29 Life Experience (7)

It was his third beer already, Stephen was still asking for more from the bartender. He was at the Wuthering Pub all by himself tonight, after a long week of work and was still adjusting to the new culture and the working environment.

Stephen got his doctor degree at Harvard University, majoring in Humanities. He just got hired to teach at Oxford University three months ago. It was a brand new experience for him since he had never been to Europe before. He felt awkward about the “uptight” courtesy and the formal traditions of the British culture. He was always a carefree person, and loved to joke around. He did not like to comply with rules and regulations and had his own ways of interpreting the “political correctness.” Stephen was an adventurous person and loved to try out new things which occasionally went against the norm. Even though he was baptised since seventeen, he did not really practice his faith seriously. He was known among his friends as a dude that was smart and trendy, well, maybe a dandy to be more exact. He was always proud of his own charisma and there were always secret admirers around him.

After the fifth beer, Stephen looked at his watch, it was about time to go to the Heathrow airport and pick up his girlfriend, Della. He grabbed his leather jacket and walked wobbly out of the pub.

Della came to England from the States to spend Christmas with Stephen. He planned to take Della to the countryside in Cornwall for a romantic getaway. He loved to drive and car racing was always his favorite sports. The weather was great when they began the journey, after a long drive, it started to rain, at first it was just drizzling, then pouring “cats and dogs”. Stephen enjoyed the challenge and drove at full-speed. Della was a bit nervous and asked him to drive cautiously since the road was slippery and they were new to the area, also, the driving habits were not the same as in the States. Stephen did not listen, he was a bit high because of the couple of beers that he had before they left Oxford. Finally they were closed to the Wivelscombe Cottage. There was a public road that sloped down to the Wivelscombe Lake, and there was a creek and woodland nearby. It was very dark and foggy, they could not see very well. Stephen felt very dizzy and his head was heavy, he was not aware of the slope, suddenly he lost control of the car and it was speeding down the slope toward the lake, he tried to steer the car around but there were only bushes and woodland. He stepped hard on the brake but the car kept going downhill with the muddy water in the midst of the thunderstorm. At last, the whole car plunged into the water… Stephen was not a swimmer and he knew he would not be able to make it …all the past memories flashed back. All of a sudden, he realised that he needed to save Della’s soul since she was not a Christian. He prayed to God, “Lord, please remember me and give me this last chance, forgive me, a sinner; let Della get to know you and save her as well.” Then he spoke to Della, who has already freaked out, “Della, I would like you to know my God even though I did not confess my faith in the past. I remembered reading a devotional by Adrian Rogers that talked about Samson, the might man of the Old Testament, he learned three things about sin. First, sin will take you further than you want to go. Second, sin will keep you longer than you want to stay. Third, sin will cost you more than you want to pay. However, Samson repented and asked God for forgiveness. No matter how bad sin is, God is greater. I am as bad as Samson, I am sorry for what I have done but I know God will forgive me before I die, so do you, please ask God for forgiveness and commit your life into his hand…..” The car started to flip over and sink gradually…….

Your Initial Response

Do you have a sin that you refuse to let go? Ask God to forgive your rebellious spirit. Ask Him for strength to repent.

Judges 16:23–17:1

23Now 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.” 

24When 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.” 

25While 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, 

26Samson 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.” 

27Now 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. 

28Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 

29Then 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, 

30Samson 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. 

31Then 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. 

1Now a man named Micah from the hill country of Ephraim (Judges 16:23–17:1 NIV) 

1) “Eye” (“i=Eye”)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Draw a question mark at the place where you have difficulty of understanding.

2 Underline the reasons why the Philistines rejoiced and number them in ascending order.

3 Circle the words about the true God and pagan god.

4 Circle the ways that the Philistines used to mock Samson.

5 Circle the comments of the author of the Book of Judges.

2) “Expound” (E)

iEXP Bible Study Method

In the womb of his mother, Samson had already been chosen by God as the deliverer of his people. Samson had great strength and military talent; however, owing to his uncontrollable and licentious character, God was mocked as a result.

1 Why did Samson become a prisoner of the Philistines?

2 What kind of god is Dagan (Judges 16:23)?

3 Why did God answer the revengeful prayer of Samson (Judges 16:28)?

4 Why did God allow Samson to use a suicidal method to perish with the Philistines (Judges 16:29-30)?

5 Who is a judge (Judges 16:31)?

The content of the Book of Judges was a sequel to the Book of Joshua, indicating that the Israelites did not expel all other foreign races according to God’s will after the conquest of Canaan, thus giving them unceasing pains and troubles. The Book of Joshua and the Book of Judges clearly told the readers the outcome of obeying and rebelling against God; the result of obeying God are victorious and successful all the time, but revolt against God are defeated and conquered by the enemies. As the Israelites renounced God, they encountered divine punishments as a result; however, God dealt with them graciously. When they abandoned God, the Israelites were being enslaved by the foreign enemies consequently; but as they called out to God for help, He raised up judges as the deliverers of His people.

Judges can be interpreted as the deliverers; they are the military and judicial leaders. In the womb of his mother, God had already chosen Samson as the deliverer of the Israelites (Judges 13:5). However, Samson was as if an unbridled stallion who always succumbed to rebellious sins. The sins that made him lost his footing and fell were his uncontrollable sexual desires.

In Samson’s life, there could be of several different stages: first, Samson’s mission (13:1–25), that is, God raised him up as the deliverer of his people; second, Samson’s marriage (14:1–4); he married a pagan woman at his parents’ objection; third, Samson’s mighty deeds (14:5–16:3); by his God-given military wisdom and strength, Samson overcame a large number of enemies; fourth, Samson’s mistress (16:4–19); his mistress became a trap that led him to insult and pain; fifth, Samson’s misery (16:20–22); owing to the uncontrollable sexual desire and willfulness of Samson, he was entrapped in unmatched pain and shame; sixth, Samson’s martyrdom (16:23–31); Samson ended in this way was self-inflicted.

Judges 16:23-24

The national god of the Philistines was Dagon and it was a god of vegetation and fertility. The Philistines always bullied the Israelites, thus they became mutual enemies. In two different situations, Samson, who was courageous and skillful in battle, killed one thousand and thirty Philistines (14:19; 15:15), and frightened the Philistines consequently. The Philistines were very happy that they could capture Samson alive; thus the leaders of the Philistines gathered together, not only giving Dagan honor, but offering to their deity at the same time. When the crowd saw this scene, they responded fanatically as well.

Judges 16:25

The long hair of Samson was a symbol of sanctification to God, and he possessed the supernatural strength as a result of God’s presence. As he was infatuated with Delilah the Philistine woman, Samson told her the secret of his inborn great strength. The appalling thing was that the enemies captured Samson who was the deliverer of the Israelites, the Nazarite who was sanctified to God and the warrior with the might of the Holy Spirit.

Judges 16:26

On account of Samson’s uncontrollable sexual desire, he lost God’s presence as a result. Samson who was once so powerful not only lost his strength, but also had his eyes gouged out by his enemies (Judges 16:21), and He had to depend on a little boy to lead his way.

Judges 16:27

“The house” in the New Revised Standard Version is translated as “the temple” in the New International Version, that is, the temple of Dagan. Three thousand Philistines assembled in the temple to watch the fun, gathering together before their deity to mock and make fun of Samson.

Judges 16:28-30

Samson prayed in such an environment, asking God to grant him strength again, so that he could pay back the enemies for the loss of his two eyes. This prayer was very self-centred and it came out of revenge. Was Samson’s act suicidal, heroic or martyred? The author had not commented much, but indicated that God had heard the last prayer in Samson’s life and granted him the strength to slain his enemies. Why did God hear Samson’s prayer? The author remained silent. When Samson regained his supernatural strength, he used both hands to push down the supporting pillars of the temple, so that all those assembled there died with him. This suicidal act killed more enemies than his previous two acts (he killed 1,030 people previously).

Judges 16:31

The author of the Book of Judges touched on the matter lightly in regard to the number of years that Samson had been a judge and the place of his burial.

Conclusion

People feel sorry for the life of Samson; owing to his lack of self-control, his works were marred consequently. The most terrible thing was that God’s servant was being teased by the pagans, and God’s name was being insulted as well.

3) “Exercise” (X)

iEXP Bible Study Method

1 Samson was being insulted for his uncontrollable sexual desire and God’s name was also being mocked by the pagans.

2 If Christians did not watch out for his words and deeds, the consequences could be devastating.

3 The conduct of Samson was not compatible to his identity, and it was also against the will of God.

4 Memorise Judges 16:28. 

28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “Lord God, remember me and strengthen me only this once, O God, so that with this one act of revenge I may pay back the Philistines for my two eyes.” (Judges 16:28)

5 Christians should never be self-centred, offering reckless prayers to the Lord; on the contrary, we should pray according to God’s will.

6 Although Samson was chosen by God and was granted divine power, he did not treasure his identity and gifts, thus losing God’s presence and strength. If Christians with many spiritual gifts and much spiritual strength departed from God’s teachings, they could lose the effectiveness and power in their ministries as well.

7 Pay attention to those believers who have self-control; ask them about the secrets to self-discipline

8 Believers should depend on God to lead a life of self-control.

9 Believers should be careful with the opposite sex in this era which was flooded with sexual desires.

4) “Proclaim” (P)

By applying the biblical truths to their lives, believers would experience God. When the Bible students experience God and His truths, they should follow the example of the early Christians of testifying to non-believers and believers boldly. By means of speech, we witness to non-believing friends and to edify believers alike. The fourth step of the iEXP Bible study is “Proclaim”.

iEXP Bible Study Method

After finished studying the text, try to apply the truths to your daily living, family life and church life, and pray that you will experience the truthfulness and power of God’s Word. Grab the opportunity to share your experience with non-believers and believers, in family altar, small groups and social gatherings, as a way of witnessing the power of the gospel to non-believers and edification of believers.

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