The Cost of Commitment
050-00741 Judges 16:23-30
I. A certain dog had always boasted of his ability as a runner. Then one day a rabbit that he was chasing got away. This brought a lot of ridicule from the other dogs because of his previous boasting. His explanation: “You must remember that the rabbit was running for his life, while I was only running for my dinner.”
A. Commitment: What does it mean? What does it take?
1. These are important questions to ask. Any organization, group, or relationship requires some degree of commitment.
2. This is no less true of the Church for the Christian Church is supposed to be made up of those who have made and continue to make a commitment to Christ.
3. I sometimes reflect on the various ways we do evangelism in Christianity.
a) There are so many programs available to teach us how to evangelize. There are also many models of evangelism from successful evangelists.
b) None of them are wrong about the gospel. The Roman Road, The 4 Spiritual Laws, Evangelism Explosion, even the latest called Friendship Evangelism present a strong gospel message. They are consistent in the truth.
c) Yet I think they leave something out. They appear to leave out the Cost of Commitment.
d) Yes Jesus died for our sins. Yes we can be washed clean, forgiven, made children of God, and find peace. Yes there is freedom from sin and freedom to righteousness.
e) But at what cost? “Jesus paid the cost!” you say, and you are right. Jesus paid giving up his rightful position in the heavens to become human flesh. Jesus paid every moment he suffered under the limitations of humanity and the indignities of human sin. Jesus paid with his very life submitting to the lowest form of death at that time, crucifixion.
f) Yet salvation, though it has so many wonderful benefits also demands commitment: and that of the same kind as Christ.
B. This morning, let’s take a few moments to rehear a popular story in light of this idea of commitment. That is the Story of Samson.
II. Judges 13-16: Samson, Judge of Israel.
A. Samson was born as God’s answer to his mother’s prayers.
1. The Angel of the Lord appeared twice to Manoah’s wife telling her that Samson would be born.
2. From before his birth he was marked by God to be a Nazirite.
a) The vow of a Nazarene was to separate one’s self for God with a self-imposed discipline.
b) There were four parts to this discipline according to the Pentateuch:
(1) Abstinence from wine and the fruit of the vine.
(2) The hair and beard may not be cut or touched by a razor.
(3) A prohibition from touching a dead body.
(4) A prohibition from eating unclean food.
c) Most Nazirite vows were taken voluntarily and for a period of time at the end of which there was a ceremony of release from the vow.
d) But there are three instances in the Bible of Nazarites for life whose vows were made by their parents before their birth. They include Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist.
3. Also noted before his birth was the fact that Samson would fight against the Philistines to deliver Israel.
B. Early on it became clear that Samson was different. But not all his differences were good.
1. As a young man he saw a beautiful woman who was a Philistine and married her. His motivation was neither lust nor love though the woman’s beauty was certainly what attracted him.
2. But Judges says that his motive was to find an opportunity of advantage over the Philistines. So, at the wedding he gave a riddle: Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet.
a) The Philistines threatened the life of the wife and she got the answer from Samson.
b) Samson in return slaughtered 30 men and went back home without his wife. So the battles begin.
3. There are many other stories about Samson’s conquests and victories.
a) He killed 1,000 men with the jawbone of an ass.
b) He tore out and carried the gates of Gaza, the Philistines’ capitol city. He carried them at least a quarter mile away.
c) He was feared by the Philistines but with every victory they plotted all the more to kill him.
C. Then his eyes fell upon Delilah. Smitten with this beautiful Philistine woman he fell in love.
1. Once again the Philistines got to the woman who was with Samson. But this time they were more successful.
2. Delilah discovers that Samson’s strength was in his hair (his vow) and so while asleep, she cuts it off.
3. The weakened Samson is captured by the Philistines. His eyes were put out and he was taken to Gaza where he was forced to work in the underground mill, which was considered women’s work.
III. Judges 16:23-25 Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.” When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain.” While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them.
A. What a moment – The Philistine god Dagon had granted them victory over the man who was Yahweh’s chosen.
1. Certainly Dagon was more powerful than Yahweh. And now he has proven it.
2. So they threw a great celebration offering worship to Dagon and giving them some good sport along the way.
3. They brought blind Samson out to entertain the crowd as a buffoon, a jester.
B. But there is no god greater than Yahweh. Dagon will learn this lesson twice in the Old Testament.
1. First here and later when the Philistines capture the Ark of the Covenant they place it in Dagon’s holy tent where each morning they found the idol of Dagon on its face before the Ark.
2. But here, Samson demonstrates his commitment to his vow and he cries out to the Sovereign Lord.
3. As with Israel throughout the book of Judges, God hears and delivers. But his deliverance comes at a great cost to Samson.
4. He presses on the two Cedar pillars or poles supporting the weight of the structure and slides them off their stone bases. And the whole place comes down.
5. Samson has died with his enemy around him.
6. And it is said that he killed more men in his death than he had done in all of his life.
C. The key to the life of Samson was his character.
1. Samson was God centered in that he lived up to the vow his parents had made for him.
a) He followed the vow of the Nazirite and only failed in his vow indirectly.
b) Yet his failure marks another of Samson’s characteristics.
2. Samson was self-centered as well.
a) His work against the Philistines was taken as a game.
b) He did not take seriously his call as a Judge but made his battles personal.
c) He was a man who saw and took when it pleased him. In a way, Samson was a personal example of every man doing what was right in his own eyes.
d) And he was a man of vengeance.
3. The conclusion many draw about the life and death of Samson is mixed.
a) Some see Samson as a great failure: he failed to save Israel; he failed in faithfulness to God; he died among his enemy as if he were one of them.
b) Others have viewed Samson as a great hero and success: he terrorized Israel’s enemy; he destroyed all of the princes of the land while they were claiming victory for their god Dagon; he was used by God to once again display his glory.
4. I cannot help but recognize Samson as flawed yet still a man of God who fulfilled God’s will. I cannot help but acknowledge Samson as a committed servant of God because he is listed in Hebrews 11 as one of the great men of faith along with Gideon, David, Samuel, and the prophets.
IV. So what is to be learned from Samson? The lesson of commitment.
A. Samson is a demonstration of true commitment.
1. Despite all of his flaws, despite his self-centered focus, despite is foolish judgments, Samson spent his life following God’s prophecy given to his mother before her birth.
2. Samson did become and mostly remain a Nazirite. And Samson spent his life defeating the Philistines who has harassed Israel for 40 years.
3. Samson found his greatest victory in his death.
B. Sounds like the commitment of another great person in the Bible.
1. Though the path of their lives was very different, though their character was very different, both Samson and Jesus found victory in a commitment to God’s will that came from their deaths.
2. Samson allowed himself to die rather than allow the Philistines to think that Dagon was any god at all.
3. Jesus allowed himself to die rather than allow us to think that death had any power.
4. Though some may question Samson, who among us would question Christ? From before his birth, Jesus was come to destroy the curse for sin which among other things included death itself. Jesus died and became the Savior of the World.
C. But here’s where we are confronted with the question of the gospel. Here we must dwell and discover the call of Christ to commitment as his disciples.
1. Luke 9:23 Then he said to them all: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”
a) Later Jesus explains what this means.
2. Luke 14:26-30 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’”
3. There is a reason why this series of verses is not used in the evangelism process: they make commitment to Christ sound unreasonable and impossible.
4. And maybe to a degree they are. But a call to this degree of commitment is exactly what the gospel is about. It is which Jesus told us to make disciples rather than to evangelize for salvation.
5. These verses are not a call to the hatred that kills. They are not a call to abandon family. The hatred Jesus speaks of is a letting go of your attachments to others in favor of a greater attachment: the attachment to follow Christ as a child of God.
a) It is a degree of commitment that far exceeds any earthly commitment.
b) It’s the commitment of bacon not the contribution of eggs. (Chicken and pig talking about breakfast.)
c) This is the only commitment that can explain why some will painfully accept banishment from their families for choosing to follow Christ.
d) This is the only commitment that can explain why missionaries will leave the comforts of home to live in undeveloped and dangerous areas of the world.
e) This is the only commitment that can explain why the martyrs of the church would sing praise to God while being burned at the stake.
f) This is the only commitment of those who call themselves disciples of Christ – or Christian. Anything less falls short of the reality of faith.
V. The call to commitment has been made. The only thing left is how you and I will respond.
A. The Bohemian reformer John Hus was a man who believed the Scriptures to be the infallible and supreme authority in all matters. He died at the stake for that belief in Constance, Germany, on his forty-second birthday. As he refused a final plea to renounce his faith, Hus’s last words were, “What I taught with my lips, I seal with my blood.”
B. Not to validate his plans for conquest, Cortes did understand commitment. For when he landed 700 men in Mexico he had them look back to see their 11 ships burning.
C. With Christ, we cannot move forward without leaving something behind.
1. With Christ, the call is to leave all of life and our attachments to it behind.
2. Only then can we discover the victory we have over our enemies, sin and death.