Now the sons of Israel again did evil in the sight of the Lord, so that the Lord gave them into the hands of the Philistines forty years.
- Judges 13:1
When Joshua led the Jews into the Promised Land they spent many years settling it and overcoming the people who lived in it previous to their arrival. During these times they had good and bad periods. During the good times they were obedient to God, enjoyed peace and prosperity and built cities while expanding their influence and control over the countryside.
The bad times came when they started disobeying God and worshipping idols. After suffering defeat, the people would see their mistakes, repent and ask God to save them from their enemies. In His kindness, God always heard there requests and would send a person to lead and rescue them from their attackers. These saviors or rescuers were called judges.
In the Old Testament the book of Judges tells the stories of the men and women that God sent at different times in their history in order to save them from invading nations or dangerous practices. In Judges 13:1 we have a situation where Israel had, once again, disobeyed God and this time He allowed the Philistines to attack and control them for a period of 40 years. The people cried out for relief and God sent them one of the most dynamic and powerful men to save them --- he was the wonder child of that age, but a wonder child who went bad.
This is the story of Samson...
Samson The Wonder Child
Have you ever met people who seem to have it all? Like Tiger Woods who has become the best golfer at the youngest age. Children who can play instruments at 10. Young people who are naturally gifted, athletes, scholars, artists. Wealthy and educated families able to give their children all the advantages.
Samson was one of these wonder children:
1. He was Chosen by God to be the Leader of His People - Position
2 There was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had borne no children. 3 Then the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, "Behold now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and give birth to a son. 4 Now therefore, be careful not to drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing. 5 For behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and no razor shall come upon his head, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines."
- Judges 13:2-5
God could have chosen a person already eager for leadership, someone who had trained hard for battle but instead he gave the leadership to a child not even born. Samson did nothing to earn or deserve the position of honor among his people; he was merely selected before he was born to become the leader of the nation. In that day to be a Nazirite meant that a person's life was dedicated to God for a special purpose and the sign for this was that they would not cut or trim their hair or drink alcohol.
Not only did he have position, everyone knew from an early age that he had this special position.
2. He was Given Great Gifts - Chapter 13-16
Along with his position, he was given tremendous talent. Like the prodigies of today Samson became the wonder child of his day and age because of his strength. The writer of the book of Judges only gives us a few examples to give us an idea of his amazing strength and courage:
- Killed a lion with his hands - 14:15
- Fought and killed 30 men single handedly - 14:19
- Captured 300 foxes - 15:5
- Killed a 1,000 men in battle - 15:15
- Destroyed a temple by pushing the stone pillars that held it up bringing tons of stone down - 16:29
He didn't have talents developed by training and exercise; he had gifts that you couldn't have unless you were given them by God.
3. Samson was Given Opportunity - 15:20
Some people have talent but they never get a "break " to show how great they are. Amateur sports, theatre etc. is full of very talented people who were good enough to be professional but never got the chance. The bible says that Samson was a recognized judge, a leader among his people for 20 years. Samson had it all --- position, power and the privilege to demonstrate it but Samson was a wonder child that went bad.
Samson the Wonder Child Gone Bad.
- Why do people who seem to have it all end up destroying themselves? (Whitney Houston or Kurt Cobain - Nirvana)
- Why do famous movie stars kill themselves?
- Why do successful business people become alcoholics?
- Why do children with the advantage of a Christian home, good education, proper example and encouragement throw it all away?
These are some of the most difficult questions to answer. In Samson's case the reason he went bad is that along with all of his advantages he had to deal with the same kinds of things that ordinary people need to deal with --- and he didn't do so well:
1. He had to Deal with Impulsive Behavior.
You see this pattern early (Ch. 14-15) - He tried to win a bet that some young men couldn't figure out one of his riddles. They cheated him and he lost the bet, which led to a lot of trouble. He was young and strong and felt he could do anything so he didn't use judgment or wisdom to control his thoughts --- he just did whatever came to his mind without thinking it through.
2. He had to Deal with Sexual Lust.
He was a strong man and the leader of his people but he couldn't control his own sexual impulses. The writer tells of two occasions where his lust got him into trouble:
A - In 14:2 he desired a pagan woman and over the objections of his parents had to have her. This led to a conflict where he was at war with the Philistines.
B - In 16:1 he had sex with a prostitute and if it weren't for his great strength, he would have been killed by his enemies who were waiting to capture him.
Samson was the strongest man of his time but when it came to sexual temptation he was very weak.
3. He had to Deal with his Commitment to God.
He had started out life like so many in the Church today. He was raised in a Godly home. He knew and was taught about God as a child. He was dedicated to God as a young boy and God blessed him. But as he grew up his commitment to following God was challenged - especially by his weakness for sex with pagan women and controlling his impulsive temper.
This came to a head when he met and fell in love with Delilah --- a pagan woman who not only seduced him but talked him into breaking his commitment with God and revealing the secret of his strength. That was his vow before God to be dedicated to Him and the sign of that vow in his long hair.
Of course we know that she cut his hair, he lost his strength and was captured. The philistines gouged out his eyes and used him as a human trophy at their festivals and put him to work like a horse pushing a grinding wheel in a prison mill. The wonder child was blind, humiliated and enslaved by the very nation that God had originally chosen him to defeat. He never did live up to his potential and save Israel from the Philistines as God had chosen him to do.
Samson - Personal Redemption.
However the ending is not all bad. We read that while in prison his hair began to grow back and along with it Samson's faith in God.
23 Now the lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice, for they said,
"Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands."
24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, for they said,
"Our god has given our enemy into our hands,
Even the destroyer of our country,
Who has slain many of us."
25 It so happened when they were in high spirits, that they said, "Call for Samson, that he may amuse us." So they called for Samson from the prison, and he entertained them. And they made him stand between the pillars. 26 Then Samson said to the boy who was holding his 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, and all the lords of the Philistines were there. And about 3,000 men and women were on the roof looking on while Samson was amusing them.
- Judges 16:23-30
He did not ask again for his position or privilege only one more opportunity to serve. God in destroying the Philistines as he was originally called on to do.
Samson didn't succeed in completely doing God's will but he died calling on God's name and trying to accomplish some of what God had asked him to do. What's sad is that if he had dealt with his problem he could have kept his life and won a complete victory over his enemies.
Modern Lessons from Samson
I don't know if any of us have strength like Samson but I do know that many of us have been given great advantages, privileges and opportunities by God - especially our young people here tonight. I think that Samson's life teaches us a few important principles:
1. No Advantages Without Challenges.
No matter how talented, how many advantages or opportunities you have, you have to work hard to succeed. You don't win any contest, job, relationship by just showing up. God provides the raw talent but it's up to us to hammer that talent into something useful through practice and work.
2. Deal With Your Sins Early.
Samson was impulsive and sexually impure and it got him into trouble as an adult. We sometimes excuse sins cause they're just "little" sins or they're just things that "young" people have problems with. The bad habits and attitudes we develop when we're young will only get worse when we get older. Dealing with sin is always tough whether you're young or old. The time to deal with sin in your life is "right away" no matter how old you are. It's such a shame for a young and talented person with great potential to destroy his/her own chance at success because they refuse to deal with their sins at an early period in their lives.
3. God Will Come To Your Rescue.
Samson learned the lesson that his people had learned centuries before - when you finally lose everything and cry out to God for help - He will rescue you. Samson had lost his position, power and privileges. He had been reduced to being less than ordinary men - a blind slave in prison. But he overcame his pride and asked God to rescue him by using him again and God answered his call.
You see, a person's talent or strength doesn't impress God; He's impressed by a person's faith and humility and sense of need.
How are you using the talents and opportunities given to you by God? Are you living up to your potential?
Is the story of Samson like your own story --- a great beginning but because of self-indulgence and sin --- not such a great result? Why not do today what Samson waited too long to do --- why not re-dedicate those talents to God and ask Him to help you make a fresh start --- using all your abilities to glorify Him. If you need the prayers of the Church to do that or need to begin a new life as a Christian by being baptized - why not come forward now.