9:1-49 - Things were going from bad to worse! The people of Israel had forgotten ‘the Lord their God’ (8:34). ‘The enemy’ was ready to ‘come in like a flood’ (Isaiah 59:19). Abimelech - Gideon’s son by ‘his concubine who was in Shechem’ (8:31) - was very unlike his father. Gideon had pointed away from himself to the Lord (8:23). Abimelech was eager to draw attention to himself. He murdered his seventy brothers, paving the way for himself to become king (1-6). Abimelech spelt trouble! Things were only going to get worse with Abimelech. There was ‘an evil spirit’ at work among God’s people (23). Where was God in all this? - ‘Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct’ (Romans 1:28). What kind of person are you becoming? Each of us must choose!
9:50-11:11 - With verses 56-57, read Romans 1:18 - ‘The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and wickedness of men who by their wickedness suppress the truth’. Doing ‘what was evil in the sight of the Lord’, ‘the people of Israel’ brought themselves under God’s judgment (10:6-9). When Israel began to return to the Lord, He said to them, ‘Mean what you say’ (10:10-14). When they persisted with their confession of sin, He answered their prayer - ‘In all their affliction He was afflicted... In His love and in His pity He redeemed them’ (15-16; Isaiah 63:9). God’s answer came in the shape of Jephthah, ‘a mighty warrior’, a man who ‘spoke all his words before the Lord’ (11:1,11). Thrust out by men (11:1-2), he was loved by the God of grace - His ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:9)!
11:12-12:15 - Israel was not looking for trouble - ‘Let us pass... through your land to our country’. The Amorites insisted on fighting with them. They had to be faced and defeated (19-21). The Christian life is like an ‘obstacle race’. We do not go out looking for problems. Sometimes, we cannot avoid them. Obstacles can become opportunities - for spiritual growth (James 1:2-4). Watch what you say (29-40; Ecclesiastes 5:2-6). Watch how you say it (1-6). The accent is not the important thing. It is the attitude. Is the accent on Christ? Let the attitude be less of self and more of Christ. Proclaiming the same Christ is more important than pronouncing the words in exactly the same way! Be slow to say, ‘He is not one of us’. Be quick to say, ‘Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice’ (Philippians 1:18).
13:1-14:9 - Samson’s birth was announced by an angel. Jesus’ birth was announced by angels (13:3; Luke 1:30-33; 2:8-14). Samson’s death was a great triumph over the Philistines. Jesus’ death brought the greatest triumph of all - victory over Satan (16:30; Hebrews 2:14-15). The story of Samson points us to the greater Story of Jesus. There is, however, a great difference between Samson and Jesus. Often, Samson was concerned only with what pleased him (14:3,7). Always, Jesus did the will of God (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38). ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me’ (Luke 4:18) - We expect these words from Jesus Christ, the perfect Son of God. When, however, we read that ‘the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon’ Samson (14:6), we rejoice in the grace of God - ‘while we were yet sinners... the Holy Spirit has been given to us’ (Romans 5:8,5).
14:10-16:3 - ‘This man receives sinners’ (Luke 15:2). These are the words of legalistic Pharisees. They were intended as an insult. They are also words of divine grace: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ (1 Timothy 1:15). Samson was a sinner. There is no question about that. Is he any different from the rest of us? - ‘All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God’ (Romans 3:23). Samson was a sinner yet, ‘the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him’ (14:19). We are sinners. Christ died for us. God has given us His Spirit (Galatians 3:13-14). This is divine grace. Samson often wandered. Still, the Lord was at work in him. Prompted by the Spirit, Samson ‘called on the Lord’. Samson was ‘very thirsty’. He prayed. He was ‘revived’ (15:18-19). ‘Wilt Thou not revive us again...? (Psalm 85:6). Pray for revival!
16:4-31 - The story of Samson is a story of tragedy and triumph. We see Samson’s tragedy - ‘“I will go out at other times, and shake myself free”. But he did not know that the Lord had left him’ (20). There is a warning for us here. Yesterday’s triumphs do not guarantee today’s victory. Today’s challenge needs today’s grace. We need to keep close to the Lord - ‘His mercies... are new every morning’ (Lamentations 3:22-23). We see Samson’s triumph - In his death, he triumphed over the Philistines (30). What encouragement there is for us here! How often we feel like Samson - ‘seized... gouged... brought down... bound... in the prison’ - going through ‘the mill’ (21)! Satan seems to have the upper hand. We feel so helpless. Satan will not have the last word. Take this for your encouragement: Satan will be ‘thrown into the lake of fire’ (Revelation 20:10).