Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered February 13, 2010 by Pastor Don Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

Samson at His Ropes End

John 3:15-17

(RealAudio available)

I would like to speak with you this morning about Samson.  Samson had quite a few experiences with ropes, and one day he was at his rope's end and that's what I want to tell you about.  The Bible says that Samson loved Delilah.  I doubt if he loved her.  It doesn't really have very many characteristics of true love, what he did.  I think he was infatuated with her beauty.  Did God love Samson?  I think He did.  I'm sure of that.  God loves the unlovable.   God's love was actually the true love involved here and not Samson's love.

John 3:16 says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him," including Samson, "should not perish but have everlasting life."  God loves the world.  God loves good people, churchgoing people.  God loves bad people, people that skip church.  God loves everybody.  Romans 5:8.  Here it indicates to me that God loves even bad people.  Look at Romans 5:8.  "But God demonstrates His love for us in this, that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." He dies for people who are sinners.  That includes all of us.  Even when they are lost.  Even when they are sinning, it is God's strong love that draws them to repentance.  God loves everybody.  He loves them with the best ability that He could possibly have, which is perfect.  There's always joy when one sinner comes back to repentance.  In heaven there's jubilance.  "Praise the Lord, so-and-so found Jesus today."  God's love is so strong that it doesn't stop even during the times when we willfully make a mistake or we sin. 

Now there's an exciting story here in the Bible that I would like to point you to.  It is about a boy named Sam.  The story of a big-time sinner and the story of a world-class weightlifter.  It's found back here in the book of Judges.  This story, I think, is in your Bible to show all of us how much God loves sinners.  Because God does love sinners.  He doesn't want them to stay sinners, but He loves sinners.  We read of the suicidal end of this story and sometimes we wonder, "Well, I wonder if Samson, he's probably going to be lost because he committed suicide."  The Bible says thou shalt not kill.  He killed himself therefore he will be lost because he was a commandment breaker.  His last act was to kill somebody.

Well, look at Hebrews 11 in your Bible.  The great faith chapter of the Bible.  I want you to notice verse 32.  "And what more shall I say.  I do not have time to tell about Gideon and Barak, Samson, Jepthah, David, Samuel and the prophets."  And then notice verse 39.  It says, "and these all obtained a good report."  That's what it's telling us.  They all did it,  They obtained a good report.  Even Samson.  Samson, the Samson killer, because he killed himself.  God loved him enough to forgive him of all his deep, dirty sins.  If you've ever wondered, "Well could God love me?  I've sinned so bad."  Yes, He can.  He can.  So you listen to this story of this big burly sinner that God forgave, and if God can forgive Samson, then God can forgive you.

Come over here to the book of Judges, chaspters 13, 14, 15 and 16.  This is the story of Samson.  Now why is this story of Samson in the book of Judges?  Because Samson was a Judge.  Judges 13:5, "The angel told Samson's mother that your little child is going to grow up and he's going to begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the heathens."  And what Samson began is actually not even finished to this day because the heathens are after we Israelites today.  The devil is after us.  Only Jesus will finish delivering His people at the second Advent. 

Now this youngster grew up and when his parents told him about the life that God had chosen for him, he accepted that.  So the child grew, it says in Judges 13:24,25, the Lord blessed him.  You know, God blesses children.  Because God blessed those children, that means to me that God will bless your children and my children.  The Spirit of the Lord began to move him. 

Now when Samson was a teenager he must have been a real strong person.  Quite popular, probably, with the girls in his day, but he left the church.  He went down to Timnath and there he found a heathen girl, and he wanted to marry this girl.  He had a weakness for attractive, exciting, unbelieving heathens.  That's the type of people he liked.  This weakness led him to his eventual downfall.  God kept reminding the young man of His love for him.  One day Samson got his parents and said, "Come with me.  I want to go get her and I want to get married to her."  The parents probably said, "You know you're supposed to marry one of your own people."  "Well, I'm not going to do that."  Eventually the parents and Samson walked the 4 or 5 miles down to Timnath.  While they were going on that trip they went past an unwalled grape vineyard and Samson said, "Just a minute.  I'm going to go into this vineyard and I'll be right back."  He went into the vineyard, and he was attacked by a beast.  There was a big beast there in that vineyard.  He was alone.  His parents were not there to help him.  You know, you face more dangers when you're alone and than when you're not alone.  Eve found that out.  Eve left Adam,. and Eve faced a big beast in an orchard and the beast got her.  A deadly beast.  Eve lost out.

But on this particular day, here in Judges, God came to Samson's rescue.  Why didn't he come to Eve's rescue?  Why did he rescue Samson and did not rescue Eve.  Well, I think special power came upon Samson to resist, to overpower this deadly beast, because I think he must've asked God for help.  And God will always provide special power to overcome.  I think that God did want to give Eve that same power to overcome the Devil.  I believe that.  That serpent in that apple tree, but Eve did not really want it and did not allow it.  Every time you eat, you should have prayer.  If Eve would have prayed before she ate the apple she probably wouldn't have eaten the apple.  She might not have been trapped and we might not be living here today. 

Let's read about the boy and the beast here in Judges 14:5.  "Samson went down with his father and mother to Timnath as far as the vineyard near there.  Suddenly a young lion came roaring toward Samson.  The Spirit of the Lord entered Samson with great power and he tore the lion apart with his bare hands.  For him it was as easy as tearing apart a young goat.  But Samson did not tell his father or his mother what he had done."

Now I wonder if maybe this was the very first time that the Spirit of the Lord ever came upon Samson.  I don't really know that.  Might've been.  The natural reaction, if you just killed a lion with your bare hands would be to say, "Guess what I just did!"  You want to tell somebody.  "I just killed a lion with my bare hands!  I did it myself!"  He didn't tell anybody.  He didn't tell his mother.  He didn't tell his father.  He didn't even tell his girlfriend.  I don't even think he got scratched because when I was a kid, if there was anything wrong, my mother always said, "What did you do there?"  She would notice everything about me.  There were no scratches, no Band-Aids involved here.  He had just done a Guinness Book of World Records feat, but he exhibited extraordinary self-control by keeping it to himself.  But he was not really a person of self-control.  There were many times that Samson showed a total lack of self-control.  He only exercised self-control when the power of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Lord came upon him, but he did not have one iota of self-control when he moved away from God. 

Let me tell you, if you move away from God, you will lose your ability to have self-control, because self-control is not really self-control.  Self-control is God control.  When you're under the control of God self can be controlled because you see, self is a wild animal.  Self is uncontrollable.  People can't control self, but God can.  So you give yourself to God and then you'll be under control.  So the moral of this story is, it's really dangerous to leave God, right?  When you leave God you lose total control of your life.

Now observe with care what God did that day.  Samson was on his way down, it says.  When you head towards sin, you do go down.  He was on his way down to that wicked Gentile city to see that pagan unbeliever, and he was going to marry her.  This was a premeditated sin, wasn't it?  So God would just back off and say, "Hey, if you want to do that I am not going to be there with you."  Is that what God did?  He did not do that.  God stayed with him even while he was headed out in disobedience to his parent's explicit command not to marry a gentile.  Deuteronomy 7:1-3.  You would think that God would step aside and allow Samson to reap the consequences of his sin.  But God stepped in, rather than stepping aside.  He stepped into Samson's life and He saved Samson from the lion. 

Now if you've ever wondered what God is really like, this ought to tell you.  Here's your answer.  God cares for us, even when we are in the very act of rebellion against Him.  In fact, the truth is, this whole planet is in rebellion, and God loves this world.  He loves people, even when they're doing evil.  Now remember, God always hates the sin, but God always loves the sinner.  That's what God is like. 

Samson could tell a riddle that nobody could discover except unethical women.  Samson could catch 300 foxes.  Look at Judges 15:4.  It says. "He took firebrands and turned these foxes tail to tail and put a firebrand in the middle between two tails."  So the foxes were tied together and the firebrand was hooked between the tails and then when the fire got going the foxes decided it was time to go.  The fires were lit.  They ran through the fields and they destroyed thousands of acres.  The Philistine agriculture, all the crops for the next winter, they must've had a terrible famine that winter.  This undefeatable he-man became a one-man army.  In verse 8 it says, "he tore the inhabitants of the heathen city apart." 

Well, something had to be done so 3000 men from Judah came with brand-new ropes, probably half inch or 1 inch ropes.  Huge, strong, ropes.  They said, "Samson, would you allow us to tie you up?"  "Okay."  "This has gone far enough  We're going to give you to the Philistines."  "Okay."  So in chapter 15:14 it says, "The Philistines came to meet him shouting for joy.  Then the Spirit of the Lord entered Samson and gave him great power.  The ropes on him weakened like burned strings and fell off his hands.  Samson found the jawbone of a dead donkey and took it and killed a thousand men with it."  Can you imagine that.  He was unbeatable.  He was the winner in every conflict he ever got into.  In verse 16 it says he has the audacity to give the credit to the jawbone.  He says, "I did this with my jawbone."  Just like a slap in God's face, but God still loved him.  God demonstrated his love toward Samson, because Samson said, "I'm thirsty."  So God created a spring right there in the field and Samson was able to get a drink.

Next the strongman goes down to Gaza.  He goes down, down, down.  Goes down to Gaza for a premeditated purpose of sinning again.  After his sin God empowered him once more.  They trapped him within the gates.  He couldn't get out, so he walked up to the city gates, lifted the gates along with the framework and everything and carried it 40 miles home.  Practically home.  Up the mountain.  God helped him.  God never leaves him.  It's amazing.

Then we read in chapter 16:4, he met a lady, a woman, by the name of Delilah.  Now she was a secret agent of the Philistines.  In the comfort of her special room she kept asking Samson, "Samson tell me what is the secret?  I want to know the secret to your special strength that you've got.  Honey, please tell me.  You know you can trust me."  And so he would tell her, "Well it's this." and she would do it, and well it wasn't that.  "Well it's this."  No it wasn't that.  She was at her wits end and she said, "Where is the magic key to your power?  What is the secret source of your strength?"

Now let me ask you.  Was the secret of Samson's strength his uncut hair?  Yes or no?  That's not the secret to his strength.  Not at all.  Did Samson really need to have a full head of hair for God to give him strength?  If Samson had been bald, would he have been weak.  Now think about this.  Would God have bypassed him for some other man.  I don't think so.  God chose Samson.

After several false attempts, Delilah was working on him, finally, this temptress cut his long hair, and we are told in Judges 16:20.  "He awoke from his sleep, and he thought, 'I'll go out as before and I'll shake myself free,' but he did not know that the Lord had done" what?  "The Lord had left him." 

Now you can see that Samson was not weak because his hair had been cut.  He was powerless because the Lord had left him.  His strength came from God, not his hair.  His weakness came from losing his relationship with God, his connection with God.  Now Job said, I made a covenant with my eyes that I would never look lustfully at a girl.  Job 31:1.  Christian men have no business dallying with the Delilah's of life.  Don't do that.  Often times men convince themselves, "I can handle just a little flirting, just a little lust, just a little looking.  It's not going to hurt me.  I can handle that." 

Now notice that Samson's weakness was not totally caused by his sexual sins.  Samson had just gotten up from the bed of the prostitute.  He had sinned morally but he can still rip out.the city gates and go 40 miles with them.  So that is not the cutoff point of his power.  He still had God's strength, even though he had sinned in that way.  Obviously, his elemental weakness was somewhere else.  Where was it? 

Well exactly what was it that destroyed the strongest man in history?  I want to examine that.  I think it was Samson's self ego that laid him low.  He believed in his own physical power more than he believed in the power of God.  He believed that he could whip any challenger.  He could do it.  His testosterone powered ego led him to believe that he was immune to sin.  Every time before he'd break the ropes.  Being with a prostitute "is not going to harm me," he thought.  "I can have Delilah, and I can have God at the same time."  That self-assuredness kept him in Delilah's room night after night.  Samson thought he could play with sin and not get hurt.  But superior physical strength became the origin of his downfall.  He thought he was undefeatable.  He'd never lost a fight.  The Bible says in First Corinthians 10:12, "Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall."  He came to the point where he thought he no longer needed God.  Once upon a time he did have a saving connection with God, but he lost his salvation.  Once you have it, can you lose it?  Yes, you can. 

Now I don't really see that God left him.  I know that's what the Bible says.  We just read that text.  I don't really see that God left Samson because God says in Hebrews 13:5, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee."   So did God leave him?  I think he left God.  Patriarchs and Prophets, page 568, says, "he let go his hold upon God, which is man's only safeguard."  The real strongman in this story is not Samson.  The real strongman is God.  That's who is the strongest Man in the world. 

The Philistines got hold of Samson.  They gouged out his eyes.  They chained him up with chains.  They chained him to the mill to grind grain, and there in the darkness, because he was totally blind, all he could do was turn that wheel every day and think and pray.  I think he must've done a lot of both.  Did a lot of praying.

Well, they had a party to celebrate Samson.  They had gotten this one-man army.  The superpower of the Israelites was now in their control, and so they had this huge party to celebrate and it was held in honor of their god.  Their god was stronger than the God of the Israelites.  Their god was the best god because their god had conquered Samson.  So they held this in the hall of their god.  They built this huge building which had idols all around.  They had a party.  There were probably 3000 people.  I don't think there were 3000 people in the building, but I think there were 3000 people.  They were crowded into the building.  They were up on the walls looking down.  They were all around the building.  3000 people.  That's a big crowd.  They were crowded into that pagan hall. 

Samson was brought in.  Led by a little boy.  "Look at how weak he is.  Even a little boy can control this superstrong man now.  We've got him.  He can't get loose.  He's not dangerous.  He couldn't hurt a child."  They mocked him and the Bible says he performed in front of them.  I don't know what that means, that he performed.  Whether he did acrobatics or something.  I don't know what Samson did.  He was chained, but there he was.

Samson said, "Lead me to the two pillars."  Now how did he know the two pillars where there?  Because he had been there before.  He had not only been doing illicit activities with the wicked women of that city, but he had been in that pagan worship place worshiping the pagan god.  He knew about the pillars.  He had stood there before when he had sight and he realized those two pillars held the whole structure up.  He said, "Lead me to the pillars."  So they did.  The people scoffed and said, "Look.  The strongest man in the world has to lean against the pillars.  He's so weak he can't even stand up."  Samson thought, "I wonder if God could use me one more time?  I wonder if God could forgive me and send his Holy Spirit into me once more?" 

So Judges 16:25.  "They brought Samson in.  They stood him between the two main supporting pillars."  He had left God.  Would God forgive him?  Would God take him back one more time?  Would God listen to his prayer?  Does God hear the prayers of sinners who are asking for help.  Let me tell you that God did hear his prayer.  He really did.  God still cared for that broken, blind sinner, and God forgave him.  It was just like old times again.  Samson could feel the power come into his life.  He put one hand on one pillar and one hand on the other pillar and he began to push, and his muscles bulged and perspiration was dripping down his face and his body and every muscle was straining and he pushed the two pillars apart and they began to crack and they fell and the entire building imploded.  People were horrified.  "This building is going down," they screamed, and this giant pagan temple collapsed, killing everybody including Samson.  So therefore you could say he committed suicide. 

Can you see how much God loves sinners?  God will take you back.  God is always ready to take a repentant sinner back.  If you have sinned badly against God, and you have gone out and you have really been a big-time sinner, God can forgive you.  God is the ultimate forgiver.  Our God is not very far away, ever, from a sinner.  It really pleases God to forgive somebody, so if you want to come back He's reaching out for you.  God wants to forgive you.  God will forgive you no matter where or what your sin, and the reason is because He loves you.  God is a loving God.  When you get to the end of your rope, God will be there to meet you and to help you.

Now let me tell you a little bit about my loving God.  God is the First and the Last.  He's the Beginning and the End.  He's the Keeper of creation.  God is the Creator of all.  He is the Architect of the universe, the Manager of all times.  He always was, always is, and always will be.  Our God is unmoved, unchanged, undefeated, but never undone.  He was bruised and brought healing.  He was pierced and He eased pain.  He was persecuted and He brought freedom.  He was dead and He brought life.  He is risen and He brings power.  He reigns and He brings peace.  The world can't understand Him.  The armies can't defeat Him.  The schools cannot expel our God.  The leaders can't ignore Him.  Herod can't kill Him.  The Pharisees couldn't confuse Him.  The people couldn't hold Him.  Nero couldn't crush Him.  Hitler could not silence Him.  The new age can't replace Him.  Donahue can't explain Hem away.  He is Light, Love, Longevity and Lord.  He is Goodness and Gentleness.  He is God.  He is Holy, Mighty, Powerful and Pure.  His ways are right.  His word is eternal.  His love is immovable.  He loved Samson and God loves you.  What a God we serve.  He's so special.

I want us to sing about our God.  Great is Thy Faithfulness.  His love is faithful.  Our God is a special, loving God who loves to forgive sinners.  He hates the sin but He loves the sinner, every time.  Let's sing our closing hymn. 

Dear Father.  We thank You for loving Samson.  We thank You for loving us.  Some of us are not much like Samson, but in many ways we are like him.  Our muscles are not strong but our sins are big.  We need forgiveness.  We need Your presence back into our hearts.  We can' t live without You, so we invite You into our homes, our offices, our workplaces.  Please bless us and may we be a blessing to You and be faithful to You because your faithfulness is so great.  We thank You for that in Jesus' name, amen.

Hymn of Praise: #21, Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
Scripture: John 3:15-17
Hymn of Response: #100, Great is Thy Faithfulness
Sermon Notes:  Sermon notes available as PDF

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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 2/16/10