Samson was a very polarizing figure in the Old Testament. Before we can fully understand his story, we have to understand what a Nazirite vow was.
The purpose for the vow of a Nazirite is found in Numbers 6:1-8:
Numbers 6:1-8 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When either a man or a woman makes a special vow, the vow of a Nazirite, to separate himself to the Lord, 3 he shall separate himself from wine and strong drink. He shall drink no vinegar made from wine or strong drink and shall not drink any juice of grapes or eat grapes, fresh or dried. 4 All the days of his separation he shall eat nothing that is produced by the grapevine, not even the seeds or the skins.
5 “All the days of his vow of separation, no razor shall touch his head. Until the time is completed for which he separates himself to the Lord, he shall be holy. He shall let the locks of hair of his head grow long.
6 “All the days that he separates himself to the Lord he shall not go near a dead body. 7 Not even for his father or for his mother, for brother or sister, if they die, shall he make himself unclean, because his separation to God is on his head. 8 All the days of his separation he is holy to the Lord
The vow of the Nazirite was to express one’s special desire to draw close to God and to separate oneself from the comforts and pleasures of this world. So the purpose for taking the Nazirite vow was to separate oneself unto the Lord. It was to give up earthly and personal desires– to give your life to the service of God until the vow was finished. The Hebrew word for Nazirite is nazir, which means “set apart.”
What were the vows?
- No wine or strong drink, nor grape juice or even eating from any produce of the grapevine, even the seeds or skins.
- No cutting of the hair.
- No going near dead bodies, even if they were your parents.
So now that we have a better understanding of the Nazirite vows and the purpose of making them, let’s go back and look at Samson. Samson was part of God’s answer for His people Israel. If we look at chapter 13 in the book of Judges, we can see where Samson’s story really begins.
In Judges 13, we read about the birth of Samson and how the Spirit of the Lord begins to stir in him. From here the story of Samson really get pretty wild. This man was given incredible physical strength, and the Spirit of God was with him, but the first record in the Scriptures of Samson doing something proves that he was still just a sinful Israelite. In fact, there’s a very familiar word phrase used in Judges 14:3. Samson tells his parents to go get him a wife from the Philistines, which would have been sinful according to God. But Samson says, “Get her, for me for she is right in my eyes.” Let’s look at the connection of these words to the verse we found in the beginning of chapter 13:1: “And the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, so the Lord gave them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years.”
They are doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD. The author of Judges is making a connection with this phrasing. Multiple times Judges says, “The people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Samson is doing what is right in his eyes. Later we see in Judges 21:25, that the people did what was right in their own sight. The undercurrent is that what the people consider as right is contrary to what God has stated is right. They are breaking the Covenant calling good what is evil and evil what is good. The image of mans sight in Judges is always and illustration of what is bad, and is at odds with what God sees as good.
Something we need to be aware of: Culture does not line up with God’s standard. We see this in our day. Our culture continually does what is evil in the sight of God. This should be a warning about any cultural thing we see. We should not just accept cultural attitudes, actions, or thoughts but bring them and submit them to the word of God. We do not need to keep up with the Jones!
Look at verse 4 of chapter 14. Samson’s father and mother did not know that it was “from the Lord,” for He (the LORD) was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. So Samson, who was a very willing sinner, was drawn by his own desires to this Philistine woman and would be in sin if he took her as his wife. God was using this woman (a secondary source) and Samson’s own willing sinfulness because He was going to start the work He created Samson to do. If you pay close attention to this story, you can see Gods sovereign hand all the way through. Consider the fact that Samson’s mom was barren but God came and said, “You’ll have a son; he will begin to deliver my people from the Philistines.”
Samson is born and as soon as he’s of age, he wants to marry a Philistine. As we’ve covered, this would have been sinful, but God was sovereignly using Samson’s willing sinful heart to begin His delivering of Israel from the Philistines. As we go further, notice God’s hand in the details.
So Samson heads down to get his wife, and a young lion came toward him roaring. The Spirit rushes over Samson and with his bare hands, he grabs this young lion and tears it to shreds. One thing to keep in mind is the verse says this was a young lion. The danger and strength of even a young lion would destroy any normal human though, so the feat here is no less incredible. I just wanted to draw your attention to details because they are important. So very quickly into the story we see Samson breaking one of the Nazirite vows. If he tore this lion to shreds, then he would have been touching a dead body. Next, he goes down with his father (which was the custom) to get his wife, and he prepares a feast. Now at these feasts there was always wine and strong drink. The Scriptures never say for sure if Samson drinks, but there’s a good possibility that he broke a second vow at this feast by joining in the drinking. Things get a little soap opera-like: Samson gives his enemy a riddle about the dead lion and the honey, then his wife talks him into telling her the answer. She tells the men, they answer Samson, and he gets mad! The Spirit rushes upon him again, and he goes and kills 30 Philistines and gives the prize to the men who answered his riddle.
He then goes home angry, and the father of the woman Samson married gives Samson’s new wife to one of the groomsmen, because he thought Samson hated her. Things get even more weird when Samson goes back to get his wife and finds out she was given to someone else. He catches 300 foxes, ties torches to their tails, sets the torches on fire, and lets them loose in the fields of the Philistines. What a sight that must have been! So the Philistines ask who did this, and the people answer Samson. This result in the Philistines burning Samson’s wife and her father.
Remember, God said He was going to use Samson to begin freeing Israel from the Philistines. Before we see Samson’s response, can you see how Samson’s desire for this woman is being used to create a battle of sorts between Israel and the Philistines? God will use every day things to accomplish His purposes in our lives.
Let’s keep going. Samson attacks the men who burned his wife and father-in-law, and then he goes and hides in a cave. The Philistines attack Lehi, and when God’s people ask why, the Philistines say they want Samson. They send 3,000 men of Judah to get him because they know a few guys won’t be enough. Samson says, “As long as you guys don’t attack me, I’ll let you bind me and bring me to the Philistines.” They do it, and when Samson sees the Philistines, the Spirit of the LORD rushes upon him, he breaks the rope he was bound with, then grabs the jawbone of a Donkey and kills 1,000 Philistines. Stop and really take that in. This is a sight greater than any movie that Hollywood has created. He is truly a one man wrecking crew.
In this we can see God beginning to defeat the Philistines through Samson. The problem is, Samson continues his sinful ways and heads to a town called Gaza to be with a prostitute. Some people found out and decided to trap him, so they waited outside of the city gates and said, “In the morning, we will kill Samson.” So Samson gets up in the middle of the night and rips the city gates and posts from the ground. If you’re sitting outside a gate waiting for Samson to come out, and the next thing you know, the gate is coming out of the ground, and Samson is holding it on his shoulders; guess you probably aren’t trying to kill this guy anymore.
What is more awesome is the fact that the gates would have likely been huge (over 10 feet), and they were barred to protect the city, so this gate would have been solid enough to keep armies out of the town. Samson not only rips them from the ground and throws them on his shoulders, but the mountain he carries them up was 40 miles from Gaza and all uphill.
Like many men before and after him, Samson’s demise comes at the hands of a woman for whom he falls. Samson makes the mistake of breaking his last Nazirite vow and tells Delilah, “If you cut my hair, I will lose my power.” Many people over the years have said that Samson’s power was in his hair, but we must recognize that Samson’s power was from God. As a result of Samson’s vow breaking, the Philistines take Samson and make him do slave labor. One day, they decide to throw a party to their god for delivering Samson into their hands. A now blind Samson (the Philistines took his eyes out) was mocked and made to hear their worship of their false god. At the party, Samson asks the guards who are holding him if they would take him to the pillars that hold the entire building together.
Samson puts his arms out and likely pushed these two pillars until they buckled. The entire building came down, probably killing the most amount of Philistines he ever had in all his conquests over them. Surely God was not done using Samson, despite his selfish decision making and unfaithfulness to his vows. Even though Samson was sinful, God still used him to begin to deliver Israel out of the hands of the Philistines.
We serve a mighty God who does incredible things in and through His creation. Do you believe this? Do you trust that He is at work in and through us despite our failures and sin? May we repent from our sin and selfishness and not follow the lead of those before us that failed to be faithful to God. Praise God that He is faithful to us despite our failures. In the end, He has given us everything in Christ and owes us nothing. We are truly blessed and should seek Him in all we do, so that our lives are lived out for His purposes and His glory!
As we put this weeks reading together we can see several themes throughout Samson’s life that should bring us in awe of God. I would like to bring a couple of these to light. 1. God’s steadfast love endures. 2. God’s grace abounds in many ways throughout life. 3.The Spirit of God is a blessing and indwells every believer.
The Spirit of God is a blessing and indwells every believer. Many of us will read this story and think, “man I wish I had the Spirit of God like Samson to do these great feats then I would be a super testimony.” At some point everyone thinks this so take comfort in that we have all felt this desire. Look at the life of Samson it was one filled with disobedience, where God worked in spite of Samson’s sin. Samson was a judge and God worked in different ways due to the sin of Israel. They lack trust and faith in God and doing what was right in God’s eyes. The New Testament tells us that the Spirit seals, and indwells every believer. The Spirit is the Comforter. The function of the Spirit is fuller and better in the New Covenant. We should be thankful for how the Spirit Works and know that God has given us everything for life and godliness. That walking in the Spirit, and displaying the fruit of the Spirit are ways that glorify God and lift up His name. A few mighty acts in a life of sin does not a good testimony make. Thank God for His Spirit indwelling you and give Him glory. What areas are you not walking in the Spirit? (Read Galatians 5:16-26). Praise God for this work and repent of any sin.
God’s steadfast love endures forever. In this story we see God’s covenantal faithfulness to His people, and to Samson. Though the cycle of sin for Israel continues, God sends judges to bring the people out of slavery. Though Samson continued in sin God still manifest Himself in mighty ways. In the end when Samson called on God for the final act, God helped him. We continually screw up, we have sin we choose to do, and sin we accidentally do. God faithfulness endures to us, be careful if we choose to sin, we are endangering our souls to show we are not His. “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sin and purify us from all unrighteousness.” God is always with His children, “never will I leave you or forsake you”. How is God showing his steadfast love to you in your life? Give God glory for this, repent of sin.
God’s grace abounds in many ways throughout life. As you look at the life of Samson we see how God’s grace abounded. One God just didn’t leave Samson. Even though Samson did not honor his Nazarite vow, God showed him mercy and kindness. At any point God would have been just to kill Samson because he was a sinner. Samson willfully chose to disobey God, yet God used him to bring glory to Himself. God gave ear when Samson cried out. God protected Samson through all his disobedience. Samson broke the Covenant by marring a Philistine, and God did not leave Him. Despite what Samson deserved God maintained His presence in Samson’s life. In what ways is God maintaining His blessing, grace and presence in spite of how you are acting? Give thanks to him who is good and full of grace.
By His grace and for His glory,
Soldiers for Jesus MC