February 20, 2022

Judges: We Follow What We Love

Speaker: David Jordan Series: Journey Through the Bible Scripture: Judges 1:1– 21:25

Download the Judges Bible Journal Outline

Open your Bibles, if you would, to the book of Judges.

The title of the message is, “We Follow What We Love.” We follow what we love. Now, the book of Judges, if you're reading ahead, you know, it has some, shall we say, sticky stories in there? Judges, it's got some of those cringe worthy sins that people commit. And we're like, how could they do that? But I think you're going to find this morning that Judges is very applicable to us, and to how we follow God, and it's going to reveal some things about God's mercy, I'm sure.

As we think about the news, right now, Russia is once again, in the news, it seems like it goes back and forth between Russia and North Korea. It's like the, “don't forget about me,” kind of stuff. And yet, they're on the border of Ukraine with an incredible show of force, just “doing military drills.” But Ukraine has a population of about 41 million people. So the world is thinking about this potential crisis. As we should. We should pray for peace and stability in the region. We should pray for Christians who are over there. Although if they are Christians, they will be on their way to the Lord. If war breaks out. We should also pray for the non-Christians over there who don't know the Lord. And yet with all these people involved, we're really just thinking about what are two people going to do? The President of the United States and the President of Russia? What will these two men do? They have an incredible amount of authority to declare war, or to sneak in and say it's a response of the people.

And when you get to the book of Judges, with war, after war, after war, we can kind of think about it might be about leadership and war as well. Many pastors have preached and said, Judges is really about looking for a good leader. But I think there's much more to the book of Judges than just looking for a good leader, and what will a leader do? They had a good leader, right? Moses. Before this, before we get to the book of Judges, we see Moses delivered them from slavery, from 400 years or so of slavery under the Egyptians. And he taught them God's word, faithfully taught them God's Word. He told them, “teach your children God's Word, don't go after these other gods.” Did they follow Moses? Not very well, right? Not very well. And when they were at their moment of receiving the joyful benefits of the covenant promise of God to Moses, that I will give you this Promise Land, which is the land of Canaan, it runs around the Dead Sea, way north of the Sea of Galilee. And they said, “No, it's too difficult.” He said, “Fine. You can go wander around in the desert until the next generation is now in leadership, and none of you will go in.”

But did they follow the next guy Joshua? Right? Well, yes, they did a really good job of following Joshua. In fact, even the leaders after Joshua, those who saw the works of God, they did a pretty good job, although not completely. So Moses, the man whom God spoke with, like no other. They didn't follow very well. And then Joshua, his protege, his assistant, they did follow. But here's the problem with just relying on leaders. Leaders can't change your heart. Right? Leadership can't bring about a change inside of you. They can only encourage you to do something. But you and I on our own, we have to decide, is this what we're going to do?

Over and over again, in the book of [Judges], which is, if you're reading it, it's not quite chronological. The first chapter is later in time than the second chapter. But you'll see in Judges 2:16, that God up a leader, to save them out of the hand of those who plundered them. But whenever this person that God raised up, that God calls a judge, whenever that judge died, they would turn back. And then they would be worse than the generation their fathers, the generation that God literally opened up the Earth and swallowed. That's bad. So people in the United States tend to fall into this trap, simply thinking that a leader will save them, make life easier for them. And the problem is, we're right to an extent, right? A good leader with good laws and a benevolent heart would be a wonderful thing. A good leader would make laws to make life easier and free from physical oppression.

But laws don't set the heart free. Laws don't turn people to God, Jesus, by his grace does that. As we discussed this morning, in our Grace Equip class, you know, if you want to come ask the hard questions, you will have a crowd, a great company among you already doing that at nine o'clock. So come and ask your questions. As we think about the heart, we need to remember this. And I think we need to get this right or you're going to be so depressed after reading Judges. Let me may ask you a question, “When alcohol was outlawed. Did that turn the heart of a single drunk? Do laws against marijuana stop students and adults from smoking it?” Of course, now that's legal in so many places, they've lost the battle so badly that they just said, “ah let's just let people smoke it anyway.” Do laws against entering our country illegally make people abandon their desires? No, right? I mean, it's a decent desire to have a better life. It's a decent desire to have a job with a wage and it's a decent desire to do these things, right? If we overturn abortion laws, will people stop having illicit relationships?

Yet a changed heart would indeed change the drunk and the druggie, you can't win the war on drugs by removing the drug, there's always something else they'll make. It would also, a changed heart, change the immoral person as well? Well, I'm thankful for good leaders and good laws. I know you guys are too. We must not be satisfied and assume that a polished society reveals a polished heart. Would you agree with that? Yeah, you can talk if you want to. Yeah, I know you would agree with that. But we forget that quickly. Because the easiest thing to do is just make a law. Just say that's bad, punish those who don't and move on. Right? But it's deep work. It's hard work to expose our heart to the Word of God. And to allow God's Word to change us from the inside out.

Last week, as I talked about Joshua, he kind of sums up at the end of his life, in Joshua 23:11, what he wants the people to do. What is this all about? We've been following you around. We've been making war on people and driving certain people groups out and what is this all about? Like, is that even right? Joshua 23:11, “Be very careful, therefore, to love the LORD your God.” In light of everything that's going on, expend the most energy you have in life, to incline your heart to God. To love the LORD your God with all of your heart. We give our hearts away all the time. But people don't have a law problem. They have a love problem. Who is it that we love?

If you look back over the last year of your life, and you think how you spent your time and your money, right, you'll see what you love. Some vacations are expensive, but we will gather money to go on expensive vacations. Where do you give your money? What causes do you give your money to? And how much of your money do you give? And you say, “Oh, there he goes talking about money again?” Well, the Bible talks about money, right? For where your treasure is there will your heart be also. Right? So you can you can follow the trail of your life and see where it leads. And I would encourage you, to do that. Where do you spend the most effort in life? What do you give it your all? What areas of life do you give your all? Right, those things that you will just accomplish if it's the last thing you do, right? Those are the things that we love.

Our children, right? We pour into them because we love them. Right? You support the church because you love the church. You love Christ's bride for whom he died. That idea that the church is not for me, and I don't tithe and all that stuff that's just not biblical. It's a blessing. It's an idea of worship, right? It's not about the amount, it's about the heart. We learn that over and over again. So, our issues in life typically flow from what we love, or do not love. The Bible calls this, a matter of the heart.

And so again, Joshua, as he talks to everyone in Joshua 24:23, he’s preparing the people to move on without him. And to set them up for what will eventually, a couple generations later, be the accounts in the book of Judges. He says this, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you…” But I thought they followed Joshua? I thought they followed God? They did, but they were an imperfect people. Even after Moses, the best leader you can have, and Joshua, right runner-up, they actually followed Joshua better than they did Moses. And he still has to tell them, “put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your heart to Yahweh, the God of Israel.” He's still wooing them and drawing them towards the Lord God, as a matter of the heart.

With that setup, I think you can understand the book of Judges, and all that it reveals: the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you turn to chapter one, you'll see there in the book of Judges, that the followers of Joshua, I'll summarize some of this for you, the followers of Joshua, are like, “Okay, who's gonna lead us, let's go take the Canaanites. And they do. At least they start to, and they start to follow God and his plan for them after Joshua. They were discipled by Joshua. They were discipled by Moses, their parents. And so you have this legacy of discipleship. You have this legacy of entrusting the next generation with the Word of God. And then you look in Judges chapter two. And this chronologically is before chapter one. But I think, after doing these books in order, that won't be too confusing. And here's what happened under Joshua, and afterwards, Judges 2:7, “And the people served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders who outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great work that the LORD had done for Israel.”

So those who had seen the work of God, they saw their parents follow God, mostly, right? Don't do everything that your parents do, just do the things that they do that are in line with the Word of God, in line with Scripture. Right? They had seen these things, but they ignored the command of the Torah and you're going to see this play out. There's one thing that these people were bad at. Okay, and this is now two generations after Joshua. That's where Judges picks up, okay, two generations after. They were bad at discipleship. Discipleship you know, has gone through booms throughout the course of American history and you've got all kinds of great programs that have come about to lead people basically just how to teach someone the Bible. That's what discipleship is, how to demonstrate it in your life. And the people here are really, really bad at discipleship, and they lapse into this pattern because of it.

And I want you to turn to chapter two, starting in verse 10, because chapter two verses 10 to 19, is a summary of the whole book. This is the pattern that they followed and if you can understand 10 through 19, in chapter two, you can understand the whole book of Judges, okay. So that's a win for us. You don't have to read all 21 chapters to understand it, it's right here. So they come in to this chapter. They're blessed, they're winning the Promise Land. Okay, they've been a few decades now of conquering people. And then we learn, the reality of things sets in and chapter two, verse 10. Follow along, as I read out of the ESV [Judges 2:10].

“And all that generation also were gathered to their fathers [that is those who had seen, the parents under Joshua and the following generation, ok those two, they were all gathered to their fathers, they passed away]. And there arose another generation after them who did not know the LORD or the work that he had done for Israel.”

We would just call this rebellion. “Have I not commanded you, teach your children,” right? Put it on the doorposts, put it as frontlets on your head, put it on your clothes, put it on the gate. Like you can't get into a faithful Jewish dwelling place without seeing the signs of God four or five times. Yet these people, they don't even know God or any of the work he had done. So, their parents were not so good at discipleship.

Verse 11 [Judges 2:11-13], “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and served the Baals [or the bales if you liked the American pronunciation, capital L-O-R-D there in verse 11, is the word for Yahweh. That's YHVH in Hebrew, so we translate it LORD, so you know it’s Yahweh. Verse 12…]. And they abandoned the LORD, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt. They went after other gods. [So it's not like they wanted to abandon religion]. They went after other gods, “from among the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them. And they provoked the LORD to anger. They abandoned the LORD and served the Baals and the Ashtaroth.” This is the first part of the pattern that they get into. This is the rebellion pattern. Okay. So the book of Judges is like, you know, wash, rinse, and repeat. It's going to follow this giant pattern.

The next pattern starts in verse 14, this is the rebuke [Judges 2:14-15]. “So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them over to plunderers, who plundered them. And he sold them into the hand of their surrounding enemies, so that they could no longer withstand their enemies. Whenever they marched out, the hand of the LORD was against them for harm, as the LORD had warned, and as the LORD had sworn to them. And they were in terrible distress.”

The worst thing we could do is to go away from God. Right, we all serve something, you've heard that. Well, they wanted to go away from the perfect God to serve something else, more to their liking. Maybe with fewer rules. They can now intermarry. “Why can’t I marry this girl who bows down to the Ashtaroth? Right? I like her, she's really pretty. I think we get along great. We've got the same hobbies.” Except that one is on the way to hell and one isn't. That's kind of a problem, right? But they ignored that. So they go into this pattern of rebuke.

And then they turn in verse 16, to the pattern of rescue [Judges 2:16]. “Then Yahweh raised up judges [that's where we get the name of the book from, Judges], who saved them out of the hand of those who plundered them.” So right now what's going on is they're in blessing. They rebel, that's not good enough. They serve foreign gods. God rebukes them and chastises them. They're in such distress, they whine and cry out to God, “Oh, Lord, help us. Save us. I know we brought all this upon ourselves. But please help us and spare us.” Any mention of, “God, turn my heart to you?” No.

So verse 17, it's pretty short lived. And this is very explicit language, if you're not familiar with the Old Testament, Judges 2:17, “Yet they did not listen to their judges, for they whored after other gods and bowed down to them. They soon turned aside from the way in which their fathers had walked, who had obeyed the commandments of the LORD, and they did not do so.”

God sets them free, raises up a great leader, right? So it's not like great leaders are bad, raises up a great leader, there was no one around with great character. So the leader didn't have great character, it’s not like you should emulate him, but he ended up leading them in the way they should go, but it was so short lived, and they rebelled after the judge died.

So look in Judges 2:18-23, this is the repetition cycle here. “Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and he saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who afflicted and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died [so the judge dies], they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods, serving them and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or stubborn ways. So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel. And he said, ‘Because this people have transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers, and have not obeyed my voice, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the LORD as their fathers did, or not. So the LORD left those nations, not driving them out quickly, and he did not give them into the hand of Joshua.”

In other words, all of the people Joshua raised up to follow God were no longer under the protection and the hand of God. God removed his hand of protection, and he actually himself, will raise up enemies against them just to see if they will follow him. That leads us to chapters 3 to 16, which don't worry, we're not going to cover every single chapter. So I'll just summarize. That's about 400 years of history, and chapters 3 to 16. If you like, and you're into the details, you can look through all of the times where it says, “and they rebelled for 20 years, or 6 years or 8 years, add those up, you can look up the times of the judges and see how long they judged Israel. And you can add up the time for the years of rest, and you will come up with a little over 400 years’ worth of time. And you can look in Acts chapter six, Paul references this timeframe, as well. I'll leave that up to you. But here's the big problem. They intermarried. Judges 3:6. It's not that they just lived on one side of the tracks and the Canaanites lived on the other and they said don't go across the tracks. Judges 3:6, “And their daughters they took to themselves for wives, and their own daughters they gave to their sons, and they served their gods.”

There's nothing wrong with marrying someone from another culture if they follow God, the true God of Scripture. The Bible never condemns that. But the Bible is sure to condemn marrying someone of another culture in this time which was dominated by other religions. So you don't want to, you know, have someone that you pursue thinking you're going to save that person. Okay, now I know people who have dated a non-Christian and that person became saved, and then those two live happily ever after, that kind of thing. Okay, so I've seen it work, but you're playing with fire. Young people. Listen, clearly, Judges is your big witness against that. Okay? Over and over and over again for 400 years. How old is our nation? Right? For 400 years, this led them astray. This one sin. Don't go there. Find someone who loves Jesus, who's pursuing Jesus, and marry that person and get a job so you can pay the bills. But don't fall into the trap of the judges here.

Judges chapters 3 to 16 go over various judges. And what you need to know is that this was comprehensive throughout all the tribes. Okay, when you look through, like chapter three, they're in the Mesopotamian region. Then they go into Moab in chapter three, verse 12. Then in chapter 3:31, they start the Philistines. And then there's 80 years of rest, until the judge dies. And then chapter four, they start going over and five, actually, there's Deborah and Barak. Deborah had to lead the cowardice there and they started attacking the Canaanites again. And then you have Gideon in chapters six through eight and Abimilech and Tola and Jair, chapter ten. I'm sure this is meaning a lot to you, but I want to read it to you. And Jephthah’s tragic story in chapter 11, sin upon sin.

And the reason why the Bible doesn't just stop with chapter two verses 10 to 16 and skip to the end, the very last verse of the book in chapter 21, is a summary of everything that's going on. It's their full on anarchy, from chapters 17 to 21. Okay, there's no judges, that it's just everyone did what was right in his own eyes. That's the last verse of the book. But why they don't do that is because every tribe of Israel was complicit in these sins. The northern tribes were complicit. The southern tribes, those on the east of the Jordan, those on the west of the Jordan, and thankful to Gideon, everyone in between, right? They were all complicit in all of these sins. No one, no one, can you imagine that? Millions of people, millions crammed into that little space? That's barely 60 miles wide and right, I don't know, 125 miles long. None of them are following God. You're like, “can we just have one person lead us?” Well, God sent about 12 judges. And that leads us up to the time of Samuel and Eli, after this book. But all throughout this time God sends judge after judge after judge, decade after decade. Listen, you can't wear out God. He will pursue you. He will give you opportunities of mercy. And he will give you every opportunity you need to follow him, but there is an end.

Right? There is a time when he's given you enough. And then he turns you over. That's Romans one. He turns you over to your sinful desires. And we're seeing this progression play out in our nation. Our nation is progressing into more and more sins and you're seeing the worldview of culture collide with itself. Right? They can't get past the transgender athlete. Transgender athlete is wonderful. According to a non-biblical worldview. Let's celebrate! Unless the guy beats out my daughter in swimming, right, now we've got a problem. Their worldviews don't make sense, but they still won't change. Colliding worldviews just means they're going to live confused. That doesn't mean they're going to live by the truth or change. So you're seeing this play out in our culture, every single week, that following other gods doesn't work.

And we get to chapter 13. Right? Just this, your favorite story and mine, we've got it on the front page of the Bible outline, right, Samson? Samson is our guy, right? Well, kind of. So, there's this woman who was barren. Samson's mom. And an angel of the Lord appears to her. Right, this happens. It's not just Mary. In Scripture, this happens time and again. And the angel of the Lord told her she was going to have a son. And then Judges chapter 13, verses four and five, give some specifics. And I think it's good if we drill into this one a little bit. Because I think you need to see and I need to see just the extent that God had to go to in order to pry his people away from cultures who served other gods. Verse four, Judges 13:4-5. “Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.”

Besides the obvious implication that people in the womb are precious to God, and have a plan from God. You can't get past these verses without knowing that clearly. You have this situation from a woman whose barren, she's blessed. And guess what? This child is already going to be under a vow from God before he's even born. That's pretty amazing. But remember what I said about intermarrying? Samson is the favorite guy of preachers to pick on in this regard, and I'm not going to disappoint. Samsung grew, the Lord blessed him. I mean, he had everything he wanted. And when he didn't have something he wanted, well, we're going to read about that.

The first thing he wanted was Timnah. That's a girl. She's a Philistine. And he says this. I'm not going to do the voice. The first time I heard a pastor preach on this he used this big voice and, you know, “get her for me,” right? I am not going to do that. He says, “Get her for me. For she is right in my eyes” [Judges 14:3]. Like, what? What are you talking about? She's the enemy. She serves a foreign god. What's he thinking? Well, he's not really thinking very much. Let's just say that. “What always glitters…,” right. “What glitters isn't always gold.” Samson wants Timnah, so he tells his parents, “just go get her for me.” Right? That would speed things up a little bit if we could do that. Hey, Mom and Dad, that one. Right? Okay. And they go and get her. Know the parents actually have some understanding and judgment here. And they say, well, she's a Philistine. Can't you take a wife from among our people? And he's a little hardheaded about this. And what the parents didn't know which is crushing, is in Judges 14:4, “it was from the LORD.”

Why would God do that? Why would God do this? He said, “Don't intermarry. Stay away from the foreign culture. Stay away from the foreign gods, don't intermarry with other people.” “It was from the LORD” chapter 14, verse four. Why? To be an “opportunity against the Philistines.” You see, here's the problem, the Israelites were so detestable in God's sight that he himself led them to pursue something they shouldn't pursue, so that God could raise up the Philistines against them, continue to be a thorn, and hopefully rip them apart from their sin to just show them how bad it is. Samson was not too hard to convince, okay? People follow their own desires. And if you like the softer side of the sovereignty of God, he was following his own desires, fully. She is right in my eyes, no mention of God. No mention of the problems that it would cause. Be careful what you ask for. It may not turn out as you think. So in Judges 14:6, it’s the first display of Samson’s strength, he rips a lion to pieces with his hands, a young lion. We see he's not like other boys. Right? He's the beefy kid who's been working out a lot. But it says the Spirit of Yahweh rushes upon him and gives him strength.

Now he's not indwelt by the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit of God doesn't indwell Samson. Okay, that doesn't happen in the Old Testament. That's New Testament theology. When Jesus ascends, right, and he says, “I'm going to leave so the helper can come.” The Helper comes and in First Corinthians, it says we're a temple of the Holy Spirit. So the Holy Spirit is living inside of us. So it's not that. So the Holy Spirit though rushes on him and gives him strength. It's a momentary thing.

And the Philistines were absolutely wretched at this point. They were wretched at this point. Okay, so Samson and Timnah, that's moving forward. And so they go to her town, and Samson sees the men of the town and he says, “Hey, let's make a bet. I'm gonna give you a riddle. And if you can answer my riddle (very prideful), I'll give you 30 sets of clothing,” right? That's pretty expensive. This wasn't like a wealthy kind of area. And the people like, ah, that should be easy. There's a large crowd of us, one of him, we should be able to answer, someone should be able to figure it out. Well, they can't. He tells a story of the lion, whom later he saw with honey, and then he gave his parents some of the honey, right, the unclean food, he's feeding it to his parents, they're unaware that they're now unclean before God and Samson's, he's okay with all that stuff. Anyway, he gives them this riddle of a lion with honey in its belly. They can't figure out what it means.

So look in Judges 14:15, so the Philistines went to Timnah Samson's wife, and they said, “make him tell you the answer. Or we will burn you and your house with fire.” For clothing! For clothing! That's her people. If you don't make him tell us, we're going to set you on fire. So after seven days, she implores the irresistible and complains, nonstop. And even Samsung couldn't resist that. Right, the dripping faucet, she just kept after him. And so he tells her what it means. She tells the people, the people win the bet. So Samson, goes to another city, kills 30 people, takes their clothes, and gives it to them. So now we have death. Right? We have death. It's not going to work out any better as the story goes on. And this is just Timnah, we're not even to Delilah yet. Okay, this is another one.

While he's gone, in chapter 14 Verse 20, Samson loses his wife. His wife's dad says, “Well Samson's gone, where did he go? Let's give you Timnah to his best friend.” Right. That's not gonna go over so well. Samson just killed 30 people because he lost a bet. If he loses his wife, what do you think's going to happen? More trouble, right? So, Samson catches 300 foxes. We think he was just strong, but he had to be incredibly smart and fast. Right? He ties their tails together, lights them on fire, (see the little fox on your Bible outline journal), right? He lights them on fire, sets them running through everybody's field. So now it's not they just lose clothing, they lose their way of life. Agricultural society, that would be like somebody going through and burning down everyone's method of income.

This is not a good start. And if ever there was a time, where you should listen to God, now would be it. Right? You've gone away from God, you've seen what that does. You've seen the hand of God work. Lots of people have died. Lots of people have lost their way of life. And Samson just continues to go on his merry way. This war of evil and revenge between Samson and the Philistines goes on for 20 years. Okay, it's mentioned in chapter 15, verse 20. That doesn't mean chapter 16 is after that, the sum total of his time avenging the Israelites on the Philistines, even unaware, is 20 years.

Here's the point that we're going to drive home for the next 10 minutes. Don't think that because God was using Samson, that got approve of Samson's life. Okay? I'm successful, I’m wealthy, I get what I want, people do what I say. Right? Go-getter. I go to the city. I'm more powerful than this city and that city. Samson had the faith, to trust God for his strength. But Samson is not the kind of guy you want to emulate. I just want to make that clear. Because Hebrews 12 has him in the hall of faith. And a lot of people look at that and they say, “Oh, well, that means that you can live however you want and be blessed of God.” Samson was a tool of faith to judge Israel by tearing away the Philistines. They couldn't overcome Samson. Why? Because of his strength. Because of the vow.

When was the vow made? In the womb. Samson didn't voice that, “Sure God, I'll do that. I'm all in.” Right? Mom, don't cut my hair, I mean like all the other kids, right? Can we get a decent haircut, not the mommy haircut? Sorry. Right. Samson had the vow made from birth. Right, before he came out of the womb. God chose him to do something specific. And as long as he didn't cut his hair, God honored that vow and gave him supernatural strength. And I don't think we quite understand the amount of strength he had. Okay, we know he took the jawbone of a donkey and killed 1,000 people. I don't know how that works. Okay. All the cartoons of that just don't do it justice. There's just, there's no explaining that. 1,000 people? so no one could shoot him with an arrow? No one could throw a knife at him or a spear? I mean, he's, let's say he's just taking on 100. You can't stand back and kill him? No, you can't. He puts all of our modern-day superheroes to shame.

So chapter 16 opens with Samson doing Samson things. He finds a prostitute. And then to show his power over this city, they don't like him in their city. In Judges 16:3, he's ripped off the gates to their city, bars and all, and carried it to the top of a hill in Hebron. Now I know you're not familiar with the geography to know the difference of mileage between Gaza and Hebron but when I first read this, I think oh, yeah, that's probably just right outside the city, right, so they could see the gates. Samson picks them up, takes them to the top of the hill. Yeah, that must have been a lot of work. And there's their city gates. Don't mess with me. No. Hebron was 40 miles away! 40, miles! And the timeframe that we see here in chapter 16, is that he does this in the span of about 12 hours. Okay, so I don't know if like he's jogging with these gates, or what he's doing. But this is not like a normal picture like he, you know, ripped off one little bar and another bar and eventually he got the gates.

Now, I think to prove the point a little further, I want to explain what the gates were like a little bit. Because you can in your mind, “alright, well, maybe he just put a chain on it and drug it all the way there.” But it says he carried it on his back. Dr. Barrick, Hebrew professor, archaeologist, scholar, and man who loves to write red all over my papers, did a great paper on the gates here. You can look this up if you want, type in “the gates of Gaza and Dr. Barrick” and you can read details until your mind goes numb. But the gates of the early Bronze Age, about 3,000 BC, were about three meters tall or 10 feet, the width from similar gates and Ashdod, closer to this area. Were about three meters wide. So 10 feet wide, and two to three feet thick. Now you guys who work with wood? How big of a piece of wood, can you actually lift up, just one end of it? Right? I'm telling you, not 10 feet tall, 10 feet wide, and two to three feet thick. Right, your spines going to snap. The wooden structure was at least a foot thick, estimated in this area. So if we just say most of the gates were wooden, they were actually about 1.6 feet to three and a half feet based on archaeology and what they can find. Okay, so I'm telling you this, it's not in there. But I'm telling you this because they all knew this. They could picture gates like this in their mind. You and I can't picture these things. Okay. So this would put the gate with just the wood at around 5,600 pounds at the thinnest part. But if it was one of those thicker gates, we're talking at over 10,000 pounds and two feet thick. That's only 10 feet tall. Okay, so he can't just balance the whole structure on his back. We don't think Samson was 10 feet tall. Right? So this is very awkward. Yet, that doesn't include the iron bars. Okay, it says including its bars, he ripped the gate out, including the bars. So he grabs the whole thing. And if there's one part of a city that's meant to repel an entire army, it's the gate. Right? If you get the gate, you get the city. So they were normally covered in bronze. Okay, and they had iron cast bars to keep it in place down into the ground. So sorry to do this, this is going to totally ruin the whole picture. But he picks up the whole thing. Right? And puts it on his back and then goes 40 miles with it! 40 miles!

Just for comparison. The heaviest deadlift, clean and jerk if you want the proper term, pulled off the ground and pressed over your head. How many pounds, do you think? 402. Paul Anderson, incredible weightlifter. Right? He set an Olympic record back in the 50’s for doing 402 pounds. Failed the first two times. Okay, now a man can lift a lot more than that, significant amount more than that, way more than that, if it's already this high, and you just have to lift it a little bit. Right, so they've got, you can lift over 2,000 pounds or more doing that, if you're a weightlifter. But from the ground, about 400 pounds, if you're one of the strongest men on the planet.

To say that Samson had superhuman strength, was a gross understatement. I mean, what would you expect? God Himself, the Spirit of Yahweh, rushed upon the man to accomplish what God wanted him to accomplish. Does that sound familiar? Christians, you're a temple of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit inside of you. Don't go try and rip the doors off the building. But what can you fail at that that God wants you to succeed at? Nothing. His strength didn't show how righteous he was. His strength showed how unfaithful the people were that he judged.

Samson of course would go on to give his heart to Delilah. And she used the secret weapon too, she nagged him for seven days. There's something about that nagging for seven days, that will crumble any human. Judges 16:16-17, And this Delilah “when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death.” Okay, vexed to death. “And he told her all his heart,” he just, “Stop, I'll tell you everything right?” “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.” She gladly cut his hair, called her people, the Philistines over, they took him, gouged out his eyes. And Samson died a miserable death. They put him into forced slave labor. And as his hair started to grow back, he recognized that his strength was returning.

And some say, well, Samson, did he redeem himself, did he just do one last thing to redeem himself? I don't think so. Judges 16:28, this is in Samson's words here, “Then Samson called to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, [why?] that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.’ ” It's all about me. That was Samson. And God answered his prayer. Not because he was righteous, but because it was in accordance with God's will of judging the Philistines. So he pushed the posts apart. And 3,000 people or more, died that day. And Samson, thereby killed himself.

He never learned to give his heart to God. He was never that example. He was the example, if you know one thing God wants you to do, just keep praying that, he did that well. And the supernatural strength that he had did come from God, indeed. And that's the faith that he had. That's where his faith stopped. I think the question for us really is this, “Have we learned from Samson or the others?” So many people go about their lives, being blessed by God and confusing that with God's approval. God must really love the United States, look how blessed we are. God must really love me, look how blessed I am.

The Book of Judges ends on an incredibly dreary note with all out anarchy and some of the worst stories you can even stomach to read. Judges 21:25 says, “In those days there was no king in Israel.” Now you know why later they asked for one, they still thought it was about leadership. There's “no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” Military might does not change a heart. We could set North Korea free today and it wouldn't change their heart. You could give them food and newspapers and all kinds of things. We could protect all of the nations perfectly for the rest of human history, that no one should invade anyone else. That wouldn't change a single heart.

Remember what it's all about? This is where failed discipleship leads. Our church is designed for you to grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ. The worship service goes over the books of the Bible and exposes the truth of the text. That’s what an expository message is. It exposes the truth of the text, so that we can know God and love him fully. We have monthly prayer offered at 9:00am. We have mid-week Bible studies for men and women, small groups for members to fellowship. We have a small but potent curated library back there for you guys to use and study. We have elder-led discipleship for member families. Not that you need to be involved in anything. But if there's one thing I would plead with you, is to not let discipleship fail. And Grace Bible Church, that is a prayer that God will answer and we will not fail. We need to rise up and continue to make disciples among us and follow God with our whole heart.

Let's pray.

Lord, you are so worth pursuing. You have shown us the end result of following other gods and living for other things. Lord God, we pray for your courage and strength to follow you this day with our whole heart, to put everything aside that entangles us, to run the race that wins, Lord God. Lord, I ask now that you would hear our prayer, and as a church, help us to be effective in discipleship.

For those of you who are here this morning, and maybe listening online, now is an opportunity to ask God to help you to follow him with your whole heart. So, let's just take a moment to pray and ask God for that.

Lord, we love you. We praise you for those we get to fellowship with. I pray, Lord God, that you would make us disciple-makers and thank you for the stories of the judges. Lord, it's all about the heart. And we're so thankful for your mercy, Lord. Your continual pursuing of us, out of your great love and your mercy. Lord God, we're thankful for that and we praise you for that, in your precious Holy Name, Amen.