Vol. 3, No. 6
Samson is called the strongest man in the Bible. He would also be in the running for the weakest man in the Bible.
AS STRONG AS SAMSON WAS, HE WAS NOT STRONG ENOUGH TO …OVERCOME BAD COMAPNIONS. "Samson went down…" (Judges 14:1) is true both geographically and spiritually. We begin here to notice the reckless attitude that will dominate his adult years. Instead of staying within Israel's borders, he went into enemy territory to find friends. He deliberately chose evil associates -- the woman of Timnath, a harlot in Gaza, and Delilah of Sorek (14:1-3, 7; 16:1-20; cf. Proverbs 1:10-15; 4:14) -- and these relationships eventually destroyed him. As Christians, we are not to see how close we can come to evil and not be tainted. The words put off in Colossians 3:8 mean, "to move out of and away from." As Israel had to get out of Egypt and then move away from its borders, so Christians leaving worldly evil must put some distance between it and themselves. We should be careful about our associates for four reasons.
(1) We will be judged by those with whom we associate. Most people know the old saying is true, "Birds of a feather flock together." We tend to gravitate to people who are most like us (cf. Amos 3:3). The Bible teaches that Christians are the "salt of the earth," "light of the world" and "a city which is set on a hill" (Matthew 5:13-14). As such, Christians cannot be friends of the world (James 4:4), in fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness (Ephesians 5:11) nor pretend to be both a servant of God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).
(2) We will choose a companion from among our associates. Samson fell in love with a heathen woman. Should an Israelite -- even a Nazarite,1 totally devoted to the Lord -- desire to become one flesh with a worshipper of Dagon? Samson knew the laws of separation God had given to the Jews, but he chose to ignore them (Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3; cf. Genesis 6:2; 24:3-4; 26:34-35). Why did he choose the woman of Timnath? He does not say that he found her to be wise, spiritually strong or virtuous. Rather, his sole criteria for choosing his marriage partner was summed up in, "…she pleaseth me well" (14:3b), which the margin says means, "she is right in mine eyes." It was a physical attraction.
His parents wisely tried to dissuade him from yoking himself unequally with an unbeliever (2 Corinthians 6:14),2 but he defied them (cf. Ephesians 6:1-3). He told them; he did not ask them. "Get her for me," he insisted, "for she pleases me well!" In those days, parents arranged marriages, and there were several months between the engagement and the wedding. (How embarrassed his parents must have been to go to their enemies and ask for this girl.) God wants his children to marry his children (Matthew 6:33; Luke 2:51; 1 Corinthians 9:5; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). While it is true that every marriage is a mixed marriage (a mixture of personalities, social backgrounds, dreams and aspirations), a wise young person never willingly adds the conflict of religious mixture. By doing so, he places his most valuable asset3 on the gambler's table. An old man wisely said, "If a Christian marries a child of the devil he is going to have a lot of trouble with his father-in-law." Many have doubted it in their youth, pondered it in their maturity and regretted it in their eternity.
(3) We become like those with whom we associate. Leaven leavens the lump (1 Corinthians 5:6; 15:33). While perhaps not politically correct, two old sayings have a point: "He who lies with a cripple learns to limp," "He who lies down with the dogs will rise up with fleas." As the flour miller left tiny sediments of flour upon all those whom he brushed against on his way home, so all our associates leave a deposit of their personalities upon our lives.
(4) They will lead to our fall. Strong men have fallen through bad association. Samson did. Peter denied the Lord while warming at Satan's fire (Mark 14:66-72). What is at stake when we choose our friends? Heaven or hell may well turn out to be the answer.
…CONTROL HIS EMOTIONS. Samson could set the Philistine fields on fire, but not control the fire of his own lust. He killed a lion, a thousand men, but he could not stand up to his own feelings. He could easily break the cords that men put on his hands, but sin's shackles gradually grew stronger on his soul. A Nazarite was to live for God, but Samson chose to live for himself. Lust, anger, revenge and hatred directed Samson's actions. His great failure was a lack of self-control (cf. Ephesians 4:27; Acts 24:25; Galatians 5:23; Colossians 3:2-10; 2 Peter 1:6). Similarly, how tragic it is when God gives a young person a wonderful heritage and great opportunities, and he or she treats them lightly.
Anger. Samson reminds us of Solomon's proverb: "He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that ruleth his spirit than he that taketh a city" (16:32). Samson challenged those attending the wedding feast to solve a riddle. They wagered a large amount -- thirty expensive garments. When the Philistines could not discover the answer, they pressured Samson's new wife to find out the answer for them. It was unscrupulous to ask Samson's wife to betray her own husband. (She must forget her own people, cf. Psalms 45:10.) He could not bear to have his love questioned, and after her tears, he told her the riddle. She quickly told the others. Angered by the betrayal, Samson went to Ashkelon, killed 30 men and gave their garments to his competitor. Still angry, Samson failed to consummate the marriage and stormed back to his parent's house.
Revenge. After some months Samson's anger cooled and he went back to take his wife only to discover that she had been given to his best man. Samson became so vengeful that he began a one-man war with the Philistines. One thing led to another. He burned their fields; they burned his wife's family's house -- with them in it (cf. 15:6; 14:15). Samson avenged their death with a ruthless slaughter of Philistine soldiers. After he retired to Etam 3,000 Israelites turned him over to his enemies (15:11-13). As Samson was being delivered to the Philistines, he broke the ropes and with the jawbone of a donkey killed 1,000 Philistine warriors. God wants us to avoid seeking revenge (Romans 12:17-19).
Lust. Samson had already gotten into trouble with one woman, but his lust leads him to Philista again where he visited a harlot in Gaza (16:1-3). Plans were quickly made to ambush Samson the next morning, but he left during the night carrying the great city-gate some 38 miles to Hebron!
Consecration in the Scriptures is never simply separating from something; it is also a separating to something. Samson lacked discipline and direction; without these, his strength accomplished little. Simply stated, he failed to check the impulses that began early in his career and twenty years later, they killed him.
…OVERCOME SATAN'S TEMPTATIONS. The devil must be resisted (James 4:7). Samson did not resist strongly enough, so he compromised his religious convictions. The vow of the Nazarite included three restrictions:
Abstinence from strong drink (alcohol!);
Hair left uncut during the period set aside for the vow;
No contact with a dead body.
It was essentially a vow to abstain from fleshly lusts (1 Peter 2:11). He was not to yield his members to evil (Romans 6:13); he was to attain self-control. From that discipline, his body and soul would derive strength. Samson allowed himself to be prodded until he became disloyal to his vow. Though we have no record of him partaking of alcohol or touching a dead body (unless you count the lion or those on the battlefield), we do know that he broke the stipulation about not cutting his hair. James says, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all" (2:10). This does not mean that if we break one commandment we might as well go ahead and break them all. It is teaching that the attitude that leads one to disobey God one time will lead one to break God's law many times if the circumstances called for it. One does not have to break every civil law to be a criminal; he only has to be convicted of breaking one law.
Samson gave in. As he had given in to the woman of Timnath and told her the riddle after seven days (14:17), he gave in to Delilah and revealed the secret of his strength (16:16-17). By contrast, Joseph never gave in (Genesis 39:8-10); Vashti never gave in (Esther 1:10-22); Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego never gave in (Daniel 3:13-30). A half-hearted "no" will not last long. Many today have stood for a while but finally succumbed to their friends' taunts. By giving in, many young people have renounced their convictions, lost their virtue and forfeited their souls.
The world's strongest man was a weakling. Don't be like him.
1 A Nazarite ("separated one") was one who was wholly surrendered to the Lord (in Samson's case it was "from the womb.")
2 God afterwards overruled it to serve His designs against the Philistines, but that did not make the decision a wise one. God used his bad decision to put him into acquaintance and converse with the Philistines, by which he might have such opportunities of galling them as otherwise he could not have. He would be a thorn in their sides.
3 His soul (Matthew 16:26).
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