This sermon was delivered by Pastor Frank Guglielmo on 15/05/2016. This article is from notes I made so is not completely in keeping with what Pastor Frank said though I’ve tried to be as accurate as possible.
Today’s message concerns Judges 14:1-9, which reads:
1 And Samson went down to Timnath, and saw a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. 3 Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. 4 But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
5 Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. 6 And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done. 7 And he went down, and talked with the woman; and she pleased Samson well.
8 And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion. 9 And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion.
In general, women tend to be more romantic than men. A number of stories illustrate this in the Bible, including the famous Song of Solomon. Perhaps the best example of loving obedience concerns Sarah, who called Abraham “Lord”…even though he did a few things wrong during their married life (1 Peter 3:6). Today’s story, however, is not like that. Instead it concerns an impetuous young man with a very hard head who was infatuated with a girl and willing to sacrifice everything for her. The name of this young man was Samson.
Interestingly, Samson is listed as a hero of the faith in the New Testament:
32 And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
Yet we may at first find it unusual that Samson would have so many issues yet still be saved. 1 John 2:15 warns us to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” Sadly, the love of worldly things comes out clearly in Samson’s life. He lusted after a girl regardless of the consequences and chose to have her. And he would have been critically aware of the consequences: he was both a Nazarite and judge in Israel, so was supposed to remain ceremonially clean whilst knowing and administering the Word of God. As we shall see, Samson failed to keep himself pure concerning both roles he had in his life.
Moving on to the first two verses of today’s passage, it helps to learn that Timnath was a Philistine village or town about 7 kilometers away from Samson’s house, or approximately an hour’s walk away. At the time it was assigned to the tribe of Dan, which Samson was a member of. The Philistines had not yet been pushed out of the area so dwelt within its borders. That Samson wanted a woman from an enemy nation for a wife directly opposes God’s warning to the Israelites in Deuteronomy 7:1-3:
1 When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; 2 and when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: 3 neither shalt thou make marriages with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son.
The Israelites were not supposed to marry unbelievers and we can understand why there was this injunction once we consider the history of the latter’s religious practices. They had declined so severely morally that some were sacrificing their babies to their “gods”, causing a spiritual stink to rise up in the nostrils of God. Verse 4 of Deuteronomy 7 underscores the reason for God’s warning, essentially stating that rebellious nations would turn Israel away from following Him if intermarriages occurred. The enemies of Israel were engaged in worshiping the earth through fertility rites including prostitution: God knew this would have corrupted His people so He sought to protect them.
Returning back to today’s passage, we see that Samson’s woman should have been automatically excluded from marriage to a Nazarite, let alone a judge.
Other passages in the New Testament also warn about mingling with people who are unbelievers as it leads to trouble down the track. For example, 2 Corinthians 6:14 states:
Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
If we are unequally yoked it is akin to tying a lamb to a bull. They will pull against each other and sooner or later one will win out…and there are no prizes for determining that the most ungodly one usually does. So don’t be too eager to get married and don’t begin your married life with a compromise. Again and again I’ve seen sincere believers do this and it almost always leads to a shipwrecked faith. Some consequences:
- Your children may grow up to be unbelievers, being consigned to hell
- Your expectations of your partner’s thoughts and values may not match theirs moving forward
- Making your partner happy may become more important to you than pleasing God
- Marriage in Biblical terms is for life…this can be for a very, very long time with an unbeliever!
When people are young, instead of seeing danger signs in the Bible as being for their ultimate good and protection, they tend to see them as a way of robbing their happiness. When we are older we see that rules in the Bible were made by Someone who has gone before you, who knows about life and is shepherding you through it. It may help at this point to think of flags on a beach, warning swimmers about a rip. Those flags were not put there to take away your freedom and joy but to prevent injury or death for all who come across them.
In today’s passage it is undoubtedly true to say that Samson knew that what he wanted in a wife wasn’t right. His parents duly warned him and so did Scripture. But the desires of his flesh and the lust of his eyes took hold of him and he allowed those feelings to control him, rather than the Word of God. In verse three he says in essence, “She makes me happy. Get her for me!”, ignoring his parents’ protests. He insisted on taking a wife from his nation’s enemies.
Then, in verse four, we come to a puzzling phrase, “…it was of the Lord.” The Philistines at the time were oppressing Israel. This phrase at first glance seems to imply that God instigated Samson’s rebellion against him. Yet we know from earlier passages that Samson was a gift from God to his parents who was set to deliver the people from their enemies. What was going on here? Why was Samson so hard-headed?
We need to understand more about God’s dealings with sinful man by considering other passages in Scripture. Firstly we should realize that God did not lead Samson to the lawless position he took concerning his wife. James 1:13-15 states:
13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 but every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
So God does not tempt anyone with sin, including Samson. Secondly, we should consider that God did use Samson’s sinful choices to achieve His own purposes. We see this sort of thing all throughout Scripture, as when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery. Genesis 50:20 then tells us that God prepares plans to save people through (and in spite of) their evil acts:
20 But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.
The same can be said of the crucifixion of our Lord. In Acts 2:22-24 we clearly see that God allowed Jesus to be brutally executed. In reporting this, Peter condemned the evil act but said it was intended for the good of mankind:
22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 24 whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.
The above contrasts the sinfulness of man against God’s love, mercy and patience. Again and again in Scripture, then, God’s response to us is glorified. And the pinnacle of this was in God’s sending His own Son to die against a backdrop of absolute evil and hate. In Judges 14:4, we see that God was about to use Samson’s sinfulness to achieve His own purposes:
4 But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
We might be tempted at this point to think that the above gives Christians a license to sin, as per the following passage: “Let us do evil, that good may come?” (Romans 3:8). Yet the end of the line strongly condemns this: “whose damnation is just”. The genuine mark of a Christian is your desire not to sin, which then lines up with God’s own desires.
The next section we will examine is Judges 14:5-7, where we see that Samson pushed hard for what he wanted and got it. His parents, after an initial warning, gave in to their son’s desires. Verse 5 then sees Samson apparently separated from his parents on the way to his proposed wife’s house. Possibly, being a headstrong young man, he had an argument with them and then ran on ahead in order to meet with her more quickly. Instead he met with a lion, which he summarily killed after it attacked him. It is interesting to note that the Spirit of the Lord gave Samson the strength he needed to dispatch the lion but he didn’t tell his parents about it. Maybe something like this had happened before? At any rate, he went straight to the girl he was lusting after once he reached Timnath.
Verse 8 of Judges 4 reads:
8 And after a time he returned to take her, and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion.
In the above we learn that Samson had to return back to his home town to build a house for his wife, a process which surely would have taken some months. This is similar to what Jesus is currently doing for us as believers:
In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
It also would have taken many months for an effective beehive to have developed in the carcass of the lion Samson had previously killed.
The next verse, verse 9, sees Samson taking much honey both to eat for himself and to keep for his parents. Was this a sin? The answer is clearly yes. It was forbidden for Israelites to touch anything dead, let alone to eat from it. The commandment against uncleanness would have been even more strictly enforced for a Nazarite like Samson, as Judges 13:7 reveals:
7 but he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death.
So today’s passage shows that Samson not only had a blatant disregard for his own vows (and God’s laws) but managed to embroil his own parents in his sin. A very sad scenario indeed and a lesson for younger people in church as well as some older ones. Your respect for your parents is a barometer for your respect for God. As 1 John 4:20 reminds us, we can’t see God but we can see our parents, whom the fifth commandment also tells us we must honour and love:
20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
In other words, he who loves God must love his brother (and his parents) also. How can you say you honour and respect God if you cannot do it to people you can see? How much you love, respect, and worship God is reflected in the relationships you have with the people around you.
One thing we can rejoice in is that the salvation we have, and the grace we keep receiving, is given to us in spite of our weaknesses. We were dead in our sins when God first encountered us, having no chance whatsoever of saving ourselves. Yet as it is written:
“…My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.”
(2 Corinthians 12:9)
As we learn to rely on the Lord Jesus more and more, His strength is revealed in our weakness and this continues on past the initial point of our salvation. So don’t rely on your own strength to look good to others spiritually. True peace comes from trusting in Christ alone to give you the strength and patience to get through each day with grace. The sustaining thing in your life is to know God and have a relationship with Jesus Christ:
There is hope for us today arising from what we can learn about Samson’s blunders. God’s grace and persistence is evident even when we fail to meet the mark.
God bless you all.
The painting at the beginning of this article is Samson and Delilah, an oil painting attributed to Peter Paul Rubens. Rubens was a prolific Flemish Baroque painter well-known for a variety of 17th Century masterpieces. The painting depicts a candlelit room, with a sleeping Samson in the lap of Delilah, and a group of Philistines in a doorway off to the right. Samson’s strength was from his hair, cut by a Philistine to try and diminish his (Samson’s) strength. The oil painting is full of symbolic icons and gestures: the statue of Venus and Cupid, the crossed hands of the Philistine that signals deceit and the old woman is believed to be a procuress.