Judges 15.1-20 Faithful Spirit

October 21, 2012 Speaker: Christopher Rich Series: Judges | Still{Un}Faithful (Part 2 of 2)

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Judges 15:1–15:20



Good Morning! We are continuing our series Still {UN}Faithful in the book of Judges. For this month we’ve been looking at the life of Samson, a deliverer sent by God for the salvation of His people. We’ve seen how his life in many ways parallels John the Baptist and Jesus life. He is a child promised by an angel to unlikely parents. He is set apart with a Nazirite vow, to abstain from alcohol, grow out his hair, and avoid touching anything dead or ‘unclean’. He has a specific call to deliver God’s people from sin and oppression, in this case at the hands of the Philistines. Unlike Jesus, Samson is still an imperfect man, in need of grace, but one who God is able to use even despite his brokenness.

We saw last week in chapter 14 Samson begins his ‘ministry’ in a very unorthodox way. Disregarding the biblical law to not intermarry outside of Israel, Samson (used by the Lord) confuses his parents and demands they arrange a marriage with a Philistine girl from the city of Timnah. As the week long wedding feast commences Samson uses a riddle about a Lion and honey makes a wager with 30 Philistine body guards to openly mock and shame their Egyptian gods. The Philistines are not going to be fooled easily and they threaten Samson’s wife to get her to ply him for information. After days of nagging at the wedding week Samson finally gives into her and tells her the secret of the riddle. Like Jesus, Samson is betrayed by someone he trusted when his wife tells her people the secret. The wedding ends with Samson storming out to kills 30 Philistines to deliver on his part of the bet. He then goes home leaving his new bride at the reception. Unknown to Samson, to save face, his Father in Law gives her to Samson’s best man.

All quiet in Timnah. Everything is good. Everyone’s happy. Let’s fast forward a few months.

15 After some days, at the time of wheat harvest, Samson went to visit his wife with a young goat. And he said, “I will go in to my wife in the chamber.” But her father would not allow him to go in. 2 And her father said, “I really thought that you utterly hated her, so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please take her instead.” 3 And Samson said to them, “This time I shall be innocent in regard to the Philistines, when I do them harm.” 4 So Samson went and caught 300 foxes and took torches. And he turned them tail to tail and put a torch between each pair of tails. 5 And when he had set fire to the torches, he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines and set fire to the stacked grain and the standing grain, as well as the olive orchards. 6 Then the Philistines said, “Who has done this?” And they said, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he has taken his wife and given her to his companion.” And the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire. 7 And Samson said to them, “If this is what you do, I swear I will be avenged on you, and after that I will quit.” 8 And he struck them hip and thigh with a great blow, and he went down and stayed in the cleft of the rock of Etam.

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 twonew 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. 16 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.”

17 As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand. And that place was called Ramath-lehi.

18 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.

Broken Marriage 1- 5

After spending most of spring living in his parents’ basement Samson is lonely and remembers, “hey I’m married!” and goes back down to his in-laws place in Timnah. He knocks on the door holding up a young goat (instead of flowers) he has apparently forgiven his wife of her betrayal, because he is in the mood for some make-up marital bliss. Only there’s a problem, Samson’s father-in-law gave his bride to his best man because he thought Samson hated her. But she has a sister! Samson unsatisfied, storms off again!

Let’s be clear, even by pagan Philistine standards Samson hasn’t been a great husband by any stretch but from the perspective of the author, Samson, and the Philistines they are legally married. The law has been violated and Samson is enraged “this time I’m justified, this time it’s personal!” He plots revenge. He takes his time trapping and preparing 300 foxes (jackals) to act as organic, locally sourced, artisan napalm. Imagine the chaotic and devastating scene as flaming screaming foxes torch the dry fields and orchards. He has not just attacked them but has weakened them economically and militarily. Because of Samson’s attack on their crops and storehouses the Philistine Co-op will not have any bread this summer/fall. They’ll have to buy bread, can’t sell olive oil and won’t be able to spend as much on their military. This may seem like an overreaction but let’s not forget who the “bad guys” are in this story. The Philistines have been oppressing God’s people, Israel, for over 40 years and Samson has been sent by God to save Israel. If the wedding debacle was a commencement of a family feud things are quickly escalating into a gruella war.

Cycle of Violence 6-8

In verse 6 we see the Philistines fight fire with fire and BBQ Samson’s wife and Father-in-law for letting the “Samson” issues get out of hand. Ironically, the Philistines had actually threatened the family with fire back in chapter 14. Samson was betrayed by his wife because she wanted to avoid the deadly fate that ultimately befell her family. Even though the Philistines know Samson’s the one who attacked them they cowardly take it out on this old man and his daughter rather than deal directly with Samson. They under estimated Samson’s commitment to his wife and wrongly assumed this settled the conflict.

It’s only just begun.

Samson declares he will have the last word and will “be avenged”. The word avenged doesn’t mean personal vengeance but rather lawful reprisal. He is seeking justice, he’ll slaughter some of them “eye for an eye” and then he’ll quit. It’s over right? Wrong we’re only half way. Violence only begets more violence unless there is true victory. He’s stirred up a hornets nest now. The Philistines chase him all the way into Judah’s land, surrounded by God’s people, where he hides in a hole in the ground. Surely he’s safe there.

Judah 9-13

The Philistines march into Judah, attack a small town, and demand Samson be delivered to them. This is the part of the story where after God’s deliver comes and starts a fight with the bad guys God’s people rally behind him, fight for freedom, overthrow the oppressors, and there is peace and healing in the land. We’ve seen the cycle though out the book, God’s people sin, God judges through oppressors, they cry, God saves through a judge/deliverer. This time God’s people have sinned, God has judged, but God’s people have not cried. The enemy is now encamped all around them where literally all they can see is oppression. Even in their complaint to the Philistine’s about threatening Lehi you can almost feel the “what do you want now? Whatever it is we’ll do it.” They are worse then defeated, they are indifferent. They have no fight left and can’t see any possibility that their situation can change or improve. They just submit.

Judah didn’t cry out to God, didn’t rally behind Samson, just lethargy, and indifference. Well, Judah isn’t totally indifferent or neutral they do take action to raise an army. They rally an army 10 times bigger than the army God used to deliver His people when Gideon was judge a few generations earlier. 3000 men ready to march to battle….To bound up Samson. Judah was so blind by the oppression they couldn’t see they were beginning to be delivered from slavery. What God sends as deliverance they see as a threat to peace. They are so comfortable enslaved by the Philistines they didn’t want to rock the boat. God’s people can’t imagine anything beyond the status quo, they don’t believe salvation is even possible.

We’re near hopeless when we begin to adopt Judah’s slogan “It’s always been this way how can we expect to change it.”

What has encamped in your head/heart that just seems there is no way to avoid or overcome? What areas of your life have you stopped fighting and accepted as hopeless?

Judah is on the march, finds Samson, and declares their allegiance to the Philistines. When Judah is finally ready to fight it’s not for their freedom; they actually are ready for fight for their continued oppression. At the beginning of Judges, Judah used to be leading the fight against oppressors like the Philistines, now they’re spineless collaborators. They aren’t ready to fight against sin, they’re now prepared to fight for it.

Former judges were able to rally God’s people to battle/mission to overthrow the oppressor. But Judah is actually mad at Samson. They see Samson as against them (“What have you done to us?”) rather than against the Philistines. Judah “condemns” Samson’s actions. They likely labeled him Philistine-a-phobic. Why do you have to bring “THAT” up, don’t you know everything is just fine if you don’t make them mad?

When confronted by others with sin in your life do you start to fight with them or fight your sin?

Judah bounds their savior up and delivers him to the Philistines because they feared and respected their oppressors more than their savoir. Judah loved the world and bondage more than freedom with God. God’s enemies are their righteous lords. Quickly reject God, but who won’t consider breaking faithfulness to the Philistines. For Judah, Samson is the enemy and the Philistines are their savoir and peace maker.

Something dark happens when we go from passively tolerating sin to participating/celebrating sin to finally actively defending sin. When it comes to sin or evil in our lives or some form of it outside of us, God does not call us to negotiate, sympathize, or collaborate with our sin, he calls us to wage war against it.

Judah won’t kill Samson, just deliver him to be killed. They bound him up and offer him to the Philistines as a sacrifice to maintain “peace”. In some ways the church (God’s people) have taken gifts, and clear teaching from God and bound up and delivered over to the world because the world finds them offensive.

There is an issue on the ballot, R-74 that if APPROVED would legalize “So-Called” Same Sex Marriage in our state. As an eldership leading this church we believe strongly this is in direct opposition to the Bible’s clear teaching about what marriage is/can be and what it is not/cannot be. We recognize that not every church is called to fight a battle on this issue. We are not going to lead this battle, but we will support churches and Christians who do and encourage people to vote in a way that honors biblical teaching and definition of “Marriage”. We're not knocking on doors, buying air time, or putting out signs, stickers, petitions on this one, BUT we did write a clear statement on the biblical teachings about what marriage is and what is not and put it out on the blog and Facebook where people can see it if they look. The reason we released this statement was is to educate people about what the bible teaches on these issues. It is also in response to the inundation of ads in Washington featuring men and women as Christian pastors promoting R-74 as a "Christian" thing to approve/promote/celebrate. If/when people are going to say "the bible says X" "Christians should believe/promote Y" that is contrary to what the Bible actually teaches, as pastors and a church we have role and responsibility to hold up biblical truth in response, same as we regularly respond to the so-called prosperity gospel that's always on "Christian" television and other forms of perverting the Bible or the Gospel for personal/corporate desires.

Know as elders we didn’t think lightly about putting out our churches position, especially on FB, where we have dozens "friends” and family (some close, some not) who are in homosexual relationships they call marriage, dozens more who identify as homosexual, and literally hundreds of 'friends' who disagree with our churches position and the bible’s clear teaching. We don't expect this to be popular or even easily understood by any who don't identify with and follow the Jesus of the Bible. It's written primarily for people who know/love Jesus and want to better understand what the Bible teaches on marriage/sexuality. Culture preaches, politicians preach, and other groups/individuals preach, so as a church we preach.

I am also sensitive as pastor who has personal relationships with people who have come out of decades of homosexual lifestyle (even some who were with partners for decades) who are now want to identify with Jesus more than their sexuality. It is a hard difficult road for them, as is/was for me to walk away from nearly a decade of sexual sin/promiscuity and follow Jesus. I want people to have HOPE. To borrow a popular campaign, "it gets better" as joy is found in Jesus more than sex, or food, or drink, or relationships, or possessions, or job, or experiences, or any other gift from God we were given to enjoy, or any other identity people hold on to. We recognize this isn't just a theological, political, or even societal issue, but is also deeply personal one for many people this church knows and cares very deeply about.

Our greatest hope is ALL people would know Jesus loves people enough to die for them and God takes all our sin seriously enough that it deserves the punishment of death that Jesus paid on the cross. ALL people are created in the image of God and worthy of respect. ALL people have a sin nature that manifest itself in different ways, making us ALL sinners. ALL sin, sexual or otherwise separates people from God, each other, and themselves, there is no special class of sin. ALL people need to turn from sin and turn towards Jesus who by His sacrificial death pays the price for our sin, and by His resurrection gives up the promise of new life with God. ALL people need to find their Primary Identity in Jesus.

On this issue, as with any other, as Christians we are ambassadors of His Kingdom, ambassadors who also have the responsibility to steward our votes wisely as we would our finances or any other gifts/resources we have. We won't celebrate if it's rejected or fall into despair if passes. Our hope and joy is not dependent on legislation, leaders, or laws of this world. Our hope is in an empty tomb and King Jesus seated on a throne.

How are you Judah? What have you been given from God that you’ve bound up, comprised on, and handed over to the world in the hopes of being more accepted or less offensive?

Back to Samson. Like Jesus being handed over by the Jews to the Romans, Samson is rejected by his people and handed over to their oppressors to do the dirty work of execution. Samson submits to the plan of people he is trying to save and goes quietly down to Lehi, like a lamb to slaughter, like Jesus to the Cross. It looks like certain defeat but it’s the beginning of a massive victory.

Total Victory 14 - 17

Philistines finally got the #1 guy on their terrorist watch list and let out a war woop! They’ve got their Osama Bin Laden! Samson is their helpless prey. Like the enemy often does, the Philistines, with their false powerless gods, forgot the faithfulness and living power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit burns bright and melts off Samson’s ropes just as the stone on Jesus tomb was rolled away. Philistine sure success is ultimately a crushing defeat as Samson, empowered by the Holy Spirit, uses a set of donkey dentures to single handedly strike down a 1,000 man army (1/3 the size of Judah’s army) to shame them.

27But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 1Cor 1:27-29

The once boastful cheering Philistines are now silenced by the work and presence of the Holy Spirit. God is using Samson to defeat the enemy and in doing so is redeeming His people. Redemption from slavery is act of violence. Jesus came to redeem us by violently overthrowing satan, sin, and death.

8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. 1 John 3:8

20 The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Romans 16:20

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 1 Cor 15:56-57

Real peace can only come through victory. Jesus endured the violence of the cross to fee us from slavery.

14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. Hebrews 2:14-15

When the battle is over and victory is won, Samson proclaims the good news in verse16. Hebrew word for donkey and heap are spelled the same so a more poetic rendering would be “with the jawbone of an ass I have piled them in a mass.” When Jesus conquers sin on the Cross he makes the weapons and gods of this world look ridiculous, slays billions of idols and declares IT IS FINISHED!

The site of battle is renamed Ramath-lehi Jawbone Hill so God’s people will remember the victory they were given by a chosen savoir, just as we look to Calvary Hill and see our Savior’s victory on the cross.

Thirsty v18-20

The victory is great but life is still needed day by day even after the major threats have been neutralized. While Samson foreshadows Jesus, he is not God, he is still human. It’s after the battle, not before or during, that Samson calls to God for the first time in this story. “You have given this great salvation”. What happed at “Jawbone Hill” is not a personal vendetta but victory for God’s people even when they were unwilling to fight for themselves. God is loving, merciful, and gracious to Judah. They get salvation and enjoy the fruit of victory despite their unfaithfulness. Praise God so do we!

Samson is deathly thirsty! He needs to be saved as much after the battle as during. Samson is not self-sufficient. He acknowledges his dependence on God and desperately cries for more grace. Sustain me! God splits open a hollow place (Hebrew for molar) literally “Split open the molar of the jawbone” and water flows out to save Samson, like water for Israel when they were in the desert. Like Jesus blood for us.

Ps 81:10 I am the Lord your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.
Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.

God delivers us from slavery but also sustains us with our “lesser” needs. The Holy Spirit and God’s word are living water that refreshes and revives. “Jawbone Hill” also becomes En-hakkore “Caller’s Spring” the place of victory now is remembered not just for the great battle but also for ongoing sustenance. God saves and sustains all who call and cry out to him for mercy and grace!

Samson judges for half a generation. Israel is delivered, but all is not perfect, there still needs to be a final victory. That is next week. This week:

We run to communion for fresh grace and see the blood of the cross as the spring of water to refresh us in the midst of battle and sustain us through peace time. The cross is both our victory and our sustenance.

We give our tithes and offerings acknowledging God’s faithfulness to us even in our faithlessness.

We sing songs of victory and freedom praising our King that conquered the enemy and ended our slavery.


26 For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human beingmight boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” I Cor 1:26-31