Good morning, welcome to Christ’s Community Church as we’re continuing in part three of our series on Samson. Now if you haven’t been with us, we’ve been looking at the story of Samson, a man who was called by God and set apart from birth to help deliver the Israelites from the oppression of the Philistines. But what we’ve discovered, is that Samson is really frustrating as a character study, because he was given supernatural strength to do what God called him to do, but we see time and time again that regardless of his potential Samson continued to make bad decisions one right after another.
Today as we pick up the story we find Samson in the desert and if you remember from last week he’s very thirsty, his need drove him to God, and so he cried out to God in Judges Chapter 15. And verse 19 says: “Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore and it is still there in Lehi.” And then verse 20, tells us, “Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.”
Now let’s stop there for a moment, because this is important. If you’ve been with us, we’ve seen Samson again and again making bad decisions, we’ve looked at three attitudes that made him weak, we saw that he was driven by his emotions instead of being led by the Spirit, and now he’s experienced the grace of God. He’s revived and refreshed by this miraculous flow of water in the desert and now all of a sudden he’s on task, he’s doing what he was called to do, and verse 20 tells us that he faithfully led Israel for 20 years. And so, it appears as if Samson has gotten his act together, he’s serving God, but tragically we’re going to see as Proverbs 26:11 tells us: “As a dog returns to its vomit so a fool repeats his folly.” And by the end of this morning, we’ll find Samson, a man with so much God-given potential, making bad decisions once again, and ending up with his eyes gouged out and a prisoner of the Philistines. The important thing for us to note is that Samson did what so many of us do today. He compromised his faith one step at a time. So, what I want to do is show you the steps that led to Samson’s downfall. There are three and the first one we see is…
Let’s pick up the story again in Judges Chapter 16 at verse one, after 20 years of faithfulness, verse one says: “One day...” Now what’s interesting, is that this is how it plays out in our lives time and time again. Just consider the story of King David when he had the affair with Bathsheba. 2 Samuel 11:1-3 tells us: “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army… but David remained in Jerusalem. One evening, David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful and David sent someone to find out about her…” You see, it was just one day, one evening, and just like Samson or King David every one of us has the potential to start making bad decisions that lead us step by step down the slippery slope of self-destruction.
Let’s continue in verse one, Judges 16:1-2, “One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. The people of Gaza were told, "Samson is here!" So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, "At dawn we'll kill him."
So once again we find Samson tempting himself. He goes into enemy territory, to Gaza, and no sooner than he arrives, than he saw a prostitute and decided to visit her. So once again we see Samson overcome by “the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does” (1 John 2:16). He tempts himself, unconsciously deciding one step at a time, to set himself up for failure, and becoming a slave to his passions. It seems far-fetched that a man of God who did such great things by the power of the Holy Spirit would visit a prostitute, but in recent years there have been enough scandals in the ministry the Church to put us all on guard. And the Bible warns us in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don't fall!” And the bottom line is that each and every one of us are one step away from a destructive decision. And it happens every single day, a man or woman forsakes their integrity, their marriage, ministry, or career for the fleeting pleasures of sin, because the problem is that like Samson we’re setting ourselves up for failure. You see, we don’t mess up our lives, our families, or our ministries overnight; it’s subtle and it happens one step at a time. Samson tempts himself and yet he had a myriad of opportunities to question himself, to question his motives, to reconsider, and yet he didn’t do it. Instead, one day he wakes up and finds himself in big trouble, but he didn’t get there all at once, he got there one step at a time.
Now word got out that Samson was in town and the people of Gaza posted a guard at the city gate to capture and kill him in the morning, but Samson never one to resist the temptation to do something that would infuriate his enemies, decides to leave town after midnight while the guards were asleep. Look at verse three with me, Judges 16:3, “Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.”
So Samson is shacked up with this girl, the Philistines are waiting for him, and he gets up in the middle of the night, tears down the city gates and throws them over his shoulders. He picks up the doors, posts, and bars and carries them off to the top of the hill outside of town. Now these are serious doors, this was likely over 1,000 pounds, and Samson just rips them off the hinges, mocking the Philistines, just to prove a point that they’re not safe when he’s around. But he’s just acting arrogantly and as we’ll see he’s only hurting himself, he’s setting himself up for failure, and that leads us to our second point,
Samson put himself in a place of temptation, he teases the enemy, and as many of us often do, he underestimated the enemy. You see, we have a spiritual enemy whose mission is to steal, kill, and destroy everything and anything that matters to the heart of God. The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Satan doesn’t just want to hurt you, he wants to destroy you, and devour you. And just like Samson, we betray ourselves by putting ourselves in places of temptation over and over again. Some of you are godly, you’re different from the world, and you want to remain sexually pure and yet you put yourself in compromising situations. Or maybe you’re married and you go on a business trip and everybody’s going out for drinks afterward and like Samson you think, “I can handle this.” You’re just taunting the enemy. It’s like being broke and going for a walk around the new car lot. You’re setting yourself up for failure and you’re going to betray yourself.
Look at what Samson did in verse four, remember the first thing we saw him do wrong was to go after the Philistine woman, a woman who worshiped false gods. Then we saw him again a second time in verse one with a prostitute. And now look at Judges 16:4, “Sometime later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah.” Now this is the third time he's messing around with a Philistine woman. It’s “Sometime later” and he’s still rationalizing his lust, you know, “It’s nobody’s business but mine, it’s not hurting anybody, nobody knows, I was lonely, it doesn’t really matter.” And he’s just rationalizing the same old sin and he’s betraying himself.
Watch what happened in verse five. The Bible says: Judges 16:5, “The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, "See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver."
6 So Delilah said to Samson, "Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued."
7 Samson answered her, "If anyone ties me with seven fresh thongs that have not been dried, I'll become as weak as any other man."
8 Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh thongs that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. 9 With men hidden in the room, she called to him, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!" But he snapped the thongs as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered.
10 Then Delilah said to Samson, "You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied."
11 He said, "If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I'll become as weak as any other man."
12 So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Then, with men hidden in the room, she called to him, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!" But he snapped the ropes off his arms as if they were threads.
Delilah then said to Samson, "Until now, you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied."
He replied, "If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric [on the loom] and tighten it with the pin, I'll become as weak as any other man." So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric 14 and tightened it with the pin.
Again she called to him, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!" He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric.”
15 Then she said to him, "How can you say, 'I love you,' when you won't confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven't told me the secret of your great strength." 16 With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death.”
Now I want you to consider this guys, because Samson was strong enough to kill 1,000 men, strong enough to tear apart a lion bare-handed, strong enough to lift a 1,000 pound gate above his head, but he wasn’t strong enough to resist this woman and he betrays himself. He had so much strength, but this nagging woman, and I’m getting off track, but guys don’t just be strong in business, your hobbies, or your sport; be strong leading those around you in righteousness.
Look at what Samson does in verse 17: Judges 16:17-18 “So he told her everything; "No razor has ever been used on my head," he said, "because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man."
“When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, "Come back once more; he has told me everything." So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands.”
Now you all remember his Nazirite vows right? Don’t get drunk, don’t touch anything unclean, and don’t what? Don’t get your hair cut. So he tells her, “I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me and I would become as weak as any other man.” And I wonder, if at that very moment there wasn’t an awakening, a dawning upon him, as he considered where he was, what he was doing, and remembering who he was created to be. And in the same way, I wonder if there are some of you here this morning who have forgotten who you were created to be? That God created you with purpose, he gave you gifts, and he called you to glorify him and to make a difference in this world. Sometimes like Samson we just have to remember, "I was made for more than this!" Maybe Samson’s looking back, but it’s too late, he’s betrayed himself, and verse 19 says: Judges 16:19 “Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.”
Today, some of you out of disobedience to God, are doing battle every single day in your own strength and forgetting to tap into the power of God. You see just like Samson, we don’t mess up our lives all at once, we do it one step at a time. Samson tempts himself, he betrays himself, and third…
Samson like so many of us today, assume "I’ve been here before, I can do this again because I've gotten away with it before.” He assumed he wouldn’t reap what he had sown, but the Bible tells us in Galatians 6:7-8, “A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction…”
And so in verse 20: Judges 16:20, Delilah called, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!" He awoke from his sleep and thought, "I'll go out as before and shake myself free." But he did not know that the Lord had left him.” He didn’t know that things had changed. And so often, we get away with so much that we think we’re going to get away with it forever. No one has found out. No one has held you accountable. But there’s coming a day when you think that you’ll go out as before and try to shake yourself free only to discover that your sin will find you out, you’ve been overpowered and overcome. Samson didn’t realize that the Lord had left him!
Verse 21 tells us, and here's the tragedy; Judges 16:21, “Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison.” Now this is so sad, because here’s a man who had so much potential, yet ended up destroying himself; but the bottom line is that he didn’t do it all at once, it crept up on him, because it happened one step at a time.
As we close, I want to ask you to get really serious, because we’re going to celebrate the Lord’s Supper together, and I want you to be really honest, because we’re going to have communion together with God. And so what I want to do is I want to ask you to answer this one question. Not out loud, but in your heart with God. And that is, “Where are you stepping away from God?” You could be on step number one or 100, but “Where are you stepping away from God?”
You see, for some of you it could be something as simple as being a Christian and yet you're not spending any time in God's Word. Or you're a Christian and you're not spending any time in prayer. And so in other words, your hair is still long, you're still in church. You've got the outward sign that you're following God, but inwardly your heart has drifted from Him. Or it could be that you're caught up in this world, that you're disobeying God in one way or another, it could be any number of things, and so I want to challenge you to have the courage to be honest about it and just to answer truthfully, because you’re only as strong as you’re honest.
Where are you stepping away from God? Maybe you’ve only taken one step or maybe you’ve taken 99, but if you’ve stepped away from God in any way stop and turn around. If you’ve been stepping away from God right now turn around and go the other way. It’s not too late and when you turn around our God is waiting for you. The Bible says in Zechariah 1:3, “'Return to me,' declares the Lord Almighty, 'and I will return to you.” He is that good of a God. The prophet Joel said in chapter 2:13, “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love…”
As I wrap this up I want to show you a verse that really describes the grace of our God. Just think about Samson’s hair for a moment; his hair was an outward sign of his Nazirite vow and his consecration to God. But now his hair has been cut, he’s standing there before his enemies, he’s publicly shamed, his lack of hair is a testimony to his disobedience, but God in his mercy included this verse to illustrate for us His loving grace. Samson is there with his head shaved, he’s humiliated, but verse 22 tells us, Judges 16:22, “But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.” Isn’t that awesome? The hair on his head began to grow again and that’s how God’s grace is. Even though Samson had sinned, he’d disobeyed, but God said, “That which gives you strength will grow again.” Today, if you stepped away from God, turn back, and God will be there to make your hair grow again.
Pastor John Talcott
Christ's Community Church
303 West Lincoln Avenue
Emmitsburg, MD 21727
June 26, 2016
Graphics and reference material from LifeChurch, PC Study Bible, and Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.