Samson’s story gives us keys to winning our battles against today’s world.
[Darris McNeely] Good evening, everyone. Welcome to our Beyond Today Bible study here in Cincinnati, at the home office of the United Church of God. Glad to see all of you out here tonight. And I would also like to welcome those who are online watching tonight live wherever you may be, and those who will be watching this later when it is archived on the web, welcome. We are beginning a new Bible study series tonight with the Beyond Today. We’re going to the Judges. We’re going to cover several of the eminent Judges that are mentioned in the Book by the name of the Judges, and tonight we’re going to start with Samson. Since I think I drew the long straw and got to go first, I got to choose who I wanted to talk about and I just like Samson. So we’re going to go through Samson tonight. But before we get into that, let’s go ahead and ask God’s blessing on the Bible study, so if you all will bow your heads, and you can remain seated, I’ll ask God’s blessings.
Our God and our Father, we thank You for this evening, the opportunity that we have to gather here in this Bible study. We ask Your blessing and Your guidance upon the teaching of Your Word and lessons that we can learn not only the historical, biblical story of, in this case, Samson during a period of the Judges, but also the application for it in our own lives as we strive to live righteously in our own world, in our own time. So, Father, we ask for Your guidance here, and Your blessing upon the hearing, the teaching that this video, this Bible study goes out and is heard later, it will bear fruit, that Your Spirit would magnify what is accomplished and what is said in the preaching the gospel. So we pray for Your blessing, we ask Your direction, we thank You and ask it all in Christ’s holy name, Amen.
All right. “The Judges,” and tonight we’re going to be talking about “Samson Battling the Gates of Hell.” Why did I choose that subtitle for the larger title of this series? Well, we will see as we get into it. Let me preface just a little bit. This is where we’ll wind up, so maybe we can at least know a little bit about where we are going. The book of Judges is a history. It’s an ancient history of a time that we might think we don’t know a whole lot about in the Bible record, but we do know a lot about some of the individuals and the characters. It was a time that predated the monarchy of Saul of David and Solomon. It was after the time of the conquest of the land, but it is a story of God ruling over His people through key individuals that were called Judges.
And while it is an ancient story, each one of those stories is very, very relevant to something about our lives today that we should understand. And my choosing this one in terms of Samson being the pre-eminent warrior really, of all the Judges in, the story here of this book, Samson gets a lot of good press in our modern world. There’s just recently been released a new movie made by an evangelical group but it’s being run in theaters. I see that it’s in our local theater here in Milford called Samson, a remake of one. The original was done, there was one done back in 1950s one of those sandals and robe type of biblical epics that Hollywood was famous for at that time. They’ve just done a new one and I don’t know too much about it other than it follows the story. I’ve just seen the trailer, but I haven’t seen the movie.
I may be the only one that would think this, but actually studying and getting into the story is a whole lot better than the movie. The movie can be generate a lot of interest and, you know, techniques and computer-generated images and everything, but for me, it’s kind of digging into the backstory and understanding what was really taking place, and bringing it forward into our time, to me is really helpful. And in this case, Samson was battling against the gates of hell and the people called the Philistines that he had to deal with and frankly that Israel had to deal with. And there’s several lessons for us to learn as we deal with our own Philistines and in our lives. I could have just as well put another subtitle on there and maybe if I give this again, or work into a sermon maybe I’ll do that. Have you killed any Philistines lately? And that really brings it down to us. We’ll see why as we go along.
So let’s jump into the story. Samson’s story is told in three chapters, Judges 14, 15, and 16. And we’re not going to be able to read through all the words here. I’m going to just hit on selections and kind of hit the high points of the story as we go through this here tonight, and draw some pertinent lessons here. It is in the time of the Judges. Now, this period of the Judges as I said, kind of is in that period between Moses and Joshua. The conquest of the land after the exodus by the children of Israel under Joshua, Joshua and his generation die off. And there’s a period of about all 325 years after the conquest of the promised land under Joshua during which these matters take place until we come up to the time let’s say of Saul and David and Solomon of the United Monarchy there.
So there’s this period where there’s no king. Moses and Joshua in that generation has died, and we’re not into the other larger than life figures, let’s say, of King David. There are a period during which these Judges, these individuals rise up and have sway and rule over parts, if not all, of the tribes that are scattered throughout the land that has been conquered. We step up a little bit further back and look at the larger context of what’s happening in the neighborhood around the land, or the promised land to be called the Land of Israel. Egypt is no longer a power. The Exodus has really dropped Egypt down several notches with the death of the firstborn, with the destruction of part of the army of Pharaoh and a lot of things that happened there in the time of the Exodus. So Egypt is no longer just point having a lot of influence up in this part of the world.
There was a pharaoh about this time by the name of Ramesses II, he tried to make Egypt great again but he failed. In fact, they lost all of their possessions up in this area and up into the area of Asia. The Assyrian Empire which is one we read about later in the in the story of the Old Testament has not yet come together. They haven’t taken center stage, so they are kind of a weak, scattered area up to the north, and no one has even heard of Babylon at this point and time, all right?
So those great powers to come are not players in the story. In fact, there is no world power to threaten Israel. And that’s by God’s design. God brought Israel into the land and, kind of, put him in a cocoon to be able to develop according to His purpose and His plan that He laid out before them to be a kingdom of priests, a people modeling His way of life, living under the covenant, and He protected them by kind of creating buffers with the lesser the powers all around them, and they’re in a protective cocoon, but they are in a period of, let’s say, semi-independent. You’ve got 12 tribes, no one leader, and the only cohesion that you have in the story here at this time are the priesthood. There’s a central religious shrine inside a place called Shiloh, not Jerusalem, Jerusalem is still a Jebusite city in just a dusty little village.
The tabernacle is at a place called Shiloh, and that’s where the priesthood operates, and that’s where the tribes gather every season to keep the Holy Days in the spring, in the summer, in the fall. And that’s the one area of unity that they have. If we look at Judges 3, we will see that after the conquest, the inhabitants of the land, many of them were overcome, but not all of them were driven out. In Judges 3 tells us that there were certain nations left which God allowed and wanted that he might test Israel by them, that is all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan. So there were certain nations that were left, Hittites and the ones who were going to deal with in the story of Samson, there’s a group called the Philistines. They were left in the land, and they were there to test Israel. It goes on in verse 3 here to say that there were “five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal and Hermon through the entrance of Hamath.”
So there were the Philistines as the period and the grouping of individuals that were going to focus on at this particular time. If we look at the Philistines and understand something, then we have a background to get into the story of Samson. Of all the peoples, the other tribes, the other nations that were left in the land to test Israel, the Philistines in the story seem the most of formidable. They’re the ones that are actually very, very interesting. They were people who settled on the coastal region of the land. They have five major cities and centers that are mentioned. They had a place called Gaza, which, when you hear the news today about the Gaza Strip in Israel and the Palestinians that are holed up there launching rocket attacks, digging tunnels out to plague the state of Israel. It’s the same Gaza, same area, Ashkelon and Ashdod and Ekron and Gath.
If you remember Gath because it’s always associated with the giant named Goliath that comes on the scene later in the story during the time of David and Saul. David slays Goliath, but he is this giant among many we’ve seen from this area of Gath. Now, one of the things about the Philistines to understand, when you look at the history of this group of people, they really don’t know exactly where they came from, but they do know that they came into the land of what we will call Israel. They came there about the same time that the tribes were coming in under Joshua.
The tribes came in from the east, and the Philistines came some field from the south and settled in the coastal area of the land. Israel eventually settled in the higher levels of Galilee and the lands between Galilee running down toward Jerusalem and Judea. And the land, if you understand the geography, kind of slopes to the west toward the Mediterranean down some low hills into a coastal plain area. And so that coastal plain that the Philistines had their cities, and their region that they occupied. It was along that region as well that the Philistines had interaction with people’s coming down and up from Egypt and down from Asia.
If you look at the map that we have up here you will see a little bit about that. The green is the area settled known as the land of Canaan, and you see the Dead Sea there toward the bottom, which is kind of the larger body of water, the Mediterranean Ocean off to the left. Egypt is down in the lower left-hand corner, and it stretches all the way up to the upper right-hand area then disappears up into Asia. But the green represents essentially the land that was to be given to the tribes but remember God left certain other nations there to test Israel. And it is along that coastal area that we see the area that was settled by the Philistines. And this particular map shows a little bit more detail of that. These are actually NASA-generated, topographical maps that are taken off of the satellite imagery.
And if you will see that along the coastal area there that darker shaded area, the area closer to the coast is essentially the Philistine area. And all that to the right is what was settled by the 12 tribes of Israel during the time of Joshua. And so, this is kind of a setting for the story here that is told in Judges, and the Philistines are occupying this land off to the left, that darker region right there in their areas. Now, Israel settled up in the higher elevations of the land. One of the things you should note if you would just look at the… you see the tribes that come down there, Manasseh, and Ephraim all the way down to Judah. Geographically, Israel did settle in a protected area even from off of the main trade route. The trade route that I mentioned earlier ran up along the coast south out of Egypt hugging the Mediterranean to the left, and then went on up into Asia actually curved around by the Sea of Galilee one part of it, and another went on up the coast off of the map there.
This was… It was called the Via Maris, the way of the sea. And essentially, it was the interstate highway of the day. Caravans coming out of Asia to Egypt, coming out of Egypt going up into Asia carrying trade were regularly going up back and forth there when Joseph, remember the story of Joseph when he was sold into Egyptian slavery, there was a caravan coming along on the interstate and his brothers stopped it, sold him, took him on down into Egypt. The Philistines were right in the center of all of this interstate traffic. And as a result, they were more influenced by the cultures and customs of all the various Asiatic peoples, the Egyptians, Israel was not theoretically. They were sheltered from that by being off into the upper mountainous area of the central area of the land and somewhat more sheltered from that commerce, and the cultural influences religion and otherwise that would have been a part of that mix there.
I said that the Philistines and the Israelites came into the land at about the same time. That is also interesting to note. When you look at the story of God’s people, here and the story of Israel, it’s important to realize that Israel, the 12 tribe grouping descended from the 12 sons of Jacob were an interesting group of people. If you remember from the stories in Genesis about Jacob, and his sons Judah, Simeon and Levi, Joseph, Benjamin and all the interesting stories out of there that deal with intrigue, revenge, Simeon and Levi because their daughter, Dinah was ravaged. They tricked this group of this other family, this other tribe into getting circumcised. And on the eighth day, while they were laying around recovering, they went in and killed all the men, because their sister, Dinah, had been raped. I mean, that’s kind of crazy. All right.
Think about that, what type of clan does that? These peoples, you know, I mean, they sold their brother Joseph. They sold him. What type of thinking is that going on? My point is Israel left to their own devices, they were just as human as anyone else. And when God brought that nation together, and these tribes and He put them in the land, they were given an opportunity, and the only reason that they were holy, or special, was because of this covenant relationship that… and as long as they lived according to that code, they could do pretty good. They could become a kingdom a priests. They could become a holy people. But as you know when they veered off of that, they got into some big problems. Humanly, they were no different from the Philistines. The Philistines were just thoroughly pagan, and they knew they were, right? At least Israel didn’t have an excuse. They should have known better.
And various times they sunk into some pretty bad behavior. But the end of the story of Judges, you remember that it was the tribe of Benjamin that went chaotic and dismembered a body and sent it all through the tribes to make a point, “Don’t mess with us.” So Philistines, Israel. The Philistines thoroughly modern pagans for the day. Israel or the tribes ruled periodically by men and one woman called Judges who kind of kept at bay these forces of these Hittites, these Canaanites, these Perizzites, these peoples called the Philistines, they kept them back in the corner and away from totally overrunning Israel and pushing them out.
From time to time God would raise these individuals up, a Deborah, a Barak, an Ehud, a Jephthah, and in this case, a Samson to accomplish His purpose and His will among the people. And so that’s important to understand, God during this time was really the king. He was their leader. Remember when they wanted a king and they said to Samuel, “We want a King like the others.” God said to Samuel, “Look, they’ve not rejected you, Samuel. They have rejected Me for being king over them.”
During the time of the Judges, God was their king. As long as they lived up to that and followed His teachings, they were okay. He promised to protect them. But it’s when they failed that they had the problems. As we know from the end of the book of Judges 21:25 Judges 21:25In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes.
American King James Version×, “there was no king in Israel.” God was their king. But “everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” This sums up the whole period that we are dealing with in the Judges, “In that day there was no king” again, no central government, “every man doing what was right in their eyes.”
The Judges, very briefly, were a unique group of gifted leaders. As I said, several men and one woman named Deborah. They would step up at times to rally the tribes together to a purpose, to push away the invading nation, the Philistines or others who threatened to overrun them completely driving them and dispersing them. As we read the story, we see that God’s Spirit came upon them. They rallied the people, and they pushed these foes back.
It was when they were rallied under a charismatic leader that we see the nation pushing literally against the gates of hell, against the gates of those fortresses, those spiritual, or in this case physical nations that wanted to push out these people who had no right to the land in their book. Look, land was all important and if there were some of these nations have been there first, and it’s the same story we hear today. The Arabs, the Palestinians make their present claim against the state of Israel that they have the superior claim to the land today. The state of Israel has no right to exist. This was the same thing going on then, and it was a contest of wills. God had a purpose that He was going to work with Israel, and he would raise up the necessary leader for a moment of time to push that plan further down the road and keep it from being completely collapsing. And frankly, this is the story of God working with Israel throughout Scripture, and even into the modern world.
I’ve long personally had a feeling that even in our modern age of the last 300 to 400 years of the history of Israel in our day that God has periodically raised up certain leaders to preserve His peoples and to keep them from being obliterated from off the face of the earth. That’s my own personal belief that at various times individuals, like individuals statesman, a prime minister, individuals have risen at a particular moment in time of the story of America or Great Britain, to keep the modern counterpoint part of this story of Israel from completely collapsing just as He did during the time of Judges.
We could look at a Churchill in our day, we could look at a Washington more than 200 years ago, we could look at other individuals and speculate, perhaps about that. But that would be maybe another Bible study to do. God’s purpose is always going to stand. The Judges were individuals who were going to ensure that it kept going.
So let’s look briefly tonight at Samson and his life. You can turn over to chapter 14 of Judges and we will look at just a few of the high points. This particular map shows the region now of that land, we’ll be more concentrated, focused view of the coastal plain, the area of the Philistines. You’ll see up to the right, to the upper part of the map, the tribal lands of Ephraim, Benjamin, Dan, Judah, the hill country, to the right the area called the Shephelah, which is the kind of sloping region filled with ravines canyons and hills that slope down toward the coastal plain occupied by the Philistines.
And here we see the various cities and the areas that are actually mentioned in the story of Samson in these three chapters in the book of Judges right here. And so this is kind of the setting and it’s very interesting area in many different ways. If you look at the just up from center and a little bit to the right you will see that the tribal allocation of the tribe of Dan. It is of the tribe of Dan from which Samson comes. And we find that in the story here in the beginning of chapter 14, or chapter 13, I’m sorry I’m a chapter off here, where we find in verse 2, “There was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites,” this man’s “name was Manoah; and his wife, and she was barren they had no children.” And this is the introduction to the story of Samuel… or Samson here, this particular Judge.
A barren woman a family, a husband, and wife of the tribe of Dan. They were in this region at a time after… Most of the tribe of Dan had gone further north. And evidently, Manoah and his wife stayed in the original allotment in this area closer to the land of the Philistines. And so here is where we’re introduced to the family at birth, that is a miraculous birth of Samson. “An Angel of the Lord appears to the woman” and promises that she is going to bear a son. and she is told that he will be under a special vow. Verse 5 tells us that, “you will conceive and bear a son… And no razor will come upon his head, for the child should be a Nazarite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.” At that particular time.
His father mother did not know that it was of the Lord. Verse 4, “He was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had the dominion over Israel.” And so when we look at this story of his birth and look at the family there, you look at the idea of Samson in his birth into a family that loved him. He was separated to a Nazarite vow, which is a very strict vow of holiness. No razor upon his head so his hair was going to grow long. He was Samson and anyone under Nazarite vow, they were the original hippies. And we can go all the way back to this point and see that, and, you know, we still have the hippiedom today in some areas, but it is what it is. He didn’t have alcohol, and it was really a separation into a code of holiness was what the Nazarite vow was all about as described in the book of Numbers, and we even see in the book of Acts where the apostle Paul was under Nazarite vow for a period of time.
Samuel had every advantage. His birth was predicted by an angel, he had godly parents that loved him. He was dedicated to God as a Nazarite, and God’s Spirit was with him as we are told in the Scriptures here during his youth here in this particular period of time. But Samson, as he grew, didn’t always live up to the expectations that he had. In chapter 14, we find as it opens here that “Samson went down to Timnah, and he saw a woman in that city of the daughters of the Philistines.” So he went down to a Philistine City and, he’s an adult at this point, and he, his eyes, you know, maybe he was cruising through the drive-in restaurant. And he saw this girl, this woman, this unnamed woman and he said, “I got to have her.” So he goes and tells his father and his mother saying, “I have seen this one of the daughters of the Philistines; get her for me as a wife.” And they said, “Well, look, isn’t there one here in your home among your people that you could find? Why go among the uncircumcised Philistines?”
At the end of verse 3, he said to his father, “Get her for me, for she pleases me well.” But what they didn’t understand is what verse 4 says, that this was of God. Even working this part out within Samson’s life. At this point, the “mother and father did not know that it was of the Lord — that He” God, “was seeking an occasion to move against the Philistines. For at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.” Now, that’s a lot to wrap our minds around. We tend to think black and white terms of righteousness, evil. Bad and good, doing it God’s way, doing it the world’s way. We kind of bifurcate this really clear and sharp and at the time as we look at things. But this is a different story. And God… Again, you got to take a step back from it and look at the whole scene of what is taking place.
We’ve already been told that God left the Philistines in the land to test Israel. God is a much larger God than we give Him credit for at times. And while He has a law and a standard, we see Him working in interesting ways at times in the story through individuals and their actual deviation, if you will, from the line. Samson didn’t walk the line in his life, even though he becomes a Judge. You know, Johnny Cash had this is famous almost a signature song, not quite, but one of his top songs, “I Walk the Line.” And he said, you know, the basic life story of the song was I’m going to walk a straight line in my life. After Johnny Cash died a few years ago someone who knew him well was talking about Johnny Cash’s life and that song, and he said, “If you knew Johnny Cash like I knew Johnny Cash, he never walked the line.” Okay?
Well, Samson didn’t walk the line either. But in this case in the story of Samson, God is big enough to still weave events to accomplish His purpose, even when sin may be involved, and with Samson, there’s a lot of sin. But God’s purpose is not going to be thwarted. And he wanted the woman, and so he went down and he… it was another one of these half-baked relationships, because he winds up killing a lion, and then he gets into kind of a party situation and he weaves a riddle out of the killing of the lion in verse 12, and he talks about all of that as he works through this. And he winds up really not getting the woman because her father keeps the woman from him, but in the story, we find that God is still working with Samson, regardless.
In verse 19 it tells of “the Spirit of the Lord coming upon him mightily, and he goes down to Ashkelon and kills thirty of their men, took their apparel, gave the changes of clothing to those who explained the riddle. And his anger was arousing, he went back to his father’s house. And Samson’s wife was given to his companion, who had been his best man.” So he wound up going through this whole episode, killing a lion, honey, and a riddle and still not getting the girl. But the Philistines are held at bay. They are defeated in a tactical move here by Samson.
Samson had a role to play and God was going to accomplish that purpose of His, regardless of that. His larger purpose was to inspire these missteps of a man within the nation. Samson’s story was told within a context of a much larger story. And here’s a point for you and I to learn. Our story is also part of a larger story of God with His Church today. And our lives makes sense when we are able to keep it within the larger context of the purpose God is bringing to pass. And our setbacks that we might fall into because of our own decisions, or the setbacks and the trials that might happen to us because of things beyond our control still keep us moving forward within the larger context of God’s purpose and His plan.
Samson was going up against Philistines who represented those who wanted to thwart and defeat the plan of God. You and I may not be dealing with actual Philistines today, but again, I ask, where are they in your life? What are the Philistine influences in your life? Those influences, those matters, those things that we carry around with us that keep us from growing significantly as Christians from overcoming habits, or the witnesses that might cripple us emotionally leading us to emotional immaturity, envy, or anger, or the problems that we might struggle with and cripple us in our life.
In other words, what has dominion in your life right now? What are the Philistines? Or does the Kingdom of God control and guide and direct our life? Which has the larger influence where we are right now? Think about that. Is it Christ? Or is it this world? Is it the Spirit of God, or the spirit of this age? Going back to the story, the differences between Israel in this period of time of the Philistines, the Israelites could very easily have said, “There but for the grace of God, go we.” As they would have looked at the Philistines. They could have said, you know, “If we didn’t have God’s grace, we didn’t have God’s covenant, we would be no different from them, from the Philistines.” And that is exactly true. The difference between Israel and the other nations is the grace of God, the Covenant, the law. Their holy way of life that they were called to live.
Samson’s Nazarite vow was a type of that larger holiness to which Israel and the tribes were called. And when they got off track from that covenant, they reverted to the behavior just like the other nations. Every evil found among the nations would eventually be found among Israel even down to child sacrifice under King Manasseh later on during the time of the monarchy, if you recall, when they would deviate and strayed from God’s way.
The difference between righteousness and holiness sometimes is a very, very fine line. And when we cross that line into evil or unrighteousness, then chaos can come into our life. I want you to think about that. It’s a very fine line, and we have to in a sense walk that line. And that is the larger story that we are actually being told and shown here in the story of Samson. Here in chapter 14, there’s another point that is made that we should focus on. Samuel goes back to… or it’s actually at the beginning of the story of the woman that he wanted here, the Philistine woman, and what triggers his tearing a lion apart, and then later in verse 19 killing 30 men is when the Spirit of God came upon him. In verse 6 it says, “The Spirit of Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand. But he did not want his father or his mother to know what he had.” And again in verse 19, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of their men.”
This is where Samson acts in a very profound way under the influence of God’s Holy Spirit. And this is when Samson was at his best. Now, these two instances show us they say that the Spirit of the God came upon him in a mighty fashion and moved him to do something big, killing a lion, killing 30 men. Disrupting the whatever plans, larger plans were being worked against the people of God by the Philistines. God was using Samson against them to begin to break the hold that they had on Israel. Now, Samuel goes on to Judge Israel for about a 20-year period here, and ultimately he is going to break the power of the Philistines.
As long as the Philistines are in this area, Israel is never going to realize the purpose that God have for them as long as the Philistines were there. Later in the time of David, there’s another bit of information that comes out that also applies right here. The Philistines had the patent for working iron into instruments and swords. If an Israelite farmer wanted to buy a plow or a sickle aside to cut his wheat, he had to go to the Philistines, because they didn’t have the technical knowledge to work on it. The Philistines had it for some reason, and they had a monopoly on it. They bottled up that recipe, wrote it down and they had put it under lock and key and hid it, and Israel didn’t get it.
And so the story goes on, but ultimately it’s not until the Philistines are pushed out of the complete picture that we see Israel begin to have the opportunity to achieve its full potential as a people under God. That’s yet to come, but what is working right here with Samson in the story is the gradual wearing down and keeping the Philistines contained where they were.
And so as we move along into the story, we go into chapter 15 and we see something else about Samson that helps us at least to understand his character, and I think ultimately a key that helps us to understand something that we must have as well. Chapter 15 talks about his further defeat of the Philistines. It’s in this chapter, he picks up the jawbone of a donkey and kills a thousand men. And showing us that he was a man of great passion. He goes back looking for his wife. Verse 1 of the chapter. And he’s still thwarted by her father and he’s not able to get her and he goes off, he ties a bunch of foxes, 300 foxes together, lights their tails and sends them out through the grain fields and creates great destruction upon the harvest of the Philistines, and they come against him, and he kills a thousand of them at this particular time, and then he makes a song or riddle out of it in verse 16 by saying, “With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps, of the jawbone of a donkey I’ve slain a thousand men!”
“And so it was, when he had finished speaking, he threw the jawbone from his hand, and called that place Ramath Lehi.” Now, he’d already told a riddle, and now he shows again that he has the ability to put into a lyrical phrase his deeds and his actions. There’s something of the Irish about Samson that we should at least acknowledge. And, if that, because he’s of the tribe of Dan that, you know, is something inherent in that particular tribal gene that is still there among the Celts of the Celtic peoples and particularly the Irish today, we might be seeing something like that here with Samson. But there’s an even deeper underlying fact. Samson kills a thousand with the jawbone of an ass. God’s Spirit moved upon him again in this particular situation. It was God giving him this superhuman strength. He’s got the long hair that ultimately is going to shown to be the physical representation of the source, or of that power and the relationship that he has with God when Delilah comes into the scene.
But what happens here in verse 16 of chapter 15, is Samson taking credit for himself. He doesn’t give full acknowledgment to God for what has happened. He boasts of what he has done and doesn’t give God quite the credit. He said, “I have slain a thousand men!” Now, all of this is done along with the tying up of the foxtails and all of this within the context of a great deal of passion. That’s what I want you to at least take away here of one big point, was we are looking at this man. He doesn’t do things in a small way. Three hundred foxes, a thousand men with a jawbone of an ass, you know, his lust for a woman. We can say his lust for life.
He’s got a great passion. While he is still under this Nazarite vow where extensively he is to be living in a separated holy type of life, but we see that there’s a mixture of it all working here, but again, God’s working through this at this particular time. Passion, strength, zeal for at least what he feels to be right. His version of right is what we’re looking at here with Samson. Now chapter 16 moves into the story of Delilah. And he goes into a harlot, first of all, in chapter 16 and verse one. And down in the area of Gaza, here again, actions working, Samson could have used a kind of a family training course, or something like we sometimes do with our young adults in trying to help people understand the opposite sex and how to select a husband, how to select a wife, he could have used a few 18-36 Bible studies here, as we have here in the Cincinnati area, to at least be a little bit more discriminating and discerning over who he spends his time with.
He goes to a harlot, and he lays with her all night, and what happens, the men of Gaza are told that he’s there, and they lay and wait for him thinking that he’s going to just be completely wasted after a night of being with a harlot, and they’ll capture him then and they’ll deal with Samson in the morning while he lays low. And he does something else that’s rather passionate. He gets up in the middle of the night and he lifts the city gates on his shoulders and he carries them not across the street, not to the next village, but for miles actually into the several miles away to the village of Hebron and deposits them there. And then, almost as if while that’s not enough in verse 4, “it happened after that that he loved the woman in the Valley of Sorek, and her name was Delilah.”
The scene shifts right away off to another situation. Now, thus far we’re looking at a man who has an extreme ability and gifts, but he doesn’t always use them well. His passions and his emotions sometimes run out of control. Nonetheless, God moves with him, upon him, the Spirit of God moves upon him, and he does great things. At this particular point in his life he is essentially running on fumes, and we, you know, when he finally gets wound up with Delilah, he’s running very, very low. And he’s weakened spiritually and with whatever’s sense of destiny, purpose, mission is in his life. His actions reflect more on him than upon God.
And that’s kind of the way we get sometimes, which tells us that it’s not always about us. Samson thought it was about him. And this is probably the lowest point of his life when he gets mixed up with Delilah. And there’s another big lesson for you and I, that if God is ever moved us to do good things in our life, and we have accomplished certain things with our lives in a right way through baptism, through overcoming, through service within the Church, that’s a good thing. Give God the credit. Don’t take it to yourself. We can’t begin to ever think that we have done any of these matters when it comes to our own spiritual overcoming our own spiritual growth.
Never forget God called us while we were in our sins, and never forget why we were called. Samson lost sight of all of this ultimately, and the very passions that could have been and should have been his overriding strength, eventually controlled him and blocked out his common sense. A story in chapter 16 of Delilah that takes him down to this is the nadir, the bottom point of the story in Samson’s life and you know what happens. She finally convinces him to tell her the secret of the strength. She cuts his hair. He loses it. They put his eyes out, and then ultimately in one last moment Samson is chained to these columns in the temple of the Philistines and they’re celebrating the fact that they have now subdued their nemesis.
And Samson is led to this one particular point where he finds the weakest point of the temple, and in verse 28, he calls out to God. And this is the only part of Samson’s life where we see him calling out to God and asking for strength. All the other times, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon him” it says, and there’s no mention of him asking for it. Now, he has come to a point where he realizes, “I’ve got to ask for what I was in a sense naturally given before.” And in verse 28 he says, “O Lord, remember, strengthen me I pray, this once, O God, that I may make one blow of vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” And he did that. And he braced himself and pushed against the pillars, and everything came tumbling down and he died with the Philistines. And in one fell swoop he kind of cuts off if not all of the head at least an arm or maybe a leg of the Philistine body and cripples the Philistines for this period of time. And they go into a slow decline. He makes one massive blow finally with his own life against the power of the Philistines at this particular time.
We’ll still hear about them later in the story of David, but they are on a decline. Samson’s life has not been completely in vain, but he comes to a final end right there in this particular way in the role that he plays as he comes to the end of his life.
Samson’s story again is a story within a larger story. I want that to be one of our big takeaways, and each of us are a story within a larger story of God’s purpose. Your life and my life makes sense when we keep it in that context of the larger purpose that God is bringing to pass. As we understand it today with the Church, the building of the Church that God has called us to be a part of. When we understand that, and when we then understand that God looks upon Samson as an individual that He used in spite of his weaknesses to teach us a lesson in faith, that what we read in the book of Hebrews makes more sense, because Samson is mentioned in the hall of faith that we read about in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews. If you will turn in there and look at verse 32, in that part of the lesson, God says this, or Paul writes it. He says, “What more shall I say?” Hebrews 11:32 Hebrews 11:32And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
American King James Version×, “For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak, and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets: who through faith subdued kingdoms, worked righteousness, obtained promises, and stopped the mouths of lions.”
Right there we have the story of Samson, a man who stopped the mouth of a lion, and who subdued a kingdom. One man against the Philistine kingdom, he was doing quite a bit. It goes on to say he “quenched the violence of fire, they escaped the edge of the sword, and out of weakness were made strong.” I always love that phrase here in Hebrews 11. When I read that part of Hebrews 11 that out of weakness were made strong, gives me great hope for myself, and we should all take comfort and encouragement there that no matter how weak we might feel, or be at a particular time just like Samson was, God can make us strong.
In fact. it is when we acknowledge our weakness and we understand what we need to be on guard against in our own life, what we need to ask God for whether it’s wisdom, or whether it might be faith, then God can make us strong out of our weakness. Many were valiant in battle and to turn to flight the armies of the aliens. Samuel was a one-man Judge in this way. As we go through these other Judges, we will see that they had help with armies of Israelites, with them Deborah, for instance, Gideon, and they will do the many of the same things that we read about here, and I’m sure that Mr. Petty, Mr. Myers as they go through their parts of these Judges will probably turn here to this same passage, because it fits and it helps us to understand what was taking place.
When the Spirit of God moved Samson, he was strong enough to move a kingdom. He moved against it, he weakened it, if not completely destroying it. He at least crippled it. God was near Samson and he sensed it. And he certainly sensed it in the last chapter of his life. And it did give him a confidence at a time. We have God’s Spirit. We have a confidence in that power of God’s Spirit within us. Do we live with that belief that God is, that we are His people, and that the power of the Spirit of God is in us? It says the Spirit of the Lord moved Samson at various times.
How has the Spirit of God moved you? When Samson lived like he did, with a move and motivated by the Spirit of God, he subdued a kingdom, the kingdom of the Philistines. Matthew 16:18 Matthew 16:18And I say also to you, That you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
American King James Version×, Jesus made the statement about the purpose of His Church. He said, “I say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hades” or hell “shall not prevail against it.” This verse is a starting point to understand the vision Jesus Christ has for His Church. It is to crash the gates of the grave, the gates of hell. It’s an offensive position. I’ve explained that in other times in the past. So it’s an offensive position.
Samuel crashed against the gates of hell in his own day. Not Samuel but Samson. He crashed the gates of the Philistines, the hell, the forces working against the nation of Israel. And Samson, I think, brethren, and here’s the point, we have a story of tension that we all face as we live in today’s world, and we are not of the world, but we live within the world. We are part of the Church of God. Christ’s Body is being built to stand against the gates of hell, to lift those gates off, and like Samson, carry them away and neuter the city of Gaza as he did by taking those gates, we are to crash against the gates of hell in our own lives, and knock them down. Samson knocked down the gates of a city, and then ultimately that of a pagan temple. And out of weakness, he was made strong.
Now, every day you and I face our Philistines. What are they? And I asked again, have you killed any of them lately? Because that’s what we have to do. We have our own Philistines in our life. At times they will push against us, and we have to rise up and fight back. Christ made another statement that fits this. On another time Christ said, “The kingdom of God suffers violence and the violent take it by force.” I want you to think about this. To overcome some sins, to make sometimes real spiritual progress where we reach to another level of maturity, another level of peace of mind, another level of confidence, another level of faith in our life, may require you and I to rise up like a Samson with a passion, a fierceness, with an emotion like Samson had against his Philistines. We have to do that against our Philistines. And frankly, some sins, some parts of our life, some moves, some ruts that we’re stuck in year after year will not be dealt with unless we take a little bit of the life of Samson and apply it.
But we have the extra help of God’s Spirit within us, and we have that power. Frankly, we need to be a little bit like Samson. Not chasing after women or men, but the passion, the emotion, the power, the conviction. When he was pushed, he rose up against the Philistines. When our Philistines come with us, when we finally recognize that we’ve got to do a little bit more if it is fasting a bit more often, if it is laboring in prayer for weeks or months perhaps at a concentrated frontal assault, I think sometimes God is looking to see just how passionate we are with what Philistine part of our life is repressing us, to give us that extra help to crash that gate in our life, and to achieve another level of spiritual maturity and spiritual growth.
To me, that’s a big takeaway from the life of Samson. It’s a good story, makes a good couple of movies. But my big takeaway, that sometimes I need to be a bit more like Samson and maybe you do as well when it comes to the energy, the force, the conviction, and the passion that it took for him to kill a thousand men, to kill our thousand Philistines we’ve got to be able to have that going and working in our life.
That’s Samson, that’s our introduction to the book of Judges. To me, it’s, you know, one of the more convicting stories to look at. We’ll go through the others and we’ll study them as well. But think about Samson and let that begin to carry you into a period of preparation for the upcoming Passover and Days of Unleavened Bread. How many Philistines have you killed lately?
That’ll be it. We will be having our next Bible study, and in probably I think it’s three weeks we’re going to be heading off to Southern California. We’ll be there two weeks. The Beyond Today crew for our next round of public appearances campaigns. We’re going to be in San Diego, Los Angeles, Redlands, and Garden Grove church areas in Southern California. So it’ll be three weeks before we have our next Bible study here. So we’ll see you at that time, and be safe as you drive home tonight.