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Strength for Living

June 24th 2012 by Joel Schultz

Today we consider Bible story #7 in our Top Ten Old Testament Bible Story countdown - Samson. Samson is an interesting Bible character because despite God's great blessings and plans for Samson, he did not live a very faithful life. However, in the end, Samson discovered that the true strength for living is found in the promises of God. Read or listen to discover more...

Bible Stories Sermon Series – Samson – “Strength for Living” – June 24, 2012 Samson is an interesting Bible story. Most heroes of the faith have moments of failure but are essentially faithful in doing God’s will. Samson is quite different. His entire life, except the end, seems to be a complete spiritual failure. Samson’s life begins back in Judges Chapter 13. It’s an incredible narrative: a man and his wife struggling through the pain of childlessness; an encounter with the angel of the Lord; and the announcement that their miracle child would not only be a special gift from the Lord but would play a special role in the deliverance of Israel.

So here’s Samson, a man set aside from birth with a special vow to serve the Lord. He was what was called a Nazirite – a special servant of the Lord. His life was to be one of strict obedience to God and His will. He would never touch alcohol or dead bodies and his hair would never be cut. And the Lord gave him what seems to be super-human strength and an amazing warrior’s prowess. Samson was a man with a high and lofty calling, a man with so many gifts from God and so much potential, a man who could have accomplished great things for the Lord and His people.

Yet, Samson’s life from a spiritual perspective is tragic. He had so much potential, but the good that God accomplished through Samson seems to only happen despite Samson. Read this whole story and there is nothing Samson did that was not motivated by arrogance, lust, or revenge. Samson’s big problem was that he was a lover of pleasure rather than a lover of God.

To begin with, Samson desired to marry a Philistine woman. He knew God had forbidden intermarriage with pagans. He knew the dangers of choosing a life partner that didn’t share his faith, the potential that there was for her to lead him astray. But she was a beautiful woman. He wanted her. She made him happy. It felt too right to be wrong—that is some faulty reasoning all too many fall for. But the pre-wedding festivities turned ugly as Samson tried to have some fun with a riddle. The wedding was off and revenge between Samson and the Philistines raged.

Next Samson falls for a prostitute named Delilah. Again he should have known better. “Samson, honey-poo, tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.” What kind of request is that! It was painfully obvious that her allegiance to the Philistine rulers was greater than her allegiance to Samson. But Samson was young and strong. He had God on his side, right? He felt invincible. And so he told his secret. “Cut my hair, honey, and my strength is gone.”

No matter how many times I read this story, I can’t believe it. How stupid can he be? But that’s just the point, isn’t it? Sin makes us stupid. How many times don’t we get ourselves into spiritually dangerous situations because we think we’re invincible? I’ll just take a quick look. I won’t be tempted. Or we put off our daily Bible reading. I’m strong. I don’t need it. Or we blow off church, thinking what’s one or two Sundays going to hurt. We tell lies thinking we’ll never get caught, cheat a little here and there supposing it’s not going to matter. “Just call me Samson.” We all could make that confession.

The ups and downs of Samson’s life read like a roller coaster. There are the downs. Every one of them happens when Samson somehow compromises his faith—whether it’s lusting after women or compromising his Nazirite vow. The point is Samson is the one responsible for every spiritual down turn in his life.

The ups in Samson’s life would be the times of victory, killing a lion with his bare hands, killing thirty Philistines here, a thousand there, and over 3000 when he destroyed the temple of Dagon. Each of these times there is reference in the text to the Spirit of the Lord coming on Samson.

Do you see what’s happening here? Everything good spiritually that happens in Samson’s life happens because God powerfully and graciously intervened in his life. God used Samson to deliver His people despite Samson, despite his immature faith, despite his practice of making his major life decisions based on hormones or his desire for revenge.

Is this not the story of our lives? Where would we be today if it were not for the grace of God? Think of the downs in your life, the times you let your faith slip or the times you fell into temptation. How much of our lives are wasted as far as God is concerned because again and again we fall prey to our own selfish, self-centered, materialistic, pleasure-seeking desires? God has all sorts of great plans as to how He could use us to extend His kingdom. Yet, like Samson, are we spending way too much time trying to make ourselves happy and missing out on what we could be doing?

Samson shows us where our sinful nature is always going to lead us. But an even more important lesson: Samson’s life AND God’s intervention in it shows us how good and merciful God is to us. As we ride the spiritual roller coaster of life, it’s God who keeps bringing us back up.

Did Samson live a happy and fulfilled life? Spending so much time and energy seeking the good life, you’d think he would have found it. But where does this young and invincible man end up, this long-haired, muscle man with all the women after him, this man who seemed to have everything the world says you gotta have if you’re going to be happy? He ends up in a Philistine prison with his eyes gouged out. And from there his enemies bring him out so they can make sport of him.

The world makes all sorts of promises it cannot keep. The happiness it promises is often an illusion. The prospect of revenge that appears so sweet in the end is so very bitter. A quick look at a pornographic site tantalizes, but afterwards leaves you feeling dirty. The illicit affair at first is exciting, but in the end your life comes crashing down around you. A few choice words spoken feels so satisfying, but the damage they cause ripples back into our own lives. Finally, when we all have to stand before God and give account, think how meaningless those momentary pleasures will seem!

But there is one who is stronger than Samson – stronger than us. Jesus is a man. Sent from God and yet God Himself. As the only-begotten Son of God, Jesus had a special relationship with the Father. He came for a specific purpose – a purpose that was in the heart of His Father to accomplish through Him.

He was not a lover of pleasure but a lover of the Father. The Gospel of John points this out. John 5:30 says, “For I seek not to please myself but Him who sent me.” John 6:38 says, “For I have come down from heaven not to do my will by to do the will of Him who sent me.” And John 8:29 says, “The One who sent Me is with Me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” See how different Jesus is? Jesus has no other thought than that which is going to please the Father. Samson is motivated purely by things that are going to please him.

Finally, Samson is humbled before the Lord. Hebrews 11 lists him as a hero of the faith which would seem to indicate that he returned to the Lord through humble repentance and faith. He prayed for the strength that had left him one last time in order to break the yoke the Philistines had on God’s people. In his final moments, Samson gives us a picture of Jesus who gave up His life to free us from spiritual slavery.

Jesus shows us that true strength is in obedience to the Father – doing His will. And in the case of our Lord, that meant going to the cross and becoming very, very weak, enduring the pain, torture and punishment that at any moment He could have stopped. But He endured it so that the purpose of the Father might be accomplished. Not the deliverance from earthly enemies; but deliverance from eternal damnation for all that would believe.

Only Jesus could be so strong as to bind Satan so that he might not have power over you. Only Jesus could be so strong as to be perfectly obedient to the Father. There is power in the blood of the Lamb. Power to free us from the burden of sin. Power to free us from the worldly passions that would entice us. Power to cleanse us and make us whiter than snow. Power to enable our service to Him and His kingdom.

Because of Jesus we know that God will always be gracious to us. In His Word and Supper He is ever present to forgive, restore, and strengthen us so that we might be lovers of Jesus and serve Him with our whole lives. The moral of Samson’s story? Hold on tight to Jesus for He is our strength for living! Amen.

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