Summary: The story of Samson is not so much about his delivering Israel, but about God delivering him.
Samson: Strong Muscles, Weak Morals
Judges 13-16 tell about Samson… is he a success or failure? His leadership follows three little known leaders. Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon. He is followed by two final leaders before God anoints Israel’s first king. Many times the cycle of Israel’s faith is recorded with their fall, oppression, repentance, and deliverance. But here we simply see that they have fallen and are oppressed by the Philistines, then immediately we read about the birth of God’s deliverer with no repentance mentioned at all.
Samson gets more coverage than any other Judge in the book. Why? His life is an array of selfish, brutal, vengeful, immoral, and ungodly expressions. He’s got great strength on the outside, but no control on the inside.
Samson was to be a Nazirite all his life. See: Numbers 6:2-21
Nazirite vow directives were to be Samson’s rule of life. Directives he failed miserably at keeping. Yet God’s blessing of strength was with him. Not until he foolishly entrusted the secret of his final vow to Delilah and she shaved his hair did God leave him. Even then God later answered his final prayer and restored his strength for one last act of vengeance.
Samson’s evil intentions were guided by God’s purposes. Whatever you think about Samson’s character, you must agree that God gave him an amazing gift of physical strength. Sampson is the Hercules of the Old Testament with a gift of strength not his own. A gift God used even as Samson abused it.
Questions for reflection on the lesson:
What other special births can you think of in the Bible?
Describe Manoah’s I.Q.
What special gifts has God given you to serve him? How are you using them?
What was Samson’s greatest strength and weakness? What are yours?
Why did God stay with Samson in spite of his sinfulness? Will God do that today?
How did God use Samson’s weaknesses to accomplish his purposes?
What would have been some differences in this story if Samson had been faithful?
Complete this sentence: The most tragic thing in Samson’s life was that he…
Why did Samson make the Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews 11?
I’ve been preaching for 20 years now and I don’t remember ever preaching a lesson about Samson. After reading Judges 13-16 over and over, I know why. It’s hard to believe that he made it into the faith list of Hebrews 11. Samson was no role model. He was gifted but not godly, a Dennis Rodman of the Old Testament. God is in the gift giving business. But with each gift comes certain responsibilities. A study of the life of Samson shows us an example of what not to do with the gifts God has blessed us with.
Let’s look at the story of Samson again. Judges 13 tells us that Israel has forsaken the faith again and God has given them over to the power of the Philistines. The Philistines remained the scourge of Israel until David finally conquered them. They were around in the time of Abraham and Isaac. They learned to work with iron and made weapons and agricultural tools. 1 Sam. 13: 19 Not a blacksmith could be found in the whole land of Israel, because the Philistines had said, "Otherwise the Hebrews will make swords or spears!" 20 So all Israel went down to the Philistines to have their plowshares, mattocks, axes and sickles sharpened.
Israel has sinned and they are now suffering under the power of the Philistines. If Judges followed its normal pattern we should hear Israel moaning and groaning and finally crying out to the Lord for deliverance. But that is conspicuously missing this time. Israel is beginning to accept their situation and fit in with the pagan nations around them. They are accepting the Philistine rule over them and not calling on the Lord for deliverance. Judges has 7 cycles of Israel’s faith with four parts each time. Fall, oppression, repentance, and deliverance. Here in chapter 13 we see the last cycle. This time the repentance is missing. The story jumps right to the announcement of the birth of Samson, God’s deliverer. Though people still speak of the Lord, they are assimilating into the pagan neighborhood and failing in the divine directive to conquer the land. Take a lesson on this, church! We must never get so comfortable with the world around us that we fail to follow the divine directive Jesus has given us. When we cease to evangelize and conquer the territory of Satan for Jesus, we cease to exist as God’s holy people. The angel of the Lord appears to Manoah’s wife and announces Samson’s birth. Samson’s name means “sun” or “daylight.” He is to be a Nazirite. Not a Nazarene, which means someone from Nazareth. Nazirite is a covenant name. It stands for someone who is set apart for God. The Nazirite vow involved three main things: No drinking wine or even touching grapes. No haircuts. No touching anything dead. It was a calling of moral excellence. In most cases this was a voluntary vow for a set period of time. For Samson it was a lifetime vow.