Judges Sermon # 17 Judges Chapter 14
October 15, 2017 “It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Like This.”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Life doesn’t usually unfold the way we hoped and dreamed it would. Four years ago three husbands on our block, all in their 60s, lost their wives to cancer. For one couple, they were both just retiring and they had dreamed of years of vacationing together. The husband said to us, “It wasn’t supposed to be this way.” Why does the Lord take away our loved ones in the time and manner He does?
Or think about children: Why does God withhold children from some couples? And if He does give us children, why does He give us the children He does? What does it do to your faith when your adult child makes choices that are very different than the ones we hoped they would make?
The reality is that no matter how faithful you are, no matter how much you pray, and no matter much you trust the Lord and seek to walk in His ways, almost all of us, at one time or another, wind up thinking, “It wasn’t supposed to be like this.” That can be true about your retirement plans, your marriage, your career, or your health.
So why does the Lord send us curve balls in life? Brothers and sisters, in all these situations, and more, the Lord has lessons for us to learn, in Judges chapters 13 and 14.
First – Infertility: It Wasn’t Supposed to Be Like This
Two weeks ago, we saw in Judges 13:2 that Manoah and his wife were childless, and she was barren/ infertile. I assume that for many years Manoah and his wife said to each other “It wasn’t supposed to be like this! We were supposed to have lots of children!”
Yes, the Lord eventually worked a miracle and gave them a son, a son who would deliver his people, but it is good for us to consider the struggles of those who wrestle with infertility.
First, let me encourage all of us to be sensitive to those who struggle in this way. 20% of couples deal with infertility issues. We need to avoid all the usual clichés (which only hurt), and instead, just listen and pray. For when everyone around you is having babies it is hard to face another month, without the prospect of a pregnancy. Let us weep with those who weep. Let us pray for God’s mercy and comfort.
Second, it is good for all of us to reflect on how we think about any children which the Lord does give to us. Yes, children are a gift from the Lord, and they are a good gift. (Ps. 127). But they are not the ultimate gift! So if God has given you children, take heed that you do not make them your idol. Let’s remember that our deepest longings on this earth will not be fulfilled by having children (or, for that matter, by getting married.) For our deepest longings are only fulfilled by God Himself. “You have made us for yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in You.”
Second – Wayward Children: They Weren’t Supposed to Be Like This
Today as we come to Judges 14, we see here that even when the Lord does give you a child, things are not always how you pictured them. Look at 14:1-3
Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. 2 When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.”3 His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.
After this couple waited so long for a son, and then were given such high expectations by the angel who appeared to them, this must have been very painful for them. Think about it; their only son, who was dedicated to the Lord is a special way, is now marrying a pagan woman! [Three times we are told that she is a Philistine woman.] Can you imagine the parents, believing the promise of God, given in 13:5, that their son would be the beginning of Israel’s deliverance from the Philistines, and yet here he is, marrying one of them! Instead of getting ready for war against the Philistines, Samson is preparing for a wedding to a Philistine! It must have seemed to his parents that everything was going wrong here. Can you imagine the shame they felt when they talked with other parents? Can you feel the doubts they wrestled with, as they cried out, “Lord, what did we do wrong in raising our son?”
They had a strong-willed adult child on their hands: For Samson wants what he sees, and you can’t stop him! Look at v. 2. Samson tells his parents, “I saw this woman. Now get her for me!”
Imagine a tension-filled family meeting here! The dad says “Samson, the Philistines are our enemies, and the Lord’s enemies as well! They worship detestable idols! How can you think of marrying one of them and being joined to them?” Then his mother speaks up: “Samson, you should listen to your father! You should obey God’s laws about not marrying a pagan!” But Samson says, “I’m going to marry that woman, and that’s final.”
Now as Christian parents we find ourselves really feeling with Samson’s parents here, as their son is be throwing away the upbringing they gave him; he is disobeying God’s clear directives, not just as a Israelite, but as a Nazarite, dedicated specially to the Lord. We can commiserate with Manoah and his wife, as we all say, “Our adult children weren’t supposed to turn out this way!”
But look at v. 4 “His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines…”
In all this family turmoil, the Lord had a higher purpose! (Isaiah 55:8-9). He would work through Samson’s bad choice. The Lord would use Samson’s desires and disobedience for His greater glory!
You see, Israel was so interlocked with the Philistines that the Lord had to use Samson’s weakness with an unbelieving woman in order to bring about a necessary clash between these two nations. Israel had so accommodated herself to the Philistines and their idolatry that she didn’t want anyone causing an incident between the two nations. We might say that Israel, like Samson, was willing, even eager, to marry into Philistine society. In light of that spiritual lethargy, the Lord used Samson to incite a war against the Philistines, that He might use Samson – with all his faults – as his instrument for delivering Israel (13:5). Deut. 29:29.
Samson’s parents did not know that this was from the Lord… and often we don’t know what the Lord is doing either! Commentator Dale Davis puts it right on the money when he writes: “What parents don’t know may prove to be our deepest comfort.”
Or, more generally: What we don’t know may prove to be God’s higher purpose.
So while Samson’s parents were right in objecting to Samson’s marriage plans…they had no way of knowing that the Lord was going to use even this disobedience for His higher purpose!
This means that for us today, the Lord can use our stubbornness and our stupidity to accomplish His goals. The Lord can use our adult children’s disobedience to bring His secret will to pass. Oh, how much parents of adult children must believe this. The same goes for a person married to an unbelieving spouse, or to someone who has fallen in grievous sin.
Now there are a number of other “It wasn’t supposed to be like this” examples in Judges 14.
Third – People Break Their Vows: It Isn’t Supposed to Happen like That.
Samson repeatedly breaks his vows as a Nazarite, as he touches and handles animal carcasses and goes near vineyards. That wasn’t supposed to happen! Samson was supposed to be faithful to his vows! And in a similar way, we struggle when a husband or wife break their marriage vows, and become unfaithful to their spouse. We weep when we see people who were baptized upon their profession of faith in Christ seem to break their baptismal vow, as they grow cold to the Lord and drop out of church. It’s not supposed to be that way, we think. Yet we don’t know how the Lord may use the devastation of a broken marriage vow and a subsequent divorce to drive the injured person to feel the need of the Lord Jesus. Think of how God used Judas’ betrayal of Jesus to eventually accomplish God’s redemptive purposes on the cross.
Fourth – Manipulative Relationships: They’re not Supposed to Be Like That. (15-17)
15 they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to steal our property?”16 Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.” “I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother,” he replied, “so why should I explain it to you?” 17 She cried the whole seven days of the feast. So on the seventh day he finally told her, because she continued to press him.
Samson and his new wife should be enjoying their new married life together, but her Philistine companions threatened her and her family with death if she doesn’t find out the answer to Samson’s riddle. She is therefore pressured to manipulate Samson into giving her the answer, as she cries for all seven days of the wedding feast! (v. 17). Can you imagine what that was like? It’s not how any wedding is supposed to be!
In a similar way, when you are discouraged and hurt by people’s manipulative ways, it may cause you to cling more closely to the one relationship where you can always be assured and cared for: a relationship with God through knowing Jesus Christ, as your Lord, Savior, and everlasting Joy and Treasure!
Fifth – Unexpected Loss: It Wasn’t Supposed to Happen (v. 20)
And Samson’s wife was given to one of his companions who had attended him at the feast.
Samson didn’t even know it yet, but his father in law gave Samson’s wife to one of his friends. What a shocker, when Samson found out (15:2-3). One day you think you’re going to spend the rest of your life with this person, and the next day you find out that you’ve lost her forever. It’s not supposed to happen like this!
Many of you have perhaps such sudden and unexpected loss, through divorces, fatal car accidents, natural disasters, or acts of terrorism. I lost my father when I was 16 and he was 49, from a fatal heart attack, and never was able to say goodbye to him. It wasn’t supposed to happen like that.
Life is full of shattered dreams that we never expected, that weren’t supposed to happen that way.
Is there any hope? What can God say to us at times like this?
I want you to imagine that you are among Jesus’ disciples just after Jesus had been crucified and laid in the tomb. You are hidden away, shocked and grieved by the totally unexpected events of the last 24 hours. A week ago you were marching into Jerusalem with Jesus on a donkey, as all the people shouted “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” It seemed like a victory parade, and your hopes and expectations were sky-high. But now Jesus is dead. He was betrayed by one of your own men. He was denied three times by another disciple. He was shamefully nailed to a crude wooden cross, left to die the death of a despised criminal, while the crowds mocked him. It wasn’t supposed to be like this!
But in less than 48 hours, everything begins to change. You hear eyewitness reports that Jesus is alive, that He has risen from the dead! And soon you see him face to face, with the marks of the crucifixion still in his hands, his feet, and his side! And then you begin to understand what you didn’t know before, namely, that Jesus had to suffer and die in your place, for the forgiveness of your sins, and that through His resurrection, you were granted new birth and eternal life in Christ!
Truly, what you didn’t know about Jesus’ death would turn out to be your biggest comfort, as part of God’s higher and better plan!
That’s how our amazing God works.
So…can you trust Him… with your doubts and your anger? Can you lean on His higher ways when it comes to you children, or your present state in life? Can you surrender to His more glorious ways when it comes to you past hurts and to your future plans, which lay shattered before you?
Where else can you go? There’s no one else who has the words of eternal life. Come afresh to Jesus. Trust Him with what you don’t know. He has already proved to you on the cross that He loves you and has a higher plan for you.
Praise God! His ways are beyond our understanding, and His paths beyond our tracing out!