God’s Purposes Fulfilled

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Judges 16:23-31 (Samson’s death)

INTRODUCTION: Today we come to the end of our series on Samson: Strong Man Gone Wrong. So far in the series we saw that Samson had a promising beginning, but then he pretty much did everything wrong – marriage gone wrong, vengeance gone wrong, and love gone wrong. Today we come to Samson’s death where we see God’s purposes finally fulfilled in Samson’s life. (Read Judges 16:26-28 and pray)

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When we last left Samson, we left him at a cliffhanger. Everything looked hopeless. Samson’s hair was shaved off, his eyes were gouged out, he was bound with shackles and set to grinding grain in the prison. Samson was supposed to deliver Israel from the Philistines, and now he had been captured by the Philistines. Who will save Israel now?

But we also left last week on a small note of hope. Verse 22 last week told us that “the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.” (Judges 16:22)

Now remember, there was nothing magical about Samson’s hair. It’s not that he was automatically strong when his hair was long or weak when his hair was short. Samson’s hair was the last remaining sign of his vow to the Lord. When Samson allowed his hair to be cut, the Lord left him. And when the Lord left him, his strength left him as well.

But there’s still a note of hope when we read about Samson’s hair growing back. What will this mean for Samson? What will it mean for the Philistines? What will it mean for God and his purposes?

God revealed his purpose for Samson’s life before Samson even was born. God raised up Samson to deliver Israel from the Philistines. And as we have seen, so far God has been fulfilling that purpose in Samson’s life despite Samson. Samson is doing everything wrong, but God has been using the circumstances in Samson’s life to set up conflict after conflict between Samson and the Philistines. And so, when we read that Samson’s hair is growing back, we can expect that God is at work again.

One of the key lessons we learn from Samson’s life is that God will fulfill his purposes with or without us. So, in what ways do we see God fulfilling his purposes in this final chapter in Samson’s life?

1) God will not allow his name to be mocked (23-24)
   – Psalm 96:4-5; Isaiah 48:11

First of all, God will not allow his name to be mocked. Look at Judges 16:23-24:

Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.” When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain.” (Judges 16:23-24)

So, the rulers of the Philistines throw this great feast to celebrate their victory over Samson. Remember, they’ve been fighting Samson for twenty years, and they never beat him once. Not when they had him outnumbered a thousand to one. Not when they had him surrounded in the city of Gaza by night. Not when he was tied up with seven fresh thongs that had not dried, new ropes that had never been used or the seven braids of his hair woven into the fabric of the loom. But now they’ve got him right where they want him – blind, shackled, shorn of his strength, captive to their will. So they celebrate. They sacrifice to their god, Dagon, and give him all the praise and the honor. They say, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.”

Now Samson represents Israel and Israel’s God. And so, the Philistines, by celebrating Dagon’s victory, are basically saying that their god is stronger than Samson’s God. For those of you who know your Bibles, you can probably guess that this will not end well for the Philistines.

The Lord is not one god among many. He is the one true God, and he will not allow his name to be mocked. Psalm 96 proclaims: “For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens.” (Psalm 96:4-5) God says in Isaiah 48:11: “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this. How can I let myself be defamed? I will not yield my glory to another.” (Isaiah 48:11)

The Philistines didn’t defeat the Lord. They defeated Samson. And the only reason they defeated Samson is not because Dagon was stronger than the Lord, but because the Lord left Samson. Dagon didn’t deliver Samson into the Philistines’ hands. God delivered Samson into the Philistines’ hands. But God will not allow his name to be mocked, and so things are not going to end well for the Philistines.

Notice also that the Philistines would not be mocking God here if not for Samson. This is all Samson’s fault. If Samson had remained true to the Lord, the Philistines would have had no occasion to boast that Dagon was stronger than the Lord. It’s bad enough when people mock the name of God or Jesus. But when it’s our fault, when it’s a result of our actions in the world, this is an occasion for great sorrow and tears.

One prayer that I pray frequently is, “O Lord, please let me never bring dishonor to your name.” I pray it every time I read about another pastor or Christian leader who has fallen into sin and given the world yet another opportunity to mock the name of God. There but for the grace of God go I. We should all guard carefully against bringing dishonor to the name of the Lord.

What are some of the ways God fulfills his purposes in this world? The first way is God guards his glory. He will not allow his name to be mocked.

2) God will not allow his people to be mocked (25-27)
   – Exodus 3:7-8; Psalm 17:8-9, 89:50-51

Secondly, God will not allow his people to be mocked. We see this in verses 25-27:

While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. When they stood him among the pillars, Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. (Judges 16:25-27)

And so, the Philistines are not only mocking the Lord. They are mocking Samson as well. They are in high spirits, which probably means they are drunk, and they call out for Samson to perform for them as entertainment. We’re not told what Samson did for their entertainment, but I’m guessing they were making fun of his lost strength. They were probably putting heavy objects in front of him and asking him to lift them or bringing carts with a heavy load and asking him to move them, and when he couldn’t, the people would just laugh and laugh at his weakness.

This was the Philistines’ second big mistake. Their first big mistake was mocking God. But now they are mocking one of God’s people. And God will not allow his people to be mocked.

God loves his people. When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, God told Moses in Exodus 3: “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them.” (Exodus 3:7-8)

David prayed to the Lord in Psalm 17: “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings from the wicked who assail me, from my mortal enemies who surround me.” (Psalm 17:8-9) The apple of the eye refers to your pupil, the very center of your eye, a very sensitive and vulnerable and valuable part of your body. If anyone has ever poked you in the eye, you know how painful that can be. When an object approaches your eye, you instinctively close your eyes. You turn your head or cover your face. You will protect your eyes at all costs.

The Bible says you are the apple of God’s eye. Isn’t that amazing? When you hurt, God hurts. When someone attacks you, they are attacking God. God protects you as you would protect the apple of your eye.

This is why the psalmist prays in Psalm 89: “Remember, Lord, how your servant has been mocked, how I bear in my heart the taunts of all the nations, the taunts with which your enemies have mocked, O Lord, with which they have mocked every step of your anointed one.” (Psalm 89:50-51) Just as God will not allow his name to be mocked, so God will not allow his people to be mocked either.

The Philistines called for Samson to come out and entertain them. Big mistake. Samson tells the servant who is holding his hand: “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.” It’s a full house, standing room only. Men and women crowd the temple. All the rulers are there. These are the rulers who gave Delilah 1100 shekels of silver each to betray Samson. There are many more people on the roof. The final showdown is about to take place. The Philistines are mocking Samson, and God will not allow his people to be mocked.

3) God will fulfill his purposes despite our sin and the enemy’s attacks (28-30)
   – Psalm 33:10-11, 138:8; Proverbs 13:15, 19:21

What are some of the ways God fulfills his purposes in this world? 1) God will not allow his name to be mocked. 2) God will not allow his people to be mocked. And then 3) God will fulfill his purposes despite our sin and the enemy’s attacks. Back to Judges 16, we read in verses 28-30:

Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived. (Judges 16:28-30)

And so, God finally fulfills his purpose for Samson. He does this in two ways.

First, he fulfills his purpose in Samson’s heart, as Samson humbles himself before the Lord in prayer. This is only the second time we’ve seen Samson pray. Both times he only prayed when he was in trouble. However, there is a new humility in this prayer as Samson acknowledges God’s sovereignty, as he humbly asks God to remember him, as he asks God to strengthen him just one more time. Samson is finally exercising faith here. He’s going to get his strength back – not because his hair grew back, but because he humbled himself and asked God.

You can humble yourself or you can let God do the job for you. There’s an easy way and a hard way in life. The easy way is when you humble yourself before the Lord at the beginning by submitting yourself to God and his ways. The hard way is when you struggle against God, and God has to humble you instead. Proverbs 13:15 says: “Good understanding wins favor, but the way of the unfaithful is hard.” (Proverbs 13:15) Samson chose the hard way, but that did not stop God from fulfilling his purpose. God will fulfill his purpose in your life, too. You can either work with God or against him, but things go so much better when you work with him.

God fulfilled his purpose in Samson’s heart, and then, secondly, he also fulfilled his purpose in Samson’s life. God’s purpose for Samson’s life was to deliver Israel from the Philistines. Samson has spent most of his life palling around with the Philistines and pursuing their women. The only times he fought them were out of selfish motives or in self-defense. But now he is finally ready to fulfill God’s purpose for his life. Samson knocks down the pillars and kills more Philistines when he died than while he lived. The Philistines wanted entertainment? Samson brought the house down! (Dale Ralph Davis) Samson is finally faithful to God in his death, something he lacked all his life.

God is going to fulfill his purposes with or without us. God will fulfill his purposes despite our sin and the enemy’s attacks. Psalm 33 says: “The Lord foils the plans of the nations; he thwarts the purposes of the peoples. But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.” (Psalm 33:10-11)

I love David’s prayer in Psalm 138:8: “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands.” (Psalm 138:8) Notice David doesn’t say “God will fulfill my purpose for my life,” but rather, “The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me.” Proverbs 19:21 says: “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21) God will fulfill his purposes despite our sin and the enemy’s attacks.

4) We all leave a legacy in life. What will be yours? (31)
   – Psalm 112:1,6; 2 Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 11:32-33

Judges 16:31 closes out the chapter and Samson’s story:

Then his brothers and his father’s whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led Israel twenty years. (Judges 16:31)

Samson’s life is now over, and his legacy is set. He is who he was in Judges 13-16, and nothing can change that. He resisted God at every step, and that is part of his story. Samson had a promising beginning but a tragic ending. God still fulfilled his purposes in Samson’s life, but he had to do it the hard way.

In our first message on Samson in this series, we looked at some amazing parallels between Samson and Jesus in their births. When you look at this final chapter in Samson’s life, you also see some remarkable parallels between Samson and Jesus in their deaths. This shouldn’t surprise us. The judges were deliverers of Israel. As the twelfth and final judge of Israel, Samson points forward to Jesus who would deliver us from all our sins.

So, what are some these parallels? Both Samson and Jesus were betrayed by a close friend for money. Both were handed over to foreign powers who occupied the land. Both were tortured, chained and publicly mocked. Both were asked to perform for their captors. And both ultimately gained victory over the enemy by their deaths. Samson stretched out his arms, pushed against the pillars, and secured victory over the Philistines. Jesus stretched out his arms, took the nails for you and me, and secured victory over sin.

And so, there are some remarkable parallels between Samson and Jesus. But here is one big difference. When Samson was buried, he stayed buried. Jesus rose from the grave on the third day, never to die again. Samson was a little sun who shone for a brief while. Jesus is the light of the world who shines bright as the sun forever. (Revelation 1:16)

In many ways the story of Samson serves as a warning for us, but Samson’s story, like Jesus’ story, is ultimately a story of hope. It’s the story of a God who never gives up on us, even if we sometimes give up on him. As 2 Timothy 2:13 says: “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13)

And although Judges 16 closes out the story of Samson in the Old Testament, it’s not the last word in the Bible on Samson’s life. Samson is listed among the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11. We read in verses 32-33: “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised.” (Hebrews 11:32-33) And so, even though Samson lived a wretched life of sin and disobedience, he is ultimately remembered for his faith in the final moments of his life, when he humbly cried out to God in prayer and gained the promised victory over the Philistines.

We all leave a legacy in life. What will be yours? How will you be remembered? Psalm 112 says: “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who finds great delight in his commands…. Surely he will never be shaken; a righteous man will be remembered forever.” (Psalm 112:1,6)

CONCLUSION: Remember, God is going to fulfill his purposes with or without you. God is sovereign. Nothing stops his plan or his purposes, neither your sin nor the enemy’s attacks.

Even though your sin may not stop God’s purposes, it does affect you and those around you. You can do things God’s way, or you can do it the hard way. Those are your only two options. You can work with God, or you can work against God.

But either way, when you breathe your last, your life on earth is over. It is too late to change anything you have done. We will all leave a legacy. You can be remembered as a person who loved and served God or someone who went their own way. What legacy will you leave?

© Ray Fowler

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Click here for more messages from the book of Judges.
Click here for more messages from the Samson: Strong Man Gone Wrong series.
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