We are studying the life of Samson for a few weeks. Samson is a very interesting character to say the least. He’s often remembered for having enormous strength from God, but all too often, for not using it wisely. Many may remember Samson for what he could have been because Samson really had tremendous potential. And let’s be real, not many people have started life with credentials like his.
Samson was no accident. In fact, Samson was born as a result of God’s plan to do great work for God. Work so great in fact, that he was called to begin rescuing Israel, God’s chosen people, from the Philistines who oppressed them greatly for 40 years.
Samson’s story is found the in the book of Judges. Judges happens just after the Israelites are freed from 400 years of slavery in Egypt, wondered in the wilderness for 40 years due to their disobedience, and the next generation has just walked in and began settling in The Promise Land, the land promised by God to be just for them and to be fruitful.
The downfall is that this next generation of the Israelites quickly followed in their parent’s shoes, and quickly lost their spiritual commitment and motivation. Instead of enjoying freedom and prosperity in the Promise Land, Israel entered the dark ages of their history.
The Israelites failed to drive out most the pagan nations in the Promise Land as God had directed them to so, which led to their enemies (the pagan nations) to quickly reorganize and counter attack these new people in their land. To top it all off, then living among the pagan nations, the Israelites, God’s chosen people, gave into temptations to worship the false pagan gods instead of the one true God who already did so much for them, and then they even went so far as to let their sons and daughters inner-marry with the pagan people.
In turn of all of this, Israel’s disobedience and sin broke their covenant with God resulting in punishment through oppression. A God who just wanted them to follow Him so he could lead them to better lives, and most importantly who loved them enough that He wanted a personal relationship with them.
Over time, the Israelites realized how bad they messed up, and out of desperation they began to beg God to rescue them. So out of His great-faithfulness to His promises and out of His loving-kindness, God would raise up a judge to deliver His people, and for a time there would be peace. But then complacency and disobedience would set in again, and the cycle would begin. The book of Judges spans over 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 once again freedom and true worship.
Israel’s sixth judge was Samson. As we learned last week, he was born of a barren couple, Manoah and his wife, who were given very specific instructions on how raise the child. He was dedicated to God, by God, to be a Nazirite. A Nazirite was a man or a woman who took a special vow setting themselves apart for the Lord, consecrated to the service of God.
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 in order to raise up a group of leaders devoted completely to God. Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist were likely Nazirites for life.
As a sign of their vow, a Nazirite had three distinct restrictions. One was to abstain from wine and fermented drink, not to cut their hair through the time of the vow, and they could not have contact with a dead body or they would be deemed unclean.
All and all, Samson’s life is a fascinating legacy of how God calls and prepares a person to complete His divine work. And as we talked about last week, just like Samson, we too are each called for a purpose. If you are still here, still alive, then you have a purpose. We are God’s chosen people, and therefore hold a special purpose in God’s major plan of redemption and reconciling His children back to Him.
And God promises to see every one of His plans through, and nothing is going to stop them.
Today, we’re going to continue Samson’s story and hear how unguarded strength can become a weakness. Because look, when God gives us a purpose, which we all have one, He also gives us the gifts and abilities to accomplish that work.
But we still have choice, we have to chose to use the gifts God gives us for His good, for His work, not for our own desires and wants.
The old saying still rings true: We’re only as strong as our weakest link. For all the power, authority, and might that Samson had, the man of God had one huge problem. Though he had the strength that no other man of his time possessed, though he had the respect of his country and had been given by God the authority of a judge, Samson was still wanting the things he didn’t have or wasn’t supposed to possess. The man, on a continual basis, would break his covenant with God because of his weak will.
As we’ll see in this second part of Samson’s story, Samson didn’t just have weaknesses, he also celebrated them in the most disregarding ways.
Samson allowed his strength and power to go to his head. His sense of pride overwhelmed him into disregarding his vow to God, disrespecting his parents, and disregarding any kind of self-discipline in the face of temptation.
In a series of prideful moments, Samson made rapid-fire decisions that led him on a downward spiral of lust and pride.
One day when Samson was in Timnah, one of the Philistine women caught his eye. 2 When he returned home, he told his father and mother, “A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her. Get her for me.”
3 His father and mother objected. “Isn’t there even one woman in our tribe or among all the Israelites you could marry?” they asked. “Why must you go to the pagan Philistines to find a wife?”
But Samson told his father, “Get her for me! She looks good to me.”
Samson is thinking only in the moment. But God being God, would use even this….
4 His father and mother didn’t realize the Lord was at work in this, creating an opportunity to work against the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at that time.
Now even though God used Samson’s weakness, by doing this Samson broke his covenant with God. He chose to allow lust to override the commandment of God, as well as his parents’ advice against entering into marriage with an unbeliever. His parents objected to his marrying the Philistine woman for several reasons.
One, it was against God’s law. In the book of Deuteronomy, God warned that marrying an unbeliever came with the temptation to turn away from following Him.
3 You must not intermarry with them. Do not let your daughters and sons marry their sons and daughters, 4 for they will lead your children away from me to worship other gods…..5 This is what you must do. You must break down their pagan altars and shatter their sacred pillars. Cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols. 6 For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God. Of all the people on earth, the Lord your God has chosen you to be his own special treasure.
In Judges 3, there is a perfect example of what happened when the Israelites married pagans.
5 So the people of Israel lived among the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites, 6 and they intermarried with them. Israelite sons married their daughters, and Israelite daughters were given in marriage to their sons. And the Israelites served their gods. 7 The Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight. They forgot about the Lord their God, and they served the images of Baal and the Asherah poles.
I will tell you from my life experiences, and many of you know this from your life experiences or from people you know, marrying an unbeliever comes with great difficulty. We may think we can make it work, or we can change the person or that God can change them, which yes, He has the power to do so, but that is not a sure fact that they will chose to become a believer.
Please trust me when I say this, save yourself some heartache and marry someone who has the same believes as you.
Samson’s parents also objected to this marriage because the Philistines were Israel’s greatest enemy at the time. Marriage to a hated Philistine would be a huge disgrace to Samson’s family.
Samson’s decision here was based solely on what he deemed right in his own eyes. He didn’t consult with God or even his parents. He just demanded that they do what he deemed to be right, knowing full well he was going against God’s perfect plan. And Samson’s father gave into Samson’s demand and allowed the marriage, even though he had the right to refuse his son.
And once we start down the trail of bad decisions, what happens next? We make one after another.
5 As Samson and his parents were going down to Timnah, a young lion suddenly attacked Samson near the vineyards of Timnah.
Think about this. When we follow the world’s way, the world seems to keep attaching, taking you down further and further. This lion is a symbol of that. Samson is not heading in the right direction and therefore, gets attached by a lion.
6 At that moment the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him, (which just refers to his God given strength) and he ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it as easily as if it were a young goat. But he didn’t tell his father or mother about it.
Why? Why don’t we tell our parents about certain things we do? Because we know just as well as our parents do, that they are wrong! If he told his parents about the lion, they would have said that is a sign we are not doing what is right in the eyes of God. So he keeps it a secret.
7 When Samson arrived in Timnah, he talked with the woman and was very pleased with her. 8 Later, when he returned to Timnah for the wedding, he turned off the path to look at the carcass of the lion. And he found that a swarm of bees had made some honey in the carcass. 9 He scooped some of the honey into his hands and ate it along the way. He also gave some to his father and mother, and they ate it. But he didn’t tell them he had taken the honey from the carcass of the lion.
Here’s the slippery slope Samson chooses as his pride blinds his way of thinking. He goes from choosing to do something against his vow with God to then inviting his mom and dad into his sinfulness. And then he chooses to willfully withhold the truth from his parents. This reminds me of how Satan—the father of lies—intended to deceive Adam and Eve from the beginning by withholding how their rebellion against God would cause a spiritual death.
The situation gets worse as Samson allows the blessings of God to go to his head. Mixed with his unbridled temper and unresolved anger, Samson had too much of his own self ruling over every aspect of his heart, soul, mind, and strength. In verses 10-20, we see Samson being ruled by pride and anger, presuming God’s grace and choosing reckless actions.
They get to Timnah and Samson’s father was making final arrangements with the bride’s parents for the wedding. It was custom for elite young men to have a party before the wedding. So Samson decides to throw his own bachelor party, but since he doesn’t have and friends in Timnah, a Philistine town, the brides parents select 30 young men to party with him.
Now I imagine, these are not the nicest 30 young men. Besides, the Philistines are the enemy so why would they be. And Samson knows this. He also knows he’s stronger then them and since his power all went to his head, he thinks he’s clever too. So he tells them this riddle.
12 Samson said to them, “Let me tell you a riddle. If you solve my riddle during these seven days of the celebration, I will give you thirty fine linen robes and thirty sets of festive clothing. 13 But if you can’t solve it, then you must give me thirty fine linen robes and thirty sets of festive clothing.”
“All right,” they agreed, “let’s hear your riddle.”
14 So he said: “Out of the one who eats came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet.”
Well they can’t figure it out, so after three days of racking their heads, because they are determined that no Israelite is going to pull one over on them, they decide to hound Samson’s bride. In fact, they flat out threaten her.
15 “Entice your husband to explain the riddle for us, or we will burn down your father’s house with you in it. Did you invite us to this party just to make us poor?”
16 So Samson’s wife came to him in tears and said, “You don’t love me; you hate me! You have given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.”
Remember, even though she’s going to be his wife, she’s a Philistine too. These are her people.
“I haven’t even given the answer to my father or mother,” he replied. “Why should I tell you?”
They are not starting their marriage off a good foot.
17 So she cried whenever she was with him and kept it up for the rest of the celebration. At last, on the seventh day he told her the answer because she was tormenting him with her nagging. Then she explained the riddle to the young men.
18 So before sunset of the seventh day, the men of the town came to Samson with their answer: “What is sweeter than honey? What is stronger than a lion?”
Samson replied, “If you hadn’t plowed with my heifer, you wouldn’t have solved my riddle!”
Now that’s a horrible way to talk about your wife. Meaning, if you hadn’t manipulated my wife!
And here it comes…one bad decision after another. The consequence of not only poor decisions, but also of a prideful heart that leads to more and more weakness.
19 Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to the town of Ashkelon, (ash-kuh-laan) killed thirty men, took their belongings, and gave their clothing to the men who had solved his riddle. But Samson was furious about what had happened, and he went back home to live with his father and mother. 20 So his wife was given in marriage to the man who had been Samson’s best man at the wedding.
Life Lesson from Samson: Let God Be Your Strength
Pride has a way of making us believe we’re strong in our own strength. Yet pride is truly a weakness. To overcome the weakness of our will, we need to let God’s Holy Spirit be our strength and not rely on our own self.
The reason why pride comes before a fall is because pride always blinds us. And then fear leads us to deceive or hide the truth of our own actions. Together, pride and fear lead us in a downward spiral of sin.
The Bible gives us clear advice on how to handle prideful actions and deceitful lusts or desires.
Since you have heard about Jesus and have learned the truth that comes from him, throw off your old sinful nature and your former way of life, which is corrupted by lust and deception. Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.
Slow down a bit and read that passage again…
Do you see how we have the choice to throw off our sinful natures and old habits? Do you notice how lust and deception lose power as we allow the Holy Spirit to renew both our thoughts and attitudes?
It’s our new nature as sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father that truly empowers us to be both righteous and holy, set apart for and devoted to God.
We all have a daily, moment-by-moment decision to make. We can choose to either be led by the Holy Spirit or be led astray by our own desires and prideful actions. Just like Samson made decisions against his vows with God, we too can also fall into the same trap as we allow pride or lust to silence the counsel of the God in our lives.
Are we taking the power and authority we have from God for granted?
Are we using the gifts God gives us for His purpose? Or for our own desires.
How are our attitudes and behaviors? We need to be careful about this. Many Christians fall into the trap of putting on the attitude of God, doing the right things, when it’s convenient and put it on the shelf when it’s not?
I encourage you this week to reflect on how God’s Word is calling you to throw off an aspect of the sin in your life. And one of the best ways you can do that is to read His Word. Allow your thoughts to be renewed by His Word. There’s nothing like the Word of God to help heal and restore broken relationships either with God or others.
Acknowledge your need to be delivered from the sin that is entangling your life. And ask for forgiveness. Ask for direction to lead you down a better path.