Judges has been known to be a graphic book. There was a story in Chapter 11 that was a bit disturbing to me. I read it a few times before and even noted in my Bible "be careful what you ask for." Starting in verse 30 and it reads like this: "And Jephthah made a vow to the LORD : 'If you give the Ammonites into my hands, 31 whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me when I return in triumph from the Ammonites will be the LORD's, and I will sacrifice it as a burnt offering.' 32 Then Jephthah went over to fight the Ammonites, and the LORD gave them into his hands. 33 He devastated twenty towns from Aroer to the vicinity of Minnith, as far as Abel Keramim. Thus Israel subdued Ammon. 34 When Jephthah returned to his home in Mizpah, who should come out to meet him but his daughter, dancing to the sound of tambourines! She was an only child. Except for her he had neither son nor daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and cried, 'Oh! My daughter! You have made me miserable and wretched, because I have made a vow to the LORD that I cannot break.'36 'My father,' she replied, 'you have given your word to the LORD. Do to me just as you promised, now that the LORD has avenged you of your enemies, the Ammonites. 37 But grant me this one request,' she said. 'Give me two months to roam the hills and weep with my friends, because I will never marry.' 38 'You may go,' he said. And he let her go for two months. She and the girls went into the hills and wept because she would never marry. 39 After the two months, she returned to her father and he did to her as he had vowed. And she was a virgin.From this comes the Israelite custom 40 that each year the young women of Israel go out for four days to commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite."
I don't know what this man, Jepthah, was thinking when he told God that whatever comes out of the door of his house he would give to God as a sacrifice. Now, I don't know if they had dogs and cats as pets in those days and possibly he was hoping his family pet dog (maybe he barked too much) would come running to him. The scripture says that he had no other children. So I wonder if he and his wife weren't doing so well and maybe he was hoping that she'd come walking through the door to greet him. I think that is why this story bothered me so much. What was he expecting to come through his door? His wife? Pet? A servant he didn't like? Maybe his mother-in-law?
The story of Samson is quite a disturbing one as well. Here is another barren woman desiring a child. She conceives this child who is to be set apart from everyone else for God. He is to have no wine or unclean food and most of all, never to cut his hair. So what happened to Samson? A rebellious teen who is probably had such strict parents that he rebelled and did as he pleased. God gave him strength unlike any other and he abused his gift. It is possibe he was very prideful. The fact that he stopped at the lion carcass that he had mamed earlier with his bare hands and reached in, with the bees swarming, and ate the honey, tells me something was not right with him. (Judges 14:5-9) Would you eat honey out of a dead animal? Then he defiles his family by giving it to them to eat too. Maybe his parents were too permissive because he was their only child and spoiled him rotten. Maybe they didn't know what to do with him. No Dr. Phil in those days. In chapter 14:1 & 2 says, "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.'"Pretty demanding if you ask me. He intermarried, the very thing God had warned the Israelites about. Here is a Nazirite man who is supposed to be set apart, doing exactly what God had told him not to. Yet when he called on God to help him out of a bad situation, God was there. Then what does he do? He goes to Gaza and spends the night with a prostitute. Only to end up meeting Delilah who deceives him and as the scripture says, "nagged him day after day until he was tired to death" to tell her the secret to his strength.
I have to ask the question, what is the strength of my spirit? It must be like when my kids keep wearing me down about something and then finally after the third time, I either give in or put my foot down and say "no!" I do know that when I'm tired my spirit it tired and I find myself much more easily swayed. It says that Samson was asleep when Delilah tested what he said. Over and over she tested him and wore him down. Although he was physically strong, his spirit was weak. He abused his gift of strength from God for his own purpose. Jesus said that we are to pray and watch because the "spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38) In Samson's case it was just the opposite.
Finally the end of the story, after he's lost not only his strength, but his eye sight, which I believe is significant. Everything he did prior to this event, it was what he wanted because he "saw it". Now he was blind to everything and could only focus on his purpose as to why God chose him. This is why it is better we choose to humble ourselves before God sooner instead of later so we don't bring humilation upon ourselves. Now Samson was ready destroy the Philistines that God had originally intended for him to defeat. He destroyed more Philistines that day than in all of his "strong" years. You see, no matter what, God's purpose will prevail, even if we mess it up. I think that is the moral of the stories in this book. We can learn a lot of lessons from the people in this book so we don't have to learn the hard way.
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