Well, today we’re going start looking at our final unlikely hero in the book of Judges. Now of course, we haven’t gone through each and every judge nor have we haven’t examined all the details in every story that we have looked at. But I think we’ve drawn out several important lessons from these stories and we’re going to try to do that one more time today. The character that we want to look at today is probably the most famous of all the judges. Today we’re going to start looking at the life of Samson.
Now the Bible gives us more information about Samson than any of the other judges we’ve looked at. Just to give you a comparison, a couple of Judges that we didn’t look at in this study – Tola and Jair – both have only two verse each about their lives – but Samson has four entire chapters.
So there must be something important for us to learn from the life of Samson. Which is almost surprising considering what a wreck his life was. Most of us remember Samson for his great strength – how he killed a lion with this bare hands – or how He tore the city gates right off their hinges – or how he killed a 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. These are the acts that made Samson famous – but what do we know about his character? What kind of a person was He? What was his relationship with God like? What was his relationship with others like? You see, these are the kind of issues that determine whether someone is truly a hero or just some big strong guy…
So that’s where I want to focus our attention this morning – not so much on his super strength and his fantastic exploits, but rather on his character. Because, we can’t all become burly, muscular weight-lifting champions – but we can all become men & women of heroic character.
Samson’s story begins in Judges chapter 13 and it begins much like all the other stories of the judges… it says…
Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years. Judges 13:1
If you’ve been with us for the past few weeks, this is no surprise. Pretty much every story has begun with “Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight – so the Lord handed them over to…. so and so.” And in this case, it was the Philistines. But this is where this story begins to develop differently. Normally, we’d jump right into meeting the hero. But this time we start by meeting the hero’s parents. Look at verse 2.
2 In those days a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children. Judges 13:2
So this guy Manoah is not the hero. This is the hero’s dad. Well, he’s not the hero’s dad yet, because they had thus far been unable to have kids. And it’s interested that we don’t get this kind of information about the other judges – we just jump right into their heroic deeds. But Samson’s birth is significant and his parents play an important role in his story. So let’s have a look.
3 The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son.
So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. 5 You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.”
This is all very significant. These restrictions here about not drinking alcohol or eating forbidden food during the pregnancy wasn’t just for the baby’s health. It was because the child was to be a Nazarite. And what exactly is a nazarite, you may ask?
Well, if you look in the book of Numbers chapter six, it actually gives a very detailed description of what a Nazarite is and you can read it if you like later on, but basically it says that a Nazarite’s life was dedicate to God, and as a sort of living symbol of that, He would do three things: #1. He would abstain from eating or drinking anything from the vine (including wine, grapes, or even raisins), #2. He would not cut his hair, and #3. he would not come near a dead body. Those were the requirements for being a nazarite. Those three things showed that Samson was set apart for God.
And Samson wasn’t the only Nazarite in the Bible – the Bible also indicates that Samuel was a Nazarite – as was John the Baptist. Even Paul – for a short time – took a Nazarite vow.
So while being a Nazarite isn’t unique to Samson, it is key to his story as we will find out a little later. Keep that in mind and we’ll see how that comes into play as the story unfolds. For now, jump down to verse 24 as God keeps his promise to Manoah and his wife. Samson is born and God is very involved in Samson’s life from day one. verse 24.
24 When her son was born, she named him Samson. And the Lord blessed him as he grew up. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he lived in Mahaneh-dan, which is located between the towns of Zorah and Eshtaol. Judges 13:24
So right off the bat – even as a child, God is with Samson and is blessing him. I found that phrase in verse 25 pretty interesting. It says the Spirit of the Lord began to stir Samson. You’ll remember from last week that we talked a little bit about how the Holy Spirit empowered Gideon. This seems to be a similar thing – but perhaps a bit different. This wasn’t so much an empowering at this point, but more of a prompting. God was somehow stirring up Samson to do do something. The Bible doesn’t offer us much explanation to what this stirring and prompting was all about, but I think we experience that same thing our lives too!
Sometimes the Holy Spirit stirs us or prompts us to action. And quite often, its just small things. Maybe we feel that we need to say something to someone or to help them in some way. Maybe God prompts us to go sit with that person over there by themselves or to help that older lady in the grocery store carry out her bags. Just little stuff… And other times we are stirred to do significant things – like move to Penhold and plant a church or to lead a Bible study or to make that decision to accept Jesus as your Saviour! Those are all the kinds of things that Holy Spirit prompts us and stirs us to do. And we would be wise to listen to and to obey those promptings. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 says..
“Do not stifle the Holy Spirit.” 1 Thessalonians 5:19
In other words – don’t ignore Him. Don’t brush aside those thoughts and those promptings. Listen to them. Obey them. Of course, you want to test them – not every thought that runs through your head is from the Holy Spirit. Your craving for cheesecake is not likely a stirring from the Holy Spirit. You’ve got to make sure those thoughts line up with what God has already said in his word – and if they do – then by all means, act on them. If you feel prompted to do some act of kindness for someone, for example – that lines up with God’s Word pretty good. I think you’re safe to consider that a prompting from the Holy Spirit. So go ahead and act on that. Don’t stifle to Holy Spirit – listen to him and follow his prompts and his stirrings.
Now in Samson’s case – we really don’t know if he stifled the promptings of the Holy Spirit or not. We just know that the Holy Spirit began to stir him – and we’ll see what happens here in a bit.
So keep all that in mind and let’s keep going into chapter 14 now, verse 1.
One day when Samson was in Timnah, one of the Philistine women caught his eye. 2When he returned home, he told his father and mother, “A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her. Get her for me.”
3 His father and mother objected. “Isn’t there even one woman in our tribe or among all the Israelites you could marry?” they asked. “Why must you go to the pagan Philistines to find a wife?”
But Samson told his father, “Get her for me! She looks good to me.”
As you can see, young men 3,000 years ago weren’t much different from the young men today. I’m sure that if we still had arranged marriages in Canada, you fathers would be hearing the same line at some point – “I want to marry her. Get her for me! She looks good to me.”
But there’s are a couple of problems here with Samson choice. You see, this woman is a Philistine and the Philistines are the enemies of the Israelites. Samson’s God-given purpose in life is to rescue the Israelites from the Philistines – not to marry them. It a bit of a conflict of interest, isn’t it? And not only that, as a Nazarite, Samson’s life has been dedicated to serving God – whereas this Philistine woman would worship the false Philistine gods. What chance for unity and harmony can there be in this marriage?
And so Samson’s parents try to persuade Samson to marry another Israelite – someone who would share his values and beliefs and dedication to God. But Samson wouldn’t hear of it. And it’s right here that we get a curious little verse – verse 4 which says…
“His father and mother didn’t realize the Lord was at work in this, creating an opportunity to work against the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at that time.” Judges 14:4
You know, from our perspective, it seems like Samson is about to make a huge, foolish mistake. In fact, if you know the rest of the story – you know that this is going to end terribly for just about everyone. But unknown to everyone, God was at work. In the midst of Samson’s foolish mistake, God was going to use that to begin to rescue his people from the Philistines.
Now that’s not to say that God caused Samson to do this or even that he approved of it – but simply that God was at work in it.
And that is so encouraging to me, because I know that even when I blow it, even when I fail and I make a mess of everything – God can still work right in the middle of that failure and he can take that failure and use it for his purposes. Now certainly it’s better that God works through our obedience and through living our lives according to his plan – there are so many blessings that come with following God instead of doing things our own way. But even when we mess up, that certainly doesn’t prevent God from accomplishing his plans.
One of my all-time favourite verses is Romans 8:28.
“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28
God can take any situation – as bad as it is – as messed up as it is – and He can use it for good. He takes our weakness and He turns them into strengths. He takes our failures and he turns them into opportunities. He causes everything to work together for good for those who love God. Its incredible how he does that. And he does that here in Samson’s story as well.
So even though his parents tried to dissuade him, Samson insisted and the marriage plans began to take shape. The next verse tells us that Samson and his parents were on their way to this young lady’s home in Timnah.
5 As Samson and his parents were going down to Timnah, a young lion suddenly attacked Samson near the vineyards of Timnah. 6 At that moment the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him, and he ripped the lion’s jaws apart with his bare hands. He did it as easily as if it were a young goat. But he didn’t tell his father or mother about it. Judges 14:5-6
Here we see the first incredible feat of strength by Samson. Empowered by the Holy Spirit, Samson rips apart this lion with his bare hands. I don’t care who you are – that’s impressive! And it wasn’t even hard for Samson – it was as easy as if it were a young goat. This Samson guy has some pretty impressive potential. Man, if God can use Ehud and Gideon (guys with disabilities and weaklings…) – imagine what God can do with Samson! He could be the greatest hero in the Bible! The greatest hero of all time! Well, hold onto that thought for now – we’ll see how this all pans out….
7 When Samson arrived in Timnah, he talked with the woman and was very pleased with her. Judges 14:7
It pretty much seems like this was the first time that Samson had even spoken to the girl. Last time he was here, she just caught his eye – and yet just from that, he had already decided that she was the one for Him.
Gentlemen – this is not the way to choose a wife! She looked good – they had a pleasant first conversation – but Samson didn’t know a thing about this girl. Based on what we’re about to read, I’m pretty sure that had Samson taken the time to get to know this girl, to get to know her family, to get to know her friends – she’d probably be just about the last person he wanted to marry. We’ll look at that in more detail next week, but for now, let me give you two bits of free dating advice. You married people can tune out for a minute…
#1. Listen to the wisdom of your parents.
I know that’s not what you want to hear, but you would be wise to heed their advice. Believe it or not, your parents love you and want what’s best for you – and so if they are objecting or cautioning you in your dating life – you might want to seriously consider that they are saying.
In the ten commandments, commandment #5 says…
“Honor your father and mother. “ Exodus 20:12
And I know we often think of that as little children obeying their parents. But it extends beyond that. We honour our parents – even when we’re adults – by listening to their advice – giving careful thought to what they say. I think that’s an important part of honouring our father and our mother.
I sure don’t see that in Samson’s life. The way he treats his father and mother is anything but honoring to them. So I would encourage you guys – heed the advice of your parents – even in this area of dating and marriage.
The second bit of free dating advice is to remember that you when you marry someone – you are also marrying their family and their friends. Marriage is a package deal. You get that special someone and their entire family and all their friends. So you probably want to know what you’re getting into.
I would guess that Samson had never met his wife-to-be’s family before this – and chances are – he had never met any of her friends either. But next week, when we read about the wedding – man oh man – Samson is going to wish that he knew what he was getting into.
So I would encourage you guys – don’t just get to know that special someone… Get to know their family – their extended family and their friends… before you get married to them!
Ok, that’s it for the free dating advice for today. There might be some more next week, but we’ll worry about that then. Let’s keep going with our story for today.
8 Later, when he returned to Timnah for the wedding, he turned off the path to look at the carcass of the lion. [this is that lion that he ripped apart with his bare hands] And he found that a swarm of bees had made some honey in the carcass. 9 He scooped some of the honey into his hands and ate it along the way. He also gave some to his father and mother, and they ate it. But he didn’t tell them he had taken the honey from the carcass of the lion. Judges 14:8-9
Pause here for a minute. Do you remember the three things that Samson as a Nazarite was never supposed to do? He was never to cut his hair. He was never to eat or drink anything from the vine. And he was never to go near a dead body. And yet, what is he doing here? He’s scooping honey out of the dead lion’s carcass. Now beside the fact that it’s pretty gross to be eating honey out of a dead body, Samson is totally disregarding his Nazarite vows – totally disregarding God’s direct command for him.
He was supposed to be set apart for God. God had been stirring him up and blessing him since his childhood. God had empowered him with His Holy Spirit and had given him incredible strength. God had been preparing him to do some amazing stuff – but yet for some reason, Samson has no regard for God’s call on his life.
I think between this and how Samson is ignoring the godly advice of his parents regarding this marriage – we’re starting to see that Samson may not turn out to be that hero that we’re hoping for. He may not be that hero that God intended him to be.
It’s such a tragedy when people miss out on the life that God intends for them. There are so many people that God has setup for greatness – and yet they throw it away chasing instead after wealth, pleasure, status, or whatever else! They choose to live life according to their terms – and not God’s. But in doing so, they miss out on God’s best for their lives.
All of us spend our lives seeking after satisfaction and joy. That’s the common denominator of every person who has ever lived. We don’t want to just exist – we want to have purpose and meaning and value.
And so we chase after those things that promise us that kind of life. We chase after relationships. We chase after love and acceptance. We chase after the perfect career. We chase after success or wealth. We chase after pleasure. But at the end of the day – all of those things fall short.
The only way to find true satisfaction and purpose and meaning and value is in living the life that God created us to live.
God created you for purpose. He made you just the way you are for a reason. And when you live life according to God’s plan and God’s design – when you’re doing exactly what God created you to do – that’s when you will experience maximum satisfaction and maximum joy. There is no life like it!
Sometimes we get this idea that God’s out to ruin our life. If we follow God, he’s going spoil our fun and steal our freedom and we’re going to miss out on everything good! That is such a lie!
God tells the Israelites in Jeremiah 29:11…
“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11
God’s not out to ruin your life. His plans for you are good! They are to give you a future and a hope. But when we refuse to live according to God’s plan and God’s design – that’s when we end up with disaster.
We’re going to continue our story of Samson next week – and maybe even the week after that – but as we go along, we going to see how Samson, because he refused to live life that God intended him to live, his life completely spiralled out of control and ended up in absolutely disaster. Even though he had such amazing potential for greatness – he threw that all away when he chose to live his way instead of God’s.
So as we close today, I just want to encourage you to consider how you’re living life. Are you living God’s way – or are you living your own way? Are you following God’s plans and God’s design – or are you doing whatever seems right to you.
You might remember when we started this series with the Bible project video – they pointed out the theme verse of Judges – and it goes like this:
“In those days Israel had no king; all the people did whatever seemed right in their own eyes.” Judges 21:25
And as you read through the book of Judges, you sure see what a disaster that turns out to be.
Does that describe you? Does that describe your life right now? That you have no king – and you’re just doing whatever seems right in your own eyes?
If so, can I encourage you – let your Creator be your king. He has some good plans for you. Plans to give you a future and a hope. Plans for you to have meaning and purpose, satisfaction and joy like you’ve never had before. I encourage you to follow God’s design and God’s plan. Listen to the gentle promptings and the stirrings of the Holy Spirit.
Even if your life is looking like a disaster right now – it’s not too late. Maybe you’ve already made your fair share of mistakes and maybe you feel like you’ve totally messed up your life. That’s ok. God can work in any situation. He makes all things work together for good for those who love Him.
Will you let your Creator be your king?