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Samson Finally Finding Faith

Today we’re going to wrap up our series on the Unlikely Heroes in the book of Judges. And it’s certainly been an interesting journey. We’ve looked at Ehud, Deborah, Barak, Jael, Gideon, and for the past several weeks now, we’ve been looking at Samson.

And of all the unlikely heroes that we’ve looked at, I think Samson started with the most potential – and has so far proven to be the most disappointing. Instead of being the leader that he could have been, Samson has shown himself to be selfish and arrogant. And as a result, he’s destroyed his marriage, his foolishness has cost the life of his wife and her family, and his own countrymen (the ones that he was suppose to rescue) don’t want to have anything to do with him.

And yet, despite Samson’s flawed character, God has still used him to begin to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines – just has He promised even before Samson was born. And while Samson certainly hasn’t pushed the Philistines out of Israelite territory, he has dealt them some serious blows. To this point in our story, he has severely crippled their economy by burning down all their crops, their vineyards, and their olive groves. As well, he has personally wiped out huge groups of Philistine soldiers.

So Samson is certainly public enemy #1 for the Philistines – but they can’t touch him. He’s got this incredible God-given strength and after their last attempt to capture Samson (which ended with Samson killing 1000 of them) no one dares to attack him. And so that kinda sets the stage for our final chapter today.

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Samson’s Disregard

Well, today we’re going start looking at our final unlikely hero in the book of Judges. Now of course, we haven’t gone through each and every judge nor have we haven’t examined all the details in every story that we have looked at. But I think we’ve drawn out several important lessons from these stories and we’re going to try to do that one more time today. The character that we want to look at today is probably the most famous of all the judges. Today we’re going to start looking at the life of Samson.

Now the Bible gives us more information about Samson than any of the other judges we’ve looked at. Just to give you a comparison, a couple of Judges that we didn’t look at in this study – Tola and Jair – both have only two verse each about their lives – but Samson has four entire chapters.

So there must be something important for us to learn from the life of Samson. Which is almost surprising considering what a wreck his life was. Most of us remember Samson for his great strength – how he killed a lion with this bare hands – or how He tore the city gates right off their hinges – or how he killed a 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. These are the acts that made Samson famous – but what do we know about his character? What kind of a person was He? What was his relationship with God like? What was his relationship with others like? You see, these are the kind of issues that determine whether someone is truly a hero or just some big strong guy…

So that’s where I want to focus our attention this morning – not so much on his super strength and his fantastic exploits, but rather on his character. Because, we can’t all become burly, muscular weight-lifting champions – but we can all become men & women of heroic character.

Samson’s story begins in Judges chapter 13 and it begins much like all the other stories of the judges… it says…

Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years. Judges 13:1

If you’ve been with us for the past few weeks, this is no surprise. Pretty much every story has begun with “Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight – so the Lord handed them over to…. so and so.” And in this case, it was the Philistines. But this is where this story begins to develop differently. Normally, we’d jump right into meeting the hero. But this time we start by meeting the hero’s parents. Look at verse 2.

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Gideon – Mighty Hero

For the past couple of weeks we’ve been looking at some of the unlikely heroes in the book of Judges.

And of all the characters that we’ve looked so far, none of them have been the real famous Bible story characters that maybe some of you grew up with. If you went to Sunday school as a kid, you probably acted out the story of Joshua and the walls of Jericho – maybe you saw a puppet show about Noah and the ark – there was probably a flannelgraph illustration of Daniel in the lions den.

However, you likely didn’t see any puppets acting out the story of Ehud as he lost his dagger in the fat of King Eglon’s belly. You’re not likely to have seen a kids feature skit about how Jael hammered a tent peg through the skull of Sisera. These aren’t the kinds of stories that usually make it into the children’s Bible story books. But they are in the Bible – and they are important for us to study and learn from… Just maybe not when you’re 5 years old!

But today we’re going to look at another judge – and this one is a little more well-known then some of these others. His story isn’t quite so graphic, so you very well may have learned about him in Sunday School. Today we’re going to look at the life of Gideon.

And Gideon’s story begins just like all the other judges we’ve looked at so far. They all begin the same way…

You’ll remember the cycle of sin that we’ve been talking about in the book of Judges. Israel would sin and so God would allow their enemies to oppress them. And after several years of enduring this oppression, the Israelites would repent and cry out for God to save them. Which of course, God did by sending them a rescuer – that is, a judge – like Ehud or Deborah. But then, as soon as the enemy was defeated and that particular judge died, the Israelites would go right back into sinning again and the cycle would begin all over.

And so, it’s quite predictable, that after Deborah rescued Israel from King Jabin and his commander Sisera, that Israel would again sin, and God would allow another enemy to oppress them. And this time, the enemy was a doozy. If you have your Bibles you can turn to Judges chapter 6 – verse 1. It begins like this:

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Deborah? Barak? Jael? Nope… God!

Last week we began looking at some of the unlikely heroes in the book of Judges.  The book of Judges is full of some very colorful characters and provides some of the most fascinating and bizarre stories in the Bible. If you’re ever read through the book of Judges, you know what I’m talking about. It is one of the most graphic, violent books that you’ll probably ever read. So why in the world are we talking about it in church! Why is it even in the Bible?

Well, the book of Judges is an important historical record for us that shows us exactly what happens when people abandon the Lord. The moral depravity and chaos that comes when each man does what’s right in his own eyes is a shocking and sobering reminder to us all. But at the same time, the book of Judges gives us hope. It show us a God who merciful and kind. It shows us a God who takes pity on the very people who have abandoned and rejected Him. It shows us that we have a God who is mighty to save. So I’d say that’s certainly worth looking at!

We looked last week at the story of Ehud and how, after the Israelites abandoned God and were worshiping idols, God allowed the Moabites to oppress them. Well, that went on for about 18 years until the Israelites finally repented and called out to God. God answered by sending them Ehud. And the Bible describes Ehud as being a ‘left-handed’ man – which could have meant he had an actual physical disability in his right hand or at the very least, being left-handed in that culture was perceived as a weakness. There was something wrong with you. And yet, it was because of this ‘weakness’, that God was able to use Ehud to free His people from the oppression of the fat Moabite King Eglon. And I won’t recap the whole story, but if you missed it, you can find it in Judges chapter 3.

Now you’ll remember that we talked about the cycle of sin in the book of Judges. Israel would sin, God would send an enemy to oppress them, the people would cry out to God, and God would have mercy send them a rescuer (aka a judge) and he would rescue them. However, as soon as that judge died, the people of Israel would go right back to sinning and the cycle would begin again.

And as we can see in Judges chapter 4 – that is exactly what happened after Ehud died. The cycle began all over again. So that’s where we start today – Judges 4, Verse 1.

After Ehud’s death, the Israelites again did evil in the Lord’s sight. 2 So the Lord turned them over to King Jabin of Hazor, a Canaanite king. The commander of his army was Sisera, who lived in Harosheth-haggoyim. 3 Sisera, who had 900 iron chariots, ruthlessly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years. Then the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help.

Judges 4:1-3

There’s that pattern. Ehud dies and Israel again does evil. So God turns them over to King Jabin and his army commander, Sisera, who oppress Israel for 20 years and then finally, the Israelites cry out to God for help and He again sends them a rescuer. We continue in verse 4:

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Samson

Well, today we want to conclude our series on the heroes and the zeros of the book of Judges – and the character that we want to look at today is probably the most famous of all the judges. Today we’re going to look at the life of Samson. Now the Bible gives us more information about Samson than any of the other judges we’ve looked at. A couple of Judges that we didn’t look at  in this study – Tola and Jair – both have only two verse each about their lives – but Samson has four entire chapters.

So there must be something important for us to learn from the life of Samson. Which is almost surprising considering what a wreck his life was. Most of us remember Samson for his great strength – how he killed a lion with this bare hands – or how He torn the city gates right off their hinges – or how he killed a 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. These are the acts that made Samson famous – but what do you know about his character? What kind of a person was He? What was his relationship with God like? What was his relationship with others like? You see, these are the kind of issues that determine whether someone is truly a hero or a zero…

Table of contents for Heroes and Zeros

  1. Ehud
  2. Deborah, Barak, & Jael
  3. Gideon – Part One
  4. Gideon – Part Two
  5. Samson
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