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Misusing God's Power (Judges 14 & 15)

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    Today’s message is one that hits hard for me because of the direction that the Spirit took me when I was putting this together, something that He’s been working through me for over a year now.  It’s an idea that we see come up in Samson’s story, it’s the idea of the misuse of God’s power.
    We’re going to be in Judges 14 and 15 today, and since we’re covering two chapters today, our focus is going to be on that specific idea, the misuse of God’s power, and looking at these two chapters in Samson’s story through that idea that comes out of this passage.
    We’re going to look at three events in these two chapters today, where we’re told that the Spirit of the Lord came upon or moved Samson. Samson is now a man, and if you’ll remember from last week’s message, Samson was set up for success. He had a divine purpose, he was called by God and set apart for God’s plan. He had a faithful mother who understood the character of God, even when so many others in the country didn’t. And finally, and most importantly, he had been blessed by God and the Spirit of the Lord was upon him.
    But the first story we get of grown-up Samson is of him doing anything other than being set-apart for God. Samson sees a young woman and asks his parents to arrange a marriage between them. His parents try to discourage him from marrying this particular woman because she’s a Philistine. But this is what Samson said, 14:3, “But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she looks good to me.”
    The Hebrew phrase there, we could better understand as “Get her for me, for she looks right (or righteous) in my eyes.” And I point that out because I want us to remember what the issue was for the Israelite people throughout this period of the judges, and it’s highlighted for us in Judges 17:6, “every man did what was right in his own eyes.” Samson isn’t necessarily so concerned with making sure he was in God’s will when he acted, he just did what was right in his own eyes, and this attitude of doing what was right in his own eyes led the nation to continue to do the same.
    In pursuit of what was right in his own eyes, Samson goes down to the town where this woman was and verse 5 tells us that a lion came roaring toward him. Here’s the first event we’re going to talk about. 14:6 says, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a young goat though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done.”
    This is the first instance we’re told of where the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson as an adult. What this means is that the Spirit of God enabled Samson to do the remarkable, the Spirit strengthened his physical powers to tear apart the lion that was about to attack him. Now, what we see from instances like this in the book of Judges, when the Spirit of the Lord came upon someone, it was not a permanent thing. The Spirit would come upon the judges to enable them to do the supernatural, but only for a specific amount of time. The Spirit would only come upon that person for however long it took to accomplish the work of the Spirit.
    If you joined us at any point in the past few weeks as we’ve been in Judges, you might remember the other instances of the Spirit coming upon a judge to accomplish the work of the Spirit. In the earlier examples of this, the Spirit accomplished complete and total deliverance over the enemies of Israel through the judges. But by the time we get to Samson, we see a lessening of the effectiveness of the moving of the Spirit. Why?
    Is it because the Spirit became less powerful over time? Well, we know that’s not true, it couldn’t possibly. The Spirit is the same from the beginning of Creation, present at Creation, working to bring about Creation, so His power won’t have gotten less powerful over time. So then why? Why do we see Othniel and Ehud and Deborah leading these great victories, but all Samson does is kill a lion? If the Spirit’s power is the same, why isn’t Samson able to completely deliver the Israelites from the hands of the Philistines?
    I said last week that part of the reason why this doesn’t happen under Samson’s leadership is because the people just don’t want to be delivered. They’re okay with living like the Philistines and under Philistine rule. But part of the fault lies with Samson as well.
    Samson is far from consideration for the “greatest Judge” award. Look at 14:8-9, at Samson’s actions some time after he had killed the lion by the power of the Spirit, “When he returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion. So he scraped the honey into his hands and went on, eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it; but he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey out of the body of the lion.”
    Remember that Samson is meant to be a Nazirite, a person set-apart for God, for dedication and devotion to the Lord, and as part of that Nazirite vow, Samson isn’t supposed to touch dead bodies. Yet, here we have him doing the very thing he’s not supposed to do. It seems that he may have recognized it was against his vow as well, because he doesn’t tell his father or mother that he got the honey from the dead body of a lion.
    So in the first instance of the Spirit coming upon Samson as an adult, he is enabled to kill a lion, and then responds to that enabling of the Spirit by violating his vow to be set-apart for God. He has the very Spirit of God move upon him and enable him to do something he couldn’t normally, but then he turns right around and sees no issue with violating his devotion to God. It’s a sad chapter in this leader’s life, and a very disappointing response to the awesome power he got to experience.
    Unfortunately, Samson doesn’t learn from this experience and do better next time. The next instance we have of the Spirit coming upon Samson is in Judges 14:19, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them and took their spoil and gave the changes of clothes to those who told the riddle. And his anger burned, and he went up to his father’s house.”
    This particular event takes place after Samson’s riddle has been figured out because his new wife betrayed him. Once again, we see the Spirit empowering Samson to do something that seems less than effective when it comes to delivering the Israelites from the Philistines. And just after he’s killed these thirty men, his anger continues to burn.
    The sense that we get here from the word “anger” isn’t that it was righteous anger, or anger that was well-placed or justified, the sense we get is that it was bitter anger, it was revenge anger. And again, a very murky idea of what exactly the Spirit was empowering Samson to do. Was it really to revenge kill 30 men? That doesn’t seem likely.
    We have one more instance, one more event when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon Samson. Judges 15:14, “When he came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they met him. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily so that the ropes that were on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds dropped from his hands.” This is after Samson burned their crops down by tying foxes together and lighting their tails on fire. The Philistines capture him and bind him, and in a once again, unsure display of the power of the Spirit, he breaks his bonds, and then proceeds to kill 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey.
    But in each of these events, these instances of the Spirit empowering Samson, the theme that ties it all together isn’t deliverance of the people, it’s petty, jealous, and vengeful human nature. It seems as though even though he is being empowered by the Spirit in mighty ways, Samson is using that power to just continue to do what he finds right in his own eyes.
    As I’ve thought about this, about Samson’s example, and about a lot of things that the Spirit has been speaking to me about for some time, I am concerned that on a whole, the Christian Church takes a very Samson-like approach to the Spirit. Let me flesh that out.
    As Christians, as believers, we have been given the gift of the Spirit to change us, to move in us, to guide us and teach us. Jesus spoke to His disciples about the role of the Spirit in the life of the believer, John 14:16-17, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth,” and in verse 26, “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.”
    Paul said this in Romans 8:26-27, “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
    The Spirit was given to the church to be our helper, our guide, our teacher, to be the one who goes before God for us. But think about this, believer, how often do we intentionally, purposefully seek the Spirit to do any of these things on a daily basis in our lives?
    I’ll take it a step further. Look at the early Christian church in the book of Acts. Through the power of the Spirit, the church cast out demons, they healed diseases, they spoke and saw thousands saved, they even raised people from the dead…all by the power of the Spirit that Jesus had promised God would give to them. But again, think about this, church, when was the last time we drove out demons?
    Has the Spirit changed?
    No.
    The answer lies in the response of the people to God’s Spirit. For the Israelites and Samson, it was complacent, apathetic. They either took advantage of God, or they didn’t give Him more than a glancing thought. They thought little to nothing of God’s Spirit.
    Take an honest look at the church here in our own country, in our own state, in our own little town. Do we see a vibrant church, dependent upon the Spirit for its very survival and work? Do we see a church operating in the power of the Spirit and relying on the guidance of the Spirit first and foremost through intentional prayer before doing anything? Or…do we see a church that more closely resembles the attitude of Samson and the Israelites?
    It’s a hard question, and it doesn’t have a very nice answer. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Our attitudes CAN change. Our hearts CAN be turned back to a more active engagement with the Spirit of God. We CAN see a church so dependent upon the guidance of the Spirit that we don’t do anything unless we pray first and He moves first.
    I hope you’re asking how?
    I’ve been asking that too. We can’t make these changes happen in ourselves, we really do need the Spirit’s help to see this type of vibrant church emerge. So what do WE do?
    Let me read some passages about what the early church did to become the vibrant church we read about:
    “These all with one mind were continually devoting themselves to prayer, along with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.” Acts 1:14.
    “They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.” Acts 2:42-43.
    “And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31.
    “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:4.
    “And these they brought before the apostles; and after praying, they laid their hands on them.” Acts 6:6.
    “Now when the apostles in Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent them Peter and John, who came down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit.” Acts 8:14-15.
    I hope you see the thread that ties all these together. It’s prayer. In fact, there are 18 additional examples of the early church praying before they relied on the power of the Holy Spirit to do something incredible in the book of Acts.
    Prayer is the key! When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, He taught them to pray for God’s Kingdom to come upon earth. He didn’t mean that we should wait for it to happen some day in the distant future when Christ returned, He meant now! He meant pray in such a way that brings the Kingdom of Heaven to earth now, which only happens through the moving of the Spirit in the body of Christ to do what only God can do: cast out demons, heal the sick, save people from the depths of hell. That is God’s work, only He can do that.
    I was led to a passage in 2 Chronicles 16:9 this week that says, “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him.” God has a work to work in the world that only He can accomplish, but the cool part of this is that He is looking all across the earth to find those whose hearts are fully committed to Him, why? To strengthen them, to partner with them to do His work.
    He’s chosen, since the beginning of Creation, to work through people. There is no plan B. He wants us to rely on the full measure of the power of His Spirit to be His partner in His work. This happens through prayer!
    Do we pray like this?
    More often than not, what we do when we come to God in prayer is we present a check-list of things we want Him to do. Now, that’s not inherently wrong, He wants us to bring all our worries and cares to Him because He cares for us. But if that’s all we do in prayer, we are failing to use the key that God has given to us to unlock the Kingdom of Heaven on earth. When we present a check-list to God, we fail to listen to His voice, His Spirit, and like Samson and the Israelites, if we do this long enough, we will forget the character and the sound of the voice of God.
    I’m going to end with this passage from Ecclesiastes 5, and then I’m going to challenge us to answer two questions this week, and to try something a little different in our prayer time this week.
    Ecclesiastes 5:1-2, “Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong. Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few.”

1. What are some ways we use God for our own benefit?

2. What’s a proper view of God and His gifts? What would it look like for you to adopt that mindset this week?

 

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