Samson the Faithful Servant
Sermon: Samson the Faithful Servant
The Faith of Samson (Heb.11:32; Judges 13-16)
at the Beginning of his life (Judges 13:3)
at the End of his life (Judges 16:28)
The women in the life of Samson
Woman #1: His mom (Judges 13)
Woman #2: His wife (Judges 14-15)
Woman #3: His prostitute (Judges 16:1-3)
Woman #4: His girlfriend (Judges 16:4-22)
Women #5: His Mockers (Judges 16:23-30)
Lessons from Samson’s life
Sermón: Sansón el Siervo Fiel
La Fe de Sansón (Hebreos 11:32; Jueces 13-16)
al principio de su vida (Jueces 13:3)
al principio al final de su vida (Jueces 16:28)
Las mujeres en la vida de Sansón
Mujer #1: Su madre (Jueces 13)
Mujer #2: Su esposa (Jueces 14-15)
Mujer #3: Su prostituta (Jueces 16:1-3)
Mujer #4: Su novia (Jueces 16:4-22)
Mujeres #5: Sus burladoras (Jueces 16:23-30)
Lecciones que aprendí de la vida de Sansón
Sermon: Samson the Faithful Servant
Key Verses: set apart from; and set apart for
Heb.11:32-34; Judges 13:5
The Faith of Samson (Heb.11:32; Judges 13-16)
at the Beginning of his life (Judges 13:3)
at the End of his life (Judges 16:28)
The women in the life of Samson
Woman #1: His mom (Judges 13)
Woman #2: His wife (Judges 14-15)
Woman #3: His prostitute (Judges 16:1-3)
Woman #4: His girlfriend (Judges 16:4-22)
Woman #5: His Mockers (Judges 16:23-30)
CHAP.13 Lessons from Samson’s life
* God starts great works with the most unlikely resources (13:3)
* Holiness was at the core of Samson’s calling….and ours also (13:5; Eph.1:4; 1Pet.1:15-16)
* God calls some people to begin a work (Samson) & others to finish it (David) 13:8
* Our faith is greatly shaped by key people (parents) and events (angelic appearance)
* To dishonor our parents is to dishonor God …..who gave them to you (14:3)
* God sovereignly works behind the scenes (14:4)
* Our character is exposed through our conflicts
* Testing follows triumph.
* Don’t pray just when you are in “need”
* God ministered to Samson from grace not merit
* Don’t “play” with God (16:7-14)
* Love God more than people (16:4) don’t trade his love for the love of another person
* Beware of getting to the point you don’t miss God in your life (16:20)
* We sometime forgot about God but God never forgets about us (16:22)
* We can grow new hair but we can’t grow new eyes (16:22)
* In the battle of the “gods” our always wins (16:23-24)
* Our last words (epitaph) should be words of faith (16:28)
*Some of the heroes in Heb.11 lived lives of faith and were faithfulness; some (like Samson) had only great moments of faith.
* With God there are no extraordinary people, only ordinary ones through whom He chooses to do extraordinary things. You can be one of God’s special ordinary people!
* We are inclined to judge Samson by his weaknesses. But God commends him for his faith
*His life started with a miraculous birth and ended with a miraculous death but in between he greatly misused and wasted the Spiritual Gifts God gave him
*Samson’s lust for women was symptom of something worse… a me-centered life
*Samson chased little goals (self-serving vs God glorifying). We are surrounded w/ temptations
to invest our lives in trivial earthly goals, may our goals be worthy of God’s eternal glory
He never got the woman he wanted and never became the man created him to be
* God uses very imperfect people to accomplish his work. He is not limited by us!
Woman #1: His mom
* God’s discipline is corrective not punitive (13:1)
spiral climaxed with the seventh recorded apostasy in the Book of Judges (3:5-7, 12-14; 4:1-3; 6:1-2; 8:33-35; 10:6-9).
* God starts great works with the most unlikely resources (13:3)
Babies must have time to grow up, but God is patient and is never late in accomplishing His will. Each baby God sends is a gift from God, a new beginning, and carries with it tremendous potential.
* Holiness is at the core of Samson’s calling….and ours also (13:5; Eph.1:4; 1Pet.1:15-16)
Set apart from and set apart for
Holiness is not about lists but about about love
*Nazarite (Numb.6) voluntary, temporary
* God calls some people to begin a work (Samson) & others to finish it (David) 13:8
* Samson = “sunny” or “brightness (root – son)
Faith evidenced #1: 13:24-25
* Our faith is greatly shaped by key people (parents) and events (angelic appearance)
Woman #2: his wife
* He walked by sight, not by faith (14:1-2)
* He did not honor his parents (14:3) He rejected their counsel
His decline began when he disagreed with his parents about marrying a Philistine girl.
* Unequally yoked: the one thing that should be most mportant in your life is the one thing you cannot share with the most important person in your life
* God sovereignly works behind the scenes (14:4)
* separated from his partents (14:5)
Faith evidence: 14:.6
* He desecrated his parents who had consecrated him (14:9)
* did he drink at the feast? (14:10)
* he treated his broken vow as unimportant, almost like a joke (14:12-19)
Faith evidence: 14:19
*long time frame between v.19-20 and 15:1
* His character is exposed through his conflicts
* God sovereignly intervened from allowing Samson to live with the enemy
* Temptation…Samson never wrestled with them, he just gave in!
* God was mysteriously stirring the pot thru Samsons self centered actions (15:3)
*Vengence became the consuming motive of his life (15:3,7)
* An act of Faith or a misuse of God’s gracious gift? (15:8)
Faith evidence: 15:14
* Another violation of his Nazarite vow (15:5)
* Self-center, I centered speech? No ref to God’s help (15:16)
* His first recorded prayer – now that he’s in need he acknowledges God (15:18)
Don’t pray just when you are in “need”
So often in Scripture, testing follows triumph.
* Faith evidence? (15:20)
*God ministered to Samson from grace not merit
* Eph.1:11 God…who works everything in conformity to his will”
Woman #3: his prostitute
* walked by sight, not by faith (16:1)
* Faith evidence? (16:3)
Woman #4: his girlfriend
* He loved Delilah (16:4) but she loved the silver (16:5)
*Samson’s “blindness” to Delilah a prelude to coming physical consequences (16:6f)
* Don’t “play” with God
*Samson plays with Delilah and God (16:7-9)
*Samson plays with Delilah and God (16:10-12)
* Faith evidence? (16:12) by snapping ropes?
* Samson plays with Delilah and God (16:13-14)
* Samson trades the love of God for the love of a woman (16:15-18)
* turning point in his life - downward (16:19)
* Beware of getting to the point you don’t miss God in your life (16:20)
one of the saddest verses in the Bible
*from grace to disgrace (16:21-25)
the irony of his life begins
*Samson (we) forgot about God but God did not forget about him (us) (16:22)
Samson grew new hair but he couldn’t grow new eyes
We can grow new hair but we can’t grow new eyes (16:22)
Repentance leads to renewed faith
once blinded, he regained his spiritual perspective,
*In the battle of the “gods” ours always wins (16:23-24)
* Samson the repentant prisoner (16:25f)
* Musclebound Samson, prob not (16:25b-26)
Women #4: his Mockers (16:27)
* Faith evidence: 15:14 (Samson’s prayer)
* Our last words (epitaph) should be words of faith (16:28)
When people remember us, may they remember us for our faith in God & love of people
Heb.11:32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33 who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34 quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies (RVR) 32¿Y qué más digo? Porque el tiempo me faltaría contando de Gedeón, de Barac, de Sansón, de Jefté, de David, así como de Samuel y de los profetas; 33que por fe conquistaron reinos, hicieron justicia, alcanzaron promesas, taparon bocas de leones, 34apagaron fuegos impetuosos, evitaron filo de espada, sacaron fuerzas de debilidad, se hicieron fuertes en batallas, pusieron en fuga ejércitos extranjeros.
*Some of the heroes in Heb.11 lived lives of faith and were faithfulness; some (like Samson) had only great moments of faith.
Heb 11 is both Hall of Faith & Hall of Salvage (everone in chap had significant failure
* With God there are no extraordinary people, only ordinary ones through whom He chooses to do extraordinary things. You can be one of God’s special ordinary people!
We are inclined to judge Samson by his weaknesses. But God commends him for his faith
*His life started with a miraculous birth and ended with a miraculous death
In between he greatly misused and wasted the Spiritual Gifts God gave him
*Samson’s lust for women was symptom of something worse… a me-centered life
Samson was a “he-man” with “she-weakness” and worse….was his “me-weakness”
*Samson chased little goals (self-serving vs God glorifying)
We are surrounded w/ temptations to invest our lives in trivial earthly goals, may our goals be worthy of God’s eternal glory
* God uses very imperfect people to accomplish his work
God will accomplish His purposes either with us or in spite of us (Es. 4:10–14).
He never got the woman he wanted and never became the man created him to be
Only a few of Samson’s great feats are recorded in the Book of Judges:
killing the lion bare-handed (14:5–6);
slaying thirty Philistines (v. 19);
catching 300 foxes (or jackals) and tying torches to their tails (15:3–5);
breaking bonds (15:14; 16:9, 12, 14);
slaying 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey (15:15);
carrying off the Gaza city gate (16:3);
destroying the Philistine building (v. 30).
Judges 16:24 indicates that he had done many more feats than those listed above, feats
that had aggravated the Philistine people. As you ponder the record of Samson’s life, you get the impression that he was a fun-loving fellow with a good sense of humor; and sometimes he didn’t take his gifts and his work seriously. Bold before men, Samson was weak before women. Empowered by the Spirit of God, he yielded his body to the appetites of the flesh. Called to declare war on the Philistines, he fraternized with the enemy and even tried to marry a Philistine woman. He fought the Lord’s battles by day and disobeyed the Lord’s commandments by night. Given the name Samson, which means “sunny,” he ended up in the darkness, blinded by the very enemy he was supposed to conquer.
32. And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets. Ever since the beginning of the epistle, the author modestly refrained from mentioning himself. Here, however, for the first time he uses the first person singular pronoun I. In the concluding part of his epistle, he refers to himself again in the first person singular (13:19, 22, 23). “What more shall I say?” He hesitates in view of the numberless examples of men and women who lived by faith. He takes a sample of names: some of them belong to the period of the judges; others, to that of the kings. To be sure, the author fails to present the names in chronological order. He should have said Barak (Judges 4–5), Gideon (Judges 6–8), Jephthah (Judges 11–12), Samson (Judges 13–16), Samuel (I Sam. 1–16), and David (I Sam. 16–31; II Sam.; I Kings 1–2:12). But the writer of Hebrews has no intention of listing the names chronologically. In effect, he follows the order Samuel gave in his farewell speech to the people of Israel: “Then the Lord sent Jerub-Baal [also called Gideon], Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies on every side, so that you lived securely” (I Sam. 12:11). We have no indication why Samuel and the author of Hebrews follow a sequence differing from the chronological one. The names appear in the sequence of three pairs: Gideon before Barak, Samson before Jephthah, and David before Samuel. The first one named in each set seems to be the more popular. a. Gideon fought with only three hundred men against the multitude of Midianite soldiers. By following faithfully the instruction from God, Gideon became a hero of faith. With his God Gideon was always in the majority (Judges 7:7). b. Barak refused to do battle with Sisera and Jabin’s army unless the prophetess Deborah went with him (Judges 4:8). With the prophetess to guide him, Barak fought the Canaanites and defeated them (Judges 4:16; 5:1). c. Samson captures the imagination of everyone relishing physical prowess. But his love affair with Delilah not only deprived him of his strength; it also placed a permanent blot on his name. Yet Samson displayed unshakable faith in Israel’s God when he prayed for strength to mete out justice to his enemies. God heard his prayer. “Thus [Samson] killed many more when he died than while he lived” (Judges 16:30).
d. Jephthah’s name is indissolubly tied to his rash vow that compelled him to sacrifice his only daughter (Judges 11:39–40). Nevertheless, Jephthah was filled with the Spirit of God. God used him to defeat the Ammonites and to punish the tribe of Ephraim. He was a man of faith. e. David stands at the head of the kings of Israel. Because he trusted God, David was enabled to conquer his enemies, build his kingdom, and strengthen the people of Israel. He was Israel’s statesman and spiritual leader. f. Samuel was a prophet, who was called a seer (I Sam. 9:9). He stands first among the prophets and was an outstanding leader in Israel. The people turned to him, for they knew that God’s favor rested on him. God answered his prayers offered in faith. Said Samuel, “As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you” (I Sam. 12:23). The author no longer provides a commentary on the lives of the heroes of faith. Instead he summarizes categories of deeds of faith. The story of Samson is familiar (Jud. 13–16). We would not call Samson a godly man, for he yielded to his fleshly appetites. He was a Nazarite, which meant he was dedicated to God and was never to cut his hair or partake of the fruit of the vine. (A Nazarite should not be confused with a Nazarene, a resident of Nazareth.) Samson did trust God to help and deliver him and, in the end, Samson was willing to give his life to defeat the enemy. However, we must not conclude that believers today can expect to lead double lives and still enjoy God’s blessing 11:32 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets,
To the eighteen examples of faith already given our author appends a few names and a large list of wonderful deeds that this faith has stimulated (vv. 32–38). The previous examples are enough to demonstrate that those with faith do not “shrink back” but “persevere.” They “will be richly rewarded” (10:35–39). Faith gives confidence and improves the understanding of what cannot be seen. Westcott capsulizes this summary in Hebrews, “In part (a) they wrought great things (32–35a): in part (b) they suffered great things (35b–38).” Then he draws attention to the “remarkable symmetry” of the nine phrases in vv. 33–34. The first triplet has only two accents in each phrase; the second and third triplets have three. In 11:32 the author lists four judges, then David, Samuel, and “the prophets,” explaining, “I do not have time to tell about them.” How did each of these exercise faith? Gideon seemed very reluctant to respond to God’s call to save Israel. He wanted a sign before each major event to which God called him. When God had him tear down his father’s altar to Baal and its accompanying Asherah pole, he did it at night, because he was afraid; but because he believed, he did it. Later, with only 300 men holding trumpets and torches, he attacked and routed the army of Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern people who were “thick as locusts” having camels that “could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore” (Judg 7:12). His faith seemed very timid, but he did what God directed him to do. Barak defeated Sisera the Canaanite and his 900 iron chariots. Barak refused to go to battle until Deborah the prophetess agreed to go with him. She “was leading Israel at that time” (Judg 4:4). In the Bible text Deborah is always mentioned before Barak. Samson has little evidence in the Bible text that he trusted God. His parents raised him as a Nazirite as the angel had directed when he explained that “he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines” (Judg 13:5). Four times are recorded that “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him,” once when a lion attacked him (Judg 14:9), twice to fight Philistines (Judg 14:19; 15:14). See also Judges 13:25. His whole life seemed to be an expression of trusting God for superhuman strength as a Nazirite until Delilah lured him to uncover his vow. The clearest expression of his faith came at the end of his life. Taunted as a prisoner in the temple of Dagon, he prayed for his strength to return. With it he pulled down the temple killing more Philistines at his death than during life. Evidently faith may return when one repents & asks to be used again by God
And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets, who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. (11:32–34) The six men named, who are not listed in chronological order, were all rulers of one kind or another. Several are outstanding Bible characters, while the others are less known. Samuel was both a judge and a prophet, and David was a king and a prophet. But none of the men is praised for his office. All are praised for what they accomplished by faith. Gideon, a judge and military leader, had assembled 32,000 men to fight the Midianites and the Amalekites. To keep Israel from thinking the coming victory was by her own power, God cut her forces down to 10,000 and then to a mere 300. These 300 were separated out solely on the basis of how they drank water from a spring. The enemy, by contrast, were “as numerous as locusts; and their camels were without number, as numerous as the sand on the seashore” (Judg. 7:12). Yet Gideon’s men were outfitted only with trumpets and with pitchers with torches inside. With even fewer men and less effort than used to defeat Jericho, the entire heathen enemy army was routed (7:16–22). Only a fool would have attempted such a courageous approach to battle apart from God’s direction and power. From the perspective of faith, only a fool would not attempt such a thing when he has God’s direction and power.
Barak is unknown in Scripture outside the brief account in Judges 4–5 and the mention of his name in Hebrews 12:32. We are told nothing of his background or training. Through Deborah, the judge, God promised that Israel would be delivered from Jabin, the Canaanite king, whose great commander, Sisera, had a large, powerful army that boasted 900 iron chariots. According to the Lord’s instruction, Deborah asked Barak to assemble an Israelite force of only 10,000 men, taken from two tribes, Naphtali and Zebulun. The rest of the tribes were not asked to participate, apparently to show Israel, and the Canaanites, that God could be victorious with only a token army from a small part of Israel. Barak assembled his men on Mt. Tabor and charged Sisera as he had been commanded by God. “And the Lord routed Sisera and all his chariots and all his army, with the edge of the sword before Barak” (Judg. 4:15). Barak and his men were involved, and probably fought valiantly, but the success of the campaign was the Lord’s. Without His help, Israel would easily have been slaughtered. Barak was told in advance that the glory of victory would not be his. Not only did the Lord fight the battle for His people, but he allowed a woman to kill Sisera, so that Barak would have even less cause for claiming credit for himself (4:9). Barak believed God’s promise of victory and was not the least concerned that a woman would get credit for slaying Sisera. In fact he insisted that Deborah, a woman judge, go to battle with him (v. 8). He wanted her spiritual, not her military, help. She was the Lord’s special representative in those days, and Barak wanted the Lord’s person with him. The fact that he wanted her along was another indication of his trust in the Lord. As God’s prophetess, she was of greater value to him than his 10,000 men. Barak was not concerned about Sisera’s power, because he had God’s power. By such courageous faith he conquered kingdoms. Samson is not most remembered for his faith, but for his physical strength and personal gullibility. In many ways he was immature and self-centered, unable to cope with the miraculous power God had given him. Yet he was a man of faith. He never doubted that God was the source of his power, of which his hair was only a symbol. Samson was a judge of Israel and was given the special task of opposing the Philistines, who then ruled over Israel. Samson’s own motives for fighting the Philistines were often mixed, but he knew he was doing the Lord’s will in the Lord’s power. From his early manhood the Spirit of the Lord had been with him, and we are told specifically that it was the Spirit that strengthened him in his amazing one-man battles (Judg. 13:25; 14:19; 15:14; 16:28). Samson knew that God had called him and that God had empowered him to “begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines,” just as He had told Samson’s mother before her son was even conceived (13:5). God had promised him power and Samson trusted God for that power. He faced the Philistines not in the courage of physical prowess but in the courage of faith.We are inclined to judge Samson by his weaknesses. But God commends him for his faith. A Summary of the Faithful (11:32–38) This survey of the faith of men and women in the past could have gone on to greater lengths, but the author feels that his epistle must not become burdensome to read. He refers to others in more general terms, mentioning only six more names. Their varied actions of faith are successful, whether in triumph or in suffering (vv. 32–38). The six names span the history of Israel from the days of the judges to the early monarchy. Included are Gideon, noted for his victory over Midian with a reduced army of only 300 men; Barak, who was encouraged by the prophetess Deborah and defeated the Canaanite army of Sisera; Samson, famous as the muscleman of Israel, fatally susceptible to the charms of young women, but nevertheless the instrument of God to deliver Israel from Philistine oppression; Jephthah, haunted by his rash vow concerning his daughter, but also conqueror of the Ammonites and punisher of the tribe of Ephraim; David, Israel’s greatest king and the author of many psalms, “a man after God’s own heart”; and, finally, Samuel, first of the prophets and last of the judges, who lived by faith from his boyhood to his final days. Others are simply listed as the prophets, which would surely include the great names of Elijah, Elisha, Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel and others. The faith these men possessed led them to three kinds of action (vv. 33–34). Faith helped some to govern—conquered kingdoms (David over the Philistines), administered justice (Solomon—1 Kings 21:9) and gained what was promised (Josh 21:43). Faith helped others to triumph over fearful odds—shut the mouths of lions (Dan 6), quenched the fury of the flames (Dan 3:17), and escaped the edge of the sword (2 Kings 6:11–18). Still others were enabled by faith to be mighty in battle—whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies (1 Sam 14:14). These were all actual historic incidents, familiar to the readers of this letter from the Old Testament accounts.
11:32–34 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. The roll call of heroes continues with the words “what more shall I say?” The Old Testament records the lives of many people who experienced great victories; a few are selected for mention here. None of these people were perfect; in fact, many of their sins are recorded in the Old Testament. But these were among those who believed in God:
• Gideon, one of Israel’s judges, was known for conquering the Midianite army with only three hundred men who were armed with trumpets and jars (Judges 6:11–8:35).
• Barak served with Deborah (another judge of Israel) in conquering the army of General Sisera from Hazor (Judges 4:4–23).
• Samson, another judge, was a mighty warrior against God’s enemies, the Philistines (Judges 13–16).
• Jephthah, still another judge, delivered Israel from the Ammonites (Judges 11:1–33).
• David, the beloved king of Israel and a great warrior, brought peace to Israel, defeating all of his enemies.
• Samuel, the last judge of Israel, was a very wise leader. He also was a prophet. Samuel, along with all the prophets, served God selflessly as they conveyed God’s words to an often rebellious people.
These people demonstrated that faith will accomplish much:
• They conquered kingdoms. Throughout their years in the Promised Land, the Israelites had great leaders who brought victory against their enemies. People such as Joshua, all of the judges, and King David were great warriors.
• They administered justice. Many of the judges, as well as leaders such as Nehemiah, administered justice to the people.
• They gained what was promised. Some people actually did see the fulfillment of some of God’s promises, such as possession of the Promised Land.
• They shut the mouths of lions. Daniel was saved from the mouths of lions (Daniel 6). This statement could also refer to Samson (Judges 14:6) or to David (1 Samuel 17:34–35).
• They quenched the fury of the flames. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were kept from harm in the furious flames of a fiery furnace (Daniel 3).
• They escaped the edge of the sword. Elijah (1 Kings 19:2–8) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 36:19, 26) had this experience.
• Their weakness was turned to strength. Hezekiah was one who regained strength after sickness (2 Kings 20).
• They became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. This refers to Joshua, many of Israel’s judges, and King David.
We, too, can experience victory through faith in Christ. We may have experiences similar to those of the Old Testament saints; more likely, however, our victories will be directly related to the role God wants us to play. Your life may not include the kinds of dramatic events recorded here, but it surely includes moments where faith is tested. Give testimony to those moments, publicly and honestly, and thereby encourage the faith of others. Even though our bodies deteriorate and die, we will live forever because of Christ. In the promised resurrection, even death will be defeated, and Christ’s victory will be made complete. These persons were of every age and temperament—shepherds, statesmen, prime ministers, psalmists, poets, border chieftains, prophets, women martyrs—but they are all trophies of faith…. Their circumstances and trials were widely different, but in all the talisman of victory was faith’s watchword—“God is able.” There is no kind of need, trial, persecution, experience for which faith is not the sufficient answer. It is the master key for every lock of difficulty.F. B. Meyer
Triumphant Faith Hebrews 11:32–40 And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again. Others were tortured and refused to be released, so that they might gain a better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison. They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, and in caves and holes in the ground. These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect. (11:32–40) As we now come to the end of the Hall of Faith, we see that it has been a consistent exposition of what faith is, as was defined in the opening verse of chapter 11: “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Therefore, faith is a dynamic certainty made up of two certitudes: a future certitude that makes one sure of the future as if it were present, and a visual certitude that brings the invisible within view. One hears God’s Word and so believes it that its future fulfillment becomes subjectively present and visible to the spiritual eye.This grand certainty characterized each of the sixteen heroes thus far presented and was the ground of their triumphs. By faith the heroes of old were enabled to live so as to deserve the testimony that they were “righteous” (v. 4), that they “pleased God” (v. 5), and that they were people of whom God was “not ashamed” (v. 16). And all of them experienced triumphs over great difficulties. This chapter was composed by the preacher/writer with the hope of steeling the tiny, expatriate Hebrew church against the persecution that was mounting against them and was soon to fall in the genocidal waves of horror orchestrated by the mad emperor Nero. And, indeed, those who did persevere did so because of their profound faith in the promises of God’s Word. So we must understand that Hebrews 11 was not just an entertaining and inspiring aside, but was essential life-and-death teaching for the Hebrew church. It may well be the same for us and our children. Recent history has again reminded us that no dictatorship or democracy is eternal. Freedom, and especially religious freedom, is fragile. Moreover, dark forces are at work in our culture to the extent that it has become politically correct to call “evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20). and Lance”).Is everything, then, hopeless? No, not at all. A church that lives in the dynamic certitude that comes from believing God’s Word can have a profound effect on culture—as salt and as light. So the church that is sure of God and sure of his Word will foster great hope. But even if culture proceeds down its neo-pagan path, even if it becomes Neronian in its treatment of the church, there remains substantial hope for those who possess Hebrews 11 faith—for they will be empowered to persevere and will sometimes experience astounding victories.The preacher concludes chapter 11 with a dazzling rush of encouragement as he quickly describes the empowerment that comes through faith to believers who are either winners or even apparent losers in this life. EMPOWERED FOR TRIUMPH (VV. 32–35A) The Empowered The writer begins by listing half a dozen obvious winners who were empowered for victory: “And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets” (v. 32). At God’s direction Gideon underwent a remarkable divestment of power in preparation for his phenomenal victory over the Midianites. Obediently he reduced his troops from 32,000 to 10,000 to 300. Then the 300, armed with trumpets and pitchers that concealed torches, routed the Midianites whose “camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore” (Judges 7:12). Gideon’s feat was a stupendous act of faith. Likewise, Barak, obeying God’s word as given through Deborah, sallied forth to meet the great army of Sisera with its 900 chariots of iron and myriads of troops, Barak himself having only 10,000 men drawn from just two of Israel’s tribes, Naphtali and Zebulun (Judges 4:6). But his token army was victorious. Once again faith carried the day. Normally, we do not think of Samson as a man of faith, but rather a great dunce whose moral brain waves had gone flat! But there was a subterranean substance of faith in Samson. He knew God had given him power to deliver his people from the Philistines—tho he frittered it away. But once blinded, he regained his spiritual perspective, and in a great act of faith he prayed and received strength to avenge himself (Jud 16:25–30) Neither would we imagine Jephthah as a man of faith because of his infamous and foolish vow to sacrifice his own daughter (Judges 11:30–39). Nevertheless, this illegitimate son, this outcast Hebrew Robin Hood, was called back to save Israel—which he did through his faith in God. He conquered because of his faith—notwithstanding that his raw uninformed faith tragically was perverted so that it became the source of his rash and wrongful vow to sacrifice “whatever comes out of the door of my house to meet me” (Judges 11:31). King David, on the other hand, is well-known for his acts of faith, not the least of which was his challenge and defeat of Goliath, to whom he cried, “It is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands” (1 Samuel 17:47). Towering faith! The prophet Samuel had lived a life of faith since he was a little “boy wearing a linen ephod” (1 Samuel 2:18), serving Eli in the house of the Lord. Through faith he fearlessly delivered God’s word to anyone anywhere at anytime—even the sinning King Saul (1 Samuel 15:22, 23). This faithful proclamation was the hallmark of all true prophets. Viewed together, this dynamic half-dozen bore remarkable similarities to one another. Each lived in a time when faith was scarce—definitely the minority position. During the days of the judges, everyone did “what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25, RSV), and this ethic was very much alive during the transfer to the monarchy. From Gideon to David, each battled overwhelming odds—Gideon with his 300 against an innumerable host—young David against the giant. Each stood alone contra mundum. And most significantly, perhaps, each of these heroes had a flawed faith. John Calvin remarked:
There was none of them whose faith did not falter. Gideon was slower than he need have been to take up arms, and it was only with difficulty that he ventured to commit himself to God. Barak hesitated at the beginning so that he had almost to be compelled by the reproaches of Deborah. Samson was the victim of the enticements of his mistress and thoughtlessly betrayed the safety of himself and of all his people. Jephthah rushed headlong into making a foolish vow and was over-obstinate in performing it, and thereby marred a fine victory by the cruel death of his daughter.And to this we could add that David was sensuous (2 Samuel 11:1ff.), and Samuel lapsed into carelessness in domestic matters (1 Samuel 8:1ff.). Calvin concludes: In every saint there is always to be found something reprehensible. Nevertheless although faith may be imperfect and incomplete it does not cease to be approved by God. There is no reason, therefore, why the fault from which we labour should break us or discourage us provided we go on by faith in the race of our calling. How encouraging! There is hope for every man, woman and child of us. Faith’s empowerment is not beyond any of us. As believers we have untapped faith capacities that will surprise not only others but, most of all, ourselves. We each possess interior spiritual nitroglycerin that faith can detonate. The Empowerments To further strengthen his argument regarding the power that faith brings to life, the preacher lifts his focus from the empowered to the empowerments that they and others experienced. He lists nine empowerments grouped in three successive groups of three. The first three give the broad empowerments of authentic faith: “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised” (v. 33a). This was not only the corporate experience of the half-dozen, but the general experience of the preceding sixteen members of the Hall of Faith. The second trio lists some of the forms of personal deliverances that they experienced: “who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of flames, and escaped the edge of the sword” (vv. 33b, 34a). Samson, David and Beniah all shut the mouths of lions through physical force. Samson, barehanded, took a charging lion by the jaws and ripped it apart. David grabbed a sheep-stealing lion by the beard and thrust it through. Beniah descended into a pit on a snowy day and dispatched another king of the beasts. But Daniel is the preeminent example, through his faith and prayer (Daniel 6:17–22). Shadrach, Mesbach and Abednego trusted God, and thus coolly conversed in a blazing furnace while the awe-struck king looked on (Daniel 3:24–27). King David, as well as the prophets Elijah and Elisha, escaped the sword, as did many others (1 Samuel 18:10, 11; 1 Kings 19:8–10; 2 Kings 6:31, 32; Psalm 144:10). The third triad tells about the astounding power that came by faith: “whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again” (vv. 34b, 35a). Elijah stretched himself out three times on the dead form of the son of the widow of Zarephath and cried to God for his life—and then carried the child alive down to his distraught mother (1 Kings 17:17–24). Elisha, his understudy, accomplished a similar feat for the Shunammite woman’s son—“mouth to mouth, eyes to eyes, hands to hands… the boy’s body grew warm” (2 Kings 4:34). Three triads—nine empowerments—what power comes through faith! This was important to know and believe under the darkening skies of Nero’s impending pogrom. The examples of the empowered six and the litany of the triads of empowerments that have come to the church ought to make one thing very clear: God delights to effect mighty triumphs through people of faith. Faith pleases God—and faith empowers. God can deliver the faithful anytime he wants from anything! Noah’s family was delivered from a flood that drowned all the rest of the human race. Moses and Israel walked through the Red Sea. Joshua and Israel crossed the flooded Jordan. Rahab survived the fallen walls. Gideon prevailed while outmanned a thousand to one. God can deliver us triumphantly from anything if he so pleases—sickness, professional injustice, domestic woe, the growing oppression of a neo-pagan culture—whatever! And he will do it again and again and again. But remember, it is always “by faith” in his Word. But the parallel truth is, God has not promised wholesale deliverance in this life for his people at all times and in every situation. Not all of us will be “winners” in this life. From the world’s point of view some people of faith are huge “losers.”
JM 13:3 the Angel of the Lord. In this case, it was a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Himself (vv. 6–22), as elsewhere (6:11). See Ex. 3:2. 13:5 Nazirite. The word is from the Heb. “to separate.” For rigid Nazirite restrictions, such as here in Samson’s case, see Num. 6:1–8. God gave 3 restrictions: no wine (vv. 3, 4), no razor cutting the hair (v. 5), no touching a dead body and being defiled (v. 6). Such outward actions indicated an inner dedication to God. 13:16 offer it to the Lord. Manoah needed this explanation because he was going to offer this to Him, not as the Lord Himself, or even an angel, but just a human messenger. The instruction is intended to emphasize that this visitor is indeed the Lord. 13:17 What is Your name? This secret name is again indicative that the Angel is the Lord. 13:18 Why do you ask My name …? That the Angel would not divulge his name reminds one of the Angel (God) whom Jacob encountered (Ex. 32:24–30), who likewise did not give His name. 13:20 flame went up toward heaven. This miraculous act points to divine acceptance of the offering. 13:22 We shall surely die. This reaction of the fear of death is familiar with those who come into God’s presence. Many did die when facing God, as the OT records. It is the terror in the heart of the sinner when in the presence of holy God. Cf. Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:28), Isaiah (Is. 6:5), the 12 (Mark 4:35–41), Peter (Luke 5:8), and John (Rev. 1:17, 18). 14:1–4 she pleases me well. The Philistines were not among the 7 nations of Canaan which Israel was specifically forbidden to marry. Nonetheless Samson’s choice was seriously weak. Samson sins here, but God is sovereign and was able to turn the situation to please Him (14:4). He was not at a loss, but used the opportunity to work against the wicked Philistines and provided gracious help to His people. He achieved destruction of these people, not by an army, but by the miraculous power of one man. 14:7 talked. Such conversation was not acceptable in the E, unless a couple was betrothed. 14:8 to get her. Usually a year until the wedding. 14:9 He took some … in his hands. Some scholars suggest that Samson violated his Nazirite standard by coming in contact with a dead body (13:5). Others reason that Num. 6 specifies the body of a person, not an animal. Whether or not he sinned here, the context does show instances of him sinning.14:10 feast. The wedding feast usually lasted a week.14:15 seventh. Some ancient authorities read “fourth.” The number may be “fourth” (4 days starting after the 3 in v. 14), totaling 7 as in v. 17. Or v. 15 may mean “fourth,” and v. 17 that the woman wept for the rest of the 7-day period of v. 12, after the 3 days of v. 14. 14:16–18 Samson’s wife wept. She cheated and manipulated, working against Samson’s expectations that the men must come up with the answer. The men also cheated and threatened, having murder in their hearts (v. 15) and putting pressure on the woman.14:19 his anger. God blesses the one who had been wronged. Samson’s anger may be legitimate—righteous indignation against deceit (Mark 3:5). The battle with the men at Ashkelon, about 23 mi. away, was a part of the war between Israel and Philistia. 14:20 Samson’s wife was given. Another act of treachery was done. The Philistine father had no reason to assume that Samson would not be back, nor had Samson given word about not returning. He, as a Philistine, did not want his daughter marrying the enemy. 15:1 wheat harvest. Samson tactfully made his move when wheat harvest kept men busy. This was probably around May. A token of reconciliation was offered as he brought a young goat, showing the father and the daughter that they had nothing to fear. 15:2 I … thought. This flimsy excuse by the father was an effort to escape the trap he was in. He feared the Philistines if he turned on the new husband, yet feared Samson, so he offered his second daughter as a way out. This was insulting and unlawful (Lev. 18:18). 15:3 The cycle of retaliation began, and it ends in 16:30, 31.
15:4 caught three hundred foxes. Samson, insulted and provoked to fleshly resentment, took vengeance on the Philistines. It must have taken a while to catch so many foxes or jackals and to keep them penned and fed until the number reached 300. Apparently he tied them in pairs with a slow-burning torch, sending the pairs down the hills into fields thrashing with fire, igniting all the standing grain so dry at harvest. This was a loss of great proportion to the Philistine farmers.
15:6 the Philistines … burned her and her father. The general principle of reaping what is sown is apropos here (Gal. 6:7). 15:8 he attacked them hip and thigh. This is proverbial for a ruthless slaughter. 15:15 killed a thousand men. Cf. 3:31. God gave miraculous power to Samson for destruction, but also to show fearful Israelites (v. 11) that He was with them, despite their lack of trust. 15:19 water came out. God worked a miracle of supplying a spring in response to Samson’s prayerful cry in thirst. He called the place “the spring of him that called” (Jer. 33:3). 16:1–3 God was merciful in allowing Samson to be delivered from this iniquity, but chastening was only postponed. Sin blinds and later grinds (v. 21). 16:3 hill that faces Hebron. This place was about 38 mi. from Gaza. 16:4 loved … Delilah. His weakness for women of low character and Philistine loyalty reappeared (Prov. 6:27, 28). He erred continually by going to her daily (v. 16), allowing himself to be entrapped in her deceptions. 16:5 eleven hundred pieces of silver. Since there were 5 rulers of the Philistines, each giving that amount, this was a large sum.
16:7 And Samson said. Samson played a lying game and gave away his manhood, here a little, there a little. He also played with giving away his secret—and finally gave it up, i.e., “told her all” (v. 17). He could be bought for a price, and Delilah paid it. Compare Esau selling his birthright (Gen. 25:29–33) and Judas denying Jesus (Matt. 26:14–16). 16:11 new ropes. Cf. 15:13. 16:17 If I am shaven. His strength came from his unique relation to God, based on his Nazirite pledge. His long hair was only a sign of it. When Delilah became more important to him than God, his strength was removed. 16:20 he did not know that the Lord had departed from him. Here was the tragedy of the wrath of abandonment. His sin had caused him to forfeit the power of God’s presence. This principle is seen in Gen. 6:3; Prov. 1:24–31; Matt. 15:14; Rom. 1:24–32. See Judg. 10:13, 14. 16:21 Gaza. The last town encountered in SW Palestine as a traveler went from Jerusalem toward Egypt, near the coast. It was nearly 40 mi. from Samson’s birthplace, Zorah. There he was humiliated. 16:22 hair … began to grow. His hair grew with his repentance, and his strength with his hair. 16:23 Dagon. He was a sea-god, an idol with the head of a fish and the body of a man. 16:24 they praised their god. It is tragic when a person’s sin contributes to the unsaved community giving praise to a false god, for God alone is worthy of praise.16:28 remember me, I pray! A prayer of repentance and trust pours from Samson.16:29, 30 Some Philistine temples had roofs overlooking a courtyard, above wooden columns planted on stone foundations. The central pillars were set close to furnish extra support for the roof. Here the victory celebration and taunts flung at the prisoner below drew a big crowd. The full strength of Samson, renewed by God, enabled him to buckle the columns. As a result, the roof collapsed and the victory was Israel’s, not Philistia’s. He died for the cause of his country and his God. He was not committing suicide, but rather bringing God’s judgment on His enemies and willing to leave his own life or death to God. He was the greatest champion of all Israel, yet a man of passion capable of severe sin. Still, he is in the list of the faithful (Heb. 11:32)
BKC - the deliverance by samson from the oppression of the philistines (chaps. 13-16) The defection of Israel (13:1a) 13:1a. Israel’s monotonous downward spiral climaxed with the seventh recorded apostasy in the Book of Judges (3:5-7, 12-14; 4:1-3; 6:1-2; 8:33-35; 10:6-9). This apostasy appears to have been a phase of the idolatrous worship previously described in 10:6 (which included “the gods of the Philistines”), because a resulting oppression by the Philistines (in the west) is mentioned in 10:7 to complement that by the Ammonites (in the east).
The distress under the Philistines (13:1b) 13:1b. The depths of Israelite apostasy and the greatness of Philistine strength were causes for the unprecedented length of oppression—40 years—though the Philistines continued as a threat until the early years of David’s reign (2 Sam. 5:17-25). Though earlier Philistine settlements had been present in Palestine (Gen. 21:32-34; 26:1-18; Jud. 1:18-19), the Philistines arrived in large numbers during the invasion of the Sea Peoples about 1200 b.c. They organized a pentapolis or confederation of five cities—Gaza, Ashkelon, and Ashdod on the strategic coastal highway, and Gath and Ekron on the edge of the Shephelah or Judean foothills (Josh. 13:3). When the Philistine aggression moved eastward into the land of Benjamin and Judah, the Israelites accepted that domination without resistance (14:4; 15:11) till the time of Samuel (1 Sam. 7:10-14). How was it that Samson’s parents, who were Danites, were still living in the Sorek Valley when much earlier the tribe of Dan had migrated north? (Jud. 18)Apparently a few of the Danite clans stayed behind and did not move northward.
The deliverance by Samson (13:2-16:31) Unless the repentance mentioned in 10:10-16 includes the western Israelites who were being oppressed by the Philistines (cf. 10:7)—which is unlikely in view of their apparent acceptance of the Philistine domination (cf. 15:11)—there is no mention of Israel’s cry to God before He raised up Samson as a deliverer (contrast 3:9, 15; 4:3; 6:7; 10:10). Since Samson judged Israel 20 years (15:20; 16:31), beginning apparently at about age 20, his entire life span must have approximated the 40-year Philistine oppression which began before his birth (13:5). He was thus a contemporary of Samuel who with God’s help subdued the Philistines after Samson’s death (1 Sam. 7:10-14).(1) The birth of Samson (13:2-24). 13:2-5. Samson’s parents were from the clan of the Danites, perhaps implying that the bulk of the tribe of Dan had already made the move northward to the Huleh Valley chap. 18), so that only a clan or two remained in their original tribal inheritance. The childless wife of Manoah of Zorah was visited by the Angel of the Lord. Zorah, the highest point in the Shephelah, was on a high ridge north of the Sorek Valley and about 14 miles west of Jerusalem. Originally Zorah was a city of Judah (Josh. 15:20, 33), but later it was allotted to the tribe of Dan (Josh. 19:40-41). In this theophany (Jud. 2:1-2) the Lord foretold the birth of her son, Samson, and said that he was to be a Nazirite. A Nazirite (meaning “devoted” or “consecrated”) was a person whose vow of separation to God included abstaining from fermented drink, refraining from cutting his hair, and avoiding contact with dead bodies (Num. 6:2-6). Nazirite vows were normally for a limited period of time but Samson was to be a Nazirite of God all his life (Jud. 13:7). His mother was to share for a time in part of the Nazirite vow (vv. 4, 7, 14). Besides being set apart as a Nazirite, Samson was chosen by God to begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines. The completion of this task would be left to Samuel (1 Sam. 7:10-14) and David (2 Sam. 5:17-25). 13:6-8. When Manoah’s wife reported to him her encounter with this One whom she described as a Man of God, who looked like an Angel . . . Manoah prayed for His reappearance to teach them how to bring up the boy. 13:9-18. In response to Manoah’s prayer the Angel of God (another title for the Angel of the Lord) reappeared, first to his wife and then to Manoah, but He merely repeated His previous instructions (vv. 13-14). Not fully realizing the divine character of his Guest (v. 16b), Manoah invited the Messenger to stay for a meal. The Angel indicated that any provisions should be offered to the Lord as a burnt offering. On asking the Angel’s name, Manoah was informed, It is beyond understanding. 13:19-23. Then Manoah sacrificed a young goat (v. 15) with a grain offering (Lev. 2) on a rock to the Lord. He and his wife were amazed as the Angel of the Lord ascended in the flame that blazed up from the altar. Realizing the identity of the divine Messenger, Manoah expressed fear of impending death because of their having seen God (Gideon’s similar response, Jud. 6:22-23). Manoah’s wife more practically pointed out that God’s acceptance of the sacrifice and the promise of a son indicated that immediate death was not God’s plan for them. 13:24. In fulfillment of the words of the divine Messenger, Manoah’s wife gave birth to . . . Samson (a name related to the word for “sun”), who grew up under the blessing of the Lord. (2) The moving of Samson by the Holy Spirit. 13:25. One day the Spirit of the Lord began to stir Samson, that is, to empower him to begin to deliver Israel. This happened at Mahaneh Dan (“Camp of Dan”; 18:11-12 for the origin of the name) between Zorah (Samson’s home; 13:2) and Eshtaol (a town about one and one-half miles east by northeast of Zorah). Samson was later buried between these two towns (16:31; 18:2, 8, 11). Samson’s leadership as judge or deliverer did not take the form of leading an army against the Philistines. Rather it consisted of his being a lone champion for the cause of his people. His exploits, the record of which begins in chapter 14, distracted the Philistines from more serious invasions into the tribal areas of Benjamin and Judah. (3) The marriage of Samson to a Philistine woman (chap. 14). 14:1-4. Samson’s exploits with the Philistines began with his desire for a young Philistine woman who lived in Timnah (probably modern Tell el-Batashi, four miles northwest down the Sorek Valley from Beth Shemesh). Since marriages were contracted by the parents (Gen. 21:21), Samson insisted that his parents get her for him as his wife. Since marriage with a non-Israelite was expressly forbidden by the Mosaic Law (Ex. 34:16; Deut. 7:3), his parents objected to his marrying a Philistine (Jud. 14:3). Other peoples around Israel, whether Egyptians or Semites, practiced circumcision, but the Philistines did not. By citing this fact Samson’s parents were deriding the Philistines. Though Samson’s parents objected to his marrying a Philistine, they allowed Samson’s wishes to prevail. They did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines. This does not mean that breaking the Law was desired by God but that Samson’s decision was overruled by God for His own purpose and glory. 14:5-7. Samson took his parents down to Timnah to arrange the wedding. He apparently turned aside into the vineyards of Timnah, perhaps to obtain grapes, where he was attacked by a young lion. Under the empowerment of the Spirit of the Lord (14:19; 15:14) he tore the lion apart with his bare hands, probably in the manner Near-Easterners rend a young goat, pulling it in half by the hind legs. That he did not tell his father or mother about this implies that they had proceeded on to Timnah to complete the betrothal arrangement. When Samson arrived in Timnah, he could then actually talk to the woman, perhaps for the first time (before he had only “seen” her, 14:2), and he liked her. 14:8-9. Some time later, when the betrothal period was completed, he was on his way to the wedding. Again he turned aside into the vineyards, this time to look at the lion’s carcass in which he discovered a swarm of bees and some honey. He scooped out the honey to eat it, and shared it with his parents without informing them of its source. While the Nazirite law strictly prohibited contact with a dead person, the purpose of this was to avoid ceremonial uncleanness (Num. 6:7). Since touching the carcass of even a clean animal made a person (with the obvious exception of an officiating priest) ceremonially unclean (Lev. 11:39-40), probably Samson’s scooping the honey from the lion’s carcass was a violation of his Nazirite vow. His participation in the wedding feast (Jud. 14:10) may also have violated his vow to abstain from fermented drink. However, only one Nazirite qualification was specifically indicated before his birth—“No razor may be used on his head” (13:5). Later a violation of this specific practice would lead to the removal of the power of God’s Spirit from him (16:17-20). 14:10-14. At the seven-day wedding ceremony, Samson conducted the customary feast (lit., “drinking party”) and was accompanied by 30 companions (typical “friends of the bridegroom,” apparently provided by the Philistine family). Samson told his companions a riddle, the meaning of which he made more challenging with a wager of 30 linen garments (large rectangular sheets often used as undergarments) and 30 sets of clothes (festal garments, often embroidered). Solving Samson’s poetically phrased riddle—Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet—would require a knowledge of his having taken honey from the lion’s carcass.14:15-18. Unable to solve the riddle after three days, the companions threatened Samson’s bride and her family with death if she would not obtain the answer for them. They implied that she might have been involved in a scheme with Samson to rob them by means of the wager. Samson withstood bridal tears till the seventh day of the feast when the time to solve the riddle would expire (v. 12). Then Samson’s weakness to give in to the tears or pleadings of a woman (16:16) was expressed. He finally told her and she in turn explained the riddle to the 30 Philistines. When they informed Samson of the solution which, like the riddle, they phrased in poetic parallelism, Samson retorted concerning his bride with a scornful but picturesque figure of speech: If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would not have solved my riddle. In calling her a “heifer” he was ridiculing her for her untamed and stubborn spirit (Jer. 50:11; Hosea 4:16). 14:19-20. To fulfill his obligation in the wager (v. 12) Samson attacked 30 Philistines in Ashkelon (23 miles southwestward on the Mediterranean coast—far enough away not to be associated with Samson in Timnah) and took their clothes to the Philistines who had explained the riddle. God overruled Samson’s foolishness by the enabling power of the Spirit of the Lord (v. 6; 15:14) to accomplish His purpose of disrupting the Philistine status quo of easy dominance over Israel (14:4). Still angry, Samson went up to his father’s house in Zorah without returning to his wife on the seventh night of the wedding to consummate the marriage. The bride’s father, to avoid the disgrace of what he perceived as an annulment (15:2), gave her to the best man.(4) The conflicts of Samson with the Philistines (15:1-16:3).15:1-5. Samson later (in the wheat harvest, i.e., May) returned to Timnah with a present of a young goat (13:15, 19) for his wife. Samson’s marriage was apparently the ṣadīqa type in which the bride remained with her parents and was visited periodically by her husband (8:31). Thus Samson’s present was probably not a reconciliation gift for his previous behavior, but merely the expected gift on a husband’s periodic visit. However, Samson soon discovered that his bride had been given to another by her father who thought Samson hated her (the word is used in a divorce context in Deut. 24:3). Unimpressed with the offer of marriage to her younger sister, Samson again vented his anger on the Philistines, this time by burning their grain (wheat, Jud. 15:1) fields. He did this by fastening torches to the tied . . . tails of pairs of 300 foxes (the Heb. word can also mean jackals which run in packs and are more easily caught). The fiery destruction included the dry shocks of grain already harvested along with the dry standing grain yet to be harvested and spread also to the vineyards and olive groves (thus destroying the land’s three main crops; cf. Deut. 7:13; Hag. 1:11). 15:6-8. When the Philistines learned that Samson caused the destruction, they retaliated by burning his wife . . . and her father to death (apparently destroying the entire Timnite household). Motivated again by personal revenge, Samson viciously . . . slaughtered many of the Philistines and then walked to a cave in the rock of Etam. The term “viciously” is literally “leg on thigh,” a wrestling metaphor for a ferocious attack. Though there is a town named Etam about 2 miles southwest of Bethlehem in Judah (about 17 miles from Timnah), another possibility is to identify the site with a cleft above the Wadi Ismain about 2 1/2 miles southeast of Zorah. 15:9-14. Pursuing Samson, the Philistines . . . camped in Judah . . . near Lehi (lit., “jawbone”; perhaps modern Khirbet es-Siyyaj). When the Judeans learned the reason for the Philistine show of force, they sought Samson with 3,000 men to turn him over to the Philistines. Apparently satisfied with the status quo, they asked Samson, Don’t you realize that the Philistines are rulers over us? When the Judeans agreed not to kill him themselves, Samson (not wanting to shed Israelite blood) let them surrender him to the Philistines. They bound him with two new ropes, but these became like charred flax and . . . dropped from his hands when he came near the jubilant Philistines. Again special strength was given him by the Spirit of the Lord (14:6, 19). 15:15-17. Grabbing a fresh jawbone of a donkey (an old one would have been too brittle), Samson slaughtered 1,000 Philistines. His words of triumph included a play on the Hebrew ḥămôr which can mean either “donkey” or “heap.” Thus the phrase translated I have made donkeys of them is often translated “heaps upon heaps” (nasb) and interpreted to mean something like, “I have piled them in heaps.” The place where this happened was Ramath Lehi, which probably means “the hill (height) of the jawbone.”15:18-19. The next incident in Samson’s life was God’s provision of water for him. Samson was extremely thirsty after his difficult effort in the hot, dry climate. His cry to the Lord was miraculously answered as God opened up the hollow place (maḵtēš, lit., “mortar,” i.e., basin) and water came out. This place where Samson’s strength was restored was still called En Hakkore (“spring of the caller”) when the Book of Judges was completed (it is still there). 15:20. Samson’s leadership over Israel, summarized at this point, is also noted in 16:31. The 20 years (about 1069-1049 b.c.) would cover Samson’s adult life until his death in Gaza (16:30-31). 16:1-3. The incident of Samson’s removing the doors of Gaza showed that his physical strength was unmatched except by his moral weakness. No reason is given why Samson went to Gaza, perhaps the most important Philistine city, which was near the coast about 35 miles southwest of his home in Zorah. Whatever the reason, his sensual inclinations overcame him and he spent the night with a prostitute. Aware of Samson’s presence in the city, the Philistines of Gaza . . . lay in wait for him all night at the city gate, planning to kill him when he left at dawn. However, Samson arose in the middle of the night, apparently catching them by such surprise that he escaped even though he pulled away the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts . . . bar and all. In fact, he carried the doors to the top of the hill that faces Hebron. Whether this is a hill outside of Gaza that has a view eastward toward Hebron, or whether Samson carried the doors uphill 37 miles to a hill outside of Hebron, is not clear from the text. Local tradition identifies the hill as El Montar just east of Gaza. There seems to be no reason why Samson would carry the doors farther, since he had already insulted the people of the city by removing its gate of security. (5) The downfall of Samson at the hands of Delilah (16:4-22). 16:4-14. Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah (though she was probably a Philistine, she had a Semitic name meaning “devotee” so she may have been a temple prostitute). She was at least the third woman with whom Samson had been involved (14:1-2; 16:1). The town where Delilah lived in the Valley of Sorek (where Samson spent most of his life) is not named, whether Har-heres (Beth Shemesh), or Timnah, or some other town. The Philistine rulers devised a plot to capture Samson. The Bible does not say how many rulers were involved, but probably the number was five, one for each of the major Philistine cities. They hired Delilah to learn the secret of his great strength and how to overpower . . . and subdue him. The rulers each promised to give her the exorbitant amount of 1,100 shekels of silver, equal to many thousands of dollars. Delilah made three fruitless attempts to gain Samson’s confidence and secret. Each time he teased her by inventing a means whereby he would become as weak as any other man and could be captured: (a) if he were tied up with seven fresh thongs (i.e., bowstrings prepared from animal viscera); (b) if he were tied up with new ropes that have never been used (but the effectiveness of this had already been disproven; 15:13); and (c) if his hair (getting closer to the truth) was woven into the fabric on the loom. Delilah futilely tried each method, apparently while Samson slept (as in 16:13), and seemed to tease him by crying out, Samson, the Philistines are upon you! (vv. 9, 12, 14) when in reality she was testing the success or failure of each method before the Philistines, hidden in the room (vv. 9, 12), dared show themselves. 16:15-17. Samson finally revealed the source of his strength, which was not a magical secret, as the Philistines had supposed, but a supernatural enablement from the Spirit of God (13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14). This enablement was associated with Samson’s special separation to the Lord through his Nazirite status, which was especially symbolized by his uncut hair (13:5). Samson explained his Nazirite status to Delilah when he could no longer bear her nagging him for his secret. He said that if his head were shaved, he would become as weak as any other man. This was not because his strength was in his hair but because cutting it would manifest his disobedience to the Lord, a disobedience that had already begun by his revealing the truth to Delilah whom he had no reason to trust. 16:18-22. Samson’s indiscretion led to his imprisonment by the Philistines. This time Delilah sensed that Samson had told her everything, so she set the trap again and had his hair shaved while he slept on her lap. As a fruit of his foolish disobedience to the Lord, Samson’s strength left him. Apparently Samson was also bound since, when Delilah cried out The Philistines are upon you! he attempted to shake himself free. The tragic fact was that he did not know that the Lord had left him. The departure of the Spirit of the Lord was tantamount to discharging him from his role as judge. The powerless Samson was then seized by the Philistines who blinded him and took him down to Gaza, a just retribution they no doubt thought for his stealing its city gate (vv. 1-3). They bound him with bronze shackles and set him to grinding meal between millstones in the prison, a woman’s work. This may have been a handmill with a saddle-quern (9:53), since it is not certain that large animal-turned mills were used that early. As time passed while Samson was in prison, his hair (the symbol of his Nazirite dedication, 13:5) began to grow again. Since the physical growth of his hair would be expected, the point of this observation must have been the anticipation of Samson’s renewed strength for one last act of revenge against the Philistines (16:28-30).(6) The revenge of Samson on the Philistines.16:23-30. The time came for the Philistine rulers . . . to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god. Dagon was a West Semitic grain deity (1 Sam. 5:2-7; 1 Chron.10:10) adopted by the Philistines from the Amorites. Since they believed that their god had delivered Samson . . . into their hands. . . . they called Samson out of the prison to entertain them (apparently expecting to see some acts of strength, or perhaps just to mock their now-powerless opponent). A Philistine temple was typically a long inner chamber with two major pillars supporting the roof. A large group of Philistines (including some 3,000 people on the roof) watched Samson perform, apparently in an outer court. What his “performing” included is not known. Afterward blind Samson had the servant who was guiding him take him to the pillars that support the temple, on the pretext of resting against them. However, he then prayed to the Lord for one final feat of strength to obtain revenge on the Philistines. Samson . . . bracing himself against the pillars (whether between them pushing outward, or adjacent to them leaning forward), said, Let me die with the Philistines! and pushed with all his might. God granted his final prayer and the temple was demolished, killing more people in Samson’s death than he had slain while he lived. Previously he had killed at least 1,030 Philistines (30 in Ashkelon, 14:19; and 1,000 at Ramath Lehi, 15:14-17).(7) The burial of Samson by his relatives.16:31. Samson’s whole family (his brothers) who had not been mentioned till this incident (went down to Gaza and brought Samson’s body back for burial between Zorah (his birthplace, 13:2) and Eshtaol (13:25; 18:2, 8, 11) in Manoah’s tomb. Thus ended Samson’s 20 years of judgeship over Israel (15:20). Though Samson had great ability and was endowed with physical power by the Holy Spirit, he gave in to temptation several times and suffered the consequences. His life is a stern warning to others who are prone to follow the path of sensuality.
Wiersbe - “It is a riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma.”Samson was unpredictable and undependable because he was double-minded, and “a double-minded man is unstable in all his ways” (James 1:8). It has well been said that “the greatest ability is dependability,” and you could depend on Samson to be undependable. Bold before men, Samson was weak before women and couldn’t resist telling them his secrets. Empowered by the Spirit of God, he yielded his body to the appetites of the flesh. Called to declare war on the Philistines, he fraternized with the enemy and even tried to marry a Philistine woman. He fought the Lord’s battles by day and disobeyed the Lord’s commandments by night. Given the name Samson, which means “sunny,” he ended up in the darkness, blinded by the very enemy he was supposed to conquer. Four chapters in the Book of Judges are devoted to the history of Samson. In Judges 13–14, we’re introduced to “Sunny” and his parents, and we see the light flickering as Samson plays with sin. In Judges 15–16, the light goes out and Samson dies a martyr under the ruins of a heathen temple, a sad end to a promising life. Let’s open Samson’s family album and study three pictures of Samson taken early in his career.
1. The child with unbelievable promise (Jdg. 13:1–23) Consider the great promise that was wrapped up in this person named Samson. He had a nation to protect (v. 1). With monotonous regularity we’ve read this phrase in the Book of Judges (3:7, 12; 4:1–2; 6:1; 10:6–7), and here it appears for the last time. It introduces the longest period of oppression that God sent to His people, forty years of Philistine domination. The Philistines were among the “sea people” who, in the twelfth century B.C., migrated from an area of Greece to the coastal plain of Canaan. The Jews weren’t able to occupy that territory during their conquest of the land (Josh. 13:1–2). As you study your map, you’ll note that their national life focused around the five key cities of Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath, and Ekron (1 Sam. 6:17). The land between Israel’s hill country and the coastal plain was called the “Shephelah,” which means “low country”; and it separated Philistia from Israel. Samson was born in Zorah, a city in Dan near the Philistine border; and he often crossed that border either to serve God or satisfy his appetites. Samson judged Israel “in the days of the Philistines” (Jdg. 15:20), which means that his twenty years in office were during the forty years of Philistine rule. Dr. Leon Wood dates the beginning of the Philistine oppression about 1095 B.C. and the end in 1055 B.C. with Israel’s victory at Mizpeh (1 Sam. 7). About the middle of this period occurred the battle of Aphek when Israel was ignominiously defeated by the Philistines and lost the ark and three priests (1 Sam. 4). Dr. Wood suggests that Samson’s judgeship started about the time of the tragedy at Aphek and that his main job was to harass the Philistines and keep them from successfully overrunning the land and menacing the people. It’s worth noting that there is no evidence given in the text that Israel cried out to God for deliverance at any time during the forty years of Philistine domination. The Philistines disarmed the Jews (1 Sam. 13:19–23) and therefore had little fear of a rebellion. Judges 15:9–13 indicates that the Jews were apparently content with their lot and didn’t want Samson to “rock the boat.” It’s frightening how quickly we can get accustomed to bondage and learn to accept the status quo. Had the Philistines been more severe on the Jews, perhaps the Jews would have prayed to Jehovah for help. Unlike most of the previous judges, Samson didn’t deliver his people from foreign domination but he began the work of deliverance that others would finish (13:5). As a powerful and unpredictable hero, Samson frightened and troubled the Philistines (16:24) and kept them from devastating Israel as the other invading nations had done. But it would take the prayers of Samuel (1 Sam. 7) and the conquests of David (2 Sam. 5:17–25) to finish the job that Samson started and give Israel complete victory over the Philistines. He had a God to serve (vv. 2–5). The tribe of Dan was originally assigned the land adjacent to Judah and Benjamin, extending to the Mediterranean Sea (Josh. 19:40–48). Since the Danites weren’t able to dislodge the coastal inhabitants, however, the tribe relocated and moved north (Jdg. 18–19), although some of the people remained in their original location. Zorah is about fifteen miles from Jerusalem in the foothill country near the border of Philistia. When God wants to do something really great in His world, He doesn’t send an army but an angel. The angel often visits a couple and promises to send them a baby. His great plan of salvation got underway when He called Abraham and Sarah and gave them Isaac. When He wanted to deliver Israel from Egyptian bondage, God sent baby Moses to Amram and Jochebed (Ex. 6:20); and when in later years Israel desperately needed revival, God gave baby Samuel to Hannah (1 Sam. 1). When the fullness of time arrived, God gave Baby Jesus to Mary; and that baby grew up to die on the cross for the sins of the world. Babies are fragile, but God uses the weak things of the world to confound the mighty (1 Cor. 1:26–28). Babies must have time to grow up, but God is patient and is never late in accomplishing His will. Each baby God sends is a gift from God, a new beginning, and carries with it tremendous potential. What a tragedy that we live in a society that sees the unborn baby as a menace instead of a miracle, an intruder instead of an inheritance.We have every reason to believe the “angel of the Lord” who visited Manoah’s wife was Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Gen. 22:1–18; 31:11–13; Ex. 3:1–6; Jdg. 6:11–24). Like Sarah (Gen. 18:9–15), Hannah (1 Sam. 1), and Elizabeth (Luke 1:5–25), Manoah’s wife was barren and never expected to have a child. Since it would be the mother who would have the greatest influence on the child, both before and after birth, the angel solemnly charged her what to do. Like John the Baptist, Samson would be a Nazirite from his mother’s womb (Luke 1:13–15). The word Nazirite comes from a Hebrew word that means “to separate, to consecrate.” Nazirites were persons who, for a stated period of time, consecrated themselves to the Lord in a special way. They abstained from drinking wine and strong drink; they avoided touching dead bodies; and as a mark of their consecration, they allowed their hair to grow. The laws governing the Nazirite vow are given in Numbers 6. Manoah’s wife had to be careful what she ate and drank because her diet would influence her unborn Nazirite son and could defile him. It’s too bad every expectant mother doesn’t exercise caution; for in recent years, the news media have informed us of the sad consequences babies suffer when their mothers use tobacco, alcohol, and narcotics during a pregnancy. Samson’s Nazirite vow wasn’t something he voluntarily took: God gave it to him; and his mother was a part of the vow of dedication. Not only was she to avoid anything related to the grape, but also she was to avoid foods that were unclean to the Jews (Lev. 11; Deut. 14:3–20). Ordinarily, a Nazirite vow was for a limited period of time; but in Samson’s case, the vow was to last all his life (Jdg. 13:7). This was something Manoah and his wife would have to teach their son, and they would also have to explain why they didn’t cut his hair. The claims of God were upon this child, and it was the obligation of the parents to train him for the work God sent him to do. He had a home to honor (vv. 6–23). Manoah’s wife immediately told her husband about the stranger’s visit and message, although neither of them yet knew that the visitor was the Lord (v. 16). Manoah assumed that he was “a man of God,” perhaps a visiting prophet; and he prayed that the Lord would send the man back. We can’t help but be impressed with the devotion of this husband and wife to each other and to the Lord. The time of the Judges was one of apostasy and anarchy, but there were still Jewish homes that were dedicated to the Lord and that believed in prayer; and God was still working through them.God answered Manoah’s prayer and gave him an opportunity to ask an important question, which the angel of the Lord never answered: “When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule for the boy’s life and work?” (v. 12) The Old Testament Law not only gave instructions concerning Nazirites and clean and unclean foods, but also it told parents how to raise their children (Deut. 6). It wasn’t necessary for the Lord to give Manoah and his wife additional instructions when the Word of God already told them what to do. The messenger simply repeated the warning he had already given to Manoah’s wife. Wanting to be a good and appreciative host, Manoah asked the guest to wait while he and his wife prepared a meal for him (6:18–19; Gen. 18:1–8). The stranger’s cryptic reply was that he wouldn’t eat their food but would permit them to offer a burnt offering to the Lord. After all, their promised son was a gift from God, and they owed the Lord their worship and thanks. But Manoah thought to himself, If I can’t honor this man of God now, perhaps I can do it in the future after his words come true and the baby boy has been born. (Note that Manoah believed the announcement and said “when” and not “if.”) Manoah would have to know the man’s name so he could locate him nine months later, but the man wouldn’t tell his name except to say it was “wonderful.” (See Gen. 32:29.) This is the same word used to name the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6; it is translated “wondrously” in Judges 13:19 of KJV, (NIV says “an amazing thing”). Ordinarily, Jewish worshipers had to bring their offerings to the tabernacle altar at Shiloh; but since the “man of God” commanded Manoah to offer the burnt offering, it was permissible to do it there, using a rock as the altar. Suddenly, the visitor ascended to heaven in the flame! Only then did Manoah and his wife discover that their visitor was an angel from the Lord. This frightened Manoah, because the Jews believed that nobody could look up on God and live (6:19–23). Using common sense, Manoah’s wife convinced him that they couldn’t die and fulfill God’s promises at the same time. Every baby born into a godly home carries the responsibility of honoring the family name. Samson’s inconsistent life brought shame to his father’s house just as it brought shame to the name of the Lord. Samson’s relatives had to pull his body out of the wreckage of the Philistine temple and take it home for burial (16:31). In one sense, it was a day of victory over God’s enemies; but it was also a day of defeat for Samson’s family.
2. The champion with undefeatable power (Jdg. 13:24–25) The baby was born and was named Samson, which means “sunny” or “brightness.” Certainly he brought light and joy to Manoah and his wife, who thought they would never have a family; and he also began to bring light to Israel during the dark days of Philistine oppression. While other judges were said to be clothed with God’s Spirit (3:10; 6:34; 11:29), only of Samson is it said “the Lord blessed him” (13:24; see Luke 1:80 and 2:52). The hand of God was on him in a special way. The secret of Samson’s great strength was his Nazirite vow, symbolized by his unshorn hair (Jdg. 16:17); and the source of that strength was the Holy Spirit of God (13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14). We aren’t told that Samson’s physique was especially different from that of other men, although he may have resembled the strong men pictured in Bible storybooks. Perhaps it was as he entered his teen years, when a Jewish boy became a “son of the law,” that he began to demonstrate his amazing ability. Only a few of Samson’s great feats are recorded in the Book of Judges:
killing the lion bare-handed (14:5–6);
slaying thirty Philistines (v. 19);
catching 300 foxes (or jackals) and tying torches to their tails (15:3–5);
breaking bonds (15:14; 16:9, 12, 14);
slaying 1,000 men with the jawbone of a donkey (15:15);
carrying off the Gaza city gate (16:3);
destroying the Philistine building (v. 30).
Judges 16:24 indicates that he had done many more feats than those listed above, feats that had aggravated the Philistine people. As you ponder the record of Samson’s life, you get the impression that he was a fun-loving fellow with a good sense of humor; and sometimes he didn’t take his gifts and his work seriously. A sense of humor is a good thing to have, but it must be balanced with serious devotion to the things of the Lord. “Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling” (Ps. 2:11). Samson’s power was a weapon to fight with and a tool to build with, not a toy to play with. Notice another thing: Samson was a loner; unlike previous judges, he never “rallied the troops” and tried to unite Israel in throwing off the Philistine yoke. For twenty years he played the champion, but he failed to act the leader. Joseph Parker said that Samson was “an elephant in strength [but] a babe in weakness.” We might add that, when it came to national leadership, he was a lost sheep!
3. The man with unreliable character (Jdg. 14:1–20) According to Hebrews 11:32, Samson was a man of faith, but he certainly wasn’t a faithful man. He wasn’t faithful to his parents’ teaching, his Nazirite vow, or the laws of the Lord. It didn’t take long for Samson to lose almost everything the Lord had given him, except his great strength; and he finally lost that as well. He lost his respect for his parents (vv. 1–4). The Lord had given Samson a godly heritage, and he had been raised to honor the Lord; but when Samson fell in love, he wouldn’t listen to his parents when they warned him. Samson had wandered four miles into enemy territory where he was captivated by a Philistine woman and decided to marry her. This, of course, was contrary to God’s Law (Ex. 34:12–16; Deut. 7:1–3; 2 Cor. 6:14–18). Samson was living by sight and not by faith. He was controlled by “the lust of the eyes” (1 John 2:16) rather than by the Law of the Lord. The important thing to Samson was not pleasing the Lord, or even pleasing his parents, but pleasing himself (Jdg. 14:3, 7, see 2 Cor. 5:14–15). When God isn’t permitted to rule in our lives, He overrules and works out His will in spite of our decisions. Of course, we’re the losers for rebelling against Him; but God will accomplish His purposes either with us or in spite of us (Es. 4:10–14). Samson should have been going to a war instead of to a wedding, but God used this event to give Samson occasion to attack the enemy. Because of this event, Samson killed thirty men (Jdg. 14:19), burned up the enemy crops (15:1–5), slaughtered a great number of Philistines (vv. 7–8), and slew 1,000 men (v. 15). Samson hadn’t planned these things, but God worked them out just the same. He lost his Nazirite separation (vv. 5–9). When Samson and his parents went down to Timnah to make arrangements for the marriage, it appears that Samson left the main road (and his parents) and went on a detour into the vineyards; and there a lion attacked him. A vineyard was a dangerous place for a man who was not supposed to have anything to do with grapes (Num. 6:1–4). Did God send the lion as a warning to Samson that he was walking on the wrong path? The Holy Spirit gave Samson power to defeat the enemy, but Samson persisted on his path of disobedience into enemy territory and an unlawful wedding. Some weeks later, when Samson returned to claim his bride, he once again turned aside into the vineyard, this time to look at his trophy and perhaps gloat over his victory. His sin began with “the lust of the flesh” and “the lust of the eyes,” and now it included “the pride of life” (1 John 2:16). When Samson ate the honey from the lion’s carcass, he was defiled by a dead body; and that part of his Nazirite dedication was destroyed. In fact, two thirds of his vow was now gone; for he had defiled himself by going into the vineyard and by eating food from a dead body. He lost control of his tongue (vv. 10–18). Since Samson hadn’t brought any men with him to serve as “friends of the bridegroom” (Matt. 9:15), the Philistines rounded up thirty men to do the job for him. These men may also have served as guards for the Philistines; for Samson’s reputation had preceded him, and they were never sure what he would do next. Since the atmosphere must have been tense at the beginning of the feast, Samson sought to liven things up by posing a riddle. Sad to say, he constructed the riddle out of the experience of his sin! He didn’t take seriously the fact that he had violated his Nazirite vows. It’s bad enough to disobey God, but when you make a joke out of it, you’ve sunk to new depths of spiritual insensitivity. It would have been an expensive thing for the thirty guests to supply Samson with sixty garments, so they were desperate to learn the answer to the riddle. Their only recourse was to enlist the help of Samson’s wife. Thus they threatened to kill her and burn down her father’s house if she didn’t supply the answer before the week was up. Samson resolutely refused to tell her; but on the seventh day, he relented. Since the marriage was to be consummated on the seventh day, perhaps that had something to do with it. First the Philistine woman enticed him (Jdg. 14:1), then she controlled him (v. 17), and then she betrayed him (v. 17), which is the way the world always treats the compromising believer. Samson could kill lions and break ropes, but he couldn’t overcome the power of a woman’s tears. We wonder how his wife felt being compared to a heifer? The proverb simply means, “You couldn’t have done what you did if you hadn’t broken the rules,” because heifers weren’t used for plowing. Since the guests had played foul, technically Samson could have refused to pay the prize; but he generously agreed to keep his promise. Perhaps he found out that his wife’s life had been threatened and he didn’t want to put her and her family into jeopardy again.Those who can’t control their tongue can’t control their bodies (James 3:2); and in Samson’s case, the consequences of this lack of discipline were disastrous.Samson lost his temper (vv. 19–20). He went twenty miles away to Ashkelon so the news of the slaughter wouldn’t get back to Timnah too soon. His joke about the lion and the honey ceased to be a joke, for it led to the death of thirty men whose garments Samson confiscated. Samson was so angry that he didn’t even consummate the marriage but went back to Zorah and stayed with his parents. While he was away from Timnah, his wife was given to his best man. The Lord used this turn of events to motivate Samson to decide to fight the Philistines instead of entertaining them. If Samson had won his way and married a Philistine woman, that relationship would have crippled the work God had called him to do. Believers today who enter into unholy alliances are sinning and hindering the work of the Lord too (2 Cor. 6:14–18). If Samson had sought God’s leading, the Lord would have directed him. Instead, Samson went his own way, and the Lord had to overrule his selfish decisions. “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye. Do not be like the horse or like the mule, which have no understanding, which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, else they will not come near you” (Ps. 32:8–9, NKJV). If we’re looking by faith into the face of the Lord, He can guide us with His eye, the way parents guide their children. But if we turn our backs on Him, he has to treat us like animals and harness us. Samson was either impetuously rushing ahead like the horse or stubbornly holding back like the mule, and God had to deal with him.
JUDGES 15–16 The life of Samson illustrates the ancient truth that a good beginning doesn’t guarantee a good ending. The American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.” That’s why Solomon wrote, “The end of a matter is better than its beginning” (Ecc. 7:8). At the beginning of his career, Samson served in a blaze of glory, but the light began to flicker as he yielded to his passions. In the closing scenes of his life, we watch Samson’s light finally go out; and the blind champion ends up buried in the rubble of a heathen temple. Granted, he killed more in his martyrdom than he killed during his judgeship; but how different it would have been had he first conquered himself before he sought to conquer the Lord’s enemies. “His whole life,” said Spurgeon, “is a series of miracles and follies.”mLet’s look at the closing scenes in Samson’s life and learn from them why he didn’t end well. 1. Samson avenges himself (Jdg. 15:1–8) The passion to get even seemed to govern Samson’s life. His motto was, “As they did unto me, so have I done unto them” (15:11). I realize that as the defender of Israel, Samson’s calling was to defeat the enemy; but you long to see him fighting “the battles of the Lord” and not just his own private wars. When David faced the Philistines, he saw them as the enemies of the Lord and sought to honor the name of the Lord in his victory (1 Sam. 17). Samson’s attitude was different. As Christians, we need to beware of hiding selfish motives under the cloak of religious zeal and calling it “righteous indignation.” Personal vengeance and private gain rather than the glory of the Lord has motivated more than one “crusader” in the church. What some people think is godly zeal may actually be ungodly anger, fed by pride and motivated by selfishness. There is a godly anger that we should experience when we see wickedness prosper and defenseless people hurt (Eph. 4:26), but there’s a very fine line between righteous indignation and a “religious temper tantrum.” He avenges his ruined marriage (vv. 1–5). Although he had never consummated the marriage, Samson thought he was legally married to the woman of Timnah. Therefore, he took a gift and went to visit her in her father’s house. How shocked he was to learn that not only was he not married, but also the woman he loved was now married to his best-man! Samson had paid the legal “bride price” for his wife, and now he had neither the money nor the wife. Samson was angry, and even the offer of a younger and prettier bride didn’t appease him. If anybody should have been punished, it was his father-in-law. He was the real culprit. After all, he took the money and gave the bride away—to the wrong man! But Samson decided to take out his anger on the Philistines by burning up the grain in their fields. The word translated “foxes” also means “jackals,” and that’s probably the animal that Samson used. Foxes are solitary creatures, but jackals prowl in large packs. Because of this, it would have been much easier for Samson to capture 300 jackals; and no doubt he enlisted the help of others. Had he tied the firebrands to individual animals, they each would have immediately run to their dens. But by putting two animals together and turning them loose, Samson could be fairly sure that their fear of the fire and their inability to maneuver easily would make them panic. Thus they would run around frantically in the fields and ignite the grain. The fire then would spread into the vineyards and olive groves. It was a costly devastation.Why he chose to destroy the Philistine’s crops in such a strange manner isn’t clear to us. If others were helping him, Samson could attack several fields at the same time; and the Philistines, unable to see the animals on the ground, would be alarmed and confused, wondering what was causing the fires. The jackals would undoubtedly make a racket, especially if caught in the rushing flame or overwhelmed by the smoke. His riddle and his rhyme (15:16) indicate that Samson had a boyish sense of humor, and perhaps this approach to agricultural arson was just another fun time for him. However, we must keep in mind that God was using Samson’s exploits to harass the Philistines and prepare them for the sure defeat that was coming in a few years. He avenges his wife’s death (vv. 6–8). Violence breeds violence, and the Philistines weren’t about to stand around doing nothing while their food and fortune went up in flames. They figured out that Samson was behind the burning of their crops, and they knew they had to retaliate. Since they couldn’t hope to overcome Samson, they did the next thing and vented their wrath on his wife and father-in-law. In the long run, her betrayal of Samson didn’t save her life after all (14:15). Samson’s response? “Since you’ve acted like this, I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you” (15:7). We don’t know how many Philistines he killed or what weapons he used, but it was “a great slaughter.” Following the attack, he retreated to a cave in the “rock of Etam.” This is not the Etam mentioned either in 1 Chronicles 4:32 (too far away) or 2 Chronicles 11:6 (hadn’t been built yet). It was some elevated place in Judah, near Lehi, from which Samson could safely and conveniently watch the enemy. 2. Samson defends himself (Jdg. 15:9–20) If Samson could attack the Philistines, then the Philistines could retaliate and attack Israel; after all, Israel had neither weapons nor an army. The invasion of Judah didn’t help Samson’s popularity with his own people, who sadly were content to submit to their neighbors and make the best of a bad situation. Instead of seeing Samson as their deliverer, the men of Judah considered him a troublemaker. It’s difficult to be a leader if you have no followers, but part of the fault lay with Samson. He didn’t challenge the people, organize them, and trust God to give them victory. He preferred to work alone, fighting the battles of the Lord as though they were his own private feuds. I realize that Samson’s calling was to begin to deliver the nation (13:5), but it seems to me that he could have made a more forceful beginning. When God’s people get comfortable with the status quo, and their leaders fail to arouse them to action, they are in pretty bad shape. When the men of Judah learned that the Philistines wanted only to capture and bind Samson, they offered to help. A nation is in a sad state indeed when the citizens cooperate with the enemy and hand over their own God-appointed leader! This is the only time during Samson’s judgeship that the Jews mustered an army, and it was for the purpose of capturing one of their own men! But Samson realized that, if he didn’t give himself up to the enemy, the Philistine army would bring untold suffering to the land; so he willingly surrendered. If he defended himself, he would have had to fight his own people. If he escaped, which he could easily have done, he would have left 3,000 men of Judah easy prey for the Philistine army. There was something heroic about Samson’s decision, but the men of Judah missed it. By the power of the Holy Spirit, Samson easily broke the bonds the men of Judah had put on his arms, picked up a new jawbone of a donkey (an old one would have been too brittle), and slaughtered a thousand Philistines. We wonder what the men of Judah thought as they watched their prisoner, their own brother, kill the invaders single-handed. Did any of them feel the urge to pick up the weapons of the slain Philistines and join in the battle? Would they have known how to use them? Samson had a way with words. At his wedding feast, he devised a clever riddle (14:14); and after this great victory, he wrote a poem. It’s based on the similarity between the sounds of the Hebrew words hamor (“donkey”) and homer (“heap”). James Moffatt renders it: “With the jawbone of an ass I have piled them in a mass. With the jawbone of an ass I have assailed assailants.”But his victory celebration didn’t last very long, for God reminded him that he was only a man and had to have water to stay alive. So often in Scripture, testing follows triumph. No sooner had the Israelites crossed the Red Sea than they became thirsty (Ex. 15:22–27) and hungry (Ex. 16). Elijah’s victory on Mount Carmel was followed by his humiliating flight to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 18–19). If triumphs aren’t balanced with trials, there’s a danger that we’ll become proud and self-confident. If Samson had only heeded this warning and asked God not only for water but for guidance! “Lead us not into temptation” would have been the perfect prayer for that hour. How quick we are to cry out for help for the body when perhaps our greatest needs are in the inner person. It’s when we’re weak that we’re strong (2 Cor. 12:10); and when we’re totally dependent on the Lord, we’re the safest. Samson’s prayer indicates that he considered himself God’s servant and that he didn’t want to end his life falling into the hands of the godless Philistines. Unfortunately, that’s just what happened. But God was merciful and performed a miracle by opening up a spring of water in a hollow place. Samson quenched his thirst and then gave the place the name “Caller’s Spring.” The place where Samson slaughtered the Philistines received the name “Jawbone Hill.” Some translations give the impression that the water came from the jawbone because the name of the place in Hebrew is Lehi, which means “jawbone.” In the NKJV, Judges 15:19 reads, “So God split the hollow place that is in Lehi”; and the NASB and NIV are substantially the same. 3. Samson tempts himself (Jdg. 16:1–3) Gaza was an important seaport town located about forty miles from Samson’s hometown of Zorah. We aren’t told why Samson went there, but it’s not likely he was looking for sensual pleasure. There were plenty of prostitutes available in Israel even though the Law condemned this practice (Lev. 19:29; Deut. 22:21). It was after he arrived in Gaza that Samson saw a prostitute and decided to visit her. Once again the lust of the eyes and the lust of the flesh combined to grip Samson and make him a slave to his passions. It seems incredible to us that a servant of God (Jdg. 15:18), who did great works in the power of the Spirit, would visit a prostitute, but the record is here for all to read. The Lord certainly didn’t approve of such behavior, especially on the part of a Nazirite; and the experience was for Samson one more step down into darkness and destruction. In recent years, there have been enough ministerial scandals in the United States alone to put all of us on guard. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12, NKJV). We can’t help it when Satan and his demons tempt us; but when we tempt ourselves, we become our own enemy. God doesn’t tempt us (James 1:12–15). When we pray, “Lead us not into temptation” (Matt. 6:13), we’re asking that we not tempt ourselves or put ourselves into such a position that we tempt God. We tempt Him either by forcing Him to intervene and rescue us or by daring Him to stop us. It’s possible for people’s character to deteriorate so much that they don’t have to be tempted in order to sin. All they need is the opportunity to sin, and they’ll tempt themselves. Illicit sexual experience may begin as sweet as honey, but it ends up as bitter as wormwood (Prov. 5:1–14). Samson the man had become Samson the animal as the prostitute led him to the slaughter (Prov. 7:6–23). Word that their enemy Samson was in town spread to the people of Gaza, and they posted a guard at the city gate to capture him and kill him in the morning. But Samson decided to leave town at midnight, while the guards were asleep. The fact that the city gates were barred didn’t alarm him. He picked up the doors, posts, and bars and carried them off! Whether he carried them all the way to Hebron, a distance of about forty miles, or only to a hill that faced Hebron, depends on how you translate Judges 16:3. Both interpretations are possible. The city gate was not only a protection for the city, but also the place where the officials met to transact business (Deut. 25:7; Ruth 4:1–2). To “possess the gate of his enemies” was a metaphor meaning “to defeat your enemies” (Gen. 22:17; 24:60). When Jesus spoke about the gates of hell (hades) not prevailing against the church (Matt. 16:18), He was picturing the victory of the church over the forces of Satan and evil. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has “stormed the gates of hell” and carried them off in victory!
4. Samson betrays himself (Jdg. 16:4–22) The Valley of Sorek lay between Zorah and Timnah on the border of Judah and Philistia. The city of Beth-shemesh was located there. Whenever Samson went into enemy territory, he “went down” both geographically and spiritually (14:1, 5, 7, 10). This time he found a woman in the valley, not too far from home; and he fell in love with her. It’s a dangerous thing to linger at the enemy’s border; you might get caught. Along with David and Bathsheba, Samson and Delilah have captured the imagination of scores of writers, artists, composers, and dramatists. Handel included Delilah in his oratorio “Samson,” and Saint-Saens wrote an opera on “Samson and Delilah.” (The “Bacchanale” from that work is still a popular concert piece.) When Samson consorted with Delilah in the Valley of Sorek, he never dreamed that what they did together would be made into a Hollywood movie and projected in color on huge screens. Scholars disagree on the meaning of Delilah’s name. Some think it means “devotee,” suggesting that she may have been a temple prostitute. But Delilah isn’t called a prostitute as is the woman in Gaza, although that’s probably what she was. For that matter, Delilah isn’t even identified as a Philistine. However, from her dealings with the Philistine leaders, she appears to be one. Other students believe that the basis for her name is the Hebrew word dalal, which means “to weaken, to impoverish.” Whether or not this is the correct deriva-tion, she certainly weakened and impoverished Samson! Each of the Philistine leaders offered to pay Delilah a considerable sum of money if she would entice Samson and learn the source of his great strength. They didn’t want to kill Samson. They wanted to neutralize his power, capture him, torture him, and then use him for their own purposes. Being able to exhibit and control the great champion of Israel would give the Philistines both security and stature among the nations and would certainly satisfy their egos as they humiliated the Jews. When Delilah began to probe for the secret of his strength, Samson should have been aware of his danger and, like Joseph (Gen. 39:12; 2 Tim. 2:22), fled as fast as possible. But passion had gripped him, sin had anesthetized him, and he was unable to act rationally. Anybody could have told him that Delilah was making a fool out of him, but Samson would have believed no one. It’s unlikely that the Philistines who hid in her chamber revealed themselves each time Samson escaped his bonds, because then he would have known that Delilah had set a trap for him. Her cry “The Philistines are upon you!” was the signal for the spies to be alert; but when they saw that Samson was free, they remained in hiding. Each of Samson’s lies involved Delilah using some kind of bonds on him, but the Philistines should have known that he could not be bound (Jdg. 15:13). Delilah had to keep working on Samson or she would have lost the money and perhaps her life. After all, look at what the Philistines did to Samson’s first wife! If Samson had stopped visiting Delilah, he would have kept his hair and his power, but he kept going back, and each time she implored him to reveal his secret. Samson didn’t know his own heart. He thought he possessed enough moral strength to say no to the temptress, but he was wrong. Being wise in the ways of sin (Luke 16:8; Prov. 7:21), during the fourth visit, Delilah knew that he had finally told her the truth. Since the Philistine “hit squad” had quit coming after the third fiasco, Delilah summoned them quickly, and they once again hid in her chamber. When Delilah’s shout awakened Samson, he thought it was another one of her tricks and that he could handle the situation as before. But he was wrong. When he lost his long hair, the Lord left him; and he was as weak as other men. His power was from the Lord, not from his hair; but the hair was the sign of his Nazirite vow. The Spirit who had come upon him with such power had now departed from him. Numbers 6:7 reads literally “because the consecration (nezer) of his God is upon his head.” The basic meaning of the word nezer is “separation” or “consecration”; but it is also used of a royal crown (2 Sam. 1:10; Zech. 9:16; Ps. 89:39). Samson’s long hair was his “royal crown” and he lost it because of his sin. “Behold, I come quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown” (Rev. 3:11, NKJV). Since Samson didn’t discipline his body, he lost both his crown and his prize (1 Cor. 9:24–27). The Philistines easily overpowered Samson and finally had their way with him. They put out his eyes, bound him, and took him to Gaza where he toiled at the grinding mill, doing work usually assigned to slaves, women, or donkeys. Someone has said that Judges 16:21 reminds us of the blinding, binding, and grinding results of sin. In his epic poem Samson Agonistes, Samson is one of three men in Scripture who are especially identified with the darkness. The other two are King Saul, who went out in the darkness to get last-minute help from a witch (1 Sam. 28), and Judas, who “went immediately out: and it was night” (John 13:30). Saul lived for the world, Samson yielded to the flesh, and Judas gave himself to the devil (John 13:2, 27); and all three ended up taking their own lives. But there was one ray of light in the darkness: Samson’s hair began to grow again. His power was not in his hair but in what his hair symbolized—his dedication to God. If Samson renewed that dedication, God might restore his power. I believe Samson talked to the Lord as he turned the millstone, confessing his sins and asking God for one last opportunity to defeat the enemy and glorify His name. 5. Samson destroys himself (Jdg. 16:23–31) It was tragic that a servant of the Lord, raised in a godly home, was now the humiliated slave of the enemy. But even worse, the Philistines gave glory to their god Dagon for helping them capture their great enemy. Instead of bringing glory to the God of Israel, Samson gave the enemy opportunity to honor their false gods. Dagon was the god of grain, and certainly the Philistines remembered what Samson had done to their fields (15:1–5).
The people at the religious festival called for Samson to be brought to entertain them. They were in high spirits because their enemy was now in their control and Dagon had triumphed over Jehovah. They thought that Samson’s blindness rendered him harmless. They didn’t know that God had deigned to forgive him and restore his strength. In the KJV, two different words are translated “make sport” in 16:25 (“entertain” and “perform” in the NIV). The first means to celebrate, frolic, joke, and entertain; and the second means to perform, make sport, and laugh. We aren’t told exactly how Samson entertained the huge crowd in Dagon’s temple, but one thing is sure: He gave them every reason to believe he was harmless and under their control. He was even in the hands of a boy who was leading the blind man from place to place. We’ve seen previous indications that Samson was a clever fellow with a sense of humor. Thus no doubt he gave the audience just what it wanted. In previous visits to Gaza, Samson had undoubtedly seen this temple and noted its construction. After all, it housed over 3,000 people, and it would be difficult for him not to notice it. During a break in the day’s entertainment, Samson asked his attendant to lead him over to the pillars; and there he uttered his last prayer. The fact that God answered suggests that all was right between him and his Lord (Ps. 66:18–19). It’s likely that his parents were dead by now, but his relatives on his father’s side came and recovered the body and buried it. The word “brethren” in Judges 16:31 in the Hebrew carries a broad meaning of “relatives.” As far as we know, Samson was an only child. The phrase “between Zorah and Eshtaol” in verse 31 reminds us of 13:25. Samson is back where he started, only now he’s dead. The light has failed. How do you assess the life and ministry of a man like Samson? I think Alexander Maclaren says it well: “Instead of trying to make a lofty hero out of him, it is far better to recognize frankly the limitations of his character and the imperfections of his religion....If the merely human passion of vengeance throbbed fiercely in Samson’s prayer, he had never heard ‘Love your enemies’ ; and, for his epoch, the destruction of the enemies of God and of Israel was duty.” His decline began when he disagreed with his parents about marrying a Philistine girl. Then he disdained his Nazirite vow and defiled himself. He disregarded the warnings of God, disobeyed the Word of God, and was defeated by the enemies of God. He probably thought that he had the privilege of indulging in sin since he wore the badge of a Nazirite and won so many victories for the Lord, but he was wrong. “Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a citybroken down, without walls” (Prov. 25:28, NKJV).
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city (Prov. 16:32). I wonder whether Solomon was thinking about Samson when he wrote it
ThE PEOPLE WHOSE STORIES are told in the Book of Judges are magnificent examples of His ability to take the most common among us and “from weakness” create giants in the faith.
The period of the judges was a time of national failure, spiritual disintegration, and moral decay. It was, in fact, a time startlingly reminiscent of our own. As the four deliverers found in Hebrews chapter 11 Hall of Heroes are brought before us, we can anticipate a collective expression of surprise. They were, to the man, plagued with problems—cut-from-clay illustrations of Alfred Edersheim’s candid observation, “The Judges were Israel’s representative men—representative of its faith and hope, but also of its sin and decay.” But they were not Israel’s men only, for the lessons to be learned from their lives transcend time or place. These are our men too—yours and mine—people through whom God wants to say something to us, something that will instill an understanding of life’s hard realities, our potential for God, and His faithful provision, which can make us consistent overcomers. Not To The Strong is not, therefore, a commentary on the Book of Judges. It is a study in lives—lives in which problems are solved and victories won, but lives that see new problems growing out of their initial conquests. These must also be dealt with.
The message is not complicated but simple—simple to the point of contradicting our habit of clouding issues by inventing formulas and systems that make triumphant Christian living much more complicated than God ever intended it to be. The instructions and admonitions coming to us through these men relate to two basic words—words, as we shall see, that each of us needs to hear again and again.We will find our own reflections as we study Barak—The Faceless; Gideon—The Fearful; Jephthah—The Forsaken; Samson—The Failure.
|The Method of Victory||The Outgrowth||The Abiding|
|The Man||The Problem||Divine Side||Human Side||Problem||Solution|
|Barak||Faceless(Judges 4)||Direct divineintervesionRain and flood(Judges 5:4,20-21)||Faith andObedience||Pride Song(Judges 5)||Remembrance(Eph. 2:11-13)|
|Gideon||Fearful(Judges 6:1-7,14)||Applying aDivine strategyLamps and Pitchers(Judges 7)||Faith andObedience||Human Wisdom(Judges 8:22-35)||Reliance(James 1:5)|
|Jephthah||Forsaken(Judges 11:1-3)||Spirit EmpoweredConfrontation(Judges 11:4-33)||Faith andObedience||ImpulsivePromiseVow(Judges 11:30-40)||Reservation( James 1:19)|
|Samson||Failure(Judges 13:1-16:31)||Divine Strength(Judges 16:22-30)||Faith andObedience||TerminalForfeited life(Eph 5:14-17)|
Born of promise, prayer, and fire, A Nazirite he entered
To rout the loathsome Philistines With strength Jehovah-centered.
But few among the sons of men Who came God’s place to fill,
Have fallen to such depths of woe As Samson at the mill.
With sightless eyes and shaven head We see him grinding there,
He proves again the price that’s paid To eat the devil’s fare.
He prays with hands on columns tall In childlike eloquence.
The lesson, late but learned, is his—FAITH and OBEDIENCE.
FEW MEN HAVE ENTERED the earthly scene with more impressive credentials than did Samson. Events surrounding his birth place him alongside those who were born of promise. As we scan the early record of his life, we immediately experience a surge of expectancy. The feeling mounts that great things must be in store as the life of this exceptional individual begins to unfold. But, alas, only bewildering disappointment awaits the reader as he witnesses an historic example of lost opportunities and squandered potential.
Samson’s Birth. Samson’s impending birth was heralded by an angelic ambassador. He was born into a truly godly family. Furthermore, he was to be a “Nazirite unto God from the womb” (Jud. 13:5). Coupled with these facts is the revelation of Jehovah’s purpose for Samson: “He shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (Jud. 13:5). The initial accounts of his deeds relate how he was strengthened and moved by the Spirit of God. We can say without hesitation that our subject was a man set apart by God to accomplish extraordinary things. Scriptures related to his life give at least five evidences of this.
1. The Angel’s Announcement: “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold, now, thou art barren, and bearest not; but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son” (Jud. 13:3). This was quite possibly a visitation by none other than our Lord Jesus Christ Himself in a preincarnate appearance. The angel of the Lord came to the barren wife of a Danite, Manoah, with the news that she would bear a son. Upon His departure Manoah declared, “We have seen God” (Jud. 13:22). This visitation is of compelling interest, particularly because of the range of detail and instruction to the parents regarding the child. In addition, the Lord took care to verify that the visit was of great consequence by demonstrating His power as “the angel did wondrously, [while] Manoah and his wife looked on” (Jud. 13:19). This was to be the same power that would course through the body of Samson, who was sent to begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines.
2. Samson’s Parents: Manoah and his wife had suffered under the oppression of the Philistines. Along with other pious Jews, they had doubtless prayed that Jehovah would give them a child through whom He might show His power. Like Hannah, Mary, and numerous others in Scripture, they gave themselves to petitioning Heaven that their offspring might be signally used of God for some great work. How fortunate are those who can claim praying parents whose deepest yearnings are for the Lord to use their children. Not only were they praying parents, but these people wished sincerely to know how to teach their coming son. Manoah’s prayer illustrates the point: “O my Lord, let the man of God whom Thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born” (Jud. 13:8). He further requested insight as to what the baby’s vocation was to be: “How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him?” (Jud. 13:12). Clearly, they sought guidance that they might be taught to properly direct the young deliverer in preparation for his appointed tasks. They requested to know the Lord’s name that “we may do thee honor” (Jud. 13:17). Certainly this gives a wealth of insight into their heart of hearts. They wanted to honor God in everything they were about. Their mission was to magnify Him by raising a child for His use. We must pause here and make a point that seems lost to many in our generation. In the mad dash for self-fulfillment and acquisition of things, parenting—particularly mothering—has fallen into disrepute. Even in some Christians quarters, being a “non-career” type mother is viewed as a sort of second-class venture. Manoah and his saintly wife come before us as eloquent contradictions. They were people who were wholly given to the Lord; His priorities were theirs. At this juncture their highest priority was to raise this child to fulfill God’s purposes. There was no priority, privilege, or pleasure on earth that could provide a richer reward.
3. His Nazirite Position: “For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head; for the child shall be a Nazirite unto God from the womb” (Jud. 13:5). Two types of Nazirites are found in the Scriptures—temporary and perpetual. Those who took a temporary vow did so of their own volition for a stated period of time. Perpetual Nazirites were those who were such from their birth. Only three men—Samson, Samuel, and John the Baptist—bear this distinction. A Nazirite was to be separated unto Jehovah. The word nazir, from which the word is probably derived, means to separate. As is always true, separation to God also involves separation from some things. Even some things that, in themselves, were perfectly acceptable for others were inappropriate for the Nazirite. Among specific details regarding the Nazirite, three are predominant. The hair was to go uncut (Jud. 13:5); he was to refrain from partaking of the fruit of the vine—no strong drink (Jud. 13:4); and contact with the dead was strictly forbidden.
Alfred Edersheim makes a very illuminating comment: “We have also here the idea of the royal priesthood, since the word nazir is applied to the holy crown upon the mitre of the high priest, and the ’crown of the anointing oil,’ as also, in a secondary sense to the royal crown. We find, therefore, in the Nazirite, the three ideas of separation, holiness, and the crown of the royal priesthood, all closely connected.” This helps to explain the great significance of Samson’s hair. Of course, his strength was God-given. The emblems of Naziriteship were symbolic evidences of that enablement. They were outward testimony of being God’s servant and were evidenced by his attire and conduct. He was separated (no contact with the dead), holy (abstaining from wine, which symbolized worldly joy as opposed to joy in Jehovah), and crowned (uncut hair).
The hair was the sign of his divine royalty—the chosen of God. He was to be God’s voice, Israel’s deliverer and judge. It was his crown and the mark that he was totally unique. When, through Delilah’s wiles, he fell and the crafty Philistines snipped off his flowing locks, he was actually being deprived of his crown of testimony and separation. His witness was thus forfeited; his power with Jehovah was lost and fellowship with God had been disrupted. This is not something to be viewed as deeply mystical or complicated. Nor is it as superficial as unshorn hair. His loss of power was a result of his violation of firmly fixed principles in the economy of God. He had sunk successively lower in his distinction as a Nazirite before Delilah. In so doing, he forced God to remove his crown of power and testimony and fell prey to the dire consequences that were forthcoming.
4. His Mission: Jehovah revealed that he was to begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines’ scourge. “And he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines” (Jud. 13:5). This seems to anticipate Samson’s coming failure. He would leave the enemy badly crippled but still in control. Final victory would be left to someone else. He would not share Paul’s exultant exclamation that he had completed his work: “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Tim. 4:7). There is a sad note in this, for going home to Heaven with the Lord’s business unfinished is a dismal prospect to contemplate. Each believer must be sobered by the thought that one day he will stand before the Lord to face the results of his earthly labors. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that everyone may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Cor. 5:10). At the judgment seat of Christ, each Christian will keep that appointment to meet the Lord and see his labors tested. Two great thoughts predominate: reward or regret. The Scriptures clearly teach that those who are Christ’s will never face a judgment in eternity to determine whether or not they are saved. We may reverently thank our Savior that judgment passed for us nearly two thousand years ago when Christ was judged in our place at Calvary. We will, however, have our earthly labors reviewed. “Every man’s work shall be made manifest; for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall test every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Cor. 3:13). When our works are tested, we will be rewarded or suffer loss. Those who suffer loss will know an acute sense of regret as a result of bypassing the best in life spiritually, and witness before the Lord the ill-invested efforts of a lifetime go up in smoke.
5. The Work of the Spirit: “And the Spirit of the Lord began to move him at times” (Jud. 13:25). It is stated that Samson was moved upon by the Spirit of God on at least four occasions. This is more than is said of any other judge. With all of his marvelous physical attributes, he was, in the final analysis, totally dependent on the power of the Spirit of God. That he was chosen and empowered by the Lord was in itself a matter of great consequence. The Philistines had oppressed Israel for 40 grueling years. This man was to be God’s champion. On his shoulders was draped the mantle of divine approval and promise—so much so that when the Philistines paraded Goliath before the armies of Israel years later, it is believed they were actually fielding their long-sought answer to God’s Samson. Jehovah had brought a man into this world and was now about to use him to punish His enemies, bless His people, and bring peace to His land. All this would come by the hand of one human being. How little the champion thought of it. How sad to witness his failure to grasp the full import of what God had purposed to do through him.
Samson’s Failure How could Samson fail? He was a gifted, well-prepared, God—sent son of Abraham. But the glaring reality is this: He did! He fell as far as any child of God has ever fallen. The causes of his failure seem to be legion. As they stretch out over several pages of the Bible, they ring with a familiarity that is almost monotonous. We have seen all of these things take place over and over again. The distressing truth is that many of us have fallen to the same faults as our errant judge. He was afflicted by a number of problems.
The Failure To Listen In the opening verses of Judges 14, we find Samson at odds with his parents over a Philistine woman. “Is there no woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines?” (Jud. 14:3). But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well” (Jud. 14:3). We are then told that the parents did not realize that God was seeking an occasion against the Philistines (Jud. 14:4). However, it is doubtful that Samson knew it either, and it appears that God allowed Samson’s choice in His permissive will. Samson dismissed the counsel of his godly parents without so much as the courtesy of an explanation beyond, “Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.” With this he embarked on a course that was clearly in opposition to the training of his parents and the instruction of the Word of God. He was determined to find his own way without guidance from others. Samson saw his parents in the role of thing-getters. Do what I want—no questions asked. With him, as with an innumerable host who have followed in his wake, he was not open to criticism or direction from his parents. He would learn soon enough the price required for his intransigence. We should pause here to offer some words of encouragement to those who, like Manoah and his wife, despair over the later failure of cherished offspring. We can only speculate about the nights passed in tearful supplication for their wayward boy. As far as we can ascertain, they cannot be faulted in their training of their son. They had done all God expected of them; they had been faithful. The fact is that occasionally children raised in the best Christian homes fail God, shame their parents, and fall far short of their God-given potential. Those who have suffered or are now suffering thus must be assured that, contrary to what some would have them believe, a child’s failure cannot automatically be laid to the failure of his parents. That may in some instances be a contributing factor, but it is by no means a universal fact. It is regrettable that so many Christian young people pass through a period of life when their parents seem unworthy of rudimentary consideration, but Samson was one who fell prey to that problem. From the standpoint of satanic strategy, we can easily see why this is true. During this early period, some of life’s most enduring decisions are being made. Education, marriage, and vocation are all in the process of being decided. This is the time when wise counsel and mature experience are imperative. If Satan can foster a breakdown in communication, creat defiance, and encourage rash actions designed to shock parents, he is delighted. “Getting even” with parents who “are trying to run my life” can be the costliest error of a lifetime. Those who have made these mistakes all too often look back over shattered lives and admit that dad and mom knew best after all. So it was with Samson. His refusal to listen to parental advice cost him what no human being should have to pay. But he made his own bed, and it proved to be a foul place indeed.
The Failure To Pray Going hand in hand with his refusal to listen to his parents was his disregard of prayer. Those who will not listen to parents are seldom found making inquiries of God. The record is barren of any account of Samson’s engaging in serious prayer until he cried out prior to his final act against the Philistines (Jud. 16:28–30). After all, he was young and strong. His rippling biceps, brash courage, and quick wit supplied resources enough for any contingency. Why waste time seeking the will of God in prayer? The simple reply must be that all human resources, even those of the most gifted, when misdirected lead only to calamity.
Often we hear the lament, “But how can I know the will of God for my life?” As it is with faith and obedience, the answer is not as complicated as we make it out to be. Let us remember that God wants us to know His will. It is not something He is attempting to conceal, but rather something He wishes to reveal.
Following are four steps to finding the will of God.
1. The Word of God: God reveals Himself through His Word. It is here that we learn of His salvation. It is also through the Word that we learn of His will for these lives of ours. Our old adversary wages a relentless warfare against our consistent pursuit of serious study of the Book. This is particularly true of young people. (Anyone who has worked in youth camps and witnessed teenagers struggling through the time allotted for personal devotions can testify to the reality of the conflict.) The disciples found the will of God through companioning with our Lord. His counsel is just as available to us, as we companion with Him through openhearted, submissive Bible study.
2. Prayer: “Yet ye have not, because ye ask not” (Jas. 4:2). Our Savior instructed us to ask and expect an answer—not simply once or twice, but consistently, sincerely seeking His guidance, all the while placing the alternatives before Him and awaiting His decision. Persistence is indispensable. As with reading God’s Word, we are often distracted and frustrated in our prayer lives. We must learn to develop a discipline in prayer. The very intensity of the struggle evidences the importance of our succeeding. Press on in specific, expectant prayer.
3. Availability: It is here that multitudes run aground in seeking the will of God. We can hardly expect to find direction if we never allow ourselves to be exposed to opportunities and possible areas of service. Avoiding youth conferences, missionary meetings, and Christian life gatherings is a pretty effective way of missing the will of God. For example, most church members, both young people and adults, refuse to attend consistently the annual missions conferences in their church. Yet this is precisely where most missionaries have found the will of God for their lives. The same may be said of ministers, Christian teachers, and a host of others who are now happily plying the pathways of God’s purpose for them. As they sat under the ministries of those who were actually involved in Christian work, God spoke to them. This is how it has always been and, we must conclude, will always be. Churches that provide opportunities for their youth to visit mission fields, travel on evangelistic tours and visit Christian colleges are making a wise investment. It is in these real-life situations that people most often find definite personal direction for their lives. Conversely, it can also be said that those who consistently choose the theater, dance, and countless hours before the television are jeopardizing their futures in the cause of Christ. It is safe to assume that they will not find the will of God in the aforementioned places. It might further be ventured that young people who feel compelled to accept summer employment, thus passing by opportunities for exposure along the lines we have examined, are also in danger of missing the will of God. Working in order to purchase a car or buy some other nonessential items may not be worth the ultimate price some Christians are paying. A year spent at a Bible college, where an individual can squarely face this matter of the will of God, can be the best investment of a lifetime. The point is, we must place ourselves in a position where we can be exposed to what God wants of us.
4. Entering Open Doors: The next logical step in finding the will of God is to enter the open doors. It is in so doing that we test aptitudes and develop a feeling of assurance in what we are doing. Too many have fallen to the No syndrome when it comes to attempting anything they have not done before. How can we expect to know God’s long-range will if we refuse to take the first step? No infant learns to walk until it learns to take steps—one at a time. Finally, it walks boldly and in a straight line. Perhaps the most practical aspect in finding the will of God can be expressed in this way: Do the right thing, right now. Doing the thing I should do in the short term inevitably leads to God’s will for the long term. We must learn that the greatest thing we can do for our children and youth is to provide opportunities for them to become involved in some type of Christian service. Too many of our youth programs are designed to entertain and serve the youth rather than to teach them to serve the Lord. Living for Christ is a serving business; consequently, we must learn to serve by taking opportunities provided for us. We may only guess at the number of people who would be excellent teachers and Christian workers had they learned to say, “Yes, I’ll try,” rather than “No, I can’t.” There may be a rare exception from time to time, but if a Christian diligently pursues these simple steps, he will find the will of God
The Failure To Control Fleshly Appetites Sexual impurity was a prime cause of Samson’s disastrous fall. The “lust of the eye” helped forge the chains that were the emblems of his failure. Samson “saw a woman … she [pleased him] well … Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her … afterward … he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah” (Jud. 14:1, 3; 16:1, 4). So runs the sordid chronicle of his love life. It was this sin, with its entanglements, that helped lift his crown of testimony, gouge out his eyes, bind him with chains, and bend his back to the mill. “But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of bronze; and he did grind in the prison house” (Jud. 16:21). The unveiling of what unbridled passion can inflict is frightening to contemplate, but view it we must and expose it for what it actually is. Hollywood can produce its films blatantly glorifying sexual misconduct and draping acts like those of David and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11–12) in tantalizing fable. The truth, however, leads chillingly to a murdered Uriah—killed by a king who was trying to conceal his iniquity. Still further along is the pallid corpse of an infant victimized by his parents’ lust. The lament of a frenzied Bathsheba, who suffered far more than the fleeting moments of illicit pleasure could ever compensate, testifies of the real “wages” sin delivers. David bowed in disgrace before the accusing finger of a distraught prophet as he was exposed before a nation. Furthermore, Israel’s king was singled out for ridicule by the enemies of God, who thereafter felt justified in blaspheming the name of Jehovah because of his transgression: “Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme” (2 Sam. 12:14). These are the true results of bowing to the flesh and allowing it to run rampant. History sings a recurring dirge over disgraced ministers, weeping congregations, shattered homes, embittered children, crushed parents, and lost testimonies—all because individuals somehow came to believe that they could take fire to their breast and not be burned (Prov. 6:27). We must deplore the current flippancy in sexual matters that is invading our churches. The frequency of modern dereliction does not negate the divine injunctions against fornication, adultery, and impure conduct. Perhaps no other single device in the arsenal of Satan holds out greater promise of satisfaction yet delivers more stupefying bondage. Sadly, all too many of our contemporaries grind out their spiritual lives with eyes gouged out and chained to the mill as they fall beneath the lash of remorse and anguished repentance.
The Failure To Be Consistent As though the foregoing problems were not enough, we find that Samson was plagued by inconsistency. This may, in reality, be the key to his most basic problem. His spiritual life approximated a roller coaster, marked by mystifying extremes. He plunged from the summit to the depths with astounding regularity and rapidity. One moment he was knee deep in Philistines, soundly thrashing them with the Spirit of the Lord upon him (Jud. 15:15); the next moment he was at the harlot’s door or draped on the lap of the sultry Delilah. He seemed to run more on emotion than on the application of sound, godly principles. In other words, he lacked basic spiritual discipline. This proved to be his most persistent and vexing problem. The teaching and guidance lavished upon this favored leader by his parents and by the Lord Himself apparently went unheeded. Samson certainly had been instructed in every element of doctrine and preferred conduct. His tragedy was his persistent failure to apply what he had learned. For Samson, physical prowess and heated activity displaced spiritual dependence. Samson’s strength apparently caused God’s champion to begin looking in the wrong direction—to his own resources rather than the Lord’s. We may not run to Samson’s violent extremes, but many among us must confess to great highs and lows, too often sharing Samson’s proclivity toward extremes dictated largely by our emotions. This is one of the serious dangers involved in some of the current movements that put a great deal of emphasis on experience and sharing. The whirl of activity involved when we surround ourselves with turned on activists makes for heady sensations. But when the noise subsides and the mundane reality of life, with its round of duties and disappointments, presses in, depression can quickly take the place of exuberance. The solution to the problem is consistency in every area of Christian growth. Central to all is learning the great doctrines of the Word and then applying them. There is no substitute for this! Slogans, bumper stickers, one-way signs, smiley buttons, and syncopated gospel music are not legitimate substitutes for sound doctrine. Let it be firmly stated that the studied superficiality of some of our modern groups is a major factor in the development of heretical elements proliferating in evangelical circles today. The current rush toward “contemporary” worship styles in the hope of creating more spiritual dynamic in our services can end in disaster. While creativity and innovation can be positive factors, true spiritual dynamic is not a created style, and what may appear to bring more life into a worship service may, in the end, distract congregations from the real sources of spiritual power. Stability can come only through exercising proper discipline. It is impossible to be undisciplined and stable at the same time. This was Samson’s great failure; it can also be ours. We must determine to learn and apply God’s truth. There is no practical shortcut. Novel, innovative methods may offer great promise, but, in the cold light of eventual results, these methods in themselves will be found wanting.
The Failure To Properly Regard God’s Gifts Samson took God for granted! He came to believe that God’s strength was his own personal possession. He felt that the Lord was obligated to bless him, in spite of his lack of faithfulness. Furthermore, he believed that it was unthinkable for Jehovah to allow him to fall into the hands of his enemies. He was proven wrong on all counts. God relieved him of his strength, withdrew His blessing, and summarily delivered him into the hands of the avowed enemies of Israel and the Lord. What a sad spectacle. God’s champion was reduced to a compounder of riddles wagering for changes of clothing (Jud. 14:5–20). The source of his strength was the subject of untruthful exchanges with Delilah, who was clearly dedicated to his destruction. His ultimate sacrilege was demonstrated by his disclosure of the source of his strength to an enemy of his God: “he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I have been a Nazirite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I am shaved, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man” (Jud. 16:17). How could he do it? How could this man, so singularly blessed, with such wonderful beginnings, fall so far? Apparently Samson believed it just couldn’t happen to him. He felt could somehow play by another set of rules. The sin to which men incline after God has brought great blessing upon them is usually this sin of regarding His blessing as obligatory and perpetual. When indulged in, it is sure to effect the same results as befell the hapless Nazirite. The experiences of some of our great denominations and movements illustrate this process. Born in the flush of giant outpourings of the power of God, they surge forward with impressive success. The working of the Holy Spirit through submissive men and women triggers large floods of people seeking to share the blessings being experienced by movements evidencing the blessing and power of God. Yet, in the process of time, organization replaces unction. Large bank accounts supplant dependence on the provision of God in direct answer to prayer. Impressive structures and intricate rituals become substitutes for the compelling attraction of the Gospel message. Finally, the institutions of learning begin to emphasize academic excellence and expression to the extent that meeting human standards turns them from their founding purposes. Reliance upon the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit becomes an outmoded and often ridiculed proposition. It is all depressingly familiar and should certainly cause us to see the signs as ensigns of warning. Conservative Christians often reassure each other that this cannot happen to us. After all, we are true to God. We should take note that almost without exception the groups and institutions that we now regard as liberal and apostate once stood as bastions of biblical truth. They thought it would never happen to them—but it did! And it will as surely happen to some of the current crop of conservatives unless the warning signals are heeded. We must all learn that we cannot violate scriptural principles and remain immune to serious spiritual problems. An arresting example of this process comes to mind. Some years ago, a man who had been a notorious alcoholic was gloriously converted to Christ. His immediate deliverance from the powers of drink was a joy to those who had known and prayed for him over the years. His testimony was radiant, and his eagerness to serve the Lord engendered admiration among the members of the Christian community. One day he approached his pastor with what he considered exciting news. “I’ve been going back into the bars where I spent so many wasted hours, sitting down with my former cronies, and witnessing to them.” His pastor had serious reservations. “I feel you are making a serious error in returning to the bars,” he counseled. “The principle is that we are to avoid potential sources of temptation, particularly in areas of known weakness, such as yours with alcohol.” “Now pastor,” came the impatient reply, “you need not worry. I know what I’m doing. Everything will be all right.” A few weeks later the pastor entered the man’s home in response to an urgent call from his wife. The brother so recently delivered was drunk. He sat on the bed cross-legged, with tears of regret coursing down his cheeks. “Oh preacher, I’ve made an awful mess of things. You warned me, but I wouldn’t listen. The very thing you feared might happen did.” The strength of that man’s witness was compromised because he felt he was something special. In his mind, he did not need to fear a fall if he failed to exercise sound spiritual judgment. Like Samson, he was wrong, and recovery was a slow and painful process. Samson’s calamity is chronicled in Judges 16. The words pierce like arrows as they fall from the pages of Scripture. “And his strength went from him … And he knew not that the Lord was departed from him” (Jud. 16:19–20). Here, then, is the irony of it: He went on, not knowing that he no longer possessed divine strength, and persisted until he was overcome by his own impotence. Being an abject spiritual failure, yet to move on as though all was well, was his tragic state. “But the Philistines took him, and put out his eyes, and brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of bronze; and he did grind in the prison house” (Jud. 16:21).
Favorite Bible verses are often displayed by Christians as reminders of promises our Lord has given us. Perhaps when we are on the verge of failure, it would be well to have available verses that illustrate the dire consequences of defections from the pathway of simple obedience. We could linger here and pry open other corners of our subject’s failure to achieve what God had purposed for him. However, it is far better for us to turn with relief to his recovery.
The Remedy “Howbeit, the hair of his head began to grow again after he was shaved” (Jud. 16:22). More was growing for Samson than the hair on his head. Although this is one of those silent areas about which we must restrict our considerations to sanctified speculation, we can be certain that the Holy Spirit was working with quiet effectiveness over His servant. The shame and humiliation he was forced to endure must have laid heavily on Samson. As he ground in wearying repetition at the mill, his mind must have been filled with memories of what used to be. Philistines falling and fleeing at the sight of him, the surge of divine strength filling his being, crowds of Israelites waiting before him to be judged and counseled, the balmy days of being a household word among God’s chosen people—all must have passed repeatedly through his mind. Augmenting these memories were haunting scenes of the lust-filled misadventures that finally served to bring him low. It was as he saw his life from the perspective of a prisoner that his values took a monumental turn. He finally grasped the truth that his former strength was actually not his own, but only what a beneficent God had bestowed upon him. Samson began to learn the lessons of applied prayer and humility before Jehovah. He came to a place of functional belief—that is, to truly believe God about himself (Samson) and his God. The process of faith and obedience was set in motion. “And Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once” (Jud. 16:28). For the first time in the story of Samson, he reflected a sense of inadequacy and true humility before God. He was ready to accept death rather than live out his days in shamefaced defeat and servitude. The difference between Samson and so many modern-day Christians is dramatically accentuated at this point. He was willing to do something about his condition. Note the process:
“Samson called unto the Lord” (Jud. 16:28). Bound up in this statement was his willingness to confess his sinfulness and need of divine forgiveness. “O Lord God, remember me” (Jud. 16:28). Manifested here is a desire for the restoration of fellowship with God. “Let me die with the Philistines” (Jud. 16:30). In this can be seen the great proposition of death to self. “He bowed himself with all his might” (Jud. 16:30). Samson applied himself to positive involvement in what little remained of his life. The remedy came in a thoroughgoing transformation. If any person in history could have felt justified in pleading that it was too late, it was Samson. He appeared to have fallen so far and disgraced himself so completely that no possibility of redeeming service was left for him. But this was no more true for Samson than for the reader of these lines who feels so badly lacerated by defeat that he sees no point in becoming spiritually involved again.
We meet so many people who view the past with tearful nostalgia but feel that they can never rise again. Samson found that Jehovah was the God of the failure too! What a revelation it must have been. He had every reason to think that God had turned His back in righteous disgust and would never look toward him again. If Samson had such thoughts, he badly underestimated the grace and mercy of his Lord. Yes, he paid an extremely high price for his misconduct. He even died prematurely as a result. However, he passed the portals of paradise possessing the assurance of the greatness of a God who allowed him to return to the place of blessing and victory before taking leave of the earthly scene. Look again at the steps we must apply in recovering from our backsliding. Confession evidences a willingness to agree with God about the nature and consequences of sin. In this we at once deal decisively with pride or rebellion and the habit of shrinking from exposure that hinders us from making a clean breast of our dereliction. Confession also has a public element about it. Sins that are committed publicly must be confessed publicly. Offenses against Christian brothers, churches, family members, and loved ones must be righted, insofar as is humanly possible. This is a great stumbling stone in the return of many. Again, the root of the problem is misguided pride. In addition to this, many people tend to underestimate the willingness of those who love Christ to forgive and forget. Often years of frustration and enmity are ended the moment one takes affirmative action to right wrongs.
Fellowship is the return to a realization of the abiding presence of Christ and the development of a deepening love for Him as Savior and Lord. This is the key to going on with God. Many of us make the mistake of viewing the Christian life and separated living as a set of rules and prohibitions that become impersonal and restrictive. When this occurs, it is virtually certain that we will either become cold legalistic Pharisees or despair over our inability to perform up to standard. Christ is the basis of everything in the Christian life, just as a wife or husband is the basis of married life. Life is a relationship. Relating to people tempers all of the vehicles for living in the day to day. With believers this is magnified ten thousandfold. Fellowship with Christ is our motivation, pleasure, purpose, and fulfilment. Separation from the world must always begin with our separation to Him. Death to self then becomes a viable possibility. Only as we discover life in someone else can we find just cause to die to self. We simply offer up our lives to Him. Death to self becomes the logical and normal thing to do. Finding self-esteem has been high on the Christian priority list for some time now. Actually, the way to the thing Christians profess to be looking for begins with death to self. “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Christ-esteem is the only legitimate life expression of the redeemed. Positive involvement is the natural outgrowth of confession, fellowship, and death to self. It is also essential to our continuing victory. As we are possessed with Christ, we are also occupied with knowing His will and doing it. This is the abiding formula. “And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he slew at his death were more than they whom he slew in his life” (Jud. 16:29–30).
The Lord heard Samson and strengthened him to accomplish the task at hand. In the same process, He vindicated His name and crippled the Philistines by the destruction of their leaders, who were in attendance at the affair. Not only did God emerge victorious over the enemy and accomplish a stunning victory, but He exposed the foolish notion that Dagon (their god) had triumphed. As a matter of fact, Jehovah also destroyed the fallacious notion that it was Dagon who had delivered Samson into the hands of the Philistines. No, indeed, it was the Lord who had delivered him into their hands to bring about two clear objectives. First, they were employed by God as the instruments through which He would corrected His wayward child. Those who are familiar with the Old Testament record recall that this was often the method God used to correct Israel. For example, Nebuchadnezzar was the chosen vessel through whom God chastised the Jewish people (see Hab. 1). Behind all the struggles of the earthly sphere is the central conflict between God and Satan, a conflict in which it might appear that our adversary is having the best of it in this world. But while evil seems to be in the ascendancy and the ungodly triumph and prosper, we still hear the familiar, Our god hath delivered into our hands. The world loves to mock and scorn the saints and press as evidence the proposition that Christians are often a suffering lot, oppressed and trodden down. Their particular joy seems to be ridiculing those who have failed God and appear to be at the mercy of the world. They fail to recognize, however, that they are often being used by God to exercise discipline over believers in need of correction. The absolute rule of the divine economy is that evil never ultimately triumphs. Prevailing wickedness is sooner or later turned into a testimonial to God’s sovereign power and purposes in grace toward His people. As the Philistines rejoiced over a blinded Samson, they failed to realize that Jehovah was marking their godless belligerence and would soon call them to account for their wanton cruelty. Thus, we see that all rebellion and godlessness will one day be recompensed. The transgressor eventually bears the responsibility for his iniquitous actions. In the process, God puts down the sinner and his god, which is actually a victory over Satan. Human history is replete with examples of this process. The aforementioned Babylonians are a clear example of this. After they had been used to chastise Jehovah’s people, the stroke of divine judgment fell on them, and they passed into history. The same was true of the Philistines. Samson’s last act was the beginning of the end for them. After they had served their purpose in the life of Samson, they were ground into an ignominious heap. What was to be their hour of great triumph became a death knell sounding over them. Would that all men and nations could see this principle. “So the dead whom he slew at his death were more than they whom he slew in his life” (Jud. 16:30).
The Outgrowth Problem Samson experienced a peculiar yet common problem as a result of his restoration and final victory. He lingered in disobedience until his situation was so extreme that he faced a premature death. While we believe that, in the will of God, a Christian is immortal—that is, God will protect him until his appointed task on earth is fully accomplished—we must also believe that the disobedient Christian risks premature departure from life as a consequence of his refusal to repent and correct his conduct. The Word is clear concerning this. The Corinthians were admonished to approach the Lord’s table with introspective self-examination. They had to face and forsake their sin lest they come into the situation described in 1 Cor 11:30: “For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep [are dead].” This condition is the most extreme evidence of God’s corrective procedure with His children. It is, however, a very real consideration. When this occurs, we are faced with the same problem that Samson confronted. He waited so long to repent that when he finally did, he had no future left. He died forgiven, of course, but he exited bowed with stinging remorse over having no future ministry. It is a solemn fact that the purpose for which we are created is to glorify and serve God. When we turn from this objective, we may justify our disobedience and rationalize our conduct until seems unimportant whether or not we are spiritually productive. However, when we are right with Him, our thoughts immediately turn to service. Our joy is in being useful to God and His people. Those who delude themselves into thinking they can be satisfied with salvation although never occupied with service are in for a rude awakening. They join others who feel that carnality is a more pleasant way of life than earnest, sacrificial service. If they are truly Christians, they must realize what the Christ-life is really all about. It may not be until the waning years of life that true spiritual values begin to appear on the horizon of a life nearing eternity. It may be finally viewed from the vantage point of a deathbed experience, as one is embittered by remorse over lost opportunities. In any case, when we do see His purpose for us, we will have a deep longing to pass our days in service to Him. Surveying a life of lost opportunities and an accumulation of spiritual debts that must go unpaid inevitably brings deep remorse to the heart and mind. Often we hear elderly people lament a youth spent pursuing self-interests. More distressing still is to see those who have committed themselves to Christ in the last stages of life longing for extended days in which to serve their Lord.I was called on some years ago to visit a man afflicted by cancer. He was not aware that his disease was terminal. After I entered the room and introduced myself, I asked him if he was a Christian. He responded by saying that he was a member of a prominent church in the city.“But that is not what I asked,” I said.He replied, “I know, but I didn’t know what else to say.”“Would you like to know how to be assured of heaven?”“Yes, if you can tell me, I would.”I proceeded to explain the way of salvation. He was intent on every word. After I finished, I asked, “Do you understand what I’ve said?” “Yes, sir, I do.”“Would you like to accept Christ?”“Yes, I would.”We bowed our heads, and he prayed an earnest simple prayer, confessing his sin and unworthiness and asking Christ to save him. I had prayer with him and then asked, “Are you saved?“Yes, I am!”“How do you know?”“Because I did what God asked me to do, and God did what He promised He would do.” For the few remaining weeks of his life my newfound fellow Christian was a radiant testimony for our Lord. He told everyone who came into his room about Christ. His family was amazed at the change that had taken place in his life. Those were wonderful days of blessing. They were also days of deep regret. As he began to grasp the fact that he would never leave that sickroom, he looked back to deplore a wasted life. He rejoiced at his assurance of Heaven, but there were so many needing Christ whom he could never reach. Many longtime believers are faced with the same plight when they come, in repentance, to have fellowship with Christ restored. What is the remedy? Hear the word—resolution. Resolve to do it now! The only way one can avoid Samson’s fate, no matter how badly he has erred, is to decide now, while there is still time, to get right with God, face honestly his failure, and be willing and eager to see his life made right.Do it now! These words key every proposition faced in the lives of our specimen judges. Whether yours is a problem of facelessness, fear, being forsaken, or failure, begin to appropriate faith and practice obedience immediately. All the while remember that with God there are no extraordinary people, only ordinary ones through whom He chooses to do extraordinary things. You can be one of God’s special ordinary people!