Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sleepwalking Through The Kingdom

A number of years ago, I was living on the San Francisco peninsula, between San Jose and San Francisco. Because of my proximity to San Francisco I would often have visitors. On one occasion some friends, a couple came from San Diego for a visit.. So, we went to spend the day in the City. But we had to get back to San Jose at a specific time for their flight home. We left a little late from San Francisco and we’re driving down the freeway and the woman who was with us fell asleep in the back seat of the car. We arrived at my apartment with only a few minutes for them to pack, and we had to wake her up. But the problem was she didn’t wake up. She opened her eyes, she walked into the apartment but she was sound asleep. If you’ve never known a sleepwalker then you can’t understand how this works. They have their eyes open; they look like they’re awake mostly. But their mind is in a completely different place. And so we told her to pack up and she walked into the bedroom and threw one piece of clothing into her suitcase and she thought she was packed. So my friend packed for her and I did my best to keep her from laying down because she would not have woken up in time to get to their flight. Finally, we got to the airport and they got on the plane and made it safely back to San Diego.

What an interesting moment! If you had seen her walking around you might have thought she was a little different but you would never have guessed she was sound asleep. I’ve known a number of sleepwalkers and I’ve heard stories of things they’ve done. It’s such an interesting phenomenon because they go through the motions but they never actually complete anything.

In my firend’s mind she had completely packed her suitcase, but if she had tried to wear what she had packed she would have been woefully unprepared to meet the world. Today I want to talk about sleepwalking through the kingdom from this portion of scripture:

Judges 16:16-21
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.

Sleeping in the Midst of Danger

Here we see Samson. Samson is a Nazirite. That mans he has taken a vow of holiness before God.

Judges 13:5
5 “For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

So this is the vow he has taken: The vow of a Nazirite. There are three components to the Nazirite vow.

1. The Nazirite does not cut his hair.
2. The Nazirite doesn’t drink strong drink (any alcohol) or touch anything from a vine and,
3. The Nazirite cannot come into contact with dead bodies.

It is a way of giving yourself completely to God’s purpose for you. In fact, we can see in Judges 13:5 that God did indeed have a purpose for Samson.

"he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

The Nazirite vow is really a picture of salvation. When we get saved that’s what we’re doing. We’re giving our lives over to his use. Have you ever heard the phrase, “He gave his life to Jesus?” That’s why we say that he becomes our Lord. We are in a sense making a vow that we will live out his will. This is the meaning of the Nazirite vow. You and I are Nazirites.

So, Samson, here, has made a commitment to the will of God. But when we find him in our text he’s asleep, and very far outside the will of God. On the outside he still looked like a Nazirite, but if you could see his heart you would see that he’s backslidden. Think about this for a moment. He is living in sin with Delilah. He’s not thinking about the things of God but he is concerned about his flesh. His love of Delilah and the physical pleasures are of more concern to him at this moment than his relationship with God.

The question is when did he go to sleep? When did he begin to sleepwalk through his salvation? The Bible tells us that he didn’t even know that God had departed from him. That alone tells us that he’s no longer sensitive to what God is doing in his life. He’s going through the motions but he’s not conscious of what he’s doing. He’s like my friend he’s packed that one piece of clothing but he’s not prepared for the trip. So he completely misses that God has departed from his life and it comes at a critical moment, which is when the enemy attacks.

How many times have we seen this exact same thing? People looking and talking like they’re saved. They’re talking about how they’re serving God. But if we looked more closely at their lives we would see that they have no idea what the will of God is for their lives.

Samson thinks that because he hasn’t cut his hair that his strength will always be there. But I want you to to know his strength comes from the commitment he's made to God. The strength comes from the presence of God in his life. You can say I still know God, but this story tells us that if you’re not in the will of God, God can depart from you and you don’t even know it.

This wasn’t a sudden event. It didn’t just happen in the last few moments before this event. He had been sleepwalking for some time. In Judges 14 Samson killed a lion. The lion attacked and the Bible says that the Spirit of God came upon him in power and he tears the lion apart with his bare hands. But then he makes a mistake. He loses sight of his vow.

Judges 14:8-9
8 After some time, when he returned to get her, he turned aside to see the carcass of the lion. And behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the carcass of the lion.9 He took some of it in his hands and went along, eating. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they also ate. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.

He’s come in contact with a dead body. He’s broken the vow, he’s no longer sanctified. When we do something that would be considered sin, God doesn’t always react violently. He doesn’t throw lightning bolts at us. Sometimes, he just continues to move in our lives and we see no real change.

I was thinking about famous television Preachers who have sinned they often continue to preach and God continues to move in their words. And so they think nothing’s changed. But they are no longer hearing from God. They’re preaching out of their own knowledge and understanding and God is able to use it because God is still faithful to move in the hearts of his audience. God is still trying to draw them to Him. He’s not moving in the man that’s preaching but in spite of him. The backslidden preacher may see people being affected by the preaching and think that God is still speaking to him and through him. He doesn’t realize that because of the sin God has departed from him. This is where Samson finds himself. This is why he doesn’t know that God has departed from him. He sees himself being able to shake off the bonds and defeat the Philistines, anyway. He’s sleepwalking.

Where was it that Samson fell asleep? It was in the moment he began to hide his sin. Remember verse 14:9 “But he did not tell them he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.” That moment right there is when it began to happen. God was no doubt dealing with him. How do I know that? Because he knew it was a violation of the vow and he chose not to tell anyone. He knew it was sin and he hid it from the others. God was dealing with him to repent, but he chose to ignore Him. At that moment he is being insensitive to the will of God and pretty soon he’s even insensitive to the presence of God in his life.

So in our text we find him in bed with Delilah. Delilah represents sin. Samson is living with her; he has a relationship with her. He looks like a Christian but he’s living like a sinner. He thinks he can beat the sin, that he can escape the consequences of sin that God will be with him no matter what, because he has taken that vow in the past. So he sleeps comfortable in that idea and he is overwhelmed and taken by the Philistines.

This whole thing is true for us as well. When we begin to turn away from the word and will of God we begin to do things that aren’t right. Nobody knows what we’re doing and we choose not to be open about it. We hide the things we’re doing that we know are wrong from the others in our church. That’s a decision we make not to confess it. God deals with us and we don’t repent, we still see things happening and think that God has overlooked the sin, but we are only sleepwalking. At that point we are as insensitive to the will of God as Samson, and we will also find ourselves overwhelmed by the Delilah in our lives.

Sleepwalking in Christianity will lead to backsliding. Samson is taken by the Philistines. The Philistines in our text represent the deadly influences of the world. We become more and more worldly until we are captured and blinded by the world. “The Philistines took him and put out his eyes.”

This is how Christians live like sinners thinking they’re saved. Because they have become blinded to the things of the world, that are taking place in their lives. “I know that the Bible says fornication is a sin, but God wasn’t talking about our fornication. We’re committed to each other. We’re in love; we’re married in the eyes of God.” Hello, You’re walking around with a suitcase containing only one piece of clothing. You better wake up and get packed, because you’re already tripping.

This Guy Must Have Been Dreaming

I can just see Samson sleeping there. He’s got his head in Delilah’s lap. He’s smiling that little smile. He’s sleeping the sleep of the ignorant, isn’t he? We can see how intimate his relationship is with her. He’s told her all that’s on his heart. Who do you tell those things? Not a casual acquaintance, you tell those things to your spouse or your lover. He’s in love with this woman. He’s emotionally intimate with her. He’s telling her all that’s on his heart. This is how deep his relationship with sin has become. He thinks he can handle her… and the Philistines. “I can handle it, I still have my salvation.” In Samson’s thoughts, “I still have my hair I can handle it. Sin, the world, whatever, I can handle it because I still have my hair.”

His hair represents his relationship with God. He is always able to defeat the enemy while his hair is long, but once his head is shaved the Philistines capture him.

How’d he get to this place? It’s through ignoring the will of God. We saw that he began to be unaccountable for his behaviors. He didn’t disclose the honey from the lion. He wasn’t willing to admit to the sin. He became unconcerned about his actions. But this didn’t take place early in his salvation this took place years later. In Judges 13:5 when he took the vow he was a baby, but when he eats the honey he’s an adult. He’s a mature man, he’s off to get married. This takes place in mature Christians. This isn’t a thing that happens to new converts. New converts tend to be alive and awake; eager to hear from God. They’re open to whatever God is trying to do in their lives. But it is the ones who’ve been around for a while. They become restless, maybe or bored. They become sleepwalkers.

They’re like Samson; over and over they’ve witnessed the power of God moving in their lives. It is those of us who’ve been delivered from a few things that take a nap; we fall asleep in the midst of danger.

This is where Samson is at this point. He’s sleeping, even though he’s been attacked several times, already. Look at what he says in verse 20:

“I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!”

He’s always relied on his relationship with God; on the power of God to deliver him. So he sleeps thinking God will always deliver me. While he sleeps contentedly, they cut his hair, his relationship with God is broken and he doesn’t even realize it until it’s too late. He’s captured and blinded by the world.

Our testimony is the outward sign that we wear that we’re sanctified. It is the symbol of our salvation; that we’ve been delivered from whatever sin to which we were enslaved. In our spiritual sleep we turn back to our sin.

How many that are reading this have been delivered from something; maybe even more than once? For some of us it seems like God is always right there to help us out. And we begin to rely on God’s strength and deliverance. And so we begin to drop our guard and rest peacefully, allowing sin to come in and destroy our relationship with God

“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.”

This is the danger; that we will become so restful in the power of God that we think we can do anything and God will be there to help us. But the fact is that God hates sin and he will not wink at sin in the lives of his people. The Bible tells us that God departed from Samson.

Sleeping Through the Alarm.

I’m a very light sleeper. I wake up when a mouse sneezes. And because of that lightness of sleep, I have never been a sleepwalker. People who sleep walk are so fast asleep that nothing wakes them up. One of my friends one time walked outside into the garden. Then went back into the house and went back to bed. And the only way she knew that was that she woke up and her feet and sheets were all muddy

Samson is a heavy sleeper. Someone came in and shaved his head and he slept through it. Have you ever slept through a haircut? He must have been a pretty heavy sleeper.

He also wasn’t too aware of what was happening around him. Delilah called the Philistines on him three times. The King James Bible says she yelled The Philistines be upon you and men who were hiding in the room burst out trying to grab him. You know, I think that if my wife called out Philistines get him, after three times I might begin to get suspicious, I may even be alarmed. But Samson sleeps right through the alarm.

What is the alarm that’s ringing for us? It’s alarms like preaching on sin. Unfortunately the whole church world is sleeping through their alarm. In many churches you wouldn’t hear a sermon like this preached. In fact, I’ve had people tell me, “Religion should never be a burden.” Religion isn’t a burden, but a relationship with God requires that we remain in his will and not our own. There are many churches that aren’t preaching on the danger of sin anymore.

Look what ultimately happened to Samson.

Judges 16:21
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.

They put out his eyes and attached him to a big wheel and he walked around and around pushing a huge stone and grinding corn. This is what happens to those who allow themselves the luxury of becoming intimate with sin and captured by the world. They wind up blindly going in circles. The sad part is that many of them are still in church. You know who they are, they’re the ones who can’t seem to escape sin. They’re continuing to run in circles and never getting anywhere. They can’t be trusted with ministry. They can’t break certain habits. They always have one foot in the church and one foot in the world, but I want you to know that there is hope.

Samson’s hair grew back.

Judges 16:22
22 However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven.

The relationship with God was restored and God used him for exactly the purpose that he had indicated to his mother when He called on her to make the vow on Samson’s behalf.

"he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”

His power was restored and he took out many Philistines as he brought their temple down on them. If we have fallen asleep it isn’t too late to wake up. It isn’t too late to heed the alarm. You can wake up and step into the purpose and destiny that God has for you without having to go through what Samson went through. Can you hear the alarm?

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