Judges Part 12 – Pause, Pray , Play

I get to stand up here each week and share not just from God’s Word, and not just my thoughts on what’s going on in the world around us, but I also get to share some of my own personal stories…those that I share with a glad heart and then those that I share with some embarrassment. So let me share a story of something that happened recently and it’s not one that I’m proud of but in the spirit of transparency and acknowledging my own failures before you, here goes…

Judges 15

But after a while, in the time of wheat harvest, Samson visited his wife with a young goat, and said, “I will go in to my wife in her room.” But her father did not let him enter. Her father said, “I really thought that you hated her intensely; so I gave her to your companion. Is not her younger sister [a]more beautiful than she? Please let her be yours[b]instead.” Samson then said to them, “This time I shall be blameless in regard to the Philistines when I do them harm.” Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took torches, and turned the foxes tail to tail and put one torch in the middle between two tails. When he had set fire to the torches, he released [c]the foxes into the standing grain of the Philistines, thus burning up both the shocks and the standing grain, along with the vineyards and groves. Then the Philistines said, “Who did this?” And they said, “Samson, the son-in-law of the Timnite, because [d]he took his wife and gave her to his companion.” So the Philistines came up and burned her and her father with fire. Samson said to them, “Since you act like this, I will surely take revenge on you, but after that I will quit.” He struck them [e]ruthlessly with a great slaughter; and he went down and lived in the cleft of the rock of Etam.

Then the Philistines went up and camped in Judah, and spread out in Lehi. 10 The men of Judah said, “Why have you come up against us?” And they said, “We have come up to bind Samson in order to do to him as he did to us.” 11 Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so I have done to them.”12 They said to him, “We have come down to bind you so that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.” And Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not [f]kill me.” 13 So they said to [g]him, “No, but we will bind you fast and give you into their hands; yet surely we will not kill you.” Then they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.

14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they met him. Andthe Spirit of the Lord [h]came upon him mightily so that the ropes that were on his arms were as flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds[i]dropped from his hands. 15 He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, so he [j]reached out and took it and [k]killed a thousand men with it. 16 Then Samson said,

“With the jawbone of a donkey,
[l]Heaps upon heaps,
With the jawbone of a donkey
I have [m]killed a thousand men.”

17 When he had finished speaking, he threw the jawbone from his hand; and he named that place [n]Ramath-lehi. 18 Then he became very thirsty, and he called to the Lord and said, “You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant, and now [o]shall I die of thirst[p]and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19 But God split the hollow place that is in Lehi so that water came out of it. When he drank,his [q]strength returned and he revived. Therefore he named it [r]En-hakkore, which is in Lehi to this day. 20 So he judged Israel twenty years in the days of the Philistines.


  1. Judges 15:2 Lit better
  2. Judges 15:2 Lit instead of her
  3. Judges 15:5 Lit them
  4. Judges 15:6 I.e. the Timnite
  5. Judges 15:8 Lit leg on thigh
  6. Judges 15:12 Lit fall upon me yourselves
  7. Judges 15:13 Lit him, saying
  8. Judges 15:14 Lit rushed upon
  9. Judges 15:14 Lit were melted
  10. Judges 15:15 Lit stretched out his hand
  11. Judges 15:15 Lit smote
  12. Judges 15:16 Lit Heap, two heaps; Heb is same root as donkey
  13. Judges 15:16 Lit smitten
  14. Judges 15:17 I.e. the high place of the jawbone
  15. Judges 15:18 Or I shall…uncircumcised
  16. Judges 15:18 Or or
  17. Judges 15:19 Lit spirit
  18. Judges 15:19 I.e. the spring of him who called

So the latter part of last week was a little rough for me:

  • I was definitely feeling the pressure at work to meet some deliverables on time while also having to manage quite a bit of travel;

  • Wednesday of last week, there was somehow a miscommunication at work, and I got feedback from my manager that something I said offended one of the executives I support which really had me rattled;

  • Gabby and Pilar were both sick and in bed;

  • Which meant that some of the responsibilities around the house that I’m not really good at fulfilling were on me and that added to my stress level.

So last Friday, Michael, Daniel’s little buddy, was over at the house playing and it was getting to be about dinner time. So Pilar and Gabby are sick in bed, so I figure I’ll figure out their dinner plans later but I’ve got figure out what Daniel, Michael and I are going to eat. Now, please keep in mind that when Pilar is out of town, I keep the local fast food restaurants in business, okay! So I know for many of you, this might not seem like such a challenge but for me, it seriously had me stressed out on top of the stress I was already feeling.

But then I came up with an idea…I could either feed them leftover spaghetti from the night before or a cheese pizza. We had a cheese pizza and a pepperoni pizza in the freezer but I know Daniel doesn’t like pepperoni. So that would take care of those two and then I would just need to figure out what I would eat.  So I asked Daniel which he wanted and he opted for the spaghetti. When he asked Michael what he wanted, Michael said he wanted pizza. So I thought, well, if Michael likes pepperoni pizza, then my problem is really solved…he and I can share the pepperoni pizza and Daniel can eat spaghetti.

So I asked Michael if he would rather have pepperoni and he said yes, so this was perfect. Dinner plans are taken care of, and at least that stress is gone. Until…

Just a few minutes later I’m sitting at the big dining table in our house and Daniel comes over and says, “Hey, Daddy, I changed my mind. I’d rather have cheese pizza.” UGH! That totally wrecked my plan. I could certainly cook both pizzas but I know Daniel is only going to eat 1 or maybe 2 slices of cheese pizza so that’s a total waste. So, in my sort of stressed out, frazzled state of mind, when my son tells me that he wants to eat pizza instead of spaghetti…and keep in mind…there’s absolutely nothing wrong with what he’s telling me…he hasn’t done anything wrong…this is how I respond (turning my head toward him), “Seriously, son?!?”

And his face just melted. I think it was a combination of surprise and fear. He was surprised that I had such a strong reaction and I think because it caught him off guard, it also scared him a little bit. But Daniel does not like to disappoint either of his parents, he’s definitely a pleaser, so he calmly responds as he turns away to go back upstairs, “It’s okay, Daddy. I can eat spaghetti.”

You can image how I felt and what I was thinking at that point…probably the same thing you’re thinking right now, “Wes, you are such a jerk!” Yes, I certainly am sometimes! You see, there are times when I let my anger, my frustration, get the better of me and I sin! There are times when I act out of unrighteous anger and so I sin and my sin hurts other people. That is the impact that unrighteous anger…really any emotion that leads to sin…can have in our lives and on those around us. And that’s the kind of behavior we see have seen and continue to see in the life of Samson. So turn to Judges 15 in your bibles and we’ll continue our discussion….

Read verses 1-3

Verse 1: So if you’re just joining us tonight, or maybe just if you missed last week, let me get you up to speed on what’s going on. Israel has been under the oppression of the Philistines for 40 years, and although they hadn’t called out for God to save them this time, God decided to raise up a judge anyway to save them from their enemies. That was the news that the angel of the Lord, the preincarnate Christ, delivered to Manoah and his wife who was barren. That not only was God gong to raise up a judge in Samson but they would be his parents! So that was chapter 13.

Then last week we met Samson as a grown man in chapter 14. But what we saw was not a man who was out doing great things to glorify God and to save his people…he was not out leading an army of men like Maximus from the movie Gladiator, but he saw him…lusting after a Philistine woman, demanding that his parents get her as his bride. They do and so on the way to get her, he kills a lion with his bare hands. At the wedding feast, 30 Philistine men are there and he makes a bet with them that they won’t be able to solve his riddle. If they can’t, then they owe him 30 changes of clothes. In his greed and arrogance, Samson thinks he can take advantage of the Philistine men. What he didn’t count on, though, was the pressure that his Philistine bride would put on him to reveal the secret and so on the 7th and final day of the feast, he tells her the answer to the riddle, she tells the men, and Samson loses the bet!

As a result, he kills 30 different men and takes off their clothes to pay his lost wager. So we pick up here in verse 1…and it’s the harvest season…so even though he had just gotten married, he apparently was a sore loser and didn’t even take his wife with him…and here he is returning a few months later. And so he comes back with a goat as an offering to get back in with his wife and her dad.

Verse 2: Unfortunately for Samson, the dad will have none of it because he’s given her away. He explains: I thought that you hated her because of how she betrayed you! Samson, of course, is irate! And so in verse 3 he gives a hint at what he’s about to do: He’s going to harm, not the father, but the Philistines! This, church, is misdirected anger! Quite honestly, if you look at what happened in chapter 14, the Philistines didn’t really do anything wrong to Samson, they simply answered his riddle. Samson’s pride got the better of him and he didn’t like the fact that his riddle got solved. So he storms off, comes back months later to find out that his wife has been given to another man. Now, I’m not saying he shouldn’t be mad, but if he’s going to be mad, it should be at his father-in-law, for giving away his new bride…although even that is debatable!

Verse 3: But he’s mad and like so many of us, he justifies what he is about to do in verse 3. In other words, he’s saying, “You know, it was my fault last time I slaughtered some Philistines but this time, it’s not going to be my fault! You can’t blame me for what I’m about to do! You made me do it!” Ah, the cry of a man who is controlled by his emotions! It’s not my fault…you made me do it!

So rather than working this out with the father-in-law, Samson in his unrighteous anger, is going to take it out on the Philistines. Let’s continue reading verses 4-6.

So Samson, and this is really amazing, catches 300 foxes somehow and he ties them together in pairs…and basically sets them on fire and lets them loose to burn up the Philistines’ fields and vineyards. The Philistines, in their own act of misdirected anger, rather than taking this up with Samson right away, they decide to take it out on Samson’s wife and her dad. So they burn them alive.

Here’s what is so ironic…you might recall in chapter 14, that when the Philistine men could not figure out the answer to Samson’s riddle, they went to his wife and threatened her that if she didn’t get the answer from Samson and tell them, then they would burn down their house. So she did what they told her to do and pressed Samson for the answer. And now we see, that even though she did what was asked, she loses her life anyway in the same way that she was threatened with.

Read verses 7-8.  So this tit for tat, this cycle of revenge continues…so first it was Samson burning down their crops, then it was the Philistines killing his wife and father-in-law, and now we see Samson get revenge. And look at his rationale: First, he blames the Philistines again for what he’s about to do… “Since YOU act like this…” and then look at how he thinks this going to go… “I’ll stop after this!” This will be my last act of violence! So in his emotional, irrational state of mind, he somehow thinks that the back and forth revenge will stop once he gets even. It’s like kids when they’re play fighting…everyone wants to get in the last hit! That’s Samson’s mentality here! ☺ So he slaughters some of them and then goes into hiding. So let’s see if the Philistines will let it end here. Read verses 9-13.

Of course, the Philistines did not let it end with Samson getting in the last hit. So they track him down hiding out in the land of Judah. The men of Judah, who are afraid of the mighty Philistines, go talk to Samson and are pretty upset with him actually. They think he’s stirring up trouble, which of course, he is, with the Philistines. And did you notice Samson’s reply in verse 11: As they did to me, so I did to them. He’s still not taking any responsibility for his own actions. They made me do it…I was just doing to them what they did to me. An eye for an eye, so to speak! The problem with eye for an eye justice is that we all end up blind, right?

And here’s the other thing…Samson isn’t doing to them what they did to him. Now, while they did kill his wife and her father, they didn’t burn up his crops. This all started, remember, because Samson is a sore loser! He lost a bet and so he slaughtered some Philistines and went back home leaving his new bride standing at the altar, so to speak. He returns months later to find his wife given to another man, and rather than working it out with his father-in-law, or even if he wanted to seek vengeance, instead of just seeking justice with his father-in-law, he decided to take it out on all the Philistines. They didn’t have anything to do with his wife being given away. Samson is really just a prideful man, and a sore loser! So to say that he’s just doing what was done to him is simply another attempt on his part to shift blame to others.

So Samson willingly allows the men of Judah to bind him with ropes and take him to the Philistines, so let’s see what happens next…read verses 14-20.

Verse 17: Can I just say, we’ve seen some really odd things in the past 2 chapters? A swarm of honey bees make their nest in a lion’s carcass; foxes’ tails set on fire; and now the jawbone of a donkey used to kill a thousand men! Seriously, do you see why some people have a hard time believing everything that’s in here? It’s pretty wild stuff!

Verse 18: This is the first time we see Samson speak to God as he cries out for water!

That last sentence in chapter 15 might be a little misleading. For the previous judges, when we read a sentence like that, “So and so judged Israel twenty years”, it was typically after they died and we knew a new judge was going to be introduced. Not so here…we have one more exciting chapter before we wrap up Samson’s life and we’ll look at that next week.

So, once again, there’s a lot of good stuff in chapter 15 but here’s what I want to focus in on…

..And we mentioned it throughout, but it’s the danger of being ruled by our emotions. We see that constantly with Samson, and quite honestly, when we see it in Samson, we should see it in ourselves! Let me recap some of Samson’s mistakes…

  1. He was so ashamed at losing the bet to the Philistine men at his wedding feast that he abandoned his new bride, a Philistine woman, and takes off for a  couple of months. He returns to find that his bride had been given to another man. Blinded by anger, Samson cannot see how the father-in-law reached what I believe was a pretty reasonable conclusion: Samson was so mad at his wife for betraying him that he left her to never return.

  2. In his anger, rather than seeking revenge (or maybe even reconciliation) with the father-in-law, he takes it out on all of the Philistines by burning down their crops and vineyards. Let me offer a reason why he did that, by the way…Samson was so embarrassed by his losing out on the bet that he went home crying to his mommy and daddy for a couple of months. That whole time, rather than recognizing the mistakes that he made in ignoring God’s command and his parents’ advice by marrying a Philistine woman, and in his greed trying to pull one over on the Philistines, instead he was simmering over how he lost that bet and how he wants revenge on those guys! So when he learns his wife had been given away, he immediately goes to that place of anger and revenge and misdirects his anger from his father-in-law to the Philistine men who are wearing their new outfits!

  3. At no time does Samson take any responsibility for his violent acts. In fact, he even justifies them BEFORE he commits them. “This time I shall be blameless in what I’m about to do!” and “Because you did this, I’m going to get revenge and then I’ll stop!” And he falsely claims, “I’m just doing to them what they did to me!” He’s totally irrational in his thinking because his mental processes are blurred by his emotions.

In other words, Samson is living in the flesh rather than the Spirit. Because that’s what happens when you operate in the flesh…you are controlled by your emotions. And quite honestly, that happens to all of us at one time or another, right? We feel angry, hurt, frustrated…we feel these negative emotions and we say or do things that we shouldn’t as a result. Some of us do it more often than others but that’s basically what living in the flesh is…it’s being controlled by our emotions.  

Now, you might be sitting there thinking, “What do you mean ‘control my emotions’? I can’t help the way I feel!” And to some extent, you would be right. We cannot always control how we immediately feel about something right at the moment that it happens, but if we press ‘pause’ and think through what happened and what we’re thinking, then we can control our emotions and even our actions.

Let’s talk through this and a phrase that I think might be helpful is “Pause, Pray, Play”.

I really hope this will help you because I know I personally struggle with this myself…like I said earlier, I can really be a jerk sometimes…because there are times when I really struggle in how to respond not out of my emotion but in the truth of God’s Word.

Let me give you an example…and let’s use Samson as our first example…

In verse 3, after Samson learns that his wife was given to another man, he says, “This time I shall be blameless in regard to what I’m going to do” and then he goes and burns down the Philistines’ crops. So, let’s walk through this using “Pause, Pray, Play”

Pause: What emotion am I feeling? What am I thinking? He’s angry and his thoughts are, “I’ve been wronged! My father-in-law should not have done this! The Philistines are going to pay!”

Pray: Now, if Samson were to pray…if he were to surrender his thoughts and emotions to God, and ask for God to, “What is the situational truth? What is the biblical truth?”  Well, here’s how I think he would correct his thinking…I see how my father-in-law could give my wife away. She betrayed me and I slaughtered 30 men and stormed off in shame. My father-in-law’s assumption that I wasn’t coming back was a legitimate one. And the Philistines weren’t the ones who gave my wife away. Sure, they pressured my wife to solve the riddle but it was my greed that caused me to come up with the riddle anyway. Oh, and because of God’s command, I wasn’t supposed to marry a Philistine woman anyway! And after surrendering to God so his thoughts can be corrected, I think his emotions would change from anger to sorrow. From pride to guilt.

Play: So with play, we ask one question, “How should I respond?” and let God speak to our hearts, and then we go do it…we hit “Play”…again, it’s pause, pray, play.

Rather than burning crops I believe a repentant Samson would ask God to forgive him for his many sinful actions (lust, greed, breaking commandments, violating his Nazirite vows), and he might even reconcile with his father-in-law.

So that’s how we can avoid responding the flesh and instead walk in the Spirit. Pause, Pray, Play.

Now, let me personalize this…I opened the message tonight sharing with you how I snapped at my son because he changed his mind and wanted cheese pizza instead of spaghetti…

Pause: What am I feeling? Frustration and stress

What am I thinking? “You should know what I’m dealing with and not cause an inconvenience; people shouldn’t be allowed to change their minds!”

Pray: What is the situational truth? My son cannot read my mind; I change my mind all the time and certainly don’t expect such a strong over-reaction from others when I do!

What is the biblical truth? God knows my thoughts; I am commanded, Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord (Eph. 6:4)

Well, his request is reasonable so I should grant it or at least calmly explain why it would be easier for him to eat spaghetti. But since I had already snapped at him, my response should be one of repentance toward God and my son.

Play: How should I respond? So I went and asked my son for his forgiveness and moved some pepperoni around on the pizza so he could eat cheese pizza. Simple solution!

So that’s a simple little phrase that can help us in rejecting our natural, fleshly response and instead surrender our emotions, our thoughts, and our actions to the Holy Spirit leading us. Pause, Pray, Play.

But we have to do it with an attitude of surrender, of dying to self when we pray and seek God’s truth to apply, because if we don’t come surrendered, then what we’ll do is search for Scripture to justify our negative emotions…and we’ll even twist and manipulate the scriptures to get there. So we have to submit in deepest humility to the Spirit of God and to the Word of God if we want to grow in maturity, both spiritually and emotionally.

…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Eph. 6:17

Now, you might be thinking, “Yes, Pastor Wes, but God was using Samson’s violent personality to accomplish His will and deliver Israel.” And you’d be absolutely right! But that was last week’s message about how God in his beautiful, supernatural, marvelous way uses even our weaknesses for His glory…so I’m not going to go there again this week. If you missed it last week, it’s online for you! ☺

And the other truth is, God could have used Samson to defeat the Philistines even if he hadn’t engaged in sinful acts of revenge, lust and pride.

And church, here’s why it is so important that we live by the Spirit and not by the flesh. Did you notice that the only time Samson does anything good, anything that God wants him to do, is when the Spirit of God comes upon him?

Just like us, apart from God, Samson is nothing more than a greedy, lustful, arrogant, prideful, sinful man controlled by his emotions. To put it another way, he’s a man of the flesh. Just like you, just like me!

We saw the Spirit come upon him when he was attacked by the lion and he killed the lion with his bare hands, when he first engaged 30 Philistine men in fighting and he killed them, and now when a thousand Philistine men have come to seize him and he is empowered by the Spirit to kill them.

And that’s just a really good reminder for us…that if we’re going to accomplish anything for God’s glory, if we’re going to advance his kingdom, if we’re going to fulfill the calling that God has on our lives, then we’ve got to live by the power of the Spirit. Because apart from the Spirit of God, we’re just sinful, selfish people capable of nothing. But here’s the awesome news: For those of us who have placed our faith in Jesus Christ, the same Holy Spirit that came upon Samson lives inside of us! So in the Old Testament, the Spirit of God would come down on someone to empower them for a temporary purpose…like killing a lion. But with the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, He sent his Holy Spirit, the Helper, to indwell those who trust in him!

That’s why we must live in the Spirit, so let’s remember…pause, pray, play.

The last thing I want to point out is this: Samson’s story should point us to our need for Jesus. And it’s not just because in Samson’s failures, we see our own failures, but it’s because in Samson, we also see a foreshadow of the one true Judge, Jesus Christ. Let me give you just a few quick examples as we wrap up here:

  • An angel visited each of their mothers to tell of their births;

  • They were both called by God to redeem Israel;

  • They were both betrayed by someone close to them;

  • Samson’s name means ‘sun’ and Malachi refers to Christ as the ‘sun of righteousness’;

And here’s what I love about this chapter…speaking of pressing pause, if we could press pause at verse 13…then you would see two things:

  • They were both captured by an army of men while in a secluded place;

  • They both went willingly.

Samson in his sin is a representation of us, broken sinful people in need of a Savior. And at the same time, he foreshadows the coming Judge who was sent to redeem us. If you have never surrendered your life to Jesus Christ, if the Holy Spirit does not live inside of you, then that can all change tonight. It simply takes repenting of your sin, or confessing it, asking God to forgive you and turning away from it, and surrendering your life to following Jesus Christ. You can do that at your seat right now, or if you have questions you can see me after service.

  1. Pause: What emotion am I feeling? What am I thinking?
  2. Pray: “What is the situational truth? What is the biblical truth?”
  3. Play: “How should I respond?”