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If You Love Me

*It's a beautiful Wednesday morning here in Madison, West Virginia. I hope you are having a great day. Today, we will continue looking at the life of the last judge mentioned in the Book of Judges: Samson. But, he is not technically the last judge as we will discover later in the Old Testament. Yesterday we looked at the birth announcement of Samson and we looked at the Nazirite vow. Now, there is a lot to say about Samson. But, keep in mind that the story of Samson is not just the story of a strong man with long flowing hair. No, his story has deeper meaning as we shall see.
"Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. 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. 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.'" (Judges 14:1-3) 
   Wow! We are not told just how old Samson is in this story, but I can just picture a little boy in the middle of a store aisle having a temper tantrum. Wouldn't it be hilarious if we heard Samson say; 'I'm going to hold my breath until you get her for me." Now, we have to keep in mind that we are told that this is God's will. But, Samson's parents do not know this. God is using this as a way of confronting the Philistines. (Judges 14:4) However, even though this is God's will Samson's character is still revealed. He comes across as being selfish and spoiled. How are his parents portrayed? Well, they seem to give in to Samson. Samson gets what he wants. 
   Let's unpack this for a moment. Samson desires a wife from the Philistines. The Philistines are the oppressors of Israel. Samson's father and mother try to convince Samson to seek a wife from his own people. (They don't try very hard.) Samson is adamant. He has seen what he likes, and he wants what he sees. It is to be Samson's way, or else. So, Mom and Dad go with him to get his wife. This is kind of like Mom and Dad going with me to purchase my first vehicle. 
"As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands...Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her." (Judges 14:5-7)
   Here we are told that the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson empowering him so that he could rip this lion apart without any effort. Previously when the Spirit of the Lord came upon a judge it was to gift them with military leadership. In this passage it provides physical strength. Samson is the only judge with this power. 
   Samson speaks with the woman and he likes her. Again, kind of like buying that vehicle long ago. Samson then returns at a later time to marry the woman who has remained home with her people. Along the way he notices the carcass of the lion he killed. The carcass is filled with bees and honey. Then, his father returns to speak to the woman. (This is really becoming more and more like us buying that new truck when I was 16. We would go and talk to the dealer, leave, then go back and talk some more. Dad said that it was a ploy to get them to come down on price. Let's see how it works out for Samson) 
"Samson made a feast there, as was customary for the bridegrooms. When he returned, he was given thirty companions." (Judges 14: 10a-11) 
   Hmmm...all we were given was a free tank of gas if we bought the truck. Samson is given thirty companions. First of all, I am wondering if the companions are male or female. *Really, I am wondering because I don't yet know. On one hand I'm thinking that these are male companions (not for sexual purposes) given to benefit the Philistines. Why? Because they knew how strong Samson was. These thirty fellows were there to protect the Philistines. Well, that's one thought, but then there is the second. Perhaps they were female companions. The Book of Psalms gives us some insight. "In embroidered garments she is led to the king; her virgin companions follow her and are brought to you." (Psalm 45:14) So, I'll let you decide as to the purpose and identity of the companions. 
"Let me tell you a riddle,' Samson said to them. 'Tell us the riddle,' they said...For three days they could not give the answer." (Judges 14:12, 13b,) 
   The feast that is given lasts for several days. I'm so glad that weddings today only last a few minutes. *Sometimes the marriages do too. Kind of like that truck. "How'd it run son driving home?" Dad asked, "So good, so far!" I answered...Hmm...Apparently, in the ancient world proposing and telling riddles were pastime activities. I kid you not. Well, Samson is enjoying the festivities, just like I was enjoying that old truck...and then...
"On the fourth day 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 rob us? (If they could not explain the riddle they had to give Samson thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes) 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.'" (Judges 14:15-16) 
   It's the old "If you love me, you'll..." trick. Watch out Samson! There is no way you'll win this one! Wow! The wedding feast isn't even over yet and there's trouble. Now, Samson's wife does play the "You don't love me" game. Samson, at first does not give in, but...
"She cried the whole seven days of the feast. So on the seventh day he finally told her, because she continued to press him. She in return explained the riddle to her people." (Judges 14:17) 
   Oh Brother! If everything else fails...cry! She cried for seven days and finally Samson gave in. Samson is strong for a while, but give him time...They have their answer to the riddle. What does Samson do? Well, with the Spirit's help he killed thirty Philistines. He then took their belongings and clothes and used them to pay off his debt. He then returns home. Then...
"And Samson's wife was given to the friend who had attended him at the wedding." (Judges 14:20) 
   Who is this friend? Yes, the best man. How about that? Keep in mind, Samson does not know this. Apparently in some marital arrangements the wife would stay with her parents instead of with the husband and his family or clan. 
   There is so much more work to be done and so much more to take from this story. We will return to it tomorrow. I hope you have a great day! -Pastor Rick

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Madison United Methodist Church is affiliated with the West Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. To learn more about WVAC, please visit www.wvumc.org. 

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