Doug Batchelor - Samson, The Jawbone of a Donkey
We're in the midst of a series, right now, dealing with some lessons from the life of Samson. Last week we talked about - part 1 - Samson: Honey From a Lion. This week we're in part 2 - there will probably be three parts - this week we're talking about the jawbone of a donkey.
It's probably a good idea to give you a little bit of what was going on in the nation of Israel during the times of Samson. Samson, when he was a teenager, he lived during the time of Eli, when Eli was priest - if you know, you read 1 Samuel - there was a lot of compromise - a lot of unfaithfulness. The sons of Eli were real scoundrels. There is quite a bit of scandal among ministry during that time, if you know what I’m saying. During this time - you read, for instance, in 1 Samuel chapter 40, "so the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and every man fled to his tent. There was a very great slaughter, and there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers." In a battle just a few days earlier, four thousand had died. "Also the ark of God was captured;..." This is happening - this is the world that Samson was born into. The Philistines had subjugated the people of Israel.
Now the Philistines did not have a king. The Philistines were divided into a confederacy of five kingdoms and they called them the Lords of the Philistines. The Philistines also had mastered the making of iron weapons. The Israelites did not. You read in the story of David that, in one battle between Saul and Jonathan against the Philistines, it says the only people in the kingdom that had iron swords were Saul and his son. The Philistines were very careful that if the Israelites wanted to sharpen their weapons, they said, 'You come to us and sharpen them. You - if you need to sharpen a farm tool, you come to us. And - but we're not letting you have any weapons.' They actually disarmed them. 'If you have any weapons you're in big trouble.' And they were able to subjugate them and it was a time of great discouragement.
Now, people can't fight when they don't have courage. You know what God told Joshua when they entered the Promised Land? They were going to have to fight against some very well armed enemies. Some of them were giants. And God said - you go to Joshua chapter 1, verse 6 - it's a great verse. "Be strong and of good courage, for to this people you shall divide as an inheritance the land which I swore to their fathers to give them." - verse 7 - "only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses my servant commanded you;" - jump over to verse 9 - "Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
Now, if I’ve got that part - if I know that God is with me, then I don't have to be afraid, do I. And you can be, not only does He say 'Courageous, courageous,' He says, 'You can be very courageous.' By the way, Moses repeats these words to Joshua before he dies. God then tells Joshua, in person. Joshua was able to accomplish great exploits because he believed God was with him. And do we have someone that's promised to be with us? Did Jesus say, ‘I am with you always, even to the end of the world'? Then should Christians be courageous even though we're living in enemy country?
So, the story of Samson is really very relevant for us, even today. So, you go to Judges chapter 15, it says, "Now the Philistines went up, encamped in Judah, and deployed themselves against Lehi." Now, the word 'Lehi' means 'jawbone'. Lehi got its name from what's about to happen, but the Bible writers - using the name that everyone knew it by now - but this is how it got its name. So they encamp in this valley that's known as Lehi and - and the people of Judah - the leaders come out and they send, you know, some emissaries to - this big army of thousands of Philistines have come and encamped against them - they say, 'Wait, wait, what's the problem? You've already conquered us. We're paying our taxes. What's going on?' You know, they marched up, a bunch of them, trembling with a white flag, and the Philistines tell them, "We've come to arrest Samson, to do unto him as he has done unto us."
And so, instead of the men of Judah going to Samson and saying, 'Look, you got us into this, you get us out. We're going to fight behind you. We've got your back.' They go to Samson and they basically say, 'Don't you know that the Philistines are our masters?' They had resigned themselves to be slaves. How many of you remember when the Children of Israel had a hard time in the wilderness they would frequently say, 'Wasn't it better back in Egypt just being slaves? Why don't we get another leader and let's all go back and serve the Egyptians? At least, you know, we'll have more onions there.' They were complaining because, you know, they just had manna every day. They said, 'We miss the fish and the onions. Let's go back and be slaves.'
Isn't it amazing how, no matter how bad times might be, in looking back, they seem to be the good old days? And so, they're ready to surrender. So these three thousand men of Judah, they come and they approach Samson up on the rock. They said, "We have come down to arrest you, that we may deliver you into the hand of the Philistines." - his own people - "Then Samson said to them, 'Swear to me that you will not kill me yourselves.' So they spoke to him, saying, 'No, but we will tie you securely and deliver you into their hand; but we will surely not kill you.'"
Now, isn't that sad that God's people would be the vehicle of turning over their champion? Instead of - I mean, look at what Samson did alone; what if he had three thousand behind him? What if the whole - he had blown the trumpet and the whole army - this is just three thousand leaders of one tribe - what if he had blown the trumpet and all of Israel had rallied behind him? How much they could have done - how much more God wanted to do for them that never happened because they were afraid. They were used to being overcome.
Now, you realize that as we're talking about Samson and the Philistines, we're talking about Jesus and sin. We're talking about not - you're being attacked by a Canaanite nation, but you're being attacked by the devil. Are you content and do you consent to just letting the devil rule over you? My Bible says 'Greater is He who is in you than he that is in the world.' And Jesus said, ‘I will never leave you.'
You know, the miracles in the Bible - we're getting ready to read a couple of them - seem to come in waves. There are clusters of miracles and then there are long periods where nothing amazing happens. And there are different levels of miracles. You see a great cluster of miracles happening during the time of Moses, when they came out of Egypt through the wilderness and when they entered Egypt. You see a great cluster of miracles during the time of Elijah and Elisha. You see a great cluster of miracles happening during the time of Jesus and the apostles. And Samson sort of stands out as a high point of just miracle after miracle. Not all the judges had miracles. I mean, they had some amazing victories, but you couldn't always call them miracles.
Samson's power was a supernatural power that was not attributed to spending a lot of time in the gym. It said the Spirit of the Lord came over him - not that you should quit your gym membership. And so they tie him up and they hand him over. Didn't the religious leaders, who were called Jews, and, you know, Jews are not Hebrews. You could be an Arab and be a Hebrew, technically, because Hebrews descended from Abraham. People don't use it that way. Not all Israelites were Jews. Jews were largely the ones who came back from the Babylonian captivity that were largely from the tribe of Judah - with some from Levi and Benjamin. But the other ten tribes were conquered - the northern kingdom - so Jews sort of became a shortened way of saying the tribe of Judah.
So here, Jesus is handed over, tied up, by the Jews, to the Romans - to the pagans - and so, you're seeing something similar - His own people. And yeah, ultimately, the nails were driven by the Romans and their slaves. So they said, 'No, no, no, we'll just tie you up. We'll hand you over to them. We won't kill you. We don't want your blood on our hands.' And so, he consents. He willingly - could those three thousand have arrested him when he's up in this fortified rocky ravine?
You know, you've heard about the three hundred Spartans that held off over a million Persians because of the location of the battle? If you're a good general you want to pick your ground very carefully. And, because Samson had the high ground, if he didn't want the people of Judah to arrest him, they couldn't have arrested him. They come to him timidly and say, 'Please, put your hands behind your back. You know, work with us here. We're not going to hurt you, we're just going to tie you up.' And so he consents. He's a willing sacrifice to them. He offers himself, you see what I’m saying?
So they - these three thousand men with their knees smiting together - they come out of the rocky ravine and it goes into the valley of Lehi and they see thousands and thousands of Philistines - they've got their whole army pitched - and the Philistines see them coming down and there, before them, they're prodding Samson on. And it says, "When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting against him." What do you think happened to the people of Judah that had brought him down? They dropped and ran. They went as fast as they could - they just left Samson out there in the field by himself. But Samson did not run. And the Bible says they came shouting against him. They were so excited – “Our enemy! We've got him! We've got what we came for. Surely there's nothing we could do, we've got the whole army. I mean, he snuck up on us when he came through our town and smote us hip and thigh. But now we're ready for a battle. There's nothing he can do."
And they all came running up to him to arrest him and this had been - something marvelous happened - it said, "Then the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him."
Now, I want a volunteer - I think Jamie said he's going to come up here and help me real quick. I want to demonstrate this. This actually happens three times in the book of Judges so I thought I just want to show you what this looks like. In one of my pockets, here, I’ve got some Bible rope - better known as dental floss - put your hands apart just like that. That'll work. Yeah, just like that. I’m going to put that - that one around here - keep them about the same distance apart. Every time I go to the dentist he gives me some of this and I’ve got boxes of it at home now and I thought, 'I’m looking for a good way to get rid of it.' give it a little tug apart. That's pretty strong, isn't it? I’m pulling it - I can't break it. Okay. And so - turn here, like - so folks can see you over here. This would normally be pretty hard.
Now, imagine two new ropes - minty fresh ropes - and they've got him tied - these thick - you know, just think - like anchor ropes. You know, they've got these big ropes - they didn't want to risk it with one rope - they got two ropes. They got him all tied up - just big old pile of knots - and the Bible says that the Spirit of the Lord came upon him and he broke those ropes as though it was flax put to the flame. You got a little tension on there? Just went like that. So you're the Philistines, you're running up on Samson to arrest him, he's bound up with these ropes and, as you're running towards him, the Spirit of the Lord comes on him and he goes, 'Pop!'
Now, would you slow down? They saw that, they thought, 'He's bound!' But he broke the bonds that held him. And, I think, they slowed down right there. And then he thought, 'Now what will I do?' And he's looking around and the Lord provided: "...and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands." He found a fresh jawbone - and that's 'Lehi' - "of a donkey, reached out his hand and took it."
Isn't it amazing how God suddenly provides what you need just at the right moment? You know, it's just interesting to me that, when something - David needs five smooth stones, there they are when he needs them. There's thousands that need food and God - they say, 'What are we going to do?' 'Well, there's a boy with five loaves and two fish.' And it seems like just, whenever the moment's needed - it may not be what you expect - it could be very humble means, but God provides what you need at the most important time.
Have you read 1 Corinthians chapter 10, verse 13? "No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way" - and that's provide a way - "of escape, that you may be able to bear it." So, when Samson's there and he's all tied up and there's a thousand Philistines - or several thousand Philistines - he only killed a thousand - there was a whole army - that were going to attack him, he could have said, 'I’m done for.' He could have lost courage, but God said, 'Look, I am going to use you to defeat the enemy. I will provide a way of escape.'
Have you ever felt like you've been overwhelmed with a tsunami of temptation and you think, ‘I don't know how I can escape; there's nothing I can do.'? Do you know, if you pray, you will find a donkey bone? The Lord is going to give you something that you can use to fight the temptation. Don't ever say there's no way. If you pray, the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you and God will give you something to fight that temptation because He will empty Heaven of every angel rather than let you be needlessly overcome if you trust in Him. Do you believe that? I do.
So He provided. And it may not be - He may not give you a bazooka. He may not give you, you know, the sword of Goliath. He may only give you a donkey bone, but don't underestimate what God can do with simple means. So, you know what this is? This is not just a jawbone. This is the jawbone of a donkey. So it was laying on the ground and he breaks his bonds and the army is standing there and he goes, 'Oh, praise the Lord. I need something.' Now, you would be thinking, you know, 'Can I have a spear? I’d like a helmet. Maybe a sword would be good - a machine gun - something.' And you've got the Philistine army is surrounding you, but what does God give him? Jawbone - of a what?
Now, has God used donkeys before to do great things? Did the Lord miraculously provide a donkey for Jesus to be proclaimed king? A foal of a donkey. Did the Lord miraculously enable a donkey to rebuke a wayward prophet? The donkey represents a humble means. And so, God often uses very humble means to accomplish great things.
So he reaches out and he takes this and I don't think that they came to attack him. I think, when the Spirit of the Lord came upon him - what happened when the Spirit of the Lord came upon David? It says he ran out to meet Goliath. Would you run to fight a giant? I think, when the Spirit of the Lord came on Samson - you'd think, 'Well, look, there's five thousand of them; there's only one of me. You know, I'll just find a rock for the back, you know, protect myself and see what I can do.' I think they would have fired arrows and thrown spears at him and it would have been a different kind of battle.
I think he picked it up and he ran in amongst them where they couldn't throw spears without hitting each other. I think his mind was going like high-speed film. Have you ever seen, you know, like when they take these nature pictures and it shows the seed slowly break and it comes up out of the ground, and they sometimes use special photography? You ever see when they use high-speed film and they slow down a bullet when it strikes something? I think Samson suddenly began to live in a high-speed realm - dimension - and all of a sudden, all of the Philistines - he looked out there and they were going, 'Oooh nooo, it's Saaamsooon. Whaaat's heee gonna dooo with thaaat?' But his mind - I know, that's an exaggeration, but really, I think that something like that was happening. But his mind was going so fast that he just ran in among them before they could even figure out what they were going to do.
And, not only did they say it was a jawbone - this is a dry one - you know, actually, this is only half of one; there's another jaw piece that comes up here that makes a really good handle - but it was a fresh jawbone, which meant that it was very hard. So he went among them and it says - have you read that? It says he slays a thou - I’m going to put that there where you can see it - he slays a thousand men. He said, "With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps. And so it was, when he had finished speaking, that he threw the jawbone from his hand, and called that place Ramath Lehi."
Now, one thing I want you to remember: what does Samson look like? What stands out about Samson? His muscles? Does it say - show me the verse that Samson had big biceps. It doesn't say that. He did have long hair. Why? He's a Nazarite. We talked about Nazarites and there's two or three things they're known for. One is nothing from the grape. Well, it says that Samson had already gone to banquets with grapes and he ends up hanging out in a valley of grapes. He killed a lion in a vineyard. He's not supposed to be near raisins. He's not following it.
The other thing is you're not supposed to touch a dead body. Not only had he killed a lot of people, he went and took honey out of the carcass of a lion and, now, he's hanging onto an unclean jawbone. So when he throws that from his hand, it's like he went, 'Here I go again.' But in spite of his weakness, God was able to use him. Now that, I think, is a very important point.
How many of you sometimes think, 'I’d like to work for the Lord but I’m just not worthy.' 'I’d like to give Bible studies but there's so much I don't know.' 'I’d like to reach others but, you know, I doubt how thoroughly converted I am.' Have you ever thought that before? I’m a pastor, I’ve thought it. And then I’m encouraged when I read where Jesus sent the twelve apostles out preaching and they came back from preaching and they said, 'Lord, even the devils were subject unto us and we saw great miracles happening. And the, you know, sick were healed and the dead were raised and' - it tells about all kinds of things the apostles did. And then Jesus says, to people like Peter, "...Satan has desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."
When you're converted? You mean God is able to use somebody that may not be a hundred percent converted? Huh? Were the disciples arguing among themselves which of them was the greatest? Can I submit to you that fighting in God's battles with the tools that you have may be part of your conversion process? Don't wait until you feel like you're perfectly clean and you can do everything right or you may never do anything.
When you know something is God's will, you step out in faith and you do what you do know. The devil will always tell you that you are not worthy. So, he throws the jawbone from him. Finally, after he wins this battle - Samuel is still young - Hophni and Phinehas and Eli had died, but Samuel was still pretty young when that happened, so they sort of looked to Samson to be their general. He held off - for twenty years he was able to stave off the attacks of the Philistines. They probably didn't have to pay taxes during that time, they had some freedom and independence, but after twenty years went by, they began to, sort of, trade again with the Philistines and they started to get involved with them again.
You know, I expect to see Samson in the kingdom. Have you read, in Hebrews chapter 11, in spite of his weakness, "And what more shall I say?" - Hebrews 11:32 - "For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions."
Not only did Daniel and David do that, Samson did it too - "quenched the violence of fire," - like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego - "out of weakness were made strong, became valiant in battle, turned to flight the armies of the aliens." You know, the Bible says Moses said, 'How can one of you chase a thousand?' It's interesting he used the number one against a thousand. Did Samson chase a thousand? Why? Because God's Spirit came upon him.
The Bible says, in the last days, many plagues are going to be around, but it says, 'No plague will come nigh unto your dwelling. A thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come nigh unto thee. Only with your eyes will you see and behold the destruction of the wicked.' I want to have the spirit of the Lord, don't you?
I want to learn from the story of Samson and not make the same mistakes. God wanted so much to give His people victory - they were just fighting against Him all along the way. He wants you to have those victories, friends - and by trusting in Him - and Jesus carried His cross up the hill so that He could destroy the gates that keep us in so we could be free.