Judges ~ Chapter Fifteen
Read: Judges 15:1-20
"Then Samson went and caught three hundred foxes;
and he took torches, turned the foxes tail to tail,
and put a torch between each pair of tails.
When he set the torches on fire,
he let the foxes go into the standing grain of the Philistines,
and burned up both the shocks and the standing grain,
as well as the vineyards and olive groves."
Samson made a riddle out of his battle with the lion and the treasure he got out of his victory. "Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet" (Judges 14:14). He posed it to his wedding party for amusement, but his disobedience was no laughing matter. Samson had trifled with the commands of God and with his Nazirite vow of separation, listening to his own heart rather than the will of God and his own parents. In like manner, his wedding party played unfairly with him and sought to outwit him by gaining the answer to his riddle through deception and threatening his wife, turning her against him. When we turn our hearts from the Lord to seek after the pleasures of the world, we may experience momentary gratification, but we will never find true lasting satisfaction or contentment; for the flesh is never satisfied. Samson was determined to marry someone he had absolutely no business being with, and the Lord used the consequences of his actions to drive this difficult lesson home. When he returned to see his wife his father-in-law forbid him, because he had married her to another. Samson's anger burned within him. It was the time of the wheat harvest, so Samson took revenge by burning down all their fields. He gathered three hundred foxes (jackals) and tied them together and placed a torch between their tails, so that, when he lit the torches, they would run frantically in the fields wreaking havoc and causing complete devastation to the crops. Samson's plan was much like Gideon's military strategy with his three hundred valiant warriors, when he separated his men into three divisions and placed in their hands a clay pot, a trumpet, and a torch, so they could confuse the enemy and attack them on all sides at the same time. Like many of the judges before him (Judges 3:31; 4:21; 7:20), Samson used unusual weapons to fight the enemy (15:15). Unfortunately, Samson's anger burned up more than the fields and vineyards and olive groves, he ignited a terrible cycle of retaliation which ended the lives of both his wife and father-in-law. So much of the hatred and violence we see around us is birthed out of the human instinct to retaliate. "Vengeance is Mine, and recompense" (Deuteronomy 32:35a). As Christians, we should not focus on the evil in others, but give our attention to that which is good, and inspire others to do good. Peace may not always be in our control, but we have the ability to take control of heated situations with our Christlike response, who Himself did not retaliate against man for his sin, but instead gave His life for us. When we respond in like manner, we "heap coals of fire on their heads" instead of inflaming their hearts to anger and may then lead them in the path of repentance, as the Lord has led us. "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also" (Matthew 5:38, 39).
"Repay no one evil for evil.
Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.
If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.
Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath;
for it is written: "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord.
Therefore "If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him a drink;
for in doing so you will heap coals of fire on his head."
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."
"Then he became very thirsty;
so he cried out to the LORD and said,
"You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant;
and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?"
So God split the hollow place that is in Lehi, and water came out,
and he drank; and his spirit returned, and he revived."
(Judges 15:18, 19a)
Samson attacked the Philistines for murdering his wife and father-in-law and then fled to a cave "in the cleft of the rock of Etam" (v. 8b). The Philistines followed him and invaded Judah. When the men of Israel learned that their oppressors were looking for Samson, they were willing to help capture the troublemaker themselves. His own countrymen betrayed him, choosing to appease their oppressors rather than stand alongside their brother, whom God had raised up to rescue them. They chose to help the army of the Philistines, instead of enlisting the help of a man who was himself as mighty as an entire army. While the other judges led armies, Samson fought alone. "Then three thousand men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, "Do you not know that the Philistines rule over us? What is this you have done to us?" (v. 11a). They did this to themselves. No one, but God, was to rule over Israel. The children of Israel had sunk to a new low and were now willing to cooperate with the enemy and hand over the man God had appointed to be their deliverer. Rather than mobilize an army to fight the evil that was all around them, the men of Judah assembled an army to take down the one who was willing to stand up for evil. How much their actions reflect the times we are currently living in! Their sin had blinded them to the very thing that would make for their peace. "If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes" (Luke 19:42). Samson submitted to his being bound and delivered into the hands of the enemy to protect his own people. "Then the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands. He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, reached out his hand and took it, and killed a thousand men with it. Then Samson said: "With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of a donkey I have slain a thousand men!" (Judges 15:14-16)
In his submission, both to his countrymen and to the Holy Spirit, Samson is a type of our Lord who has Himself piled up heaps upon heaps of our enemies and loosed the cords of death. "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, by wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know - Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it" (Acts 2:22-24). Samson celebrated his victory in song but failed to give honor where honor was due. To remind him of who was truly fighting his battles, the Lord made His servant feel his weakness so that he would cry out to the Lord. "Then he became very thirsty; so he cried out to the LORD..." (v. 18a). When our Lord was crucified, He felt physically the deep agonies and spiritual thirst which sin brings to men. "After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!" (John 19:28). He triumphed over this final test as He bore the penalty for our sins on the Cross. We, like Samson, must expect times of testing to follow our triumphs, so that we will humbly return to the Source of all our supply and find our rest and refreshment in Him. "O God, you are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water" (Psalm 63:1). Our Lord has opened a fountain of living water in Himself, offering us an unlimited and irrepressible supply of fresh, life-giving sustenance (Isaiah 12:3). "...whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). Let us come daily, let us come often, and let us drink deeply from His "river of delights" (Psalm 36:8), so that we may find refreshment for our weary souls and strength to fight our battles from the place of power and victory - on our knees in prayer. "He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, and broke their chains in pieces. Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! For He has broken the gates of bronze, and cut the bars of iron in two" (Psalm 107:14-16)!
"As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
while they continually say to me, "Where is your God?"
When I remember these things, I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise,
with a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance."