The Trap of Failing to Learn Lessons

May 3, 2013 at 9:40 am | Posted in Traps of Lawless Living | 4 Comments
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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.

Romans 7:18-19

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.

Galatians 5:16-17

Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.

Psalm 119:11

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.

Colossians 3:16

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:

Romans 7:22

The Trap of Looking instead of Listening

April 10, 2013 at 11:22 am | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, Traps of Lawless Living | 5 Comments
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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.

Judges 13:5

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.

Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?

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)

Samson was guilty of ignoring what he had been told to do and going about to see what he might see. As Christians, we must remember to walk by faith and not by sight, and that faith comes by hearing.

The Trap of Listening to Lies

March 4, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Posted in Traps of Lawless Living | 5 Comments
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Samson was not a man to be trifled with. At times he could explode in a fit of anger and lash out at those who had crossed him. The superhuman strength he possessed by the power of God’s Holy Spirit allowed him, at times like these, to wipe out vast numbers of men (Judges 14:19; 15:7-8; 15:15). It’s too bad, though, that he was not as quick to access the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, as he was His strength.

Part of the problem seems to have been Samson’s gullibility, especially when it came to women. After ignoring the sound advice of his parents, who had warned him against taking a Philistine wife, Samson made a wager based on a riddle, and challenged the men at the wedding party to solve it.

And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find [it] out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments: But if ye cannot declare [it] me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it.

Judges 14:12-13

After three days’ worth of guesses, the would-be riddle-solvers decided to cheat, and they extorted Samson’s new bride into finding out the answer for them. Her method for getting the answer from Samson, while perhaps understandable given her circumstances, was extremely disingenuous.

And Samson’s wife wept before him, and said, Thou dost but hate me, and lovest me not: thou hast put forth a riddle unto the children of my people, and hast not told [it] me. And he said unto her, Behold, I have not told [it] my father nor my mother, and shall I tell [it] thee? And she wept before him the seven days, while their feast lasted: and it came to pass on the seventh day, that he told her, because she lay sore upon him: and she told the riddle to the children of her people.

Judges 14:16-17

Certainly the continual guilt-tripping and nagging of his wife played a part in Samson’s capitulation, but, even though the betrayal cost him dearly, it was not the last time he would fall for this same ploy.

Perhaps Samson’s most well-known escapade had to do with the deceptive trap set by his final female consort, the infamous Delilah, who managed to get Samson to reveal what he believed to be the source of his supernatural strength (his uncut hair), so that she could hand him over to his Philistine enemies.

And she said unto him, How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart [is] not with me? thou hast mocked me these three times, and hast not told me wherein thy great strength [lieth]. And it came to pass, when she pressed him daily with her words, and urged him, [so] that his soul was vexed unto death; That he told her all his heart, and said unto her, There hath not come a razor upon mine head; for I [have been] a Nazarite unto God from my mother’s womb: if I be shaven, then my strength will go from me, and I shall become weak, and be like any [other] man.

Judges 16:15-17

It seems that Samson had a real propensity for ignoring the truth and believing lies, and it is a propensity which has been shared by mankind since the beginning. The Bible warns us that there is great danger in rejecting truth, and that we must beware because lies can be very seductive. The solution for avoiding this trap takes resolve, yet it is very simple: Keep your mind renewed in the absolute truth of the Word of God, and keep its principles and precepts continually before your eyes.

My son, keep thy father’s commandment, and forsake not the law of thy mother: Bind them continually upon thine heart, [and] tie them about thy neck. When thou goest, it shall lead thee; when thou sleepest, it shall keep thee; and [when] thou awakest, it shall talk with thee. For the commandment [is] a lamp; and the law [is] light; and reproofs of instruction [are] the way of life: To keep thee from the evil woman, from the flattery of the tongue of a strange woman.

Proverbs 6:20-24

The Trap of Lust

February 20, 2013 at 10:35 am | Posted in Traps of Lawless Living | 12 Comments
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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.

Judges 14:1-3

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?

Proverbs 6:24-28

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.

Matthew 5:27-28

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.

The Trap of Leaving Our Limits

February 4, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Posted in Traps of Lawless Living | 8 Comments
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People are not saved from the penalty of sin by obeying laws or keeping rules. However, Christians (those who have already been saved by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ) should love God’s laws and should seek to avoid the traps that come with living as though God has not given us laws to obey. In this series of lessons, we will identify several traps of “lawless living” by looking at the account of Samson in the Book of Judges.

Samson’s death occurred when he pulled down a Philistine temple with himself and thousands of Philistines inside. Samson, who was empowered by the Holy Spirit, had the strength to make the most stable structures unstable, but, in a twist of irony, he himself was one of the most unstable men in the whole Bible. According to Scripture, the source of instability in a man is double-mindedness.

A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

James 1:8

Those who have the singleness of mind that comes with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit need not be so double-minded. A single-minded Christian will respect God-ordained boundaries, whereas a double-minded person crosses boundaries at his peril.

Samson was born in Zorah, a city in Dan, near the Philistine border.

And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not.

Judges 13:2

He was one of those babies in the Bible where his birth had been foretold to his mother or his parents, like Isaac (Abraham and Sarah); Samuel (Hannah); and Jesus (Mary and Joseph). Some servants of God are chosen in a special way before their birth.

Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.

Jeremiah 1:4

But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb, and called me by his grace,

Galatians 1:15

In Samson’s case the angel appeared to Manoah’s wife, and then to both of them together. Although Manoah’s wife was thought to be barren, the angel told her that the child was to be a Nazarite from birth. John the Baptist is another example of someone who was chosen by God to be a life-long Nazarite. A Nazarite vow was normally a voluntary vow for a stated period of time, but for Samson, it meant that he was supposed to refrain from drinking wine or strong drink all his days.

Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. All the days of the vow of his separation there shall no razor come upon his head: until the days be fulfilled, in the which he separateth himself unto the Lord, he shall be holy, and shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow. All the days that he separateth himself unto the Lord he shall come at no dead body.

Numbers 6:2-6

He wasn’t allowed to touch dead bodies or get a haircut, either. It is helpful to make a distinction between Jesus, who was a Nazarene (from the town of Nazareth), but not a Nazarite (which means consecrated or separated under those particular Old Testament requirements). These restrictions were Samson’s 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. He went into a vineyard. He had a wedding feast involving wine. He touched the dead carcass of a lion he had killed.

Do we respect our boundaries as Christians? Or are we double-minded and unstable like Samson? Often we excuse ourselves by thinking that we don’t want to really do any harm – that we just want to have a little fun. We think we can just step over our boundaries a little.

And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines.

Judges 14:1

Samson went down to Timnath, not to make war against the Philistines, which was his calling, but to look for a woman. We might say he was “looking for love in all the wrong places.” Let us remember that God has ordained boundaries for our own safety. If we cross over into sin, we lose our ability to determine the consequences.


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