Jump Start # 2103
Judges 16:21 “Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.”
Our verse today comes from the life of Samson, the judge of Israel. Strong, powerful, kids love hearing stories about Samson. He killed a lion with his bare hands. He tore a wood gate and carried it with the posts to the top of a mountain. He killed 1,000 men with a donkey’s jawbone. Impressive. Mighty. But not in our verse. Here we find him defeated. Samson is bald, blind and bound. He is the prisoner of the Philistines and they use him to make fun and entertain themselves.
One wonders how did it get this way? What happened? How did he wind up in such a mess? Those same thoughts cross our minds as we look at where we sometimes are. Standing in divorce court, how did it come to this? Sitting handcuffed in the back of a police car, how did a person get in such a mess? Expelled from school. Fired from a job. Withdrawn from by the congregation. How did it get this way?
Samson’s life reveals three declining realities that will take the best among us into a real spiritual mess.
First, He did what he wanted to do. This is always the first step toward destruction. Rather than doing what God wants, we follow the will of our hearts. The first words recorded out of Samson’s lips are, “I saw a woman in Timnah…get her for me as a wife.” She was a Philistine woman. His parents tried to talk him out of that relationship. God’s law prohibited Israel from marrying foreigners. Samson was determined. He said, “Get her for me, for she looks good to me.”
That stubborn heart ignores godly advice. It closes it’s eyes to consequences. It is set and nothing is going to change it. Forget using the Bible. When a heart is closed and stubborn, it will find a reason and an excuse to do what it wants.
Second, Samson hung around the wrong people. Besides this woman from Timnah, Samson got a harlot from Gaza. Later, there was the infamous Delilah, from the valley of Sorek. Those three places, Timnah, Gaza, and Sorek are all cities belonging to the Philistines. When you hang around Philistines, you will start doing what Philistines are doing. One won’t find spiritual encouragement among the Philistines. The Philistines won’t remind one of their commitment to God. One won’t get stronger by being with the Philistines.
It seems strange that we can’t seem to get this today. We hang around Philistines long enough and we begin to question whether social drinking is really wrong. We begin to wonder about how important worship is. We start entertaining thoughts about topics that we always knew were wrong. But now, having spent time with Philistines, we wonder. Maybe, just maybe, these wrong things are not so wrong. Philistines do not bring us closer to the Lord.
How do we get in the messes we are in? What are we reading? Who are we listening to? What’s influencing our hearts. The Philistines didn’t worship Jehovah. They weren’t going to help Samson eternally.
Third, the Lord had departed from Samson and he didn’t know it. Delilah finally broke him down. She got to him. Shaved, he had no strength. But his strength, spiritual strength, had departed long before this. He had disobeyed God. He had committed adultery. He wasn’t walking with the Lord.
How easy it is to assume that God is always with us. How easy it is to take God for granted. How easy it is to abuse our relationship with the Lord. Our faith must be guarded and fed. Our faith must continue with the Lord. Weak, Samson became a slave to the Philistines. For us, when weak, we become a slave to sin. We lose our focus and we forget about our commitment. We fall into habitual sin. We become addicted to sin. We begin to drown in sin. Samson lost his strength, his vision and his freedom. We lose the same things spiritually when we fall deeply into sin.
The story of Samson ends with him crushing the Philistines in a collapsing arena that took his life as well. His name is listed among the heroes who found favor with God in Hebrews 11. His journey took long periods in the wilderness. For some, they never make it out. Their story doesn’t end with a Hebrews 11 approval. For some, they die among the Philistines, being a Philistine.
Our lives get messy when we think we know better than Scriptures. We think those dire warnings won’t happen to us. We think we’ll be ok. That foolishness has ended many souls. It has crushed hopes and destroyed the eternal life that many had awaiting them.
Is it any wonder that the first step of discipleship is to deny ourselves (Lk 9:23). We trip over ourselves much too often. We become our worst enemy. God knows what He is talking about. Our lives can get so twisted and complicated with sin, and so much of that came about through wrong choices, wrong influences and not being strong in the Lord.
We can do better. We must do better. The Lord prayed in the garden, “Not My will, but Thy will be done.” This is much more than a prayer about the cross. It was the way Jesus lived. It needs to be the way we live as well. Thy will may not be what I wanted, but it is what He wants. Thy will may not be my first choice, but it is His. Surrendering all is tough. In the end, it sure keeps us out of a big mess.