THE FALL AND RISE OF A MIGHTY MAN OF GOD
You know, the story of Samson evokes many reactions. It seems that the major one is that this was a powerful man of such spiritual potential who was so flawed with lust and anger that he really “messed up” – but God used him anyway!
Is this REALLY the case? If this is so, then HOW COME Samson is listed in the “heroes hall of fame” in Hebrews 11: 32? Whatever his flaws, he was considered to be a mighty man of God – a mighty man of faith.
Maybe we need to look more closely at the Biblical account to really begin to understand the story of this man. He was NOT perfect but maybe he was a little more in line with God’s will than we usually give him credit for…..
And, whatever the case, the fact that he is in the Bible and commands four very important chapters (Judges 13-16) is proof that we have a lot to learn from this mighty Judge of Israel who led God’s people for 20 years.
So, over the next 5 weeks we are going to look in detail at the story of Samson, and see how we can apply the lessons of this man’s life to our own lives – however old or young we are.
Everyone – from childhood – knows the story of Samson….or do they?
Have a time of reflection now – what do you know about this man? What did he do? What is his story?
Now let’s have a look at a basic chronology of his life – and it will be on this that we base our study of this most fascinating – and human – or spiritual warriors.
- Thought to have lived between c 1118 and 1078 bc
- The last of the Judges of Israel before Samuel
- Father was Manoah, mother’s name not known
- Birth announced by the Angel of the Lord to his mother in their home town of Zorah
- Of the Tribe of Dan
- Chosen to begin to save Israel from bondage to the Philistines
- Chosen to be a Nazirite – dedicated to God
- Wanted to marry a Philistine woman from Timnah against his parents’ will
- Killed a lion on the way to visit her and then ate honey from it later
- Provoked by Philistines into giving riddle of the lion
- Philistines forced his wife to tell them the riddle
- In his anger he killed 30 Philistines and his wife was given to another man
- In revenge he set fire to the Philistine crops and the Philistines killed his wife in retaliation
- In revenge he killed many Philistines
- Israelites, fearing Philistine reprisals hand Samson over to them
- The Spirit of the Lord comes on him and he breaks his bonds and slaughters 1000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey
- Later he went to Gaza to visit a prostitute and escaped a Philistine trap by tearing the city gates up
- Falls in love with the Philistine woman Delilah who, bribed by the Philistines, “nags” at him till he tells her the secret of his great strength
- His hair is cut off, he is captured, his eyes gouged out and he is set to work in the prison grinding corn
- Brought out for entertainment into the temple of Dagon he stands between the two pillars of the temple and, having turned back to God, and having regained his divinely-given strength pushes the pillars over, destroying the temple, killing thousands of Philistines and himself in the process.
- He led Israel for 20 years
Now, what do you think? Is there a not a lot to learn from here?
And even from this brief overview it does look like this mighty man, given so much strength and purpose from God, was driven by lust and by anger. But, is this REALLY so??? Let us begin our study…
PART 1: GOD KNOWS YOU BEFORE YOU WERE EVEN BORN
PROMISE AND PURPOSE
- THE CONTEXT
Judges 13: 1 tells us:
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, so the Lord delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years
Because the Israelites were disobedient God delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for 40 years. Too often this is seen as another example of how harsh God can be. Not so. Two things here: firstly, God’s discipline is not done out of anger but out of a desire to bring us to our senses and return to Him. Secondly, He always provides a “way out” – a saviour – in this case it was going to be Samson. As for the Philistines: it is widely considered that these were the remnants of the mighty empire of the Minoans from Crete – forced to emigrate after Crete was hit by the devastating tsunami when the volcanic island of Santorini blew up. They were a cultured, intelligent, sophisticated and militarily mighty people.
- THE PROMISE
2 A certain man of Zorah, named Manoah, from the clan of the Danites, had a wife who was childless, unable to give birth. 3 The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, ‘You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. 4 Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. 5 You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.’
Before we really focus on what relevance this has for us, let us break this down and look at what this passage is saying:
V 2: Manoah was a Danite – Zorah was a town on the border of Dan with Judah
V 2: The name Manoah means “rest” or “quiet” – for God was going to give His people rest from the Philistines
V 3: The angel of the Lord – this is usually a reference to a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus. Jesus is ultimately our Saviour who calls us to serve Him in the “battle”
V 3: Manoah’s wife was barren – so Samson’s birth was miraculous. In the same way we are spiritually born of the Spirit rather than naturally.
V 4: She was to not drink wine or eat anything impure. She was to be dedicated to God in bringing her child into the world. In the same way we are to be so dedicated to God and to bringing up our children well.
V 5: Samson was to be a Nazirite. In the Hebrew Bible, a Nazirite or Nazarite is one who voluntarily took a vow described in Numbers 6:1–21. “Nazarite” comes from the Hebrew word נזיר nazir meaning “consecrated” or “separated”. This vow required the person to:
- Abstain from all alcohol derived from grapes. (Traditional Rabbinic authorities state that all other types of alcohol were permitted.)
- Refrain from cutting the hair on one’s head; but to allow the locks of the head’s hair to grow.
- Not to become ritually impure by contact with corpses or graves, even those of family members.
- There is a promise from God – the people of Israel have cried out to Him for mercy and forgiveness – that a child will be born who will save them from the Philistines.
- This would be a good time to pause, and reflect, and ask in which ways this is relevant to us:
- Did God choose/ordain for us to be born?
- Did God have a purpose for our life even before we were born?
- Or is Samson only the child of promise?
- God KNEW that we were going to be born. We are not a mistake, we are not an accident. God planned for this to happen. And we are told this by Paul in Galatians 4: 28
Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise
- God KNEW us even when we were in the womb. In Jeremiah 1: 5 God says to the prophet:
‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.’
And this is not just for Samson, and it is not just for Jeremiah. God says this so that we might ALL know that were known even before we were formed. But more than this…
- We were made for a purpose. For each one of us this is different – for Jeremiah it was to be a prophet, for Samson it was to be a mighty leader to begin to destroy the Philistines. For us it will likely be something VERY different. But, the point is that we WERE made with a purpose. We each have a divine role to fulfil – whether it is to be a pastor or a parent, a teacher or a “washer-upper”. And all purposes are equally important in the eyes of God
- Why not have another PAUSE here: what are YOU here for? Don’t say “nothing” or “I don’t know”. You HAVE been made for a purpose. What is it? Or what do you dream for it to be in the future?
- THE RESPONSIBILITY
8 Then Manoah prayed to the Lord: ‘Pardon your servant, Lord. I beg you to let the man of God you sent to us come again to teach us how to bring up the boy who is to be born.’
9 God heard Manoah, and the angel of God came again to the woman while she was out in the field; but her husband Manoah was not with her. 10 The woman hurried to tell her husband, ‘He’s here! The man who appeared to me the other day!’
11 Manoah got up and followed his wife. When he came to the man, he said, ‘Are you the man who talked to my wife?’
‘I am,’ he said.
12 So Manoah asked him, ‘When your words are fulfilled, what is to be the rule that governs the boy’s life and work?’
13 The angel of the Lord answered, ‘Your wife must do all that I have told her. 14 She must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, nor drink any wine or other fermented drink nor eat anything unclean. She must do everything I have commanded her.’
15 Manoah said to the angel of the Lord, ‘We would like you to stay until we prepare a young goat for you.’
16 The angel of the Lord replied, ‘Even though you detain me, I will not eat any of your food. But if you prepare a burnt offering, offer it to the Lord.’ (Manoah did not realise that it was the angel of the Lord.)
17 Then Manoah enquired of the angel of the Lord, ‘What is your name, so that we may honour you when your word comes true?’
18 He replied, ‘Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.[a]’ 19 Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. And the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: 20 as the flame blazed up from the altar towards heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. 21 When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realised that it was the angel of the Lord.
22 ‘We are doomed to die!’ he said to his wife. ‘We have seen God!’
23 But his wife answered, ‘If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.’
Again, let us break this down in order to understand what this passage is really saying to us:
V 9: Notice how God raises the profile of women. At that time it was the man who was the “boss” yet on both occasions the angel of the Lord came to the woman and not to Manoah. Add to this the wisdom of the woman in v 21 and we see that the angel came to the woman because she had more spiritual sense than her husband – thank goodness he listened to her!
V 12: Manoah wanted to meet the angel so that he could ask him how to bring up the child. The angel simply repeated what he had already told the woman. It is good for us to long to know the best way to bring up our children – but the truth is that God has already told us! All we need to know is in Scripture. If we simply obey what He has already told us then we will have done all that we can.
Here we begin to see the responsibility that each one of us has – God has GIVEN us life, God has a PLAN for our lives, but WE have to bring those plans to fruition.
- Parents: the lesson of this passage for you is that YOU play a CRUCIAL part in God’s plan for the life of your children. Right from the start the woman was told to look after her body in order to look after her child. Now they are clearly told HOW to prepare their child to fulfil his destiny. But, just like us, they ask for advice – and are told that the WORD given to them has told them all they need to know to bring up the child well. Again we are pointed back to the Word of God – the Bible. This contains ALL we need to know to bring up our children well
- But, the “bottom line” is that we are born in “promise” and we are born with a “purpose” to play, but WE have to choose to accept this calling and live it out in our lives. Let’s finish off this chapter now:
24 The woman gave birth to a boy and named him Samson. He grew and the Lord blessed him, 25 and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him while he was in Mahaneh Dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol.
- When we are born the LORD wishes to bless us always – but we must choose to receive this blessing, to claim it and to live in it. The LORD wishes for us to grow – and we must not rush this – for our growth, physically and spiritually, is to prepare us to fulfil our purposes. The LORD wishes His Spirit to be on us and to stir us – but we must choose to receive the Holy Spirit and to allow Him to stir us and motivate us.
- THE FINAL CHALLENGE
As we read on through the story of Samson we begin to question whether he really was choosing to live in his calling. BUT – at the very end, in his self-sacrifice in the temple of Dagon, he got his life back “on track” and finally fulfilled his God-given purpose in life.
Only at death is it too late. As long as you have breath in your bodies it is NOT too late.
As the song says “God’s not finished with you yet”.
Do you need to put things right with God now and, like Samson, finally fulfil the promise that you were born with?