The Philistines went up and camped in Judah, spreading out near Lehi. The people of Judah asked, “Why have you come to fight us?” “We have come to take Samson prisoner,” they answered, “to do to him as he did to us.” Then three thousand men from Judah went down to the cave in the rock of Etam and said to Samson, “Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? What have you done to us?” He answered, “I merely did to them what they did to me.” They said to him, “We’ve come to tie you up and hand you over to the Philistines.” Samson said, “Swear to me that you won’t kill me yourselves.” “Agreed,” they answered. “We will only tie you up and hand you over to them. We will not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and led him up from the rock. As he approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men. Then Samson said, “With a donkey’s jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey’s jawbone I have killed a thousand men.” When he finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was called Ramath Lehi. Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord , “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines. – Judges 15:9-20
Sampson is one of the biblical “super heroes”. He is a character that people learn about in Sunday school. I guess because he was a colorful and interesting character. Sampson arrives on the scene in this passage while the Israelites are toiling under the rule of the Philistines. Sampson kills a thousand Philistines with a donkey’s jawbone. I am left wondering what the 999 were doing while the first soldier was wacked by the jawbone. This is either a miraculous melee or it is hyperbole. In the world of DC comics Samson may have been dubbed “Jawbone”, kind of like Thor and his hammer only with longer hair.
After dispatching the Philistines Sampson is parched and a bit demanding and grumpy. He complains to God “must I now die of thirst”. God shows up, even though Sampson gives him only backhanded credit…” You have given your servant this great victory.” God provided a hidden spring for Sampson from which he could drink and be revived.
The gratitude that Sampson shows for God showing up and giving him the strength to defeat the Philistines seems only grudgingly given. Why is the relationship between these characters and God so distant from the God who sees us and carries us like a son or daughter?
The comfortable coffin that the Promised Land has become seems to have created a barrier between God and His people. God predicted this failure to remember when the Israelites first crossed over the Jordan. I think it provides an important lesson in the complacency that can come when we get too comfortable. How many times do we take God’s blessings for granted when everything is going well in our lives?
I feel like if someone were to ask Sampson about this incident he would have replied with a statement like “I was thirsty so God provided water for me…no big deal”. It is so easy to careen through our busy lives and fail to stop and remember ways God has shown up. I am certainly guilty of operating in “full on” or “full off” mode and blowing by blessings.
It is a little like looking out of a train window as we rush by the beautiful scenery, all becomes a blur. It is only when we hop off the train that we can observe the details and delight in what we see. Of course hopping off the train means we will delay our journey and have to wait for the next train… Sampson, and many of the Israelite leaders, seem like they are “on the train” unwilling to get off to appreciate God’s glory.
Prayer: God help us to “get off the train” and take time to appreciate the amazing ways you show up in our lives.