JUST LIKE US (part three)
Recap: Last week we looked at Abraham. Abraham was a man who believed God and he trusted God to lead him even though he didn't know where God was sending him. He loved God and was willing to obey God when he was told to sacrifice his son Isaac. But we saw that he had his moments of weakness too.
When he was entering Egypt he told his wife Sarah to tell everyone she was his sister because he was afraid that Pharaoh would kill him and take Sarah to be his wife. Then, he did it again when he was in Gerar with King Abimelech. Yet God still blessed him. He was still willing to call Abraham his prophet. God still wants to use us even though we repeatedly make mistakes.
Today we'll look at Samson and see how he is just like us.
1) Strong but weak.
In Judges 13 we read of the angel's birth announcement to Samson's parents. They were told he was to be a Nazirite-set apart from birth. He was not to drink alcohol or cut his hair. You can read about the stipulations of a Nazirite vow in Numbers 6.
Although there were probably many people who took the special Nazirite vow, Samson is the only one to whom this specific term is applied (although the argument can be made that Samuel and John the Baptist were given the Nazirite vow although the specific term wasn't used). It was an honor to be chosen for this special purpose.
Samson grew and the Lord's favor was on him. It wasn't long before we see both Samson's great power and great weakness. In chapt. 14 Samson married a Philistine woman. While they were having the seven-day feast, Samson posed a riddle for his Philistine companions to solve by the end of the feast, with the prize being a new set of clothes for each of them.
They worked over Samson's new wife to get him to reveal the answer. She wears him down and he tells her (this won't be the last time Samson caves in to a woman's pleading). They give Samson the answer and he knows what they did.
Judges 14:19-20, "Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of their belongings and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle. Burning with anger, he went up to his father’s house. And Samson’s wife was given to the friend who had attended him at his wedding."
We see here that the Lord was behind his great power. It wasn't because he ate his Wheaties or worked out, it was because of the Holy Spirit. Normally we see Samson depicted as this big, strong muscular fellow. But actually, it's understood that Samson was of an average size and build. This makes sense because this is what God does. He takes normal people and does the extraordinary through them.
The religious leaders were amazed that the Apostles knew what they knew because they were 'unschooled, ordinary men', as Acts 4:13 puts it. God wants people to wonder how his people can do what they do so that people can point them to God and give him the glory. What God equipped Samson to be able to do is a sign of what can be accomplished for us in the power of the Holy Spirit-not amazing physical feats of strength but spiritual ones.
The last verse plays a key role in the next specific incident. Samson cools off and goes back to get his wife and her father basically tells him he didn't think he wanted her anymore so he gave her to the best man at the wedding. Samson retaliates by going out and catching 300 foxes, ties their tails together in pairs, fastens a torch to each pair and sends them off into their fields to burn their crops.
The townspeople learn who was behind this and why so they went and killed Samson's wife and her father. Samson reacts to that by viciously attacking them. Then the Philistines camp out and the men of Judah asked them what this was all about and they told them they were looking for Samson to get back at him for what he did.
Judah sends 3,000 men to get Samson, if that's any indication to the threat Samson posed against anyone who wanted to take him on. Samson allows them to tie him up and take him to the Philistines. But when the Philistines came toward him, 15:14 says the Spirit of the Lord came upon him in power and he broke the bindings and with the jawbone of a donkey struck down 1,000 men.
Then, we see Samson have a moment of weakness. Judges 15:18-20, "Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the LORD, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines."
Samson has mighty displays of strength and fearlessness but he gets thirsty and cries out like he's doomed. Yes, he was weak and parched but his emotions got the better of him. But God comes through and gives him what he asks for. This shows that although we whine and complain God knows we're human and he blesses us despite our weaknesses. Samson was strong but he was also weak. Now we'll see what his greatest weakness was.
2) The judge with poor judgment.
Samson ruled the land for the next 20 years. He was one of the judges of Israel. Before there were kings, judges ruled. Although Samson was Israel's judge, he had his share of poor judgment.
Judges 16:1-3, "One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.”
But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron."
Are you beginning to see what Solomon's weakness is yet? And yet, despite his fornication, God allows him to still have his strength. Does this mean God is okay with what he is doing? No. God never condones sin. But this shows the unbelievable grace of God.
And this is important to see from God because we can get a picture of "the God of the OT" as full of wrath and no grace. And while that side of God is seen, there are a lot of displays of the ever loving, forgiving and merciful God. God doesn't change from OT to NT; he is and has always been the same. But it shows us that God is still willing to use us even on the heels of our foolish choices.
But Samson's weakness is about to come barreling down on him hard because here comes Delilah. Vs. 4-5, "Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.”
Obviously the Philistines knew Samson's weakness too. They probably remembered how they were able to get his former wife to reveal the riddle and not they approached Delilah to get him to reveal the secret to his strength to finally be able to subdue the guy and end their misery.
Let the games begin. Delilah tried to get Samson to tell the secret to his strength and then Samson would tell her something that wasn't true and then she would bring the Philistines in and Samson would break his bindings and the plan would be thwarted. This happened three times. Then, Samson broke down.
Vs. 15-22, "Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? [manipulation] This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength. ” With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death.
[ladies, is this how you are with your husbands? You're probably thinking, 'I wouldn't have to be if he just did what I asked the first time]
So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.”
So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him.
[How would you like to be this guy? You are in close quarters with Samson, knowing if he wakes up you're toast. He was probably sweatin' bullets the whole time.]
And his strength left him. Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” [Telling statement] But he did not know that the LORD had left him. [even more telling statement]
Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison. But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved."
This last sentence will come into play in a little while. Now, before you say, "how could this guy be that gullible?", are we really any different? Do we not have a resume of repeated offenses? Have we not gotten caught up over and over in Satan's allurements? Should we not know better too? We all have our weaknesses and Satan loves to repeatedly trip us up. Satan can be like Delilah-nagging at us relentlessly until we give in.
Even though Samson was a physical powerhouse, he was weak spiritually, at least when it came to the females. We too, can be spiritually strong in many areas but weak in others. We can have good judgment in some areas and yet exhibit poor judgment in others. Samson was Israel's judge and no doubt made some good judgments but he definitely made some poor ones too.
3) One last hurrah.
God allowed Samson one last hurrah.
16:23-30, "Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, “Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.” When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, “Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain.”
While they were in high spirits, they shouted, “Bring out Samson to entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. When they stood him among the pillars, Samson said to the servant who held his hand, “Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.”
Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the LORD, “O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”
[Even though Samson is talking about getting revenge, I see this as a statement of humility. Where once he thought he would have his strength regardless of what happened, he now knows he was wrong. He knew just because he was a Nazirite that didn't mean he could abuse that privileged vow and get away with it. He probably thought that when he sinned but God still allowed him to have his strength. But it's wrong to presume upon God.
But we can be guilty of the same attitude. When we sin and God still chooses to bless us despite it we can take that the wrong way and presume that we will always be in God's good graces no matter what. But we may have to find out the hard way that we can't sin as much as we want and think God's blessing will still be upon us. God may back away from us and allow us to reap the consequences of our actions so we would humble ourselves and turn back to God with a lesson learned, like Samson did.]
Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived."
Regardless of how you view this last hurrah, this is really a sad situation. The once mighty Samson has been reduced to a captured prisoner with his eyes gouged out. The Lord left him. His source of strength left. That's the saddest part of all. When we repeatedly don't do things God's way he will remove his blessing and protection from us. In his love he punishes us and allows us to feel the full brunt of what direction we choose to go.
But, we see God honoring Samson's final request. He gave him the power to topple the pillars. This was more about God's judgment against the Philistines for what they did and their godlessness. But we see that even though God had removed himself from Samson, he was there when Samson called to him. We can make mistakes and create some distance between us and God but he will be right there if we cry out to him in repentance.
Some believe the story of Samson is a depiction of Israel as a whole. It makes sense. Time after time when you read through Israel's history you'll see the phrase, "Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord". That phrase actually starts Judges 13 where we read about Samson's birth. The Israelites would chase after foreign Gods the way Samson chased after foreign women. But, time and time again, the Israelites would come to their senses and turn back to God and God would forgive them.
Thanks be to God for his patience, mercy and forgiveness in dealing with our repetitive mistakes. Samson was strong in some ways but weak in others. He was Israel's judge but he lacked judgment. Yet God still blessed him and worked through him-just like us.