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Sunday, February 20, 2011

My weapon? A donkey's jawbone!

14-16 As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came to meet him, shouting in triumph. And then the Spirit of God came on him with great power. The ropes on his arms fell apart like flax on fire; the thongs slipped off his hands. He spotted a fresh donkey jawbone, reached down and grabbed it, and with it killed the whole company. And Samson said, "With a donkey's jawbone I made heaps of donkeys of them. With a donkey's jawbone I killed an entire company."
(Judges 15:14-16)

Israel is in a time of punishment - being attacked by the Philistines.  They have wandered into compromising sin and God is allowing the Philistines to be used as his means of judgment on their sin.  Samson was born of a woman unable to bear children - a miracle in those days that neither involved artificial means, nor test tubes!  As an angel of the Lord reveals that she will have a son, he also instructs her to set him aside (dedicate him) to the Lord's work of delivering the Israelites from the hand of the Philistines.  God was about to do the work of removing the curse of judgment that Israel had come under.  He is raised as dedicated unto the Lord, but when the time comes for him to be out on his own, he goes into the land of the Philistines and falls in love with a young Philistine woman.  His parents are livid - thinking this would bring God's judgment down on Israel even harder.  What they did not realize was that this was all in God's plan of giving Samson an "inroad" into the camp of the Philistines.

As the story of Samson's life progresses, we find it is time for him to receive his bride.  As was the custom, he came to make the final arrangements, arrange for the "exchange" for his betrothed, and there was a great feast.  At the feast (lasting 7 days), he brings up a riddle for the 30 groomsmen there in attendance to attempt to solve.  It has to do with Samson's recent experience of getting honey from the carcass of a lion he had previously slain with his bare hands.  The groomsmen cannot figure out the riddle, so they engage Timnah (Samson's betrothed) to "get it out of him".  When they provide the answer to the riddle, Samson is furious because he knows that Timnah has been the one to provide the answer.  The events enrage him and he goes out and kills 30 men, strips them and brings their clothes to the groomsmen, then heads home to his parents.  A short time later, he goes to the house of his future father-in-law and asks for his betrothed wife.  He is taken aback by the news that she had been given to his best man as his wife and that he will have to settle for a younger sister if he wanted to take a bride.

This infuriates him even further.  He takes 300 jackals, ties their tails together, lights a torch and places it between their tails, then sets them lose to burn up the fields of the Philistines - a devastating loss of crops for the people.  The Philistines want his head and his Israelite brothers are all to ready to assist.  Three dozen Israelite men go to him, sharing their fear that the Philistines will retaliate for what Samson has done.  They bind him hand and foot, bringing him to the Philistines in bonds.  This brings us to the events of our passage today.  The Philistines think they have it made - their attacker delivered to them by the hands of those that should have been most loyal to Samson!

But...the Spirit of God had a different plan!  This is often the case when things just seem to be "falling into place" for the one who stands against God.  When they least expect God's intervention - God's hand is proven stronger!  Samson's bonds drop free and he sees a bone from the jaw of a donkey.  Now, you might conclude that the bone of a donkey is not much of a weapon - especially against a band of angry military.  But God...the powerful words of our passage.  In his power, Samson uses the least likely instrument of warfare to slay the entire company of military men gathered to do him in.  

We don't fight against the things that hold us in bondage - those things that the enemy of our soul tends to use as instruments of his warfare - with traditional weaponry.  In God's hands, even the jawbone of a donkey becomes a tool of defense greater than the might of any marauding force!  The very thing we least suspect as able to provide our deliverance may be the very thing God designs for our use in times of struggle.  We often discount what seems unlikely to be the means of deliverance because we have preconceived ideas of what our defense should look like.  But God...

What I want us to see that our deliverance comes in the "But God..." moments.  When we least expect it, through the means we'd least expect to see used, in the moment when it seems all is lost - God is there!  Our deliverance comes in unusual ways sometimes.  Israel's deliverance from a marauding, domineering influence was being accomplished by the hand of a man dedicated to him - in very non-traditional ways.  Samson's deliverance was coming in ways that made onlookers gape in amazement and historians repeat in awe.  God's deliverance is sure - his means of deliverance is not always what we'd expect, but it is sure!