Strong But Weak

Judges 16:21 - "Then the Philistines seized Samson 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."

Read the whole story of Samson in Judges 13-16.

What man ripped apart an attacking lion with his bare hands? What individual, single-handedly, killed 1000 of the enemy in battle with only the jawbone of a donkey as a weapon? What weightlifter pressed the doors and posts of an ancient city gate (weighing at least 1000 pounds), and then put the whole thing on his shoulders and carried it for about 38 miles - uphill - to the top of a mountain? What "demolition expert" pushed down a large house with just one mighty thrust of his arms? It sounds like the "Six Million Dollar Man". Wrong! Then it must be the new Superman! Wrong again! The answer, of course, to these Ripley's "Believe It or Not" questions is not some make-believe creation of TV or the movies but the real life Samson of the Bible.

The Bible has quite a bit to say about Samson. Four whole chapters are devoted to a character study of this strong man. Everyone tends to remember what the Bible says about Samson's strength, but the biblical record tells us a lot more about this leader of ancient Israel. The story of Samson is a study in contrasts. We see the tremendous feats of Samson's physical strength on the one hand and his obvious spiritual shortcomings on the other hand. He was strong but weak! God has included this account about Samson in His Word, not just that we may stand in awe at the strength of the world's strongest man, but that we may learn the lessons for growing Christians that are recorded here. (See Romans 15:4.)

Samson lived in Israel during the period of the Judges. In fact, Samson was the last judge of Israel before Samuel. Soon after Samson's death, Saul was anointed by Samuel as the first king of Israel. The period of the judges was certainly not a time of spiritual growth in Israel's history. The people of Israel had gone downhill since the days of Moses and Joshua. Disobedience to the Word of the Lord was the reason for this downhill spiral. A "do your own thing" attitude characterized the age of the judges. Judges 17:6 and 21:25 state that "everyone did that which was right in his own eyes." God permitted the enemies of Israel to come in and oppress and defeat His people because of their sin. Periodically during these dark days the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help. God then graciously raised up a judge to deliver them. But soon after they were delivered, they turned their backs on the Lord again and plunged into renewed idolatry and immorality.

Against such a background Samson came on the scene. It was during a time of Philistine oppression. Right from the start Samson had everything going for him. If ever there was a "most likely to succeed" candidate, young Samson was that person. In chapter 13 we learn that Samson came from a solid home. He had godly parents who believed and worshipped the Lord. Furthermore, Samson was designated by God Himself to be a deliverer of Israel from the hands of the Philistines (13:5). Victory was guaranteed. What more could one ask for? And then, of course, there was Samson's physique. Not only did God bless him with great physical strength but it seems that God gave him good looks as well. (An ugly Samson just could not have had the "success" that Samson had with the Philistine women!) On top of all this, we read further that God blessed young Samson and the Spirit of the Lord was at work in his life (13:24-25). Wow! What a tremendous foundation on which to build. What potential! In light of such a beginning how sad it is to read the above Scripture (16:21) concerning Samson's tragic end--gouged-out eyes, bound with chains, harnessed like an ox, imprisoned by the Philistines. Instead of delivering Israel from the Philistines, Samson had delivered himself to the enemy. Who would have believed that this could ever happen to Samson--the teenager who had everything going for him? What went wrong, anyway?

It doesn't take much insight to discover the key to Samson's downfall. It is found over and over again in chapters 14-16. Samson had no self control. He could not govern his passions. He was weak-willed and self-willed. What he wanted, he wanted now. "Not Thy will but mine be done" was Samson's standard operating procedure. Look, for example, at Samson's uncontrolled selfish passion in chapter 14:1-4. He saw a beautiful pagan Philistine woman and wanted her. His selfish response to the godly counsel of his parents was, "Get her for me, for she looks good to me." Decisions made only on the basis of looks and pleasure are usually a sign of little self-control. How are your decisions made? Look also at Samson's weakness with Delilah in chapter 16. Because of his selfish "love" for this ungodly Philistine woman, Samson not only gave her the secret of his strength but he sold her his soul as well--"he told her all that was in his heart" (16:17). The almost unbelievable magnitude of Samson's weakness is seen only when it is realized that he had three clear warnings of what was coming (16:8-14). How blind could Samson be--especially when Delilah had told him openly why she wanted to know his secret. "Please tell me where your great strength is and how you may be bound to afflict you(16:6). How important it is for a growing Christian not to fall in love with an unbeliever. Love can be so blind at times that you do things you never dreamed possible--against all logic and common sense. What a mess you can get yourself into if you fall in love with a "Delilah". No wonder God's Word says that marriage between believers and unbelievers is wrong. (See 2 Corinthians 6:14.)

Step by step Samson let his lack of self-control take over. He had taken the Nazarite vow as a youth, but one by one he was breaking the rules because of his undisciplined and selfish life. There were several standards or rules to be kept by the Nazarite (no connection with the word Nazarene)--no drinking of wine or strong drink; no eating of anything produced by the grape vine; no cutting of hair; no touching of dead bodies; no mixing with anything which would affect his separation unto the Lord. (See Numbers 6.) Now follow Samson's life and you will see how he broke every one of the rules because of his uncontrolled selfish desires. Thevineyards of Timnah (14:5) in Philistia was the last place Samson should have been--let alone marrying a Philistine, which was against God's command for any Hebrew. (See Deuteronomy 7:1-6.) Then Samson defiled himself by touching the carcass of the dead lion (14:8-9). Instead of taking the necessary steps for cleansing, Samson made light of his violation by making it part of a riddle, of all things (14:14)! And where did Samson present his riddle? At a feast for Philistines, where strong drink was certainly part of the custom (14:10). At the beginning of chapter 16 we see Samson making love with not just a Philistine, but with a Philistine prostitute. Uncontrolled passion took priority over Nazarite vows. And finally there was Delilah and the Philistine razor! Samson, how could you?

But what about Samson's great feats of strength against the Philistines? Even here we find Samson using his God-given supernatural strength for his own ends. Trace the record of Samson's mighty displays of strength and you will find that in every case Samson's motive was basically selfish and not for the glory of God or the deliverance of Israel. Even at the end, when the Lord granted Samson his last request (16:28-30), we note that there is no record of repentance on Samson's part. There is only a somewhat selfish request--"that I may be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes."

There is a powerful lesson for growing Christians in all of this. We too may have a lot of God-given potential,but we may also "blow it big" because of no self control. Like Samson, we may come from a solid Christian background where we have been taught the precepts and principles of the Word of God. But like Samson, we may turn our backs on the clear teaching of God's Word because we want to do our own thing and go our ownway. Like Samson, we may have it all together in the physical area--good looks, talent, etc. But like Samson, we may take our God-given looks and talents and use them to indulge in selfish pleasure and passion. Even our spiritual gifts can be misused and abused because of selfish interests and ambitions. Without self-control, a growing Christian with great potential strength will be as weak as Samson. Control of our selfish desires and drives is extremely important and necessary in the Christian life. 2 Peter 1:5-7 tells us to use all diligence to add self-control to our faith. Galatians 5:16-23 assures us that more self-control is available for us and is given to those who make the things of God their top priority. Do you need more self-control? How are your priorities?

In spite of Samson's lack of self-control, God was still working with him and through him (see 14:4, 19; 15:14). And Hebrews 11:32 assures us that Samson had faith. All of this should be an encouragement to us who, so often, do our own selfish thing like Samson. God can still accomplish His purposes through us, but how much greater to be yielded to His control and realize our full potential.
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