Sermon on Judges 14:10-20

This sermon was delivered by Pastor Frank Guglielmo on 22/05/2016. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Pastor Frank said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible. The image below depicts Samson eating honey from a ceremonially unclean source, a dead lion. It was taken from the Layman’s Bible, a blog I have just started following and recommend.

Every day we are faced with hundreds of decisions. Most of them we make quickly and easily, especially those that are seemingly insignificant or along the lines of…should I wear a tie today, should I wear my hair one way or another, etc? Other decisions are made for us: for example, our decision to rug up with winter clothing when faced with unfavorable weather outside. Other choices need more stamina: for example, how much time to devote to reading the Lord’s Word and prayer.

When we have God’s Word, we always have a choice regarding whether or not to obey it. And when we listen to the murmurings of our flesh the consequences, as we will see in today’s message, affect not only us but those around us.

Galatians 6:7-8 in the King James Bible reads:

7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.

8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.

The passage above makes a clear distinction between sowing to the flesh and making choices that are lead by the Spirit of God. Sadly, the unsaved don’t have this choice: they almost inevitably choose to please the self.

We see an example of the latter in Samson. As the previous message on him showed, he was meant to live a consecrated life as both a Judge and a Nazarite. Yet he willingly joined himself to a woman of an enemy nation who was most definitely not clean. We saw that Samson was driven by his desires, lead by his flesh, in that he again willingly took honey from a dead body. In this chapter of the book of Judges, his choices begin to have consequences for both himself and his family.

Verse 11 of Judges 14 tells us:

11 And it came to pass, when they saw him, that they brought thirty companions to be with him.

These “thirty companions” were given to Samson as part of his marriage feast. At this point, Samson had finished building his bride-to-be’s house at his father Manoah’s place. Samson and Manoah then headed down to Timnath to get the bride but we find in this passage that the ceremony was inexplicably happening at the bride’s father’s house, not Manoah’s. Something had gone terribly wrong.

Samson was suddenly surrounded by his new wife’s family and friends, all of whom were enemies of Israel, the Philistines. Imagine being at a wedding where you were not surrounded by the people who love you. This was a bad wedding for Samson, a disaster of a wedding. We know that the Philistines had very different traditions to the Israelites yet now Samson and his family were forced to endure these differences.

There are lessons we can learn from their situation:

1. Choosing to sin normally brings further compromise
The main sin for Samson was in choosing a Philistine woman to marry, not a woman from his own people. Now his wedding was compromised: Samson was surrounded by people who would be doing the very things he wouldn’t be doing as he was both Jewish and a Nazarite.

Judges 14:5 mentions the “vineyards of Timnath” so we can infer from this that there was probably strong drink at the wedding. They were also most likely eating unclean foods as well. And we know that thirty young men had been chosen to help celebrate the marriage feast with Samson – all Philistines.

We also know from this chapter that the wedding didn’t just go for a few hours. Samson and his family had to put up with it for 7 days! Samson was effectively stuck for a week spiritually.

2. Before you choose to compromise with sin, consider the following:

There are always consequences that come about as a result of the decisions we make.
You will probably have to give up more as a consequence of sin. The bad situation normally progresses, in a descending spiral, away from the Lord.
Sin always affects other parts of your life. It is almost impossible to compartmentalize. Sadly, it usually spreads like a cancer, affecting not just yourself but the people around you.
Never think that you can sin and that your sin will bear no consequences. We learn from this chapter of Judges that Samson’s sin also affected his parents. And rather than being a godly witness to the Philistines, Samson instead demonstrated how much he hated them. The company you keep often reveals what you actually believe in your heart. Samson, who had forsaken God’s Word, now found himself in the company of those who hated God.

From this we can infer that if we keep company with the world, and with people who reject God’s Word, eventually we will start to like their conversations and may end up giving up our faith. The company you keep reflects where you are in your heart with God, what principles you hold dear. So be careful who you spend time with.

We should not spend too much time with people who are lead by their flesh and not by the Spirit of God. The Bible says we are to be witnesses in this world, salt and light, standing against corruption so that people might more easily come to God:

13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)

We are to be an example to those who do not know God, being willing to share the gospel with them so they escape hell with us. A true friend will do this for the unsaved.

From the life of Samson we see, however, that if you want something badly enough God will let you have it (after warnings)…but there will be consequences.

Verse 13 of Judges 14 shows Samson proposing the consequences of the thirty companion’s failing to guess his riddle:

13 But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it.

Could Samson afford this? We will see shortly that no, he could not, but he was ready to gamble because he thought he was onto a sure winner. Samson’s attitude to his guests was anything but charitable: he was preparing to fleece them. And in trying to take advantage of them Samson displayed contempt for both them and their culture. He was also in this exchange clearly trying to demonstrate how wealthy he was. In other words, he was grandstanding.

In verse 19 of this chapter we see that in fact Samson couldn’t afford the bet as when he lost it, he had to kill thirty people to obtain their clothing:

19 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle.

The riddle Samson gave to his thirty companions is expounded in verse 14:

14 And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.

We know the answer to this as we have followed along with Samson since he first desired a wife from an enemy tribe. To be fair to Samson’s character, he may have thought the Philistines had a fighting chance to find the truth as the lion he killed was lying near the vineyards so could well have been visible. By verse 15, however, it is clear that his companions had become desperate. Things had progressed to the point where they were prepared to threaten Samson’s bride if she did not get the answer for them:

15 And it came to pass on the seventh day, that they said unto Samson’s wife, Entice thy husband, that he may declare unto us the riddle, lest we burn thee and thy father’s house with fire: have ye called us to take that we have? is it not so?

In verses 16 to 17 we see that Samson’s wife was offended with him the very first day he proposed the riddle. She then “wept before him” for seven days and, on the last day of the feast, really pleaded with him. We should remember from verse 15 that it was on the last day of the feast that the companions threatened her and her family.

At this point we learn that Samson’s relationship with his wife was not good. She didn’t tell him about the threat she’d received from the thirty companions…while he didn’t tell her the answer to the riddle for seven days. Already, there was no trust between them. Genuine love between them (clearly lacking here) would have shown:

– Faithfulness
– Consistency
– Concern
Yet there was no trust between anyone at Samson’s wedding, as the exchange in verse 15 showed. Here the companions effectively asked his new wife, “Have you called us here so we can be ripped off?” There was no trust between the Philistines and Samson, between the Philistines and his wife, nor between the wife and Samson.

In verse 17 Samson’s wife really laid the guilt trip on her husband and he caved in, telling her the answer to his cryptic riddle.

Verse 18 then reads:

18 And the men of the city said unto him on the seventh day before the sun went down, What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion? and he said unto them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle.

It is interesting here that Samson’s guests chose to tell his the answer just before the closing of the final day of the wedding. In other words, they chose to drag the matter out for as long as possible. Samson by this stage most likely thought he had won the bet. Yet we see the Philistines tormenting him, answering the riddle with questions to further infuriate him. And Samson worked out very quickly that they could not have gotten the answer without his wife.

The phrase “plowed with my heifer” is insinuating and at first seems to have almost a sexual connotation. Yet it most likely means Samson was effectively saying, “You have stolen my cow and plowed your own field with her.” Nevertheless, it is clear that Samson knew his wife had betrayed him. She chose not to let him know about the threat she had received earlier from the thirty companions so that he could do nothing about it in time.

Samson was now in a dilemma. He had to pay for the bet. Verses 19 to 20 describe the aftermath: he went to Ashkelon, a city under dispute between the Philistines and the Israelites. He then jumped into the fray, killed thirty men, then brought their loot back to Timnath:

19 And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house.

20 But Samson’s wife was given to his companion, whom he had used as his friend.

So Samson fulfilled his obligations to the winners of the bet, then became angry and went back to his father’s house. It seems clear to us from this that he couldn’t face his wife. Unfortunately, her father then tried to do the right thing by the abandoned woman and gave her to someone else: a Philistine. Things were going from bad to worse for all concerned. This was not a good way to finish a wedding.

Learnings we can take from the life of Samson:
The first thing we see is that a man can slay a lion with his bare hands (through God’s strength) yet have very little control over his passions. Samson continually made the wrong choices. There are victories that God gives us in life: we should never forget (as Samson did) that we owe every one of them to the Lord. And the greatest victory we can have is victory over sin. To win obedience to God, we must overcome the flesh.

God protected Samson from a roaring lion: the benefit Samson received here was physical in nature. But he needed spiritual sustenance as well, the sustenance New Testament believers in Christ now have as we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit:

14 that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:14)

17 even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. (John 14:17)

Samson sought to gratify his desires and emotions, not the Lord. As a result, his life became more and more tumultuous and this was, sad to say, completely his own doing. God has called us to operate on a different plane to Samson:

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. (Matthew 6:33)

We are not just promised our daily bread, or physical sustenance, but to be upheld spiritually as well. Our motivation should therefore be for what the Lord calls us to do. Don’t focus too much on the world. Your mind and heart need to be in heaven as we are cautioned that:

…where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matthew 6:21, Luke 23:34)

When we focus on earthly things, there cannot be peace in our lives. This reflects Samson’s life, and the life of many Christians today.

Final reflections before closing

Philippians 4:11-13 says:

11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Do you see where Paul’s mind and heart is? Earthly joys come and go so our hearts and minds must be focused on Christ in heaven. This brings peace in all circumstances.

1 Timothy 6:6-8 also reminds us that:

6…godliness with contentment is great gain.

7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.

8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.

So let’s be happy with the food we have, and the clothes we also have on our back. Don’t have your heart too firmly attached to the world. And don’t fight against the boundaries God puts in your life, as Samson did. They are there for your protection.

As a final thought: don’t have your eyes focused on the things of this world but rather on the One who created this world.

God bless you.