Death of Samson / The Woman caught in Adultery: May 13th 2021

Judges 16:1-17:13

Samson slept with a prostitute while the people of Gaza lay in wait to kill him. He successfully escaped, ripping off the doors of the city gates. God was still giving him phenomenal strength despite his immoral pastimes. Once the Holy Spirit has given us a gift, he doesn’t remove it due to a brief lapse in our personal morality.

Samson later fell in love with a Philistine woman, Delilah. Right from the start of their relationship she was hired by the rulers of the Philistines to try to find Samson’s weakness so he could be subdued. She was a forerunner of Judas; betraying the one who loved her for silver.

Samson must have known she was a snake in the grass because he kept winding her up. First of all he told her that if he was tied up with seven fresh thongs (ropes not pants), he would become weak. She immediately tied him up with seven fresh ropes / thongs – which is pretty suspicious behaviour. Samson snapped the thongs as easily as a piece of string snaps close to a flame. Delilah accused Samson of lying to her and making her look like a fool. He should have kicked her out at this stage for betraying him and trying to get him killed.

She twice more asked how Samson could be subdued and he lied again saying if he was bound with new ropes or had his hair braided into fabric on a loom he would become weak. He again found that Delilah did both of these things to him having hidden hostile men hidden in the room. It must have been a massive room with copious hiding places! By now, he should have left her and be hurrying away in the opposite direction. Unbelievably, Samson relents to her constant nagging and actually tells this evil woman his secret. As he has been set apart to God from birth as a Nazirite, his hair has never been cut. His hair is a visible, outward sign of his special relationship with God. Of course, Delilah coaxed him to fall asleep in her lap and arranged for all his hair to be cut off. The Lord left him (v.20).

Samson had been exceedingly careless with his relationship with God. He knew that his hair was a key symbol to show he was in obedient union with God. From Delilah’s previous behaviour, he would have known what was going to happen to him. If we are determined to turn our back on God, either deliberately or carelessly, he will let us go. However, he will always be on the look out for us, still loving us and longing for us to return to him.

The Philistines seized Samson, gouged his eyes out, bound him with bronze shackles and put him to work in their prison.

The Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to their deity. However, Samson’s hair had began to grow back while he was imprisoned. He was happy to be brought out to entertain the Philistine crowd as it gave him a chance to get his hands on the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Samson prayed that God should remember him and strengthen him just once more (v.28). Samson acknowledged that God was the source of his power. ‘Let me die with the Philistines!’ (v.30) he shouted as he pushed down the temple on all the rulers and the people in it. On the roof alone, there had been three thousand men and women. ‘Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived’ (v.30).

Samson had led the Israelites for twenty years and he wouldn’t be the first leader brought down by lust for a woman. God’s strength had returned to him when he consecrated himself to the Lord again, by allowing his hair grow back and praying to God with faith. This story fits in with my Pastor’s philosophy that God always wants to work through people. He no longer wants to do things by himself. God could have caused the temple to collapse by sending a hurricane or an earthquake but instead, he went to all the trouble of having Samson imprisoned so that he, as God’s representative on earth, could carry out a legendary deed. An earthquake would have been forgotten after a few hundred years but the story of Samson is preserved for ever. So we shouldn’t just sit around waiting for God to sort things out. He sorts things out through people. We need to pray to determine the will of God and work on making it happen.

Micah’s idols

Micah, a man from Ephraim, had stolen eleven hundred shekels of silver from his mother. He returned it to her and she gave some to a silversmith, who made them into an image and an idol. They were put in Micah’s house, in his shrine.

He also made a priestly garment, an ephod, and installed one of his sons as a priest.

‘In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit’ (17:6). We don’t have a single unifying king these days. We gave a democracy with a huge rift down the centre. Half the population don’t respect the government because they didn’t vote for them. Not many people respect religion and are happy to go their own way picking and choosing non-Christian spiritual pastimes such as yoga or mindfulness. In the 21st century, hundreds of thousands of our fellow citizens are all doing as they see fit – but not as God would want them to live.

Micah upgraded his household priest by installing a passing Levite as his ‘father and priest’ (v.10). At least, a Levite was from the correct tribe of Jerusalem for priestly duties. However, priests had to be commissioned by authority of the official High Priest. People couldn’t just employ a spare Levite and give them a wage. However, this is what people do now. With a degree from a Bible college, people set themselves up as preachers and allow their followers to give them a wage rather than being under the authority of a traditional denomination. On the positive side, Micah obviously was trying to worship God. However, he was starting his own brand of religion with an ephod, an image, idols and a paid priest. Micah’s personal in-house priest was a status-symbol like having a brand new Tesla on the drive. We are meant to worship as a community with an officially ordained minister, not start up a new sect in our own houses.

John 7:45-8:11

The temple guards did not arrest Jesus because, ‘No-one ever spoke the way this man does’ (v.46). Ordinary people were finding his new brand of teaching fascinating. It was just the jealous, religious professionals with hardened hearts and closed ears that wanted him gone. They also held his Galilean origins against him, seemingly unaware of his birth in Bethlehem – in accordance with prophecy.

The teachers of the law and the Pharisees asked Jesus to condone stoning a woman to death for adultery. There was not sign of her male partner, who should also have been on trial, and there needed to be at least two witnesses to convict her. Jesus’ classic retort was: ‘If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’ (v.7). All her accusers walked away starting with the oldest, who had presumably accumulated the greatest burden of sin. Of course, Jesus could have thrown a stone as he was without sin but he did not condemn her. Mary, his mother, was also without sin but she was not around. Many people misinterpret Romans 3:23: ‘for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’. Jesus never sinned and so the word ‘all’ obviously does not mean what people think it means. There are obviously exceptions. ‘All’ means ‘all’ of a particular people group. So the majority of the Jews and the majority of the Gentiles would have sinned but not every single one of them. Think of new babies or, indeed, the righteous that Jesus did not come to call (Luke 5:32). On the other hand, even new born babies inherit a portion of ‘original sin’ from their ancestor, Adam, and so need to be baptized to be made right with God.

A debate has raged through the centuries as to what Jesus wrote in the sand. As Jesus had recently been talking about ‘streams of living water’ (John 7:38), I think that Jeremiah (17:13) must be relevant: ‘Those who turn away from you will be written in the dust because they have forsaken the Lord, the spring of living water’. Possibly, Jesus first wrote down the name of the accused woman, through a supernatural gift of knowledge from the Holy Spirit. Then he wrote down the names of all the others present in the same list of sinners. They were all guilty of turning away from him.

Jesus’ new definition of adultery (Matt. 5:27): ‘I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart’ meant that some of the teachers of the law may have been committing adultery with this women at that very moment in time in their hypocritical hearts.

When everyone left without throwing a stone at the woman, Jesus instructed her to ‘Go now and leave your life of sin’ (8:11). It appears that adultery was not her only sin. Her whole life was a life of sin. She was caught up in daily disobedience and rebellion. It would be fascinating to know if she managed to stop sinning for the rest of her life after Jesus saved her. Or was it just for the rest of the day and she was back to her usual antics the very next day. I found it virtually impossible to break out of a cycle of repetitive sin until I handed more control of my life to the Holy Spirit. By praying in tongues for up to an hour a day, He made my desire to choose sin melt away. I couldn’t do this by my own efforts. Jesus will do the heavy lifting for us through the gift of the Holy Spirit, we just have to hand over control to him. He wants to heal us and liberate us with loving compassion, not condemn us.

Many Christians feel they are born again but carry on living in grave sin. After we have come to Jesus, we have to address the sinful areas in our life, unravelling them and dealing with the root. The Holy Spirit will tell us where they are and strengthen us as he gradually sanctifies our lives. When we look back, we can give glory to God for the journey he has carried us on.

Psalm 60:1-4

King David calls on God to restore us, after God was angry and rejected us.

God was angry with the whole of humanity due to our sins before Jesus made us justified and righteous in the eyes of God through his death on the cross.

We are currently living in desperate times. The world has been shaken by the coronavirus pandemic and is quaking. Only Jesus can mend the fractured world. Nations that have not yet turned to him and are staggering with their health services at breaking point need to come to the Father through his son. He will raise a banner for those who fear him, showing us where he may be found. It will deflect and protect us against the weapons of the enemy.

Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e1/Christ_and_the_Woman_Taken_in_Adultery_%28one_of_a_set_of_12_scenes_from_The_Life_of_Christ%29_MET_DP278246.jpg

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