Samson's life is the story of what could have been. Pitcher, Steve Howe, the 1980 rookie of the year with the LA Dodgers was endowed with talent. His fast- ball consistently went over 90 MPH. His team was renowned for producing Hall of Famers like Don Drysdale. But Steve Howe will not be in that hall of fame. All his potential evaporated when his problems with cocaine became public.
The Dodgers had to release him. He had many other chances, but drugs and alcohol always mastered him. He was one of the greatest to play baseball. Yet he didn't conquer his weakness for drugs. Today he is trying to stay sober, but his glory in pitching is over.
Samson was a potential Hall of Famer in God's book. He overflowed with promise. Samson, God's strongman could have been the greatest superman, leader or mercenary in the Bible. But he threw it all away. Just imagine if Samson's strength were combined with David's heart and Daniel's backbone! Oh what might have been. What wasted potential.
JUDGES 13:1 Again the Israelites did evil ... This sounds like a broken record. Only the names have been changed to reveal the guilty. Again and Again they disappointed God, each time heavenly blessings tapered off and troubles mounted and they cried for help and our kind-hearted God provided deliverance. Only this time they did not cry for help. They were too far gone, at peace with the devil. This time God initiated rescue.
Their currant problem was the PHILISTINES. They were the big bullies. They were actually Greeks who had been forced out of their homeland near the Aegean Sea. These Boat people set out to find a place to live. They tried to squeeze into Egypt in 1200 BC but were repulsed. So the Philistine NAVY made a beachhead on the shores of Southern Palestine, down SW of Zebulun.
They built five strong cities on the coastal plain known as the PENTAPOLIS, a strong confederacy. These invaders knew how to smelt Iron and they did not allow any competitors. According to I Samuel 13:19-21 if an Israelite wanted an axe or a plow he had to go to the Philistines. They did not sell weapons of any kind. Moreover they enforced regulations prohibiting any Israelite to carry a weapon.
They had a strangle-hold on God's people. The nation of Israel was slowly being exterminated by compromise and intermarriage with non believers. It was so bad that they did not realize their predicament and did not even cry out to God for help. But God prepared a one man militia to begin the deliverance of His chosen people.
Today in 1997 we face the danger of ASSIMILATION. We live in the world, and friends we are becoming too much like the world. We are God s chosen people and we are in love with the Philistines!
Samson s parents were a part of the faithful remnant. They lived in Zorah, a boarder area near the Philistines. This was not a city but a camp of Bedwin-- like tents without walls or permanent buildings. This shows the pitiful predicament of this tribe over 300 years after they entered the promised land.
The tribe of Dan were impotent. So were Manoah and his wife. They were heartbroken because they could not have children. That is a very hard thing to deal with. However God supernaturally intervened for them. One day "The Angel of the Lord" appeared to HER! Notice that God brings comfort to the one whose heart hurts the most. Later they apparently had still other children. God richly compensated them for their wait.
This was none other than Jesus Christ Himself. It says in verse 22 they realized they had seen God. His name was Wonderful. In the whole Bible only one other child: Isaac was announced by the Lord Himself. Certainly Samson had a most important mission to have such an introduction by God Himself! A child would be born who would be their saviour.
She ran to tell her husband! In good marriages, we share things. They communicated with each other. Manoah immediately believed....in contrast to the disbelief of Zacharias the father of John the Baptist.
Manoah s first thought is to pray. Notice how ready God is to hear us when we call on Him in faith. His prayer tapped into great power. Prayer is the nerve that moves the muscles of omnipotence. By coming the second time, Jesus demonstrated His Grace and love.
Judges 13:4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean, 5-- because you will conceive and give birth to a son. No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazarite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines." (Nazarite vows- see Numbers 6:1-21)
Before he was born Samson was set apart. Separated from Wine, Grape Juice, and Raisins, all of which were symbols of luxurious living. No barber shop! His long hair would be a public sign of his vow. He was to make no contact with a dead carcass or unclean food. This wasn't Samson's personal choice but God's command for his life. Any breach would nullify the vow.
One day my wife and I drove through Shipshawana Indiana and noticed the black horse-drawn buggies with their battery operated lights. Black clothes and black hats. They were like a vestige from the 1800's. But were they really separated from the world? Are we supposed to avoid the world like a band of hermits? No. We have to live in it but not be a part of it s sins. We will never win the world if we segregate ourselves from any and all contact with sinners. Jesus didn't. Being separated from the world by his parents did not help Samson much. His life was Largely a failure.
Samson s separation was a negative thing. NO wine, NO haircuts, NO contact with dead things. He missed the intention of the Nazaritic vow. His obedience was legalistic. It was not just a separation FROM but a separation UNTO. He was told to avoid evil but he wasn't connected to God's warm love You might say, I Don't do this, and I don't do that and I don't hang around with folks that do. I don't own that, I don't go there. BUT negative separation is not the total picture of biblical separation. Because if spirituality is determined by what a person cannot do, then a deaf-mute who suffers with QUADRIPLEGIA is close to absolute perfection. Paralysis is not holiness.
We should be separate FROM sin, but also be set apart TO GOD. IN Christ! God does not want us to become like the world but to be like Him! Jesus was not separated from sinners Geographically, but He was always separated from the world in His character. A properly separated Christian is a Christ controlled Christian in whom God is reproducing His character through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Judges says that Samson's parents asked the angel to teach them how to raise the boy and what he should do. Notice that the angel did not tell his parents what the boy should do but what they should do! The best thing you can do to raise kids is to behave yourself. The habits and tendencies especially of mothers are transmitted to their offspring.
Samson grew up to be a fine young man. Judges 13: 24 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the LORD blessed him, 25 and the Spirit of the LORD began to stir him.... Samson was a he man as a teenager. He would have no trouble attracting any young lady. His parents prayed long and hard that Samson would marry "in the Faith." This was vital due to his divine calling. But God did not force Samson to date Christian girls.
One day Samson went down to Timnath! He went down alright, down in elevation and in sin. This Pagan city was about 3« miles away. It is sad when God's people sneak off to the heathens to have a good time. He hunted temptation, found it, played with it, and, it got him.
Young superman with his muscle bound physique strode into the gates of the off limits city. Willing girls quickly turned their heads. Then suddenly He saw a beautiful Philistine girl and it was lust at first sight! Imagine Samson's eyes and mouth wide open Wow! Now that is a woman! How shallow to keep his hair long and let his lust flow unfettered. That evening he ordered his parents saying: GET HER for my bride.
His parents'world fell apart. Years of praying were now in jeopardy. Now, their miracle son now wanted to marry one of the uncircumcised enemy. They had tried so hard. It is the duty of Christian parents to guide their children to marry like believers. Yet verse 4 shows that God was gearing up for a move on the Philistines. How often we fail to discern Gods master plan. God can use your wayward son in ways you might not know.
Samson was probably the strongest man that ever lived. He would have made Charles Atlas feel like a 90 pound weakling! Imagine what God could have accomplished through this human dynamo.
Yet Samson was also one of the weakest men that ever lived. He lacked self- control. PROV 16:32 "Better is...a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city."
Samson's leadership was desperately needed. Hophni and Phinehas, Eli's sons were leading the people into spiritual darkness. Judges 17:6 says "in those days everyone did what was right in his own eyes." People needed a godly leader. Your family desperately needs your godly example. Samson had greater potential than any other man in the whole Old Testament.
He came from Godly parents. Josephus says: "Manoah was a person of such great virtue that he had few men his equals...he was the principal person of his country. His wife was celebrated for her beauty and excelling her contemporaries." Samson had a good mind and a sound body and a great God willing to provide all his needs. All the resources were there for Samson's success. Yet he blew it. It's ridiculous.
Well, before you condemn Samson too much let me hasten to say in very strong terms that as Christians you and I possess ALL the resources for success. Colossians 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10 and you have been given fullness in Christ, You and I are IN Christ! Christ is in us! What other resources do we want? Jesus is our life resource. If we only realized a tiny fraction of our riches in Christ there would be no limit to what we could accomplish for Him. Let s not blow it like Samson.
Our twentieth century materialism makes us use God to fill in where our possessions cannot. Thus He becomes a God of the Gaps rather than our all in all.
Judges 14:5 Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him.
You know, We sin more when we are alone. Eve left Adam. Samson left his parents. Evidently Samson left the path and wandered off into the unfenced vineyards. Grapes were forbidden. When he was near the forbidden vine, a LION attacked him. No lion made a graver error in judgment. A lion is a symbol of what? The Devil. When you stray away and go where you do not belong you subject yourself to the full attack of Satan. This full grown young lion attacks a full grown young man. Without God that day, the lion would have had a samsonite sandwich!
Judges 14:6 The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done.
The next verse says that on this visit Samson actually talked with the young woman. Probably for the first time. And lo and behold he liked her! How long did they date before he arraigned for the wedding? Not even one day! How long did the marriage last? ......
Judges 14:8 "Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion's carcass. In it was a swarm of bees and some honey."
That honey was forbidden fruit for Samson because it was in a dead carcass...a clear violation of his vow. By nature bees avoid all decomposition and putrefaction so evidently vultures and bugs had cleaned the flesh from the bones. Samson's hunger drive was stronger than his will power and he reached in the hive, stinging bees and all, and robbed them of several generous slabs of honeycomb.
Spirits were high at the seven day wedding feast. At this drunken celebration there is no hint that Samson sat to the side drinking orange juice or root beer. This was one more violation of his three part vow. Now only his hair remained to be cut & he would be disconnected from God and on his own without God.
At the wedding feast, there was dancing, drinking, singing, juggling, wrestling, co-nun-drums. These were banquet RIDDLES. Gambler Samson bet they couldn't crack his riddle. I'll bet you THIRTY tuxedos that you can't tell me what this means:
Out of the eater came something sweet Out of the strong came something to eat.
For three days Samson's poem totally baffled them. Samson found out that when you marry a woman you also marry her relatives. They buffaloed his wife into helping discover the rhyme. His new wife rusted away his resistance with her tears. Samson lost the bet, his wife and his self control. Samson said: Unless you had used my cow to plow. Since heifers were not used for plowing, Samson is accusing them of unfairness.
When they saw how strong this Israelite was they assigned thirty Philistine undercover guards to Samson who pretended to be his friends. Now they faced losing a bet. So they coerced Samson's wife into obtaining the secret of the riddle. Do you take out your frustration on your family or threaten others if they do not meet your expectations?
With that our Bible Hercules WENT DOWN and found a Philistine city 24 miles to the SW and killed 30 men and took their clothes to pay his gambling debts. His wife was given to his best man. Notice that this is the fifth time the Bible says Samson WENT DOWN! Deeper and deeper into sin. Now he was a murderer. Sin always leads you down.
We all share Samson's great potential. We have every spiritual resource through the Holy Spirit. God measures us today not by a tape around our biceps but around our heart. Just imagine the impact God's church could make if we gave our all to God. Instead we tread water. This true story tells me much about God. He does not immediately forsake us when we fall deep into sin. Our God is longsuffering and merciful even when our sins are Samsonite.
Next week: "Samson's SAMSONETTE Self-Control" The following week: "Samson's Samsonite Saviour"
Opening Hymn-93. Scripture: Judges 13:1-5 Closing Hymn-331 O Jesus I have Promised. 971101 gettys #430 References: M. Wilcock, The Message of Judges Clovis Chappell, Sermons on Old Testament Characters Mark Tabb, Names of Heroes of the Faith G. Inrig, Hearts of Iron Feet of Clay C. Barber, A narrative of God s Power, Judges. E. G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary J. Comay, Who's Who in the Old Testament
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last updated 2/3/98 by Bob Beckett.