Summary: The true hero of this story is not Samson but our patienty and gracious God.
This is the time of year when movie studios release the films they think have the best chance of winning the Oscar for Best Picture. How many of those hyped-up movies have you gone to see only to leave the theatre muttering: “I just wasted two hours of my life and twenty bucks”? Will we conclude something similar about Samson as we continue our sermon series on that long-haired strongman of the Bible? Last week we heard how Samson was the most likely to succeed. His birth had been announced by God himself and he was born to pious parents. Did Samson live up to the hype and deliver his people from the Philistines? Was he a champ or a chump? In today’s sermon based on Judges 14 and 15 we’ll see how Samson was armed and donkey-ish. The real hero, not surprisingly, is our God of patience and grace. Let’s find out more.
Judges 14 picks up the true story of Samson after he returned from the nearby Philistine village where he had seen a girl he liked. Samson said to his parents: “Get her for me as my wife” (Judges 14:2b). Kids, do you bark orders at your parents like that? “Get me some Mac ‘n Cheese!” I hope not. It seems that this was a habit of Samson’s, however. For even when his parents tried to dissuade him, gently asking if there wasn’t a fellow Israelite he could marry, Samson retorted: “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me [literally: she’s right it my eyes]” (Judges 14:3). Samson cared about one thing: looks. It didn’t matter to him that God had said that Israelites were not to marry their unbelieving neighbors, as his parents lovingly reminded him. What a chump.
Now if you’re familiar with this text, you’ll remember that after this exchange we read: “His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines” (Judges 14:4a). We should not understand that to mean that God had prompted Samson to seek this marriage. No, it’s informing us that God had decided to use Samson’s sinful choice in his divine plan to give relief to the Israelites from the oppression of the Philistines. This pattern will be repeated throughout our lesson today.
Samson’s parents relented and agreed to meet the Philistine girl. Samson himself now chatted with the girl for the first time and decided that one date was enough for him to confirm that she should be his life-long partner! It’s no wonder there was tension between Samson and his parents. In fact on the way to the girl’s village, parents and son had not walked together. That’s why when a young lion jumped out at Samson, his parents weren’t there to witness what happened. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson so that he was able to tear that lion in two with his bare hands. When Samson returned for his wedding, he looked for the lion carcass and found a beehive in it from which he scooped out some honey and shared it with his parents.
These details are important because they show again what a chump Samson was. As a Nazirite, a special servant of God, he was not supposed to touch anything that was dead. That divine command didn’t stop Samson however. There was honey in that dead lion and Samson wanted some. Does this sound like a spiritually mature individual who, with the help of the Holy Spirit, worked to keep his passions in check? No. This chump did whatever he liked, whenever he liked.
Such a track record makes us wonder whether or not Samson even tried to refrain from drinking wine at his seven-day wedding banquet. As a Nazirite, wine too was off limits for Samson. What we do know is that he willingly gave into his covetous desires at the banquet. He made up a riddle based on his recent experience with the lion and the honey and bet his wedding companions a set of clothes each that they couldn’t guess it. The riddle went like this: “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet” (Judges 14:14). For three days his thirty groomsmen pondered the riddle but couldn’t solve it. But these were Philistines – the mafia of the ancient world; they knew how to get their way. They approached Samson’s bride and threatened to burn her and her family if she didn’t coax the answer out of Samson. The drama queen first accused Samson of not loving her because he hadn’t told her the answer to the riddle, and then she sobbed…for the next four days of the wedding banquet (!) until Samson gave in. The triumphant groomsmen must have snickered as they gave the answer to Samson’s riddle: “What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?” (Judges 14:18)