.
He is not seeking after the things of God
Except insofar as they put him in charge.
He plans to win this game and to get 30 fine linen suits--
But if the Philistines win--if they guess the answer to his riddle,
he’ll have to give them 30 outfits.
Samson does not intend to lose.
By the fourth day, things are really getting out of hand at this party.
No doubt most of them are drunk,
and the Philistines tell Samson’s new wife
they will kill her and her father, burn their house down
with the whole family in it,
If she can’t get the answer to this riddle for them.
So she pleads with Samson. Day after day, she cries,
Until on the seventh day of the wedding party,
He’s tired of her crying and
He tells her the answer to the riddle.
She tells the Philistines, and they win the game.
Samson is so angry that he goes off to another town.
He kills thirty Philistines
And brings their bloody clothing back to pay off his bet.
Eventually Samson returns to his new wife,
Only to discover that her father has given her to another man.
Now Samson is really angry!
Judg. 15:3 ¶ Samson said to them, "This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines; I will really harm them."