Monday after the First Sunday after Trinity Sunday
Scripture: Judges 16-18 (NKJV)
16:1 Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her. 2 When the Gazites were told, “Samson has come here!” they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. They were quiet all night, saying, “In the morning, when it is daylight, we will kill him.”
3 And Samson lay low till midnight; then he arose at midnight, took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two gateposts, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders, and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.
4 Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.”
6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and with what you may be bound to afflict you.”
7 And Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”
8 So the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now men were lying in wait, staying with her in the room. And she said to him,
“The Philistines are upon you, Samson!”
But he broke the bowstrings as a strand of yarn breaks when it touches fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.
10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Look, you have mocked me and told me lies. Now, please tell me what you may be bound with.”
11 So he said to her, “If they bind me securely with new ropes that have never been used, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”
12 Therefore Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them, and said to him,
“The Philistines are upon you, Samson!”
And men were lying in wait, staying in the room. But he broke them off his arms like a thread.
13 Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me what you may be bound with.”
And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head into the web of the loom”—14 So she wove it tightly with the batten of the loom, and said to him,
“The Philistines are upon you, Samson!”
But he awoke from his sleep, and pulled out the batten and the web from the loom.
15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies.” 16 And it came to pass, when she pestered him daily with her words and pressed him, so that his soul was vexed to death, 17 that he told her all his heart, and said to her,
“No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”
18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up once more, for he has told me all his heart.” So the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hand. 19 Then she lulled him to sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him.
20 And she said,
“The Philistines are upon you, Samson!”
So he awoke from his sleep, and said, “I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!” But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.
21 Then the Philistines took him and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza. They bound him with bronze fetters, and he became a grinder in the prison. 22 However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven.
23 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered together to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice. And they said:
“Our god has delivered into our hands Samson our enemy!”
24 When the people saw him, they praised their god; for they said:
“Our god has delivered into our hands our enemy, the destroyer of our land, and the one who multiplied our dead.”
25 So it happened, when their hearts were merry, that they said, “Call for Samson, that he may perform for us.” So they called for Samson from the prison, and he performed for them.
And they stationed him between the pillars. 26 Then Samson said to the lad who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars which support the temple, so that I can lean on them.” 27 Now the temple was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there—about three thousand men and women on the roof watching while Samson performed. 28 Then Samson called to the LORD, saying,
“O Lord GOD, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!”
29 And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars which supported the temple, and he braced himself against them, one on his right and the other on his left. 30 Then Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life.
31 And his brothers and all his father’s household came down and took him, and brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah. He had judged Israel twenty years.
17:1 Now there was a man from the mountains of Ephraim, whose name was Micah. 2 And he said to his mother, “The eleven hundred shekels of silver that were taken from you, and on which you put a curse, even saying it in my ears—here is the silver with me; I took it.”
And his mother said, “May you be blessed by the LORD, my son!”
3 So when he had returned the eleven hundred shekels of silver to his mother, his mother said, “I had wholly dedicated the silver from my hand to the LORD for my son, to make a carved image and a molded image; now therefore, I will return it to you.”
4 Thus he returned the silver to his mother. Then his mother took two hundred shekels of silver and gave them to the silversmith, and he made it into a carved image and a molded image; and they were in the house of Micah.
5 The man Micah had a shrine, and made an ephod and household idols; and he consecrated one of his sons, who became his priest. 6 In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.
7 Now there was a young man from Bethlehem in Judah, of the family of Judah; he was a Levite, and was staying there. 8 The man departed from the city of Bethlehem in Judah to stay wherever he could find a place. Then he came to the mountains of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, as he journeyed.
9 And Micah said to him, “Where do you come from?”
So he said to him, “I am a Levite from Bethlehem in Judah, and I am on my way to find a place to stay.”
10 Micah said to him, “Dwell with me, and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten shekels of silver per year, a suit of clothes, and your sustenance.” So the Levite went in. 11 Then the Levite was content to dwell with the man; and the young man became like one of his sons to him. 12 So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest, and lived in the house of Micah. 13 Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will be good to me, since I have a Levite as priest!”
18:1 In those days there was no king in Israel.
And in those days the tribe of the Danites was seeking an inheritance for itself to dwell in; for until that day their inheritance among the tribes of Israel had not fallen to them. 2 So the children of Dan sent five men of their family from their territory, men of valor from Zorah and Eshtaol, to spy out the land and search it. They said to them, “Go, search the land.”
So they went to the mountains of Ephraim, to the house of Micah, and lodged there. 3 While they were at the house of Micah, they recognized the voice of the young Levite. They turned aside and said to him, “Who brought you here? What are you doing in this place? What do you have here?”
4 He said to them, “Thus and so Micah did for me. He has hired me, and I have become his priest.”
5 So they said to him, “Please inquire of God, that we may know whether the journey on which we go will be prosperous.”
6 And the priest said to them, “Go in peace. The presence of the LORD be with you on your way.”
7 So the five men departed and went to Laish. They saw the people who were there, how they dwelt safely, in the manner of the Sidonians, quiet and secure. There were no rulers in the land who might put them to shame for anything. They were far from the Sidonians, and they had no ties with anyone.
8 Then the spies came back to their brethren at Zorah and Eshtaol, and their brethren said to them, “What is your report?”
9 So they said, “Arise, let us go up against them. For we have seen the land, and indeed it is very good. Would you do nothing? Do not hesitate to go, and enter to possess the land. 10 When you go, you will come to a secure people and a large land. For God has given it into your hands, a place where there is no lack of anything that is on the earth.”
11 And six hundred men of the family of the Danites went from there, from Zorah and Eshtaol, armed with weapons of war. 12 Then they went up and encamped in Kirjath Jearim in Judah. (Therefore they call that place Mahaneh Dan to this day. There it is, west of Kirjath Jearim.) 13 And they passed from there to the mountains of Ephraim, and came to the house of Micah.
14 Then the five men who had gone to spy out the country of Laish answered and said to their brethren, “Do you know that there are in these houses an ephod, household idols, a carved image, and a molded image? Now therefore, consider what you should do.” 15 So they turned aside there, and came to the house of the young Levite man—to the house of Micah—and greeted him. 16 The six hundred men armed with their weapons of war, who were of the children of Dan, stood by the entrance of the gate. 17 Then the five men who had gone to spy out the land went up. Entering there, they took the carved image, the ephod, the household idols, and the molded image. The priest stood at the entrance of the gate with the six hundred men who were armed with weapons of war.
18 When these went into Micah’s house and took the carved image, the ephod, the household idols, and the molded image, the priest said to them, “What are you doing?”
19 And they said to him, “Be quiet, put your hand over your mouth, and come with us; be a father and a priest to us. Is it better for you to be a priest to the household of one man, or that you be a priest to a tribe and a family in Israel?” 20 So the priest’s heart was glad; and he took the ephod, the household idols, and the carved image, and took his place among the people. 21 Then they turned and departed, and put the little ones, the livestock, and the goods in front of them.
22 When they were a good way from the house of Micah, the men who were in the houses near Micah’s house gathered together and overtook the children of Dan. 23 And they called out to the children of Dan. So they turned around and said to Micah, “What ails you, that you have gathered such a company?”
24 So he said, “You have taken away my gods which I made, and the priest, and you have gone away. Now what more do I have? How can you say to me, ‘What ails you?'”
25 And the children of Dan said to him, “Do not let your voice be heard among us, lest angry men fall upon you, and you lose your life, with the lives of your household!” 26 Then the children of Dan went their way. And when Micah saw that they were too strong for him, he turned and went back to his house.
27 So they took the things Micah had made, and the priest who had belonged to him, and went to Laish, to a people quiet and secure; and they struck them with the edge of the sword and burned the city with fire. 28 There was no deliverer, because it was far from Sidon, and they had no ties with anyone. It was in the valley that belongs to Beth Rehob.
So they rebuilt the city and dwelt there. 29 And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born to Israel. However, the name of the city formerly was Laish. 30 Then the children of Dan set up for themselves the carved image; and Jonathan the son of Gershom, the son of Manasseh, and his sons were priests to the tribe of Dan until the day of the captivity of the land. 31 So they set up for themselves Micah’s carved image which he made, all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh.
In spite of Samson’s self-sacrifice, Israel continued to descend into idolatry and sin. Today’s reading is another example of just how wicked Israel had become. Micah steals from his mother. He returns the money, claiming that he planned to make an idol from it. Not only does his mother consent to this idea, but Micah ordains a traveling Levite to be the personal chaplain for his self-made religion. Micah congratulates himself, “Now I know that the Lord will be good to me, since I have a Levite as priest” (19:13). Micah stole, forged an idol, and took a Levite as priest against God’s Word, for not all Levites were to be priests. Micah continually violated the Scriptures in pursuit of “looking religious” and having the external trappings of religion. He heaped sin upon sin, yet assumed he had God’s blessing!
This was written so that we learn not to trust in the external appearance of religion and piety. Micah assumed that if he possessed a bunch of religious “stuff” then he had God’s favor. But the Lord desires faith in the heart that clings to Him alone. He does not want us to fear anything more than we fear Him. He does not want us to trust in our external piety instead of His mercy. He does not want us to love our own self-manufactured religious ideas. He wants us to love His Words of Holy Scripture. When we find that our fear, love, and trust is misdirected at any idol of the heart, we must repent and remember that God is merciful to us not on account of our works or religiosity, but on account of Christ Jesus alone.
Lord God, by Your mercy forgive our idolatry, and teach us to trust You for every good thing. Amen.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.