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JUDGES 16:1-31
Series:  Heroes of Faith - Part Eight

Pastor Stephen Muncherian
August 21, 2005

Please turn in your Bibles to Judges 16.  This morning we’ve come to our last look at the Book of Judges and our third Sunday focused on Samson.  As your turning think with me about what we’ve looking at over the last few Sundays.

When we began this series we talked about how the Book of Judges comes complete with a set of bookends.  The first and last verses of the book summarize what this book is about.  Chapter 1:1 - the first bookend - says: 
Now it came about after the death of Joshua that the sons of Israel inquired of the Lord, saying “Who shall go up first for us against the Canaanites, to fight them.”

The sad reality is that when Joshua died.  This warrior who had seen so much in his life.  The slavery of Egypt.  The wilderness wandering.  The conquest of Canaan.  The settling of the Promised Land.  This great man of steadfast faith who had lived so close to God - who had given himself wholeheartedly to serve the living God.  The sad reality is that when Joshua died there really was no one of like stature and relationship with God to step up and take his place.

As Judges 1:1 puts it - there was no one to “go first” - to set the standard of obedience to the sovereign God and to lead the fight against their enemies.  So, when Joshua died God’s people turned against God.  They sold out to sin.  Try that with me,
“They sold out to sin.”

What we’ve been seeing in Judges are seven cycles of sin.  Remember these?  Over a period of about 300 plus years there are seven cycles of spiritual and moral failure.  First Israel does what?  Chooses sin.  Rejects God.  Second, what happens?  Punishment - oppression - God calling His people back to Him.  Third, what?  God’s people cry out to God.  Fourth?  God sends a deliverer - a judge.  Fifth - peace - Israel living rightly with God.

Seven times that cycle is repeated in Judges.  Each time through the cycle God’s people sink deeper into sin.  Until finally the last verse  of the book - chapter 21:25 - the closing bookend: 
In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes - complete and final rejection of God - everyone living as their own God.

You’ll see that movement away from God shown in the Heroes Of Faith graphic on your Sermon Notes.  On the left the words are well formed and intact.  But moving to the right the letters start crumbling - until the “S” has completely collapsed and fallen - causing damage to FAITH - damage to their relationship with God.

As the nation has been cycling away from God - we’ve been seeing that each judge - each hero - progressively each one has lived farther from God.  When we looked at Ehud - our first hero - we might have said,
“I want to be like him.”  But, coming to Samson, “No way Jose!  Yeech!”

We’re enticed by sin.  Our spiritual life can so easily deteriorate - maybe even be totally separated from God - just like these seven cycles of sin and these heroes.  God has purposefully preserved the lives of these judges - people like us - preserved the good - the bad - and the ugly - opened their lives up to us to see God at work - calling - restoring - healing - using these heroes in ways that they never could have imagined for themselves - as an example and encouragement for us.

Which brings us to Samson - Judges 16 - starting at verse 1: 
Now Samson went to Gaza - Heard that name recently?  Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her.

Every major event in Samson’s life is introduced by moral failure with a woman.  Here Samson hires a prostitute.

When it was told to the Gazites, saying, “Samson has come here,” they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city.  And they kept silent all night, saying, “Let us wait until the morning light, then we will kill him.”  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.

The Philistines - who really hate Samson - remember the foxes?  The Philistines are hiding - waiting till morning to jump Samson.  But Samson cheats.  Gets up early.  Takes hold of these gates.  Gates that we have some idea about - because of what archeologists have been digging up - that these gates were massive - maybe 2 stories high - made of iron - sunk into the ground.  Samson rips these gates out of the ground and carries them about 40 miles away - up hill - to Hebron.

What’s important for us to see here is that Samson is still Samson
.  Chapter 15:20 tells us that for 20  years - up until this event - for 20 years God has been working in Samson’s life.  For 20 years God has been using Samson to judge God’s people. 

But - after 20 years of being used by God - here, Samson is still struggling with the same sins and weaknesses.  He sees this prostitute - he’s hooked - and we’re reading about another Samson event - with Samson doing things his way not God’s way.

We need to be vigilant - because our adversary is.  Satan is always looking for an opportunity to strike us down.  Even in times when we’re being used by God - even walking closely with God - BAM!  Sin can overtake us.  Try this with me,
“Our Adversary is vigilant.” 

Samson is still Samson - 20 years later struggling with the same stuff. 

Verse 4: 
After this it came about that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.

Underline the word “love.”  There are only two times in the account that the word “love” is used.  The first is here. 

All through his life Samson is alone - his parents are dysfunctional and using him - he’s rejected by his own people - his wife betrays him - his father-in-law gives his wife away - to Samson’s friend.  Samson is alone.  Over and over he tries to fill that emptiness with women and parties and exhibitions of strength - emptiness that can only be filled by God.  Here, he’s given his love - his heart - the deepest part of who he is - he’s given to Delilah.  Looking to Delilah to fill his emptiness.

Verse 5: 
The lords of the Philistine’s came up to her and said to her, “Entice him, and see where his great strength lies and how we may overpower him that we may bind him to afflict him.  Then we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.” - a huge sum of money.  So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength is and how you may be bound to afflict you.”

Notice two things

:  Samson has given his heart to a woman who is cold-blooded - calculating - manipulative - living only for herself - doing whatever it takes - even prostituting herself - to take care of number one.

- notice that Delilah actually tells Samson why she wants to know his secret.  “There’s a bunch of guys who’d like to torture you.  So could you tell me how to make you weak so that they can afflict you?”  And Samson goes along with this.

Verse 7:  Samson said to her,
“If they - he knows its not just her that’s asking - if they bind me with seven fresh cords that have not been dried, then I will become weak and be like any other man.”  Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh cords that had not been dried, and she bound him with them.  Now she had men lying in wait in an inner room.  And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you Samson!”  But he snapped the cords as a string of tow snaps when it touches fire.  So his strength was not discovered.

Fool me once.  Shame on you.

Then Delilah said to Samosn, “Behold you have deceived me and told me lies; now please tell me how you may be bound” 
She’s starting to whine - kind of like momma and wife #1.  He said to her, “If they bind me tightly with new ropes which have not been used, then I will become weak and be like any other man.  So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!”  For the men were lying in wait in the inner room.  But he snapped the ropes from his arms like a thread.

Fool me twice.  Shame on me.

Verse 13:  Then Delilah said to Samson, “Up to now you have deceived me and told me lies - more whining - 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 with a pin, then I will become weak and be like any other men.”  So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his hair and wove them into the web.  And she fastened it with the pin and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!”  But he awoke form his sleep and pulled out the pin of the loom and the web.

Fool me a third time and its just down right embarrassing.

Why is Samson going along with this?  There are games being played here.  Samson thinking he’s in control and playing games with Delilah and the Philistines.  But did you notice in verse 13 - with all this whining going on that he finally mentions his hair - gets dangerously close to the truth.  Delilah’s playing her own game and she’s wearing him down.

Verse 15: 
Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you.’ when your heart is not with me?  You have deceived me these three times and have not told me where your great strength is.”

This is the second time the word “love” is used.  Remember verse 4?  The game is hearts.  She’s using his as a weapon. 

Verse 16: 
It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death - this nagging women finally gets to him - So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, “A razor has never come on 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 and be like any other man.”

We can’t play with sin - give our heart to what’is ungodly - and not expect to get burned by Satan.  Samson is looking for love in all the wrong places - carrying gates and carrying on with women - trying to fill the emptiness in his heart - rather than giving his heart to God - and he’s gonna get burned big time.

Our Adversary is relentless.  Vigilant and relentless.  Try this with me,
“Our Adversary is relentless.”  He’s going to do everything to wear us down.

Verse 18
:  When Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all that is in his heart.”  Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands.  She made him sleep on her knees - a very vulnerable trusting position - and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair - which of course is the basis for Rossini’s lesser known opera, “The Barber of Sorek”  Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him.  She said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!”  And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.”  But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.

Verse 21: 
Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes - the part of his body that led him by lust into sin - and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.  What in those days was considered “women’s work” - he’s making flour.  Not exactly manly man type of stuff.  Point being:  This is the ultimate in humiliation - where his sin has led him.  Sightless and doing women’s work.  

Verse 22: 
However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off.

Notice two important things

:  in verse 20:  “The Lord had departed from him.”  Before this - every time Samson gets himself in some ridiculous situation - the bet at the wedding - tying the torches on the fox tails - every time God bails Samson out.  Scripture says, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily” and then Samson goes off and kills a bunch of Philistines.  This time its not that way.

The hair isn’t crucial here.  Its what it symbolizes - consecration - commitment - connection with God - the presence of God in his life - that’s crucial.

Samson - playing games with sin - having given his heart wrongly to Delilah - gives away what is the deepest most sacred part of his life - that is the unique part of his life that’s tied to God.  And God allows it to happen.

God who has been patient - loving - working in Samson’s life - God steps back and let’s Samson experience the true consequences of his actions.  And Samson hits bottom. 

notice verse 22:  The hair is growing back.  Its a God inspired Rogaine moment.  Even at the bottom of the pit God is still a work.

Verse 23: 
Now the lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice, for they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands.”  When we choose sin - its not just us that gets dragged through the muck.  God’s name is being ridiculed here too.

Verse 24: 
When the people saw him, they praised their god, for they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hands, even the destroyer of our country, who has slain many of us.”  It so happened when they were in high spirits, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may amuse us.”  So they called for Samson from the prison, and he entertained them.  He’s the joke of the party.  And they made him stand between the pillars.  Then 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 all the lords of the Philistines were there.  And about 3,000 men and women were on the roof looking on while Samson was amusing them.

The place is packed.  3,000 on the roof.  Thousands inside.  The movers and shakers.  The “Who’s Who” of the Philistines.  Samson between the pillars doing stand up comedy.

Verse 28: 
Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.”

That’s significant.  Finally - he’s sincere.  Pure humility - openness - before God.   Confessing his sin.  Confessing his failure dealing with the Philistines - God’s purpose for his life.  Confessing that God is his strength.  Crying out to God without any expectation of fulfillment.  His heart is finally laid open before God.

Verse 29: 
Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left.  And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!”

“If it takes my death to accomplish God’s purposes then I choose to trust God and give Him my life.”
  Finally Samson cares about what God cares about - even at the cost of his own life.

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.  Then his brothers and all his father’s household came down, took him, brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father.  Thus he had judged Israel twenty years.

Two thoughts of application

The Importance Of Not Going There.  Try that together.  “The importance of not going there.”

Samson struggled all his life with one question.  Same question we struggle with. 
“To whom do I give my heart?”  Say that with me, “To whom do I give my heart?”

Proverbs 6:26-28: 
On account of a harlot one is reduced to a loaf of bread - poverty.  Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?  Or can a man walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched?

God warns Cain,
“Sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:7)  You have a choice.

Peter writes, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a what? a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”  (1 Peter 5:8)

Vigilant - relentless.  If we go there, we’re toast - burned - scorched - devoured. 

Paul writes in Romans 6: 
Do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.  For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.  (Romans 6:12-14) 

The bottom line is that in Jesus we’re set free from having to be bound up in sin and what is destroying us.  We have a have a choice.  To be sober - on the alert.  We have a choice as to who will be master over us.  We have a choice of who or what to give our hearts to - our love and devotion.  A choice of where we turn to find healing and the filling of the deep longings in our hearts.  We don’t have to go where we’ve gone before.

Second point of application.  Say it with me,
The Importance of Trusting God.

Hebrews 11:32 - the great New Testament honor roll of the Old Testament Heroes Of Faith - Hebrews 11:32 says this,
“What more shall I say?  For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah…”  Familiar names - judges - even Samson - who is seen by God - not as a failure.  But as a hero.

At each step of our journey through Judges we’ve come to two points of application.  Thinking about the struggles we have and the stuff of our lives.  Looking at judges - people like us who struggle with the same struggles we struggle with - and faced the same choices we face when we struggle and are tempted to choose other than God.

We’ve seen the importance of sizing up our enemies and circumstances - realizing that what we’re up against ultimately has no power or authority over us - other than what we choose to give it.  Things may seem overwhelming.  But its all defeated by God on the cross through Jesus Christ.  We don’t have to live despairing and defeated lives.

We saw the importance of looking at ourselves from God’s perspective.  When we come up against circumstances and people and struggles and temptations - to see ourselves as God’s valiant warriors - not to quit or to give in to sin - but that we can keep following after God - living in obedience to Him as He leads us to His victory.

We saw the importance of restoration.  How significant it is for us that we’re made new in Jesus Christ.  No matter what the woundedness or the sin - as we’re honest about our sin and what we struggle with - as we let go of the attitudes and feelings and behaviors that are tearing us apart - as we let go of these and choose instead to pursue the things of the Spirit - to allow God to penetrate into the depths of our hearts - He really does forgive us - does heal us - does restores us - leads us to the life that Has uniquely created for each one of us.

We don’t have to go there - to be hopelessly led around by our sin - to live in fear and intimidation.  We can choose to trust God and give our lives over to Him.

This morning that choice is before each one of us.  To whom will you give your heart?

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.