Tags: 2 Corinthians 4, Colossians 3, eyesight, Hebrews 12, James Moffatt, jawbone of an ass, Judges 15, Samson
Samson: a man known for his tremendous, albeit supernatural, physical strength. Among his various exploits, the most well-known is probably his tryst with, and betrayal by, the Philistine seductress, Delilah. If pressed to name another Samsonite adventure though, the average church-attender would probably say, “One time, Samson killed a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey!”
And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands. And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.
When Samson had accomplished this mighty task, he found that he was parched, but he still had the energy to pause and compose a little ditty to celebrate his victory:
And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.
This verse loses some of its lyrical wit when translated into English, but the idea is that there is a play on the Hebrew words for “ass” or “donkey” (chamowr in Hebrew) and “heap” (chamorah in Hebrew). The theologian James Moffatt tried to capture the flavor of the pun by paraphrasing the verse. In his translation, Samson’s song or poem would go something like this:
With the jawbone of an ass
I have piled them in a mass.
With the jawbone of an ass
I have assailed assailants.
With the jawbone of an ass
I have slain a thousand men.
Catchy, huh? From Samson’s point of view it was just another day in a life filled with whatever came to pass as he pursued his passions and battled his personal demons. We might expect a man with Samson’s calling and endued with such power to use this miraculous feat as the launching point for a concerted effort to unite his countrymen, draw near to God in gratitude and trust, and to throw off the yoke of the Philistine oppressors once and for all. Alas, it was not to be. In the very next chapter Samson goes into Gaza to visit a prostitute.
What was Samson’s problem? It appears to have been a vision problem. Instead of looking up to God, he kept his sights trained on the day-to-day, the mundane, and the instantly gratifying sensations of fleshly adventure. In other words, he looked – and aimed – far too low.
May we not fall into this trap ourselves. We were made and redeemed by God for purposes far greater than the temporal pursuit of pleasure. But we need to fix our eyes in the right direction, or we will quickly forget our holy calling.
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
II Corinthians 4:18 (emphasis added)
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
Colossians 3:1-2 (emphasis added)
Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:2 (emphasis added)
Tags: 2 Corinthians 4, Eternity, Judges 13, Judges 16, Matthew 6, myopia, Samson, short-sighted, temporal
The birth of Samson is recorded at the end of Judges Chapter 13, and the next three chapters tell the story of his life. As his deeds are being described, the phrase “and it came to pass” is found seven times.
In Judges 14:11 he was about to celebrate the feast at his wedding to a woman he had no business marrying. In Judges 14:15 his wife was being persuaded by Samson’s enemies to betray him by revealing the answer to his riddle. In Judges 14:17 he gave in to her. In Judges 15:1 he bickered with his father-in-law. In Judges 15:17 he had just finished making up a silly little song to celebrate killing 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. In Judges 16:4 he made another bad choice in romancing a forbidden woman. In Judges 16:16 he was annoyed with her for trying to coax another secret from him. Sinful partying, illicit lust, gambling, fits of anger, marital squabbling, family bickering, and pointless word games. Judges 15:20 tells us that Samson “judged” Israel for 20 years. You would think, in that length of time, a man with Samson’s tremendous supernatural strength and Holy Spirit-anointing would have been able to make more progress in delivering his people from Philistine oppression.
Alas, it appears that he was more preoccupied with the here-and-now than he was in accomplishing the long-term objective assigned to him by the Lord. If you are a Christian – especially a Christian man – are you thinking about (and living) your life with the “eternal” or the “temporal” in view? Are you planning mainly for the next weekend or for the next generation? Are you building your Heavenly Father’s eternal kingdom or playing games in the personal little kingdom you have constructed around yourself?
While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
II Corinthians 4:18
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
It is important to take a “long-term” view of our lives in light of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in light of the fact that what we do here on Earth, during the brief time we are given, does matter.
Here is the last time the phrase “and it came to pass” is used in the account of Samson:
And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said, Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and they set him between the pillars.
Samson, who had lived much of his life as if it were one big joke, was now being made the butt of his enemies’ joke. Will you and I pass through this world lightly skimming the surface, seeking shallow entertainment and amusing distractions? Or will we plunge in with a determination to make a lasting impact, with the ripples from our lives spreading on into future generations, and even into eternity, to the glory of our great God?
Tags: church membership, companionship, Ecclesiastes 4, friendship, Hebrews 10, John 15, Judges 15, Judges 16, Proverbs 27, Samson
In the last lesson on Samson’s pattern of lawless living, I advocated banishing the term “luck” from our vocabulary as we think about God’s sovereign and providential control of the circumstances in which we find ourselves day by day. Another example is the way in which Samson only appears to have been “unlucky in love.”
From his marriage to the girl from Timnath, who ended up with the fellow who had been the “best man” in his wedding (Judges 14:20), to the harlot from Gaza, who was nothing more than a one-night-stand (Judges 16:1-3), finally to Delilah, who had to manipulate him repeatedly to get the secret of his super strength out of him (Judges 16:15), Samson does not seem to have been the type of man who was big on emotional or spiritual intimacy. (Physical intimacy was obviously another story!)
Even in the area of non-sexual friendship, though, Samson appears to have been very aloof. Over the four chapters which recount his life, there are no close friendships, no male camaraderie, no sharing of his thoughts or feelings with any sort of trusted “confidant” (aside from Delilah). When his own countrymen came to see him, they found him sitting alone on top of a rock, and he made no special attempt to reason or fellowship with them. Rather, he sulkily told them he was a man motivated by a personal grudge, and asked them not to attack him personally as they handed him over to the Philistines (Judges 15:11-12).
One of the lessons we may learn from Samson’s life is the danger of trusting those who are not trustworthy, but another valuable lesson is the danger that lies when we fall into the trap of being a “lone ranger” in the Christian life. God does not command his people to live a life of monkish isolation. Instead, His Word often extols the benefits of healthy companionship.
Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up.
Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
Maybe it’s overly simplistic, but I like to wonder what would have happened if Samson had made a couple of trusted friends during his time as a Judge over Israel. Perhaps, if there was someone in which to confide, someone to give wise counsel, Samson could have rallied his kinsmen against the Philistines in a concerted God-honoring effort and ended the cycle of wrath and repentance sooner. Judges 14:20 is the only mention of Samson even having a friend, and it says that Samson only “used” him as a friend. As Christians today, we certainly need to be wary of placing our trust in those who have yet to demonstrate a Godly character, but, at the same time, God has placed us into a “family” of brothers and sisters, and Christian friendship can be a terrific asset as we invest our lives in serving our Lord and our fellow human beings.
Henceforth I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.
Tags: chance, good fortune, Judges 16, luck, lucky stars, Proverbs 16, Proverbs 18, Samson, Spider-Man
Samson appears to have had a preoccupation with Philistine women. First, he wanted to marry one, then, in Judges 16, we find him visiting a Philistine prostitute.
Then went Samson to Gaza, and saw there an harlot, and went in unto her.
Judges 16:1 (emphasis added)
Once again, Samson was tempted by what he saw, and the fact that he “went in unto her” means that he eagerly acted upon the temptation. While this was going on, his enemies, the Gazites, surrounded him during the night.
[And it was told] the Gazites, saying, Samson is come hither. And they compassed [him] in, and laid wait for him all night in the gate of the city, and were quiet all the night, saying, In the morning, when it is day, we shall kill him.
Something roused Samson at midnight and warned him of the danger. Since there is no indication in Scripture that Samson had a special “spider-sense” like the comic book hero, Spider-Man, it seems likely that God in His providence woke Samson at what would seem to unbelievers to be a “fortuitous” time.
And Samson lay till midnight, and arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them, bar and all, and put [them] upon his shoulders, and carried them up to the top of an hill that [is] before Hebron.
The fact that the very next verse tells of his “love” for Delilah indicates that Samson believed he was invincible. He does not give thanks to God for rescuing him. He does not heed the warning that his sin is repeatedly placing him in danger. He simply relies on the fact that he “somehow” keeps getting away with it, and continues to do it over and over again.
Have you ever escaped from a close call and found yourself “thanking your lucky stars?” Ever marveled at some blessing you received by calling it a “lucky break?” If we are not careful, we will forget the truth that in our God-controlled and -monitored universe, there is no such thing as “luck,” and, in the truest sense, the terms “accident” and “chance” are misnomers for the providence of the Lord. Samson kept defying God’s will for his life until his “luck ran out,” but what really happened is that he drove God’s presence from his life with such carelessness and defiance that the Spirit of the Lord finally left him (Judges 16:20).
We would do well to delete the term “luck” from our vocabulary and to banish the idea of random chance from our thinking. As Christians, we need to trust in the Lord our God, and – with eyes of faith – to see His invisible hand at work in all our circumstances, surroundings, appointments, and encounters.
The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord.
The lot causeth contentions to cease, and parteth between the mighty.
Tags: Colossians 3, experience, Galatians 5, Judges 14, Judges 16, Psalm 119, Romans 7, Samson, Samson and Delilah
They say that the definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. I don’t think that Samson was “insane” in the clinical sense, but we sure have to wonder about his tendency to repeat the same mistakes. They also say that those who will not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Two times, with two different women, Samson was tricked into revealing a secret to his own detriment: Judges 14:16-18; 16:6-19. In fact, on the second occasion – with Delilah – he was fooled multiple times by the same ploy.
Where was Samson’s ability to gauge cause-and-effect? Where was his “nonsense” filter? Where was his aptitude to learn from his own mistakes? The same place yours and mine so often is: buried beneath a layer of sinful flesh.
For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
If you are a Christian, then the Lord has set you free from the bondage of the Law by His love and grace. However, our march toward complete surrender to His will and total conformity to the image of Christ is more of an uphill climb over rocky terrain than a casual stroll though a peaceful park. Thankfully, God has given us His Spirit to indwell us, His Word to instruct us, and His body to influence us.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.
Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
Experience can be a valuable teacher, but it is in our nature – apart from God – to repeat our mistakes. Our best method for learning from our failures is: (1) to yield to the Lord’s Spirit, remembering that He has set us free from the power of sin; (2) to stay focused on the Bible with the intention of obeying it; (3) to find brothers and sisters in Christ in a local Bible-teaching and -believing church who will hold you accountable in love.
For I delight in the law of God after the inward man:
Tags: communication, curiosity, eyesight, Genesis 3, Judges 13, Judges 14, Samson, verbal learning, visual learning, walking by faith
An angel appeared to Samson’s mother before his birth and declared to her that Samson’s purpose in life was going to have to do with delivering God’s people from their Philistine oppressors.
For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.
It seems likely that Samson’s parents must have relayed this information to Samson when he grew older, but Samson’s life seems to have been more of a series of side-tracked adventures than of purposeful and steadfast accomplishment. Part of his problem was that he allowed curiosity to distract him, and he was strongly tempted by what he saw.
And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, [Is there] never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. But his father and his mother knew not that it [was] of the LORD, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel. Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and [he had] nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done. And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well. And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, [there was] a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion.
Judges 14:1-8 (emphasis added)
Certainly, eyesight is a great gift from God. Visual learning is one of our primary means of acquiring knowledge. However, while there are certainly some illustrated sermons in the Bible (where the prophecy of Scripture is acted out rather than communicated verbally), by and large, Christianity is a “verbal” religion. “Thus saith the Lord” was the preface to many if not most of God’s great specific revelations. Scripture is replete with commands to “hearken” (to hear and to listen). The “let those who have ears to hear” outnumber the “let those who have eyes to see.” At the beginning, when mankind first fell into sin by failing to heed God’s words, the tendency to look rather than listen played a key role in the decision to disobey.
Genesis 3:1 (emphasis added)
And when the woman saw that the tree [was] good for food, and that it [was] pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make [one] wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
Genesis 3:6 (emphasis added)
Tags: diligence, Exodus 20, hard work, Judges 13, Judges 15, Proverbs 13, Romans 12, Samson, slothfulness, sluggard
The Biblical hero Samson was consecrated from his birth, and was blessed by God as he grew to adulthood.
And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him.
God’s calling upon his life was that he deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines (Judges 13:5). However, as Samson reached adulthood, we might wonder how much self-motivation he had when it came to performing this honorable task.
And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.
Judges 13:25 (emphasis added)
The Hebrew word translated “to move” in this verse has a connotation of violent persistence. It is almost as if the Holy Spirit had to beat Samson into action, so that he could begin to accomplish his purpose in life.
We tend to think of Samson as a “man of action,” with all his exploits – single-handedly slaying large numbers of Philistines, rounding up animals and setting them on fire, carrying off the doors of a city’s gate, fighting a lion, carousing with loose women, making up riddles, and generally causing mischief. However, the fact is, Samson was something of a sluggard when it came to getting down to the Lord’s business. For in addition to his battles, he is also seen wandering off the path into a vineyard, lounging about at a feast, dwelling idly atop a mountain, and dozing on Delilah’s lap while God’s enemies plotted his capture just outside. In fact, once, after avenging himself of a personal insult, he decided to simply call it quits.
And Samson said unto them, Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.
Judges 15:7 (emphasis added)
Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:
The Bible contains numerous warnings against idleness and laziness.
The soul of the sluggard desireth, and [hath] nothing: but the soul of the diligent shall be made fat.
The principle of hard work is highlighted as a Christian ethic in the New Testament as well.
Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;
As Christians we have divine callings upon our lives, every bit as much as Samson did, although certainly not the same one. Staying busy accomplishes a multifaceted purpose: It keeps us from lapsing into sin through inactivity; it brings blessings into our lives; and it glorifies the Lord.
Tags: 1 John 2, Judges 14, looking, lust, lust of the eyes, Matthew 5, power of Christ, Samson, sexual temptation, temptation
Samson was under a Nazarite vow. God had placed clear boundaries on his life. These boundaries were meant for Samson’s protection, not to limit his fun. But Samson unlawfully crossed these boundaries. Physically, he crossed the boundary into Philistia, not to serve God, but to satisfy his own appetites. Spiritually, he crossed the boundary of his own Nazarite vow for the same reasons.
And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.
Samson was so intent on having this woman for himself that he disrespectfully went against the wishes of his parents. What was it that he liked so much about this woman? He hadn’t talked to her. He hadn’t smelled her perfume. He hadn’t kissed her. He hadn’t even touched her. No, when he said to his father, “She pleaseth me well,” he meant, “I like the way she looks.”
Sinful lust is a dangerous thing.
To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman. Lust not after her beauty in thine heart; neither let her take thee with her eyelids. For by means of a whorish woman a man is brought to a piece of bread: and the adultress will hunt for the precious life. Can a man take fire in his bosom, and his clothes not be burned? Can one go upon hot coals, and his feet not be burned?
It is dangerous because it is so often associated with what we see, and temptation is almost everywhere. It is a trap that is often attractively baited, difficult to escape from, and brutally destructive. Note the close association between sinful lust and “looking:”
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.
For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
I John 2:16 (emphasis added)
The admonition to “guard your eyes” has become passé and legalistic-sounding in our modern society, but it remains eminently wise advice. Lust complicated the life of Samson, and many others around him. It tends toward heartache, pain, defilement, and shame. We must beware of it and avoid it in the power of Christ.