|Judges - 11 Sampson|
Sixth Recovery under Samson
Laodicea and People’s Rights
Spiritual and Moral Depravity Ensue
We have noticed a steady decline in the spiritual and moral condition of the nation of Israel during our studies in Judges. It seems that this decline reached its extremity in the conditions under the last judge and as seen in the recorded events following. This was the last time that we read, “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord.” There seems to be some significance in this being the last time, and it makes us think of the days that it represents ecclesiastically in relation to the church age (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 1 John 2:18).
Last Typical Period
We have come to the last period of Judges, and both it and Samson, the judge, are typical. This period represents the church period that the Lord reprimands as he speaks to Laodicea in Revelation 3:14-22. As C. A. Coates puts it, “Samson was the last judge; and he represents the last intervention of God in the deliverance of His people before the kingdom is publicly set up.” We note that complacency is seen in the case of the people at this point. We remember that they had wept when reprimanded by the angel in Judges 2:4, but at this point in Judges 13, there is no recorded expression of any desire for liberation from the domination of the Philistines.
Even more striking, we see that they, for the first time, were willing to side with their oppressors, and deliver into their hands the one that God had raised for that purpose (Judges 15:13). These are very strange conditions in which a judge would have to serve, but at this point we are looking at a very strange judge! In Samson, we see a judge who was raised of God to deliver a people who were not concerned about deliverance, so that this was an act of God moving sovereignly on their behalf. We can see that God raised up a man with “extra-ordinary” capabilities for these very difficult conditions. In addition, we observe that Samson was a strange expression of spiritual, divine power mixed with terrible, carnal weakness, so that what he was officially under God’s hand was a stark contrast to what he was personally.
What God Intended
However, the character of Samson’s call only reflected what God had intended Israel to be; they, like him, had departed from that calling through their own failure and departure. It is noteworthy that for the most part, God raised men to lead His people who reflected the condition of the people in that day, so that they were an expression of Israel’s own character.
This presents a lesson for those who might criticize leaders and elders among the saints in an assembly, and who would draw attention to their shortcomings and failures; normally, those men are only expressing what the assembly has been during the years of their development. In addition, those who criticize these men need to consider that they are the best that such an assembly has for that position of responsibility. It should also be pointed out that the very ones who criticize will very likely not be any better than those who presently are the objects of their criticism.
Unique Character of Samson
Samson is unique among the judges in that he was the only one with “superhuman” strength and ability. God, knowing the desperate condition of His people, marvelously raised a man who was powerfully equipped to overcome the domination of the Philistines so that Samson comes on the scene with the greatest potential to use for God. However, what is sad is that he was the weakest of all the judges in his personal character. Strength imparted by God was his, but his downfall was the weakness of the flesh. It emphasizes to us that spiritual power and ability to be used by God for a great work will not compensate for a lack of inward character and moral strength. God can use even failing, faulty, and feeble vessels to accomplish His work (1 Corinthians 1:27-28); what is more important is what He would seek to produce IN us that expresses conformity to His will. That work in us may be more difficult than what He is able to do through us toward others.
Samson is also unique among the judges in that he was the only one who was never helped by any of his nation. He never led an army against the enemy, not even 300 men as Gideon had! He accomplished all of his deeds without the fellowship of his brethren, and in some cases, in spite of them. More than that, his own brethren were willing to bind him to deliver him to the Philistines (15:13). His acting individually presents a typical picture of a Nazarite acting for God in last day conditions. In 2 Timothy, Paul addresses that young man, reminding him that he must maintain Nazarite conditions (spiritually) in his life and service for God (2 Timothy 1:9, 13; 2:3-4, 21; 3:12, 17, etc.). The feature of the Nazarite that Timothy displayed was the principle of separation to the Lord.
As with Samson, Paul also reminds Timothy that he will need to stand for God alone, as Paul did in his latter days (2 Timothy 1:15, 4:16). 2 Timothy portrays the man of God standing steadfastly for God without the comfort or support of other believers with him. It reminds us that if one intends to serve God faithfully in last days, he must be prepared for opposition, even from misunderstanding or unspiritual brethren. The call to the overcomer in Laodicea addresses him as an individual who responds to the Lord’s voice to enjoy communion with Him alone (Revelation 3:20).
Characteristics of Laodicea
In Samson and in the chapters that follow, we see characteristics that correspond to the condition of the Laodicean assembly in Revelation 3:14-22. We notice that Jephthah ended his public service by displaying a marked lack of “brotherly love,” when he was responsible for slaying his brethren. Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7) means “love of the brethren,” but in Laodicea, it is no longer “love of the brethren,” but rather it is “love of self.” We can see that the professing church has also displayed that change in affection and character that typifies the last days.
Samson was a man who was unfaithful to his calling and unresponsive to God’s purposes for him; we notice that the Lord, when He speaks to Laodicea, tells them that He is the One who is “the Amen, the faithful and true witness” (Rev. 3:14). He draws attention to their unfaithfulness and infidelity. They failed to measure up to the standard that He expressed in His character and service. God called the church to be a true and faithful witness to the Lord, but how it has failed!
The Lord says to Laodicea that His analysis of their works revealed that they were, shall we say, indifferent and careless. They displayed little exercise in their activities, with the result that He considered their works to be repugnant to Him. As we examine Samson, we will see that nothing that he did was done out of genuine love for God’s people, neither out of any devotion to the Lord. He did everything without that lofty purpose; he did everything for Samson, for self-gratification, and not through submission to the will of God. It seemed as if Samson saw his conflict with the Philistines, not as a work to deliver Israel, but rather as a kind of personal contention, almost as a “game” to play, with these people. His failure lay in his too close and personal involvement with those who were God’s enemies. In him, we see a man who was unconscious that his own condition was so contrary to God.
In addition, he was unconscious of the dangers inherent in his involvement with Philistine women. He lost his source of power during a period of sleep (unconscious condition) while Delilah had a man shave the seven locks of his head. His sleeping on her lap seems to be typical of his spiritual condition, unconscious of his danger while dallying with the Philistines and unresponsive to the high calling that was his. Paul reminds the believers on more than one occasion that they needed to awake out of sleep (Romans 13:11, Ephesians 5:14). Sleeping, or being unaware of one’s true state, is the Laodicean condition, (Revelation 3:17). The Lord reproves that church for being unaware of their actual state and it seems clear that they had lost their power.
The power of God’s people is always linked with separation to the Lord from every element that is contrary to Him. Samson never maintained the separation required by his Nazarite conditions. The same is true of Laodicea, unconcerned about upholding a standard that the Lord will accept. What Samson was, personally, introduced the conditions that followed in the remaining chapters of Judges. His failure to lead the people in victory over the Philistines and in spiritual recovery produced the spiritual evil and moral depravity that ensued. We see this pattern being duplicated when we look at the predicted conditions of the last days before the Lord’s coming. Spiritual failure in Samson, who was the leader and deliverer, allowed further declension among the people, and this is what we would anticipate prior to the rapture of the church.
Strangely enough, Samson was a man who, though moved four times by the Spirit of God, (Judges 13:25, 14:6, 19; 15:14), knew almost nothing of fellowship with God in his life. He prayed only twice in the record of his life, (Judges 15:18, 16:28) and in both cases, his request was for the satisfaction of his own desires and never for God’s honor or the blessing of God’s people. Samson lived a life that was self-centered, self-indulgent and self-complacent, and the Lord exposes the same condition in Laodicea. This describes the state of Christian testimony in the last days before the Lord comes. These conditions are predicted in God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:1-9, 4:1-4).
We realize, before we judge Samson too harshly, that his life typically expressed conditions that can very easily prevail in our own lives. We should ask ourselves if these conditions are not often our own. Do we manifest genuine commitment to the Lord and His service in our lives, or do we essentially live for ourselves? When we pray, is the essence of our prayer centered upon our own wants and wishes, or personal desires for what would please us? Or do our prayers reflect our experienced communion with the Lord, centering on real desires to fulfill His will and to seek His blessing on the saints as well as those not saved? We think of a prayer (author unknown) that speaks to this:
I often say my prayers, but do I really pray?
Or do the wishes of my heart dictate the words I say?
Far better to kneel down, to gods of wood and stone,
Than offer to the Living God a prayer of words alone.
Are we satisfied with ourselves, our condition of life, or our own abilities, sadly unaware of the conditions that exist to which the Lord would seek to call our attention? We should beware that we do not follow the same pattern as Samson did and thus fail to accomplish God’s will in our lives! Self-complacency is a great enemy of God’s people. It seems to be the prominent feature of those in Laodicea that was most obnoxious to the Lord. It produced satisfaction with their existing condition; it prevented any judgment of self or examination of themselves before God. It kept them from realizing their need of God and dependence on Him for everything. They were so complacent in their state that “need” was the last thing in their thoughts. We notice in Revelation 3:17 that they were complacently content with their own estimation of self, though the Lord saw something entirely different. That was Samson and that can be our condition also!
Our spiritual state can be detected by the character of our prayers. We can be very “light” in our praying, expressing very little of a deep burden of heart and only saying words, perhaps the same ones repetitiously from the past. May both Samson and Laodicea speak to us and produce some sense of our deep need of God and His power at work in our lives and in the assemblies of His people.
Samson’s Parents and God’s Promise
Samson’s birth mercifully expressed God’s sovereignty. There appears to be no exercise in the nation of Israel for deliverance, no cry to God, no concern, and neither was there any exercise by his mother to have a child (Judges 13:1-3). It would seem that this was the only case of barrenness without concern in the Bible, for in all other occasions that Scripture records, barren women expressed a desire before God to have a child. We see this in the cases of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Hannah, and Elizabeth. So that for a nation that was unconcerned about their servitude (no crying to God for deliverance), and from a mother who was unconcerned about her barrenness, God raised a man to be a savior of His people.
In addition, Samson came from the tribe of Dan, the last tribe that one would likely have considered the channel that God would use. Only a few chapters farther (chapter 18), we read of a part of that tribe falling into gross idolatry early in their history, and Dan, in Scripture, never appears to be depicted in any attractive way.
However, God was determined to work to deliver His people and to defeat their enemy, and He chose to act in this way. It illustrates to us that God can and will work despite the unfitness and helplessness of His people, simply because it is His purpose to do so and because of His own mercy. This act didn’t depend on their crying to God or their seeking deliverance. God delivered them for Himself, as He speaks in Isaiah 63:5: “And I looked, and there was none to help; and I wondered that there was none to uphold: therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me; and my fury, it upheld me.” There seem to be times when God works in response to the cries of His people; there are others when He will work solely because of His own sovereign purpose.
Toleration of Philistine Bondage
We have seen that this particular enemy, the Philistines, was the only one that didn’t seem particularly offensive or oppressive to Israel. This indicates that there was something unusual about Philistine bondage (spoken by Jack Hunter of Scotland in oral ministry at Bible Conference in Vancouver, B.C., Canada). The Philistines clearly represent something different from the seven wicked nations of the land that God commanded Israel to destroy and dispossess. While we have dealt with this in the previous chapter, it bears repeating since the Philistines represent an insidious enemy today. The Philistines had their origin and connection with Egypt (Genesis 10:13-14), for we read that Mizraim (Egypt, see Genesis 50:11) begat Casluhim, and from him came Philistim. We see these connections also indicated in Jeremiah 47:4, Amos 9:7.
So the Philistines came from Egypt into the land, but they never experienced Egyptian bondage, never knew deliverance by the blood applied in the Passover night, did not pass through the Red Sea or come by way of the journeys that Israel had taken. Their name means “wanderers,” and they had come to that land without clear direction from God, they had wandered until they settled there. They had a form of worship that was similar to the true worship of Jehovah in many ways and they occupied a place in the land that made them as “thorns in the sides” of Israel constantly.
In this way, they represent those who occupy a place in Christendom and seek to dominate God’s people so that Christian profession abounds and is accepted nearly everywhere. They would bind and limit the exercise of the liberties of God’s people. They are the ones who proclaim that a man cannot preach the gospel, baptize, or teach believers unless he has been ordained. They deny believers the privilege of obeying the Lord in local assembly functions, including remembering Him in the breaking of bread, apart from their own system. Restrictions multiply, and sadly, many believers who once enjoyed the freedoms of the local assembly are willingly returning to the bondage of a clerical system.
Philistines are found where the emphasis is on what will attract the flesh, such as incense, vestments, stained glass and professional musicians to entertain. Philistines would never preach against anything unless it is contrary to their system; they arrange and express everything in order to make the people feel comfortable and satisfied in their present condition, never preaching about sin, judgment, repentance and conviction. The Philistines represent those who have a “form of godliness, but deny the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5). They are “lovers of pleasures more than (rather than) lovers of God,” (2 Timothy 3:4). Let us not assume that these are only found in the realm of Christian profession outside the sphere of assemblies; sadly, this is a condition that is also increasingly evident among some assemblies in these last days.
It must have been a surprise to Manoah’s wife to have the angel of the Lord appear to her. Of course, he appeared as a man (verse 6, 8), but in reality this was a preincarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus Himself, a Christophany. Not since Gideon in Judges 6 had the angel of the Lord appeared to anyone. The time factor is not absolutely clear in Judges, but that appearance had likely been at least 100 years prior to this moment. So this event immediately indicates an act of Divine intervention by which God was manifesting His mind. He would not leave His people under the control of an external power without moving to deliver them. We need to constantly affirm that there is no religious system in Christendom that is God’s will or is what the Bible teaches. Repeatedly, in the history of the church, God has raised men to deliver His people and to overcome the power of established religion. In the case of this woman, and without any expressed desire on her part, He told her that she would have a son. Then He gave her the conditions that He expected her to maintain in her life prior to his birth. If she was going to have a Nazarite son, then she, as the mother, was required to maintain Nazarite character.
Israel had failed to remain separated unto God and had failed to maintain purity in its testimony. She and her son were to be what Israel had not been through the years. It teaches us that in a world of empty religious profession that displays departure and unfaithfulness, God desires and will use those who are a contrast to the prevailing condition. We never achieve power with God and with men through compromise and acceptance of a lower standard. That power depends on believers seeking to rise to the standard that God expects and through their displaying a life that is consistent with His purpose. This woman teaches us that if we desire to raise men and women for God in local assemblies, it requires that the older generation also seek to be the same.
The Nazarite Character
The characteristics of the Nazarite vow were physically displayed in three different areas of life. Those characteristics should be true in their spiritual application to the lives of believers today. For example, we would not expect a brother to allow his hair to grow; it would be contrary to the teaching of Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:14. But believers should display the spiritual characteristic that the Nazarite’s uncut hair symbolized. The same is true regarding the abstinence from eating grapes or avoiding a dead body. What we see physically or materially displayed in the Old Testament has its counterpart in spiritual truth of the New Testament teaching.
The vow of a Nazarite is described in Numbers 6 but God mandated the conditions necessary for anyone who would desire it. The vow was voluntary, taken out of personal devotion to the Lord, but if he took that vow, the Nazarite had to maintain three essential conditions in his or her life. He must avoid contact with any form of the grape, from its kernel to the husk, including the wine produced from it. Thus, he typically separated himself from all that produces intoxication or excess of natural joys in one’s life. In other words, he had to control his APPETITE. There are many aspects of the joys of this world and the flesh that can appeal to the child of God. These things will only stifle our expression of devotion to God if we indulge them. Many saints, who could be spiritual Nazarites, are hindering their spiritual exercise by their occupation with the amusements, entertainment, sports, literature and other elements of the world. This includes, in our day, the internet and the wide variety of things that one can see in it.
The Nazarite was marked by his APPEARANCE. He was not to cut his hair all the days of his vow. This was the outward expression of his testimony as a Nazarite. It was the crown of his vow (“separation” and “consecration” in Numbers 6 translate the same word as used for the crown of the high priest in Exodus 29:6, 30). The uncut hair also expresses subjection to the Lord’s authority. It is worth noting that it is the same expression as Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 11:15 where he speaks of a woman “wearing long hair,” (present active subjunctive verb). Her allowing her hair to grow is the outward expression of her subjection to God’s order, so it is a glory to her. In the case of both, the longer that they maintained that condition, the longer the hair would (normally) be if it were allowed to grow.
The last condition for the Nazarite was that he must avoid contact with a dead body of any person, (Numbers 6:6-9) including those who were near of kin. That signifies care in our ASSOCIATIONS. Death is the result of sin working in the flesh, so it suggests those fleshly activities that would cause the loss of fellowship with God. They could be moral, or they could suggest the working of pride, self in any form, or other influences. The only way a Nazarite could avoid such contact was not to get too close to anything that would cause defilement. He must be careful in his involvement with the different influences and evil elements of his life in this world.
We notice that there are three men of our Bible who seem to be identified as Nazarites, if not totally by name, at least in their characteristics. Samson was the only one in Scripture personally called a Nazarite, but Samuel and John Baptist manifested at least some of those characteristics. Samuel’s mother, Hannah, promised God that if she received a son, there “shall no razor come upon his head,” (1 Samuel 1:11). The angel told Zachariah that his son “shall drink neither wine nor strong drink,” (Luke 1:15). If all these were Nazarites in some way, we notice that theirs was a life-long condition. Any person could take a vow of the Nazarite for any period of time (Numbers 6). These particular cases involve men that God raised up in very dark days of Israel’s history. God needed men who would devote their entire lives in total service for Him. In addition, they were Nazarites, not through personal exercise, but by Divine calling or by parental exercise.
Let us apply these truths to ourselves: God’s desire for His people is that from the moment of their conversion, they will live entirely for Him in separation from the flesh and the world, expressing their devotion to Christ by their manner of living. How many of God’s people have an exercise to rise to that Divine calling? In addition, it should be the exercise of spiritual parents, or of older saints regarding younger believers, to raise the younger ones so that they will become useful for God in this capacity. Perhaps we do not raise spiritual “Nazarites” because of our own failure to manifest that character in our lives!
We see there were three requirements for Samson’s mother in order to raise a Nazarite in Judges 13. First, she must maintain Nazarite conditions personally. Second, there must be exercise to seek divine instruction in the home (Judges 13:12) so as to know how to raise the child, or what God’s purposes were for him. In the third place, those parents displayed a desire to worship the Lord sacrificially (Judges 3:19). If these conditions characterized our homes, they would be places where the children would be raised for God and His Name would be honored through them. More than that, if these are the conditions of a local assembly, we will see the younger ones take on the same characteristics.
Samson’s Life and Descents
Samson’s life and service commences at the end of chapter 13. His first movements under the Holy Spirit’s control were in his home area. Other men often have pointed out that service for God begins in this way. It begins from the standpoint of our proving God and serving Him in our own home environment then moving out to a larger field. If a believer is not moved by (controlled by) the Holy Spirit in his immediate surroundings so that he is able to live and serve there, he will not do so elsewhere. This Divine control indicates what God desired to exercise in Samson’s life and service for God. In order to effectively serve God and deliver Israel, he needed to be submissive to God’s will. This, as we will see, was one element that was lacking in his life and led to his failure. If a believer wants God to use him, he must be willing and exercised about submitting to God’s will.
We see that Samson began on a high point but from then on, his life was a series of descents. He continually “went down,” (Judges 14:1, 5, 7, 19, Judges 15:8; Judges 16:21). It is good to see that mingled with those goings down, he also “went up,” (Judges 14:2, 19, Judges 16:3, 31). It is not hard to see that our lives can be marked by “going down,” but, thankfully, also by “going up.” Life is not static in any sense, certainly not spiritually. If we are not going up, then we are surely going down. If an assembly is not progressing spiritually, then it is most certainly regressing. The only way to “go up” requires exercise and effort on our part. We either drift (going down) or we discipline ourselves unto godliness, (1 Timothy 4:7-8, 6:11). We gladly note that Samson’s last move (after his death), was to be “brought up,” (Judges 16:31), and it reminds us that the last direction the saints of God will take is to be “brought up,” regardless of the failures that have taken place.
Another general observation on Samson’s life that we should notice is that he was constantly losing things that were very important. First, he lost his separation in chapter 14. Then he lost his purity in 16:1. His vital secret was lost in Judges 16:17 and that resulted in his loss of power (Judges 16:20), liberty and sight (Judges 16:21), and finally, his life (Judges 16:30). Do we learn a lesson from his life? There are spiritual truths and essential secrets of the believer’s life that we need to guard and treasure above all else. If believers prize those principles of Christian living that enable spiritual power, not allowing them to slip away, then a good measure of usefulness for God will ensue. What finally took place in his life was only the result of the steps he took at the beginning, since he never turned back or changed his course. Be careful what direction your life takes and where the little steps and actions are leading you! We need to make a good start in our Christian life, and then we need to continue in the same character.
We cannot look at Samson’s life in detail, but we learn from his experience that his greatest problem was his eyes. It was what he saw that caused him to respond as he did. We remember that it was Eve’s sight of the tree and its fruit that caused her to disobey the Lord’s command in the garden. We note that Lot made his decision based on what he saw in the well-watered plains of Jordan (Genesis 13:10). Achan committed sin and brought defeat to God’s people by his attraction to what he saw (Joshua 7:21). We could multiply examples to illustrate this truth, but we should learn a lesson from these failures. What attracts our sight often will result in disobedience of God’s Word and our going down in the spiritual life.
When Samson went down, failure usually resulted. When he went up, he was able to overcome. Does not that happen in our lives as well? Certainly! A child of God who occupies himself with those things that tend to attract his heart away from God usually ends up going that direction in his life. Is that not the danger of allowing visual attractions from the entertainment world to have a place in our homes? If we allow a place for those devices that constantly present to us worldly attractions from Hollywood or Madison Avenue, they inevitably will become our occupation and affect our spiritual state. Many a child of God has gone down spiritually by bringing the television or videos into his home, even though at the outset he denied that it would affect his spiritual state. We become used to the things that we look at with desire or interest and they become the objects of our heart’s pursuit.
Philistine Women in Samson’s Life
We also see an important feature of Samson’s life, and that is that his problem centered around three women, and all of them had a bad influence on him. They represent attracting influences of the world that seek to captivate the heart of a believer. While the Lord used the first one to seek “an occasion against the Philistines” (14:4), it certainly was not God’s will for him to become thus involved. God worked behind the scenes, using his personal attraction to the woman in this chapter to cause Samson to fight the Philistines. Is it not ironic that Samson never seemed to see the Philistines as God’s enemies? It was only as they harmed him that he fought with them. He was constantly dallying with Philistines, but Philistine men eventually put out the eyes that Philistine women attracted. He began with an attraction to a Philistine woman and ended his liberty and power on the lap of another.
Dear child of God, do we fail to recognize spiritual enemies for what they truly are? Is it possible that God’s people, called to live holy, separate lives, are dabbling with elements that are only an essential part of the devil’s program to cause their downfall? Philistines might represent an aspect of spiritual temptation that does not appear to be as evil as others are. Many believers who would avoid the grossly immoral aspects of temptation in their lives willingly occupy themselves with things that are not quite as offensive. There are believers who spend hours watching certain programs on the television or going to “family oriented” entertainment. What are these, but different means that the devil has to attract the flesh and rob God of the place He should have in our lives?
Even more, we see that Samson’s attraction to these women also warns us of the danger of personal, emotional involvement with unsaved partners in life. Many lives that God could have used, lives that had potential and ability, have been lost and ruined through wrong relationships resulting in an unequal yoke. Be careful to guard your emotions! A beautiful (or handsome) form and an appealing personality may be the means that the devil will use to ruin your life for God.
The Woman at Timnath
The first woman (Judges 14:1) represents natural influences that, in themselves, do not appear offensive. She was likely attractive, for “she pleaseth me well,” Samson said (Judges 14:3, 7). His attraction to her was entirely on a physical, emotional level. He was manifesting the characteristic of Israel in the end of this book: “every man did that which was right in his own eyes,” (Judges 21:25). Self-will demands its satisfaction, and in doing so, Samson also forced his parents to do something that was contrary to their convictions. He not only went down himself, but he brought his mother and father down with him. Self-pleasing never affects the individual only; it will draw others as well, causing them to do things that their conscience forbids them to do.
In order to go to where she was, Samson had to pass through vineyards, a place a Nazarite should never have been. We never find that he ever drank wine or ate grapes, but he was near the forbidden object. While there, he contacted the dead body of a lion that he had killed previously (14:5, 8-9). The Nazarite vow never forbad him to contact the dead body of an animal, but again, he was coming close to the forbidden. It could be possible that believers, who would never actually do anything contrary to God’s Word or to do something expressly forbidden, yet would come as near as they can to it. In both these aspects, he was already nearly violating the conditions of his Divine calling. It teaches us that, in order to satisfy our personal desires that are contrary to God’s will, we will usually be found doing or in contact with elements that are contrary to our high calling (Ephesians 4:1-2). Spiritual failure always involves compromise in Divine standards.
Then Samson, at the wedding feast, finds himself in wrong company, with thirty Philistine companions to while away the time. Perhaps these companions were given that they might guard him, due to his known strength, from doing something harmful. They were expected to control the man who God intended would deliver Israel from their power. During that week, his prospective, unfaithful wife learns and discloses his riddle to the companions. Do we not learn from this that the Philistine element will always seek to control those who God would desire to use in order to bring about their defeat? In order to do this, they seek to learn and betray the secrets of God’s people to use them to defeat the believer. Be careful, child of God, about becoming too close to the unsaved, even though they might appear attractive to your heart. Many believers have found that they have given up the secret of their spiritual power and they have suffered loss because of it.
Samson was disappointed in this first relationship, for when he returned to take her as his wife, he learned that her father had given her to his companion (Judges 15:1-2). He learned very soon that the Philistines are not those to depend upon. They easily violated promises and proved to be treacherous in their dealings. They were only acting as men of the flesh, but God was seeking to use their perfidy to cause Samson to treat them as his enemy, not his friends. He retaliated by using the unclean jackals (foxes) with the firebrands to burn their standing corn. He, at this point, did not hesitate to stoop to employ an unclean animal to accomplish his vindictive purposes.
Following his retributive act upon the Philistines, Samson went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam (Judges 15:8). It was evidently a wild place with a name that signified, “place of ravenous beasts.” However, he was safer among such beasts, which would not, neither could they harm him, than among the Philistines with their treachery. Better to dwell alone, in the top of the rock, in dependence upon and in fellowship with God than to mingle with the uncircumcised Philistines. However, they were not satisfied to leave him alone in that place, but they came down to seek to take him (Judges 15:9-10). Their desire was to gain vengeance for what he had done to them. It was thus all of Samson’s life; “tit for tat,” no determined purpose for his actions, but only his desiring to wreak havoc for what they had done, followed by their subsequent retaliation. How often this seems to be the pattern of believers’ lives. No determination, no submission to God’s will, no direction nor purpose in their lives, with the result that they have accomplished nothing for God at the end of their days.
Samson would not use his power against his own brethren, but he did allow them to bind him and deliver him to the hands of the Philistines (Judges 15:11-13). His submission to the men of Judah did not hinder his power, for he broke the two new ropes and slew the Philistines when he came to them (Judges 15:14-15). It was a sad day when the men of Judah willingly bound God’s servant to deliver him to the Philistines. It suggests (as F. C. Jennings has written), the imposition of man-made rules upon God’s people that serve to hinder the exercise of their freedom and service for God. There is some new rule, some requirement imposed, some determination made by some “council” that seeks to prevent obedience to God’s command. However, in such cases as with Samson, the power of the Spirit of the Lord enables one to overcome and defeat such a foe with a great victory. In so doing, Samson used a strange weapon that his enemies would never have considered, a new jawbone of an ass. It might have been despised and thought of as nothing, but it signifies that if God is in it, a little thing can be used to bring about the deliverance of His servant.
The Gaza Harlot
The second woman in Samson’s life was a harlot in Gaza (Judges 16:1-3). She represents purely carnal, fleshly influences. Samson was interested solely in gratification of physical desires. Again, we notice that the Philistines sought to use lustful acts and enticements to bring about his defeat by shutting him inside the city. An act of this nature will always result in curtailment of the true spiritual liberty of a child of God and even cause total defeat. The enemy of our souls will seek to captivate the believer if he or she yields to the lust of the flesh and seeks to satisfy carnal desires. One lesson we can learn from his escape is that the believer has the power within him, given by God, to escape temptation of this nature (1 Corinthians 10:13). This involvement, like all the rest in Samson’s life, was simply the result of his exercising his own will in a wrong way; he was not seeking to do God’s will, but rather, he was satisfying his own desires. Our wills, unless subjected to God’s will entirely, will constantly lead us in a direction that will result in our spiritual downfall.
Delilah, of Sorek Valley
The last woman, Delilah in the valley of Sorek, seems to represent a Satanic influence in our lives. She was possibly not a Philistine, but she had Philistine connections. She was a border-dweller, living between Israel and the Philistines. Could Samson have thought, “What’s wrong with her? She isn’t the same as the other women that I have been involved with.” That is usually the wrong question to ask! He failed, as often we do, to discern the entangling element that she represented and how this apparently innocuous woman would be the cause of his ultimate downfall. Is that not the case with many believers? They ask, concerning some desired activity or relationship, “What’s wrong with it?” rather than seeking to know if it is the Lord’s will for them. “What is right about it?” and “Will this be a benefit to my spiritual life and testimony?” should be our questions.
We find Samson playing a game with her, but the prize to be lost was his liberty, his sight, his power and eventually, his life. How foolish he was! How strange that his overwhelming love for this evil woman would overcome any ability to discern his danger in her lap! Does he not picture to us something that happens all too often? We think of a child of God, entangled in a relationship with a person or an activity, playing a game without realizing that it is effectively working to ruin his life and testimony. Little by little his resistance is broken down. Slowly she works and his answers get closer to the secret of his strength. F. C. Jennings shows how he comes closer and closer to the secret of his strength in his responses. Samson uses the number seven in his first response (“seven green withs,” Judges 16:7). Then his second response pertains to ropes that “never were occupied,” or untouched, (Judges 16:11). Then he came to the “seven locks of my head” in Judges 16:13. Finally, he told her all his heart (Judges 16:17) and now she has learned the secret, and the end came.
Defeated on her Lap!
Sadly, like many in a similar condition, he assumed that he could go on as before despite losing the symbol of his separation and the secret of his power. However “he wist not that the Lord was departed from him,” (Judges 16:20). So gradually had he come to that point that he did not realize that he had crossed the line and lost all that was precious and important. Head shaved, hair all gone, eyes put out, liberty lost, we see Samson grinding in the Philistine prison. It was necessary that he lose his power when he lost his hair. He had already been careless about the other terms of his Nazariteship by passing through the vineyard and by contacting the dead bodies, though not actually violating those terms. Only one aspect remained, his hair. That hair represented the last and essential element of his calling, the outward testimony of what he was to be. It was the crown of his position before God, but now, having failed so miserably, he must lose this last vestige of that place and with it, he lost everything.
Does not this appeal to us as well? How many terms of your Christian character, dear child of God, have you violated in your life? Is it not possible that we might go on for years, having failed to exercise self-judgment in the sight of God, but still possessing sufficient strength that we can continue outwardly? Finally the last step is taken, and the results are, though possibly unexpected, only the end of all that has gone before. Far better if we could recognize the danger of the first step, that initial tendency toward world-entanglement, and draw back, seeking renewed fellowship with the Lord through repentance and forsaking that sin.
Samson’s eyes were his trouble, and finally God’s judicial dealings with him resulted in his eyes being put out. Others have noted that the last of the Judges was blind; the last of the kings of Judah was blind; and the last of the seven churches in Revelation 3 is blind. What a terrible end for those who have been enlightened and have known the truth! In Samson’s case, God removed the source of his problem. It may have been a mercy, but it occurred at the point of his life when he was near the end. John tells us about the danger of the lust of the eyes (1 John 2:15-17), and there is an abundance in this world that has the potential to attract our eye. This is the point where Satan tries to allure the souls of God’s people, and it is the one member that needs to be controlled by God’s Word. Be careful what you look at with desire! It may be the element that will bring about your downfall and ruin your life for God.
Knowing the story well, we only need to note that Samson, who had killed many Philistines in his lifetime, slew far more at his death (16:30). It is not difficult to see a spiritual lesson in this event, that death to self wins the greatest victory for a child of God. That old problem that Samson failed to overcome in his life, the problem-–Self—that assails us continually, was finally brought to an end.
However, it is touching to notice that God never totally abandoned His unfaithful servant. He is always like that! “God is faithful,” we read in 1 Corinthians 1:9, and that in view of the unfaithfulness of His own people. The Lord reminds those in Laodicea that He was the “faithful and true witness,” (Revelation 3:14). He was faithful to Himself and His character (2 Timothy 2:13), and true in relation to God’s testimony to them. He would disclose their true character so that they might judge that condition and receive Him for individual fellowship (3:20). Our response to His Word and His rebuke will always result in opening the door for Him to enter and for us to enjoy His communion.
Perhaps Samson knew God’s presence personally for the first time in the prison. Whether true or not, as his hair grew again, he was gaining strength through Divine enablement in view of his ultimate victory. Likely, the Philistines thought that with his hair once cut off, there was no hope for him to recover his strength again. They do not seem to have taken note that his hair grew in the prison. However, there is always hope of recovery for any child of God, no matter how far away one might be. In his solitary condition, alone with God, there can be restoration in the midst of sorrow. Samson’s greatest victory came at the close of his life, and his defeat of the Philistines likely was instrumental in weakening them in view of greater victories by others who followed him.
May we learn from the life of this most powerful, yet weak, judge in Israel, something that will preserve us in the last days of Christian testimony so that we might be faithful and true to the Lord Jesus Christ until that moment when He appears to take us unto Himself.
Other pages in this section
|< Prev||Next >|