Playing with Fire

This week we will look at the life of Samson. There were four fires associated with his life in the book of Judges (13:20, 15:5, 15:6, 15:14). Two fires were of God and two of the flesh. Samson’s life was a mixture of miracles and mistakes. We can all relate. By looking at ways he “played with fire,” we will learn what to do when our flesh wants what the Spirit says is wrong.

The Fire of Lust
Judges 14:1 says Samson “saw a woman.” Jesus equated lust with adultery. Samson looked and was hooked! That’s the way sin works. You may say, “I can handle it.” No! Stronger people than you have fallen. It’s a slow fade. Samson’s struggle was the same as ours: the lust of the flesh, the eyes, and the pride of life. Is it all about what pleases you or what pleases God? If you, then you are playing with fire!

The Fire of Disrespect
Samson demanded that his parents get the woman for him as a wife, even though he knew that would be disobedient to the Lord. Samson was unteachable. He always knows best and does what he pleases. There’s a little bit of Samson in all of us. We want to do what we want when we want. God is sovereign, however. He rules and overrules. What the enemy meant for bad, God can turn for good!

The Fire of Secrets
In Judges 14:6 and 9, we read that Samson “did not tell” his parents about his actions. He had broken his Nazarite vow. Hiding the truth is a sign of disobedience. This man of faith became unfaithful to his parents, his vows, and to God. Where are you being unfaithful? What secrets are you hiding? Your sin always affects more than just yourself. If you play with fire, you will get burned!

The Fire of Anger
Samson has been betrayed by his fiancée. He has been embarrassed by his wife marrying his best man. Judges 14:19 says, “his anger was aroused,” meaning that he burned with anger. We all experience anger. The issue is how you deal with it. We do not make rational, godly decisions when we are angry. What sets you off? Who pushes your buttons? Jesus equated lust with adultery and anger with murder.

The Fire of Revenge
The Philistines kill Samson’s wife and father-in-law, so he sought revenge (Judges 15:7). Because of Samson’s revenge, his own army came to arrest him and hand him over to the Philistines. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath. Be angry and sin not, nor give place to the devil (Eph. 4:26-27). When we are hurt and become angry, we allow the enemy to work and set up strongholds in our lives. Let it go and let God fight your battles.

The Philistines came against Samson and “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him” (Judges 15:14). He killed 1,000 of them with the jawbone of a donkey but did not give glory to God. He said, “I have done this.” Every victory we have is because of the grace of God. I have done nothing. Neither have you. Apart from Him we can do nothing. It is always about Jesus and the Gospel, His Name and His Glory!

What do you do when the flesh wants what the Spirit says is wrong? The answer to the burning lust of the flesh is the revival fire of the Spirit. In Judges 15:18 we read that Samson “became very thirsty” and he “cried out to the Lord.” Verse 19 says “he revived.” Are you going through a dry season spiritually? Have you been playing with fire? What God did for the Israelites in the wilderness, God did for Samson. He will do the same for us if we thirst for Him. We must cry out to God in prayer, humble ourselves, and become a servant. God resists the proud. Then, and only then, will He revive us again.

A Baby Story

The story of Samson is one of the most famous stories in the Bible. His name means sunshine or sunny. He is a ray of light in a dark world. Samson is the last judge. Arguably, he has more flaws than all the others, yet he’s still listed in Hebrews 11. That gives us hope! This week we will look at Samson’s birth.

The Pattern – Hard to Break
In Judges 13:1 we read that Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord. This verse sums up the book. Their sin is cyclical. Old habits are hard to break. There is no mention of them crying out to God in this chapter, yet He sends Samson. Salvation is God-centered. The Bible says that none are righteous and none seek after God. God makes the first move. Love does not need a reason; it is the reason.

Love does not need a reason; it is the reason.

The Pregnancy – Hard to Conceive
Manoah and his wife (Samson’s parents) were unable to have children. Why is it that some who don’t want children keep having them and couples who love God and want to have children are childless? It is hard to conceive why it is so hard to conceive! What is your life situation? Is there something you deeply desire that has so far been denied? Submit your soul and situation to God. James 1:4 says, “But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Enjoy the season you are presently in. You may be able to do some things for God now that it will be harder to do later. If you are single, have an empty nest, or have grandchildren, whatever your present season of life, enjoy it! Take all your questions and disappointments to God. His thoughts are not our thoughts, but His will and timing are perfect!

The Parents – Hard to Understand
Samson had good, godly parents, yet he rebelled against everything they taught him. It is hard to understand why this happens. Stop beating yourself up if your child has rebelled! God was a perfect Father to Israel but they sinned. You are not responsible for your adult children’s choices, only yours.

In Judges 13:3 an Angel of the Lord appears to Samson’s mother and tells her that she will have a son who will be a Nazarite and will begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. Nazarite means separate. He was to take the Nazarite vow. It should be evident to everyone that he is dedicated to God.

There can be temptation to shelter your child from all the harmful influences of this world, but I have seen too many godly parents isolate their kids and when they left home, they went off the deep end! Yes, God demands holiness; but, it does not come from the outside. Holiness comes from the inside. Don’t miss the purpose of the Nazirite vow. God wants us to be different to make a difference!

The Prayer – Nothing is Too Hard for God
In Judges 13:8 and 12, Manoah prays that the Lord would teach him what they should do with Samson, and he prays for Samson’s life and his work. Parents, ask God to teach you what to do. You can’t lead your kids to walk with God if you are not walking with God. Also, ask God to prepare your children for their life’s work and mission. Every child, every person, has a calling and mission in life. God’s got this! Your child does not belong to you; they are on loan from God. Ask Him.

Judges 13:24-25 says, “So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him….” Pray your kids grow up. Pray your children grow in wisdom, stature, and in favor with God and man. Pray for them to be blessed of the Lord. Pray the Spirit of God will move on them. He will answer your prayers in ways you never dreamed possible!

Winners and Losers

The next few chapters in Judges are among the hardest ones of the book to study and preach. God’s name is not mentioned in chapters 8-10. They are a great reminder, however, that God is still on the throne even when He is silent! There is much to learn from these chapters.

God is still on the throne even when He is silent!

Abimelech’s Pride
In chapter 9 we read of Abimelech. In short, he killed his brothers and then God repaid his wickedness by allowing a woman to drop a millstone on his head and kill him. Abimelech is not a Judge, but he made himself King. If the Judges foreshadow the Righteous Judge to come, Jesus, then Abimelech is a type of anti-Christ or devil. Selfishness and pride are what made Lucifer the devil and got him cast out of heaven. We are never more like the devil than when we are full of pride. We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to think. Pride comes before a fall. It looked like the evil was winning, but in three years Abimelech was killed by a woman’s kitchen utensil! There is a payday someday! The judgment of God may be slow, but it is sure.

Tola’s Peace
Judges 10:1-2 gives us all we know about a Judge named Tola. Just two verses! During his time, Israel experienced 23 years of peace. You don’t have to be famous to serve God!

Jair’s Prosperity
The next Judge that arose was Jair. Judges 10:4 tells us that he had thirty sons, thirty donkeys, and thirty towns. Jair was very wealthy. Only the wealthy could provide 30 sons with their own donkey (or the BMW, Mercedes, or Jaguar of the day)!

With both Tola and Jair no outside enemy is mentioned. The real problem is on the inside. Our biggest problem is the human heart. We are our own worst enemy. Verse 6 says that “Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord,” and in verse 10 they finally cried out the Lord and admitted their sin. Verse 16 says, “So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord.” True repentance is a change of mind and direction! They had completely abandoned God, but He heard their cry. “His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel” (v. 16). God is not a pushover, but He is tenderhearted!

Jephthah’s Pain
Have you ever prayed something like, “God get me out of this and I will do anything you ask”? That’s what Jephthah did in Judges 11:30-31. While this is one of the most disputed passages in the Old Testament, we know He either offered his daughter as a human sacrifice or as a living sacrifice. We will not know which this side of heaven, but we know God is not pleased with human sacrifice. All that we learn about Jephthah in Judges 11-12 reminds us again that these earthly Judges all point us to Jesus.

Jephthah was born to deliver Israel, Jesus to deliver the world. Jephthah was rejected by his brothers; Jesus’ own received Him not. The Spirit of the Lord was upon Jephthah; Jesus said “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me….” Saving Israel cost Jephthah his daughter; saving the world cost Jesus His life. Jephthah mourned what was required of him, but still followed through. Jesus said, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Jephthah’s deliverance lasted 6 years; Jesus’ salvation lasts forever! Jephthah saved them from their enemies, Jesus saves us from our enemies and ourselves!

Judges 11:1 says, “Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty man of valor, but he was the son of a harlot….” Even if you start the son of a harlot you can end a mighty man! How will you finish your life? As a winner or a loser in the sight of the only Judge that matters?

Human Heroes

Today, we continue our look into the life of Gideon. In Judges 6:13, Gideon says, “…now the LORD has forsaken us….” The truth is they weren’t in their situation because God had forsaken them, but because they had forsaken God. You can choose your sin but you can’t choose your consequences. You can’t live your life doing what is right in your own eyes and then blame God for the mess! The good news is God does not see us for what we are, but for what we can be if we cry out to Him.

Gideon’s Faith
In Judges 7:2, the Lord tells Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me….” It was 135,000 Midianites to 32,000 Israelites. Can’t you hear them questioning, “God, you think we have too many?” God sent the cowards home. Fear is not of God. God has not given us a spirit of fear. Are you afraid of failure, the unknown, or the future? Courage is not the absence of fear. It is following God in the face of fear.

In verses 4-6, God reduces the size of the army to 300. You may experience a reduction in your health, finances, or other areas of your life, but if you have God, when you are weak, He is strong! You don’t need a big army when you have a big God! Gideon’s faith grew as he obeyed God. You don’t have to have great faith for God to use you, but your faith should be growing.

Gideon’s Fight
The battle plan was simple: “Then he divided the three hundred men into three companies, and he put a trumpet into every man’s hand, with empty pitchers, and torches inside the pitchers” (Judges 7:16). Something is missing…a sword! They blew the trumpets, broke the pitchers, and held the torches. Some explain the victory by saying the enemy thought every division had a trumpet, the vessel would hide the light of the torches until they got close, and the breaking of the vessels would sound like the clanging of armor. If so, God is the one who put the plan in Gideon’s mind. Don’t explain the miracle away!

Here is what it means for us today: The trumpet is symbolic of the Word of God, our offensive weapon against the enemy. The torch is the Holy Spirit. The vessel is you. With a trumpet in your hand, God was saying, “Get My Word.” With the torch inside, God was saying, “Be filled with My Spirit.” With the broken vessels, God was saying, “Let My light shine through you.” God uses broken people. “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us” (2 Cor. 4:5-7).

Gideon’s Finish
Although God used Gideon to defeat the Midianites, and even though he is listed in Hebrews 11 as a hero of the faith, Gideon did not finish well. Gideon had the Israelites bring gold earrings that he made into an ephod and set up in his city. Judges 8:27 says, “It became a snare to Gideon and to his house.” Gold became his god and a snare to his family. In the end, Israel forgot the Lord and Gideon.

What kind of legacy will you leave? So many who live faithfully for God for years, quit just before the finish line! Gideon ended up just like his father. How can we finish well? The answer is Jesus! Human heroes are just that…human! Only Jesus never fails. “Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy,25 To God our Savior, who alone is wise, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and forever. Amen” (Jude 1:24-25).