Making Sense Of The Senseless

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” – Psalms 73:26. 

It is not news, and yet at the same time we hear each day in the news, that we live in a hurting world.

It was just about a year ago that tragedy struck the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston when  nine people were killed, including a pastor at prayer meeting. This week tragedy struck again as 49 people were killed and 53 people wounded in Orlando. Since hearing the news, my heart has been broken. I cannot begin to understand the feelings of parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces and nephews, friends, colleagues, neighbors and community members. All of us lost something this week, for some the losses are unimaginable. My prayers go out for everybody that was impacted by this senseless act. 

My reflection on this event is first, sadness. I am saddened to hear about so many people losing their lives. Secondly, I feel frustration. It is frustrating that someone would be so selfish to take other’s lives. And third, I feel a deep hurt. I am hurting because so many people lost their lives. Every person is made in the image of God. Every person is loved by God. Loved so much that He sent His son to die on the cross for each of us. The Bible clearly reveals how precious every single one of us is to God 

And fourth, we need prayer for our country and our world. After this tragic event, I can’t help but be reminded of the need for strategic prayer. God is a God who can and must be communicated with. It was Mother Teresa who said, “if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.” This tragic event reminds me of the need to pray for people because we don’t know if they are about to do something unwise, or if they are about to suffer the harsh reality of senseless tragedies like the Orlando shootings. 

Jesus told us the truth when He said in John 16:33, “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” He didn’t say it could be a possibility – He said trials and sorrows are going to happen.

But why? If you ask me point-blank, “why did God allow the gunman to kill so many innocent people in Orlando,” my answer isn’t much of an answer, but it is the best I can do: I do not know. As a pastor, I wish I had the answer. But I cannot stand in the shoes of God and give a complete answer to that question. I don’t have God’s mind. I don’t see with God’s eyes. First Corinthians 13:12 says, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” 

My prayer is that God will use this tragic event to help our community and country draw nearer to Him and not drift further away from Him.  

Being Spirit Led

“Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates, you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.” – Romans 8:12-14. 

Most Christians believe in the leadership of the Holy Spirit. However, like Samson, we often take charge in our lives instead of letting the Holy Spirit lead. It is easy to believe that our individual feelings, urges, and desires are the things the Spirit has led us to do. The question is how does the Holy Spirit lead us? What must we do in order to be Spirit led?

To be led by the Spirit simply means that we will be living as Jesus lived, since he perfectly lived according to the Spirit. “And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him.” (Acts 10:38)  “…For by the power of the eternal Spirit, Christ offered himself to God as a perfect sacrifice for our sins.” (Hebrews 9:14)

The Holy Spirit’s leading should be sought in all of our decision making processes. We should pray for the Spirit’s leading in all things. It’s a biblical thing to pray and to seek the counsel of the Holy Spirit, and to even expect an answer. “In times of trouble, may the Lord answer your cry. May the name of the God of Jacob keep you safe from all harm. May he send you help from his sanctuary and strengthen you from Jerusalem…May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed….May the Lord answer all your prayers.” (Psalm 20:1-5).

Acts 13: 1-4 tells us: “Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas,…and  Saul. One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way. So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia, and from there they sailed to Cyprus.”

Barnabas and Saul were led by the Spirit of God. “Being sent out by the Holy Spirit” is the proof of responding in obedience to the call and direction of the Holy Spirit. My prayer is that we all desire to obey the call of the Holy Spirit, so that we may experience the direction of the Spirit in our life and ministry.

As we study Samson, we know that he made too many emotional decisions and too few Spirit led decisions. But hopefully we are using this teaching series to do some introspection. For example, if someone was looking into my life, knowing I was a Christian, would they come to the conclusion that my life is Spirit led? Because when we weigh what Jesus did for us, it is a reasonable expectation that we live a Spirit-led life. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Why do you think Samson failed to be Spirit-led in his life?
  2. “Led by the Spirit”: This is essential to being developed into the person God created us to be. How do you think about the importance of the Spirit’s work in your life? How much of your life do you think you can handle on your own?
  3. The Spirit leads us and shapes us to be more like Jesus so others can see Jesus through us. In what ways does the Spirit lead you?
  4. What can we do this week to let the Spirit shape our character to be more like Jesus?

False Pride

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves.” – Philippians 2:3

C.S. Lewis said this about pride in Mere Christianity: “There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves. And the more we have it ourselves, the more we dislike it in others. The vice I am talking of is pride. In fact, if you want to find out how proud you are the easiest way is to ask yourself, ‘How much do I dislike it when other people snub me, or refuse to take any notice of me, or shove their oar in, or patronize me, or show off?’ The point is that each person’s pride is in competition with every one else’s pride. It is because I wanted to be the big noise at the party that I am so annoyed at someone else being the big noise.”

C.S. Lewis could be talking about Samson. He wanted to be the big man on campus and believed he was. He probably believed that guys wanted to be like him and every girl wanted to be with him. Samson believed he could do anything and he often did. After several killing sprees, Samson went to hang out in the top of the rock Etam for a while. While he was there, 3000 men of Judah came, tied him up and took him to the Philistines. When they delivered Samson, we pick up the story in Judges 15: 14-17: “As Samson arrived at Lehi, the Philistines came shouting in triumph. But the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon Samson, and he snapped the ropes on his arms as if they were burnt strands of flax, and they fell from his wrists. Then he found the jawbone of a recently killed donkey. He picked it up and killed 1,000 Philistines with it. Then Samson said, “With the jawbone of a donkey, I’ve piled them in heaps! With the jawbone of a donkey, I’ve killed a thousand men!” When he finished his boasting, he threw away the jawbone; and the place was named Jawbone Hill.”

Notice the phrase “and the spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon Samson.” But in his trash talking there is no mention of God, just multiple times using the word I’ve. He is basically saying: Look how strong I am, look how skillfully I fight, and are you not impressed yet? He simply takes the credit. I don’t think it would be inaccurate to imagine Samson standing before the torn lion, his blood pumping from adrenaline, and sweat dripping from his forehead, in total amazement at the scene at his feet, thinking to himself, “Look at what I’ve done.” Instead of saying, “look at what God has done.” The problem is where pride leads. Pride produces self-recognition, self-advancement, and a desire to be served. Pride is the arrogant, self serving, ambition driven attitude that can and often does leads to destruction, as it did with Samson.

In the end Samson is the one who became humbled, by being imprisoned and forced to work in a grain mill, mocked, and ridiculed for entertainment. After all this is done, Samson finally prays to God to give him strength to do God’s will.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do you define pride?
  2. Being open and honest, have you ever gone through a season when you struggled with pride? How did it affect your relationships with others? With God? How did God address that issue in your life?
  3. Most men have a desire for greatness, as Samson did, that can often result in pride. Do you have a desire for greatness? How do you handle that desire? Do you believe God put it there? If so, why do you think He did? 
  4. This week, spend some time learning what God has to say about pride. For starters, Proverbs is chock-full of warnings of the effects of pride.

Burned With Anger

“And “don’t sin by letting anger control you.” Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a foothold to the devil. If you are a thief, quit stealing. Instead, use your hands for good hard work, and then give generously to others in need. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior.” – Ephesians 4:26-31.

The life of Samson has always made good Hollywood copy, and colorful stories for Sunday School classes. Some see Samson making poor choices in women. Others see a wild man slaying a thousand men with the jawbone of an donkey. Still others imagine a blinded, bitter Samson ending his life in a last fit of vengeance. But when you get by the mystique and fascination of the legend of Samson, you find a man of great physical strength, but also great weakness when it came to controlling his emotions.

Samson’s life includes one stumble after another. He became too friendly and too familiar with the Philistines. He consorted with a prostitute in Gaza, barely escaping a threat to kill him. No sooner had he escaped that threat when he takes up with Delilah. To the human eye, it may have looked as if Samson was veering out of control here, thwarting the work and the will of the Lord. Samson’s actions were certainly in conflict with the revealed will of God. But God had not lost control.   

Samson was utterly undisciplined. He could not control his eyes. He could not control his appetite. He could not control his emotions. He could not control his anger. An example starts out as a lark. Samson tells a group of Philistines for fun that he thinks there is no way they will figure out the answer to his riddle, but they outsmarted him. And what began as a contest of wits among friends turned quickly into a serious conflict, partly because Samson’s pride was wounded. He responded in anger as Judges 14:19 tells us what happened.”Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to the town of Ashkelon, killed thirty men, took their belongings, and gave their clothing to the men who had solved his riddle. But Samson was furious about what had happened, and he went back home to live with his father and mother.” 

Samson’s wrong choices when he was young led to repeated problems with the same sins throughout his life. Anger and lack of self-control haunted him throughout his life. And Samson’s sinful pride, as well as his violent anger, continued to plague him, though God used Samson in a marvelous way to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Would you say that we live in an angry culture? Why or why not?
  2. According to James 1:19-20, why should we be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to wrath? What does this mean?
  3. What does Galatians 5:19-25 teach us about the positive side of this issue?
  4. What can we learn from the anger of Samson to apply to our life? 

When Emotions Get The Best Of You

So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. – Galatians 5:16-17.

Have you ever wondered what life would be like without emotions? Or if everybody was able to control their emotions. We would all be like Spock on Star Trek. All his responses to all situations are always logical, made without any emotion. But we will never be like Spock because God created us as emotional beings. We feel love, joy, happiness, guilt, anger, disappointment, fear, etc. Sometimes our emotions are productive and sometimes they are not. Either way, emotions can be helpful indicators of what is going on in our hearts.

When we study the life of Samson, we quickly see how his emotions often got the best of him. Usually to his detriment. Samson was set aside at birth by God to save the people from the Philistines. Samson was a man of great potential, but often made self destructive decisions. Last week we saw that he struggled with lust (I want it!), entitlement (I deserve it!), and pride (I can handle it!). This week we look at how Samson was emotion driven, not spirit led. Emotions aren’t always bad, in fact they’re a gift. But, when we let our emotions take over, they become one of the “two forces” fighting each other Paul is talking about in Galatians.

We find in the story of Samson a battle of the riddle. Samson has a competition with a bunch of other guys around a riddle. But he doesn’t leave it at a competition. He adds a bet. Here’s the riddle: “Out of the one who eats came something to eat; out of the strong came something sweet.” (Judges 14:14)

So the answer to this riddle is a lion and honey. Samson killed a lion, came back later and found in its corpse a bunch of bees and honey. The Philistine men can’t figure it out, so they threaten Samson’s Philistine wife and she cries to Samson and gets the answer from him. He tells her, and she tells them. They solve the riddle and Samson is furious.  He says: “If you hadn’t plowed with my heifer, you wouldn’t have solved my riddle.” (Judges 14:18)

Calling your wife a heifer is a bad idea. But back to the story. Instead of being led by the Spirit, Samson becomes driven by his emotions, particularly his anger. He takes the lives of 30 innocent men to pay his bet. Samson then leaves the party, and his wife’s dad thinks that he’s abandoned his daughter so he gives her to another man.  Samson comes back several weeks later and finds that his wife has been given to someone else.  So he takes 300 foxes, ties them together, lights their tails on fire, and sets them loose in the Philistine grain fields. Anger leads to a destructive cycle of violence in Samson’s life. 

Allowing our emotions to control us is a bad idea. Denying our emotions is not a good idea either. Controlling and stewarding our emotions is the idea. The way to manage our emotions is to be spirit led. “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2) The Holy Spirit is the one who can produce self-control in our lives. “ But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”  (Galatians 5:22-23)

Discussion Questions:

  1. What can we learn about emotions in the life of Samson? Do you believe emotions contribute to bad choices?
  2. What emotions are positive and what emotions are negative in your life.
  3. How can we become more Spirit led?
  4. What can we do this week to be more led by the Spirit? 

Pause and Pray

Samson judged Israel for twenty years during the period when the Philistines dominated the land.” – Judges 15:20.

In Judges 15:20, we learn that Samson judged Israel well for 20 years. Then one day, he chose to walk to the Philistine headquarters in Gaza to find a prostitute. We can never know the number of actual steps but some basic math indicates that Samson walked about 56,000 steps to get to Gaza from where he was. And for the sake of discussion, let’s say that Samson takes about 100 steps per minute. So the 56,000 steps would take him approximately 560 minutes or 9.33 hours to complete. That’s 56,250 chances that Samson had to pause, reflect, and take a different road literally and figuratively.

He had approximately 9 hours to do some mental due diligence and determine whether this was the wise thing for him to do. But he chose not to reflect or to pause, opting instead to keep walking. And eventually he ran into Delilah. If he had taken just one minute out of those 560 minutes to pray and ask God for wisdom and guidance the outcome may have been different. Maybe even radically different. But he didn’t pause and his hair was cut, his eyes were gouged out, and the strongest man to ever live was made weak.

The story of Samson should give us pause. When in doubt, pause. When angry, pause. When tired, pause. When tempted, pause. When stressed, pause. When seeking God’s will, pause. And whenever you pause, pray. Jesus took time to pause in His ministry to get away from all of the action to be renewed. Mark 6:31 tells us, “Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. Matthew chapter 13 shows the short pauses in one day Jesus took before continuing His teachings. 

We need to leave space for God to provide. Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for him to act.”  That suggests both a pause and relinquishing total control of the action with our own hands and minds. It is taking the time to listen for the “still small voice” through which God often chooses to speak to us.

And don’t forget to pray. Praying and seeking God’s will help to give us the strength we need to ward off temptation and prevent us from possibly stepping on other landmines in our lives. But let me take that one step further. We should often practice preemptive prayer. Most of us default to pray as we are sliding down the rabbit hole, or as a last ditch hope to keep us out of trouble. And there is nothing wrong with that. But pause and think about it for a second. Prayer is our most powerful, most accessible, most useful resource for all the challenges we face. If we are not using it proactively, in other words praying for the wisdom to see the guard rails, to keep our distance from temptation, to keep our vision and our actions committed to God, then we should start. Much like it is wise to perform the preventive maintenance on a car rather than fixing it when it is not running. It is far better to pray and stay out of danger than to pray for deliverance when we are already in danger.

Discussion Questions:

  1. Is it easy to pause? If not why not?
  2. What times in your life do you think it is important to pause?
  3. It is important to pause and to pray. Why do you think that is true? 
  4. What can we do this week to make pause and pray a regular activity in our lives?

I Can Handle It

“Thus says the Lord: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord. He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come. He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:5-9. 

For many Christians, Samson stands as one of the saddest figures in the biblical record, a man who started out with such great potential only to squander it all due to his lack of self-control. In fact, Samson’s story is often presented as a cautionary tale.

I struggled to find a way to describe Samson in one word. Impulsive? Rash? Untamed? Hasty? Probably all of those are good, but none of them I feel truly capture the essence of Samson. He is a man who goes after and does what he wants, as soon as he wants it, and doesn’t listen to anyone about it. He assumes he can handle whatever comes his way. 

He sees a pretty girl, so he decides he needs to marry her, even though his parents don’t really want him to. He likes what he sees, and he wants it. He doesn’t see a problem. He meets a lion and he kills it. No problem. He’s at a party with alcohol. He shouldn’t be there and he makes it worse by concocting a riddle to demonstrate he is smarter than everyone else. He makes a bet and loses the bet and kills 30 people to pay what he owes. He handled that. They give his wife to a companion. This means Samson lights 300 foxes on fire and burns their corn down. Nicely handled.

Quite simply, Samson was too powerful and too overly confident for his own good. His ability was outrunning his self control, and his pride was getting the best of him.   

It is so obvious where this is leading, you wonder how Samson did not see it as well. Samson takes a nap with a lady from a nation that hates his God, after telling her his only weakness. She naturally betrays him to the bad guys, as most people would assume she would do.

If the only way I could be defeated was to have my head shaved, it would seem to me that not letting that secret be known to the enemy would be smart, as well as prudent. But Samson put himself in a situation where his secret was always in jeopardy, and Delilah finally convinced him to tell her. 

Samson probably thought he could handle it. If he did not believe he could handle it, why would he be with Delilah in the first place. There are many other things he could have been doing. In fact, anything he could have done at that moment was a better idea. But, he’s Samson. He’s big, powerful and can handle anything. He was dead wrong.

This can happen to any of us who believe that we can handle anything that comes our way. When we believe we can handle dangerous situations, we put ourselves in harm’s way. We need to pause and consider where our actions are leading us. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How much of life do you believe you can handle on your own? How much of our thinking that we can handle anything is pride?
  2. Is there such a thing as “good” pride?
  3. Describe a time in your life when your “bad” pride got the best of you? How do you perceive that experience today (with humor, sadness, gratefulness, shame, etc.)? What did you learn from that event?
  4. In what area of life are you most likely to fall prey to “bad” pride, which gives you an inflated view of yourself? Why do you think this aspect of your life is more vulnerable to bad pride?

I Deserve It

“What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure. – James 4:1-3

Here is how I would define people who feel entitled: People who are entitled are generally contemptuous of others. They believe they are superior. They become offended when somebody objects to their behavior, and have a very difficult time apologizing when they make a mistake or act inappropriately. They may easily blame, criticize, shame, humiliate or judge others—or demand that others meet their needs or live up to their standards and they aren’t empathetic. They act as if they have the right to do or say whatever they want, and you have no right to object. That sounds a lot like Samson, doesn’t it?

I guess you can feel entitled when your birth was not just any ordinary birth, but a miracle. His mother was sterile and therefore unable to have children, but an angel appeared to her and later her husband, proclaiming that they would indeed have a son – and he was to be a Nazrite from birth. I guess when you tear apart a lion with your bare hands that tends to make you feel a little bit superior. And I’m sure you get a little puffed up when you dispatch your enemy in large numbers single handedly. It is fair to assume that Samson grew up knowing he was special, unique and had a divine calling. 

But that entitlement, the idea that he deserved whatever he wanted, when he wanted it, resulted in him too often “clocking out” from using any self-control. It made him reckless and self-destructive. Like a moth to a flame, he continued to needlessly place himself at risk, losing sight of his purpose and breaking his vows as a Nazrite. Until finally, his lack of self-control finally caught up to him.   

The story of the lion and the honey is just one example. Samson betrayed the same God that gave him the power to rip apart the lion for what? For a handful of honey. Who would betray God for a handful of honey? The answer is every man who is reading this devotional. We all have at one time or another probably betrayed our God who saved and blessed us for stupid, sinful things that only hurt us and those around us. And probably because we believe we deserved it.

Entitlement is that demanding attitude that says, “I deserve it now even if I haven’t earned it or cannot pay for it.” Some call it the gimmes, others the I-wants. Entitlement is subtle. It creeps into our lives when we compare our lifestyles and possessions to those of the people we respect and want to be like. Just like Samson, we too can feel entitled, that we deserve something. But before long we lose a little bit of self-control and something happens: a poor decision is made, and then something’s got you. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. How often do you feel you deserve it – that you have a right to more and better? How is it different than Samson’s?
  2. Entitlement causes us to judge God for how the world works, for the bad things that happen to us and for things that didn’t happen that we want. Agree or disagree?
  3. Entitlement causes us to blame others. Agree or disagree? 
  4. How can we control attitudes of entitlement this week? 

I Want It

“One day when Samson was in Timnah, one of the Philistine women caught his eye. When he returned home, he told his father and mother, “A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her. Get her for me.” His father and mother objected. “Isn’t there even one woman in our tribe or among all the Israelites you could marry?” they asked. “Why must you go to the pagan Philistines to find a wife?” But Samson told his father, “Get her for me! She looks good to me.” – Judges 14:1-3.

When we want something we usually want it yesterday. We are into instant gratification because we lack the patience for waiting…for anything. When our computer takes a couple of extra seconds for a page to load, it can feel like an eternity. Movies and TV shows begin streaming in seconds. I am reminded of the movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. There is a girl named Baruka who once she has seen the geese that lays the golden eggs, decided she wants one and breaks into a song about all the things that she wants and she doesn’t want to wait. The lyrics include: “Don’t care how… I want it now.” She eventually falls down the garbage chute.

Samson wanted something. He had to have it. He was going to get it, and he wanted it now. Her name was Delilah. He didn’t know it at the time, but he was moving toward the garbage chute the minute he told his father “Get her for me! She looks good to me.”

But before we judge Samson too harshly, he is not the only man who forgot logic when they want or lust after something. It happens today all the time. Today, we may just look a little too long at a woman and start to wonder what she is like. Today, we may be willing to do just about anything to advance a career or to make more money, or to win an award or achievement. We may want the new boat, or new car, or new house or some new thrills. The problem is when we forget about reason and logic and pursue what we want with reckless abandon. And that’s what Samson did. 

Samson went down to Timnah and there a Philistine woman caught his eye. When he returned home, he told his father and mother, “A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her.” Basically, he went into enemy territory and saw a woman that was forbidden to him because God said, “You shall not intermarry with those who do not worship me.”

And at that moment, he looks at her and he forgets everything else and he says, “I want it! I don’t care what my God says. I don’t care what my Dad says. I don’t care what my Mom says, I don’t care what’s right and I don’t care what’s wise, because I want it.” This is just one of the failures because this strong man has a weak spirit.

The story of Samson completely confounds me. He was arrogant. He was impulsive. He was violent. He was selfish. And in the end, it seems he pretty much got what he deserved. However, he did eventually yield to God’s great purpose for his life and finished his life praying for God’s help to accomplish it. We can learn from both his mistakes and from what he did right.

Discussion Questions:

  1. We have learned in this story that once again the people were doing what was right in their own eyes. Why is it not okay to live this way? What are some consequences of living according to our own definition of right and wrong?
  2. If you were Samson, and was getting into a relationship with a Delilah, would you have a friend that would throw up some “red flags” about the relationship?
  3. Samson’s sin in this story is irrational. In what ways do our own sinful choices fail to make sense rationally?
  4. Like Samson, what successes in your life might lead you to put your trust in yourself rather than in God? How can we maintain a strong sense of dependence on God?

The Weak And The Strong

Again the Israelites did evil in the Lord’s sight, so the Lord handed them over to the Philistines, who oppressed them for forty years. In those days a man named Manoah from the tribe of Dan lived in the town of Zorah. His wife was unable to become pregnant, and they had no children. The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife and said, “Even though you have been unable to have children, you will soon become pregnant and give birth to a son. So be careful; you must not drink wine or any other alcoholic drink nor eat any forbidden food. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his hair must never be cut. For he will be dedicated to God as a Nazirite from birth. He will begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines.” – Judges 13:1-5.

Most people know the basic story of Samson and Delilah from Judges 13-16. We all know that eventually long-haired Samson tells her the secret to his strength and she hands him over the Philistines, who eventually take him captive by plucking his eyes out and enslaving him. Then God grants him a final request and he takes out all 3000 men and women in the coliseum and he dies with them.

The common assumption is that Samson was destined for greatness no matter what he did—but faltered before he could reach his potential because of Delilah. Samson’s story begins in Judges 13:1-5 (above)  There are some rules of engagement when someone is either born or becomes a Nazirite. In addition to never cutting his hair, these rules include abstaining from alcohol, and never touching a dead body. Samson was a man that was used by God and at times acted solely on his desires; in other words, what he wanted, is what he wanted. 

Samson wanted to marry a woman that didn’t worship the one true God. (Judges 14:1-4) This gives us an initial view into Samson’s selfish and lustful nature. Next Samson touched the dead body of a lion. (Judges 14: 5-6; 8-9)  Samson officially broke the Nazarite vow that says not to go near a dead body. What makes this situation worse is that he gave some honey from the dead lion’s belly to his parents. In short, he got his parents caught up in the transgression as well. Then he seemed to make light of this when making a riddle to the Philistines (v12-14). 

Samson liked to have relationships with women who he wasn’t married to, and women that he wasn’t supposed to be in relationships with. In fact, Samson committed multiple sins. That’s to be expected since all fall short of the glory of God. The glaring issue here is he committed sins and didn’t repent. In short, he used his life to pursue what he wanted, despite God’s instructions.   

In retrospect, his story is very familiar. It reminds me of the lives of us men, who with the best intentions, set our sights on being used by God, only to set it aside to pursue our own agenda. We don’t go in planning to compromise, but we find it expedient to do so. We can wander into areas we shouldn’t be in and we lose sight of God in the temporary pleasures that we enjoy, not realizing that our pleasures can easily become addictions. Samson was no different and his story paints a dark reality of what happens when our will is weak and we don’t have self-control. 

Discussion Questions:

  1. Did your perception of Samson change this week? If so, how?
  2. What can we learn from the life of Samson?
  3. Why do you think Samson would eat honey out of the carcass of a lion?
  4. Why didn’t Sampson realize what Delilah was up to? Why don’t we sense danger when it is lurking?