Evening service Sunday 2nd November 2014, Kenneth Gray.
The Philistines were prepared to stand for so much but no more from Samson. Samson’s actions and attitudes are key in this passage. He is angry, brave and confident in the self-righteousness of his actions.
Kenneth observed that there is a theological challenge in Samson’s whole life – God uses him despite his flaws and failings.
In this chapter Samson exhibits many of the flaws and failings that so many of us are prey to including the short attention span that finds him engaged and excited about something one minute then totally disengaged and disinterested the next. Kenneth admitted that there was a time when he had had a (short-lived) passion for photography. He bought all the gear and was very enthusiastic at first then simply lost interest. Having decided in Chapter 14 that he wants to get married he then gives up the girl because she had nagged the solution to the riddle out of him. Now he goes back to visit her, without any expectation of being refused, only to discover she now is wed to someone else. In his fury he rejects the alternative bride offered to him by his father-in-law. What we might perceive to be an internal family problem Samson sees as a wider issue and he sets off on a killing spree to wreak vengeance on the Philistines. Firstly, he destroys their harvest and the Philistines retaliate by killing his wife’s family. Then he kills a thousand men.
In this Remembrance season we are reminded how a ‘little local difficulty’ can so quickly escalate into war when man is driven by hatred and lust for vengeance.
When the Philistines ask the Israelites to hand Samson over to them his people are so fearful that they comply. How like the Church today- too scared to speak out against injustice and godlessness! Samson is brave. He offers the Israelites a deal. He’ll submit to their tying him up and handing him over so long as they promise not to kill him themselves. He agrees to this not because he regards his life as less important than that of the people. Rather, he is confident of overcoming the enemy. The Philistines’ joy is short-lived. With God’s empowering Samson kills a thousand Philistines. Such a thing could only be achieved in God’s power. We wonder how God could use Samson so powerfully when he was such a flawed individual. Yet God continues to do this even today. We can perceive God’s involvement in the lives of so many people, even people who are not his followers or close to him. When God chooses to grant the Spirit’s power to any individual that is his Sovereign Will and isn’t conditional on man’s righteousness.
Now Samson is enabled to lead Israel for 20 years because the Philistines recognise that he has God’s favour.
At the end of the chapter a thirsty Samson, in a manner reminiscent of Jonah, rebukes the Lord for failing to provide something to drink. Despite his miraculous rescue from captivity by the Philistines and the power he had received to rout his enemies, Samson still finds time to have a moan at God. Yet God’s response is incredibly gracious. He opens a holy place in the ground and water wells up to changed slake Samson’s thirst. As we read on we will discover that Samson’s arrogance and self-indulgence remains unchanged even in the face of God’s miraculous empowerment. Not until he is beaten and humiliated and his spirit is broken through his own folly and poor judgment can he be transformed. How true this can be for us too!