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Year 1, Week 28, Day 1

I have a brief observation for today’s reading of Judges 16-17.

Today’s reading concludes the pattern of the LORD raising up Judges to deliver Israel. The Book of Judges has covered twelve Judges with a special emphasis upon six. Today’s reading brings to a conclusion the narrative describing the final portion of Samson’s life, the last Judge recorded in Judges. Judges 16 describes the conniving of Delilah that led to the Philistine capture of Samson. The last five chapters of the Book of Judges (17-21) provide more detailed examples of Israel’s moral deterioration during the period of the Judges. These chapters are not necessarily chronological, but illustrative of the extent of the moral decay at this moment in Israel’s history. Judges 17 describes the life of a man named Micah, who exemplifies the nature of Israel’s false worship during the period of the Judges.

One of the things that struck me from today’s reading was the instruction that the LORD provides concerning foolishness: “O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you” (Psalm 69:5). While both main characters in today’s reading, Samson and Micah, reflect much foolishness, Micah will be looked at in more detail in the next day’s reading. It is Samson’s foolishness that will be today’s focus. Another episode of folly opens the next stage of Samson’s life: “Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her” (Judges 16:1). The Philistines hear of this and seek the opportunity to capture Samson, but he departs with a memento: “But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron” (Judges 16:3). While it is not clear Samson fully understands the significance of his actions, he was displaying the faithfulness of God concerning a promise made to Abraham: “I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies” (Genesis 22:17).

While the Scripture does not recommend the life of a fool, it is also clear that not even a fool can thwart God’s purposes: “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21). Samson’s folly continues: “After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah” (Judges 16:4). Delilah lures and tricks Samson three times and on the fourth attempt she connives even greater: “And she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies” (Judges 16:15). The narrative prompts the question of how many times must one fall asleep in the presence of another only to be awakened to shouts of “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!”, before one considers the danger they have placed themself in? Samson revealed the source of his strength. And with that, another, probably the last of his Nazarite vows, would now be violated. Samson is overpowered: "And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison” (Judges 16:21). Samson is as bound and oppressed as Israel had become as a result of the folly of their idolatry.

A deep tragedy of foolishness is its lack of vital awareness: “But he did not know that the LORD had left him” (Judges 16:20). But it is at this point in the narrative that God’s grace begins to peek through: “But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved” (Judges 16:22). And the indications of grace in Samson’s life began to truly express itself: “Then Samson called to the LORD and said, “O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes” (Judges 16:28). In a blind, weak, beat down, defeated state, Samson prays to the LORD. We have noticed nothing from Samson acknowledging the LORD up to this point. But now Samson has been humiliated: “And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars” (Judges 16:25). But the LORD used a humiliated Judge in an even greater way than He had used that Judge when he was young, and strong, and handsome: “And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life” (Judges 16:30).

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

Pastor Joe