THE FATAL FLAW OF SELF INDULGENT LUST BECOMES THE STIMULANT GOD USES TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PROVIDENTIAL PLANS FOR HIS PEOPLE
We tend to think way too highly of ourselves. We think that our plans and accomplishments are so important. While we forget that God constantly acts behind the scenes to accomplish His Sovereign, Providential Plans for His People – regardless of our level of maturity or godliness. This is no way excuses our sinfulness or minimizes the need for us to walk worthy of our high calling; but it does remind us of the wisdom and power of God in accomplishing His purposes. In our story today, it appears that Samson is the main character – acting out his self indulgent lusts with no regard for his divine mission and calling. Yet in actuality, God is the central figure in writing this chapter of the history of His people and His grace and mercy in untangling them from their adulterous relationship with the pagan world.
Last week we saw Samson’s Bright Beginning – he seemed to have everything a Jewish boy could want – parents with a spiritual focus, a divine calling from the highest possible authority, divine enablement with the power of the Spirit operating in his life … we should expect great things from Samson as we enter into Chap. 14. But what we find is a man with a Fatal Flaw.
THE FATAL FLAW OF SELF INDULGENT LUST BECOMES THE STIMULANT GOD USES TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PROVIDENTIAL PLANS FOR HIS PEOPLE
5 CHARACTER DEFICIENCIES ASSOCIATED WITH THE FATAL FLAW OF SELF INDULGENT LUST – COUPLED WITH THE KEY TO GOD WORKING BEHIND THE SCENES
The five sections of the narrative are marked by the same phrase: “went down” (yarad)
S. Lewis Johnson: Did you notice in verse 1 the Scripture says, “Then Samson went down to Timnath,” in verse 5 it says, “Then Samson went down to Timnath.” You know when you get out of God’s will, it is always down. It’s remarkable how often the geography of the Bible agrees with the spiritual truth lying back of it. When Abraham went to Egypt it was to go down into Egypt. When God spoke to Jonah and said, “Jonah I want you to go to the Ninevites and I want you to preach against them,” we read, “Then Johan as he turned from the will of God went down to Joppa.” When you get out of the will of God in the Bible it almost seems that the geography’s trying to teach us some lessons. It’s down, always down when you move from the will of God.
I. (:1-4) POOR JUDGMENT – NO SUBMISSION TO AUTHORITY OR SELF CONTROL
A. (:1-2) Reacting Superficially
“Then Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines. So he came back and told his father and mother, ‘I saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.’”
Why was Samson going down to Timnah – what good could come of rubbing shoulders with the enemies of God? Nation of Israel was so compromised at this point in their history that you couldn’t tell any difference between the friends of God and His enemies. The line of demarcation, of separation, had been erased.
We raise our children with the intention that they will learn to make good life decisions. We want them to grow in wisdom and in good judgment. We want them to value our counsel and yet learn to trust the Lord in decision making. Samson struggled in this area.
Brensinger: Timnah was a town located six miles west of Zorah. Although Timnah fell within the Danites’ original territorial allotment (Josh. 19:42), it clearly has since come under expanding Philistine control. That Samson can travel there so freely, however, suggests what the overall narrative repeatedly implies elsewhere: relations between the Philistines and the Israelites are relatively cordial. A mixed marriage is not unthinkable.
Inrig: for years they had been praying for him that God would use their son to deliver Israel. Now their son, whom God had called to live a life of separation, wanted to marry one of the enemy. That was not only a betrayal of his calling, it was direct disobedience to the Word of God, because God had told His people not to intermarry with the pagan people who lived in the land (Deut. 7:3-4).
Controlled by the lust of the eyes – 1 John 2:16 – living by sight instead of by faith
B. (:3) Rejecting Sage Counsel
“Then his father and his mother said to him, ‘Is there no woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?’ But Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me, for she looks good to me.’”
There were other pagan cultures that practiced circumcision as Israel did – although not with the significance of the divine covenant. The Philistines were particularly a despised enemy because they were uniformly uncircumcised.
Rejection of biblical authority (Ex. 34:12-16; 2 Cor. 6:14-18)
Rejection of authority of his parents
Rationalizing that he has peace about this decision; he knows what he is doing
This warning against mixed marriages should be sobering to us today; we all know of situations that are not pleasing to the Lord; yet there is no fear of the Lord; people just continue on and are unwilling to repent … serious business; do you think you can take fire into your chest and not be burned?
Inrig: He was a man who rejected authority . . . He was a self-confessed spiritual anarchist, a man who had adopted the social values of his pagan contemporaries. Cf. 17:6; 21:25 . . . He also refused to practice self-discipline . . . Self-discipline is not denying our drives and desires; it is submitting them to the will of God and to the timing of God. Samson’s mistake was not in being attracted to that woman, but in failing to submit his sexual drives to the Lord’s control. His purpose is to produce rich fruit in my life, and that comes as I refuse to walk in the flesh, and, instead, put myself under the control of His Spirit. In His time, there is a wonderfully satisfying harvest.
S. Lewis Johnson: Now notice what he says too. He says it twice, “She’s right in my eyes. Get her for me for she’s right in my eyes.” Later on in verse 7, “So he went down and talked to the woman and she looked good to Samson” or “she was right in Samson’s eyes.” Now the Scriptures in the Book of Judges say that one of the difficulties with the people who lived at this time was that every man did that which was right in his own eyes. That was God’s condemnation of this particular age. And here is the Nazarite, the man of God, saying “She looks good to me, she’s right in my eyes.”
Block: The repetition of the verb “to see” in vv. 1-2 demonstrates that he is operating on appearance and for personal interest, not on principle or for the greater good.
C. (:4) Reaping Sovereign Providential Purposes
“However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.”
Look at how the Lord can take even our poor judgment and sinful choices and bring about His sovereign purposes; in reflecting upon our past we should not despair, but repent and ask the Lord to use us now in the situation we find ourselves
God can use evil for greater good; life of Joseph (Gen. 50:20); cross of Christ (Acts 4:28)
Key: God is at work behind the scenes to stir up strife between His people and the pagan, uncircumcised Philistines – Peaceful co-existence with the world is never God’s plan for His people
II. (:5-6) SECRET LIFE – NO TESTIFYING TO GOD’S POWER
“Then Samson went down to Timnah with his father and mother, and came as far as the vineyards of Timnah; and behold, a young lion came roaring toward him. And the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, so that he tore him as one tears a kid though he had nothing in his hand; but he did not tell his father or mother what he had done.”
Wiersbe: it appears that Samson left the main road (and his parents) and went on a detour into the vineyards; and there a lion attacked him. A vineyard was a dangerous place for a man who was not supposed to have anything to do with grapes.
Dale Ralph Davis: We must not ignore such previews. David argued that if Yahweh made him able to wipe out the lions and bears that attacked Jesse’s sheep, he would also give him guts and skill to knock off the King Kong of Philistia (1 Sam. 17:34-37). . . No, you needn’t expect lions to come roaring out of vineyards; but you should notice this pattern in God’s ways. He will, by some smaller episode of deliverance or provision, show you how adequate he is so that you will be encouraged to rely on him in upcoming and possibly more demanding circumstances.
Key: God provides both the attacking lion and the supernatural power to enable Solomon to tear it to pieces
III. (:7-9) BREAKING COMMITMENTS – NO HEART DEDICATION TO THE LORD
A. (:7) Vetting His Potential Bride on the Wrong Grounds
“So he went down and talked to the woman; and she looked good to Samson.”
B. (:8-9) Violating Vow of Separation
“When he returned later to take her, he turned aside to look at the carcass of the lion; and behold, a swarm of bees and honey were in the body of the lion. So he scraped the honey into his hands and went on, eating as he went. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them and they ate it; but he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey out of the body of the lion.”
Curiosity caused him to turn aside to see what had become of the dead lion carcass
Broke the Nazirite vow involving avoiding contact with the dead – was careful not to tell his parents the full story
Brensinger: Typically, bees avoid rotting bodies, preferring drier and more amicable conditions.
You would expect flies and maggots, but not bees; the hand of God has prepared this test for Samson
Samson caused his parents unknowingly to become defiled as well – although they acted in innocence –not knowing the source of the honey
Key: God overrides the normal laws of nature to set up a test which will appeal to Samson’s unbridled appetites.
IV. (:10-18) DIVIDED LOYALTIES – NO RELATIONSHIP OF TRUST
A. (:10-14) Delivering the Riddle
1. (:10-11) Setting the Scene
“Then his father went down to the woman; and Samson made a feast there, for the young men customarily did this. And it came about when they saw him that they brought thirty companions to be with him.”
Inrig: the word indicates a drinking bout, a drunken celebration. . . So he broke that part of his vow which repudiated strong drink.
Block: When they saw Samson, they were afraid of him. Not taking any chances, they surrounded him with bodyguards. . . Yahweh was determined to create tension between Israel and the Philistines.
Talk about a big wedding party – makes for an expensive rehearsal dinner
2. (:12-13) Proposing the Prize
“Then Samson said to them, ‘Let me now propound a riddle to you; if you will indeed tell it to me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty linen wraps and thirty changes of clothes. But if you are unable to tell me, then you shall give me thirty linen wraps and thirty changes of clothes.’ And they said to him, ‘Propound your riddle, that we may hear it.’ “
3. (:14) Reciting the Riddle
“So he said to them, ‘Out of the eater came something to eat, And out of the strong came something sweet.’ But they could not tell the riddle in three days.”
Samson thought he was betting on a sure thing – not exactly a fair, sporting proposition to introduce to his new friends.
B. (:15-18) Deciphering the Riddle
1. (:15-17) Applying Pressure
“Then it came about on the fourth day that they said to Samson’s wife, ‘Entice your husband, that he may tell us the riddle, lest we burn you and your father’s house with fire. Have you invited us to impoverish us? Is this not so?’ And Samson’s wife wept before him and said, ‘You only hate me, and you do not love me; you have propounded a riddle to the sons of my people, and have not told it to me.’ And he said to her, ‘Behold, I have not told it to my father or mother; so should I tell you?’ However she wept before him seven days while their feast lasted. And it came about on the seventh day that he told her because she pressed him so hard. She then told the riddle to the sons of her people.
When you marry someone, you marry their relatives also –
Wiersbe: First the Philistine woman enticed him (14:1), then she controlled him (v. 17), and then she betrayed him (v. 17), which is the way the world always treats the compromising believer. Samson could kill lions and break ropes, but he couldn’t overcome the power of a woman’s tears.
2. (:18) Winning by Cheating
“So the men of the city said to him on the seventh day before the sun went down, ‘What is sweeter than honey? And what is stronger than a lion?’ And he said to them, ‘If you had not plowed with my heifer, You would not have found out my riddle.’”
F. Duane Lindsey: In calling her a “heifer” he was ridiculing her for her untamed and stubborn spirit (cf. Jer. 50:11; Hosea 4:16).
Disparaging reference to his new bride
Ray Pritchard: Samson at this point pictures a believer going further and further away from God. If you simply look at his long hair he appears to be dedicated to God, but his lifestyle tells another story. On the outside he looks like a man of God, but on the inside he’s no different than a man of the world.
That’s what eventually happens when you drift away from God. You start out innocently enough, testing the water, carefully wandering where you don’t belong, following your emotions to see where they will lead you, casually going your own way, oblivious to those who would warn you of the danger ahead. Eventually your spiritual commitments don’t mean much to you anymore. You end up like Samson, looking spiritual on the outside, but worldly on the inside.
Key: God was able to use the tears of Samson’s nagging bride to frustrate Samson’s confidence in his own ingenuity by pressuring him to reveal the secret to his riddle. This exposed the divided loyalties of his bride and drove a wedge between Samson and the Philistines.
V. (:19-20) REVENGEFUL ANGER – NO ENJOYMENT OF LONG LASTING RELATIONSHIP
A. (:19) The Hulk Sulks
“Then the Spirit of the LORD came upon him mightily, and he went down to Ashkelon and killed thirty of them and took their spoil, and gave the changes of clothes to those who told the riddle. And his anger burned, and he went up to his father’s house.
S. Lewis Johnson: the sovereign work of God fulfilling his purpose, because he is, through Samson, he is seeking an occasion by which a struggle may develop between his chosen people Israel, and these unbelieving Philistines. And in this struggle he will deliver the children of Israel from the Philistine yoke.
Dale Ralph Davis: Our impulse is to attribute the slaughter of Ashkelon to Samson serving “in the flesh” . . . but the text will not allow us to do that. . . Here now was the occasion Yahweh was seeking (v. 4). Here is the climax of the story . . . what we are dealing with is not Samson’s temper but the Spirit’s power. If this seems brutal, we must simply live with it. We have already seen that when Yahweh delivers his people he does not always dip his saving acts in Clorox and sprinkle them with perfume. To be delivered from evil will frequently be messy.
If we are not offended at how vicious Samson’s deed is, we may stumble over how small it is. If Yahweh is saving Israel, what difference can thirty Philistines make? Yahweh promised only that Samson would begin to save Israel from the Philistines (13:5). Here in Ashkelon is the beginning of the beginning. We must not despise it.
[ I disagree with argument by Davis – Spirit of God did cause Samson to take action; but that does not mean his intentions and motives were pure. He was still driven by revengeful anger – not righteous indignation.]
B. (:20) Strife Over the Wife
“But Samson’s wife was given to his companion who had been his friend.”
Key: God has created enmity between the Philistines and Samson. The process of the deliverance of His people from Philistine oppression begins with the slaying of 30 Philistine men.
Seeing these five associated character deficiencies, is it really worth it to pursue the lusts of the flesh?
Ps. 32:8-9 “I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you. Do not be as the horse or as the mule which have no understanding, whose trappings include bit and bridle to hold them in check, otherwise they will not come near to you.”
Block: Superficially we are fascinated by Samson’s exploits, but at the deep level we must see the hand of God in these events. With brilliant irony the narrator describes a free spirit, a rebel driven by selfish interests, doing whatever he pleases without any respect for his parents and with no respect for the claims of God on his life, but in the process he ends up doing the will of God.