Real Characters – Samson, Judges 13-16
I want you to picture this scene. It is a cold and rainy night in a dark alley in the middle of the concrete jungle of the metroplex. A crumpled piece of rubbish lies on the ground. Two dented trash cans are being inspected by a hungry dog. There is a boarded up shop on one side with a for rent sign painted on it. Far in the distance a police siren blares. Through the shadows and the mist a voice cries out; a woman’s voice: “Help, help!” she cries. “Please, somebody help!”
From out of nowhere, faster than a speeding bullet the superhero flies. His super sensitive ears have heard the cry of the woman and with arms outstretched and chin strong and eyes determined he races through the clouds to save her. He reaches the alley just in time to see the masked villain yank the purse from the beautiful woman’s grasp and start to run off. But as he turns he immediately hits the brick wall of the superhero’s chest. As he looks up into the clean-shaven and handsome face of the superhero, the superhero grabs him and throws him over the chain link fence with a thud.
The beautiful young woman blushes and blinks her eyes at the mighty man and starts to thank him as she reaches for the purse. Our hero puts his palm on the woman’s forehead and pushes her hard into the wall and flies off with her purse.
What do you think about that “superhero” now? Have you ever looked up to someone and had them really let you down? Have you ever found out that the person in whom you had so much respect was in reality a nasty old dirtbag? Have you known of anybody who could have been a hero but lacked the character to pull it off?
You may have seen the video of the young couple who was recently at the baseball game, sitting in the outfield and the foul ball came right at them and the boyfriend ducked out of the way and let his girlfriend get hit by the ball. There’s a hero! I understand they broke up not long after that.
What makes a situation worse is when a person has been given all the tools they need to accomplish a task and be a hero and they waste it. That is the situation we are going to see in our passage this morning in the book of Judges. When I was a kid I had several Bible story books like this one and I can remember reading and re-reading the story of Samson.
I loved the stories of how he killed a lion with his bare hands and later ate honey out of the carcass. He killed a thousand men with the jawbone of a donkey, tied the tails of foxes together and burned down the Philistines fields. He pulled up the giant gates to the city and carried them 40 miles away. And those are true stories. Samson was a real character in the Bible and these stories are real and true. And so we continue with our study of real characters in the Bible and while we see that Samson was a real character, he also lacked real character.
When I was a kid, I didn’t care about Samson’s character. I just wanted to read about him whipping somebody or doing some outrageous feat of strength. And honestly, I don’t know that I have read about Samson in years and when I did so this week, I read it over and over again trying to figure out why this was even in the Bible. Was it just to impress little boys who wanted to grow up to be like Samson? I hope not given Samson’s illicit feelings toward women!
Turn to Judges Chapter 13 and let’s try to figure out why the story of Samson is here and what we can learn from it. Let’s read verses 1-5 to start.
Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.2 Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. 3 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. 4 Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. 5 For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”
Before Samson was even born God had a special plan for his life. It reminds me of the verse in Psalm 139 that says, “13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”
Samson was born to be a Nazirite. The Nazirites, according to Numbers 6, were to be dedicated or consecrated to the Lord in a special way. Even among a special people, the Nazirites were to be even more so. They were not allowed to eat or drink anything from a grapevine. They were not allowed to touch or be around a dead body and they could not cut their hair. And Samson was intended by God to be a Nazirite for life.
In verses 24 and 25, it says, “So the woman bore a son and called his name Samson; and the child grew, and the Lord blessed him. 25 And the Spirit of the Lord began to move upon him.”
God obviously has plans for Samson and has set him apart from others so that through him God might get glory. Aren’t you glad that God doesn’t call us to be Nazirites? I don’t have much hair but what I do have would look horrible if I didn’t cut it. And I don’t eat a lot of fruit but I do like grapes. I don’t really have a problem with staying away from dead people but overall I’m real glad I am not called to be a Nazirite.
I’m real glad God has not called me to be consecrated, dedicated or set apart. I’m glad I’m not called to be different than everybody else or set apart for God’s glory, aren’t you? But unfortunately, there’s a problem. It’s this pesky old Bible. You see, those words I used to describe Samson are the very definition of the word “holy”. To be holy means to be consecrated, different, set apart for God’s glory.
And the other problem is that we are called to be holy. When you think of being holy you might think of angels or God Himself and you wouldn’t be wrong. You might read the front cover of your Bible and it might say “holy” and that is true. You might even think of your saintly Christian mother as being holy or maybe somebody like Billy Graham and you would be correct. Those are holy people. Your Bible is holy. This place is holy. Even this day is holy.
And this pesky old Bible says that we are to be holy. Now I know that messes up some of your plans. I know that may interfere with what you want to do or how you want to be seen but holy God says in I Peter 1:15 and 16, “14 As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. 15 But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; 16 for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
It also says in Hebrews 12:14, “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy” and so you think you might try to be a little bit holy when you can. But that verse continues with, “without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Is that convincing enough for you? Now you think you might want to be holy but how do we do that? Does that mean we have to be monks, living in a cave and chanting over and over?
No. In fact we are supposed to be in this world but not of this world. Romans 12:2 says, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world.” It doesn’t say get out of this world but just don’t be conformed to it. We should look different than the rest of the world. We should be different, set apart…holy.
Well, Todd, that sounds real good. I would like to be holy but how can we do that? What does it look like in the life of a believer to actually be holy? You say I don’t have to be a monk and I don’t have to be a Nazirite. How do I do that then? That’s a great question and it brings me back to Samson.
I don’t believe it is a coincidence that God called Nazirites to take the vows regarding their appearance, diet and habits. God didn’t just arbitrarily come up with some crazy things for the Nazirites to do just on a whim. He made those laws for a reason and we can use them as guides in our own lives to be holy as God has commanded us. Let’s go back to Numbers chapter 6.
In that passage it says that the Nazirite is not to eat or drink anything from the grapevine. He is not to cut his hair and he is not to touch a dead body. Those laws refer to what we take in our bodies, how we look and what we do. I can tell you right now that Samson did a poor job of keeping his vows and he paid for it. But for us today, if we want to be holy we need to
1) Be holy in what we take in to our bodies.
2) Be holy in how we look.
3) Be holy in what we do.
I hesitate to start this first point because I realize I forgot my steel toed boots and I know I am going to step all over my own toes this morning. This point may be painful for most of us this morning. In fact, this whole sermon may be painful because of the difficulty of being holy. But if we are to start, it needs to start with what we allow into our bodies.
We talked about what the Bible says about gluttony a few weeks ago on Wednesday night. I don’t know why the topic of gluttony is thought of as funny or as something that, well, we shouldn’t do but since nobody else is worried about it I guess I won’t really worry about it. Since everybody else eats too much it must not be a sin. We found out that Wednesday night that is not correct. God calls gluttony a sin.
But it is not just what we put in our mouths that cause problems. To be holy, we need to regulate what goes in our nose, eyes and ears as well. Let me illustrate. If somebody in this community that doesn’t know me saw me coming out of the One Stop with this stuff in my hands, what do you think they would think? (Fake Playboy, fake explicit lyrics CD and root beer can in a bag)
They probably wouldn’t think anything at all. That’s what people do. That’s why places sell this stuff, because people buy it. But if I came out of the One Stop carrying this stuff and you saw me, what would you think? You would be very disappointed because you expect me to be holy. But the fact is we are all called to be holy just as God is holy and we should be holy, different, set apart from this world by what we allow into our bodies.
Samson didn’t place a high enough premium on his Nazirite vows. In fact, he did the best with the vow to not cut his hair because that one took the least amount of self-control but in the end he blew that one as well. Read Judges 16:15-17: 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 sick to death of it.17 So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”
He obviously put no value on his vow and so he told Delilah the secret of his strength. It took her 3 times and lots of nagging but he gave in and revealed to her his secret and he ultimately looked like anybody else. We all know the story about how she shaved his head and when she did he lost all of his God-given power. And when the Philistines barged in the room he jumped up and thought he would destroy them as he did before not knowing that because he had not valued the vow, God was not with him and they overcame him and took him into slavery.
Without all that hair, Samson looked like everybody else. How about you? When people see you what do they see? Do you look and act like everybody else or is there something that sets you apart? Yes, we are to dress modestly and appropriately unlike most people in this world but there is more to our appearance than how we dress.
When people see you, and make no mistake this world is most definitely watching us, what do they see? Do they see someone who is holy, separate and different or do they see the world? When they see you at work, at home, shopping, on the lake, on the golf course, gun range or in your car, do people see Jesus in you? We can try to do the right thing. We can try to be nice to people. We can smile and say “God bless you, brother” all day but until people see Jesus in us we have failed to value our vow of holiness.
And I can stand up here all day long and encourage you to think WWJD, what would Jesus do, and give you specific ways in which we should emulate Jesus but it all boils down to one thing; one word…love. John 13:35 sums it all up best: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." It doesn’t matter how many Bible studies you go to or how many scriptures you have memorized. The world is watching us and the one way that they will see that we are different is not how big our church is or how many people go each Sunday. They don’t care about our budget or how much we enjoy being together. They want to see, they expect to see, they must see that we love each other but not only each other but people in our community and around the world. Without that love we are a resounding gong.
That’s how we are to be holy in how we look. Let’s see how we are to be holy in what we do. Nazirites were forbidden from touching or being around dead bodies. Samson killed so many people he couldn’t keep track of the number and so he violated that vow as well but for us today nobody wants to be around a dead body. Ooh pastor, I don’t have a problem with this part of the sermon at all. I don’t like death. I don’t want to see it or be around it. I don’t want to have anything to do with a dead person.
I’m glad to hear that but what about that nasty old dead person inside of you that you keep dragging around? II Corinthians 5:17 says, “17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” Galatians 5:24 says, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” Romans 12:1 says, “to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.”
Do you have trouble with the first 2 points, being holy in what you take in your body and in how you look? Do you find it hard to leave your past behind? Is it difficult to love some people? Satan knows that about you. He knows how to push your buttons and he will come to you and say, “Hey, you know that thing you used to like to do? You know that feeling you get when you think about that certain person? Let’s do that again.”
That’s when you say leave me alone because that is the old me. The old, dead person who no longer lives because for me to live is Christ and I throw that nasty old rotting corpse of what used to be me on the altar of prayer to God and ask Him to take that away. Burn that up because that is no longer who I am. And when Satan comes back again and again, just chunk that old dead guy up there again and present yourself as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God.
There is a story that I use for an illustration. It has questionable doctrinal reality but it’s good for an illustration. A man dies and goes to Heaven and Jesus is showing him around. He shows him the pearly gates and the gold streets and they get to the mansion that Jesus has built for the man and they go inside and look around. It is, of course, incredible. Everything a person in Heaven could ask for is right there. Lots of room, lots of space, a great view. A lawn that never needs mowing. They look all through each room and each is better than the last. The man looks out the back and sees a shed and asks Jesus what’s in the shed. Jesus says, “Ah, nothing. Don’t mind that.” The man says, “No. that thing’s huge. What’s in there?” So Jesus takes him out there and opens it up and it is full of wonderful and glorious blessings, things too great to even imagine. The man is startled and asks Jesus why all this is out here and not in the house. Jesus says, “Well, these are all the blessings that could have been yours if you had just been obedient.”
Samson was set up to be blessed by God. He had everything he needed to bring great glory to God. If he had been obedient we would still be singing songs about him; we would still be naming baby boys after him. Who knows how history might have changed if only he had valued his vow to be holy? But he missed out on a lot of blessings that God had waiting for him.
I want to read one last little passage about Samson. I want to read his last words in chapter 16 verse 28. “Then Samson prayed to the LORD, "O Sovereign LORD, remember me.” You remember the scene. Samson has been taken as a slave by the Philistines and they have gouged out his eyes and now they bring him into the coliseum to make fun of him. Thousands of people are there just to mock him and praise their false god for overcoming their enemy. Samson hears the mocking and asks someone to place his hands on the giant pillars that hold up the coliseum. And just before he pushes them over and kills them all, himself included, he makes one final statement. “Oh Sovereign Lord, Remember me.”
Oh Sovereign Lord, Lord of all. Creator of all. The one in whom all is made and sustained. Your will be done. Whatever you want will happen and I am ok with that because I trust you. Remember me like the thief on the cross, he says there is nothing I have done that is worthy of you but I bring all my bad decisions, all my disobedience to you and simply say, remember me. Can you relate to that? Is that what you need to say today?
Father, forgive me. I know I have not been holy. I know I have brought dishonor to your name and I have missed out on blessings because I have not been holy in what I take into my body, in how I look and in what I do but I come to you right now and just ask that you remember me.