DESTINED FOR MUCH - SETTLING FOR LITTLE -RECOVERING TO LIVE ALL IN-Judges 13-16 - July 9, 2023
Updated: Jul 15
MESSAGE BY PASTOR ROB INRIG FROM
BETHANY BAPTIST IN RICHMOND, BC.
This morning I want to look at someone who lived far distant from whom he was called to be. Someone who drifted from his source of strength and paid dearly as a result. Though he had all the appearances of strength, his life was characterized by weakness and defeat. A man born for success yet in so many ways, living as a failure.
The story of Samson is one we know well. A lion tore apart with bare hands; ropes torn apart as if made of straw, a femme fatale who became immensely wealthy, and an unscheduled appointment at the hairstylist. Judges 13-16.
Without question, his story is filled with drama, deception and sex. All the ingredients of a Hollywood blockbuster. The question is, what does this blockbuster have to say to us?
When we picture Samson, we often think of a man with biceps that would make Hercules proud. While it’s possible he and Hercules looked similar, it’s also possible Samson was on the larger side of average. What we can say with some degree of certainty is that he didn’t possess Goliath-like size. Certainly, no gargantuan size accounted for his strength - exploits beyond anything brawn could explain; killing 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of an ass; destroying a lion with his bare hands, and lifting a city’s gates and carrying them away on his shoulders. But whether he was the brawny image lifted from the cover of a paperback novel or the ‘advert’ picture on a body-building supplement, we know that Samson was a man who banked on his strengths.
His strength, however, wasn’t the result of power squats and massive bench presses. It was a supernatural strength when the “Spirit of the Lord came upon him” Judges" 14:5-6, 15:14-15.
We also know he was strong-willed and likely sharp-witted. He liked riddles and was accustomed to win. He was a bundle of potential whose story ended up in tragedy. He should have been a godly man … but he wasn’t. He should have been a faithful man … but he wasn’t. He should have been God’s leading man … but he wasn’t. Instead what can be said of him is that he was disobedient, defeated and disgraced. Judges 13 – 16 tell the story. So:
WHO WAS THIS MAN AND WHAT ARE WE TO LEARN FROM HIS LIFE?
1st, we know HE WAS A MAN OF HIGH CALLING Judges. 13, his arrival angel announced not unlike angelic announcements made for John the Baptist and Jesus.
He was a Nazarite – set apart for God. :7 “from the womb” – before a breath was taken before a cry was heard. And as part of his Nazarite vow, he was to have no wine. He wasn't to come near a dead body and his hair was never to be cut. This one was uniquely set aside as God’s man to be used in God’s time, for God’s purposes. Someone who would be God equipped when and as needed. His task? simply live faithfully as God’s designed and appointed man.
So too, that is our calling – God’s uniquely designed; uniquely positioned people created by God as His called ones in the time and place He puts us We are NOT just the next line on some genealogical chart. Our problem is that we just don’t believe that in any significant way. Perhaps it’s true for a David Jeremiah, a Francis Chan, or a Priscilla Shirer, but me? Not a chance. I’m just a teacher or a student or a factory worker or a …..
But Eph 2:10 tells me, For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. Chosen, Eph 1:14 tells us before the foundation of the world.
Psalm 139, “knit together in my mother’s womb … fearfully and wonderfully made … all the days ordained written in God’s book before one of them came to be.”
Not just ordained for a length of time but ordained for a purpose in time - God designed. God appointed. YOU! Now. Here. Where you are! In the places only you can go.
HE WAS A DELIVERER
Samson means Sunshine – I can’t imagine it was a name he was happy to hear as an adolescent but his name did capture who he was meant to be – God’s light coming into great darkness. Samson’s ROLE IN THAT DARKNESS WASN’T TO BE MR. MUSCLE. His role was to be Mr. Faithful. God’s Deliverer. Obedient to that, God would provide what was needed, when needed.
But the darkness Samson stepped into went unrecognized because it didn’t look like Israel’s past darkness. There was no back-breaking slavery, no whips on backs, no infant sacrifices to despicable gods. And with no evidence of this, Samson got caught up in the deception. In truth, the Philistines weren’t that cruel compared to other enemies in the land. Israel and her enemy got along fairly well. They had economic ties. They intermarried. And with that, Israel was getting absorbed into the Philistine world, so comfortable with their cultural and spiritual assimilation, they were no longer crying out for deliverance from the Philistines.
Tim Keller writes: “Israel’s capitulation to the Philistines is far more profound and complete than any of their previous enslavements. In the past, Israel groaned and agonized under their occupations by pagan powers, because their domination was military and political. But now the people are virtually unconscious of their enslavement because its nature is that of cultural accommodation. The Israelites do not groan and resist their “captors” now because they have completely adopted and adapted to the values, mores and idols of the Philistines. Like Samson himself, the Israelites were eager to marry into Philistine society, probably as a way to “move up” in the culture. The Israelites no longer had a recognizable culture of their own, one based on service to the Lord. We can’t exaggerate the danger to Israel. The Israelites were on the brink of extinction.
So it is with us - When we take on the values, attitudes and beliefs of the things that surround us. When we become indistinguishable from a culture that says anything goes. Where tolerance trumps truth and where behaviour becomes a matter of convenience rather than conviction. God-given conviction. Instead of bowing to the gods of personal choice and situational morality.
When we look at Samson, we are faced with an incredibly sad picture. He was mission born – a deliverer of God’s people yet for most of his life he failed to embrace his mission – living as more storm than sunshine. I wonder, could that be said of us? Successful at our job. Satisfied with the things we do but have no sense of the mission God has called us to engage in?
Samson’s difficulty was that he had an ‘out-of-focus picture of those who held them captive.
They didn’t look so bad. They didn’t act so badly. And so he fraternized with the enemy instead of doing battle with them. The times he did engage in the fight were due to selfish, ‘nose out of joint’ payback, not conviction. Because of that and because he also had an ‘out of focus picture of himself, a mission-less Samson came to rely on his own strength, paying little attention that there was another one on a mission who, though appearing to present little danger, would carry out what she, Delilah, was recruited to do. So deceived, Samson blindly convinced himself that his power was in the strength of his will and the length of his hair and as a result, he naively and arrogantly kept handing himself back to those he knew were out for his destruction.
How stupid can he be? Samson doesn’t get it – his strength was never in his hair.
And my problem and yours? – we’re a lot like him. Okay, in my case, without the hair and yes, without the strength, but with the same inclination to walk right up to the edge, attracted to the things that will do me harm.
Returning to the same old failures, deceived by the same old temptations, repeating the same old sins. Places we keep going back to, like creatures returning to a trap believing their killer jaws will never snap shut.
SO WHAT WENT WRONG?
1 HE WAS DEFEATED BECAUSE HE WAS A MAN OF APPETITE who denied himself nothing of what he desired. He is a completely sensual man - a ‘he-man’ with a ‘she-weakness’ living a life of ‘me-entitlement’.
He sees and so he takes. He lusts and so he possesses. He’s denied and so he kills.
It’s the way of entitlement. A view of the world that drives us to satisfy our wants and needs - stronger than any vow, greater than any mission. That view was so entrenched in Samson that he lived blind, long before he was ever made blind.
What a sad summation for a man who was destined for so much and yet settled for so little.
14:1 Notice carefully what the text says. “Samson went down to Timnah (Philistine country) and saw there a young Philistine woman.” That statement tells us a lot.
Samson goes to a place he should not go, pursuing a relationship he should not pursue, ending in a demand he should not have made. When he returned home, he told his parents, “I’ve seen a Philistine woman.” :2 After his father raises concern, he says, “Go get her for me. She’s the right one for me.” :3 Literally, “She is right in my eyes.”
Don’t miss this – he has no idea who she is, no idea what she believes, no idea how she acts, no idea what she thinks – all unimportant because eyes and lust talk louder than any of those. Knowing what he sees, is all he cares to know! Which is exactly what lust does.
Samson’s appetite superseded God’s commands not to intermarry with surrounding nations Ex 34:16, Dt 7:1-4. Samson was looking in the wrong place, for the wrong thing, for the wrong reason. And guess what? - he found it! But that shouldn’t surprise us because we do the same.
Under the enemy’s leadership, life has a way of allowing us to find what we shouldn’t find, in places we shouldn’t be. It’s true in the places where the internet wants to take us; it’s true where that flirtation wants to take us and where that ‘one more drink’ wants to take us; and where that, ‘who has to know?’ wants to take us. Places where the enemy tempts us to go.
And how do we often deal with it? ‘Lord, give me the strength to not give into this.’ This is a great and important prayer but it’s a prayer that needs to be prayed long before we are in the place we shouldn’t be. The time for this prayer is NOT when we are opening the bedroom door. The time for that prayer is before we’re even close to that part of town. Before the e-mail is opened, the www site is clicked on or the text message is written. Prayers made their way back there when software blockers are installed and different Google map destinations are selected.
Fixing our sight on where God calls us to look and live. Living in obedience because as Paul warns, Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." Gal 6:7, 8
But the good news is this, Strengthen yourselves with (Christ's) way of thinking... Live your lives controlled by God's will, not by human desires. 1 Pet 4:1, 2
Briefly, before leaving Samson’s demand of his father 14:3, I need to make one more observation which is a bit of an aside, but a critical one. Take a look at his father’s words, “Are there not women in Israel?”
Let’s be honest, parenting is hard. So often there are times when we can feel like we are navigating blindfold. Directions are not always obvious. Decisions are not always clear. Times when a strong hand is needed and others when a strong hand is not. The hard truth for hard times is because when the truth is on the line and damage is near, these aren’t suggestion times, or ‘maybe you shouldn’t’ times. Samson’s dad's response, “Are there no women in Israel?” is a cop-out. These are hard truth times - ‘Son, no way. Not going there. What you’re thinking is wrong. What you’re considering is wrong. What you’re asking of me is wrong. Not going to happen. No way.
Take note, I said hard truth NOT harsh truth. This is not an advert for dictatorial, ‘over my dead body’ pronouncements. Studies are clear, the most damaging parenting styles are the overbearing, controlling parent AND the passive, non-involved, ‘afraid to speak’ parent. A dictatorial parent often creates children whose spirits are crushed. While children may fall in line this obedience comes at great cost. Commonly, the overbearing parent creates children who simmer with rebellion. They may externally comply but internally, rebellion is taking shape. But passive, uninvolved parenting isn’t much better.
As parents, there are times we MUST speak the truth, sometimes the hard truth. Saying nothing or remaining silent and then speaking reactively does damage. As parents we are to parent for the future, understanding what’s at stake. Speaking truth in caring love and with the grace that must be given, no matter the cost.
But lest we miss it, that principle isn’t limited to parenting. As Christians, we are called to be Spirit-led, love-motivated truth-tellers. Truth is not a suggestion. It is not always a comforting shoulder and a silent tongue.
Self-willed, Samson ignored any reproof on his life and his parents, failing to stand on what they knew to be right, folded when he demanded, “Go get her for me”. Their capitulation gives us insight into why Samson lived as he did – the product of passivity now blinded with a sense of entitlement. The divide between truth spoken and truth lived.
2 HE WAS DEFEATED BECAUSE HE WAS HIS OWN MAN. He was strong. He was invincible. He was Samson. And he was a fool.
Scripture defines a fool as someone who says in his heart there is no God Ps 14:1. Practically, that is how Samson lived. He authored his life. Not God.
Despite a life vow to not partake in strong drink, Samson made a practice of being in places he ought not to be - at a 7-day celebration feast where wine flowed. Not thinking, with my vow, this is a bad place to be. Eating honey out of the carcass of a dead animal. Not thinking, with my vow, this is a bad place to be. Immersed in a world of taking what you want sensuality. Not thinking, vow or no vow, this is a bad place to be.
But he thought himself strong enough to deal with the things that surrounded not realizing that he was blind. And in that blindness, he walked farther and farther into the enemy’s lair.
Whether it was partying with drunk enemies at a wedding feast or handing a razor to a prostitute, SIN TAKES YOU FARTHER THAN YOU WANT TO GO, KEEPS YOU LONGER THAN YOU PLAN TO STAY, AND COSTS YOU FAR MORE THAN YOU EXPECT TO PAY.
3 HE WAS DEFEATED BECAUSE HE WAS A MAN OF SELF-WILL
His will - greater than the purpose for which he was born; His will - greater than any counsel parents would give; His will - greater than the will God had for his life.
The tragedy was that he was empowered by the Spirit but never controlled by the Spirit. That can happen to any of us and when it does, we’re just like Samson — capable of greatness but deceived and controlled by sin. Spirit indwells but not Spirit yielded. God is on the edges rather than on the throne of our life.
Here was the problem. Samson had been trained in the truth; called as an ambassador of the truth BUT he did not KNOW and COMMIT to live by truth.
But the good news of the Gospel? - God uses weak, flawed people. When we call out to Him and seek His forgiveness, He redeems and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. He doesn’t treat us according to our iniquities. The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbour his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, and he remembers that we are dust. The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more. But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.” Ps 103:8-18.
Samson’s great redemption came when the last pages of his life were being written. You remember the story – Samson chained to a grinding wheel, a blind, defeated man. A far cry from the one Gabriel pictured when with the angelic proclamation he announced Israel’s deliverer had come.
What an ironic picture – Israel’s champion bound to a grinding wheel. The Philistine god, Dagon was the god of harvest so in fact, Samson’s grinding grain was in some ways him being forced to see himself as he had lived – worshipping just one more small g’ god that blinded and enslaved. At the end of his life - living for himself, blind and left with nothing. Living for indulgence that only left him craving more.
Could it be that we too are just like Samson, returning to little g gods only to find that they can’t deliver what they promise? They can’t provide what they do not have.
And in that place, at the end of himself, Samson cried out, “Sovereign Lord - Elohim Adonai God remember me” Judes 16:38. And in that place, God delivered! His chosen one would be the Deliverer. The enemy would be defeated. God’s victory would be achieved. His purposes would not be thwarted. Accomplished, of all things, by Samson – a ‘messed up’ who bowed before God. A ‘messed up’ who God included in His Hall of Fame of faith in Hebrews 11. In the same way, God takes our messed up, no matter how bad or for how long it’s been, and turns our stories into His glorious demonstrations of His powerful, redeeming love.
Conditional on one thing – our calling out, Sovereign Lord - Elohim Adonai. Lord, come rescue. Come save and forgive. And to that cry, Christ’s response is, You are loved. You are forgiven. Blood bought so you may live!
This morning – no matter where you have been. No matter what you have done. No matter how far away you have walked. Jesus’ offer to you, I make all things new. Just Come!