Matthew 3: The Word Arrives

Tonight we will follow Matthew’s gospel and fast forward about three decades in Jesus’s life. We left Jesus as a child in danger and in this chapter we see Him as a man. But before we get to Jesus we are introduced to John the Baptist, Jesus’s precursor. In Isaiah 40:3, there is s prophecy concerning him: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God.”

John’s arrival on the scene heralds Jesus’s arrival. He came to prepare the people for the new law that was to come. This new law to be established by Jesus would be very different from the Old Testament laws of detailed regulation and animal sacrifice. God’s gospel to come is one of peace and repentance, where the message of the Spirit of God is not written on tablets of stone, but on tablets of flesh (II Corinthians 3:3). This means that God’s Word, which once lived on stone tablets (aka the Ten Commandments), now lives in our hearts, guiding our inner thoughts and decisions.

Some of us might know that John the Baptist was eating locusts and honey in the wilderness of Judea, clothed in camel’s hair and preaching repentance. What some might not know is how parts of John’s message were virtually identical to what Jesus would teach.

For instance, in the seventh verse of this chapter, John calls the Pharisees a “brood of vipers,” because he knew that they needed to repent instead of resting in the fact that they were of Abraham’s lineage. These Pharisees did not have hearts that desired to be approved of God; rather they felt superior to mankind by virtue of the fact that they were Jews. They thought that because they were Jews, they were automatically approved of by God, and also maybe just a little bit better than everyone else. John calling them a “brood of vipers” shows the distinction from the old law to the new: repentance and purity of heart take the place of genealogies and tradition. John could detect that the Pharisees would struggle with making this transition and Jesus saw it too. In Matthew 12, Jesus calls the Pharisees a “brood of vipers” when they accuse Him of using the power of the devil to cast out demons. The meaning behind these accusations to the Pharisees is that the new gospel is coming, and it reveals the hearts of those that hear it. It does the same today.

John the Baptist also refers to trees and the fruit they bear as a metaphor for what comes out of our lives based on what is in our hearts. This is an idea throughout the New Testament: good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad. If we repent of our sins, we are righteous, but if we resist and become defensive or rebellious, our nature is contrary to God and our lives will bring forth undesirables things. Likewise, Jesus made this same correlation in Matthew 12: ““Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.”

John goes on in Matthew 3 to baptize people with water for repentance, an act necessary for salvation that is borne out in the New Testament (Mark 16:16, John 3:5). John makes it clear that he does not consider himself worthy of Jesus, not even to carry His sandals. John’s comments in verses 11-12 again make reference to Jesus’s impending arrival but this time specifically mention that Jesus’s baptism would be divisive: not all would heed His Word, some would obey while others would not.

Jesus at last arrives at the Jordan from Galilee (where we last saw Him at the end of Matthew 2) to be baptized by John. John is astonished because he thinks that Jesus should be baptizing him, but Jesus says, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” 

Baptism is an act that removes all sin, leaving sinners pure in the sight of God, so why did Jesus, who had no sin, need to be baptized? He says it was to “fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus’s act of baptism shows the people (and us!) the importance of following the pattern of obedience. Jesus completes this act of righteousness in front of men that men are required to perform to be saved. It is a show of solidarity and also an endorsement of God’s plan of salvation for mankind.

Even though Jesus had no sins to wash away, His baptism was necessary in that it points all mankind to God’s desire for us: that we repent and turn to God as the Master of our lives.

Matthew 2: Safe Harbors

Wise men from the East come to Jerusalem seeking the newly born King of the Jews. King Herod, despite his old age, is troubled at the threat of a new leader arising, especially one that wise men traveled far to worship. He gathers together chief priests and scribes in an effort to find this Child. They tell him that the Child was to be born in Bethlehem in accordance with a prophecy from Micah 5:2.

Under a pretense that he wants to worship the Child, Herod sends the wise men to find the Child and bring it back to him. They see the star again and follow it to Bethlehem. But when the wise men see the Christ as a babe with his mother, they fall down, worship Him and gave Him gold, frankincense and myrrh. The wise men are also warned by the heavens in a dream that they should not return to Herod, so they returned home in a different way. This is the first time in this chapter that God preserves the life of the Messiah, for their original orders were to bring the Child back with them.

After the wise men departed Bethlehem, an angel of the Lord comes to Joseph in a dream and tells him to take the Child and his mother to Egypt because Herod would seek to kill the Child. Joseph, revealing the depth of his faith once again, takes his young family to Egypt and they remain there until the death of Herod. It is ironic that God led Joseph to Egypt for Christ’s protection because Egypt was known for being unkind to Jewish children. In this case, it proves to be the safest place for Him in light of King Herod’s danger. This is the second time in this chapter that God preserves the life of the Messiah.

During this time, Herod becomes angry at being unable to find and vanquish the child and orders that all male children, aged two and under that were in Bethlehem and all its districts were to be put to death. These senseless murders fulfilled a project set forth in Jeremiah 31:15. 

When old King Herod finally dies, Joseph brings his family back from Egypt, fulfilling a prophecy from Hosea 11:1. Joseph heads to Israel, but he is afraid to go due to the one that is ruling over Judea. At that time God warns him in a dream and Joseph veers into Galilee and settles in a town called Nazareth. This is the third time in this chapter that God preserves the life of the Messiah.

When we think about how the early events of Jesus’s life were so wonderfully and perfectly orchestrated by Almighty God, it is astounding. These events were planned a very long time before they occurred and the outcome was known and created by God all along. 

Thinking about a divine power that has absolute knowledge and control over events should put fear into our hearts. We are never really alone. Continuously our thoughts, behaviors and intentions are known by Almighty God: “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” ‭Hebrews‬ ‭4:13‬

But we need to take heart in His saving power, the blood of Jesus Christ that redeems us from our sins. In the midst of a troubled world, alluring temptations, and promises of things better than what we have now, the Word of God gives us the strength we need to continue to live for Him: 

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”‭‭ Romans‬ ‭8:31-35‬

None of these things listed in Romans 8 can separate us from the love of Christ. It is all around us. Even now.

Matthew 1: The Birth of Jesus

Verses 1-17: The genealogy of Jesus Christ is given first and fulfills both the Abrahamic and the Davidic covenants. This means that God had promised both Abraham and David that the savior of the world would come through their family lines (Genesis 12:3, II Samuel 7:12) and the long list of “begots” here proves it. It is the story of the family tree of Jesus.

There are other genealogies in the Old Testament, many longer than this one. But this one has two characteristics that distinguish it greatly from other genealogies, Biblical or not:

 – The genealogy of Jesus fulfills prophecy

 – The genealogy of Jesus ends with a woman (Mary)

Why is it significant that this genealogy ends with a woman? Usually genealogies deal with and end at men; men as fathers are traditionally thought of as the authors of progeny. But this time is different. This line mentions Joshua, Jesus’s “father,” but then merely refers to Joshua as “the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ.” The genealogy stops with Jesus after Mary because Joshua was not Jesus’ father; God was.

Verses 18-25: The virgin birth is the first evidence we have of Christ’s divinity. Mary is pregnant with Jesus before she consummated her marriage with Joseph. Verse 18 says “she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” When Joseph finds out she is pregnant, he proves his quality by not making a public show of a divorce (which he could have done had she been unfaithful to him), but instead he opts to end the marriage in private, which would have preserved a degree of Mary’s honor.

But Joseph does not get the opportunity to do either of these things. An angel from God comes to Joseph in a dream and compels him to keep Mary as his wife because the child was conceived of the Holy Spirit. The angel tells Joshua that he “shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 

This was done to fulfill another prophecy from Isaiah 7:14, which says that the virgin will bring forth a son and he shall be called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” Joseph, to the credit of his faith, takes Mary as his wife and names the child Jesus. 

The birth of our savior Jesus Christ is notable enough in its’ fulfillment of prophecies. Also consider that it is Jesus’ sacrifice and blood coupled with God’s mercy and our obedience that saves us. His is certainly the most important birth in the history of the world.

However, before we conclude, consider Joseph and Mary. Elsewhere in the gospels we know that Mary also knew of her firstborn son’s identity through an angel of God. So we have a newlywed couple, poor and alone in an out-of-the-way part of the country with an unexplained pregnancy and visited by angels. The outcome of a peaceful and holy birth, without God’s providence, could have ended instead with a nasty public divorce, shaming, false accusations, abandonment and misery.

Instead, because of the faith of a poor young couple, we have an occasion of the highest importance: the birth of the savior of the world. My savior and yours, Jesus Christ.

It helps to remember the faith of Joseph and Mary when we find ourselves lacking in faith. Having faith can make a big difference in my life and in the lives of others, and it is all too easy to underestimate the effect of faith.

Judges 21: God Living in Me

The final chapter of the book of Judges does not redeem Israel. Instead of a happy ending we are witness to Israel going their own way once more. But tonight’s study does not dwell on negativity. In fact there are some very inspirational lessons to be learned from the poor example exhibited by Israel.

The disgraced tribe of Benjamin has been shunned by the rest of Israel. After their participation in the actions of the previous chapters, the other tribes have refused to allow any of their daughters to marry into the tribe of Benjamin. This leaves Benjamin at a great disadvantage for they need to be able to have children so that the tribe can continue.

To help Benjamin, the other tribes of Israel make plans to provide wives for the Benjamites. They accomplish this by killing the inhabitants of Jabeth Gilead except for the virgin girls, which they give to Benjamin. These virgins were chosen because people from Jabeth Gilead did not attend an assembly planned by the other tribes. 

But the wives provided from Jabeth Gilead are not enough for the tribe and Israel makes arrangements for Benjamin to steal women from Shiloh. With these, the Benjamites have enough wives. 

Israel’s methods of providing wives to Benjamin are arbitrary and foolhardy. First, they denied wives from among their own people. This forced them to find wives elsewhere for the tribe. The conflicted nature of Israel is apparent when we realize that Israel is judgmental of Benjamin enough to withhold intermarrying, yet still feels responsible enough for a fellow tribe to make sure they have wives. Israel should have repented of their sins, made sacrifices in accordance with the law, and prayed to God to help them deal with the Benjamites. Instead they make a bad situation worse with more killing (Jabeth Gilead) and employing strange logic to provide wives. Surely this is not how God would have directed the outcome?

An honest appraisal of this chapter can begin with its’ending; verse 25 says: “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The children of Israel are trying to do what is right in this chapter, yet they are doing so without keeping God at the center of their plans. 

It reminds us of ourselves, when we drift away from Him: I can convince myself that I don’t need God for every situation in my life. I can certainly handle a few things on my own. After all, I have been a Christian for a number of years now, so if I forget to pray today, I will still be able to make wise choices. Right? Ultimately I will end up doing what I think is the right thing and saying what I think is the right thing if I think like this.

This independence of thought is a temptation of sorts, is it not? It is an allure of independence that tells me that I do not need God in every case. And temptation is a lie that takes effort to refute. In fact I do need Him to help me. Every day I need to operate with the assumption that I do not always know what is best for myself. As Paul wrote in Romans 7:16: “For what I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do.”

So does this mean that I am paralyzed from action? Should I be afraid to make decisions or take actions? As Paul would say, “Certainly not!” Rather, a meditative and prayerful knowledge of God’s will and His presence ought to always be in the back of my mind. If my conscience is a building, God is the architect. When I weigh the pros and cons of a tough decision, God holds the scales. If He is the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, how could I not consult Him? ‭Revelation‬ ‭22:12-13‬: ““And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”” God knows all!

‭I retain confidence in my ability to live life as life comes, but I do so relying on the strength and wisdom provided by almighty God. 

In closing of tonight’s study and this wonderful book of Judges, we will look at three short verses that will serve as an explanation on how to live with God directing your steps. First consider ‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭10:23: “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps.”

We know that we need help from God in living our life. Left up to me, selfishness, petty actions, jealousies, gossip and ill will abound soon enough. So then, I need to invite God to help me live and rely on His strength to stay away from sin: “Direct my steps by Your word, And let no iniquity have dominion over me.”‭‭ Psalms‬ ‭119:13

When I make a conscious effort to have God play that role in my life, He will guide me to all the success I could ever want: “A man’s heart plans his way, But the LORD directs his steps.”‭‭ Proverbs‬ ‭16:9‬

Judges 20: Battling Tribes

After the children of Israel saw the results of the sin that took place in Gibeah, they assembled armies and prepared for retribution. The man whose concubine died tells them the story of what happened and the armies commit to taking vengeance on Gibeah, where the concubine was victimized by the evil men.

The tribe of Benjamin resides in or near Gibeah. The other tribes together inquire of them about the wicked deed. They also ask the tribe of Benjamin to hand over the evil men. But instead Benjamin took up arms against the other children of Israel. 

Judah is decreed to go first into battle. The children of Israel are defeated twice by the forces of Benjamin, each time asking God whether they should continue fighting. God says yes each time. The third time they ask, God says yes once more and also says that He will deliver Benjamin into their hands. 

Using a new battle strategy was the providential tool needed to defeat Benjamin on this third day. The children of Israel took the city of Gibeah and set the whole city up in smoke. They chased the Benjamites, killing and pursuing them into the wilderness. Only 600 Benjamites escaped to the rock of Rimmon for about four months. The Israelites continued hunting down and killing Benjamites among the cities, burning every city they came to.

This violence served to repay the evil that took place in Gibeah under Benjamin. In light of so much carnage, what is the spiritual application for this chapter? Well, there is a sequence that we can follow, revealing learning opportunities from these events:

– Had the Israelites driven out all of the inhabitants of the land as instructed by God, this evil influence would not have manifested

– Had the Benjamites been true to God, they would not have endorsed and protected the sinful activity taking place in Gibeah

– The punishment of the city of Gibeah and the tribe of Benjamin, however horrible and severe, cannot compare with eternal punishment, where “their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” (Mark 9:47-48)

These last chapters of the book of Judges are sobering, but let that not take away from their importance: to ignore God is not only folly, to ignore God is death. 

Take comfort, rest and instruction then from the Lord. In Him are all the answers, protection and love that a soul could ever need. God is great and merciful and His grace reaches every one of us that seek it. 

Tonight let us conclude this study of Judges 20 with an uplifting meditation on God’s salvation of His people, for those that follow, have faith and obey. As we read this chapter, compare the discussion of the righteous and the wicked with the children of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin and Gibeah the wicked city. Also consider the battle that rages daily in the human heart, the struggle to do what is right amidst a sea of temptations. Commit to righteousness!

Psalm 17

“Hear a just cause, O LORD, Attend to my cry; 

Give ear to my prayer which is not from deceitful lips. 

Let my vindication come from Your presence; Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright. 

You have tested my heart; You have visited me in the night; You have tried me and have found nothing; I have purposed that my mouth shall not transgress. 

Concerning the works of men, By the word of Your lips, I have kept away from the paths of the destroyer. 

Uphold my steps in Your paths, That my footsteps may not slip. 

I have called upon You, for You will hear me, O God; Incline Your ear to me, and hear my speech. 

Show Your marvelous lovingkindness by Your right hand, O You who save those who trust in You From those who rise up against them. 

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings, From the wicked who oppress me, From my deadly enemies who surround me. 

They have closed up their fat hearts; With their mouths they speak proudly. They have now surrounded us in our steps; They have set their eyes, crouching down to the earth, As a lion is eager to tear his prey, And like a young lion lurking in secret places. 

Arise, O LORD, Confront him, cast him down; Deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword, With Your hand from men, O LORD, From men of the world who have their portion in this life, And whose belly You fill with Your hidden treasure. 

They are satisfied with children, And leave the rest of their possession for their babes. 

As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.”

Judges 19: When The Heart is Polluted

After chapter 18, we know that the group of Danites was sinful, murderous and idolatrous. They took the Levite “priest” from Micah, among with the attending idol, ephod, etc., and took Laish for their own. This story clues us in on the godlessness of the Lord’s people. Here in Chapter 19, we delve deeper into the sin caused by turning away from God.

This chapter, and the remaining chapters of the book of Judges are unsettling. As we close out this book, let our studies serve as reminders to dwell with the Lord in our minds, spirits and hearts. No earthly temptation is worth spiritual death. 

A Levite’s concubine leaves the Levite and goes to her father’s house. Her husband pursues her there (with kindness) to bring her home, but his father-in-law, the concubine’s father, will not let them leave. It is for good reason. When the couple finally does leave his home, they cannot find a place to stay and the man is in the town square. Shortly there comes along an old man that knows of the dangers of being out alone in the town at night. The older man urges for the man and his wife to come and stay at his house, which they do.

(This passage echoes the story of Sodom from Genesis 19)

Not long after, a group of perverted men with sinful desires is pounding at the door, wanting the man. The old man offers them his virgin daughter and the concubine of the visiting man. They refuse. 

The episode concludes with the man’s concubine losing her life to the mob of men via abuse. Reading this passage, it is painful to imagine what it must have been like for her. 

The next gruesome act had significance: The man takes her back to his place and cuts her body into twelve pieces and sends each of the pieces to one of the twelve tribes of Israel. 

The man was trying to alert the tribes to the abject state of sin that led to her death. The people of God were to be ashamed. The tribes, upon receiving his “message” remark that “No such deed has been done or seen from the day that the children of Israel came up from the land of Egypt until this day.” He definitely got their attention. It is not clear, however, whether they were referring to her dismembered body or her manner of death when they said this.

In any case, the death of this concubine was brought upon by bold sin and a disregard for God. The man knew this and his methods to promote awareness of the awful actions were callous. Yet they matched the brutal and abhorrent nature of the sin that led to her death.

Judges 18: A Group Without A Leader

This chapter really expands upon the idea from last week that showed us how wayward we can be when we don’t truly seek to do the will of God.

The Danites seek a home for themselves and find Micah, ultimately usurping his “priest” and his idols for their own use. Micah learns the lesson of “easy come, easy go” but this was not the true lesson that needed learning. 

What Micah and the Danites are actually in need of is a desire to seek and serve God the way that He would have it. Instead they are wayward and confused, fighting over things that ultimately have zero import in the Lord’s Kingdom.

We can learn from their poor examples to deny what we want and to seek the true will of the Lord. We should read our Bible daily to seek His true will.

Judges 17: A Ship Without A Rudder, A Car Without A Steering Wheel

After having witnessed faithful leaders, we come to Micah. Micah and his mother adopt idolatry and fail to honor God. The family dysfunction in verses 1-6 is pretty clear. Micah had stolen money from his mother, and she had accursed the one who had stolen it before he came clean to her. But once he fessed up, she praised him and said that he should be blessed by the Lord. 

Next she says that the money is to be as a dedication to the Lord, then the money is used to fashion the image of an idol. Then Micah has his son be the priest of this arrangement. Still later, Micah makes the request of a young Levite priest to live with him and to also serve as a priest. Micah assumes that God will be proud of him for having such an arrangement.

However, what sort of arrangement is it when there are two consecrated priests, no temple, the true God, and idols as the subjects of worship? It is an arrangement born of ignorance and self-serving. And Micah’s family’s example is an abomination. It is sad when people know God’s will and willingly turn away from Him, forsaking His grace and mercy in favor of worldly pleasures.

But it is something altogether different when people are deluded into thinking that they are doing what God wants. We have the Bible, we need only to read it. Not the Quran, not the Bhagavad-Gita, not the Book of Mormon or another book written by man. God has done so much for me. The very least I can do is listen to Him in His Way and do as He would have me.

When He has made it so easy for me to know His will, I must take the time to listen to Him by reading His Word.

Not one of us is too good to take the time to find out how God would have us serve Him.

Judges 16: Samson’s Character Revealed

In this chapter we see the culmination of Samson’s character. Samson was imperfect, yet his faith in God led him to overcome seemingly impossible obstacles. Samson is mentioned by name as one among many in Hebrews 11:32-34 that accomplished much through faith.

In verses 1-3, there is evidence of Samson’s lack of righteousness and weakness in that he goes in to a harlot at Gaza. But he outsmarts his adversaries that wish to trap him by fleeing at midnight. His strength is indeed great as he places the gate doors of the city on top of a hill. 

The story of Samson and Delilah begins in verse 4. The Philistines were still looking to subdue Samson at this time, and just like with the woman from Timnah, the Philistines try to get to Samson through Delilah. 

She is to find out from Samson where his strength lies and report back to the Philistines so that they can finally subdue him. Instead of using threats as they did with the woman from Timnah, they bribe Delilah with money. 

Thus Delilah asks Samson where his strength is and how he could be bound. Three different times he seems to suspect her motives and he tells her things that really could not bind him. Three different times he escapes the trap that the Philistines set for him. Then, starting in verse 15, Samson becomes tired of her endless questioning, “his soul was vexed to death” (vs. 16). He tells her that his strength lies in his hair and she arranges for his hair to be cut and for the Philistines to take him. They put out his eyes and take him to Gaza where he is bound by bronze and forced to grind grain. Samson is humiliated and enslaved, but his hair begins to grow again. 

Notice in the latter part of verse 20 that even though Samson’s strength seemed to lay in his hair, the true source was the Lord. 

The climax of Samson’s death and that of some 3,000 Philistines is a memorable one, full of vengeance and might. The Philistines are sacrificing to their false god dagon and they also are rejoicing in how they finally captured Samson. 

Samson wants to take vengeance upon the Philistines because they took his eyesight and generally because of the adversarial history he has with them. Samson is able to bring down the temple on the Philistines and kill more of them with one act than he has done ever before. It is not his desire for vengeance that enables him to push on the pillars and bring down the temple. Rather it is Samson’s faith through prayer that God will give him the strength to do so. Add Samson’s faith to an environment where God seemed to be inclined to make the Philistines suffer and that Samson was a judge in Israel for twenty years, and you have the will of God bring enacted through Samson. Even with Samson’s faults and sins, God’s saw fit to bless him and use him. The same is true for us today. Even though we turn away from God, He still answers our prayers when we repent and call on Him in faith.

I am a sinner like Samson. I behave foolishly and selfishly and make decisions based on sinful desires. 

Samson, living under the old law, was not subject to the gospel call of Jesus Christ. But we are, so what saves us?

 – Faith

 – God’s grace

 – Obedience to Him and His word

 – Baptism for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16, I Peter 3:21)

We hear the Word of God and we believe. We repent of our sins and confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Then we are baptized and our sins are washed away. We become a new creation. 

God bless you as you study along with me tonight. Thank you for reading. Samson’s story is remarkable. Is your faith as strong as his was? Have you been saved?

Judges 15: Mysterious Ways

Samson tries to make peace with the one he would call his wife by bringing a young goat to her house and asking to see her. Thus does he comes to know that she was given to someone else. Samson’s example here is noble. She, and her people the Philistines betrayed and tricked him. To sell peace again in such a way after having been mistreated so took a great amount of character. Little by little, we are being shown the nobility of Samson’s character, and little by little, we see God working through Samson to bring down the Philistines.

The woman’s father offers Samson her sister instead. But this is where Samson’s patience runs out. God then works through him and Samson makes the curious statement, “This time I shall be blameless regarding the Philistines if I harm them!” This means that Samson felt justified by his next actions – that considering what they had done to him and what he was about to do to them, he still was morally right to act in the way that he does.

Samson catches 300 foxes, ties their tails to torches, and releases them into the grain, vineyards and olive groves of the Philistines. All were burned up. When the Philistines found out that Samson was the author of this deed, they burned up Samson’s “wife” and her father. Remember in Chapter 14 when the woman was threatened to be burned unless she told the houseguests the answer to Samson’s riddle? That threat caused her to betray Samson and she thought that it was also an escape to the threat of the Philistines. But, no. She and her father were burned up anyhow. From this we learn of the cold-blooded relentlessness of the Philistines. And there is also an application for us: in trying to escape a quandary by dishonest means, we are the authors of our own destruction in the end.

Samson then attacks the Philistines with a great slaughter and flees. Then the Philistines pursue him, going to the men of Judah and asking that they see him so that they could do to him what he has done to them. The men of Judah, 3,000 of them, go to Samson and remind him of the position he had put them in as the Philistines rule over Israel at this time. Samson agrees that he will let them take him to the Philistines as long as the Israelites themselves do not kill him. They agree and take him to the Philistines securely bound with new (very strong) ropes. 

When he came to the Philistines, they began shouting against him. The Spirit of the Lord works through Samson again as he breaks through the new ropes as if they were weak strings. 

Then Samson kills 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey. 

Think of the pieces at work in this story: a strong man, made VERY strong by the Spirit of the Lord. A large force bent on killing that man. And a jawbone, a crude facsimile of a weapon, almost an absurdity. God’s power was made all the more evident through the use of such a tool. How else could one explain killing 1,000 by the jawbone of a donkey than to say that God had a hand in it?

After this, Samson is very thirsty with exertion and God provides him with water from a hollow place in the earth. Then Samson judges Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines, the strength of the Spirit of the Lord having gotten him there.

An Old Testament story like this one can seem at odds with the peaceful methods and teachings of Jesus. When Jesus died on the cross, we received a new covenant from God, a perfect and loving solution to the problem of sin. God’s grace saves us now, through baptism into Jesus Christ. This portal allows us the assurance of eternal life with Him in heaven as long as we remain faithful. 

But before Jesus, God worked through men like David, Joshua and Samson. These strong men of faith were inspiring yet imperfect precursors to the perfect Son of the Living God.