Samson, Man of Weakness
Judges 16: 4-31.
Last week we started to look at Samson.
What is more, we started to look at this person not with romantic eyes, but realistically.
If you get a children's book on Samson you get a children's view of Samson. He is strong and mighty and chosen by God to do great things.
But we are not children. And if you realistically read the Bible you see that Samson seems to think that he can do anything he wants. He can be violent, he can be deceptive, he can be malicious...and get away with it because he is the good guy.
But as we saw last week, just because Samson was chosen by God to make a difference,
just because God gave Samson what he needed to make a difference,
that doesn't mean that Samson did what God wanted.
You know what the saddest part of Samson’s story is...the very last verse. ‘He had been Israel's leader for 20 years.’
What had he done in those 20 years?
What good had he achieved in those 20 years?
There is not one example in the Bible of Samson helping any of his own people.
There are no stories of Samson using his phenomenal strength to stop a bully beating up any of his people.
There is not one story of Samson using his phenomenal strength to dig irrigation drainage to help farmers.
Not one story of Samson fighting of packs of wolves to defend innocent shepherds.
There are no stories about him helping friend or stranger, not one.
There is no example of good given.
His is a life of violence and destruction.
His is a life of lies and deceit.
Even in those moments where he should find love, there is nothing but violence and lies.
He uses people, especially women, and he is used himself.
And there is a temptation just to take Samson’s story at face value and leave it like that.
But I don't think that the Bible writers intended us to do that.
I think the Bible writers intended Samson’s life to be a warning, and example.
Fore instance, that whole scenario with Delilah.
Hands up if after the first time Samson finds himself tied up you are thinking, ‘Why has he gone back to her?’
And then the second time he finds himself tied up you are thinking, ‘Is this guy really that thick?’
And by the third time you are thinking, ’He deserves anything that happens to him?’
That is the Biblical writers saying to the people of Israel...’That’s you.
Why do you keep on going back to false gods that let you down again and again? Why do you keep on living life in a way that brings nothing but destruction?’
And I think sometimes that is the Bible giving us the same message...
The woman that keeps on returning to her husband even though he beats her up.
The man that keeps on returning to pornography even though it doesn’t give him any lasting joy.
The addict who keeps on taking his next fix even though he knows it will give him no lasting peace.
There are so many lessons to be learnt by Samson.
The first is, ‘What do you really rely on for your strength?’
Samson relied on the length of his hair.
I know that sounds stupid, but that is exactly what he relied on.
He thought God gave him strength because he hadn’t cut his hair.
There was no trust in God, no relationship with God, no friendship or worship of God; his faith was based on the fact that he had not cut his hair.
And that might seem really stupid to us.
But how much of our strength is based on something as fragile as everything being fine in our lives just now.
As long as our health is OK just now, that this all that matters.
We are strong, we have a great life...because we have a nice house, or decent income, or wonderful holidays.
That is our strength, and as long as we have our strength then we are fine.
But take it away and we feel threatened, we feel anxious, we feel scared, or angry.
But if our strength is in God then we need never be afraid, because no one can take God away from us.
I am involved with a lot of ministers just now; I mentor three ministers and a lay interim moderator. I therefore am involved with a lot of churches.
I hate to say this but a lot of churches, a lot of ministers, have deluded themselves into thinking their strength is the amount of money they have in the fabric account, or the general account, or how good the fabric of their building is, or even how big their congregation is.
There is not many churches I could look at and say their strength is their relationship with God.
And I count myself in that estimation. Because I think we all get succoured into it.
I can get succoured into thinking that if I am really busy, really active;
if I am achieving heaps through meetings,
if I am admired by other ministers for the work I am doing...then everything is OK.
I delude myself into thinking that my strength is the quickness of my brain to adapt to new situations,
my strength is my capacity to work hard,
my strength is seeing the next disaster before it happens and preparing for it.
But every single one of those strengths can be taken away like that.
But God, he can't be taken away. So why don’t I rely more on him?
The theme throughout the book of Judges is very simple.
The people stop trusting in God, they start trusting in other things.
Their life deteriorates, it isn’t what is should be.
They cry to God and God sends the judge to help them and they praise God.
There is an exception to that...and that is the story of Samson.
Samson lives that pattern out himself in his own life.
He wanders off doing his own thing, gets into a mess, and it gets sorted out for a while, then he goes back to doing what he did before.
It ends up, literally, being suicidal.
That is the warning of Samson.
But within the warning is hope.
If God didn't care he wouldn't give a warning.
If there was nothing we could do about our life then God wouldn't give a warning.
So very quickly...here is what we need to look out for.
If the same stupid mistakes are being made, then maybe we need to change.
If you catch yourself saying, ‘Why is this happening to me again?’ then maybe you need to change..
As you know, nearly three years ago I discovered I had a couple of heart attacks.
Just before Easter I was back in hospital for a day needing to get tests done to see if I had had another one.
You know when your wife looks at you with those, ‘I care for you so much,’ eyes?’ Those weren't the eyes I was getting.
I was getting the, ‘When are you going to learn?’ eyes.
And you knowwhat, she was right.
Here’s the thing.
How do I know what I am getting it right?
If we see the problem then what is the solution?
I have thought about that a lot, especially when reading about Samson. And often it is easy for us to see how we are getting it wrong.
Well actually I think it is easy for us to see how other people are getting it wrong, maybe less so for us to see ourselves how we are getting it wrong.
But either way, it seems to be really hard to see how we get it right.
But I think there is a clue in the scriptures as well.
‘His brothers and the rest of his family came down and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of his father Manoah.’
You see, if our strength is truly in God, then the things of God become our things as well. And what is obvious from scripture is that the big thing of God is relationship. Obviously our relationship with God himself, but then, because of that relationship, how that affects our relationships with others.
How many of you even knew that Samson had brothers before this reading?
How many of you knew that his father had died?
Nothing is mentioned of them, I suspect deliberately, because there is no relationship there.
If he had gone home to his brothers, his father, and said, ‘You’ll never guess what happened to me tonight at Delilah's.’
Then I am sure they would have warned him about that relationship.
But Samson didn’t want to hear that he was wrong.
Samson didn't want to be told he had to change his ways.
So he cut himself off from the very people that could have helped him.
We can look to our relationships with others as a barometer as to how our relationship with God is going.
If we are cutting ourselves off from others, if we are hiding from others, then there is a fair chance we are cutting ourselves off from God.
And if we are cutting ourselves off from God, then we are trusting in a strength that one day will not be there.
I have a game that I play with Jessica my two year old granddaughter.
We search for the teddies, who are always hiding.
And when we find the teddies we take the teddies to the spare bedroom that has the bed is that is never made because no one is in there anymore.
And we go, ‘Bongy, bongy , bongy.’ with the teddies; using the bed as a trampoline.
Then Jessica says, ‘My turn.’
And I grab her by the armpits and lift her up and go ‘Bongy. Bongy. Bongy’ using the bed as a trampoline. Jumping her as high as my arms will lift her.
Every day she does it, wants to do it.
And it is not about having trust.
It is not about the strength she feels as she bounces on the bed.
It is about the laughter she can feel the joy she can feel, the assurance that she feels...because she has that trust.
God doesn’t weep because we don't trust him.
God weeps because of the joy we miss out on, the assurance we don't have, the fear that we feel, because we don't trust him.
We might think Samson is so stupid because he trusted in his hair instead of God...
but when we don't trust in God, when we don't rely God’s strength, when we miss out on that assurance and joy and hope...
then what does that make us?