Judges 14:1-20: God Is Greater Than Our Own Desires And Plans.Kevin E. Jesmer 1-5-20

God Is Greater Than Our Own Desires And Plans


Judges 14:1-20                                                                                                             Lesson 16

Key Verse: 14:4                                                                                      Kevin E. Jesmer 1-5-20


“His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.” (NIV)


Samson was a man who was raised by godly parents, among a God-centered people. Yet he did what he felt was right in his own eyes, not caring what God felt about it. His parents did not want him to marry a Philistine woman, and by moral and spiritual standards, his parents were right. But all of them did not see the bigger picture. They did not see that God would use Samson’s marriage to begin the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines. God’s purpose was bigger than Samson’s desires and his marriage. Though he did not care about sinning, he was still blessed by God. His strength came from the Spirit of the Lord. Today, let’s learn more about Samson and his God who chose to work through him to fulfill God’s purpose.


Part l: God’s Unexpected Ways (1-4)


God was raising up Samson as a judge and leader for his people. This preparation began long before his adulthood. His parents planted faith in his heart ever since he was born. Samson’s tribe, Dan, continued to wander in the land of their inheritance. (18:1) They were a warlike tribe and their land had not yet been conquered. (refer to Joshua 19:47-48) Later in life, Samson’s visits to the army camps of the Danites, stirred his heart. God began to prepare him for his role as judge and leader against the Philistines. (Life Application Bible p. 406.) God was working over the decades to refine his people and enable them to take possession of their inheritance at the right time. He was raising up leaders. Indeed, our God is God who works throughout our life time to prepare us for his special purpose.


When Samson became a grown man, he boldly followed his own desires, even against his parent’s wishes. He became infatuated with a Philistine woman and wanted to marry her. Look at verses 1-2, ““Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. 2 When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.” Samson gave no thought to her being a Philistine. The Philistines were the enemies of his people. They were a pagan people who worshipped idols. God dictates in his word that his people must not marry such a woman. Deuteronomy 7:2-4 reads, “2 and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. 3 Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, 4 for they will turn your children away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.” (NIV) That is pretty clear. But Sampson was bound and determined to do it, even though he knew in his deep “heart of hearts” that it was not pleasing to God and not pleasing to his parents. Samson did not care. He was a man who followed his own feelings without much thought. He was his own authority with no fear of God in his heart. He did not live to please God but only to please himself.


Samson’s parents objected to his marrying a Philistine woman. Look at verses 3a, “His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?….” By moral and spiritual standards, they knew that it was not right for their son to carry through with his plans. They held onto these convictions for several reasons. First it was against God’s law. (Look at Exodus 43:15-17; Deuteronomy 7:1-4). Second, intermarriage with the surrounding people groups brought disaster to the Israelites in the past. Judges 3:5-7 is one such example. These verses read, “5 So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. 6 And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods.7 And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. They forgot the Lord their God and served the Baals and the Asheroth.” Third, The Philistines were the greatest enemies of Samson’s people. How could he marry some from the enemy tribe? Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman would have been a disgrace to Manoah’s family.


They protested, but there was not much they could do. Samson was a man who did what was right in his own eyes, not caring what God, his people, nor his parents felt was right. And so, Samson pressed his parents in verses 3b, “…But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.” His parents had mixed feelings. Samson should have been a covenant person, who would marry another covenant person. But Samson only cared about the beauty of a woman regardless of her faith. He was like the sons of god in the times of Noah who married girls because of beauty (Gen 6:2). His parents were under a lot of distress. It was hard on his parents, but they first spoke truth to him, then quietly bore with him, and prayed.


What should be our attitude towards marriage? We should want to marry the right person. That means accepting God’s choice. They should be a person of faith. A Christian should marry a Christian. This is just basic.


It is admirable that Samson’s parents wanted the best for their son. They were trying to do the right thing before God. But despite of their sincerity, they were actually going against the will of God, for God had other plans. Look at verse 4, “(His parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)” Apparently, God’s purpose was bigger than Samson’s desires and his marriage. Though he lived as if God didn’t exist, God had great plans for Samson. He and his parents did not see the bigger picture. They did not see that God wanted to use Samson’s marriage to begin the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines. Indeed, God was using these events to make Samson a great enemy and cause a fight that will eventually set the Israelites free from the Philistine oppression.


Samson’s parents had plans for their son, which were good and noble plans. But they were not God’s plans. God’s plans for our kids may shock us. We may not agree with the way that God is leading. We must always trust that Jesus is in control. If we don’t trust in Jesus, we will try to follow what we are convinced of as right. Morally that may be. Our choice may go along with the dictates of our church. These may be good things, moral things, theologically correct things, but it is possible that following them without flexibility may place us at odds with the will of God. It is definitely something to pray about.


Part 2: Prayerful and Supportive of Their Son (1-4).


Samson wasn’t breaking every rule. He respected the tradition of his society that the parents should get the wife for him. Samson actually asked his parents to come with him to meet the girl. Manoah and his wife tried to be supportive. Look at verse 5, “Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother…” They both went with Samson. They wanted to meet the girl. They allowed the marriage even though they had every right to refuse their son’s request. They were putting their faith into practice by trusting in the sovereignty of God.


Sometimes when kids are pushing the limits, the wisest thing is for the parents to pray and be supportive, trusting that God may lead their child. Some people may be choking when they hear these words. “Is that truly loving your child?” they may be saying. We may have to do this if our kids are determined to marry non-believers. It may be the right thing to be supportive with prayer and accept their choice. Trust the Lord in every matter. He is fulfilling plans that we may know nothing about.


I need to learn from Samson’s father. I don’t constantly have to correct everyone. I need to set the example and pray. I can teach the truth, but in the end, I must bear with others close to me. I need to pray for them and be supportive and trust the Lord that he is guiding them in the right way and along the right path. Who knows what God will accomplish through them for his glory in the years to come? Only God knows.


Part lll: The Lion And The Riddle (5-20)


Samson and his parents were walking to Timnah when a dangerous lion approached. Look at verses 5-6, “5 Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. 6 The Spirit of the LORD came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done.” It seemed that his parents did not know what was going on. The only way for the lion to approach and them not noticing the scuffle, was if Samson was walking some distance behind and the lion approached from behind. This senior couple were consumed about what they would say to the Philistine girl and praying to God for this whole situation to unfold in a way pleasing to him. I also think that the author wants us to know that no one, including his own parents knew anything about the lion.


God gifted Samson with great strength. Think about it, a lion attacked and Samson tore him apart with his bare hands. Where did this strength come from? The Bible says that the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. God was equipping Sampson. He was protecting Sampson and his parents. He was making sure that the meeting they were going to was going to happen. Even though Samson’s heart was not in the right place, God still intervened to help him. God blesses us even when we don’t deserve it. This is the grace of God.


God’s grace is so abundant. Though Samson did not care about sinning and lived for his own glory, he was stilled blessed by God. His strength came from the Spirit of the Lord. God would use him greatly in his work. God is so graceful.


Together they went to meet the prospective bride. Look at verse 7, “Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her. 8 Sometime later, when he went back to marry her,….” It looks like everything went well…as well as it could have gone…considering. God was allowing the desires of Sampson’s heart. Surely God works in mysterious ways.


Let’s take a closer look at this whole “lion” incident. Samson grappled with the lion and killed it while his parents were walking ahead of him on the trail. They did not notice and Samson did not tell them. I would have run after them yelling, “Did you see that? Here, take a picture with my cell phone.” But Samson remained silent. Later on, when he and his parents went to wedding. After they had passed the site where the lion was killed, Samson tarried behind and scooped honey out of the dry carcass of the lion and gave it to his parents to eat. But again, he did not tell them about where he got it from. (8-9) It was almost like he had a plan.


Samson and parents went to the wedding. (8-9) But, before the wedding Samson and his dad went to a feast for the young men. Look at verses 10-11, “10 Now his father went down to see the woman. And there Samson held a feast, as was customary for young men.11 When the people saw him, they chose thirty men to be his companions.” A modern-day equivalent might be a bachelor party. Maybe they butchered goats with machetes and roasted them over a bonfire. They drank liquor and laughed and told stories about warfare and engaged in spear throwing competitions. It was a joyful time, but Samson had something else on his mind.

Though he fronted the money for the bachelor party, he was looking to recoup some of his expenses. Again, he was thinking about himself and not how he could be generous. He saw his chance in posing a riddle that would be impossible to solve. Look at verses 12-13, “’Let me tell you a riddle,” Samson said to them. “If you can give me the answer within the seven days of the feast, I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. 13 If you can’t tell me the answer, you must give me thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes.” He was going to use this gamble as a means to get thirty sets of clothes. It shows that he conjured up this idea after he killed the lion. They were expensive. Samson’s plan seemed to work. Nobody knew the answer to the riddle, not even his parents. They were completely drawn into his plan. The said, “’Tell us your riddle’…’Let’s hear it.’”

Let’s examine the riddle itself. Look at verse 14. “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.” Samson was trying to use the honey from the dead lion as the context for his riddle. His motive in plying this riddle was trying to recoup some of the cost of the wedding. He was exercising his authority over the Philistine men. Samson was sure they could not answer. He felt this riddle would be a sure win. Samson had a plan to entice the young Philistine men into a bet they could not solve. Or could they?


For three days they could not give the answer the riddle. But they did not give up. The only one who knew the answer was Samson. But how could they get into Samson’s mind to find the answer? They would exploit Samson’s weakness through the woman. They resorted to mafia style extortion methods. Look at verse 15, “On the fourth day, they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to steal our property?” They threatened Samson’s fiancé and her family. They said they would burn them to death. It was a horrible threat. They did this to force her to ply for the answer to the riddle from Sampson.


The woman could not bear such threats. Who could…really? She decided to try her best to get the answer from Samson. Look at verses 16-17, “Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.” “I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother,” he replied, “so why should I explain it to you?” 17 She cried the whole seven days of the feast. So on the seventh day he finally told her, because she continued to press him. She in turn explained the riddle to her people.” She was desperate. She was afraid for her life and her family members lives. She was overcome by fear. She was crying for seven days, all through the feast and so Samson gave in and told her the answer to the riddle. But it was a good thing, because she and her family would have died. Things were also progressing according to God’s plan, for he was setting up Samson to confront the leaders of the Philistines.


Once the men had to the answer to the riddle they brought it to Samson. Look at verses 18a, “18 Before sunset on the seventh day the men of the town said to him, “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?…” The impossible had happened. They answered Samson’s riddle. Samson was now obliged to give them thirty suits of clothes. He had to come up with a modern-day equivalent of at least $4,000 worth of clothing.


     Samson knew right away that he was betrayed by his fiancé. He was furious. “…Samson said to them, ‘If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle.’” (18b) The phrase, “if you had not plowed with my heifer” means, “if you had not manipulated my wife.” If they would not have threatened his wife, they would not have learned the answer to his riddle. Samson was blaming them. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him when he struck down thirty men, stripped them of everything, and gave their clothes to those who had solved the riddle to pay off his gambling debt. (19)


Samson used his special gifts that God had given him for his own purposes. His parents thought he had fallen away from God, but God was with him and blessing him. God was giving him power so that his sovereign purpose could be fulfilled. God was forcing Samson and Israelites into a conflict with the Philistines. Even though the situation seemed to be out of control God was in control and accomplishing his greater task. We wonder why God would be working though him and his “non spiritual” actions. It is God’s grace. We need always trust in God’s sovereignty.


God gives us strength and discipline to accomplish many things in this world. But what about if I used the strength that God gives me to just seek after my own selfish plans? What if I chose to live for my own glory and pleasure, rather than for God’s? Well, this happens more often than not. I do use some that God gives me to be squandered on worldly desires. I repent of this.

But God is greater than all my sin. Like he used Samson for a great task God will use me and my family and friends for a great task in this world. He is already blessing us in so many ways. Of course, I want to use all that I have for the glory of Jesus, but I also know that God is in control. God is bigger than our own decisions, and plans. He is graceful in giving us his Holy Spirit and strength when we don’t deserve it. God is faithful. Not just to us. He is faithful to work out his purposes. He will work out his plan despite of our sinful choices and selfish ambition. He makes all kinds of sinners to be sources of blessing for their generation. God will never be outdone. By our sin.


In this passage we learn to trust in God. He is at work among his people. He is fulfilling his purposes in this world, and achieving his own goals. Of course, we need to follow what we believe is right, but don’t be so rigid, that your trying to do what is right is actually at odds with what God is trying to accomplish. Walk in the way of humble submission and trust like Samson’s parents did. Sometimes God will take you on a surprising journey that you would never expect. We can also thank God for his abundant grace. He will work through all kinds of people to accomplish his sovereign purpose. This is great news for us, because despite our weaknesses God chooses to work through us. But we should also open our eyes to see Jesus working in the lives of some unlikely people to bless his people. God bless.


A Side Note.


It is interesting to see what kind of person was Samson? Samson had a very colorful personality. Look at verses 5a, 8,9, 10, 12. He was respectful of tradition and he did, in some instances, include his parents (5a) He was brave and strong. (6) He was resourceful in that he ate the honey out of the dried out old carcass of the lion. He was not squeamish. He was not picky. He was a survivor. (8-9). Women were attracted to him. He fell in love easily. He had some wealth, sponsoring a wedding banquet. (10). He was gambler. He was gambling $3000 worth of clothes. (12) He was even charismatic from a human point of view. Some people would have really liked him because of these qualities. He is easy to like if you are on his side. but his personality has nothing to do with spirituality. But we should not compromise with people who are “cool” and “popular” and full of swagger. We may admire them, but we must honor the qualities God honors.

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