In this message Stephen takes us through the journey of Samson's life to warn us that spiritual potential doesn't always lead to spiritual success. It's not what you have that defines you . . . it's what you do with what you have.
"The Man Who Had It Made!"
Judges 13, 14
Hetty Green was possibly America's greatest miser. She died in 1915, leaving an estate valued at over one million dollars. She never enjoyed what she had - in fact always ate cold oatmeal. Oatmeal because it was cheap, cold because she said it cost too much to heat it. Her son lost his leg to amputation because Hetty wasted so much time looking for a free clinic that he wasn't examined early enough.
There is a story in the Bible that resembles this woman. . .the story of Samson is a story of man who had everything that really mattered, yet who lived as though he had nothing.
Now when you think about Samson you typically think about a couple of things:
- a man who never cut his hair
- a man who was powerful and strong - the Hercules of the O.T.
- a heavyweight who was finally whipped by a featherweight named Delilah. Samson's has so much to teach us. We are given the secret of his success, the secret of his strength and the secret of his failure.
However, God records more information about other things than those. In fact, Samson is the only judge where we read an entire chapter related to his mother and father. The more I prepared, the cleared it became that our first study of this man needed to focus for a while on Samson's parents - Mr. and Mrs. Manoah.
Let's start at the beginning of the story - Judges 12:1. 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.
The backdrop of this story is the Philistine domination. These people were undoubtably Israel worst nightmare - I Samuel records that the Hebrews were not allowed to do any metal work lest they make spears and swords; could not sharpen his axe without the permission of these tyrants. They were oppressed by them longer than any other nation. Not conquered until King David wiped them out.
In conjunction with the Philistine Domination, we have the Israelite's apathy and rebellion. No word of repentance; no cry for help is heard from Israel - during this time, Eli was the High Priest. Again, Samuel's books inform us that the priesthood was itself immoral. Spiritual apostasy and idolatry were rampant. The people of Israel had even openly begun to intermarry with the Philistine women.
Against this backdrop, we're introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Manoah.
v 2. And 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. Notice how their world is interrupted - 3. 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.
What news! Words she never thought we'd hear. And what follows reveals the reasons these two were selected by God.
Notice how she runs to her husband and tells him the news - look at 6. Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, "A man of God came to me and his appearance was like the appearance of the angel of God, very awesome. And I did not ask him where he came form, nor did he tell me his name. But he said to me "Behold, you shall conceive and give birth to a son, and now you shall not drink nor eat any unclean thin, for the boy shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death."
I can just see Manoah looking at his wife. . ."Honey, have you been in the wineskin again?!"
Oh no! What corresponds between them is a lesson on the ingredients of a good marriage!
- Ingredient #1 - mutual respect - he believes her story 13:5-7
- Ingredient #2 - spiritual oneness - she comes to him with the news and we see Manoah at this crisis - crossroads - leads them in prayer for direction.
We seem to run everywhere but to God for advise.
13:8 Then Manoah entreated the Lord and said, "O Lord, please let the man of God whom Thou hast sent come to us again that he may teach us what to do for the boy who is to be born."
The angel of the Lord reappears - not to give added information about Samson, but added information about himself.
Notice verse 17. And Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, "What is your name, so that when your words come to pass, we may honor you?" Manoah still doesn't recognize this angel as "The angel of the Lord - the same who appeared to Gideon - a Theophany (a visible expression of God; by no means God in all His glory).
The angels answer is tremendous 18. But the angel of the Lord said to him, "Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful."
The word could be literally translated "incomprehensible" or in our American terminology, "too much". Like a teenage girl describing her heartthrob to her mother, "Oh Mom, he's just too much. . .and he probably is." In other words, he's indescribable.
Now go on. . .19. So Manoah took the kid with the grain offering and offered it on the rock to the Lord, and He performed wonders while Manoah and his wife looked on (here's the wonder he performed)
20. For it came about when the flame went up form the altar toward heaven, that the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame of the altar. When Manoah and his wife saw this, they fell on their faces to the ground. skip to v. 22. So Manoah said to his wife, "We shall surely die, for we have seen God."
v 23. But his wife said to him, "If the Lord had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have let us hear things like this at this time." ...you're right honey; I didn't think of that.
- Ingredient #3 - mutual teachability. This spiritual leader in the home will allow his wife to correct him.
- Not only is their dedication to each other obvious, their dependance on God as well.
You need to recognize that God hasn't really come through for them. . .they've lived under the blight of a spiritual cloud; barren women were considered under some form of punishment from God.
He was a poor pheasant farmer - financial prosperity - another sign of God's blessing in the O.T.. They had every reason to believe God had abandoned them and every right to grow bitter. . .yet they had continued to believe.
Let me interject the first of several lessons of application:
It is possible to have the best of life in the worst of times!
It was not an easy time to live and love and believe. It was a terrible time to raise a family. Have you ever considered the fact that there has never been an easy time to live a godly secure life!
Let me read you something from a national periodical: The world is too big for us. Too much going on, too many crimes, too much violence and excitement. Try as you will, you get behind in the race. It's a strain to keep pace. . .and still, you lose ground. Science empties its discoveries on you so fast that you stagger beneath them in hopeless bewilderment. The political world is news seen so rapidly, you're out of breath trying to keep pace with who's in and who's out. Everything is high pressure. Human nature can't endure much more!
Sounds like something out of this mornings News and Disturber; The Atlantic Journal - 1833.
Has the world ever been secure. . .has it ever been easy? Take it from Mr. and Mrs. Manoah, life then was as difficult, trying, immoral as today. Yet what we find in this passage is a challenging, an refreshing story of marital love and commitment.
Parental commitment would be obvious to any reader - Mom and Dad committed to raising this Nazerite for life. And they did their job as best they could.
But something happened between chapter 13, 14!
Chapter 13 - young Samson, strong, 13:25. . .the spirit of God began to stir him. . . The word "stir" is used of a musical instrument that is being tuned up by a musician.
But the first few words of chapter 14 shout problems! What's wrong?!!! His hair was long -- never had a haircut, he boasted; he'd never touched a wineskin - nope, not Samson; and he'd never touched a dead body - these are the three standards of separation for a Nazerite!
Yet he's headed for a Philistine village to pick out a girl.
What's the problem?
2) Young Samson grasped the code of separation, but not the concept of holiness.
Same problem today.
Elizabeth Elliot writes about a young man eager to forsake the world and to follow Christ closely. He asks the question, "What must I forsake, besides sin?" The answers he received were recorded:
Forsake colored clothing. Get rid of everything in your wardrobe that is not white. Stop sleeping on a soft pillow. Sell your musical instruments. If you are sincere about following Christ, do not take warm baths and never shave your beard. To shave is to attempt to improve on the work of Him who created us."
That was written in the second century. 150 years after Christ was on earth; this was a prevailing opinion among believers.
The search for balance has been around for 1900 years.
The concept of holiness is internal, yet at the same time, the outward appearance marks us as much as it did Samson. So, don't abandon physical appearance; his physical appearance was not mere legalism. It marked him. Today, anybody who mentions dress is a legalist. Was the Apostle Paul a legalist? NO! But you read where he told women how not to wear their hair and what kind of jewelry not to put on.
You don't believe. . .Turn to I Timothy 1:9, "Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing (that's fine Paul; he goes further) modestly and discreetly (we get the point Paul, stop there; he goes further) not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments." NO gold, pearls and He's even telling them to stay away from exhortantly priced clothing! All the husbands are thinking, "Yes, Stephen, preach it brother, more more! You listening honey - he's preaching the whole council. . .
In Paul's day, it was the harlot who braided her hair (she wore a backless dress, and by braiding her hair she exposed herself to men, coming or going. She was laden with gold jewelry - she literally jingled when she walked - a walking advertisement. Because of her prosperous occupation, she was capable of buying the most expensive fabrics that ultimately made her look her best and drew the most attention.
I remember hearing Chuck Swindoll preaching on this subject and he made a very interesting observation - Husbands, wake up to the way your wives dress - they may be unconsciously asking for your attention. I'll take that a step further and include daughters. Dad, husband, your wife and daughter may be un-consciously asking for your attention - and they may seek it elsewhere.
The problem with Samson - he followed the outside standards while ignoring inner holiness. His hair was long but his heart was disobedient.
Let's go back to Judges and principle #3.
3) Anyone who ignores internal quality will be governed by external attraction.
14:1 Then Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines.
v 2. So he came back and told his father and mother, "I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.
The custom of the day - marriages were arranged by parents. The Hebrew placed emphasis on the word "Woman". What Samson is saying, "Dad and Mom, I was down in Timnah the other day and you won't believe the woman I saw!"
Nothing wrong with physical attraction - I married the woman who knocked me out - I used to love to go to Brit. Lit.
The problem isn't in being physically attracted, the problem occurs when you look at the wrong person.
They react with shock - 14:3 Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?" you can almost see Samson's teeth clenched with defiance - 3b. ". . .Get her for me. . ."
Did you notice that the very first recorded words of Samson are "I saw a woman!" With those words, there worlds fell apart.
4) A parent, committed to the Word, may never reap godliness in his child.
I've talked with parents with broken hearts; phone calls. . .
Resources Squandered by Samson:
- born miraculously - Marsha
- godly parents - who loved the Lord and each other
- blessed with a unique mission from God
- empowered by the Spirit of God
Rephrase; Immoral people may have been raised by spiritual parents and all spiritual resources. Samson means sunny. . .he was the light of their life. . .grew up and broke their heart.
5) Samson's own life mirrored the failure of Israel as a nation.
Samson's life is a sermon all by itself!
- Samson refused the authority of God's word/so did Israel
- Samson refused the parameters of the Nazerite vow/Israel rejected it's covenant parameters. (intermarriage)
- Samson refused the counsel of his godly parents/the people were ignoring the priesthood. Eli was priest at this time - perhaps the people cannot be faulted with the fact that he was weak inconsistent leader!
Would you notice a phrase repeated twice - 3b- "she looks good" and 7. "So he went down and talked to the woman; and she looked good to Samson."
Look at the ending of this book - it says it all! Chapter 21:25 - "And everyone did that which was right in their own eyes"
6) The failure of God's people never derail the purposes of God.
God intentions do not become paralyzed by our immorality.
Samson would fulfill his destiny by beginning the delivery of Israel from the Philistines - even in his disobedience.
Now look at verse 5. Then Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came as far as the vineyards of Timnah; and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him.
6. And the Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a kid though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done.
skip to 8. When he returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion.
9. So he scraped the honey into his hands and went on , eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it; but he did not tell them that he scraped the honey out of the body of the lion.
Samson has violated the Nazarite vow - he has touched a dead animal. Does God strike him down; does a voice thunder from heaven? NO.
Samson brashly turns the episode into a riddle at his wedding party.
Look further at verse 10. Then his father went down to the woman; and Samson made a feast there, for the young men customarily did this. Problem - the Hebrew word feast could be literally translated, "Drinking party". This may also be yet another instance of Samson violating the Nazerite vow never to drink from the fruit of the vine.
Did God thunder from heaven? Did judgement fall? No, but God was fulfilling His purposes! Problem is, Samson took God's silence as approval or apathy! Which leads me to the next lesson from Samson's life.
7) One of the most deceptive incentives to sin is the idea that God doesn't seem to be in a hurry to execute judgement.
Eccl. 8:11 "When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.
We can't tarry here; I've addressed this subject before.
The party is thrown; the riddle is given - 14:12. Then Samson said to them, "Let me now propound a riddle to you - verse 14. So he said to them, "Out of the eater came something to eat and out of the strong came something sweet. The Philistine men can't figure it out; they'll lose the bet and owe Samson 30 new Easter outfits.
So they pressure the little bride. "Use your charm on him - cry a little: Note verse 16. And Samson's wife wept before him and said, "You only hate me, and you do not love me" (Fellas, do you know what this means; this means wives have been doing this for 5,000 years and we still haven't figured it out) 17. However she wept before him 7 days while their feast lasted. And it came about on the seventh day that he told her because she pressed him so hard." (I love it!)
Samson will lose the bet and also his wife. Trouble is Samson won't learn from experience!
That leads me to the final lesson. . .
8) A man, controlled by his passions, may never gain insight from his past.
The key word in 14:17 is - "pressed". Same word found in 16:16 where Delilah "urged" him to tell him his secret.
He falls prey to another woman, named Delilah.
He is overcome by her tears and literally "pressure".
He gives away a secret that will jeopardize himself.
A person who is controlled by their emotions and passions is at risk - they are moving without understanding!
No wonder Solomon wrote, probably from experience:
"Why should you, my son, be exhilarated with an adulteress, and embrace the bosom of a foreigner? For the ways of a man are before the eyes of the Lord, and He watches all his paths.
His own iniquities will capture the wicked, and he will be held with the cords of his own sin.
He will die for lack of instruction and in the greatness of his foolishness he will go astray.
The last record of Samson's parents are found in 16:31.
Then his brothers and all his father's household came down, took him, brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father." The man who had it made and threw it all away!