Today, we are starting a new series called “Samson.” Yes, the title is just “Samson.” Like we studied David two months ago, the name says a lot. Some may not know much of his story, but some of you do. So what comes to mind when you think of Samson from the Old Testament? Strength, the cutting of his hair, stubbornness, betrayal, redeemed, or how about chosen?
Many may remember Samson for what he could have been because Samson had tremendous potential. Not many people have started life with credentials like his. Born as a result of God’s plan, Samson was to do great work for God – to rescue Israel from the Philistines. To help him accomplish God’s plan, he was given enormous physical strength.
Yet, as we’ll see, many times he used his God-given gifts and abilities very unwisely. He allowed himself to be controlled by sensuality, confided in the wrong people, and violated God’s laws on many occasions.
But before I tell you any more about Samson, let’s back it up so we can see the environment and culture Samson was in and what the roll was that Samson was to fulfill.
Samson’s story in found the in the book of Judges verses 13-16. Just before the book of Judges is the book of Joshua. See the nation of Israel had been rescued by God from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, was heading to the place that God called the Promise Land full of milk and honey, a beautiful place that they could settle, but due to their disobedience to God on that journey, they lived in the wilderness for 40 years and in fact, part of the consequences of their choices was that no one of the generation rescued would see the Promise Land, only their offspring hence the 40 year wait.
The book of Joshua ends with the nation of Israel taking a stand for God, ready to experience all the blessings of the Promise Land. So now, Joshua is called to lead them in, to drive out the evil pagan nations in the land, and to live happily ever after under God’s rule. And the nation is excited, ready to go and follow the Lord.
But just after settling in Canaan, the Promise Land, the Israelites lost their spiritual commitment and motivation. Instead of enjoying freedom and prosperity in the Promise Land, Israel entered the dark ages of their history.
Simply stated, the reason for this dark time in their history was sin – individual and corporate sin. Judges is a book about sin and its consequences. Like a minor cut that doesn’t get treated and becomes infected, sin grows and soon poisons the entire body.
The Israelites broke their end of the covenant with God. They decided to not drive out all of the pagan nations. In fact, they failed to drive out most the pagan nations which lead to inter-marriages and temptations to worship false pagan gods. Their failure to obey God and destroy all the evil inhabitants soon came back to haunt them in two ways. One, the enemies (the pagan nations) quickly reorganized and counter attacked, and two, because Israel turned away from God, the next generation adopted the evil and idolatrous practices of the pagan people.
Which meant the temptation to follow false gods because of short-term benefits, good feelings, easy rules and convenience, was always present. They wanted gods they could see so they worshiped idols, they wanted immediate results instead of waiting on God so they took matter into their own hands, low ethical standards were tolerated, sensuality was made a priority, selfishness was condoned, and they compromised and cooperated with evil practices.
So an angel of the Lord came and informed the Israelites that their sin and disobedience had broken their agreement with God and would result in punishment through oppression. They then became captives of the pagan people, realized how bad they messed up, and out of their desperation they began to beg God to rescue them.
The exciting thing about the book of Judges is that it’s also a book about heroes – 11 men and 1 woman known as judges, 12 judges who God raised up to deliver Israel from its oppressors.
Ladies, let me just tell you, that if you ever feel incapable of doing what God has called you to do or ever feel unworthy, just look in the book of Judges. There are several every day women who did some very powerful things through the Almighty God. Even though the world back then looked down on women, with little to no status, God certainly didn’t.
Over and over again, in faithfulness to His promise and out of His loving-kindness, God would raise up a judge to deliver His people, and for a time there would be peace. Then complacency and disobedience would set in once again, and the cycle would begin all over again.
The book of Judges spans over a period of 325 years, recording six consecutive periods of oppression and deliverance. And God used a variety of delivers from Gideon to Deborah to Samson to lead His people to freedom and true worship.
Like I said two week ago, in the fourth installment of the series “I Love Sundays,” the entire bible, though 66 books and many personal stories, is really one story, one thread, one theme that runs from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. The story of the Bible is really the story of God reconciling His children back to Himself. And the book of Judges is a just another perfect example of that.
Israel’s 6th judge, Samson, the one we’re taking about in this series, was a miracle child promised by God to a barren couple, who would begin to free Israel from their most powerful oppressor, the Philistines.
Samson’s life is a fascinating legacy of how God calls and prepares a person to complete His divine work. Because look, when God gives us the desires of His heart, He gives us the gifts, the abilities, and wisdom we need to accomplish that work.
As we’ll see in the coming weeks, Samson’s life also reminds us of how unguarded strength can become a weakness, creeping into our lives through compromise and a flat-out disregard of God’s guidance. Samson’s life story is also a clear reminder of the consequences of giving into the temptations of self-indulgence, unrestrained anger, and intentional drifting from God’s calling and purpose for your life.
The divine calling and purpose of Samson’s life
It’s quite remarkable to note the beginning of his story. Samson was not born to be just another Israelite. As much as I can find in Scripture, his parents didn’t even ask for him.
Samson’s mom was unable to become pregnant, and I’m sure she and her husband wanted children, but the Scriptures do not record her specifically asking God for this son, like what Hannah did when she got Samuel. Rather it was the angel of the Lord who appeared to Samson’s parents two separate instances to prepare them for the adventure of their lifetimes.
Samson’s Life Purpose
Samson was not an accident. He was not just the desire of a husband and wife wanting to have a child. Samson was born out of the mercy and grace of God toward the Israelites. He was the perfect will of God. He was born with a great, godly purpose to display the provision of God at this time in history.
Because even though the Israelites turned away from God once again and did evil in the sight of the Lord, God was waiting and ready to give His grace when they were ready to accept it. So once again, God loved the Israelites so much that He brought them a deliverer. This was Samson’s life calling and purpose.
Through two divine revelations, the angel of the Lord not only gave Samson’s mom and dad precise instructions on how to raise up their son, but also provided them with insight into his divine purpose.
Judges 13:1-5, NLT
Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years.
2 In those days a man named Manoah (Ma-noah) from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children. 3 The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son.
So in other words, I know everything that goes on in your life, and I know you haven’t been able to have any children, but that is about to change.
4 “So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. 5 You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut.”
Now this might sound like a strange request to us, but as an Israelite she would have known as exactly what this means.
“For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth.”
In the book of Numbers chapter 6, just a few books earlier, God gave the Israelites specific directions for their lives in the Promise Land and explains what a Nazirite is. A Nazirite is an Israelite man or a woman who took a special vow setting themselves apart for the Lord, consecrated to the service of God.
As a sign of their vow, a Nazirite had three distinct restrictions. One was to abstain from wine and fermented drink, in fact not eat or drink anything that comes from a grapevine, not cut their hair through the time of the vow, and avoid defilement by contact with a dead body.
This vow could be taken for as little as 30 days or as long as a lifetime. It was voluntary, with one exception – parents could take the vow for their young children, making them a Nazirite for life. That purpose was to raise up a group of leaders devoted completely to God. Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist were likely Nazirites for life.
And here’s how this child will serve God, here’s the why….
“He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.”
Not only did Samson possess extraordinary power and authority that others did not have, but he also shared a special covenant with God. He was endowed with unique gifts, empowering him to do what no other man could do. But at the same time, there were certain things he couldn’t do that everybody else might have been doing.
Samson was the image of a strong warrior—a man who is fit for his assignment with incredible strength. Raised as a Nazirite, Samson had a divine purpose, a vow to God, and clarity on how to carry out his life as a model of God’s mercy to His people.
Now I don’t want to miss this part of the story…Samson’s not the only one being called by God to do a special work. Let’s read further of Manoah and his wife’s response to God.
8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord, saying, “Lord, please let the man of God come back to us again and give us more instructions about this son who is to be born.”
Manoah knows this is going to be a really be task and he wants to make sure he knows exactly what to do. So the God who loves us and loves when we earnestly seek His heart and will….
9 God answered Manoah’s prayer, and the angel of God appeared once again to his wife as she was sitting in the field. But her husband, Manoah, was not with her. 10 So she quickly ran and told her husband, “The man who appeared to me the other day is here again!”
Notice the angel keeps appearing to the woman. I believe first off this show’s her value, but also that she has a special purpose too in this time of history. Which you wouldn’t think much about knowing that women had such a low status back then.
11 Manoah ran back with his wife and asked, “Are you the man who spoke to my wife the other day?”
“Yes,” he replied, “I am.”
12 So Manoah asked him, “When your words come true, what kind of rules should govern the boy’s life and work?”
Now I have to give a good bit of credit to Manoah. Note that he did not ask if what his wife told him was true….“are we really going to finally have a child,” like in disbelief. Instead, he not only believed his wife, but he was also not thinking of this child as a way to fulfill their own natural desires and want for a child. He believed this child will have a greater purpose. Manoah was a strong man of God himself. He just wants to know all that they can do to follow God’s directions and purpose for their parts in this story. He wants to make sure they are going it the way God wants them to do it.
13 The angel of the Lord replied, “Be sure your wife follows the instructions I gave her. 14 She must not eat grapes or raisins, drink wine or any other alcoholic drink, or eat any forbidden food.”
15 Then Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, “Please stay here until we can prepare a young goat for you to eat.”
Hospitality was a huge part of the culture back then. A person’s reputation was largely connected to his hospitality – the sharing of his home and food. Even strangers were to be treated as highly honored guest.
16 “I will stay,” the angel of the Lord replied, “but I will not eat anything. However, you may prepare a burnt offering as a sacrifice to the Lord.” (Manoah didn’t realize it was the angel of the Lord.)
17 Then Manoah asked the angel of the Lord, “What is your name? For when all this comes true, we want to honor you.”
18 “Why do you ask my name?” the angel of the Lord replied. “It is too wonderful for you to understand.”
Manoah meant well, but first off, he didn’t understand that the man was an angel, not just a human messenger. He was trying to kindly feed him, honor his work for the Lord. And at the same time, the angel was trying to tell Manoah, it’s too great for you to understand because of who I am.
Either way, Manoah full-heartedly agrees that God was worthy of a sacrifice, so he prepared one. A grain offering, which as described in Leviticus 2, was offered to God as a sign of honor, respect, and worship. It was an acknowledgment that because their food came from God, they owed their lives to Him. With the grain offering, Manoah showed his desire to serve God.
19 Then Manoah took a young goat and a grain offering and offered it on a rock as a sacrifice to the Lord. And as Manoah and his wife watched, the Lord did an amazing thing. 20 As the flames from the altar shot up toward the sky, the angel of the Lord ascended in the fire. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell with their faces to the ground.
And they got it! They now clearly know this was an angel of God.
21 The angel did not appear again to Manoah and his wife. Manoah finally realized it was the angel of the Lord.
24 When her son was born, she named him Samson. And the Lord blessed him as he grew up. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he lived in Ma-ha-neh-dan, which is located between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol. (esh-ta-ol)
From birth, Samson was empowered by the Spirit of God. God set a purpose for this child, a purpose way greater than his parents. A purpose that would literally begin to save their entire people.
Life Lesson from Samson: Start with Your Why
And this is where the story starts to intersect with us. There is a great calling for each and every one of us. And along with God’s calling upon your life comes a calling to great obedience and sacrifice. Why? Because there’s a greater purpose to be fulfilled. It’s bigger than you and I.
The story of Samson is ancient Hebrew history, yet its lessons are so relevant in our world today. In each part of the Samson series, I will share a key point that we can apply from Samson’s life to ours.
The first is to start allowing God to design your reason for being, your why. Like Samson, you too are not an accident. There is not one person who is here today “just because.” Your life has a divine purpose.
There is a purpose to your salvation that goes way beyond the “streets of gold.” There is not one place in the bible where God ever anointed someone “just because.” Every anointing comes with a divine appointing—a call to serve God and lead others to Him.
And you are the perfect will of God for this generation. God, well in advance, knew what would be happening in our world today. He knew the situations and crises this world would face. In His grace and mercy, God calls and equips His messengers into the world for today: He gives them wisdom, strength, particular abilities.
And God has chosen you! You are uniquely and wonderfully made. You are qualified to exactly what God calls you to do, whether you feel like it or not. God doesn’t just call the qualified, he equips the called.
So I have three truths for you today, that I’ll back up with scripture.
The first truth is that God picks us. The disciple Peter, who trained with Jesus for three years, said:
1 Peter 2:9
9 You are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.
This word chosen here translates as “picked out.” So that means God picks us.
It’s not like recess or gym class as a kid where captains one by one start choosing who they wanted on their team. They pick all the better kids first. Then when it gets to the end, instead of picking and actually wanting someone on the team, the team discusses who they just have to take, who they have to be stuck with.
I know we can feel like that when it comes to God. We think, we’ve made too many mistakes. We’re just too broken, too messed up. I’m just not good enough. God could never want me.
But the honest truth is: HE DOES and He picked you. He’s not stuck with us. We are not just the kid at the end of line getting picked because you’re all that’s left. Which leads to truth #2.
Second truth: God not only picks you, but he has a purpose for you.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
Did you know that the name Christ means ultimate one? That means that you are created to be like the Ultimate One to do good works for the Ultimate One, which God prepared in advance for us to do. How cool is that?! What an honor!
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
God is not working to make us happy (although we benefit greatly from His work). He is working for His purpose. And what’s His purpose, His big theme throughout the entire bible? Us, His children, to redeem and reconcile His children back to Himself, back to His family.
Third truth: God’s promises never fail! And God promises to see His plans through and nothing is going to stop them.
But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations.
One example of that is when God made a promise with Abraham (back in Genesis) that his descendants would be so many, a man without a child until he was 90 years old and his wife was 80 years old, that his descendants would be like the stars in the sky, too many to count, that promise is still coming true today!
Take a moment now to reflect on how God has uniquely made you for His special purpose in the lives of those around you. Think about how God wants to use you as a bright light influencing your family, friends, neighbors, classmates, colleagues, and even the strangers whom you encounter during your daily routines.
God has chosen you and has a purpose for your life for this time in history. You are here right now for a reason. God does not make mistakes, so you are no accident, whether your parents planned you or not. So I encourage you to seek God’s plan and purpose for your life if you don’t know what it is, and choose to follow it. God gives us the desires of His heart, therefore He gives us the gifts, the abilities, the wisdom, and the strength we need to accomplish our purpose. And He promises to be with us every step of the way (Matthew 28:20).