Wednesday, 18 August 2010 05:38

Samson: Strong But In The Wrong

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This is the second message in our series on the life story of Samson. The theme, based on Judges 14, is Learning about Gods ways with Samson so strong but in the wrong. We mentioned last time how Samsons life story in the Bible is not so much a story about Samson as on the amazing grace of God, also in and through Samson. Chapter 13 told us about the special birth and calling of Samson, being given by God to begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. We can only imagine how thrilled and thankful Manoah and his wife must have been, knowing that they would soon be parents, and that of a very special child indeed.

The parents named their son Samson which means literally sun or brightness. They hoped Samson would bring sunshine in their lives as parents and in the life of Israel as a nation. The name, Samson, expresses the parents faith, joy, and expectation with their sons birth. We have every reason to believe that the parents also diligently and faithfully tried to raise their son in accordance with Gods Word. Oh, it all looked so promising! What all might be accomplished through sunny Samson!

But then something very sad happened as told to us in Judges 14. Samson, indeed, proved strong but he went so in the wrong. We see this in Judges 14 telling us of Samsons wrong choice, and in the wedding disaster, and the woeful [sad] distress with which the chapter closes. However, as we look at these points, what we need to see above it all and in spite of it all is God and His will and way, regardless of everything that happens. This chapter too is about God, the supreme Lord over all! Will you pay attention to this with me as we work our way through the chapter?

Consider first the telling of Samsons wrong choice. Judges 14 tells us that one day the parents of Samson are told shocking news. Suddenly their hopes are dashed, and you could say their world falls to pieces as it were. Why? What happened? Well, Samson comes home one day, after being out for a time, and he tells his parents, I want to marry this girl I met in Timnath. Shes a Philistine girl, but shes the one for me, Im sure of it. Im asking you, Dad and Mom, to make the arrangements so that I can marry her. Oh, when Samson told the news to his parents, I imagine his mom saying, No Samson. No Samson, my son. And I imagine her becoming filled with sorrow. Likewise the father objected.

Why? Was this girl from Timnath a bad girl? No, not necessarily. But she was a heathen. She wasnt a God-fearing girl. She wasnt raised in a covenant godly home as Samson had been. And God had said the Israelites were not to mix in marriage with the heathens around them. Besides, what about Samsons special calling? He was to begin to deliver the Israelites from the Philistines. What was he doing now in wanting to marry a Philistine? It seems before this that he had his eye on other Philistine girls, for the parents say to him as he breaks the news, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or of all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised [that is, pagan Philistines]? You can hear the anguish of the parents in that question, cant you?

What happened here in the exchange between Samson and his parents has happened many times since then, including in our days. Young people will come home and say to their parents, Dad and Mom, in case you dont know yet, Im going out with someone now. And when the parents ask the question, Who is this friend of yours? Is he a Christian? Does she go to church?, too often they get told, No, she doesnt or he doesnt, but and different things are mentioned. Things like, Oh, but hes such a nice guy! Or, She is a much better girl than many in our church even. And besides, he or she promises to come to church always with me. Weve talked about it, dont worry. This friend Im dating knows where I stand on church and religion. And even this is said sometimes, Im hoping also to be used to help her or him to get to know the Lord. Did Samson use some of these lines too maybe? It seems more he didnt even care what his parents or the Lord might think.

How sad and hard it is on believing parents to see their sons and daughters, whom they have tried to raise in Gods ways, choose a mate for life who is not following after Gods ways. Are you being unfaithful and disobedient in this way? Our text tells us Samson wouldnt budge in his demand to marry the Philistine girl. It seems he wore down his parents, till finally they would comply with his wishes and cooperate with the marriage. Though Samson developed so strong, he does something so wrong in going against Gods will and his parents wishes. Gods Word and will is that believers marry in the Lord and that we do not be unequally yoked, especially not in that sacred most influential bond of marriage. The spiritual aspect of our relationship with another person, especially in the bond of marriage and with setting up another family, is so important and central to everything else. From the text before us, we get the idea that Samson thought it wasnt a big deal and that everything would all fall into place eventually. And tragically, that is the same mistake made all too often today as well. But be now lovingly forewarned about this, wont you? Are you listening? Samson stubbornly rebelled against his godly upbringing in this regard, and he sinfully refused to listen about being very selective in regards to having a spouse, and the result was many sad consequences as we shall see in a moment.

Maybe, however, at this point, some of you, if you have your Bible open, are itching to interrupt me and say, But arent you forgetting something in the text in Judges 14:4 which says not just that the parents didnt like Samsons marriage choice, but also they didnt realize it was of the Lord? Verse 4 reads regarding Samsons choice of this Philistine woman, But his father and mother knew not that it was of the LORD.. Doesnt that mean the parents were mistaken in discouraging Samson, and that it was actually Gods will for Samson to marry this Philistine woman? Thats how some like to interpret the text. But clearly thats a very wrong interpretation. You cant ever use this text to defend a Christian going with an unbeliever. No, for when the text says that the matter was of the Lord, that doesnt mean God approved of it, but rather that He allowed it to happen. What Samson did was against Gods revealed will. But God was going to allow it to happen and to overrule it all yet for the furtherance of HIS plans. It was of the Lord in that sense only. Here we have our theme come out, based on Judges 14, Learning about Gods ways with Samson strong, but in the wrong. You see, God would overrule Samsons sinful and foolish ways through His almighty power and providence. This is the secret hope that yet shines out in this chapter The gospel point here is that God the LORD is the almighty God of salvation, and as one put it, He has His own saving design to work either through or in spite of the yuck and muck [of our sinful lives]. Dont forget Judges 14:4 even with most devastating disappointments, for with God what we dont know from His side what He will yet accomplish even in spite of ourselves. With God supreme there is hope still in what looks to be most hopeless situations.

The Lord can make use of Samsons wrong decisions still to accomplish His purposes. We see this more often in the Bible. Take for instance the story of Joseph when wickedly dealt with by his brothers and sold to those merchants headed for Egypt, where he became a slave, and later second in command over all that land. As Joseph himself later would say in Genesis 50:20 to his repentant brothers, But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive. And then of course the greatest and most wonderful example of God overturning evil for good is in and with the cruel crucifixion of Jesus Christ Himself! On the one hand, that crucifixion was a most wretched and dreadful deed of sinful men, but on the other hand it was Gods will that Christ should so die. Peter says as much in Acts 2:23 where, speaking of Christ, he says to the Jews, Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain. Yes, that Christ would be the great Saviour God of sinners, as Peter further proclaims in his Pentecost sermon.

Think here of the disciples after Jesus death on the cross. How utterly devastated and shattered they were, in a way like Samuels parents must have been about their rising sunny son Samson. But the disciples didnt know what God would yet do with raising Christ from the dead! And Samsons parents didnt realize what God would yet further accomplish, even through the wrongs ways of Samson. Will you learn about God and His will and ways already from this first point with Samsons wrong choice?

Let us go on and consider Samsons wedding disaster and God in that regard too. I call our second point Samsons wedding disaster because after the seven day wedding feast things had turned pretty sour. Lets just follow the story and find out for ourselves.

We are told the interesting account of one of the trips to Timnath, where this Philistine woman lived, which was about an hours walk from Samsons hometown. On this trip to Timnath Samson encountered a young lion ready to attack him. But we are told Samson gets God-given supernatural strength and he kills that strong young lion with his bare hands. It was quite the feat, but Samson tells no one about it. Then, on another trip, he goes by the place where he killed the lion. It was a little while later, a few weeks or a couple of months, we dont know exactly. Samson sees the lion carcass and what he notices is that there is a beehive and lots of bees inside that carcass, perhaps under the ribcage. That honey would surely be a great treat in those days, and Samson scoops out the honey that had been prepared by the bees, hopefully without getting stung at all. We are told Samson also shared some of the honey with his parents. However, he didnt tell them from where he took this honey, namely out of that lion carcass, for that meant it was unclean and something Samson was not supposed to eat in this case, not being permitted to touch any dead body. But we learn Samson is not too concerned or too careful about his responsibilities as a Nazarite. In fact, his life shows great carelessness in reference to his special consecration.

In connection with that too, it is quite likely that Samson also disregarded the Nazarite rule about not drinking alcohol. The seven day wedding feast was a feast with the heathen, and one which was set up as the young men used to do, as we are told in vs. 10, so it very likely included the drinking of alcohol. The Hebrew word for feast also implies this. Altogether what comes across is Samson lived a rather godless carefree life, and the whole passage teaches us what troubles this brought on in Samsons life. Samson would be Gods man but also someone who loved the world and followed the lusts of the flesh. He would find out we cant serve two masters like he tried to do. Have you learned this lesson, dear friends? The sooner you learn it the better. Hopefully, Samsons life story very much impresses and underscores this on your mind and heart too.

Coming back to Samsons wedding disaster you know what happened at his wedding. Part of the seven day celebration and festivity involved telling various jokes and riddles. And among them Samson then gives this real teaser of a riddle, one he was sure they would never be able to solve. In fact he made an agreement especially with the 30 male guests at the wedding feast that if they would get this next riddle of his, he would have to give to them 30 complete outfits of clothing, including undergarment, suit, shirt, and tie so to speak. But if they couldnt solve this riddle at the end of the seven days, then they in turn would have to give him 30 complete outfits of clothing. Well, the men agree to the terms and it is not a joking matter now. So Samson gives his all-time riddle. It is a riddle in connection with the killing of the lion which Samson had done with his bare hands not too long before. Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. [vs.14] You could put it this way, more in the form of a riddle, From the eater came forth something to eat, from the strong came forth something sweet. Okay men, figure that one out or else pay up! You have seven days to solve it! Thats Samsons challenge.

You know what happened, and how on account of the riddle, Samsons wedding feast became a wedding disaster. We are told when the men just couldnt figure out the riddle, they threaten Samsons bride and her fathers house. This new bride is told by her wedding guests, We are going to burn you and your fathers house with fire if you dont get us the answer to this riddle. Samsons bride, understandably, even from the start it seems, pestered and nagged Samson to tell her the answer to his riddle, and at last he did so. Strong Samson couldnt take a woman crying; he couldnt handle the tears of a lady. And, yes, when this woman got the answer from Samson, she quickly went to tell the thirty men.

The wedding feast ended in disaster, for on the last day the men gave the answer to the riddle before the sun set. They said, What is sweeter than honey and stronger than a lion. [vs. 18] Samson became very angry with their answer. He was upset with his wife and angry with the men, charging them, If ye had not plowed with my heifer, ye had not found out my riddle. Oh, how mad Samson became, and in the end the marriage of his bride to be would never be consummated. Can you imagine Samson storming out of the wedding hall in a great rage? What did Samson do? He went to Ashkelon, a Philistine city some thirty plus kilometers away, and there, with supernatural strength given to him by God, he kills thirty Philistines. He takes their clothes to meet his side of the bargain with the men. Following that, we are told, Samson went to live with his parents.

What does this all amount to, you ask, and where does God come in the picture? Well, we find here so true what Scripture says, the way of transgressors is hard, miserably hard even it often can be. If God is merciful still, He will have us feel the painful ways of sin. Gods Word is true. Something else we learn here is how the strongest people can yet have such glaring weaknesses, even as Samson did. Is there a worrisome weakness in your life too that you do well to admit and confess before God? One spoke well who wrote, Awareness of our weakness is the beginning of our safety, as later Samsons have also discovered the hard way. For instance, think of Peter who thought he was the strongest of Jesus disciples. Oh, how Peter fell hard the night before Jesus crucifixion when he denied Jesus three times. But this also all brings out how we need a deliverer without any flaws, someone to save us who is perfect all the way. The story of Samson is in preparation of the tidings of Gods supreme deliverer, Jesus Christ the Lord. How we need to draw that line also from our text passage. How sad when people look just to Samson type characters, and such like American idol people for their hope, and refuse to own Jesus Christ as only Saviour and Lord. Friends, you are not making that colossal error, are you?

We still have to consider our third main point in studying Judges 14 under the theme, Learning about God with Samson strong but so wrong. The chapter begins with telling us about Samsons wrong decision, then it tells us about his wedding disaster, and the last verses relate the woeful distresses with Samsons wrathful revenge. With Samson going to Ashkelon and killing these 30 Philistines there, the Philistines suffer a severe blow. And we need to see in this really the climax of chapter 14, for here you see God was working through the maze of wrongdoing also from Samson still to accomplish His purposes against the heathen wicked Philistines who were afflicting and robbing the Israelites. God would use even now fuming and wayward Samson still to begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. The chapter ends telling us not only how angry and upset Samson was, how he was at odds with his wife so that he ended up going home to live with his parents, something that happens more often in our days, as many older parents might tell you, but we are told Samsons bride was actually given by her father to Samsons best man when Samson didnt return to her.

As we shall learn from the next chapter, this brought on lots more friction between Samson and the Philistines. God would use Samson and all the mess he brought himself into in a way that would also bring His righteous judgment upon the heathen Philistines. But in the meantime Samson himself, as well as all Israel, had so much to learn, and being slow to learn, how they would feel Gods hand of discipline often. Especially Samson, as we will find out in the coming weeks.

For now, let me end this message with three notes of application. The first is how dangerous it is to play with sin and to be lighthearted in defying Gods holy will. Wasnt this really Samsons problem? Samson knew he had a special calling from God. He even wanted to fulfill that calling, it seems, but he wanted to play with sin too. He thought, A little sin here and a little sin there cant be too bad. But he would find out it would eventually drain away all his strength till he became a weak and a broken man. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Have you learned that truth yet? This little poem tells it like it is:

Just one little sin,

What harm can it do,

But give it free rein

And soon there are two,

And then sinful deeds and habits ensue,

So guard well your acts, Or theyll enslave you!

You know thats true, dont you? Samson wouldnt take that seriously. Do you? What does Paul say in Romans 13:14? But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof. Will you so learn and live, God helping you?

In the second point of application, do you see how our text chapter does surely point out the need for Jesus Christ not only, but also about His excellencies as captain of our salvation? With the story of Samson, the Lord would show the Israelites what they themselves were like and how they needed a deliverer who was not only infinitely strong, but also perfectly pure, holy, and just. And One who would not just begin to deliver from some oppression, but would in fact bring full, complete, eternal deliverance in every way. With Jesus Christ we have the greatest deliverer God could ever give. He is the only deliverer you and I will ever need. Samsons strange story is meant to point us to Jesus, and to drive home that there is for us no remedy from sin and evil except through Jesus Christ, the crucified and risen Savior of sinners. The Lord Jesus Christ is such an all-sufficient Savior of sinners that even such as Samson, who was so promising and had become so perverted, when he came before God confessing his sin, God still completely forgave him and made room for Samson too to be forever with Him in glory. Let no one therefore despair of salvation, but come to Jesus today, and again and again, as He freely offers peace and pardon to all who will heed His call. But dont despise the day of grace, for it can suddenly be over. You dont want to be caught dead with your sins still on your account. Today is the day of salvation. Yes, dear friends, whoever you may be, whatever you may have done, with God in Christ, there is plenteous redemption, for every sinner who turns to God for mercy and deliverance. The blood of Christ shed on sinners behalf cleanses us from all sin. Thats the Gospel. You may hear it still today.

Thirdly and lastly, we see from this story of Samson, and especially with his parents, what trials and disappointments can come our way, even when we are walking in Gods paths. What griefs Manoah and his wife met with! Even their sunny boy, Samson, how much grief and sorrow he brought in their life. We dont read anymore about Samsons parents after this chapter. Perhaps they died soon after the events of our text chapter, maybe out of grief and sorrow, we dont know. We do know that its true of Manoah that he died before Samson as is recorded in Judges 16:31. Life here below for the believer can often still be a vale of tears. How many experience life-long crosses and trials that are hard to bear.

But if, in your trials, you turn to God, the faithful covenant keeping God as revealed in Christ Jesus the Saviour of sinners, and you keep asking for His help, then life is never hopeless. Looking to the LORD and staying with Him no matter what, as surely Maonoah and his wife did too, then you may know, by Gods grace and power, one day all your sorrows of life will be over, and everything in life will be everlastingly bright and beautiful. Yes, in the presence of our mighty God and Savior, the greater than Samson, that Sun of Righteousness who is the light of the world and in whose presence there will never be night again and even no more tears ever, forever! Such is the sure gospel promise of Jesus Christ the Savior. Oh, come, and let us be strong witnesses unto Him, while yet in this world of darkness and in this vale of tears here below. Come, one and all, and in the words of Paul, Be strong in the grace of Christ Jesus. Dont be strong and in the wrong as Samson, but strong and in the right, always looking unto Jesus Christ, and trusting and obeying Him as only Savior and Lord. Yes, with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. Thus saith the Lord. Amen.

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