Thursday, September 20, 2012

The climax story of the STRONG MAN

Samson was king over Israel after his victory over the Philistines ( )

Won't you want to know more about his life?

His most well-known part of his life: Samson and Delilah

This is taken from the imprints of Judges 16:1 - 16:31.

At the start of the chapter, Samson again did wrong in the eyes of God. He went to Gaza ( Philistine town), and saw a prostitute and spend a night with her. The Philistines wanted to kill him at dawn but remember Samson was a strong man. I think the men would have been terrified when Samson had carried the city gate of Gaza to the top of the hill facing Hebron. (Could you imagine seeing a man carrying the city gates together with the two posts? The city gate is not a small gate. I am sure if I were one of the Philistine I would have run  for my life

He fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek named Delilah. When the rulers of Philistine heard this, they went to her and asked her to find the secrets of his strength. In return, she'll be rewarded with eleven hundred shekels of silver from each ruler. At that time, Philistine was ruled by five rulers. Each ruler ruled from a different city - Ashdod, Ashkelon, Ekron, Gath and Gaza. From five rulers, that would be 550 shekels of silvers - now that's a lot of money.
Because of greed, Delilah was driven to discover the strength of Samson.

Attempts to make Samson weak as any other men:
- tying him with seven fresh thongs that have not been dried
- tying him securely with new ropes that have never been used
- weaving his seven braids of his head into fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin

Everytime when Delilah had done the one of the above accordingly, she'll shout "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!" Samson will break free easily! The Philistines were hiding in the room. 

Samson eyes were disillussioned. He loves her till he could not see the true colours of Delilah. We might be thinking why could he not see that the woman's true colours? Because he is really blinded by LOVE. He chose not to see that side of her and he chose to believe in her lies. 

Delilah was a deceitful woman with honey on her lips and poison in her heart. She toyed with Samson, pretending to love him while looking at personal gain. 

Delilah then was very upset because her 'lover' lied to her. She nagged him day and night. It is imprinted 'he was tired to DEATH' - Could you imagine how persistent she was. 

This was eventually the SECOND time Samson allowed himself to be worn down by persistent nagging. The first time happened between him and his wife. Remember things didn't turn out as well as it should.

Same here! Samson told her everything. Look at verse 17 - he told her everything. "No razor has ever been used on my head,"because I have been Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become weak as any other man. 

Delilah did as she was told. She called the Philistine to shave off his hair! The strength left him! The LORD had left him!

Samson was then captured and the Philistine revenged and gouged his eyes out! The Philistine then set him to grinding in the prison in Gaza (ironically, this was the place where Samson had uprooted the city gates). Samson was a weak man.

The rulers of Philistines celebrated on the victory of capturing Samson. They offered sacrifices to their god, Dagon. They praised their god. Dagon was the cheif god of the Philistines, the god of grains and harvest. Also, in the temple, there was the place where they torture and humiliate their prisoners.

Samson was brought out of prison to entertain the people.

Here comes the CLIMAX! Let's read the IMPRINTs of Judges! :D

25 While they were in high spirits, they shouted, "Bring out Samson to entertain us." So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them.When they stood him among the pillars,26 Samson said to the servant who held his hand, "Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them."27 Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform.28 Then Samson prayed to the Lord, "Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes."29 Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other,30 Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived. 

Samson prayed. Samson knew he had done wrongs in the eyes of the Lord. In spite of his past, his failures, his disobedience, God still LOVED him. God was willing to hear the prayer of Samson of confession and repentance and use him for the FINAL time.

Samson life could seem like a MESSED UP from the beginning of his 'independance' (when he could make his own decision). He disobeyed God and do things that he desired without considering the consequences. If I may say this, no one wants to BE LIKE HIM! I, myself would not want to be like Samson.

Looking back, I was once like Samson. I lived my life to how I see fit. At that point of time, I was MESSED UP yet I still have not idea. I shut my ears away and did not want to hear. Just like Samson, God had to allow things to happen in my life. I reached my DEAD END, and the only way out is the way UP. Honestly, the guilt feelings was there. Guilt had stopped me to pray! It kept me away from Him. But, the only way out for me was UP! So, I prayed. Lo and behold, He guided me out of my dead end and gave me new beginnings. 

One of the effect of SIN in our lives is to keep us from praying. Perfect moral behavior is NOT a condition to pray. Don't allow your guilt feelings keep you away from your only way of restoration. 

No matter how long you have been away from God, he is ready to HEAR from you and RESTORE you to a right relationship. 

Every situation can be salvaged if you are willing to turn again to Him.  If God could still work in Samson's situation, he can certainly make something worthwhile out of yours. 

(NIV Life Application Study Bible)

Would you have the courage to go on your knees and confess to Him today?

Monday, September 10, 2012

The arrogance of the strong man

This part of the story is found in Judges 14:1 - 15:20. 

He was dedicated to God to be a Nazirite - a person who is set apart for God's service. Samson's parents took a LIFETIME vow for him. As a Nazirite, Samson could not cut his hair, touch a dead body or drink anything containing alcohol.

The story began with Samson who had gone to a city called Timnah. There, his eyes had caught sight of a beautiful young PHILISTINE lady. He was demanding! He went home and told his parents he wanted to marry the young lady. 

Notice what he said to his parents, "I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife." 

In their culture, when the man wants to marry the woman, then the parents have to go in persons and ask from the woman’s parents for their daughter’s hand in marriage. On different note, in our Asian culture, we are taught that if we were to talk to our parents in harsh manner, we are being disrespectful to our parents. 

Samson was stubborn and demanded his father to get her for him as he feels she was the right one for him. Reason the parents objected because it’s against God’s law and the Philistine were the Israelites greatest enemies - it would be like a disgrace to the family name.

His parents were patient. They even asked him to find an acceptable woman in their own Israelites community.

However, everything happens for a reason.

Even the event of the young Philistine lady that caught the attention of Samson and his heart yearns to marry her.

In the imprints of the Bible, it is written that this occasion was from the LORD. He was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines, because they were ruling over the Israelites.

So, they went down to Timnah.

During the journey down to Timnah, a young lion came roaring at Samson. The Spirit of the LORD came upon Samson in power, and then he tore the lion apart with his bare hands, just like how will he tear a young goat. But, he was silence about this. He continued on his journey and went down to talk to the woman. He liked her.

After some time, Samson went back to marry the woman. The lion carcass was there! In it was a swarm of bees and some honey. He scooped and ate. He even gave some to his parents. Remember, he was a Nazirite. He was not supposed to touch a dead body.

He held a feast there. He gave a riddle to the Philistines to show off his strength and wits.

“ Out of the eater, something to eat;
out of the strong, something sweet.”

He knew the people would not be able to answer it. So, he placed a bet where he knew he would win. The Philistines had no idea what would the answer be. So, they resorted in threatening the life of his wife and his wife’s father. So, she was afraid and asked Samson. Samson didn’t tell her the first time she pressured him. He even added ‘I didn’t even tell my parents the answer’ (indicating that he didn’t even tell two persons who was closest to him). After several times that she pressured and cried, Samson gave up before the hour on the seventh day. He told her the ANSWER!

Remember what the Philistines had threatened the wife – so, once the wife knew the answer, she hurried to tell the Philistines.

Before sunset on the seventh day, the Philistines men came and solved the riddle. Samson with his pride didn’t want to be defeated answered that if it wasn’t because of his wife, you (Philistines) will never know.

The story went on that he went down to a city called Ashkelon, struck down 30 men, stripped them of their belongings and gave up their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Samson impulsively used the special gift God gave him for selfish purposes. He was angry then he went to his father’s house.

His wife was given to a friend who had attended his wedding. He only knew during the time of wheat harvest and when he intended to visit the wife. It goes to showed that he was away for a period of time. The woman’s father didn’t allowed Samson to go into his wife’s room. The woman’s father justified his actions by saying that Samson hated her and that’s the reason he gave her to Samson’s friend. Not only that, he even suggested to Samson to take the sister instead because she is more attractive.

Samson was angry. Because of this, he concluded that he wants to get even with the Philistine. Thus, he burnt their standing grain, vineyards and olive groves. The Philistines was angry – their crops were all burnt. They in return burned both the woman and her father to death.

Samson became even angrier – because his first love was burnt to death. Samson attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them. He was taking his own REVENGE in his own hands. Samson had went to stay in a cave in the rock of Etam (maybe to mourn of the wife and father-in-law death)

Because of what had happened, the Philistines went up and camp in Judah. They had went there because they want to capture Samson as prisoner and do unto him how he had done to the Philistines.

Three thousands men of Judah went to the cave and captured Samson (they probably had heard the strength of Samson and the news of Philistines killed in his hands). They questioned him the reason that he had killed the Philistines. Samson answered that he is only doing what they had done unto him. Samson allowed them to capture him on the condition that the Judah will not kill him. He was tied up with two new ropes and led him from the rock.

As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came towards him shouting (They were angry). Samson’s tied ropes became like charred flax and the bindings dropped from his hands.

On that day, Samson strucked down 1000 men with a fresh donkey’s jawbone.

He said,

“ With a donkey’s jawbone,
I have made donkeys of them.
With a donkey’s jawbone
I have killed a thousand men.”
Notice the PRIDE and claiming the victory for himself.

Let’s continue looking at v18, he was THIRSTY. Samson was exhausted physically and emotionally.

You have given you servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?----> a self pity! God opened a hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. Samson gained back strength after drinking the water.

Emotionally, we are most vulnerable after a great effort or when faced with real physical needs. Severe depression often follows great achievements, so don’t be surprised if you feel drained after a personal victory. During these times of vulnerability, avoid the temptation to think that God owes YOU for YOUR efforts. It was HIS strength that gave us VICTORY.

I would like to draw your attention to the ATTITUDE of Samson. He was a great man with a great purpose. But, he used his gifts for his SELFISH PURPOSE and broke the promise made with God – a Nazirite promise.

We may be where Samson was. Instead of feeling pity for ourselves, there’s still time to U-TURN.

Are you COURAGEOUS to U-TURN your life for HIM?

Let’s concentrate on keeping our attitudes, actions and words 
focused on God instead of ourselves!

Monday, September 3, 2012

the beginning of SAMSON the strong man

This part of the story is imprinted in Judges 13:1 - 13:25. Let's take a walk down memory lane about the beginnings of Samson.

The story started with a couple who stayed under the ruling of the Philistines. At this moment of time, it had already been 40 years under the Philistines ruling. The people then must have already come to the state of mind that Philistine is stronger than them and they may have never thought of over-riding the Philistine. The wife is a sterile woman who could not bear a child. It must have been devastating for her. The angel of the LORD appeared to her and told her she will give birth to a son who will deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines. Because she WILL give birth to the child, she must follow the conditions given by the angel. The woman must be  shocked and surprised - all these years, I can't even have a child and now I WILL have a child.

The woman was overjoyed! She quickly ran to tell her husband what had happened. She also told the husband (Manoah) that she WILL conceive and give birth to a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from birth until the day of his death.

Guess what Manoah did? He prayed and asked God to allow the man of God He sent to come again to teach how to bring up the boy who is to be born. It seems to me Manoah couldn't believe his ears of what the wife had told him. Amazingly, God replied him. God again sent the angel as he requested. So, when the wife was at the field, the man of God reveal himself to her. Then, she quickly rushed to tell her husband. Her husband went out with the wife to meet the 'man'. When he met the 'man', he questioned him.

First question: Are you the one who talked to my wife?
(I felt he was being protective over the wife)

Second question: When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy's life and work?
(The answer given was exactly what the wife had told him.)

Third request from the man: We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.
The reply was even though you detain me, I'll not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the LORD. As recorded, Manoah still don't have the slightest clue that it was the angel of the LORD he was talking to.

Funny thing, the first encounter the wife knew and addressed the man as the man of God and even said he looked like the angel of God. But, Manoah having a conversation with him don't even have the slightest clue.

Fourth question: What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word come true?
Why asked the name? During their time, it is believed that if you know a person's name, you'll know the person's character and how to control the person.

He replied by saying that his name is beyond understanding.
The angel of the LORD did not give his name so that they will not be able to control him. His name was a mystery beyong understanding and too wonderful to imagine.

Manoah obeyed the angel. Burnt the offering. The LORD did an amazing thing: As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame (Judges 13:20 NIV)

Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell down with their faces to the ground. Then, when the angel of the LORD did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the LORD.

Manoah freaked out! WE ARE DOOMED TO DIE!!!!!! WE HAD SEEN GOD. But, Manoah's wife answered with a level head, "If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this," (Judges 13:23 NIV)

The chapter ended with the birth of the boy named Samson who is dedicated to the LORD as a Nazirite. Not much account of him growing up as a boy. Later on in the chapter, the LORD blessed him and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir in him.

This is just the first part of Samson's life.

Now, let's look at the wife. She is so gullible - my first thought. She believe RIGHT AWAY what the person had said. I can see why Manoah wanted to know for sure. Sometimes, we may also act the way Manoah's wife act - just swallowing what the other person had said. Another way of looking at this, she has a simple faith. When she brought the husband to see the man of God, she heard it the 2nd time - it's like confirmation again to what she heard the first time.

Look at Manoah, Samson's father. I would conclude that he didn't take his wife's words as it is. And he sought to find out whether what the wife had said is true. He prayed and God answered him. Manoah only came to believe that the man is the angel of the LORD when the angel didn't appeared to him after he ascended up in flame. Manoah was scared to death that he had seen the LORD.

Isn't it weird to see a man who went out with a sense of wanting to know then when he knew the truth, he was so so so TERRIFIED. He became irrational.

Many of us (myself included) also act the same way as Manoah. We want to know. We asked questions. Then, when we know the truth, we suddenly take a step back and say 'this can't be it! You must be kidding..'

We need to be like Manoah and also his wife - having the right attitude and response. We need to find out the truth for ourselves and have the courage to face it!

God is good. He knows us well enough. He knew Manoah.  He knew Manoah's wife as well. He placed them side-by-side to keep each other on course. Both of them have the right attitude that is to be truthful and honest to each other. I do act like Manoah sometimes and sometimes I'll act like his wife. Thankfully, God had placed different individuals in my life who is willing to journey with me and be honest with me completely. He was also willing to be patient with my hard-headedness.

So, for those of you reading this, you may think to yourself, I may act like Manoah sometimes,  I may be like the wife of Manoah who is gullible (or not at all as well),  whatever it is, we all need God and people to journey on together with.

It's okay that if there are times you and I be irrational or gullible.  
That's why we need God and people to journey