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JUDGES 15:1-20
Series:  Heroes of Faith - Part Seven

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
August 14, 2005

Please turn with me to Judges 15.  Today is our second Sunday looking at Samson. 

Last Sunday we looked at Samson’s birth to Mr. and Mrs. Manoah - a dysfunctional couple in which Manoah - Samson’s father - is a few bricks shy of a load and Mrs. Manoah - Samson’s mother - the brains of the operation - runs the home.  Remember this?

God blesses the happy couple with Samson - God’s chosen deliverer - a Nazirite - set aside for God’s purposes - dedicated to God from before he was born.  And yet, we saw that Samson - who’s name means “brightness” - was really as dim a bulb as his father.  Samson became a wild - out of control - passive/aggressive - self-centered - momma’s boy  - who was enticed by things Philistine - the women - the parties - the culture.  His life is controlled by what is around him rather than God.  He lives as an ungodly man with little - if any - regard for the things of God.

Which brings us to chapter 15.  As we’ve been doing we’ll go through the passage - only 20 verses today - make some observations and then share two thoughts of application.

Judges 15:1: 
But after a while, in the time of 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.  Her father said, “I really thought that 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.”

In chapter 14 Samson marries this woman who’s just like his mother.  She whines - manipulates - tries to control her husband.  During the wedding feast Samson tells this riddle about honey and a dead lion - remember this?  He makes this silly bet - and looses.  So, at the end of the wedding feast - Samson has a fight with his wife - slaughters 30 people to pay off the bet - leaves his wife with her family and storms off back to mommy and daddy’s house.

Then in chapter 15 Samson shows up - four months after he abandoned his wife - Mr. Romance shows up not with chocolates or flowers or even an apology - but with a goat. 
Honey I brung ya a goat.  Let’s go to bed.”

His father-in-law steps in and says,
“Listen buck wheat, you left.  So, I gave your wife away.  But, hey, I’ve got her little sister here.  She’s a knock-out.  Take her instead.”   This is “Let’s Make a Deal With My Daughters.”  The father doesn’t care about the marriage - or Samson - or his daughters.  Maybe he’s got his eye on making a profit with the goat.  The bottom line is profit and self preservation - regardless of who gets hurt.

Verse 3 - let’s read this verse out loud together.  Its a crucial verse in understanding this chapter.  Verse 3 - together: 
Samson then said to them, “This time I shall be blameless in regard to the Philistines when I do them harm.”

“I’m gonna put some serious hurt on the Philistines and its your fault not mine.  You made me do it.  I’m blameless.”  Hear that attitude:  “I’m justified in taking vengeance because of what you did to me.”

Verse 4: 
Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail and put one torch in the middle between two tails.  When he had set fire to the torches, he released the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines - remember its harvest time - thus burning up both the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves.

Imagine the effort in this.  A person doesn’t just wander into ACME Pets and buy 300 foxes.  What does it take to catch a fox?  This might have taken days - weeks.  To catch all these foxes.  And while he’s out catching foxes he’s got to take care of the one’s he’s already caught - build cages - feed them - clean up after them.  Then he’s got to gather the material for the torches - make the torches - get the foxes to hold still while he ties the torches on.  The whole time keeping his plan a secret.

Can you imagine this?  Here’s Samson standing outside this barn with 298 noisy foxes in it.  He’s standing there holding onto two foxes and tying a torch to their tails.  Over the last few weeks the neighbors - who’ve been watching his efforts with increasing interest - his neighbors send a representative by with a question.
“Samson what are you doing?”

“Tying torches on the foxes’ tails.”


“Gonna burn the fields.”

This is an amazing act of premeditated strategy and engineering and planning and timing and secrecy.

Then - think about the fields around here.  After all those 100 plus degree days.  Things are pretty dry out there - right?  Samson lets these foxes go in the fields.  Its harvest time.  They’re dry.  These foxes - 150 pairs of wild eyed - crazed - running in two directions at once - foxes.  Trying to escape the flames.

This was a fire.  There will be no harvest this year.  The wheat is gone.  The vineyards are gone.  The groves of fruit trees are gone.  Its devastating.  Vengeance.  Samson - in order to get back at his father-in-law - wipes out the Philistine economy.

Verse 6: 
Then the Philistines said, “Who did this?”  And they said, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because he took his wife and gave her to his companion.”  So the Philistine came and burned her and her father with fire.

“We knew he was up to something with all those foxes.” 
But notice:  rather than going after Samson the Philistines take out Samson’s father-in-law and Samson’s wife.

Verse 7: 
Samson said to them, “Since you act like this, I will surely take revenge on you but after that 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.  Then the Philistines went up and camped in Judah, and spread out in Lehi.  The men of Judah said, “Why have you come up against us?”  And they said, “We have come up to bind Samson in order to do to do to him as he did to us.”  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 I have done to them.”

“Since you act like this”
is the pot calling the kettle black.  Which one’s dirtier?  Which one is more justified in vengeance?

Genghis Khan once said,
“I am the punishment of God.  If you had not committed great sins, God would not have sent a punishment like me upon you!” (1)  That certainly justifies the slaughter of  thousands.

The conflict is escalating - spreading.  First Samson and his wife.  Then Samson verses the wedding guests.  Then the family verses Samson.  Then Samson verses the Philistines.  Then Philistines verses Philistines.    Now its an international incident - Philistines verses Hebrews.

Always below the surface of all of this is that self-justifying attitude.  Do you see it there?   
“They did it to me so I’m justified in doing it to them.” 

Verse 12: 
They said to him, “We have come down to bind you so that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.”  And Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not kill me.”  So they said to him, “No, but we will bind you fast and give you into their hands; yet surely we will not kill you.”  Then they bound him with two new ropes - not old and worn out - new ropes and brought him up from the rock.”

Let’s pause there.  When I was student at BIOLA University - I was living in the dorms with a friend of mine.  We were living above another guy that we would sometimes get into water fights with.  By the way - this is in the “Kids Never Do This” category.

Looking out of our dorm room door there was an outside walkway - about 3 feet wide - then a railing - then a 10 foot drop to the ground.  Below us was about a 15 foot wide walkway - a retaining wall on the far side - and directly below us - under the walkway - was the door to our friends dorm room.

At first we started with dropping a cup of water on the guy below us.   He would toss some water back at us.  Then things escalated.  The retaliation became more strategic - more intense.  We began filling up 2 liter bottles and squirting each other.  Someplace along the way I bought a 10 gallon drum.  Which we could fill up in the shower.  If the timing was right we could launch those 10 gallons over the railing - hit the retaining wall - and the water would back wash itself into the room below.

Then we discovered that the water in the creek - if we kept it in the 2 liter bottles long enough - it really smelled bad.  There were other concoctions we experimented with which were even worse.  But you get the idea.    Our dorm room was filled with 2 liter bottles of nefarious smelling things. 

Justified retaliation - vengeance - escalation.

One day we had the mother of all water fights.  Bottle after bottle of creek bog and other stuff.  Drum after drum of water.  The whole area was soaking and reeking.  Amazingly, someone complained.  Go figure.

We got hauled into the Residents Assistant’s office and were told that we needed to apologize to the dorm.  Which we did.  And, as an act of penance we were to supply some refreshments for the upcoming dorm open house.  Which we did.

We went to Marie Calendars and got pies.  French Apple.  Fresh Strawberry.  Chocolate Cream.  And proceeded to lace each one with ex-lax.  There were toilets flushing that night.  In chapel the next day - people were getting up and heading for the bathrooms.

Escalating vengeance.  How could they complain?  Just one more prank.  Hilarious until we were told that someone almost died.  Until we saw the hurt we caused.  Until we came just that close to getting thrown out of BIOLA.

Think about Samson.  This all started with a self-focused - spoiled momma’s boy brat - disregarding God - demanding a wife that he should never have married - deceiving his parents - going on a rampage to pay off a debt because of a silly riddle told at a wedding feast.  At each point of escalation Samson says,
“I’m justified.  My rights have been violated.  I have a right to vengeance.”  Never questioning his own actions.

By verse 13 - he’s lost his wife - his wife’s family - potential wife #2 - the respect of his people - he’s homeless and hiding in a rocky outcropping - and now he’s bound and waiting execution at the hands of his enemies.  And… whatever happened to God’s plan - the Nazirite from the womb - the deliverer of his people.  All that potential is set aside for self-justifying vengeance.

When we think that we’re justified in taking matters into our own hands and then we can “quit” - that we know the end result of our actions.  We don’t.  Personal vengeance unleashes a growing pattern of insanity and the certain potential for a tremendous number of people to be hurt.

Bottom line:  Personal vengeance is a disaster.  Say that with me,
“Personal vengeance is a disaster.”  

Going on - verse 14: 
When he - Samson - came to Lehi - which translated means “jawbone” - remember that.  When they brought Samson to Lehi - the Philistines shouted as they met him.  And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily - don’t miss that - God is doing this - And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him so that the ropes that were on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire - pretty weak - and his bonds dropped from his hands.  He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey - remember the name of the city?  “jawbone” - He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey - from ACME Jawbones - so he reached out and took it and killed a thousand men with it.

An impressive slaughter.  Just using the jawbone of a donkey is impressive.  Heavy - massive.  And killing a thousand men.  Impressive. 

Verse 16: 
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 had finished speaking, he threw the jawbone from his hand; and he named that place Ramath-lehi.” - which means roughly  “jawbone hill.”  Think “boot hill.”  Its a word play on the name of the Philistine town - giving the idea of a disgraceful burial ground.  Samson gives this mocking name to the city to commemorate his victory.

Don’t miss this:  Once again God bails Samson out and who gets the credit?  Samson.

Verse 18: 
Then Samson became thirsty - gee I wonder why?  And he called to the Lord and said, “You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant, and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?”

Three times God - by the working of the Spirit - three times God bails out Samson - and this is the first time Samson ever acknowledges God.  But its not sincere. 
“God - now everyone knows that I’m your servant.  So, if I die out here of thirst its going to look bad for you.  And let’s remember it was me who was swinging that jawbone.  So, how about some water?”

If we’re standing there with Samson we’d be taking a couple steps back and waiting for the lightening strike.  This guy deserves to be toast.

Verse 19: 
But God split the hollow place that is in Lehi so that water came out of it.  Unlike the previous times when God acted on Samson’s behalf - this is more intimate - the meeting of a personal need - thirst.  God being merciful - loving - gracious.  But God split the hollow place that is in Lehi so that water came out of it.  When he drank, his strength returned and he revived.  Therefore he named it En-hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day.

En-hakkore means “the caller’s spring” - in underhanded sort of way Samson is acknowledging that God is at work. 
“I had the wisdom to call and God answered.”

Verse 20: 
So he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines.  Finally Samson begins to be used by God for the reasons God gave him life.

Isn’t that how God works with us?  Four times God bails out Samson and all the while revealing more of Himself to Samson.  Patiently teaching Samson about Himself - that He - God - is really there - is able to deliver - is trustworthy.  Samson slowly learning to call on God - to trust God rather than himself.

Two thoughts of application.  First. 
The Importance of Letting Go.  Try that together.  “The importance of letting go.”

Shakespeare wrote in The Merchant of Venice: 
"If you prick us, do we not bleed?  If you tickle us, do we not laugh?  If you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?"

What was that Klingon Proverb? 
“Revenge is a dish that is best served cold.”

Friedrich Neitzshe said,
“Revenge is the greatest instinct in the human race.” (2)

“Pay back.”  “I’m justified.” 
Look at the world around us and we can see how well that attitude works.  Maybe we don’t have to look any farther than our own home.  The words we say to each other in anger.  The bitterness and resentment we hold onto.

Paul writes to the Galatians,
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.”  (Galatians 6:7,8)

We deceive ourselves - playing mental games with ourselves. 
“You don’t know what he did to me.  You don’t know how I’ve been hurt.”  But God is no fool to be mocked.  What He says is the truth.

When we indulge our appetite for vengeance we lose.  We enter a never ending downward spiral of disaster.  Samson lost.  We lose.  People get hurt.  Wounds are created.  Potential goes unrealized.  Opportunities are passed by.  So much of God’s blessing and gifting is wasted.  Personal vengeance always leads us to disaster.

Realize this.  We have a choice.  We don’t have to hold on to the attitudes and feelings that can tear us apart.  We can choose to let go of our “so called” rights and to seek the things of the Spirit rather than to indulge our flesh.  To pursue a different direction for our lives.  That’s the choice that God gives us.

Second thought of application.  You should know this one by now. 
The Importance of Trusting God.  Try that with me.  “The importance of trusting God.”

2 Corinthians 4 - starting at verse 7: 
But we have this treasure - the treasure of knowing what it means to live life with God because of Jesus Christ - we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus - we’re constantly being attacked by stuff that by the world’s standards we should seek vengeance for - but we know that all this happens - Paul writes - so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested - revealed - in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested - revealed - in our mortal flesh.  (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)

Its not about us.  Its about Jesus living in us - demonstrating the truth of His Gospel through us - bringing the unsurpassed greatness of His power into our lives - so that our very lives becoming an illustration of His love and grace and mercy.  So that we will be known as a people of forgiveness, love, healing, mercy, grace.  When we get so overwhelmed by our insistence that everything go our way we mess all that up.

How much better for us - for others - if we would learn to let go of what we want and see that we are a people who are cared for by our Heavenly Father - upheld by the unsurpassed great power of God who in His complete way and His perfect timing will take care of all that we struggle with - if we will just trust Him.



1. Genghis Khan, Bukhara 1220
2. Friedrich Nietzshe quoted in Swindoll’s Ultimate Book of Illustrations & Quotes, page 494

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture taken from the New American Standard Bible®, © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by the Lockman Foundation.  Used by permission.