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Judges 14:11-20

Samson’s Riddle

12 Then Samson said to them, “Let me now propound a riddle to you; if you will indeed tell it to me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen wraps and thirty changes of clothes. 13 But if you are unable to tell me, then you shall give me thirty linen wraps and thirty changes of clothes.” And they said to him, “Propound your riddle, that we may hear it.” 14 So he said to them,

“Out of the eater came something to eat,
And out of the strong came something sweet.”

But they could not tell the riddle in three days.

15 Then it came about on the [j]fourth day that they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband, so that he will tell us the riddle, or we will burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us to impoverish us? Is this not so?” 16 Samson’s wife wept before him and said, “You only hate me, and you do not love me; you have propounded a riddle to the sons of my people, and have not told it to me.” And he said to her, “Behold, I have not told it to my father or mother; so should I tell you?” 17 However she wept before him seven days while their feast lasted. And on the seventh day he told her because she pressed him so hard. She then told the riddle to the sons of her people. 18 So the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down,

“What is sweeter than honey?
And what is stronger than a lion?”

And he said to them,

“If you had not plowed with my heifer,
You would not have found out my riddle.”

19 Then the Spirit of the Lord [k]came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them and took their spoil and gave the changes of clothes to those who told the riddle. And his anger burned, and he went up to his father’s house. 20 But Samson’s wife was given to his companion who had been his [l]friend.

This passage is quite the example of how gambling is a dirty and dangerous business. It’s seen my many as way to “get rich quick” and indeed that was Samson’s attitude as he tried to win 30 changes of clothes with a single riddle.

But the men of the city were not about to give in so easily, and they resorted to threatening his wife and her father’s house with certain death. The ultimate result is the death of 30 Philistines, and Samson loses his wife to his “best man”.

Instead of coming out ahead, Samson made a bunch of enemies in the process. It often seems so innocent and simple, but given any room in our lives, gambling will destroy us, and potentially put those closest to us in harm’s way.

At the root, it reveals we are earth-centered instead of God-centered. We have lost our focus, and put our trust in earthly gain. Instead, put your trust in the One who is unshakable, unfathomable, and the rock of our salvation. Then you will not be shaken when hard times come.

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Judges 14:1-10

Samson’s Marriage

14 Then Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines. So he came [a]back and told his father and [b]mother, “I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.” Then his father and his mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your [c]relatives, or among all [d]our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she [e]looks good to me.” However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the Lord, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.

Then Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came as far as the vineyards of Timnah; and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the Lord [f]came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a young goat though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done. So he went down and talked to the woman; and she [g]looked good to Samson. When he returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion. So he scraped [h]the honey into his [i]hands and went on, eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it; but he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey out of the body of the lion.

10 Then his father went down to the woman; and Samson made a feast there, for the young men customarily did this. 11 When they saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him.

It seems Samson had a couple weak spots, women and food (the lion carcass would have been unclean and off-limits to the Israelites). But rather than discard Samson for his weakness, God would use it for His plan. In fact, the passage tells us that Samson’s attraction to the Philistine woman was “of the Lord…”

Now, that’s not an excuse to go sinning and say, but it was “of the Lord” and God will use it for His plan. Rather, it is a reminder that the unlikely things, even troubles and temptations, are used by God to bring glory to His name. Without them, God would be a “lawnmower” parent, smoothing out the path, lest we have opportunity to stumble and fall.

God wants us to grow, not to be stagnant. Though it might seem odd from our perspective, sometimes falling is part of the journey.

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Judges 13:15-25

15 Then Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Please let us detain you so that we may prepare a young goat for you.” 16 The angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Though you detain me, I will not eat your [d]food, but if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the Lord.” For Manoah did not know that he was the angel of the Lord. 17 Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that when your words come to pass, we may honor you?” 18 But the angel of the Lord said to him, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is [e]wonderful?” 19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering and offered it on the rock to the Lord, and He performed wonders while Manoah and his wife looked on. 20 For it came about when the flame went up from the altar toward heaven, that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground.

21 Now the angel of the Lord did not appear to Manoah or his wife again. Then Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord. 22 So Manoah said to his wife, “We will surely die, for we have seen God.” 23 But his wife said to him, “If the Lord had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have let us hear things like this at this time.”

24 Then the woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson; and the child grew up and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him in [f]Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Manoah seemed to have an attitude similar to some folks today. They think God is all judgment and fire, ready to strike us with lightning for doing anything impious. Like if we don’t pray just right, we’re going to breath our last. But nothing could be further from the truth.

They forget that God cares about us. Just as He cared for the Israelites and Samson’s parents, and wanted to deliver them from their oppressors, He love us, and wants to deliver us from the oppression of sin. Or rather, He wants to deliver us from our own selfish nature.

When we think God is waiting to strike us dead for offending Him, we project our own selfishness onto One who is focused on “working everything for our good.” God wants the best for you, the very best, and nothing less. He isn’t content with leaving us in the mud, and He even loves us in the middle of it. So reach out for the hand of rescue that God offers to all of us, and let Him lift you up. Don’t try to do it yourself, you’ll just end up deeper, much like quicksand. Trust in Him, depend on Him, and let Him lead you.

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Judges 13:8-14

Then Manoah entreated the Lord and said, “O Lord, please let the man of God whom You have sent come to us again that he may teach us what to do for the boy who is to be born.” God listened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again to the woman as she was sitting in the field, but Manoah her husband was not with her. 10 So the woman ran quickly and told her [a]husband, “Behold, the man who [b]came the other day has appeared to me.” 11 Then Manoah arose and followed his wife, and when he came to the man he said to him, “Are you the man who spoke to the woman?” And he said, “I am.” 12 Manoah said, “Now when your words come to pass, what shall be the boy’s mode of life and his vocation?” 13 So the angel of the Lord said to Manoah, “Let the woman pay attention [c]to all that I said. 14 She should not eat anything that comes from the vine nor drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing; let her observe all that I commanded.”

Like Manoah, we sometimes try to get ahead of God, and ask things that are months or even years ahead. Manoah asks the angel what occupation his son would have, but the angel isn’t distracted.

He focuses on the important things, that their son should be dedicated to God. And so it should be with us. Don’t get caught up asking God about future events. Focus on dedicating your life to glorify Him, whether you are a pastor, a missionary, a carpenter, or a janitor. Seek God first, and He will direct your path (even when you don’t realize it).

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Judges 13:1-7

Philistines Oppress Again

13 Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, so that the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years.

There was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had borne no childrenThen the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, “A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he came from, nor did he tell me his name. But he said to me, ‘Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink wine or strong drink nor eat any unclean thing, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death.’”

Notice here, the angel does not go to a woman with a dozen children, and plenty of experience. He is sent to a woman who is barren and could not have children.

God delights in doing the impossible, and this child would be one impossibility after another. Our seven-year old was quoting a verse the other day “I brag about my weakness”, and though he didn’t remember the rest of the verse, it seems fitting for Samson’s story.

Through the “weakness” of his parents, God would be strength for Israel. Don’t underestimate what God can do through you. Just be willing, be faithful, and follow Jesus, wherever He might lead.

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Judges 12

Jephthah and His Successors

12 Then the men of Ephraim were summoned, and they crossed [a]to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, “Why did you cross over to fight against the sons of Ammon without calling us to go with you? We will burn your house down on you.” Jephthah said to them, “I and my people were at great strife with the sons of Ammon; when I called you, you did not deliver me from their hand. When I saw that you would not deliver me, I [b]took my life in my hands and crossed over against the sons of Ammon, and the Lord gave them into my hand. Why then have you come up to me this day to fight against me?” Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought Ephraim; and the men of Gilead [c]defeated Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, O Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and in the midst of Manasseh.” The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan opposite Ephraim. And it happened when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” then they would say to him, “Say now, ‘Shibboleth.’” But he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not [d]pronounce it correctly. Then they seized him and slew him at the fords of the Jordan. Thus there fell at that time 42,000 of Ephraim.

Jephthah judged Israel six years. Then Jephthah the Gileadite died and was buried in one of the cities of Gilead.

Now Ibzan of Bethlehem judged Israel after him. He had thirty sons, and thirty daughters whom he [e]gave in marriage outside the family, and he brought in thirty daughters from outside for his sons. And he judged Israel seven years. 10 Then Ibzan died and was buried in Bethlehem.

11 Now Elon the Zebulunite judged Israel after him; and he judged Israel ten years. 12 Then Elon the Zebulunite died and was buried at Aijalon in the land of Zebulun.

13 Now Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite judged Israel after him. 14 He had forty sons and thirty grandsons who rode on seventy donkeys; and he judged Israel eight years. 15 Then Abdon the son of Hillel the Pirathonite died and was buried at Pirathon in the land of Ephraim, in the hill country of the Amalekites.

If the short memory of the Ammonites towards their relatives was unjust, the men of Ephraim are about to take it to a new level. Not only were they family, but Manasseh and Ephraim were the two sons of Joseph, thus closer kin than any of the other tribes. Half of the tribe of Manasseh, including the Gileadites, had settled on the other side of the Jordan river.

So that sets the scene, Jephthah apparently asked for help from Ephraim and received none. Now the faithless sons of Ephraim are about to go to war because Jephthah didn’t wait for them to defend his home territory.

Jephthah again rallies his family, and they soundly defeat their attackers, and Ephraim pays a high price for their faithlessness. With the fords of the Jordan held against them 42,000 of their men fall in battle.

The fruit of the Spirit includes faithfulness, and it should be a lesson to us that the price for a lack of faithfulness is much too high. Be faithful, in what you say, in what you do, in your relationships, and ultimately, be faithful to God. The alternative is not pretty, but the rewards will be well worth the battle.

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Judges 11:29-40

Jephthah’s Tragic Vow

29 Now the Spirit of the Lord came upon Jephthah, so that he passed through Gilead and Manasseh; then he passed through Mizpah of Gilead, and from Mizpah of Gilead he went on to the sons of Ammon. 30 Jephthah made a vow to the Lord and said, “If You will indeed give the sons of Ammon into my hand, 31 then it shall be that whatever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me when I return in peace from the sons of Ammon, it shall be the Lord’s, and I will offer it up as a burnt offering.” 32 So Jephthah crossed over to the sons of Ammon to fight against them; and the Lord gave them into his hand. 33 He struck them with a very great slaughter from Aroer [j]to the entrance of Minnith, twenty cities, and as far as Abel-keramim. So the sons of Ammon were subdued before the sons of Israel.

34 When Jephthah came to his house at Mizpah, behold, his daughter was coming out to meet him with tambourines and with dancing. Now she was his one and only child; besides her he had no son or daughter. 35 When he saw her, he tore his clothes and said, “Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low, and you are among those who trouble me; for I have [k]given my word to the Lord, and I cannot take it back.” 36 So she said to him, “My father, you have [l]given your word to the Lord; do to me [m]as you have said, since the Lord has avenged you of your enemies, the sons of Ammon.” 37 She said to her father, “Let this thing be done for me; let me alone two months, that I may [n]go to the mountains and weep because of my virginity, I and my companions.” 38 Then he said, “Go.” So he sent her away for two months; and she left with her companions, and wept on the mountains because of her virginity. 39 At the end of two months she returned to her father, who did to her according to the vow which he had made; and she [o]had no relations with a man. Thus it became a custom in Israel, 40 that the daughters of Israel went yearly to [p]commemorate the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite four days in the year.

This passage is a sobering reminder that we ought not to commit to anything without serious thought. Some are in the habit of just saying “yes” to everything, and that is neither healthy nor appropriate.

God did not ask for Jephthah’s daughter, nor would He have done so. But Jephthah’s foolhardy vow cost him dearly in the end. If we seek God in all we do, and strive to follow His path in our lives, it will be a very different story.

We need to guard our time, for if we commit to something rashly, God may ask us later to do something, and we will not be able to without breaking a previous commitment. Again, seek Him first, and let everything else come in line with that.

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Judges 11:12-28

12 Now Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the sons of Ammon, saying, “What is between you and me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” 13 The king of the sons of Ammon said to the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel took away my land when they came up from Egypt, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok and the Jordan; therefore, return them peaceably now.” 14 But Jephthah sent messengers again to the king of the sons of Ammon, 15 and they said to him, “Thus says Jephthah, ‘Israel did not take away the land of Moab nor the land of the sons of Ammon. 16 For when they came up from Egypt, and Israel went through the wilderness to the [g]Red Sea and came to Kadesh, 17 then Israel sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, “Please let us pass through your land,” but the king of Edom would not listen. And they also sent to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh. 18 Then they went through the wilderness and around the land of Edom and the land of Moab, and came to the east side of the land of Moab, and they camped beyond the Arnon; but they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the border of Moab. 19 And Israel sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, the king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, “Please let us pass through your land to our place.” 20 But Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory; so Sihon gathered all his people and camped in Jahaz and fought with Israel. 21 The Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they [h]defeated them; so Israel possessed all the land of the Amorites, the inhabitants of that country. 22 So they possessed all the territory of the Amorites, from the Arnon as far as the Jabbok, and from the wilderness as far as the Jordan. 23 Since now the Lord, the God of Israel, drove out the Amorites from before His people Israel, are you then to possess it? 24 Do you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? So whatever the Lord our God has driven out before us, we will possess it. 25 Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever strive with Israel, or did he ever fight against them? 26 While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, three hundred years, why did you not recover them within that time? 27 I therefore have not sinned against you, but you are doing me wrong by making war against me; may the Lord, the Judge, judge today between the sons of Israel and the sons of Ammon.’” 28 But the king of the sons of Ammon [i]disregarded the message which Jephthah sent him.

It’s interesting that the history of two of Israel’s kindred come into the light here. The “sons of Ammon” and the Moabites were both descended from Lot and his daughters, Lot being the nephew of Abraham, the patriarch of all Israel.

When Israel first journeyed to the promised land from Egypt, they were careful not to attack the Edomites (also their relatives), the Moabites or the Ammonites. However, we know already that the Moabites were not content with that, and attacked Israel anyway, and now the Ammonites were doing the same thing.

Of course, they are now many generations removed, but their main problem is that they did not continue to follow God. They turned aside to idols and to their own ways. The Israelites, though they had turned away also, were now trying to serve God once more.

With all that said, the lesson is simple. Don’t fight against God. Jephthah knew that ultimately God had given them the land they now possessed. And if He wanted them to keep it, they would. If not, nothing they could do with stop God’s plan from being fulfilled. So even though he defends their position on historical grounds, he ultimately invokes the judgment of God to determine who should keep the land that was being disputed.

When we find ourselves harassed or under attack, trust in God. He will be faithful to those who follow Him, and loves even those who do not, so that He will take whatever means necessary to bring them back to Himself. No one can thwart God’s plan, so follow it, and you’ll find true life and peace.

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Judges 11:1-11

Jephthah the Ninth Judge

11 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a [a]valiant warrior, but he was the son of a harlot. And Gilead [b]was the father of Jephthah. Gilead’s wife bore him sons; and when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob; and worthless fellows gathered themselves [c]about Jephthah, and they went out with him.

It came about after a while that the sons of Ammon fought against Israel. When the sons of Ammon fought against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob; and they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our chief that we may fight against the sons of Ammon.” Then Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me from my father’s house? So why have you come to me now when you are in trouble?” The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “For this reason we have now returned to you, that you may go with us and fight with the sons of Ammon and become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” So Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you take me back to fight against the sons of Ammon and the Lord gives them up [d]to me, will I become your head?” 10 The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord is [e]witness between us; surely we will do [f]as you have said.” 11 Then Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and chief over them; and Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord at Mizpah.

Adversity has an interesting way of bringing people together. When they were younger, it seemed like an irreconcilable flaw, the fact that their brother Jephthah was born out of a harlot.

But when trouble came, and the Gileadites were under attack, that seemingly important detail became irrelevant, and they pleaded with him to come back.

Be careful in your own dealings with those around you. Don’t make a big deal out of something small, especially when it is outside that person’s control. Let grace rule in your relationships, and let God guide you in His love.

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Judges 10:10-18

10 Then the sons of Israel cried out to the Lord, saying, “We have sinned against You, for indeed, we have forsaken our God and served the Baals.” 11 The Lord said to the sons of Israel, “Did I not deliver you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the sons of Ammon, and the Philistines? 12 Also when the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, you cried out to Me, and I delivered you from their hands. 13 Yet you have forsaken Me and served other gods; therefore I will no longer deliver you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods which you have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your distress.” 15 The sons of Israel said to the Lord, “We have sinned, do to us whatever seems good to You; only please deliver us this day.” 16 So they put away the foreign gods from among them and served the Lord; and [f]He could bear the misery of Israel no longer.

17 Then the sons of Ammon were summoned and they camped in Gilead. And the sons of Israel gathered together and camped in Mizpah. 18 The people, the leaders of Gilead, said to one another, “Who is the man who will begin to fight against the sons of Ammon? He shall become head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

Continuing on a bit from yesterday, we see the “leaders of Gilead” getting together to figure out who was going to lead them into battle. Without leadership, we saw the moral decay, but now they needed a leader to step up to the challenge.

Is there a challenge facing those around you? Is there a fight where you can lead the charge? Don’t sit back and say “oh, who will lead us?” A leader takes charge when they see a problem, and takes action to address the problem. It doesn’t always take extraordinary ability, but it does take courage to step out and take a chance.

Listen for God’s voice, and see what battle He might have you fight, and then go for it! Don’t hesitate, like the “leaders” of Gilead, be the leader, and rally the troops for victory.