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Year 1, Week 27, Day 5

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Judges 14-15.

Today’s reading continues the pattern of the LORD raising up Judges to deliver Israel for their oppression. Today’s reading, as well as a part of the previous day’s reading, covers the first portion of Samson’s life. Judges 13 introduces us to Samson by explaining something of backstory of Samson’s birth and early years. Judges 14 describes Samson’s desire to marry a Philistine woman, which, when derailed by the Philistine’s. led to Samson’s efforts of attacking the Philistines. Judges 15 describes the Philistine’s desire to capture Samson. Due to the help of some in the tribe of Judah, the Philistines’ capture of Samson seems imminent, but in the end, it becomes an occasion for Samson to destroy more Philistines.

One of the things that struck me from today’s reading was the wonderful-sometimes incomprehensible- ways of the LORD: “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it” (Psalm 139:6). God is not irrational, but there are times that His actions are beyond what human rationalities can grasp. The LORD’s use of and work through Samson is more than we can fully understand. The narrative of Samson begins with the Angel of the Lord appearing to Manoah and his wife. The LORD was about to do something incomprehensibly wonderful and this is even reflected in the LORD’s response to Manoah’s request for the LORD’s name: “And the angel of the LORD said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” (Judges 13:18). The LORD had begun raising up a Judge and there was no record that Israel cried out to the LORD for deliverance: “And the people of Israel again did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, so the LORD gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years” (Judges 13:1). The normal pattern, up to this point, has been that once the Israelites were in bondage again, they would cry out to the LORD, who would send a Judge. Nevertheless, the LORD plans to intervene. It seems that Israel was so far into the normalcy of their oppression that they just accepted it. As Samson began throwing off Philistine oppression, the men of Judah revealed their acceptance of oppression as they rebuked Samson: “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” (Judges 15:11). It is nothing short of the extraordinary kindness of the LORD to deliver His people who do not fully see their need.

Not only is it incomprehensible that the LORD would rescue His people, when they are not fully cognizant of their need for deliverance, it is also somewhat incomprehensible that the LORD would use a guy like Samson. Samson was to be a nazarite: “for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (Judges 13:5). Samson will repeatedly violate the requirements of a Nazarite vow. In fact, Samson basically does what he wants, as indicated in his desire for a Philistine wife: “Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes” (Judges 14:3). Samson is just like the rest of Israel, which is at the root of the problem between the LORD and His people: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). The statement that “everyone did what was right in his own eyes”, will be mentioned four times in the last four chapters of Judges as a way to state that Israel lived with no regard for the LORD. That included Samson. Samson did not want to destroy the Philistines, he wanted to join them through marriage.

In spite of Samson’s intentions, the LORD had intentions of His own: “His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel” (Judges 14:4). The LORD would use the occasion of Samson’s desire for a Philistine wife to become the provocation to overthrow the Philistines. Samson does not start out with a passion to slay Philistines; he’s at a party with them, telling riddles and getting a wife. But the LORD is about to work things out that will result in Samson being used by the LORD to overthrow the Philistines. Samson will not quickly turn from his interest in the Philistines. He should not have sought to marry a Philistine and he should have learned that they were not decent people as they trick him and have him bound that they might deal with him once and for all. But the LORD has other plans-instead of dying, he conquers: “Then the Spirit of the LORD rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men” (Judges 15:14-15). The LORD is not done using Samson. However, Samson has still to figure out what a life that honors the LORD looks like.

What struck you in today’s reading? What questions were prompted from today’s reading?

Pastor Joe