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Judges 15-16: God Is Always Winning Print E-mail
Sunday, 07 June 2015

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The Lord invites us to laugh at our enemies this morning. Do you think the evil of ISIS will be able to destroy Christianity? Are you afraid that the sin of homosexuality or pornography or abortion will overcome the Church? Does it feel like God is losing at times? If so, the Lord calls you to consider something: has the enemies of God ever been able to thwart His plan of rescuing a people?  Of course, the obvious answer is Ďno.í In spite of all the times that it appeared as if the Church was going to fail, the gospel is still being proclaimed throughout the world this morning. Make no mistake, our enemies are fierce. The sinfulness of humanity is great. Satan is like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). Death is threatening us all. And the Lord is laughing and inviting us to laugh as well. Not because He makes light of tragedy and difficulty, but simply because He knows that their threats against His own are hollow. They will never get past the blood of Christ. His laughter is not the cruel mocking of an arrogant tyrant, but the certain hope of the victorious King. And He invites all His people to join in the merriment.

The reason I believe that God invites us to laugh at our enemies is because of the humor I see in the Bible at the expense of Godís enemies.  We see that on display in the story of Samson.  One of my commentatorís spends a couple of pages on the humor in this passage.  He writes: ďThe whole of chapters 14-16, therefore, constitutes one long Israelite joke on the Philistines. The story is full of subtle but powerful irony, humor at its best...The Philistines are the enemies of Yahwehís people. Here their stupidity is held up for ridicule; here they are made the laughingstock of Israel...for Yahweh makes fools of those who seek to ruin and crush his people.Ē 1 When Israel read this story, they laughed. And so should we.

Of course, there is tragedy here as well. Chapter 15 tells us how Samsonís father-in-law gave away his wife to the best man, which causes Samson to burn all the crops in the city (with the help of 300 foxes). The Philistines seek revenge by burning his wifeís family, which causes him to respond by killing some of them. Then they come after him again and convince Judah to hand him over, but Samsonís breaks his bonds and kills a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. Then Samson spends a night with a prostitute and carries off the gates of the city when the Philistines try to capture him. And finally, they use Delilah to trick him, subdue him, and cut out his eyes, which leads to Samson killing thousands more of them through his death in the house of their god. There is humor in the fact that no matter what the Philistines try, Samson continues to get the best of them.  And there is tragedy in the ugly tale of Samsonís defeat of them through his death.  In our time together, I want us to see that through all of this humor and tragedy that God is accomplishing His purpose of destroying His enemies through Samson. To do that, I want us to briefly consider the characters of the two chapters. 

The characters during Samsonís life (ch. 15)

What did Samsonís wife and father want? Look at 15:1-2. It seems they just want to keep everyone happy and avoid Samsonís anger. Of course, giving his wife to another man was not a great approach. I mean Samson brought a young goat and everything! Their hope of keeping him happy (the father ever offered the younger daughter) did not work out. Samson uses 300 foxes (or jackals) to set fire to all the crops in Timnah and the Philistines end up burning the wife and her family in response (in fulfillment of 14:15). It does not end well for them.

What about the Philistines, what did they want? In short, they wanted revenge on Samson. He set all their crops on fire and then killed a bunch of them for burning his wifeís family. The whole fighting fire with fire thing is not going well for them. So then they talk Judah into helping them. Look at 15:9-13. What is tragic about these verses is that the people who are supposed to be helping Samson are turning him in. The people of Israel do not want conflict with Israel. They are willing to trade in their deliverer to avoid it. They are actually helping the Philistines get revenge on Samson, at least thatís what they are trying to do.

But what about the deliverer? What does Samson want? Well, like the Philistines, he wants revenge. Revenge for the loss of his wife to his best man. Revenge for her burning. And revenge for the Philistines using his own people against him. And he gets it. Look at verses 14-17. Samson gets revenge by killing a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. Apparently such slaying works up a terrible thirst. Look at verses 18-20. Samson does acknowledge in his prayer that God has granted this salvation. But even that praise comes with a request: can you please spare my life by providing some water? And the Lord does give him some water.

So then, what is the Lord accomplishing in all of this? Remember what He said He was doing in 14:4? The Lord is seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. Samsonís in-laws and the people of Israel just wanted peace. Samson and the Philistines were only after vengeance. But through it all, God was accomplishing His purposes: the defeat of His enemies. 

The characterís at Samsonís death (ch. 16)

Chapter 16 tells the story of how Samson ended up a slave in Gaza. It starts in the home of a prostitute, where Samson was spending the night. Apparently his reputation preceded him and the city made plans for his capture. But he escapes by tearing down their city gates and carrying them on his back for several miles (see the humor?). Then we are told of Delilah and her trickery of Samson, which apparently wasnít very difficult. When the Philistines finally get their hands on Samson, they tear out his eyes and send him to Gaza as a slave. Yet, just when they think they are safe, they bring him out to entertain them and he brings the house down (literally). So then, what about the characters at Samsonís death? What do they want?

The Philistines still just want revenge. No matter what they do and how sure they are of capturing Samson, he just keeps getting away. They think they have him at the prostituteís house, but he rips down the gates and humiliates them all. Three times they go after him under Delilahís instructions and three times he takes them out. But finally they get him. Finally they get some blood from him. Finally they celebrate the victory of their god, Dagon. Look at 16:23-24. But they are fooled again. They bring out Samson to entertain them and he amuses them right to death. They want revenge, but they only find the grave in the end.

What about Delilah? What did she want in all of this? She wants money. Look at verses 4-6. Itís not that complicated, Delilah wants to be rich. And the sum she is offered will definitely make her wealthy. People do all kinds of evil things for money, she is willing sell out her lover.

As for Samson, what does he want? Well, to be blunt, he wants women. He goes to Gaza to spend the night with a prostitute. And his attraction, affection, adoration, is apparently so strong for Delilah that he is completely blind (ironic, I know) to her obvious attempts to give him to the Philistines. And what is tragic about this is that his pursuit of her leads to his loss of the Lord. Look at verse 20. He assumed that he could play with fire and not get burned, but he was wrong. He gave his heart to Delilah and it cost him more than just his eyes. Of course, this begs the question of us all: what are we chasing after that will leave us without God? No woman is worth that. No good time is worth that. Nothing is worth that. Samson had to learn that lesson the hard way. What about you?

In the end, Samson just wants to die. Look at verses 28-30. As we have noted, it is a tragic tale. Samsonís life ends in the midst of his enemies. His blood ran with theirís in the end. Two prayers are recorded from Samson: one a desperately plea for life (15:18) and the second a desperate plea for death. The Lord graciously answers them both.

So then, what is the Lord accomplishing with Samsonís death? God accomplishes the same in his death as in his life: victory over the enemies of Israel. Did you notice what the Philistines were saying about their god when they captured Samson? Look at it again in verses 23-24. They thought they were winning. Actually, they thought they had won! But Yahweh is always winning. He had a plan to seek an opportunity against the Philistines and He brought that to pass. 

The truth is, although it may have appeared that there were times when God was losing, in reality He was not. We know that God always wins in the end. But if that is true, and I believe that it is, then that means that God is always winning, even if it looks like He is not. Granted, that does not mean that things will be easy. It just means that His enemies never really stand a chance. They can fight all they want, but they will lose. In fact, they have already lost.

We see this clearly on the cross. When they rolled the stone over the grave of Jesus, it sure seemed like He had lost. It seemed like the enemies had won. Our sins had run Him through and Death had brought Him low. But even then, God was winning. He purposed to defeat all our enemies and He knew exactly what that would take. And so what looked like losing was actually the greatest victory of all. Jesus has conquered, is conquering, and will conquer. So take heart this morning brothers and sisters, sin and death may appear to be winning at times, but for all who have placed their faith in Christ, they are already defeated. As fierce as they may seem, the Lord laughs at them. And you can too through faith in Jesus. Amen.

1 Dale Ralph Davies, Judges FOTB (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 2006), p. 177-78.

~ William Marshall ~


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