"Living La Vida Loca (the Wild Life)" - Judges 16
Reverend Antonio L. Torrence,
Pastor of the Cross of Life Lutheran Church
I yet believe that it is equally important that the saints are socially relevant as well as biblically correct and theologically sound. It is important for us to be some earthly good while also being heavenly bound. I say that preliminary introduction to inform you that there seems to be no better song that captures the atmosphere and context of our text than that of the popular – Ricky Martin’s Living’ La Vida Loca. Now for us English bound people and those of the older generation– ‘Living the wild (crazy) life.’
In essence many of the people in the book of judges were living the Vida loca – the wild life. We are told that during this era of Israel’s history every man consistently did what was right in his own eyes. Human judgment was placed above the divine law. This third and fourth generation of Jews was benefiting from the efforts of their ancestors who came out of the wilderness and conquer the Promised Land. This generation of Israelites had the promise land but did not know how to properly use it. The social barriers and economics walls came down but they still were oppressed and in poverty. And because they lack leadership of a Joshua and Caleb, the people would sin and worship false gods until punished by for their disobedience by Yahweh. When God raised up a judge – a military or civil leader – to help deliver the people of Israel out of their oppression, like Gideon, Debra, and our own Samson, the people repented and worshipped God. They would enjoy peace and prosperity until the judge died. As soon as the appointed leader was gone the children of Israel would sin and go back into idolatry and the cycle would begin all over again. Through seven cycles of sin, repentance, and sin again, Israel would experience crazy events. From incest to gang rape, to decapitation, to superstition, the book of Judges was an era of sex, greed, and violence. Life seemed to be out of control.
Even some of God’s of chosen vessels in this book seem to have lived a life without boundaries. Let’s consider our hero – Samson and his antagonist Delilah. From the time we hear of Samson we can see the chaos in his life. Although he was a godly man, Samson was living a crazy and wild life. Because of his gift of strength he got to do what he wanted to do in life. When he wanted a wife, he demanded that his father get him a wife. He destroyed those who angered him for good reasons and bad reasons. He traveled freely among his kinsmen and his enemies with complete fearlessness. Samson also liked to instigate trouble – for example our text begins as he strides into an enemy city, sees a prostitute he likes, sleeps with her, then takes off with the gates of the city upon his shoulders, terrifying everybody around him. No one ever forbade Samson to do whatever he wanted. Samson did what was right in his own eyes.
It is still the same story today. Many are using their own definitions of ethics and morals that make their decisions. WE are a people still doing what is right in our own eyes. We say that if it feels right and makes you happy then you should do it. We see such ideologies on talk shows and read about it in the tabloids. Our relationships nowadays are based on what seems right in our eyes. Married or just living together, mates are being chosen because it feels right. Divorces and Separations are occurring because it feels right. Teenagers are having sex on the premised that it feels right in their own eyes. Anti-abortionists are bombing clinics because it seems right. The frustrated and angry gun-shooters in Atlanta, Littleton, Arkansas, and Fortsworth, Texas acted on what seems right in their own eyes. And because many live according to the principle –do what’s right in your own eyes – they are caught in living a wild, crazy life – a life that is out of control.
Now, we many of us may think that we have things under control. I mean we haven’t had a nervous breakdown or gone on a shooting rampage. However, it may be that we have become excellent jugglers of the many tasks in our lives and we haven’t dropped a ball. We’ve learned to joggle the high stress job, the managing of the children, the role of being a mate to someone else. We have it down to a schedule. Wake up a 6 am. Get the kids up and dressed while getting ourselves ready for work. Everybody piles in the car about 7:15 or 7:30. Drop junior off to the daycare. Hustle through rush hour to hectic job environment where everyone seems to call your name at once. At 5 PM hustle through rush hour to pick up the kids and drop them off for dance, piano, or art lessons. Get home at about 6:30 to start a quick dinner. At 8pm- make sure the kids homework is done are still being done. At 9 or 10 PM get those little ones to bed. And get yourself on bed only to do it all over again the next day. For us, we have it all under control. We can handle being super mom and a career woman. We can handle being part of the corporate team and a wonderful dad. We can do it all.
And I’m learning that many of our problems are similar to Samson and Delilah’s situation. Their problems were linked to having the wrong desires, living lives of deception, and having destructive motives.
First, their desires were incorrect. Ask your neighbor, “What are your desires?” Both Samson and Delilah didn’t know what to want in life; the desires that drove them were all aimed at the wrong things. Now some of us think we know what we want but we really do not know because if we knew then we would be satisfied. But since we don’t know we constantly desire something or someone else. We wanted a mate. Now we have a mate and want to get rid of them. We wanted children. Got the kids and can’t wait to get rid of them. Wanted a home, car, and nice things. We have it and still for many of us it’s not enough. Our desires for the most part are aimed at the wrong things.
Look at Samson. He was a mighty warrior of God - a prototype of David. And many of us tend to think of Samson as a young, incredible hulk with the physical statute of Arnold Swarzenneger. However, the bible never tells us of his physical appearance accept the description of his long Nazarene hair. I tend to agree with some scholars that Samson had to be either a small or medium build man. Otherwise, his strength would not have been such a mystery to his enemies. They would have simply accredited it to his size. No. Samson couldn’t have the physique of a Mr. Olympia because when his enemies looked upon him… they were awestruck that someone who looks like wimp could have so much strength and power. And you need to know that they are people looking at you likewise, in awe. They don’t know how you do what you do. How do you joggle so much and still look good? How did you go through so many challenges in your life and survive? They ask themselves, what’s driving him? What’s keeping her going? That trap I set should have stopped her? Those lies I told should have discouraged him? But we know that it’s not us. It’s someone on the inside. He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. We can do all things through Christ that strengthens us.
Samson had someone working on the inside of him. However, at this point in our text, we see where he forgets that. You may already realize that Samson was also a ladies man. And he especially had a thing for women outside of his ethnicity. Earlier in c.14-15, we see him attracted to a philistine woman who pleased him. But his parents are not pleased with the decision because they wanted him to married a nice Jewish girl. However, what Samson wanted Samson got. As a result, that marriage ended in tragedy. Later, we see him hooked up with a prostitute – she was just a one-night stand. Samson slew hearts like he slew armies leaving them broken and in pieces. Until he met up with his own match –our bad girl – Delilah.
Delilah was first individual with whom Samson created a relationship that made him vulnerable. The text says that he loved her and that he gave her his heart (or some translations say mind.) Delilah had his heart and thus his treasure for the lord said for where your treasure is there will be your heart. His heart was with Delilah and now his desire was to please her. And yet, Delilah placed her desires on the money promised her by Samson’s enemies – the Philistines to betray him. The Philistine in turned desired to assure their power and influence over the Jews by defeating Samson. So our text shows us the desire for sex (on Samson’s part), the desire for money (on Delilah’s Part) and the desire for power (on the part of the Philistines). Everyone’s heart was placed on the wrong thing. And when you are pursuing the wrong thing, your life tends to spiral downward out of control. Sex, money and power are a deadly combination of career pursuits. And for many it seems right but someone said that there is a way that seems right unto a man but the end thereof is death. Thus this story ends tragically with everybody dying.
The second problem with Samson and Delilah, next to having the wrong desires is that they were living lives of deception. Tells your neighbor, don’t be deceived?
We are told that Samson loved Delilah but it is never hinted that Delilah loved Samson. She may have pretended to love him but she never voiced it? Her lips may not have lied to Samson but her actions and motives were deceptive. Samson allowed her actions to deceive him. Likewise many of us are being deceived or being deceptive. Some of us are being deceived. We are putting our energies in a one-sided, dead-end relationship. Many of us have a Delilah situation in which we are giving more of our selves and getting little in return. We are working 40 hours plus for jobs that do not reward us for our efforts. We deceived our selves in thinking we have arrive and that we are an important part of network, until we are left out of the inner circle, given a pink slip, and escorted out of the building. For some of us, Delilah is dying marriage. We are trying to make it work but we are alone in our efforts. WE are deceiving ourselves that our living arrangements are just as good as a marriage. We say that we are in a committed relationship but we won’t legalize it. It is a deception. If it’s really a committed relationship then legalized it. Even in the church, if the truth is told there is deception. They are wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing. You see sheep follow…wolves devour. Sheep are humble. Wolves are haughty. Sheep are meek. Wolves are violent. Some of us are trying to be deceptive. We are treating God like Delilah treated Samson. God is fully committed and in love with us, yet we won’t commit to him. He has given us his heart – his only begotten son, but we won’t commit to him. He wants to marry us but we are comfortable with just shacking up with him. What are talking about preacher? God loves us and wants us to be his bride, but we won’t commit to him and join his church. He wants to legalize the relationship with us but we are only interested in Sunday morning quickies. We give an outward appearance of love but inwardly our hearts lies with someone or something else. He loves us, but we won’t give our tithes, talents, or time. Some of us are God’s Delilah’s using him to get what we can get. Deception.
Finally, we learn from this story of Samson and Delilah that a crazy life is a destructive life? Delilah was ultimately destructive to Samson. If I had to describe her destructiveness I would use those lyrics of Ricky Martin,
She’s into superstitions
Black cats and voodoo dolls
I feel a premonition
That girl’s gonna make me fall
She’s into new sensations
New kicks in the candlelight
She’s got a new addiction
For every day and night
She’ll make you take your clothes off and go dancing in the rain
She’ll make you live her crazy life
But she’ll take away your pain
Like a bullet to your brain
Upside inside out
She’s livin la Vida loca
She’ll push and pull you down
Livin la Vida loca
Her lips are devil red
And her skin’s color of mocha
She will wear you out
Livin la Vida loca
She’s livin la Vida loca
Delilah was destructive. She was like cocaine – one sniff and you where hook. Or like alcohol, you think you have it under control but then you find it’s controlling you. Or like a job – we throw ourselves in our work to for the pain we are truly dealing with –only to end up more stress out and mess up.
Delilah was destructive. But as I dealt with this text, I asked myself why would Samson continually return to the arms of woman who physically tried three times to destroy him. I would imagine that it was because just as well as Delilah could destroy a man…she also knew how to edify him. And She could get all us a lesson in edifying a love one. I imagine that when she planned her evenings with Samson, she took those pink rollers out of her hair and wiped off that cold cream. She changed her flannel pajamas for something from Victoria secrets. She threw on some tunes of Luther Vandross and ran a bubble bath surrounded with candlelight. In other words, Delilah provided an atmosphere that allowed Samson to be himself. When Samson was with her, he was no longer the angry judge destroying people lives. She was the beauty that calmed the beast within him. She made him feel like a man. She affirmed him and made exalted his self-esteem. Samson could talk to her. Many of us complain that our mates do not talk to us. But Delilah provided an atmosphere for Samson to disclose to her his deepest secrets. (Take a lesson).
But Delilah shows us how to destroy a person. When Samson disclosed his weakness – she uses it against him. Weaknesses need to be strengthened not exposed. When the people closest to us expose their most vulnerable spot to us, we should used that information to strengthen the bonds between us not destroy them. We should not allow us tongues to cut down the important people in our lives. Furthermore, Delilah’s actions teach us not to let anyone cut down our love ones. Don’t let others criticize or gossip about your love one, friends, and church.
Finally, we learn from this story that deliverance is possible for anyone living the crazy/wild life. Our story ends with Samson praying to God for one more chance. And we serve a God who gives us a second chance. Our God may humble us at times but he will give us a second chance.