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Gideon and Samson

March 25, 2010

Currently I’m working through S. Lewis Johnson’s Old Testament topical characters: Gideon and now Samson. These are short series: 3 for the life of Gideon, and 4 for Samson, and so I’m almost through, with an 8-part series of the life of David, and a 7-part series on Elijah, coming up soon. Johnson did the two characters from Judges in a set, in 1978.

A few good nuggets of Bible teaching from these:

Judges chapters 6, 7 and 8 show different portrayals of Gideon: first the hesitant, more fearful Gideon; then Gideon the confident warrior; and then the Gideon that stumbled into sin. S. Lewis Johnson often asked the Gideons, of Gideon International, if they follow the Gideon of Judges 6, Judges 7, or Judges 8. Predictably, he usually would get a blank stare from them. Even though the Gideons (rightly so) emphasize Bible reading, they are not that aware of the specifics of these chapters.

Judges 8 is a painful reminder that, though we are secure in salvation, we are never secure from stumbling while in this body. Here, Johnson expands on the point with a few stories of great preachers, such as F.B. Meyer (preacher / commentator), who for a period of 9 years stumbled and failed to clearly preach the gospel. Yet we also know that Gideon is among the heroes of the faith listed in Hebrews 11. But like Lot, affirmed as a righteous man in the New Testament, Gideon’s stumbling brought about his own share of personal tragedy with his own family life — as evidenced in Judges 9, the generation after Gideon.

As a side note regarding Israel’s idolatry, a topic of Judges 8, S. Lewis Johnson makes an interesting point concerning Hosea 4:17 — which says “Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone!” Commentators often see that as God giving up and abandoning Ephraim, but SLJ notes the problem with that view, because later on in Hosea God clearly says that He has not abandoned them, and He promises to restore Ephraim (see Hosea 11:8-9, and chapters 13 and 14). We need to understand that Hosea is writing to Judea and telling Judea: Ephraim is full of idolatry, don’t have anything to do with them and their idolatry. Hosea 4:17 is a call to separation — separate from the ungodly and idolatrous. Here I recall that I have heard other preachers reference Hosea 4:17 in the popular manner (as in John MacArthur’s message, “When God Abandons a Nation”) and thus again the reminder to always search the scriptures; and listening to different preachers and their differing commentaries also helps.

… And from Samson’s story:

Samson’s mother shows great faith, as well as logical reasoning in women, with her statement in Judges 13:23, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.” She likely had stronger faith and a closer relationship to the Lord than her husband had.

In Judges 14, Samson’s decision to marry a Philistine woman shows a clear violation of the law. Samson was clearly going against the explicit teaching of God’s word concerning intermarriage with unbelievers — and the application extends to us today in the New Testament . Several times Samson focuses on the woman being pleasing to him, showing that Samson’s priority is Samson, not God. Yet here we see the difference between God’s preceptive will — don’t marry unbelievers — and God’s decretive will, stated in verse 4: “His father and mother did not know that it was from the Lord, for he (the Lord) was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines.”

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