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A GAMBLER’S TALE
Intro: In our last glimpse into Samson’s life, we saw a man who little respect for the will of God for his life. He goes to Timnath, which was in Philistine territory, and there he sees a woman that he wants to marry, v. 1. He demands that his parents get her for him, v. 2. They try their best to discourage Samson from marrying this forbidden, Gentile woman, but Samson will settle for no one else, v. 3.
His parents give into Samson’s demands and make the arrangements for the marriage. One their first trip to Timnath, Samson kills a lion in a vineyard, v. 6. Samson revealed his low esteem for the things of God by being in a vineyard in the first place. On their second trip, Samson goes to look at the carcass of the lion, v. 8. He finds bee hive in the carcass and he eats some of the honey and gives some to his parents, v. 9.
Not only did Samson show little regard for his Nazarite vow, he actually violated that vow, and told no one about what he had done. Samson is a man headed for trouble. He is a warning to all those who like to skate near the edge. He is a warning to those who love to see what they can get away with.
I would remind you that our vows to God are sacred! He expects us to fulfill them. He expects us to live for Him at all times, 1 Pet. 1:16. He expects us, not only to not flirt with evil, 2 Cor. 6:17, but to actively pursue that which is righteous, 1 Pet. 3:8-12.
In this passage we will look at the events that occurred when Samson and his family arrived in Timnath for the wedding. We will see that this wedding was not the joyous event everyone expected. We will see that it was a time of arguments, threats, crying and killing.
I want to preach the events mentioned in these verses. I want you to see that there is a price to pay when we wander from the path of righteousness and gamble with our testimonies. Let’s notice these events together as I preach about A Gambler’s Tale.
I. v. 10-11 SAMSON’S WEDDING
A. The Tradition Involved – Verse 10 tells us that Samson and his family provided a wedding feast. This indicates that they were wealthy people. To be able to provide a feast for all those in attendance that last some 7 days would have been very expensive.
Our text also says that “for so used the young men to do”. This tells us that the events surrounding this wedding were carried out according to the customs of the day. Let me mention a few of those traditions.
The groom and his family were responsible for the expense of the feast. The lavishness of the feast was to be a reflection of their wealth.
· The wedding was to be arranged by the groom’s family. Part of this involved the giving of a dowry to the Bride’s parents to compensate them for the loss of their daughter and for their loss of a worker in the home.
· A period of time would begin then called the betrothal period. This usually lasted about 1 year.
· During that time, the bridegroom would prepare a place for the couple to live. The bride would take this time to prepare her wedding wardrobe and to get ready for the arrival of the groom.
· At an unannounced hour, usually at night, the bridegroom would come for his bride. He would arrange for a feast to be ready. He would take his friends and go after his bride. He would come at an unexpected hour, and his arrival would be preceded by shouting and trumpet blasts. The bridegroom would then take his bride home, where the marriage would be consummated.
That’s how things usually went. Samson’s wedding was a little different. Since he was a Jew marrying a Gentile, he brought no guests with him. It appears that the “thirty companions” mentioned in verse 11 were provided for him by the bride’s family. Also, he did not come to take the bride back for the wedding feast; the feast would be prepared at her home. Other than that, this wedding was to be a traditional wedding.
B. The Typology Involved – While I could never see Samson as a type of Jesus Christ, I cannot think about a wedding and the ancient traditions surrounding weddings, without thinking of the Lord Jesus and His bride. Let me take just a moment to reflect on what the Lord Jesus will do one day.
· He made the first trip and arranged the marriage. He cancelled the debts of His Bride, purchased her unto Himself, gave her His boundless love along with many other amazing gifts. gifts. (Ill. Spirit indwelling, the church, spiritual gifts, His presence, His providence, etc.)
· He returned the His house to prepare a place for His Bride, John 14:1.
· When the time is right, He will return to claim His bride. His coming will be preceded by shouting and trumpet blasts, 1 Thes. 4:16-17; 1 Cor. 15:51. He will come in the clouds above the earth, call up His Bride, and take her to His home in Heaven.
· When she arrives there, she will be cleansed from her journey at the Judgment Seat of Christ; she will be clothed in fine linen garments, and she will be treated to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, and she will spend eternity with the Lord Who loved her, saved her and rescued her, Rev. 19:7-9!
· Thank God, that is what is waiting on us!
C. The Temptation Involved – The word “feast” in verse 10 refers to a “feast involving wine”. This feast is held in enemy territory and it involves at least 30 wicked men. In other words, Samson had no business being at this feast. As a Nazarite, He was to be separated “unto” the Lord all the days he lived, Jud. 13:3-5. Samson seemed to enjoy gambling with his testimony. He was a poor witness to the Lord he claimed to serve.
Sadly, it is not a stretch to think of Samson drinking wine with the enemy. After all, he journeyed through a vineyard on the way to Timnath, v. 5. He defiled himself by touching a dead body and eating honey that came from the carcass of a lion, v. 8-9. He is about to go through with a God-forbidden marriage.
The whole point of that is this: once you cross the line and get friendly with sin, it will not be many days until you begin to indulge your desires in ways you never believed you would. Sin has a way of spreading in your life. It is like leprosy in the Old Testament, Lev. 13:8. Sin will spread and it will grow.
Unforgiveness will turn into a root of bitterness that will consume you. an evil act that is allowed to exist in your life will become a habit you will find hard to break. A little slackness tolerated here and there in your spiritual life will cause you to become unfaithful to the church, the Lord and the Word. Once that line is crossed, it becomes easier and easier to go ever deeper into evil.
I. Samson’s Wedding
II. v. 12-18 SAMSON’S WAGER
A. Samson’s Gall – We have no indication as to what prompted Samson to give the Philistines the riddle in verse 14. It may have been pride. He may have been trying to prove that he was smarter than they were. He may have done it to break the tension at the wedding. These 30 so-called “friends of the bridegroom” were most likely there to guard the people from Samson. Or, it may have simply been a diversion to entertain them during the days of the feast. Apparently, riddles and hard questions were very popular in the ancient world. When the Queen of Sheba came to Solomon, she “came to prove him with hard questions,” 1 Kings 10:1.
Regardless of Samson’s reasons, what strikes me is the callous attitude Samson holds toward his sin. He looks back on an event in his life that showcases his sin and he makes a joke out of it. He looks back at an event that caused him to break his Nazarite vows, and disrespect and defile his parents, and he uses is as the basis for a riddle. That is a window into the heart of Samson!
Ill. A person has real spiritual problems when they cease to be affected by their sins. We all sin, 1 John 1:8, 10, but when we sin as believers, there is chastisement and conviction. There is the sense that we have dishonored the Lord and damaged our fellowship with Him. When we sin, we look for a place of repentance. That is absent from Samson’s life.
When that sense of sin is missing, it is an indication that the heart has grown hard toward the Lord. It is an indication that the conscience has been seared. It is an indication that sin has planted deep roots within a life. God help us to maintain a tender heart toward sin. It ought to break our hearts when we sin against the Lord and dishonor His name, His House, His Word or His people! (Ill. Josiah – 2 Kings 22:19, “…thine heart was tender…”) God will judge those with this attitude, “Were they ashamed when they had committed abomination? nay, they were not at all ashamed, neither could they blush: therefore shall they fall among them that fall: in the time of their visitation they shall be cast down, saith the LORD,” Jer. 8:12.
B. Samson’s Greed – Samson’s wager is simple. If the Philistines cannot solve his riddle by the end of the week, they owe him 30 sheets and 30 changes of clothing. If they solve the riddle, Samson owes them the same thing.
The items called “sheets” were soft, expensive linen wraps that were used as underwear. The items called “garments” were outer clothes worn by the wealthy. This was a very expensive bet. It seems that Samson is trying to make a lot of money without having to work for it.
Samson’s wager has all the hallmarks of gambling. He is trying to make a lot with a minimal investment. He is like the thousands who go into the store and spend a few dollars hoping to strike it rich. Gambling is a sin, whether it is a million dollars on a Las Vegas poker table or whether it is a dollar a hole among friends at the golf course.
There is no verse in the Bible that says, “Thou shalt not gamble”. However, the Bible does warn us against the love of money, 1 Tim. 6:10, and it warns us against covetousness, Heb. 13:5. The Scriptures also warn us to avoid so-called “get rich quick” schemes, Pro. 13:11; 23:5; Eccl. 5:10. How much better it is to trust the Lord to take care of you than to rest your faith in, and throw your money away on, some gamble.
(Ill J.E. Bedenbaugh said this, “My grandmother, a staunch Southern Baptist, had marched me off to Sunday school and church regularly. So when I switched to the Episcopal church after marriage, she challenged me:
‘What's wrong with the Baptist Church, son?’
‘Well,’ I explained, ‘Carole and I flipped a coin to see if we would go to her church or mine, and I lost.’
‘Serves you right,’ said my grandmother. ‘Good Baptists don't gamble.’”)
(Ill. Mark Twain said, “There are two times in a man's life when he should not speculate: when he can't afford it, and when he can.”)
C. Samson’s Gamble – Samson never thought he would lose the bet. He had is weighted in his favor. He just knew those men would be bringing him 30 new suits of clothes. He did not count on the fact that they might not play by his rules.
When they had been unable to solve the riddle after three days, they came to Samson’s bride and forced her to find out the answer to the riddle. They threatened to burn her and her whole family to death if she doesn’t help them. They even accuse her of inviting them there so she could let Samson rob them blind.
Out of fear the bride does her best to get the answer out of Samson. She accuses him of not loving her because he hasn’t told her the solution to his riddle, v. 16. When that doesn’t work, she cries, pleads and pouts for the duration of the feast, v. 17.
This gets on Samson’s nerves. The phrase “lay sore” means “to put in straits; to oppress”. In other words, she wore him down and nearly worried him to death. Not to mention the fact that she was ruining the party.
There’s only so much a man can take, even if he is the strongest man in the world. In the book of Proverbs, Solomon talked about the problem of a whining spouse, Pro. 27:15; 21:19; 25:24, and Solomon would have known! Anyway, Samson tells her the solution and she runs to tell his enemies. They come to him at the last moment and give him the answer. He immediately knows how they found out, because he told no one but his wife. I love his response in verse 18. He calls her a “heifer” because she has proven to be unpredictable and stubborn.
Had Samson been more discerning, he could have avoided this problem altogether. He should not have been involved with a Philistine woman. He should not have been playing games with the enemy. Because he refused to keep his distance, he paid a high price.
Samson is like a lot of people in our world today. They are so smart and discerning when it comes to so many things in life, yet they seem so dumb when it comes to their sins. The perils they face are obvious, but they seem oblivious to them. It is a form of willful ignorance, and it will be their ultimate destruction.
I. Samson’s Wedding
II. Samson’s Wager
III. v. 19-20 SAMSON’S WRATH
A. The Outburst Of His Wrath – Samson has a debt to pay. He doesn’t go out and buy 30 changes of clothes. He doesn’t have them made, he just goes out and kills 30 Philistines in Ashkelon, some 20 miles away, and takes their garments to the men who won his bet in Timnath. It was cruel and it was vindictive, and it was a further indication of Samson’s heart.
(Ill. Your reactions to the negative actions of the people around you are a window into your heart. When you are like Jesus, you will react like Jesus, Ill. Matt. 5:11-12; 43-48. When there are problems in your heart, you will react according to your fallen nature. You will be bitter, unforgiving, vengeful, hateful and mean-spirited. Our reactions are indeed a window into our souls.)
B. The Outcome Of His Wrath – Samson is so angry that he does not stay to consummate the wedding. He returns to his father’s house and calls the wedding off. What we have here is a “runaway groom”. When the girl’s father sees that Samson has abandoned his daughter, he gives her to one of the 30 men, probably the one who was acting as “best man”.
This event shows us that neither Samson, his prospective father-in-law, nor the “best man” held the marriage vow in high esteem. Samson showed no love and commitment to the woman. The girl’s father didn’t care that he had been given a dowry, or that he had promised his daughter to Samson. The “best man” didn’t care that the girl was promised to another man. This is just another indication that we are dealing with corrupt hearts.
(Ill. The outcome of anger and wrath is always tragic. That is why God said, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath,” Eph. 4:26. That is why the writer of Proverbs said, “He that is slow to wrath is of great understanding: but he that is hasty of spirit exalteth folly,” Pro 14:29. And, “The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression,” Pro. 19:11.
Anger is dangerous. It destroys friendship and ruins relationships. One man said, “Anger like fire, finally dies out - but only after leaving a path of destruction.”
Anger also reveals who is wrong in a matter. Ill. A old, uneducated cobbler used to attend the public debates held at a famous English university. All the debates were held in Latin. A friend asked him if he understood Latin.
“No,” replied the cobbler, “but I know who is wrong in every argument.”
“How,” replied his friend. “Why, by seeing who is angry first.”)
C. The Ordering Of His Wrath – Verse 19 is one of those verses that causes you to think. We know that what Samson did was wrong. It was wrong for him to marry the Philistine girl, but we know God was in it, v. 4. It was wrong for him to go out and commit murder, but we are told that he did it in the power of the Holy Spirit, v. 19.
This is just a reminder that our sin will not derail God’s plan. His purposes will be fulfilled. Verse 4 tells us that God “sought an occasion against the Philistines”. Samson was an unclean vessel, yet the Lord used him in spite of, and sometimes, in the midst of, his sins. God even used Samson’s sins to accomplish His Own will. God used the anger of Samson for the good of God’s people. God was determined to stir up strife between Israel and the Philistines. He used Samson’s anger to accomplish His will. I can’t explain all this, but suffice it to say that our God is sovereign over all things, even the sins of humanity.
Regardless of why and how this happened, let it be said that Samson should have been attacking the Philistines for the glory of God and not for revenge. He will receive no reward for his actions here.
Conc: This passage speaks volumes to us about maintaining the condition of our hearts.
· We must take care that we do not allow ourselves to flirt with evil.
· We must take care that we do not harbor anger, animosity, unforgiveness and ill will towards others.
· We must beware that we do not seek wealth we have not earned.
· We must be sure that we maintain tender hearts and keep short accounts with God.