As we continue on our track of “Our Examples”, we hit this week on a very popular man; one that is actually known by many that don’t read the Holy Bible or know of Jesus. The muscular man known as Samson has been shared with kids for many, many decades.

What are some of the things that come to mind when we hear of Samson?

Many people recall what they have learned about him being a strong man, a man with long hair, maybe they recall the pictures of him knocking down pillars or like David, slaying wild beasts. There is the deception of his wife and her cutting his hair. It is a big mixture of dysfunction of a man. It really did not start out that way.

The story of Samson is actually from the book of Judges. He was a chosen man of God, referred to as a Nazirite. It was described that God actually came down and shared with his mother about how she was going to bore a God child.
We know that there are many stories in the bible where God uses children in big ways to play out His story. Issac, Moses, Jesus, and even Samson.

Samson’s life is one of contradiction. First, he was to be “a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth” (Judges 13:5), yet he continually broke his vow.

You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines. – Judges 13:5 ESV

A Nazarite should not be confused with a person from Nazareth. Any man or a woman could be a Nazirite, which means one has taken a vow to yield themselves to God completely. It was to be voluntary, for a limited time, and involved three provisions:

  1. abstinence from wine, strong drink, or anything associated with the vine (Numbers 6:3-4)
  2. no cutting of the hair (Numbers 6:5)
  3. no contact with the dead (Numbers 6:6-8)

The strange thing about Samson and the Nazrite vow was that it was not voluntary; he did not take the vow. It was declared from the womb, as we saw in scripture earlier. It was also not limited in time; it was to last his entire life (Judges 13:5,7)

The Spirit of God came upon him many times, giving him great strength to fight the Philistines, the oppressors of the Israelites. At the same time, however, Samson was a womanizer and a vengeful man, full of sin. Samson’s life illustrates that giving in to temptation leads to sin, that God will use even a sinful man to enact His will, and that God will not let us escape the consequences of our sin.

Two sides of a coin

The Old Testament actually gives us two examples of Nazirites. One was Samson, the other was Samuel. They are the two most known Nazirites. Both men observed the outer signs of Nazirite spirituality by abstaining from the three provisions, but that is where the similarities ended.

Samson seldom lived an definitive, imitable  life of service, obedience, and faith, but instead used his strength to push his own agenda. Samuel served God and his people selflessly and faithfully.

Samson’s Nazirite observances made a difference on the outside only; Samuel’s became an outward sign of what God was doing inside him. God had called both men to serve with faith and courage, but only Samuel made a lasting impact for the Lord and his people. Thousands of years later, they continue to demonstrate that it’s not what a man does on the outside that matters to God; it’s what is on the inside.

Since becoming a Christian, would you say that the greatest changes in your life have been taken place on the inside of you or the outside of you?

When you make it your life’s focus to follow Jesus, he changes you from the inside out and sets you apart for a life of obedience to him and service to others.

Giving into Temptation leads to Sin

Samson’s story begins with a violation of God’s law. He wants to marry a Philistine woman despite his parents’ protests and in violation of God’s law about intermarriage with pagans. His mother and father accompany him past the vineyards of Timnah (Judges 14:5) to obtain his new bride when a lion attacks and is killed by Samson.

By passing by the vineyards of Timnah, he invited temptation to violate this portion of his vow. Had he not walked so openly into temptation, he would not have encountered the lion, another source of later sin. Each of us probably have many examples where we got caught up in a bad situation that resulted from our poor discernment.

What has been your greatest revelation through your own failure to not tempt yourself?

When Samson came back by the carcass of the lion, it was filled with a honeycomb, which he ate. This was a clear violation of the second part of the Nazirite’s law:

Throughout the period of their dedication to the LORD, the Nazirite must not go near a dead body.
 – Numbers 6:6 NIV

Samson seemed to know what he was doing was wrong because when he gave the honey to his parents, he did not tell him where he got it. Isn’t that so typical of our sinful nature? We want to get attention or appreciation for something we provide to justify the wrong we dabbled in.  I don’t know how many times I bought flowers and such when buying the alcohol for myself. I don’t know if they have them around here, but in the Pacific Northwest there was a time when these people would come through the bars and sell roses.  Being nice to someone does not justify our sinful nature. Most of the motivation in these situations is to get approval for being our own god.

We can catch ourselves continuing to create tempting situations. Whether it is knowingly walking down the aisle where there is an attractive woman, even though we know there is nothing on that aisle on our list; watching the inappropriate television shows “to pass some time”. It is like a child that knows the fire is hot, but will play around that campfire over and over again until he ends up getting burned.

Do you have a campfire situation where you messed around and knowingly knew it was unsafe, and dangerous for yourself and others? What was the consequences of your sin?

One thing leads to another

Samson’s reputation was very selfish and he was unpredictable and many did not know what to expect from him. He was not a stable man. In the story of Samson it outlines a feast he held. Generally, feasts during this time included alcohol and that went against his Nazarite vow. The atmosphere might have been tense at the beginning of the feast, so Samson sought to liven things up by posing a riddle. Sad to say, he constructed the riddle out of the experience of his sin! He didn’t take seriously the fact that he had violated his Nazirite vows. It’s bad enough to disobey God, but when you make a joke out of it, you’ve sunk to new depths of spiritual insensitivity.

10 His father went down to the woman, and Samson prepared a feast there, for so the young men used to do. 11 As soon as the people saw him, they brought thirty companions to be with him. 12 And Samson said to them, “Let me now put a riddle to you. If you can tell me what it is, within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes, 13 but if you cannot tell me what it is, then you shall give me thirty linen garments and thirty changes of clothes.” And they said to him, “Put your riddle, that we may hear it.” 14 And he said to them,

“Out of the eater came something to eat.
Out of the strong came something sweet.”
– Judges 14:10-14 ESV

What do you see of his motivation or purpose of the feast and the telling of the riddle?

It would have been an expensive thing for the thirty guests to supply Samson with sixty garments, so they were desperate to learn the answer to the riddle. Their only recourse was to enlist the help of Samson’s wife. Thus they threatened to kill her and burn down her father’s house if she didn’t supply the answer before the week was up. Samson resolutely refused to tell her, but on the seventh day, he relented.

And in three days they could not solve the riddle.

15 On the fourth day they said to Samson’s wife, “Entice your husband to tell us what the riddle is, lest we burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us here to impoverish us?” 16 And Samson’s wife wept over him and said, “You only hate me; you do not love me. You have put a riddle to my people, and you have not told me what it is.” And he said to her, “Behold, I have not told my father nor my mother, and shall I tell you?” 17 She wept before him the seven days that their feast lasted, and on the seventh day he told her, because she pressed him hard. Then she told the riddle to her people. 18 And the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down,

“What is sweeter than honey?
What is stronger than a lion?”

And he said to them,

“If you had not plowed with my heifer,
you would not have found out my riddle.”

19 And the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon and struck down thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave the garments to those who had told the riddle. In hot anger he went back to his father’s house. 20 And Samson’s wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man. – Judges 14:15-20 ESV

What are some of poor examples in this story?

What was the whole motivation of the feast? Not even focusing on the evil actions that he taunted them with by telling the riddle, what was the purpose of telling the riddle?

It ended with Samson getting mad, robbing people to pay his debt, and getting rid of his wife. Do we see the destruction that our attitude can provoke? This whole scene was a mess. Samson was arrogant and wanted to trick the guests, they threatened his wife, she was in a bad situation and manipulated her husband.

The Enemy of Self

People tend to look-up to people with big egos – fame-seeking pop stars, chest-thumping athletes, power-hungry politicians  – but it’s the man who learns to put self aside who makes a difference for God’s Kingdom.

If anyone had the chance to leave a legacy of greatness, it was Samson. The bible says that God blessed this strong man from the time he was a boy and that the Spirit began to srit within him in his youth.

That is when self got in the way.  Something went terribly wrong between God’s Spirit and Samson that prevented his establishing himself with other giants of the faith such as Abraham, Joseph and David.

The problem, simply put, was that Samson didn’t use the gifts God had given him as the leader and deliverer God called him to be. Instead, he used them for his own agenda. Samson was a consistently proud and often immoral man who arrogantly disregarded the sounsel of others. He used his incredible strength to exact revenge and settle scores.

Samson didn’t care about being obedient to God or serving his people. God gave Samson all the strength he needed to succeed in anything he set out to do. Samson squandered an opportunity for greatness and left a legacy of pride because he was only looking out for himself.

God has given you all the gifts you need to be a difference maker in your home, at your workplace, and in your church. Will you use those gifts for his benefit or will you use them just for yourself?

What are some gifts you could have easily just used for your own pleasure or gain, but have been able to give to God’s Kingdom?

Compromising Poison

When we begin to compromise our morals (personal standards) we begin to play the cover up game. We are just like the liar that spends so much time covering up and making the lie seem like the truth that they get consumed with situation, rather than life. Management of sin is what I refer to it. Instead of spending energy on living life to the full, receiving grace, peace and joy, we spin a cobweb that just makes a mess out of the whole situation.

Until our pain exceeds our pride…

We all want our own way. We want to justify our actions and succeed in things we do. Just like Samson, we will react when things don’t go well. Those consequences don’t come easy. They take a toll. His motto is recorded in Judges 15:11:

“As they did to me, so have I done to them.” – Judges 15:11 ESV

The end of Samson’s life depicts this exact situation.

23 Now the lords of the Philistines gathered to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to rejoice, and they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.” 25 And when their hearts were merry, they said, “Call Samson, that he may entertain us.” So they called Samson out of the prison, and he entertained them. They made him stand between the pillars. 26 And Samson said to the young man who held him by the hand, “Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.” 27 Now the house was full of men and women. All the lords of the Philistines were there, and on the roof there were about 3,000 men and women, who looked on while Samson entertained.
28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” 29 And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. 30 And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life. – Judges 16:23-30

He had his hair cut, he lost the presence of the Lord, he had his eyes gouged out, and he was captured by his enemies and mocked and lowered to the position of entertaining his lords. Blind and determine Samson is brought in and restrained to pillars. Samson called on the Lord to give him strength to defeat the Philistines one more time. When the pillars came down, he ended up killing himself, but also more men than all the other slayings added together.

It’s not about us

We can strive to get attention, we can desire to be in the middle of the fun or in control, but we know through the story of Samson and last week the story of Nabal, it does not end well. We probably have also witnessed men in our own life that have come across as in charge, and dominant, and yet in the end their own pillars come down.