The book of Judges can be a very controversial book. It’s pages are filled with sex and violence, rape and massacre, brutality and deceit. The book of Judges is interesting because it’s a point of transition for the nation of Israel. They’re beginning to stray from the idea of a God being their king and trying to become like all the other nations around them, and God sends judges or leaders to lead Israel back into a relationship with Him. Without these leaders appointed by God the people did whatever they pleased and it was complete mayhem. They worshipped other idols, sacrificed their children in fire, prostituted themselves at the temple. The line between the People of God and the Pagan World around them was significantly blurred.
What’s interesting about the book of Judges is that the stories don’t play out the way you’d expect them to. In the midst of drunken revelry, prostitution, adultery, and violence you’d expect to see leaders arise with strong morals, and godly attitudes to lead people back to God and yet we get the exact opposite in Judges. We see broken and sinful people being used by God. “God, it turns out, does not require good people in order to do good work. He can and does work with us in whatever moral and spiritual condition He finds us. God, we are learning, does some of his best work using the most unlikely people” (Eugene Peterson, The Message Bible).
These stories serve two purposes: 1. to encourage us that even in our sinfulness God can use us in powerful ways, 2. to help us learn from the mistakes of others so that we don’t repeat them. I hope that as you read through this series that you’re reassured in your salvation that can only be found through Jesus; that you are made confident in God’s plans for your life; that you are challenged to get rid of the things in your life that are a stumbling block in your walk with God.
Judges 13-16 chronicles the story of one of the Bible’s most famous judges: Samson. Samson was born to a family who had little hope of ever having children. Much like Sarah and Abraham, Manoah and his wife were plagued by barrenness. But an angel of the Lord appears to them and promises them a child and declares that Samson will be a “Nazirite,” dedicated to God. A Nazirite was a person who took a certain vow to be dedicated to God. This meant they vowed to keep the commandments, never to drink any fermented drink, and to keep all the laws of ritual cleanliness. A symbol in the story of Samson, of his vows and his relationship and dedication to God was his hair. From the moment of his birth Samson was never to have his hair cut, no razor could ever touch his hair.
Our Choices Can Conflict With Our Calling
Even before his birth, Samson was called by God for a specific purpose. His purpose was to begin the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines. Samson was born for the purpose of beginning the deliverance from the Philistines, but more importantly than that, Samson was called to do it in a way that honored God. There were other leaders and judges who delivered Israel from the hands of their enemies, but in this particular case, Samson was also called to be a Nazirite, a godly individual that would fulfill his purpose while still remaining true to God’s commands and instructions.
In Judges 14 when Samson asked to marry a Philistine, his parents naturally responded wearily asking if there weren’t any women among their people that would be suitable for Samson? Samson travels down to Timnah which was about 3 ½ miles from Zorah. Timnah was a city of the Philistines; Samson had no business mingling with them the way he did. His calling was to begin the deliverance from the Philistines, not to socialize with them, but in his time there, he sees a pretty young lady, and he decides to marry her based on her looks. Samson’s choices are beginning toconflict with his calling. He was called to serve the Lord, and keep the law of God and yet he was breaking the law by intermarrying with a woman of a pagan culture.
No set of rules, commandments or doctrines can ever bring you salvation. This means that how you dress, what you do, what you say, whatever you believe CANNOT strip you of the salvation that is found in Jesus. Your relationship with Jesus is the only thing that can save you. The relationship you have with Jesus, that Spirit working in you to become a better person, the Kingdom life living and breathing in you, that’s where salvation lies. This being said though, there are choices we make and actions we take that can put our relationship with God in jeopardy. If our relationship with God is the only thing that can save us, then that means we need to take every precaution and every step to make sure that we have a strong relationship with God. If there is something in your life that is affecting your relationship with God, cut it out of your life!
If there is something in your life that negatively impacts your relationship with God, or something that might start you down a road that leads you away from God, cut that thing out, don’t get started down that road. One of the questions a lot of youth like to ask me whereve I go, is whether or not drinking or doing drugs is right or wrong. I start by first asking what their goals are with God. If your goal is to get closer to God and have a healthy relationship with Him then every decision you make will either lead you down a road that takes you closer or further from God. If your goal is to be closer to God, but a choice starts you down a road that takes you in the opposite direction, why even start that road.
I don’t drink any alcohol, or do any drugs, not because it’s the “wrong” thing to do, not because some preacher told me not to. I don’t do these things because I recognize that these things start me down the wrong path. I never want to be in state of mind or being where I am not in full control of my actions and liable to do something that would comprise my relationship with God. Being a follower of Jesus isn’t only about receiving the Kingdom life, receiving salvation, it’s about living the Kingdom Life. Being a follower of Jesus means representing what salvation looks like, representing the attitude and mission of Jesus. The way we represent God’s Kingdom through our lives has a profound Kingdom impact. Our legacy can either help or hinder people around us.
One Thing Always Leads to Another
I have found true for my life and for a lot of people I’ve run into, that one thing will always lead to another. We have a God who is working hard to bring us into a relationship with Him, but there’s also a Devil who is also working hard to draw us away from God. For Samson his first compromise was in marrying a Philistine woman. As he travels with his family to meet the woman it says that Samson encounters a Lion and kills it with his own hands, and on his way back again some time later to marry the woman, it says he finds a honeycomb in the lions mouth. He takes it and eats from it and shares it with his parents but doesn’t tell them where it’s from. The reason he doesn’t tell his parents where it’s from is because according to the Jewish laws of being ritually clean you were not allowed to touch a dead body or eat anything that had touched the dead body of an animal that had not been killed in the right way.
Maybe it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to us that Samson wants to intermarry, or that he eats honey from a dead lions mouth but what we’re seeing here is the beginning of something worse in Samson’s life. We’re seeing him compromise his calling to be set apart for God. We see him ignore his Nazirite vows, and break some of God’s laws. They may not seem all that bad in our context today but these small acts of disobedience lead Samson to even greater acts of disobedience. It says in 16:1 “One day Samson went to Gaza where he saw a prostitute. He went in and spent the night with her.” We started this story with a boy dedicated to God, and now we’re reading that Samson goes to Gaza and sleeps with a prostitute. How do we get from there to here? By compromising little vows, Samson started down a road that would lead him to compromise even bigger vows.
It doesn’t matter what area of your life it is, the devil will always take a mile wherever you afford him an inch. He gets us to compromise on seemingly irrelevant matters. He has us break little vows here and there and we may fail to realize is that he’s leading us down a road where we might be willing to do something that would go against morals we used to feel strongly about. We may try to close the door on the devil, we may try to keep him out, but every time we let something small wedge it’s way in we’re setting the foundation for greater and greater things to wedge their way in. What was once a small gap may end up being something much bigger down the road.
If we know that there is something that leads you into sin it is up to us to take the appropriate steps to protect our relationship with God. If we truly value that relationship then we do everything possible to protect that.
Our Emotions Can Cloud Our Judgement
Judges 16:4 “Some time later Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah, who lived in the valley of Sorek. 5The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, ‘Entice Samson to tell you what makes him so strong and how he can be overpowered and tied up securely. Then each of us will give you 1,100 pieces of silver.’ 6So Delilah said to Samson, ‘Please tell me what makes you so strong and what it would take to tie you up securely.’”
Samson is at this point in his life where one of the only vows he hasn’t yet broken is the cutting of his hair. He’s still honoring that vow, and so despite all the mistakes he’s making and all the vows with God he’s breaking, God honors that small connection with Samson and provides him with strength in a couple of occasions. Samson is so used to being with the wrong kind of people, hanging out with thieves and prostitutes, and its among this group that he meets Delilah who seduces him for the purpose of handing him over to the Philistines. She begs him to reveal the secret of his strength, and Samson lies to her 3 different times He says he should be tied with 7 new bowstrings that haven’t been dried and he’d lose his strength. So she ties him up and yells “the Philistines are upon you!” but he breaks loose. And they do this back and forth 3 different times, every time Delilah proving that she wants to be able to weaken Samson.
How we “feel” about something shouldn’t be a primary factor in our decisions. Delilah manipulated Samson’s emotions into finally confessing his secret to her. It was the love Samson felt for Delilah that lead him to trusting a clearly untrustworthy woman with his connection with God. We are never more in danger of doing wrong than when we are emotionally invested in something. I don’t mean to say that emotions are evil and that you should be emotionless. Emotions serve an important function in conveying messages of our state of being, but I have learned that when it comes to determining whether something will lead me closer to God or further from God, emotions can cloud my judgment.
When I go shopping for groceries I have a very specific shopping list because I’m on a diet, so I only buy the things I need to make my meals. I’m in and out, I know what aisles to go into, and what aisles to avoid. I try to avoid the chips aisle, and the ice-cream isle, but sometimes as I’m looking for something I accidently turn down that aisle. When I accidently find myself in the junk food aisle I got to throw up a quick prayer, like, “though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no transfat.” But shopping for groceries is 1000x’s worse if I go shopping when I’m hungry. Everything looks so much better when you’re hungry, and I am prone to buy food that don’t fit my diet plan. That’s why I make an effort to never shop for groceries hungry! When we are angry, or sad, in love, or even hungry we don’t always think clearly, and we face the danger of justifying our wrong choices. Unfortunately for Samson trusting his emotions lead him to be captured by the Philistines.
It Grows Back
Judges 16:21-22 “So the Philistines captured him and gouged out his eyes. They took him to Gaza, where he was bound with bronze chains and forced to grind grain in the prison. But before long, his hair began to grow back.” Samson was under Philistine captivity as a direct result of his choices. The little choices that he made led him down the wrong path. Every wrong choice was preparing him to make even worse choices, and he got to the point where he completely gave up his connection with God. The consequences of which led him to be enslaved and have his eyes gouged out.
His hair was the final symbol of his connection with God and he let it be cut off but before long, it began to grow back. Your relationship with God can grow back. It doesn’t matter how many wrong decisions you’ve made; it doesn’t matter how far you are from God; it doesn’t matter your present circumstances; it doesn’t matter if you’ve completely destroyed your connection with God your relationship with God can grow back!
It says that Samson was put on display in the temple to be ridiculed and mocked, surrounded by the rulers of Philistine and he prays “Lord give me strength” and pushes the pillars of the temple and brings down the temple killing everyone around him. The end of verse 30 says “he killed more people as he died than he had his entire life.” I think that as Samson’s hair began to grow so did his connection with God. I think he realized how far his choices had taken him from God, and decided to commit himself again and God used him to fulfill his calling in a more powerful way that moment than he had during his entire life.
God can and will use us no matter what spiritual condition we find ourselves, no matter what choices we’ve made. There will always be grace and forgiveness, but the moment you decide to dedicate yourself completely to God will be the moment God uses you in ways you have never been used before. Nothing you do or don’t do could ever cause God to stop loving you. Salvation, the Kingdom Life isn’t about do’s and don’ts, it’s about your relationship with God but I want to challenge us to think about the legacy our choices leave and I pray that every decision we make would take us closer to that loving father we find in Jesus.
God help us to know what it is that you are calling us to. Guide us in our daily lives so that our choices don’t conflict with the calling you have made for our lives. Help us to be uncompromising in our beliefs and grant us the strength to cut out the things in our lives that negatively impact our relationship with you. Help us also to recognize when something is drawing us away from you. Thank you for never giving up on us, and honouring our connection with you even when we don’t honour you with our choices. Help us to connect back with you and be used in ways we could never even imagine! Amen.