Tough year for Tiger Woods, Jacob Zuma, Joost vd Westhuizen, Andries Bekker, Ray MacCauley and others like them. There’s nothing juicier. Greed, sex, power, infidelity, egomania - stories of fallen heroes taken the media by storm. Everyone talks about it. That’s the downside of being a public figure today. Suddenly all your dirty linen is being washed in public and all the skeletons in your closet are paraded in public. It’s what you might call an occupational hazard of being rich and famous. Amazing thing -nothing they can do about it. The media are in a feeding frenzy and they won’t stop until every tiny bit of dirt is uncovered.
A Hero with Dirty Linen
Tiger Woods would have loved meeting Samson. His life was far from perfect - enough skeletons to fill 2 closets and enough dirty linen to keep a laundromat going 24 hours a day. Samson - larger than life, a he-man with a she-weakness. He was a hero, a freedom fighter, a troublemaker and a playboy whose life was dedicated to God before he was born. His story is one of the most amazing affairs in the Bible. He should have been a godly man - but he wasn’t - shouldn’t have been in Hebrews 11 - but he was.
Samson - The Man of the Hour
3 basic reasons for preaching the life of Samson:
1. Because his story is so well-known, yet so little understood. Little children - heard about Samson’s long hair - how Delilah tricked him - how he had his eyes poked out - how as he died he pushed the pillars apart and killed all the Philistines. But what made Samson tick? How could a man start so well and end so poorly? Why did he have such a weakness for women? What did God see in this man? There’s more to Samson than meets the eye.
2. Because we are so much like Samson and he is so much like us. We read of men like David, Moses or Abraham - think, “I could never be like them.” Abraham - friend of God, Moses saw God face to face and David - man after God’s own heart. Great stories but those men don’t seem very much like us. Samson’s a lot like us. Many of us know what it’s like to come from a godly home. Many of us entered life with great expectations. Most men know what it means to be tempted by women. All of us struggle with the desire for revenge. We’ve been there, we understand, and we know exactly what Samson is going through.
3. Because Samson is the perfect man for 2010. He would feel right at home. Baby Boomers desire self-fulfilment - they are materialistic, non-traditional and heavily into lifestyle issues. They lack loyalty and crave a cause to believe in. They will give of themselves but always expect something in return. Sounds just like Samson. Somebody would make a rap song about his affair with Delilah. Yes, he’d feel right at home in 2010. Perhaps more than any other Bible character, Samson is one of us.
Remember where Samson started - 5 great advantages Samson had: His birth was announced by the angel of the Lord. His mission in life was declared by God before he was born. He was raised by godly parents. He was blessed by God as a young man. He was empowered by the Holy Spirit. No man ever had so much going for him. 1 question: Where did Samson go wrong? We don’t have to wonder - Judges 14 - tragic story of how a man who had it all let it all get away from him. 7 great mistakes.
1. He Went to the Wrong Place v. 1
2 things - 1. Something about geography. Timnah was in Philistine territory, about 6 kms from Samson’s village of Zorah. To get there, you walked down a ridge into the valley. 2. Something about the decline in Samson’s spiritual life. He leaves the land of Israel for the land of the Philistines. Samson left his friends to visit his enemies. More than just a casual visit or a weekend shopping trip. Samson went looking for a wife. First mistake: If he was looking for a wife, he shouldn’t have gone to the Philistines. If he wasn’t looking for a wife, he didn’t have any business there. Either way, he shouldn’t have been there. By going to Timnah, home of his enemies, Samson is indeed “going down.”
2. He Was Looking For the Wrong Thing v. 2, 3
“She is right in my eyes.” Something crucial about Samson - man motivated purely by physical appearance. He saw this young woman, she looked good, and now he wants her for his wife. It doesn’t seem like he even bothered to meet her. His hormones are boiling within him like steam inside a pressure cooker. He’s away from home, away from his parents, away from his family and away from his spiritual heritage. He sees some hot young Philistine chick and she turns him on. Why not marry her?
Only problem - he doesn’t know her - doesn’t know her name - who her parents are - doesn’t know if she can cook - doesn’t know if she has any brothers or sisters or whether she is musical, mean or messy. He doesn’t know if she wants a career or children or both. All he sees is this beautiful babe. The rest of it doesn’t matter to Samson. He was looking in the wrong place for the wrong thing for the wrong reason. He found it! In life, you get what you pay for and Samson is investing in all the wrong places.
3. He Rejected Godly Counsel v. 3
Downward spiral continues but takes an ominous turn. The reaction of his parents to the news that he wants to marry a Philistine girl. They knew that was not in his interest and they tried to warn him. But Samson would have none of it.
God had already spoken on the matter. The children of Israel are explicitly commanded not to seek husbands or wives from the surrounding pagan nations. The reason is clear - if you marry a pagan, he (or she) will turn you away from God. This warning is one of the clearest teachings in the whole Bible. Over and over the people of God are warned not to intermarry with those who do not share their faith. I have talked with Christians (mostly women) who ignored this command. Some of them have been married to unbelievers for 30 or 40 years. It’s not an easy life. They have struggled to win their husbands to Jesus Christ. All because early on, in a rush of emotion, they decided to ignore what God said.
I’m warning you not to do what Samson did. We have many singles in our church. Some of you are tempted to neglect this teaching. Please don’t do it. It’s okay to be single. You’re all right just the way you are. God loves you and we love you. You don’t have to get married, but if you do, marry someone who loves the Lord as you do. It’s better to be single than to wish you were.
This is not an easy teaching. It’s the Philistines who often seem to have the money, the power and the good looks. They laugh, they smile, they don’t seem so different from us. It’s only after you get married that you realize that they are - then it’s too late.
When you go to the wrong place looking for the wrong thing with the wrong values in your heart, this is what happens. You end up rejecting the counsel of those who know better. Samson was wrong to make the marriage, but God allowed it in order to bring about something good from it. That doesn’t justify what Samson did. He was motivated by lust. v. 4 teaches us something about the providence of God - He can bring something good out of the stupid things we do. That, however, is no excuse for stupidity.
4. He Continued a Wrong Relationship v. 7
He has not met her before now. But Samson is motivated entirely by her physical appearance. He is hormone-driven, not Spirit-driven. He’s not looking for Mother Teresa or Florence Nightingale. “Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name?” One bad move leads to another. He is going down, down and it all started when he went to the wrong place. His fate was sealed when he rejected godly counsel. So now Samson is out on his own - away from God, from godly influence, from his family, away from his friends, away from his past. Proverbs 16: 25 “There is a way that seems right to a man but in the end it leads to death.” Samson is all smiles - thinks he has found the girl of his dreams. Smile won’t last and the dream soon turns into a nightmare.
5. He Played Fast and Loose With His Spiritual Commitment v. 6 - 10
While they are travelling, Samson encounters a young lion. The Spirit of the Lord comes upon him and he tears the lion apart with his bare hands. “He told neither his father nor his mother what he had done.” Why? - because killing the lion meant touching its corpse after it was dead. That is a violation of the the Nazirite vow. Later he gave some honey to his parents but did not tell them where it came from. Why? Because it would force him to reveal that he had touched a dead body.
Samson made a feast - like a bachelors or stag party. Hebrew word means “an occasion for drinking.” Parties where people got drunk. But a Nazirite was not to drink wine. Does that mean Samson himself took a drink? No, but it implies that he did.
Samson is now living close to the edge. He’s pushing the envelope. The only part of his vow that he is keeping is the command not to cut his hair. But if he keeps going down this road, he’ll break that part too. Samson pictures a believer going further and further away from God. If you simply look at his long hair he appears to be dedicated to God, but his lifestyle tells another story. On the outside he looks like a man of God, but on the inside he’s no different than a man of the world. That’s what happens when you drift away from God. You start out innocently enough, testing the water, carefully wandering where you don’t belong, following your emotions to see where they will lead you, casually going your own way, oblivious to those who warn you of the danger ahead. Eventually your spiritual commitments don’t mean much to you anymore. You end up like Samson, looking spiritual on the outside, but worldly on the inside.
6. He Couldn’t Bear to Hear the Truth v. 11 - 17
Day 1 of the wedding feast - Samson offers a riddle to the 30 Philistine groomsmen - friendly battle of wits. The groomsmen had 7 days to solve the riddle. By day 4 things turn ugly. These are not nice people. They are deadly serious. “Coax” - “to seduce a simple-minded person.” The same thing would happen with Delilah 20 years later. Samson was coaxable because he was all hormones and no brain. Sad part: Samson’s weakness was apparent to everyone but him. His enemies knew it, but he didn’t.
So his bride uses the number 1 strategy of brides everywhere: When in doubt, cry. For 3 days she cried and pleaded with him. Finally, he told her the secret. Why wait 3 days? Because on the evening of the 7th day the marriage would be consummated and that’s what Samson was waiting for. He’s a man driven entirely by his flesh. Lust finally overcame good sense and he gave in.
Samson was a weak man. He is putty in the hands of a cunning woman. She tapped into his ego and he was defenseless. Delilah would use the same tactic 20 years later. Samson never saw his weakness, refused to admit he had one and consequently never came to grips with it. In the end it would prove his undoing.
Hold this thought: It is our refusal to deal with our weaknesses that most often gets us in trouble. Most of us are just like Samson - we will do anything to avoid dealing with the real issues in our lives. It’s easier and less painful (we think) to pretend that everything’s okay, even when deep inside we know it isn’t.
7. He Couldn’t Face Up To His Own Stupidity v. 18 - 20
Samson had lost the bet. He killed 30 Philistines to pay off his bet. He had to touch their dead bodies in order to get the clothes off - a clear violation of the Nazirite vow. But it doesn’t matter now. Samson is angry because he has been publicly humiliated—betrayed by his bride and embarrassed by the groomsmen.
But what was there to be angry about? He’s the one who went to Philistine territory in the first place - picked out the girl - decided to marry her - thought up the riddle - made the bet - named the price - knew the secret. He’s the one who gave the secret away!!!
Samson, if you want to get angry with somebody, try looking in the mirror. The only fool you’ll see is the one looking back at you. He paid off the debt and returned to his father’s house. What about his bride? What about the honeymoon? What about the marriage? Samson leaves his bride at the altar and her father gives her to the best man. He married her and the story is over.
Empowered but Not Controlled
What starts out with lust ends up with anger. In the beginning, Samson wants romance; in the end, he wants revenge. In between, he makes one mistake after another. Samson’s problem is that he never learned to control his own emotions. Samson is a picture of a believer out of control. Irony - he was empowered by the Spirit but he was never controlled by the Spirit. That can happen to any of us. When it does, we’re just like Samson—capable of great accomplishments and incredibly stupid mistakes at the same time.
That explains how some Christian leaders can accomplish great things for God and yet fall into terrible sin. They are empowered by the Spirit, but they are not controlled by the Spirit.
The Truth Will Set You Free But …
It will hurt you first. This is why most people have trouble growing spiritually. It’s not because we don’t know the truth. We’ve got so much truth it’s coming out our eyeballs. We hear the truth at church, from our friends, from books and DVDs and courses. We get it straight from the Bible. That’s not our problem. If just knowing the truth were all we needed, we’d all be candidates for permanent sainthood.
We know the truth but we don’t want to let it hurt us so we deflect it, ignore it, deny it, attack it, argue with it and in general avoid it in any way we can. We hear the truth … we know the truth … but we deflect the truth so it never gets close enough to hurt. Therefore, we are not set free. That’s why …we’re still angry - stubborn - bitter - greedy – arrogant - filled with lust - self-willed – unkind. We refuse to let the truth hurt us!
Are You Willing To Let The Truth Hurt You?
Samson thought he was free, but he wasn’t. He was in bondage to his own uncontrolled emotions. Strangely enough, the truly free man is not the man who does whatever he wants. The truly free man is the man who has dared to let the truth hurt him and in the process of being hurt, he has been set free.
“The truth shall set you free … but it will hurt you first.” For some, that will be the most important thing you hear in this series on Samson. Take some time to think about it. It’s one of the most important truths I’ve heard in a while.
Are you willing to let the truth hurt you? Whenever you decide to say, “Yes,” the words of Jesus will come true for you and the truth will at last set you free.