Judges

Samson Reveals Your Weakness to Save Yourself

Since I grew up in church and “knew all the answers,” I was blinded to the fact that I needed to be saved from my sin. I thought the message of Jesus and the cross was just for others out there who were doing the really bad stuff. Essentially, I thought I could save myself by my knowledge and behavior.

If you are in a similar situation like I was, Samson could be helpful. Samson might be the most popular person in the Bible who was under the Nazarite vow, but it is also thought that Samuel was under the vow (1 Sam. 1:11-28; Hannah specifically mentions not cutting the hair); John the Baptist (Luke 1:15; no wine or strong drink); and the Apostle Paul (Acts 18:18; he cut his hair because he was under a vow-maybe at the end of a Nazarite vow).  Nazarite is a word that derives from a Hebrew word (Nazar) meaning “consecrated or devoted one.”

Let me highlight details from Numbers 6 where we first read about the Nazarite vow:

  • Voluntary vow by Israelite to separate himself to the Lord
  • no wine and strong drink
  • no vinegar made from wine or strong drink
  • no juice of grapes, no grapes (fresh or dried)
  • nothing produced by the grapevine (not even seeds or skins)
  • no razor shall touch the head
  • nowhere near dead bodies
  • for a specific period of time

Three things are unusual concerning Samson’s Nazarite vow:

  • He did not take it voluntarily; it was his lot from the womb (Judg. 13:5, 7).
  • It was not limited in time; it was to last to the day of his death (vv. 5, 7; cf. 1 Sam. 1:11; Luke 1:15 for similar situations).
  • He broke every one of its stipulations: his head was sheared (Judg. 16:17, 19); he associated with the dead (14:6–9; 15:15); and he undoubtedly drank at his wedding feast (14:10–20; see note on 14:10).

Still, God called Samson out for a specific mission. At the end of v.5, we are told that Samson would start to save the Israelites from the Philistines. The cultural situation isn’t anything new to us by now. The Israelites had turned to their own ways and were serving other gods. God gave them into the hand of the Philistines for 40 years. The Philistines would continue to oppose God’s people and the Israelites wouldn’t find relief from them until near the end of King David’s life as you can read about in 2 Samuel 21. There are a few mentions of the Philistines after David, but David was able to break their power.

So, Samson was given great strength to be able to basically single-handedly take care of the Philistines. We know this was God’s strength upon Samson because the strength stopped when Samson’s hair was cut, which was the last part of his vow to be broken.

You can look at this information about Samson and a Nazarite vow and say so what? Here’s what I hope you will see:

The Nazarite vow was a voluntary claim to say I’m going to be holy.

Salvation today is God’s claim to say I’ve made you holy.

Samson is an example of someone who tried to be righteous but failed apart from the power of God–like me before I understood the power of Jesus and salvation.

Jesus Christ did what no Old Testament leader did—He broke the power of sin and death, and now you can be declared righteous and enabled to live a life of holiness if you profess faith in Jesus and trust Him to save you.

Even the strongest man in the Bible wasn’t powerful enough to save himself. If I were you, I wouldn’t try either.

 

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Pride Disregards Other People

I’ve heard it said that pride is the only disease that makes everyone sick but the one who has it.

Last week, we saw how pride connives and manipulates. This week, let’s explore how pride disregards other people by returning to Abimelech in Judges 9 as an example. Specifically, he disregarded others by murdering and getting revenge. If you search your heart honestly, you might find yourself acting in the same ways.

Murder. Abimelech certainly disregarded his brothers by killing all but one of them who escaped. Jotham, the one who survived, gave a scathing prophecy to the leaders of Shechem in Judges 9:7-21. The “Fire from Abimelech” in that prophecy is exactly what happened. Not only did Abimelech murder his own brothers to gain power, but he even murdered people from Shechem to maintain that power (v.49), even using fire to accomplish the job.

Revenge. The leaders of Shechem eventually turned against Abimelech, especially when a man named Gaal moved into the city and took some shots at Abimelech. Shechem began trusting Gaal as a leader more than Abimelech. Abimelech wasn’t happy at all about that. An arrogant person can’t stand the thought of someone turning on him, so he unleashes his vengeance on Gaal and the people of Shechem, murdering many more.

You can read this and think that you aren’t that bad. But these actions (murder, seeking revenge) stem from motivations of the heart. Jesus taught this principle in Matthew 5 regarding murder:  

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21–22, ESV)

So, when you honestly check your heart, you will probably find more pride there than you thought. And pride will influence you to disregard other people, maybe through extreme ways of murdering and seeking harmful revenge, or by less subtle ways, like ignoring, gossiping about someone, acting in ways that purposely make life difficult for someone else, undermining authority, or destructively criticizing.

How else can pride influence people to disregard others?

Pride Connives and Manipulates

“I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”

― Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

“Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need.”

― Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

“As long as you are proud you cannot know God. A proud man is always looking down on thing and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down you cannot see something that is above you.”

― C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

― Philippians 2:3-4

 

Pride is a topic in secular and Christian literature, but we find that the Bible is full of examples of pride and instructs us best in how to combat pride. Pride is at the root of any sin you will commit because ultimately you are acting on what you want more than what God desires and commanded.

We will use Judges 9 to identify key characteristics of pride in the life of Abimelech, one of Gideon’s sons. Hopefully it will serve as a litmus test for your life and help you search your own heart to rid it of pride.

Today we will examine one characteristic of pride from Abimelech’s life: Pride Connives and Manipulates. Next week, we will see that pride disregards other people.

Abimelech was unique among all of Gideon’s sons because only he was born to a concubine who was from Shechem. The rest of Gideon’s 70 sons were born to wives who were from Ophrah.

Shechem was a city in the land of Israel, right on the border of the the land alloted to Ephraim and Manasseh, and chapter 9 records Abimelech’s wicked plan to become the king of Shechem.

His conniving begins by going to his mother’s relatives in Shechem. He manipulated them by creating a power struggle that might not have really existed between himself and his brothers. He told his relatives to tell the leaders of Shechem that Abimelech should be their leader, and he even adds what is so common in manipulation: guilt. The guilt trip comes through these words: “remember I am your bone and your flesh” (Judges 9:2).

The relatives were convinced and participated in Abimelech’s corruption by giving him money from the house of Baal-berith, a place of idol worship! The amount they gave (70 pieces of silver) seems to indicate that the leaders of Shechem knew what Abimelech was going to do. They basically gave him one piece of silver per brother, whom Abimelech planned on exterminating.

Abimelech then hires “worthless and reckless fellows” (v.4) to follow him. I imagine if you are worthless and reckless that you’ll follow anyone to do anything. This was basically a hit squad who went with Abimelech to Ophrah to kill his brothers–seventy men on one stone.

His selfishness throughout this plan reminds me of something I read about Ronald Reagan. When he was governor of California, Reagan made a speech in Mexico City. About that occasion, Reagan said, “After I had finished speaking, I sat down to rather unenthusiastic applause, and I was a little embarrassed. The speaker who followed me spoke in Spanish — which I didn’t understand — and he was being applauded about every paragraph. To hide my embarrassment, I started clapping before everyone else and longer than anyone else until our ambassador leaned over and said, ‘I wouldn’t do that if I were you. He’s interpreting your speech.‘”

Sometimes we applaud ourselves the quickest and longest. Abimelech was an arrogant man with a wicked plan. He manipulated the leaders of the town to equip him to carry out that plan, and then those leaders made him king.

My kingdom come, my will be done was Abimelech’s attitude, and he didn’t care what it took to accomplish his plan. Pride connives and manipulates, and next week we’ll see how pride disregards other people.

 

Photo by Ihor Saveliev on Unsplash

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