Pride causes me to take credit for successes that God gave me the strength to accomplish. Do you struggle with pride as I do? Samson had his share of pride. This post will examine verses 9-15 of Judges chapter 15.
If Samson could attack the Philistines, then the Philistines could retaliate and attack Israel; after all, Israel had neither weapons nor an army. The invasion of Judah didn’t help Samson’s popularity with his own people, who sadly were content to submit to their neighbors and make the best of a bad situation. Instead of seeing Samson as their deliverer, the men of Judah considered him a troublemaker.
It’s difficult to be a leader if you have no followers, but part of the fault lay with Samson. He didn’t challenge the people, organize them, and trust God to give them victory. He preferred to work alone, fighting the battles of the Lord as though they were his own private feuds. I realize that Samson’s calling was to begin to deliver the nation (13:5), but it seems to me that he could have made a more forceful beginning. When God’s people get comfortable with the status quo, and their leaders fail to arouse them to action, they are in pretty bad shape.
When the men of Judah learned that the Philistines wanted only to capture and bind Samson, they offered to help. A nation is in a sad state indeed when the citizens cooperate with the enemy and hand over their own God-appointed leader! This is the only time during Samson’s judgeship that the Jews mustered an army, and it was for the purpose of capturing one of their own men! But Samson realized that, if he didn’t give himself up to the enemy, the Philistine army would bring untold suffering to the land; so he willingly surrendered. If he defended himself, he would have had to fight his own people. If he escaped, which he could easily have done, he would have left 3,000 men of Judah easy prey for the Philistine army. There was something heroic about Samson’s decision, but the men of Judah missed it.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, Samson easily broke the bonds the men of Judah had put on his arms, picked up a new jawbone of a donkey (an old one would have been too brittle) and slaughtered a thousand Philistines. We wonder what the men of Judah thought as they watched their prisoner, their own brother, kill the invaders single-handed. Did any of them feel the urge to pick up the weapons of the slain Philistines and join in the battle? Would they have known how to use them?
Samson had a way with words. At his wedding feast, he devised a clever riddle (14:14); and after this great victory, he wrote a poem. It’s based on the similarity between the sounds of the Hebrew words hamor (“donkey”) and homer (“heap”). James Moffatt renders it: “With the jawbone of an ass I have piled them in a mass. With the jawbone of an ass I have assailed assailants.”
* Life Application: The Lord’s strength came upon Samson, but he was proud and boasted only of his own strength. “With a donkey’s jawbone I have killed a thousand men,” he said, and later asked God to refresh him because of his accomplishments (Jdg 15:16-18). Pride can cause us to take credit for work we’ve done only because of God’s strength.
But his victory celebration didn’t last very long, for God reminded him that he was only a man and had to have water to stay alive. So often in Scripture, testing follows triumph. No sooner had the Israelites crossed the Red Sea than they became thirsty (Ex. 15:22-27) and hungry (Ex. 16). Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel was followed by his humiliating flight to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 18-19). If triumphs aren’t balanced with trials, there’s a danger that we’ll become proud and self-confident.
If Samson had only heeded this warning and asked God not only for water but for guidance! “Lead us not into temptation” would have been the perfect prayer for that hour. *How quick we are to cry out for help for the body when perhaps our greatest needs are in the inner person. It’s when we’re weak that we’re strong (2 Cor. 12:10); and when we’re totally dependent on the Lord, we’re the safest.
* Life Application: Samson was physically and emotionally exhausted. After a great personal victory, his attitude declined quickly into self-pity — “Must I now die of thirst?” Emotionally, we are most vulnerable after a great effort or when faced with real physical needs. Severe depression often follows great achievements, so don’t be surprised if you feel drained after a personal victory. During these times of vulnerability, avoid the temptation to think that God owes you for your efforts. It was his strength that gave you victory. Concentrate on keeping your attitudes, actions, and words focused on God instead of yourself.
Samson’s prayer indicates that he considered himself God’s servant and that he didn’t want to end his life falling into the hands of the godless Philistines. Unfortunately, that’s just what happened. But God was merciful and performed a miracle by opening up a spring of water in a hollow place. Samson quenched his thirst and then gave the place the name “Caller’s Spring.”
Samson’s strength was from God, but it was limited. In his weakness, he acknowledges God who provided for his need. Will you acknowledge your need for Him?
We can be strong with God’s help.
Bible Exposition Commentary (BE Series) – Old Testament
Life Application Bible Notes