Time of the Judges – Part 3
By: The John Ankerberg Show
|By: Dr. Michael Easley; ©2005|
|Samson experienced great failures in his life, but he’s still mentioned in the Hebrews 11 Hall of Fame. What can we learn from him to help us succeed where he failed?|
Time of the Judges – Part 3
This message was recorded at the Billy Training Center at The Cove in Asheville, North Carolina. Through the ministry of The Cove we’re training people in God’s Word to win others to Christ. It’s our goal to develop Christians who experience God through knowing Him better, knowing His Word, building godly relationships and helping others know Him. We trust that this message will strengthen your walk with God and help you experience Him right where you are.
Dr. Michael Easley: Well, I don’t know about you. How many of you like epic long stories? Did any of you watch The Searchers, the movie, the Western, with John Wayne? Any of you know the movie? Steven Spielberg and George Lucas said it was the single most important film ever made. And I tend to agree because I’m a John Wayne aficionado. But the book, the movie is loosely based upon a true story of a woman named Cynthia Ann Parker. Have you ever heard that name? Cynthia Ann Parker was actually born in Illinois, but her father moved to Texas when she was a girl of about eight. They ended up in Fort Parker, Texas, and she was abducted by the Comanches. And there’s a book written by Sam Gwynne called Empire of the Summer Moon. It is not for the fainthearted. It is a Texas book so those of you from Texas would enjoy it more so than others perhaps.
But to understand Texas and why Texas has got such a bravado and it is such a big state, this gives you a scintilla of information of the story of why Texas is such a strategic place in the United States. In the 1840’s Texas, the Spanish could not fight. The Mexicans could not fight off the Comanches. The Spanish couldn’t defeat the Comanches. The Comanches knew when someone got to Nebraska and they controlled the Midwest and they would kill you. They were a vicious licentious brutal people.
Well, Cynthia Ann Parker is abducted, and they kill her family. She’s abducted and for whatever reason they kept her alive. They killed a number of her children. She was brutalized by the Comanche warlords, raped repeatedly and eventually a man by the name of Peta Nocona—Nocona, Texas, Nocona Boots—married her, took her as a wife and they had three children. One of the children was known as Quanah, and Quanah becomes the most feared Comanche warrior of all time. And the way the Comanche’s trained their young boys, by four or five they’re given a horse. They learn to shoot arrows underneath the horse riding. They learn to hold on with a foot and an arm and saddles, and they train these young boys to be warriors from the moment they can get on a horseback.
It is a long brutal story of finally, post-Civil War, they find her and they rescue her in the late 1800’s. She wants to go back because she’s become a Comanche and she has a terrible time reorienting into civilization. It’s a true story. It’s a difficult story.
It’s a long story, and I say that because there’s something in me at least, that loves these epic stories. And the movie that John Ford did with John Wayne, John Wayne is, you don’t know his background, but he spends I think it’s 15 years in the movie going after the fictional character, the fictionalized character of Cynthia Ann Parker who’s played by Natalie Wood, which will date some of us, and she’s 15 or 16 in the movie. And you only see her toward the end. She’s a little girl when she’s abducted. Everyone else is murdered and slain. Ethan’s family, John Wayne’s family, is killed and he spends the rest of the movie, this epic, he ages as he goes and looks for Debbie. And in the end he finds Debbie, Natalie Wood, and turns her around and there she is in all of her, the height of her beauty and acting skills and turns her around and she’s a buck. She’s an Indian and Ethan wants to kill her. Vera Miles is in the movie, she’s probably 19 years of age; those of you who are movie buffs.
But it’s not the true story of Quanah Parker, but the reason Spielberg and Lucas and others, and it always rates one of the top 20 movies in the world, because of this epic journey, the flawed character. You don’t quite know all about Ethan, Ethan Edwards, that you’d like to know. You don’t quite understand the culture and all that, but he’s relentless and he’s on a mission to do something that’s right. But you’re not sure, because of his questionable past.
We have a character that is true, and in our Bibles we know very well of Samson. And we begin his journey in Judges 13. It is an epic story of epic proportions and it is true. How many of you saw the Hedy Lamarr, Victor Mature version of Samson and Delilah? And I’m convinced Hedy Lamarr had to be Delilah in antiquity because there was no one more beautiful than Hedy Lamarr in my humble opinion. And it was a great movie. Those of you had love crushes on Victor Mature as young girls and those of us that had love crushes on Hedy Lamarr.
I remember college, had a black and white TV about that big, had three channels, and my roommate and I watching Samson and Delilah and there was another one with Spencer Tracy she was in just going “Ah.” But we still loved her, and Samson and Delilah, not quite accurate biblically. Let’s look at the text and see the true story.
Let’s begin in chapter 13 where the Philistines are now in control of all of Israel: “Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord.” Have you got this phrase now? You’ve got it on your card; if you don’t you know, I gave you the cheat sheet, everything you need to know on two little sides there, so you can take a nap if you need to. So they did evil again. “So the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years. A certain man of Zorah, the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; his wife was barren and had borne no children.”
Barrenness in the Bible is always a problem. It’s a problem with Rachael in Genesis 30, “Give me children, else I die.” It’s a problem with Abram and Sarai; she can’t get pregnant. It’s always a problem to be barren. It is a shameful thing and as Jacob says, “Who am I? Am I God that opens the womb?” So we have a couple that’s barren.
Verse 3: “An angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, ‘Behold now, you are barren, you have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy will be a Nazirite to God from the womb; he shall begin,’” operative word, you note takers, “begin,” “‘to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.’” So this Samson, yet to be named, is going to have a mission. Before he’s conceived he has an angelic announcement—again I’m going to argue this is a Christophany; this is Jesus—occurring during the darkest time of Israel, and he is going to be born.
Now, let’s give you a time stamp, those of you Bible students. If you jot down 1 Samuel 4 to 1 Samuel 7 thereabouts, the ark has been taken from Israel. And in my estimation and study along with commentators who are far brighter than me, I would put Samson in that time block, between 1 Samuel 4 and about 1 Samuel 7. So that’s where these stories start to line up in the chronology of the numbers of the Hebrew kings, which are no small task to try to align that. But that gives you a bit of a time stamp.
We need to speak a little bit about the Nazirite vow. The Nazirite vow is a complicated thing. We don’t understand all that we know about it from the Bible. We do know the prohibitions we’re going to see. We’re going to have a unique child. He’s going to be set apart, dedicated to the Lord. Three things are going to accompany that Nazirite vow: abstain from alcohol of any form; refrain from cutting his hair; and no contact with the dead. No alcohol of any form, not cutting his hair and abstain from contact with the dead. Each of these would be a setting apart from the norm.
It’d be normal for the Jew to have wine. I know many Bible teachers try to say wine was not part of the Bible. I think it’s disingenuous and dishonest. Wine was a celebration. Boaz, Ruth, the use of it. And getting drunk, of course, is a sin if we abuse those substances; some choose not to. That’s a fine decision if that’s what you choose, but it’s disingenuous. I mean, the Old Testament is full of vineyard imagery and wine and wine being a gift of God, and Jesus turning water into wine and it’s the best wine. And so you have to, you know, you have to choke back some of the way we were taught, and let’s look at what the Scripture says. And so he’s to abstain from that because it was part of the normal life. He needs to be different.
He is to not cut his hair. And, of cours,e the locks, you know the story there, but this is different; so a beard and long hair. And he’s not to have contact with the dead. Each of these is in some way, shape or form a symbolism of being set apart and clean. We’ll come back to this, but it’s a bit more than we want to talk about now. He’s going to be to deliver, so the consecration also had military implications.
Now let’s go to the text. Manoah is an interesting husband. And as sometimes the husbands are, they’re just dolts, okay. Let’s just put that way. They’re not too bright. Let’s read about them. “The woman came to her husband saying, ‘A man of God came to me,’” verse 6, by the way, “‘his appearance was like the appearance of an angel, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. But he said to me, “Behold, you shall conceive a son, conceive and give birth to a son, and you shall not drink wine or strong drink nor eat any unclean, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.”’” Nazirite vows were not that long. They were shorter periods of time. So this is a lifelong consecration.
“Manoah entreated the Lord, ‘O please, O Lord please let the man of God whom You have sent come to us again that he may teach us what to do for the boy who is to be born.’ God listened to the voice Manoah; and the angel of God came again to the woman,” please note it, “as she was sitting in the field, but Manoah her husband was not with her. So the woman ran quickly and told her husband, ‘Behold, the man who the other day has appeared to me.’ And Manoah arose and followed his wife and came to the man and said to him, ‘Are you the man who spoke to the woman?’”
I’m sorry, you have to see some humor in the Bible. He goes, “I am.” Sound familiar? I am, the self-identifier for Yahweh, tetragrammaton. We don’t know how to say it, or pronounce it. We say Yahweh. We don’t know what it means, but we do. It’s I am, the self-identifier, when Jesus says, “Before Abraham was I am.” They pick up stones to kill Him, so we have the Christophany again.
“Manoah said, ‘Now when your words come to pass, what shall the boy’s mode of life and his vocation?’” It’s just like what we do when a boy asks to marry our daughter. Let’s talk about your plans for my daughter. I mean, in some sense; I don’t want to be too hard on the man. “So the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, ‘Let the woman pay attention to all that I said.’” You’ve got to love it. “She should not eat anything,” and he just repeats it all. “Then Manoah,” verse 15 “said to the angel, ‘Please let us detain you so that we may prepare a young goat for you.’ The angel of the Lord says to Manoah, ‘Though you detain me, I will not eat your food, but if you prepare a burnt offering to the Lord, then Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the Lord. Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, ‘What is your name, so that when the words come to pass, we may honor you?’ But the angel of the Lord said to him, ‘Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?’” It’s a very complex rendering.
“Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, offered it on the rock to the Lord, He performed wonders while Manoah and the wife looked on. It came about when the flame went up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended into the flame of the altar. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground. Now the angel of the Lord did not appear to Manoah or his wife again. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. Manoah said to his wife, ‘We will surely die, for we have seen God.’”
Has this guy not listened to anything that’s being said? He’s going to have a son and they’re going to raise him according to the Nazirite vow. “We’re going to die!” It’s like, again, McFly, hello. You know it’s just, he’s not quite there, bless his heart. And the wife steps in, verse 23, “If the Lord had desired to kill us He would not have accepted the burnt offering and the grain offering. He would not have shown us all these things, nor would He have.” You want to see it in the Hebrew? Stupid! You know, you’re looking for the word. “The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir in him.”
Now the Spirit of the Lord’s going to be mentioned more in the life of Samson than anyone else in the book of Judges, and we’re going to look at a little bit of that. The story of the sacrifice sounds familiar. Does it not? We looked at one; we go back to Abram and the sacrifices with the Abrahamic covenant. And there is this altar that God allows; it’s stone, not beaten with tools or instruments. It’s primitive because He doesn’t want us worshiping the altar or the artifact. He wants us worshiping Him. And in all of the occasions the flame consumes everything, Elijah and the prophets of Baal and the prophets of the Asherah. And those stories have a lot of parallels in them.
I love what Steven Spielberg does in many ways, and for whatever reason when I saw the first Raiders of the Lost Ark, remember when the ark of the covenant, the lid and all goes up. I mean, that, in my sanctified imagination, is a pretty good picture of what this would be like. Who knows? But the thing is just consumed and lifted up and it goes up to heaven. And so we have this amazing sign and wonder that they have seen. Then we’re introduced to our character.
Two lessons before we continue in the story line. Number 1: a dedicated life means abstaining from sin. We play with sin, we toy with sin—and we will see how Samson will wrestle with this—but we are not under the Nazirite vow. We’re not under some legalistic code of if /then—if you do this, then you’re more spiritual than others. But there is a true biblical teaching that if we are going to be dedicated to God we have to abstain from sin. We cannot do it in the flesh. We toy with sin; we play with sin; but if we’re going to follow Christ, part of that mission is dependence on His Spirit. And we’ll talk more about this in a few minutes.
And secondly, a dedicated life stands out from the culture. The Nazirite is going to be very different than the normative Jew, even in the period of Judges. They’re going to have wine with their meals. He’s not going to have this long hair. He’s not going to be prevented from killing an animal, burying a friend, a loved one, being part of any of those things. And he’s going to be set apart. And so those features, though they seem somewhat innocuous, really do take him out of a segment of life. If I said you can never have coffee or caffeine or anything other than water, you can never wear but one set of clothes the rest of your life and you can never watch television, TV media or technology. I mean, this is being parceled out very differently than the rest of his lifestyle.
And the extrapolation for me, and it’s a question I have no good answers for, but I do ask the question a lot, is, how am I any different from the culture? And one of the challenges I think each generation faces, but it seems more today than ever; before, you know, we didn’t go to “R” rated movies; we didn’t watch certain television programs; you know, we had some boundaries. And you can call them legalism, because if we say if you do that you’re a good Christian, which is a lie, but sometimes there’s wisdom. Sometimes there’s some PG-13 movies and some PG movies that are worse than some R movies I’ve seen. Right? Those who will acknowledge going to films. And so we’ve got to be careful with all that.
But I do scratch my head and go, am I any different than the culture? I’ve always liked the comment people say when they get to know me, and I try to hide what I do for a living because the minute they know what I do it’s like, it’s a bad analogy, but you will understand. It’s like I work for Amway or I’m an insurance salesman. I’ve got nothing against Amway or Shaklee or insurance; I’m not saying that. But you understand what I mean; I’m in direct marketing. I have a home business opportunity for you. Would you like to hear more? Wouldn’t you like to have more money? And all of a sudden the walls go up. I have two nonbelieving friends, and I tell you, we have great friendship. But the minute I bring up the spiritual life the blinds shut, because I’m selling something to them.
Well, other than that how am I any different than the culture? And when they say, you know, the thing about you is you’re real and you’re not like any preacher I know, that’s sort of two-edged. I’m glad they feel that way, but it also, I’m going, well, is that good? I think it is in the main, right. But if I can’t be a person who shares Christ with them, is just being a friend a good deal? Well, you have to wrestle with that in your own world.
Well, we’re introduced then to chapter 14; we have his marriage introduction. “Then Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman,” if you’re a person who takes notes in your Bible I would encourage you to circle some words. You should circle the word “saw a woman,” “one of the daughters of the Philistines. He came back and told his father and mother, ‘I saw,’” circle it again, “‘a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.’ Then his father and mother said to him, ‘Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all your people that you may take as a wife, from this uncircumcised Philistines?’ But Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me, for she looks,’” circle it, “‘looks good to me.’ However, his father and mother did not know it was of the Lord, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.”
And again that helps us with the time stamp from the 1 Samuel. He’s captivated by her sight. Saw, saw, she looks good to me. The Hebrew is interesting. It’s very truncated. It’s more abrupt. “Get her, she looks good.” And that tells you a lot about the male species.
Now the geographic tone of Timnah is important. We’ll talk more about it, but at that time the Philistines are controlling the whole thing. We talk about Roman occupation during the time of Jesus, a foreign power ruling Jerusalem, the city, the capital city of Israel, the capital city of Judaism and a Roman occupying power. The Philistines are now in power over them. The Jews have had this problem. You know, we live in a culture that I would dare say we’re not a Judeo-Christian culture anymore. Bad news, good news; Israel was often under a foreign power. And those foreign powers are used in God’s sovereign ways in ways we don’t always understand.
Now the parents do protest. They do say “uncircumcised Philistine.” It’s a slur. It’s a pretty derogatory word. This uncircumcised, unclean; can’t you find a wife among Jews, among your tribe, among your relatives, which is how they were to marry? But nevertheless he prevails on them and they cave. Important: in verse 4, the context is that God has got something going on. And, of course, that raises an ethical question. I believe Samson’s choice was wrong, but the text does tell us God is still sovereign and He’s doing something. But we’re going to see the story, of course, as anything but clean and neat.
Let’s pick it up in verse 5. “Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came as far as the vineyards of Timnah; and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him. And the Spirit of the Lord,” there it is, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily so that he tore him as one tears a young goat though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done. He went down and talked to the woman; and she looked,” there’s the word again, circle it, “she looked good to Samson. Then he returned later to take her, and turned aside to look,” there it is again, “to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, there were a swarm of bees and honey were inside the body of the lion. So he scraped the honey into his hands and went on eating it as he went. When he came to his father and mother he gave to them and they ate, but he did not tell them he had scraped the honey out of the body of the lion. And the father went down to the woman and Samson made a feast there and the young men customarily did this. When he saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him.”
The arranged marriage is going to have two episodes in it, the young lion where he’s going to meet on the way to Timnah. Please note we have a vineyard mentioned. What’s he supposed to be avoiding? All alcohol. And so that’s intrigue, number 1. Secondly, the eye is still predominate. She looked good. We could call her a Philistine babe. That’s why I think Hedy Lamarr was a good actress to put in the role. Excuse me, that’s going to be later on. That’s Delilah, not this one.
After the betrothal period he goes down to the vineyard again. He’s killed a lion with his hands. This is not, you know, Victor Mature; he’s not Arnold Schwarzenegger. I don’t envision him being a wimp, but it wasn’t his bodily strength that enabled him to do that. It was God’s Spirit that enabled him to do this, as you know the story well.
“Made a feast,” in verse 10, literally is a drinking party. And we’re going to see the problem therein. So we’ve got this dead carcass he’s going to revisit. What’s he supposed to do? Avoid dead things. And the backdrop is the vineyard. And this is why, of course, he doesn’t tell his parents where the honey came from, because he would have acknowledged I went back to that dead. Why does he go back to see the dead lion? We can only speculate, and enough time has lapsed that a swarm of bees have occupied the cavity of the lion and have built honey. That takes a while.
So we have a number of things going on here that tip our hand. Certainly we can’t object to him defending himself in killing a lion because it comes to him. Whether he was to go to the vineyard is speculation altogether. But I think perhaps he’s just taking a break; a vineyard’s a good place to go do it. And he encounters a lion on the way.
Well, and we now have the famous riddle, verses 12-14: “Samson said to them, ‘Let me now propound a riddle to you.” Now, in the Middle Eastern culture this is, you know, this is a campfire conversation. This is what this is. Let’s sit around the campfire and tell stories. And that’s precisely what they would do in the Middle East. Let me tell you a riddle. “If you will indeed tell it to me within seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen wraps and thirty changes of clothes. But if you are unable to tell me, you shall give me thirty linen wraps and thirty changes of clothes.’ And they said, ‘Then propound a riddle, that we may hear it.’ So he said to them, ‘Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet.’ But they could not tell the riddle in three days.”
The English fortunately gives sort of a rhyme and limerick and meter to it. Rarely does that happen in Hebrew, from Hebrew to English. The structure in the original would also have a structural parallel to it, but it’s nice in this case that it has the, out of the eaters came something to eat, out of the strong came something sweet. So it’s got this lilt to it. And so these riddles were fun for them to entertain. It’s a bet. It’s an expensive bet. Thirty articles of clothing, thirty new suits from Banks or Haberdasher’s is what’s in mind here. And we have this challenge. Thirty men can’t figure it out to the one riddle, so what do they do?
“Then it came about,” verse 15, “on the fourth day they said to Samson, Samson’s wife, ‘Entice your husband, so that he will tell us the riddle, or we will burn you and your father’s house with fire.’” These are nice guys. These are her Philistine relatives. They don’t want to pay the debt. They don’t want to lose. So you get a picture, remember I said earlier—when was it, yesterday? It seems like much longer—that when they hate God’s people they hate God. And they’ll spare nothing. We’ll burn your father and you down if you don’t tell us the riddle.
“‘Have you invited us to impoverish us?’ Samson’s wife wept before him, ‘You only hate me, you do not love me; you have propounded a riddle to the sons of my people, and have not told it to me.’ He said, ‘Behold, I have not told it to my father or my mother; why should I tell you?’ However she wept before him seven days.” Oh, what, isn’t that just wrong? I mean that’s just wrong. You know, there’s no crying in baseball. I mean, come on, you know, no crying in the marriage here.
“On the seventh day he told her because she pressed him so hard. She then told the riddle to the sons of her people. So the men of the city came to him on the seventh day before the sun went down and said, ‘What is sweeter than honey? And stronger than a lion?’ He said “What is sweeter than honey and stronger than a lion?’ And he said to them, ‘If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out the riddle.’ Then the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty men and took their spoil and gave the changes of clothes to those who had told the riddle. And his anger burned,” and then we got a little literary device; you can burn a house. “His anger burned and he went up to his father’s house. But Samson’s wife was given to his companion who had been his friend,” probably one of the thirty.
Now this scornful picture to call her a heifer is a little tough. But the way we think of it, it’s debasing her, because a heifer wasn’t just a large animal; that’s not the point. A heifer was not used to plow. A heifer,…Horses are, you know, they’re used for different things. There are plow horses; there’s work horses; and there’s horses that, you know, are equestrians, that are, you know, thousands, millions of dollars for some horses, and they’re not treated the same way other animals are. A heifer was a special animal used for special things, especially in Israel’s world. And so what he’s saying is you used her in an unfair manner. You used her in a way that she was not intended to be used. If you had not plowed, you don’t take a million dollar horse and have them plow a field. So the sexual innuendo is improper the way we look at it. What he’s saying is that you took a special woman and you’ve used her in an improper way. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon him.
Now Ashkelon, a little bit of geographic history. It’s about 23 miles away. It’s one of the five key cities of the Philistines. I don’t know what we’d consider one of the five key cities in the United States: Washington DC, Dallas, Texas, what else would we? You know, Chicago, I don’t know, L.A., whatever they would be. So he goes to one of the five key cities and kills 30 guys, takes their clothes and takes them back. And word hasn’t traveled back yet, so they don’t know where the clothes come from. But it’s a way of his justice. You know, you plow with my wife, I’m going to get you. I’ll go kill 30 of your men one to one. And he takes them back in retaliation, gives them the clothes. And it’s anger and it’s simmering.
Now a couple of lessons here before we go on. Number 1: the danger of a second look. We see the warning signs when he saw the women at Timnah, “Get her for me. She looks good.” I had a college roommate at Steven A. Foster State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. And we watched Billy Graham on TV a number of times. And he said, “You know, I learned something about lust. Billy Graham said it’s the second look that’s lust.” So he said, “You know what? I’ve learned to take a first long look.” Aren’t we just clever and perverted and twisted? The second look, we’re clever.
You know this technology; I was talking to the prof before tonight. This technology, the phones and this [tablet], is a gateway unlike anything we’ve ever had into pornography. And interestingly, women now are getting involved in it in unprecedented levels. There are detectives in the Brentwood, Williamson County system, that are working with child pornography, and girls who are predatorily taking pictures of themselves with technology and sending them to boys in middle school. It’s a brave new world, folks.
When I was a boy, when you were young, if you found a Playboy or a Penthouse or a Hustler, you know, your heart raced and you knew if someone found that you had it, you’d be killed, you know. I mean, there was great risk and peril involved in those days. Today, you know, the technology and these kids are smart. They know how to cover their tracks. And the second look has turned into a difficult lifestyle.
I talked with a young woman. We have, on Thursday night I teach a young adults’ class of 20 and 30 somethings. These are professionals. These are kids going to medical school, law school, P.A.’s, nurse practitioners. They’re sharp, young, most of them are graduate, post graduate students. They’re singles and they are at Vanderbilt and Belmont and the music industry. They’re sharp, sharp adults. And I would say 99% of the men are deeply struggling with Internet pornography and 1% are lying about it. And I would say probably 40-50% of the women have had trouble with it. It’s a brave new world.
And the challenge is not just not doing it. The challenge is asking why are taking the second look? I often say be a student of your sin. What turns your head turns your heart. And, I mean, as a pastor I would say simply it’s the longing for illegitimate intimacy. All sin, in my opinion, is an illegitimate means to a legitimate end. And so our temptation and pull to this is a legitimate need. We need intimacy. God designed us for intimacy with Him, with people.
I have a handful of brothers who are not my literal brothers, but they’re my spiritual brothers. They know my secrets. I know theirs. And I pursue these men for, the longest one for 31 years, is Robert in Dallas. And Robert knows all my secrets and I know his. George and I go back to third grade. I can’t even count that far. And George knows all my secrets and I know his. And Dave is a brother closer than a friend, a friend closer than a brother. And David and I, he’s gone with East Coast Ministries now, and I’ve been with him in his darkest times and he’s with me in my darkest times and our frustrations and temptations.
And all I know is I’ve got to have men around me who, as Dave says, “Easley, you need a spiritual dope slap.” We have nicknames for each other that I won’t share in public. But he has a nickname for me and he goes you need a spiritual dope slap and I’m going to come down there and give you a dope slap. And at other times he encourages me because he knows I need encouragement and vice versa. And none of us make a move without the others knowing because the line’s too thin with the second look.
Secondly, a first touch. Samson, perhaps, did not violate the Nazirite vow when he killed the lion. I will give him that. But when he turned aside and went back to it and scraped up the honey he violated the Nazirite vow. He was to avoid the dead and decaying body. I also think it’s important to notice he went out of his way. It says he turned aside. Maybe he was curious. I don’t want to over read the story, but the text does say he turned aside. Now, I think the text is telling us something deeper. Sin seems sweet. And so he gets the honey out of the sin and he shares it with his mom and dad. And the fact that he doesn’t tell them, all the more reason why it’s a sin, it’s covert, the honey-laden carcass.
So we’ve broken the vow of the vineyard and the wine. We’ve broken the vow of the carcass. All that remains is the hair. And you know the story where it’s going to go, right? Thirdly, toying with power. Should Samson have propounded the riddle? Was he breaching his Nazirite vow even in toying with his strength? We’ll see more about that as we go on.
But I think for you and me, when we get to these positions in life where we have, we’ve accumulated some wisdom, some knowledge from financial resources, whatever. I was talking to an individual earlier today about, you know, when you get in a position of power and influence it’s hard to find people in power and influence who don’t become corrupt. My experience at the Moody Bible Institute was an extraordinary privilege in a 125 year old ministry, a legacy that it was enormous. And after I resigned—my tenure there was the shortest president at Moody—and Cindy says, “Honey, you were a speed bump in the life of Moody.” I like that. You were just a speed bump.
And, you know, when you get in those positions of power, people, you know, and we all do it, we all curry to people that we think are important and powerful. I didn’t like that part of the job. I didn’t like being in that role and I didn’t like playing that role. But, and this is just between us; you won’t tell anybody I said this. I met a lot of Christian powerful people that I would not walk across the room and shake their hand today. We’d bring them in for conferences and whatever, and the way they treated our staff, and you guys have seen this in the music industry, and there are Christians who, when they get that aphrodisiac, when they get that power, as Kissinger talked about, when they get that position in life, and the entitlement and, I didn’t know, you know, I deserve all this stuff, and I’ve got to have this, that and the other. I don’t want to be harsh, but I want to be truthful.
The church in Nashville calls me a Christian Dr. House, and if you watch House that will explain who I am. I don’t like it, but I think it’s a fair assessment. I don’t have a diplomatic bone in my body. I never have. I’ve prayed for one and the Lord has yet answered. I call it as I see it, and sometimes I should just keep my trap shut. But power is a tough thing, and it’s tied closely with success. And my suspicion is the reason He doesn’t give more us more power and more success is because we handle it so poorly.
And the only way I know to handle it is to stay really close to men and women who will tell you the truth, and that’s why George and Dave and Robert and others are closer than brothers. And even when I was at the Institute, I had dinners with people that were, you know, very powerful and important Christians, influential, money, you name it. And I enjoyed hanging out with Robert and Dave and George more because they knew my secrets and I knew theirs and they didn’t believe anything about me and they were proud of me. And yet, they would also give me up by the collar when I needed it. And if you’re going to be in those positions the only way I know, because power is a powerful aphrodisiac.
Well, his flaw, “this thing looks good to me,” is the Western dilemma. Two times in Judges we’re going to read the epitaph; jot these verses down: 17:6 and 21:25. And that’s where the writer says, “Every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Starting to see the connection with Samson? It was right in their own eyes. So Samson becomes an amalgamate individual, but of the greater problem with sin in individual. So watch those warning signs.
Let’s look at the revenge picking up chapter 15. “After a while, in the time of the wheat harvest, Samson visited his wife with a young goat, and said, ‘I will go in to my wife in her room.’ But her father did not let him enter. He [the father] said, ‘I really thought you hated her intensely so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister more beautiful than she? Please let her be yours instead.’ Samson then said to him, ‘This time I shall be blameless in regard to the Philistines when I do them harm.’ Samson went and caught three hundred foxes.” Probably jackal is a better word, jackals would be in herds, small litters, if you will, like coyotes as opposed to foxes that tend to be loners or pairs for a while. So the word can also mean jackals. It’s a hard story to believe, but a lot of stories in the Bible are hard to believe. Get over it! So 300 foxes.
“He took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail, put the torch in the middle between the tails. He set fire to the torches, released the foxes in the standing grains of the Philistines and burned up the shocks of the standing grains along with the vineyards and the groves. Then the Philistines said, ‘Who did this?’ They said, ‘Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he took his wife and gave her to his companion.’ So the Philistines came and burned her and her father with fire.” What did they tell her if she didn’t get the answer of the riddle? Nice folks, these Philistines.
“Samson said, ‘Since you act like this, I will surely take revenge on you, but after I will quit.’ He struck them ruthlessly with a great slaughter; and he went down and lived in the cleft of the rock of Etam. Than the Philistines went up and camped at Judah, and spread out in Lehi. The men of Judah said, ‘Why have you come up against us?’ They said, ‘We’ve come to bind Samson in order to do to him as he did to us.’ And 3,000 men of Judah,” these are his brothers, don’t forget; these are his brothers, “went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam and said, ‘Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us?’”
Stop! Hold the presses! I thought God was the ruler. Let’s take a side bar here. Who’s our ruler in America, men and women? God? Should be. I mean, I’m anxious and worried and afraid and I hate the sin. I love the men and women trying to do good. I love the men and women trying, and I love our system of government, but I do not wrap it in, I do not wrap the flag around a cross. It reminds me of Crawford Loritz. Did I just tell this story yesterday? Okay, I won’t tell it again. Jesus does not stand when we do the national anthem. When we say the pledge of allegiance Jesus doesn’t stand up. Some of you say, well, I don’t know about that, you know. But it’s true. I mean, I love our country, but our country’s not Jesus.
And when they say, “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this you have done?’ And he said to them, ‘As they did to me, so I’ve done to them.’ They said, ‘We have come down to bind you.’” How many did they send? You think they’re a little anxious about this guy? Yeah, “‘We’re going to bind you and give you into the hands of the Philistines.’ Samson says, ‘Swear to me you will not kill me.’ They said, ‘No, but we will bind you fast and give you into their hands; yet surely we will not kill you.’ They bound him with two new ropes.” Now, new ropes have to do with a wet moist rope is much harder to break and tear than a dry piece of hemp. We would think of the dry rope being easier to break. So they’re anxious and they’ve planned; they’ve planned ahead.
Verse 14: “When he came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they met him. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him.” There it is again. “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily so the ropes on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds dropped from his hands. And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he reached out and took and killed three thousand men with it. Then Samson said, ‘With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of a donkey I have killed a thousand men.’ When he finishes speaking, he threw the jawbone from his hand; and the place is named Ramath-lehi.”
Let’s stop before we get to the prayer. Now, this ruthless revenge, there’s a lot of imagery going on here with the flocks, the jackals, the fox. We’ve got the imagery. Where’s the younger sister? Where else? Rachel and Leah. So we’ve got some imagery carry-over there. We’ve got the switch by the dad, if you will, “I gave her away,” and so he’s going to take revenge. So there’s a lot of imagery going on that’s consistent.
The brutality of the Philistines to kill the Timnite woman and her father tell us,… and that’s the reason I bring up the story of Quanah and the Comanche; these are brutal people. Israel may be culpable and not following Yahweh Elohim. We don’t see quite the brutality yet. It will turn into a civil war. We talked about talionic justice, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, lex talionis, the law of justice. So the proportion of the crime, proportion of the penalty, is a concept from antiquity. And so you burned my wife and my father-in-law, I’ll burn your crops. So we see some imagery there and it’s ruthless revenge. The phrase “ruthless” means hip on thigh or the idea of leg on thigh, meaning a piling up of. You do something to me, I’m going to pile it up worse on you. And so when he kills these men it literally means piles upon piles of men. That’s how he takes his revenge.
The word “jawbone” and the word “lehi” are a word play. I probably shouldn’t say this at The Cove, but I feel kind of liberal tonight. My dad was a salesmen and he had a plaque in his office. It said, “Samson killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass. The same instrument kills that many sales every day.” So I’m sorry if that offends you. That’s Joe Easley. Just think of me as Dr. House.
A one-man killing machine. His own countrymen are going to turn him over. That tells you a lot about the context of Judges—that they would. Samson is a judge. Samson is the longest story if you look at your little cheat sheet, and they turn him over. The difference between Samson, if we looked up all the judges, is that he’s a one man, solo killing machine. He’s not leading Israel. And very important in the digression and the continued falling of Israel during that period of Judges, the darkest time of Israel’s history until, of course, they reject Messiah. It’s the darkest days, post-theocracy and during the monarchies. It’s terrible because everyone’s doing what’s right in their own eyes. No men of Judah helped him.
Okay let’s look at his thirst. Chapter 15, verse 18: “He became very thirsty, and he called out to the Lord and said, ‘You have given this,’” interesting there. He acknowledges God. “‘You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant, now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?’ Then God split the hollow place that is in Lehi and water came out. He drank it and his strength returned. He revived and he named it En-hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day. So he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines.”
Now we go to the story of Delilah. I think it’s important to know that although He doesn’t deliver Israel, God is using Samson to show the sons of Judah and others what this man could do. And they could have easily said, “God’s certainly using this guy. We bound him with ropes and look what he did. He killed a thousand men. Maybe we should go follow him.” But again, the country is degraded. The nation’s in disarray. It’s a time of sin and politics and deception.
Chapter 16: “Now Samson went to Gaza and saw,” hello, there’s our word, “saw a harlot and went in to her. When it was told to the Gazites, ‘Samson has come here,’ they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night long at the gate of the city. And they kept silent all night saying, ‘Let us wait until the morning and then we’ll kill him.’ Samson lay until midnight. At midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts and pulled them along with the bars; and he put them on the shoulders and carried them on top of the mountain which is opposite Hebron.”
Now you have to understand, the city gates were the most impenetrable part of any city. And so this guy, “Do you think you’re going to intimidate me? I’m going to make your whole city vulnerable.” And some scholars think this was a few kilometers. Some argue it’s over 20 miles he hauled these doors away. It doesn’t really matter. The point is he breeched the strongest part of their city, so you’ve got to wonder.
Verse 4: “After this it came about that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.” Here’s Hedy. “And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said, ‘Entice him.’” Sound familiar? “‘Entice him that we might see where his great strength lies and how we may overpower him and we may bind him and afflict him. Then we will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.’ And Delilah said to Samson, ‘Please tell me where your great strength is and how you may be bound and afflicted.’”
We know the story. “And Samson said to her, ‘If they bind me with seven fresh cords that have not been dried, I will become weak like any other man.’ The lords of the Philistines brought up seven fresh cords that had not been dried. They bound him. Now she had men lying in wait in the inner room and said to him, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ But he snapped the cords as a string of tow snaps as it touches the fire. And so his strength was not discovered. Delilah said to him, ‘Behold, you have deceived me. You told me lies; please now tell me.’” Who’s deceiving whom?
“He said, ‘If they bind me tightly tied with new ropes which have not been used then I will become like any man, weak.’ Delilah took new ropes and bound him and said to him, ‘The Philistine are upon you!’ The men were lying in wait and snapped the ropes like his arms like a thread. Delilah said, ‘Up to now you’ve deceived me and told me lies; tell me how you may be bound.’ And he said to her, ‘If you weave the seven locks of my hair with the web [and fasten it to a pin, I’ll become weak like any other man.]’” You know the story. “Samson!” Verse 15: “Then she said, ‘How can you say “I love you” when your heart is not with me? You deceived me three times and have not told me where your great strength is.’ And she pressed him daily with the words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death.”
Why doesn’t he leave the woman? Why does he stay there? Because she looks like Hedy Lamarr, that’s why. Because what he sees, what he touches, what he wants, because every man does what’s right in his own eyes. Because he’s so powerful he’s immutable. He can’t be touched. Nobody can harm him. He’s believing himself rather than his God.
Well, verse 17: “So he told her all that was in his heart,” the saddest verse in the Samson narrative. “A razor has never come to my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak like any other man.” And I overemphasize the first person pronouns because the author is telling us this is where he lays bare the final thing he had. He’s already violated the alcohol issue by being associated with the vineyard; he’s already violated the dead body with the lion and the honey; and now he’s violated the last of the Nazirite vow about his hair.
“When Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, ‘Come up once more, for this time he’s told me all that is in his heart.’ And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought her the money.” She never loved him. She never loved him. She loved the money. “She made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and shaved off the seven locks on his hair. Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him. Then she said, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ And he awoke from his sleep, ‘I will get out as other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.” You see, the hair was not the issue. Samson’s hair didn’t take his strength away. God took his strength away after he broke the final part of his Nazirite vow.
“She said, ‘The Philistines are upon you!’” Verse 21: “They seized him and gouged out his eyes.” Look back at chapter 14, verse 1—“He went down to Timnah and saw a woman.” “They gouged out his eyes and they brought him down to Gaza and they bound him with bronze chains and he was a grinder in the prison. However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off. Now the lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice, and said, ‘Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands.’ When the people saw him they praised their god, ‘Our god has given our enemy into our hands, even the destroyer of our country, who has slain many of us.’ It happened when they were in high spirits, ‘Call Samson out that he might amuse us.’”
By the way, the grinding image, and again not to be chauvinistic or politically incorrect, but that was a woman’s role. If you saw the movie versions of it, he’s pushing this huge grinder. It was either a woman’s role to grind grain or an animal’s role. So he’s taken from this, the imagery is he’s this hulk of, you know, a Schwarzenegger killing machine doing woman’s work as a blind person. That’s really the Hebrew image of what’s happened to him.
Verse 25: “So they called for Samson from prison and he entertained them. And they made him stand between the pillars. And Samson said to the boy who was holding his hand, ‘Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.’ Now the house was full of men and women, and the lords of the Philistines. There were about 3,000 men and women were on the roof looking while Samson was amusing them.” So they’re tormenting him. And again we see some imagery here. Who else did they taunt? Who else do they torment? Who else do they mistreat? Not just Israel the nation, but of course Christ will be treated this way.
Verse 28: “Then Samson called to the Lord and said, ‘O God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time.’” Notice the first person pronoun in his prayer, “O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” Any hint of national deliverance here? Any hint of national mission here? It’s all about him. “Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, braced himself against them and with one with his right hand, the other with his left, Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines!’ And he bent with all his might so the house fell on the lords and all the people were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. And his brothers and all his father’s household came down and took the body, took him and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. Thus he judged Israel twenty years.”
He kills, I think 1,030 we know for sure, because he kills the 30 men and he kills the 1,000 with the jawbone of the donkey, and here he kills 3,000, some spectators, let’s say. So he kills more in the last for the vengeance of his eyes. The story really is about a hero who’s greatly flawed. He’s mentioned in Hebrews 11:32 as the hall of faith.
A couple of lessons. I believe that all of our sin falls under three umbrellas: money, sex and power. So we want to control. We want to use our personality. We want to use our position in life, strength, in order to control something. Sex, of course, is a very powerful issue in our lives no matter what our age; it always will be. I arose in Grand Prairie, Texas, one time, early. I was 28 years old. I was a young pastor and I was going with the two elders to Piccadilly. Do they still have Piccadilly’s in Texas, or are they all gone? I used to call it “Pick a Loser.” But we’d go to Piccadilly and have a cafeteria lunch at the mall. And one of these gentlemen was in his 80s.
And we were pulling up to the mall and the driver’s going to let us go out and get in line and he was going to park the car. And this very attractive woman walked in front of us, and it was impossible for us to ignore her. I mean, very scantily clad, walked right in front of us. And here I am, this 28 year old pastor, going,… you know, and this 80 some year old man said to the car, “You know, I’ll be glad when I’m old enough that that doesn’t bother me.” And then money. You know we’re amorous; we’re greedy. We always want bigger, better, more. So I think of three umbrellas in my life: money, sex and power. And when I study my sin, I can line it up under one of those three umbrellas. And sometimes they overlap. Sometimes they’re all three. Lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, the boastful pride of life, money, sex and power; lust of the flesh, lust of the eye, the boastful pride of life. So we have this in our hero.
Secondly, our greatest strength often, taken one step too far, becomes our greatest liability. So if you are a person of power and you use it well, that’s a good thing. If you take it one step too far it’s a bad thing. If you’re a person of wealth it’s a good thing if you’re generous and handle it well and a good steward; take it one step too far it becomes avarice and greed. And with sex we have to be careful how we define that, but if I am an intimate husband, intimate with Christ, intimate in the proper way, if I overstep the boundary of that, it’s immoral. So our greatest strengths taken or any strength taken a little too far become our liability.
So when I say, people, to study your sin, let’s don’t beat people up, because we all live in sin and we all wrestle with sin. We sin every day. I was a young pastor in a church in Grand Prairie and I went off on some tangent about, you know, I sin all the time. I used to set these stupid goals. Can I not sin for one hour? When you’re young you do stupid things. Could I go a day and not sin? Well, the problem is between the temples and the cavity of my heart, not the action, generally speaking. And so I went on this little rant in this sermon about, you know, I sin all the time. I sin every day and it drives me crazy. I confess and I keep short accounts, and sometimes I don’t keep short accounts, but I try to and, Lord, I hate sin. Romans 7, “Oh, I do the thing I hate. Lord, who’s going to deliver me from this? And I’m locked in this body of carnality and sin and the sin nature.” It’s always in the dirt, always in the mud, always in the mar.
And I was going on and on about my sin every day. Well, this woman came up afterwards and she says, “I don’t like hearing my pastor say I sin every day.” And I said, “I sin every day.” Now I probably shouldn’t have said that. I sent her into orbit, and, “You’re not supposed to. You’re a pastor.” And I said, “You’re immune!?” Dr. House in his young days. I still sin every day. I hate it the minute I do it. I regret it the minute I do it. So I ask myself, what happens when I get over here, that I justify my sin?
I can be very short with people who have petty problems because I want to say, “You have no idea how much pain I’m in right now. You have no idea how I feel right now. You have no idea the problems I’m dealing with, with people in the church who, a guy’s beating his wife, or a guy is a crook and a criminal and he’s lying and he’s going to go jail, and there’s a big fight in the church between families who have given this guy help in the past and, you know, one guy’s mad at another pastor and so forth and so on. And, I mean, and they come in whining about something, and I just want to give them a dope slap. Say, grow up! Is this really what you came to talk to me about, for goodness sakes? I don’t care! I’m supposed to. I know none of you have that issue, but,…
So I study my sin and say why do I get there? A friend of mine was in and out of drug treatment. He had a horrible time with drugs. He’d been in and out of many programs. None of them have worked. And we helped him get into a program years ago, in near Waxahachie, Texas. I can’t remember the name of the clinic. But he was in a lockdown environment for I think three weeks, no phone calls, no television, no nothing. And if he did certain things right, at the end of three weeks he could see one or two people. And he wanted to see his wife and he wanted to see me. And so I drove down to go see him, and I’ll never forget it. We sat a picnic table with a 10 foot fence around us with the barbwire on top. That’s the kind of place he was in. And we so excited to tell me what he was learning.
And he said, “You know there,” I forget the number, but let’s say there were 50 and they said “they told us when we came in here only one of us would be clean and sober in 120 days, post this program.” And he said, “I determined before God I was going to be that one person.” And we sat there and talked and he, of course, had not seen civilization since he went in there, so he told me about HALT. Some of you probably have heard this, hungry, angry, lonely, or tired. A drug user should never go outside of the house if they’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired. You must deal with those issues.
If you’re hungry; don’t go to the grocery when you’re hungry. Cindy and I go to Whole Foods after we’ve eaten and we’re like bloated. You know, we buy like four things, because if we go when we’re hungry we have, you know, a shopping cart like this. You know, you don’t go to Costco when you’re hungry. That’s another rule. You just don’t go there. You have to satisfy your need, because then when you go out you’re not, you know, voracious (SP?). Don’t do something when you’re angry. Resolve your anger before you go out. If you’re tired you’re going to take certain licenses, and if you’re lonely you’re going to do improper things to fill that loneliness void. It’s not necessarily a chapter and verse, but I really like that HALT. HALT; don’t go out the door if you’re hungry, angry, lonely or tired.
And for me it’s been helpful t