*Good Friday Morning! I hope you are enjoying our look at the life of Samson. There is still much to gleam from this story, so let's get to work.
"One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute." (Judges 16:1)
Wow! Last night I was watching an episode of COPS on television. Zander was watching it with me. All was well until a police officer pulled up on this vehicle parked in a parking lot. Guess what they were doing? Zander asked me what they were being arrested for. I just answered, "They're being bad son," as I quickly turned the channel to the Disney. (Thank goodness for the remote control) Well, the Bible doesn't turn the channel on us. The story is simple: Samson visited a prostitute. But, the story isn't so simple. There is a bigger story being told. We will put this all together soon.
"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.' But 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." (Judges 16:2-3)
Maybe the motel charged by the hour. (Sorry, I couldn't resist) In this account Samson visits the prostitute for obvious reasons. In the case of the two spies visiting Rahab in Joshua one could argue that they were only visiting to gather information. (I don't think that was the case, but...I wasn't there) But, with Samson, no, he is there for ...Remember, he saw her. He saw his wife and demanded his parents get her for him. Samson wants what he sees. Perhaps we could argue that he is driven by lust.
Samson carries the gates to the city away on his shoulders. He carried them to the top of the hill facing Hebron. This is quite a task when we consider the fact that the distance from Gaza to Hebron is thirty-five miles. Plus, it's uphill. Again, Samson is a man of great physical strength. No one can stop Samson! No one! Not one single person...except...one man. Who is this one man who can stop Samson? Yes, the only person who can stop Samson is...Samson.
"Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. 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 Delilah said to Samson, 'Tell me the secret of your great strength..." (Judges 16:4-6)
We are not told that Delilah was a Philistine, but she most likely is due to where she is from. Let's assume she is. (I believe for certain that she is) Samson is drawn to what women? Foreign women. *Keep this in mind. Well, this story is very similar to that of Samson meeting his wife earlier. We are not told how Delilah felt about Samson. She does agree to trapping him in exchange of a large payoff. She asks him for his secret and, just like with the riddle in chapter 14, he plays a game. He tells her a couple of lies. The Philistines fall for them and Samson gets away. But, Delilah, just as the first wife says, "If you love me..."
"How can you say, 'I love you when you won't confide in me?' With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death. 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.'" (Judges 16:15-17)
This is the second time Samson has revealed information. Remember, his first wife was able to convince him to reveal the answer to the riddle. Samson survived the first time, but there is more at stake here. He has now revealed the source of his strength. Why? He grows tired of Delilah's pouting and nagging. This is the first time the hair has come into play. Remember, his mother was told before he was born that no razor was to touch his hair. If the hair is cut then the person is discharged from the vow, therefore God would no longer empower the person.
"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." (Judges 16:19)
Oh the irony! Here we have the strong man, who just a while ago carried the gate to the city away on his shoulders, sleeping on the lap of Delilah. I drove by a school yesterday and saw, on the playground, a young girl laying her head in the lap of a boy. She was sleeping. I thought, "Ahhhh...Young love." In this case, we have a grown man (sort of) with his head in the lap of a woman. But, instead of "Ahhh..." we perhaps should proclaim, "Uh Oh! This isn't good!" One more bit of irony. I have said on many occasions that numbers in the Bible are important. Always pay attention to numbers. Remember, the number seven is always full of meaning. Seven is usually in some way connected to God. God rested on the seventh day. The number seven is the number for completion. Delilah has made seven braids out of Samson's hair. How ironic! Then, how said. What now takes place is one of the saddest tales in all the Bible.
"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. 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. But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved." (Judges 16:21-22)
Samson is now a disgraced warrior assigned to menial tasks usually carried out by...women and slaves. Yes, more irony. Samson is now, bald, blind and bound. He doesn't have his hair (part of the Nazirite vow), he can't see (Remember he wanted what he saw) and he is unable to break free of his chains (Before this was no problem). Here is a man who, for all intents and purpose, is done.
O.K., before we conclude this story let's tie everything together. What is this story about? Who is it about? "Well, preacher, it's about Samson!" No, it's not! It's a story about Israel. Samson is a walking portrait of Israel. Did you notice in the story of Samson that Israel did not cry out for help. In the previous stories of judges the people were oppressed and then they cried out to God for help. Not this time. Have you noticed that Samson never asked God to help him? He relied on his strength. Also, Samson loved foreign women and was lured away by them, just as Israel was lured away by foreign gods. So many times Israel becomes helpless simply because they do not trust God and abandon God to follow their desires.
From the moment of conception Samson was to be devoted to Yahweh. So was Israel. But, by his lifestyle Samson demonstrated that neither his Nazirite vow nor his Israelite identity meant anything to him. However, from the beginning of Samson's story we were told that God was using Samson as a way of getting to the Philistines. Now, the stage is set.
"Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate saying, 'Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands...While they were inn high spirits they shouted, 'Bring out Samson to entertain us.' So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them. When the stood him among the pillars, Samson said to the servant who held his hand, "Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple. (Judges 16:23-26)
The Bible tells us that there were about three thousand men and women watching this spectacle. Now, keep in mind that Samson is now helpless. He is being led around by a servant who is most likely a young boy. No one fears him anymore. Oh, we need to also remember that we have been told that his hair has began to grow back. Oh, yes! Pay attention to these minute details. I can just picture Samson's arms outstretched against these pillars that hold the temple up, and all of a sudden the hair begins to tickle the back of his neck and he gets it. He finally gets it! And for the first time he prays to the Lord:
"O Sovereign Lord, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just this once more." (Judges 16:28)
So, Samson died that day. He pushed the pillars over and the temple fell. But, in his death he killed more Philistines than he had ever killed before. This indicates that in the end God was able to achieve what God set out to do, but only after Samson realized that it wasn't all about what Samson wanted.
O.K., we will return to the Book of Judges on Monday. There is more to discover from this wonderful book. I pray you have a great weekend. -Pastor Rick