Samson and the Philistines

Series: Judges: God's Faithfulness to Flawed People

May 26, 2019 | Taylor Rutland
Passage: Judges 16:1-31

Today we wrap our study of Judges. We have looked at Ehud, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, and today we will be looking at probably the most well-known judge Samson. I would encourage all of you to go ahead and finish reading the book of Judges on your own even though we are stopping in Judges 16. I’ll reference the end of the book later on in the sermon, but Judges has 21 chapters, but Samson is the last of the judges in the book. The story of Samson is a classic story. Not only is he well-known in small groups and Sunday school classes, but he is known by the world at large. This morning we are picking up the end of the Samson story. Judges 14 and 15 reveal some of the characteristics of Samson. In Judges 14, he sees a Philistine woman and must have her as his wife. His parents encourage him to find someone among the Israelites, but Samson must have the Philistine woman. In this story, we see that Samson has a weakness for women, and ultimately, women are his god. He also tears apart a lion with his bare hands, and later returns to that lion and eats honey out of the carcass of the lion, which was against his Nazirite vow. What we should learn from Samson is that Samson did what was right in his own eyes. Like many of the judges before Samson, we should see ourselves in Samson. All of us tend to do what is right in our own eyes rather than doing what God would have us to do. So let’s pick up the story in Judges 16 as we conclude our study of Judges today.

Samson’s Major Flaw:

"Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her." — Judges 16:1

It’s not by accident that chapter 16 begins with this rather graphic depiction of Samson. It is written as if it just another typical detail of the story. Sadly, for Samson, this was a rather common event in his life. He always got whatever girl he wanted. He had no self-control in this area of his life. He did whatever was right in his eyes.

His physical power was his biggest strength and also his biggest weakness. He knew he could do whatever he wanted because at the end of the day, who would be strong enough to stop him?

He used his strength for power rather than in humility — the exact opposite of what Jesus taught and modeled for us. Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that Jesus humbled himself and became obedient to death on a cross. He gave up the power that he had to be weak. How often do you and I give up our status, power, or position? The Jews wanted Jesus to be a military and political ruler who would rule the Roman world. They were pushing him to do that, and yet Jesus said no because true obedience is not power but weakness.

The lack of self-control that Samson had over his sexual desires would have been praised in the Greco-Roman world that Jesus lived in, and would also be praised today as well.

  • Wilhelm Reich wrote The Sexual Revolution in 1936. Reich was a disciple of Freud, and he believed that what the world needed was a sexual revolution that would “enable human beings to realize their full potential and find gratification in life.” Reich’s sexual revolution came some 25 years before the 1960s sexual revolution that came about in America. For Reich, salvation was found in one’s salvation experience.

Samson had a similar outlook on life. As long as he could experience the pleasure of sex, life would be okay. This is the mentality into which all human beings can fall. The world teaches that you are not a complete human being if you are not able to experience your sexual desires. Even within the church, we have been guilty of elevating marriage above singleness as if marriage is what every Christian should aspire to do. Jackie Hill Perry, who I have mentioned before has this great quote that says, “Our sexuality is not our soul, marriage is not heaven, and singleness is not hell.”

When we see Samson, we should heed the warning of his life. Your joy and satisfaction in life should not be wrapped up in our ability to express sexual desires. Intimacy with Jesus is what is most important. So how do we respond to a world that believes that sexual expression is the most important thing life. Trevin Wax, in his book "This is Our Time" argues that Christians should resist and redirect. And what he means by that is that we should not only resist the cultural narrative but that we should redirect people and help them to understand why we follow Jesus’s teaching on this particular issue. If all we do is resist, we do not share the true reason why we do resist, so we must resist and redirect. As a Christian in 2019, you need to be able to think and speak with clarity and compassion on this issue.

Idols Seduce Us:

"And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, 'Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.'" — Judges 16:5

Samson was worshipping the God of women. First, it was a prostitute, and now he meets another woman Delilah. She is not an Israelite either, so he is continuing to be disobedient because God explicitly told the Israelites that they should not be with a woman from foreign nations.

But Samson can’t help himself because this particular idol has seduced him into thinking that he cannot live without it. This is the seduction that every idol creates in our lives. Let’s talk about the phone as an example. Trevin Wax points this out, Part of the reason we are on our phones so much today as a society is because we have a fear of missing out, and the only way to ensure that we don’t miss the latest breaking story or Instagram picture is to constantly be on the phone, but that leads to a second feeling of I can’t keep up, and the myth the phone is telling you is it has all the knowledge you need. And instead of the phone serving you, you begin to serve your phone. And so because there is so much information and we can never take it all in we have to select what knowledge we want to take in. So we select commentators, newscasters, and other voices that we want to hear. And so the second myth that the phone teaches you is that You are always right. That’s just one example of how an idol can seduce us. Maybe for you, it’s your money, your career, your family, your sports team, your exercise routine, your diet. We all struggle with different idols in our lives, and just because you eliminate one does not mean that another will not creep up.

The story of Judges shows us that every time the Israelites turned away from their idols, it was short lived. They played the comparison game with other nations, their hearts wanted the things that other people had, and so they turned to those Gods. For what is your heart longing? Power, comfort, safety, financial security, good health. All of those are idols.

  • Probably the most powerful idol in my own life currently is my routine. You can ask Ashley or other family members that are closest to me, and they will readily agree. I wake up the same time every day, eat the same breakfast every day, do the same morning rituals every day, go to bed the same time every night, and if I get out of that routine, I can be a pretty cranky individual. Ask Ashley when we go to the beach every summer when I’m out of my routine, and she’ll tell you how difficult I can be. For me, routine is the key to my success, but routine can also be the idol that I worship. Do I trust that God will provide for me even when I am out of my routine?

 Samson Gave Up His Heart:

"And he told her all his heart, and said to her, 'A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.'” — Judges 16:17

The key to Samson’s strength is finally revealed. He shares with Delilah after multiple attempts to trick her that his hair is the source of his strength. The Nazirite vow is laid out in Numbers 6:1-21. The vow required that they abstain from wine, grapes, raisins, vinegar, cutting their hair, and avoiding corpses and graves of any kind.

Now Samson had already violated his Nazirite vow when he ate honey out of the corpse of the dead lion, but now Delilah comes in and cuts all of his hair off, and he loses his strength.

Delilah lays the guilt on Samson pretty thick. Three times he had deceived her and told her ways that his strength could be defeated. So finally on the fourth try, he was honest with her and Judges tells us that he told her his whole heart. The idol in his life now had control of his heart.

No longer is Delilah just another woman that Samson had to have. He gave her his heart, and when you give someone your heart, you completely expose every aspect of who you are. Sadly for Samson, he gave his heart to an idol that could not redeem him, heal him, or nurture him. This story is ultimately not a story about a love relationship, but let me point out quickly a point of application. Anyone in the room who are considering being in a romantic relationship or is currently in one, guard your heart. The current romantic interest that you have will not satisfy your deepest longings and desires. Finding “the one” will not complete you. Do not believe the lie that a husband or a wife will solve all of your problems. That is a lie.

After Delilah shaves his head, the Philistines come upon Samson, but unlike other attempts to break free from Delilah’s traps he is unable to escape the clutches of the Philistines. The idol in Samson’s life ultimately leads to his captivity at the hands of the Philistines. Again another reminder that idols grab hold of your heart and they end up controlling you. Samson’s lust for Delilah, and yes, I did say lust—not love—caused him to be captured and punished by the Philistines. The author points out that Samson was not aware that the Spirit of God had left Samson. This is the true tragedy of the story Samson had given his heart entirely to the idol and was not even sensitive to the fact that God’s spirit had left him.

God Is The Hero:

"And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, 'Let me die with the Philistines.' Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life." — Judges 29-30

Samson musters up one last request of God, and he asks him for strength to seek his revenge against the Philistines for tearing his eyes out.

The story does have some redeemable aspects to it. Often we look at Samson and say that he redeemed himself in the end, but the hero of this story and the hero of Judges is God. You might see traits of yourself in Gideon, Deborah, or Samson, but the point of the book of Judges is not about how you are like these characters. The book of Judges is God’s faithfulness to flawed people. It is not about the redeemable qualities in the judges.

Every time we open up God’s word, we have to remember that it is a grand narrative about God redeeming human beings, not human beings redeeming themselves. Notice the parallels between Samson and Jesus. Samson and Jesus’s births were both foretold by an angel. Samson was born to a barren woman while Jesus was born to a virgin. Samson defeated a lion while Jesus defeated Satan, who is described in 1 Peter as a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Delilah was paid in silver for betraying Samson while Judas was paid in silver for betraying Jesus. Now let me point out that Samson is in no way shape or form Jesus. He struggled with pride, womanizing, and self-control, but Samson points us to a greater judge who humbles himself, loved unconditionally, and exhibited the ultimate self-control by willingly choose to die on the cross for us.

Samson is brought out to the Philistines to entertain them. I imagine they were dancing and partying laughing at the Israelite warrior for his now lack of strength. Samson was at his lowest position, and at that moment when he had nothing left, he reached out to God. And God looking at this pathetic man with no eyes who had completely turned away from Yahweh and was currently in a temple devoted to a Philistine God heard Samson’s prayer. And he gave Samson the strength one last time not so Samson could get the glory but so that all of Israel could know, and that all of us today can know that God will get his glory. Be encouraged friends, if God can answer the prayers of a man like Samson, he can certainly answer our prayers.

So let’s wrap up the book of Judges. What are we to take away from all of the different stories we have read the last couple of months? Here’s some takeaway observations for you to consider:

  1. Spend some time praying and identifying the idols in your life.
  2. Once those gods or idols are identified, develop an intentional plan to remove them from your life.
  3. In the times when you feel like a failure or unworthy of God’s love, remember that just like he was faithful to Gideon, Deborah, and Samson he will be faithful to you if you are in Christ.

He has to be faithful because that is what he tells us he will do in his word. Perhaps you doubt God’s faithfulness or his love to you. You don’t have to doubt it. Jesus came in the flesh died for you, and was raised from the dead. This is an event that happened in history. The story of Judges is God’s faithfulness to a flawed people, and it is the story of God’s faithfulness to you. Receive Christ today and be with him forever.

Series Information

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