In the last few lessons we have been looking at the mess. Basically from chapter 14 forward the personal life of Samson has been nothing but a mess- from his first attempt at marriage, to his one night stand with a prostitute, to his strength depleting affair with Delilah.
This morning we turn the corner in all of this mess and we do so around this question: Where was God in all of this?- and what about the word of the angel of the Lord?
The quick answer to my question is that God was where God always is- He was being faithful to His covenant, and in that covenant faithfulness the word of the angel of the Lord was coming true in the life of a “mess”.
What we need to do here is to track the victories in this story. Secondly we need to see that those victories took place- not in the absence of the mess- but right in the presence of the mess. And thirdly we need to see that the one and only explanation for those victories is found in those wonderful and mysterious words- ‘And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him.’
I am going to read several references to you and I want you to follow the “bouncing ball.”
Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Then 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. 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.
Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them and took their spoil and gave the changes of clothes to those who told the riddle.
He struck them ruthlessly with a great slaughter; and he went down and lived in the cleft of the rock of Etam.
When he came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they met him. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily so that the ropes that were on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds dropped from his hands. He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, so he reached out and took it and killed a thousand men with it.
Now Samson lay until midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts and pulled them up along with the bars; then he put them on his shoulders and carried them up to the top of the mountain which is opposite Hebron.
But he snapped the cords as a string of tow snaps when it touches fire. So his strength was not discovered.
But he snapped the ropes from his arms like a thread.
But he awoke from his sleep and pulled out the pin of the loom and the web.
And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life.
And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. And all these, having gained approval through their faith…
Look at this list of the works of faith in Hebrews 11 and see how many apply to the life of Samson. Conquered kingdoms, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, (well, he didn’t exactly shut the mouth of the lion- it was more a case of tearing the lion’s mouth right off his face), escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. I would say that makes for a rather impressive resume.
The great question in all of this is how do we explain this impressive record of victories in relation to the rather depressive record of the mess?
The only explanation is God’s attitude toward covenant- and that attitude cannot be changed nor altered by the life choices one makes. That is really good news- but it also makes many people very nervous. What they hear in this is that I am justifying sin. What they hear is that I am saying sin doesn’t matter.
In fact I am not saying one thing about sin; I am speaking to the issue of God’s attitude toward covenant- and the good news is that His attitude regarding covenant is not determined by nor affected by anything in the universe other than His own being. Even when we are unfaithful to covenant- our unfaithfulness does not make God unfaithful.
2TI 2:13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
What possible hope would there be for us this morning if God’s faithfulness to covenant
was dependant upon our ability to perfectly keep covenant? Are there consequences to
sin and to the breaking of covenant? Absolutely- and all of those consequences are
negative, and hurtful, and bring great sorrow and tragic and horrific darkness. BUT don’t
ever read into this that one of the consequences of our disobedience is that God becomes
unfaithful to His covenants.
Our first real insight into this is found in Judges 14:4, However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord , for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.
I have done considerable research on this verse and the conclusion I am most comfortable
with is expressed in these words found in “The Wycliffe Bible Commentary : Old Testament.”
‘It seems best to take this as a statement that God, through Samson’s proposed marriage, was seeking to bring about the defeat of the Philistines.’
It would appear that God can remain faithful to His covenant while working in and through events and people who are outside of that covenant.
For instance: Gen.45:1Then Joseph could not control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried, “Have everyone go out from me.” So there was no man with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. He wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard of it. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “ I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, for they were dismayed at his presence. Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come closer to me.” And they came closer. And he said, “I am your brother Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. “Now do not be grieved or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. “For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are still five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvesting. “ God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant in the earth, and to keep you alive by a great deliverance. “Now, therefore, it was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.
For instance consider these excerpts from the first two sermons of Peter and one of his prayers. “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know—this Man , delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.
“And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. “But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. According to these sermon clips there is a direct relationship between the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Christ and the ignorance of those who acted- even when those actions were executed (in the words of Peter)- by the hands of godless men.
“For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur. And according to this there is a relationship between the fulfillment of the predestined purpose of God regarding His Son and Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and the peoples of Israel.
All we need to see here is that God was faithfully working out His covenant purpose in the life of His Son- and that He was doing so in and through many people who were outside of His covenant promise.
We have come to the place in our faith where we can pretty much accept that there is a sovereign, predetermined, God ordained purpose for our life. But where we tend to struggle is with the idea that this same God has also sovereignly determined the process by which we are brought into the realization of that purpose- even when that process includes hateful brothers, or a Herod, or a Pontius Pilot, etc.- or more so when that process includes times of deep personal failure by which the self-effort of religious flesh is being put to death- as in the case of Peter’s denial of Christ.
It is interesting that we can believe these values regarding bible characters or “significant” figures throughout the history of the church- while we struggle with believing the same values regarding our life and the lives of our children or others.
As offensive as it may be to our religious sensibilities the Almighty God included in this story the fact that Samson went directly from the bed of a prostitute- and by the anointing of God pulled the gates and gateposts from the entrance to the city- slung them over his shoulders and marched them up a mountain where he deposited them. And by the way- and just in passing we should note the reference here to gates, shoulders, and mountain. Each of these terms symbolize government in Biblical definition.
Please note that God is not suggesting by including this in the story that He justifies the sexual sin of the man. Nor is He suggesting that there are no consequences to the choices we make. But I do believe He is saying- and saying with profound strength- that neither a man’s sin nor the consequences of a man’s sin are going to render God unfaithful to His word and covenant. God responds to covenant; God meets us in covenant; God works in and through covenant.
If Samson had lived a more righteously disciplined life I feel certain his journey- his life experience- would have been much less painful and far more pleasant. However- and this is the crux of the issue- the victories of God in and through him would not have been anymore significant because of that lifestyle. And again I understand that the religious mind really fusses with this; we are almost desperate to believe that we have earned some of God’s goodness because we have been good.
But we need to see the flip side of this- the very dangerous side of this. If my goodness earns me the covenant favour of God, and if my goodness earns me the covenant faithfulness of God regarding His works in my life, and if my goodness earns me His faithfulness in answering my petitions- then just guess what happens when there is the slightest breakdown in my goodness. And beyond this just consider what the enemy is going to do with this when I make God’s covenant faithfulness dependent upon my goodness.
The enemy loves it when I make God’s covenant faithfulness dependent upon my goodness- because he immediately sets out to wear holes in my goodness- and then on the basis of those flaws he eats away at my faith regarding the covenant faithfulness of God.
Let’s bring this back to what the Spirit spoke at the beginning of this year; The corner is turned- Redemption has come- especially regarding the lives of our children. If you will allow me I will use my own experience to illustrate the point.
When I first laid eyes upon my beautiful black daughter in that Hatian orphanage- I KNOW what the Holy Spirit shouted into my spirit concerning this girl. But let me tell you what else I know five years into this new experience of parenting; I know I have made some very serious blunders- I have ignored some things that should have been regarded, and regarded some things that should have been ignored; and that’s stating it very politely.
If I accept the position that the covenant purposes of God in her life- and God’s covenant faithfulness to those purposes is dependent upon the perfection of my parenting skills then I can tell you right here and now what is going to become of my faith regarding this. The enemy is going to wear holes in it and eventually I won’t have enough confidence to even pray that God fulfill that word concerning her.
But because I know that the word I heard was a covenant word spoken by a covenant keeping God- and because I know that this God works on the basis of covenant- and because I know that the faithfulness of this God to covenant is entirely a matter of His own being and nature- without reference to my being and nature- then I shall continue to believe and to pray for the fulfillment of that covenant word and purpose in Darline’s life.
Let’s lift our voices right now and call forth the covenant purposes of God in the lives of our children- and let’s do this, not with reference to how well or poorly we have done as parents- but with a single view to God’s inability to be unfaithful to His covenant word.