If you are like our family, you have spent some time this past week watching the performances of a wide variety of Olympic champions over in London. They have prepared for years for their one glorious moment of competition. They have sacrificed and disciplined themselves to position themselves for that ultimate gold medal. As we get to know their personal stories, we see a mixture of flaws and virtues as we would with any of the rest of us. But they have risen above all obstacles to captivate a worldwide audience with their superior level of skill and performance under pressure. There is nothing quite like earning the distinction of World Champion.
Samson was a Champion on a much more critical stage than mere sports and national honor. He had been designated by God from the womb as the one who would begin to deliver God’s people from the oppression of God’s enemies. The cosmic battle between God’s kingdom program and Satan’s adversarial agenda lies at the heart of Samson’s odd mixture of sinful foibles and Spirit-filled conquests. Behind the scenes, the providence of God is constantly at work to accomplish God’s sovereign purposes. We have traced his story through chapters 13, 14 and 15. We have been impressed by his Bright Beginning with the angel of the Lord announcing his divine calling and Nazirite pathway to a life of separation. We have witnessed his Fatal Flaw of self indulgent lust and arrogant over-confidence that constantly places him in situations of temptation and danger. We have also been astonished by the Supernatural Strength which the Holy Spirit has unleashed on specific occasions through this heroic figure. Now we come to the scene of his Final Feat. Everything has been building towards this final showdown between Samson and the Philistines.
ISRAEL’S FLAWED CHAMPION FULFILLS HIS CALLING BY BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE IN HIS FINAL FEAT OF SUPERNATURAL STRENGTH –
PROVIDENTIAL PREPARATION AND POSITIONING LEAD TO THE PERFORMANCE OF A CHAMPION
I. (:1-3) PROVIDENTIAL PREPARATION FOR THE CHAMPION’S FINAL FEAT
A. (:1) Fatal Flaw Creates Vulnerability
“Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her.”
Samson was his own worst enemy; he constantly opened himself up to temptation and allowed the lust of the flesh to drive his behavior; you can imagine that he was sexually frustrated after being denied relations with his Timnite wife; what is he doing visiting Gaza – an enemy stronghold?
Especially seemed to like foreign women
We must have a mindset to Flee temptation as Joseph did – not Flirt with it
2 Tim. 2:20-22 “Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some to honor and some to dishonor. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work. Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”
1 Cor. 6:18 “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.”
B. (:2) Futile Trap is Ready to be Sprung
“When it was told to the Gazites, saying, ‘Samson has come here,’ they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. And they kept silent all night, saying, ‘Let us wait until the morning light, then we will kill him.’
Look at how word about Samson and his activities spreads so quickly; he is the hated enemy of the Philistines; now he has been delivered into their hands; they need to take advantage of this intelligence and act quickly and decisively
Just like the SWAT teams that like to move in on their subject just as first light dawns.
Apparently they shut the gate to the city and posted guards so that there was no way he could escape from the fortress. But they thought they could grab a little shut-eye in preparation for the upcoming surprise raid on Samson.
The Lord is going to deliver His servant – but not based on any righteousness of his own; he is in the midst of a sinful sexual alliance – yet God still has plans to continue His work of preparation in Samson’s life in anticipation of the final act
C. (:3) Forceful Foreshadowing of Ultimate Escape and Conquest
“Now Samson lay until midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts and pulled them up along with the bars; then he put them on his shoulders and carried them up to the top of the mountain which is opposite Hebron.”
What made Samson rise up at midnight? The Providence of the Lord
The waiting military force of the Philistines was in awe of this feat and dared not challenge Samson at this point – they just stood and watched as the symbol of their invincibility and power was carried off by the Champion of the Israelites
I have trouble pulling up the roots of some old shrub that I want to get rid of – no problem for Superman
We see why this incident is recorded – probably not the only occasion where Samson frequented a prostitute – but this incident bears important parallels to his final pulling down of two posts
(cf. tearing down the goalposts at football games)
F. Duane Lindsay: Whether this is a hill outside of Gaza that has a view eastward toward Hebron, or whether Samson carried the doors uphill 37 miles to a hill outside of Hebron, is not clear from the text.
Block: This segment reveals an Israelite inexorably drawn to the Philistines and continuing to be driven by his senses. He has no scruples about fraternizing with the enemy. . . as concerts by world class artists are opened by colleagues of lesser importance, so this unnamed woman sets the stage for Delilah. At the same time this picture of Samson’s extraordinary strength provides the background for what happens when his hair is shorn.
– How has God equipped me?
– What lessons has God taught me?
– What trials has God brought me through?
– What forgiveness and grace have I experienced?
II. (:4-22) PROVIDENTIAL POSITIONING FOR THE CHAMPION’S FINAL FEAT
4 Rounds of Attempted Capture:
A. (:4-9) Round 1 of Attempted Capture – Delilah’s Treachery
1. (:4-5) Proposition
“After this it came about that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. And the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and said to her, ‘Entice him, and see where his great strength lies and how we may overpower him that we may bind him to afflict him. Then we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.’”
Temptation comes in attractive forms
Block: Sorek was the name of a wadi valley that ran from the hill country of Judah and Dan down to the Mediterranean coast, through the northern part of Philistia. . . For the first time in the Samson narrative a woman is name. But like many other elements in the Samson narrative, the name Delilah is a riddle. Etymologically, the most likely explanation relates the name to Arabic dalla, “to flirt,” but the name may be an artificial punning construct consisting of d + lylh, “of the night.” Alternatively, the name may simply be a Philistine name whose meaning remains unknown.
Entice (patah) means to deceive, seduce, allure, coax or persuade and depicts the seducing of persons sexually or enticing them into sin and transgression. The Philistines used this same verb (patah) when they demanded that Samson’s bride-to-be “coax” him into revealing his secret (Jdg 14:15). Even as the Timnite girl managed to get the truth out of Samson, tragically so would Delilah. – preceptaustin.org
This time did not take the tactic of threatening to burn her alive; went with the more conventional strategy of bribery – very extravagant amount – 1100 X 5 = 5500 shekels of silver; compared to 400 paid by Abraham to purchase a burial plot for his wife – everything about the Samson account speaks to excess
Wanted to afflict him instead of just kill him; he had tormented them; they wanted to put him on display and make sport of him – show off the trophy of their conquest; imagined that his strength must be tied to some type of magical power – wanted to discover and break that connection
2. (:6-7) Enticement
“So Delilah said to Samson, ‘Please tell me where your great strength is and how you may be bound to afflict you.’ And Samson said to her, ‘If they bind me with seven fresh cords that have not been dried, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.’”
If she really approached him on such a direct basis, highlights his over-confidence and foolishness even to have such a conversation
Wolf: bowstrings made from animal intestines
These would come from a freshly slaughtered animal – thereby compromising once again his Nazirite oath regarding refraining from contact with the dead
3. (:8-9) Escape
“Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh cords that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. Now she had men lying in wait in an inner room. And she said to him, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ But he snapped the cords as a string of tow snaps when it touches fire. So his strengthwas not discovered.”
Delilah called out to test the effectiveness of the capture strategy before the hiding Philistines were willing to reveal themselves.
B. (:10-12) Round 2 of Attempted Capture
1. (:10-11) Enticement
“Then Delilah said to Samson, ‘Behold, you have deceived me and told me lies; now please tell me, how you may be bound.’ And he said to her, ‘If they bind me tightly with new ropes which have not been used, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.’
2. (:12) Escape
“So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ For the men were lying in wait in the inner room. But he snapped the ropes from his arms like a thread.”
C. (:13-14) Round 3 of Attempted Capture
1. (:13) Enticement
Then Delilah said to Samson, ‘Up to now you have deceived me and told me lies; tell me how you may be bound.’ And he said to her, ‘If you weave the seven locks of my hair with the web and fasten it with a pin, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.’”
Samson starting to give in; ties his strength to some aspect of his hair – getting very close to giving up the secret
Attaching his hair to some type of loom
2. (:14) Escape
“So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his hair and wove them into the web. And she fastened it with the pin, and said to him, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ But he awoke from his sleep and pulled out the pin of the loom and the web.
D. (:15-22) Round 4 of Attempted Capture – Delilah’s Persistence
1. (:15-17) Enticement
“Then she said to him, ‘How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have deceived me these three times and have not told me where your great strength is.’ And it came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death. So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, ‘A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I shall become weak and be like any other man.’”
“your heart is not with me” — you won’t confide in me
Block: Samson’s problem with his vow is not so much that he willfully violates it; he simply does not take it seriously. Like his strength, and the people around him, it is a toy to be played with, not a calling to be fulfilled.
Oscar Wilde: I can resist anything . . . except temptation.”
Over confidence blinds us to reality – Samson thought he could handle Delilah, but she proved his undoing
2. (:18-22) Entrapment
“When Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, ‘Come up once more, for he has told me all that is in his heart.’ Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her, and brought the money in their hands. And she made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair. Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him. And she said, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ And he awoke from his sleep and said, ‘I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him. Then the Philistines seized him 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. However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off.
“shake myself free” – shows he was bound as before
Grinding at a mill was a woman’s job (9:53)
Wolf: It is unclear whether he used a small hand-mill or was forced to turn a large circular stone, a job normally given to donkeys.
Making license plates in the local prison
Dale Ralph Davis: Samson is a paradigm of Israel: one raised up out of nothing, richly gifted, who panders around with other loves and yet, apparently, always expects to “have” Yahweh. . . watch out, lest you abandon the divine call, leave your first love, and forfeit the divine presence.
Look what has happened to the main-line denominations! You could write “Ichabod” over the doors of their expensive headquarters and ivy-covered seminary buildings. The glory of the Lord has departed – and they don’t even know it!
– Why am I positioned here (in terms of geography, home, job, family, church, etc.)?
– How has God provided for my needs?
– How has God directed and guided me?
– How is God working behind the scenes in my life – even using my sins for His glory?
III. (:23-31) PROVIDENTIAL PERFORMANCE OF THE CHAMPION’S FINAL FEAT
A. (:23-27) Humiliation of Samson – Mocking the God of Israel
1. (:23-24) Religious Rivalry
“Now the lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice, for they said, ‘Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands.’ When the people saw him, they praised their god, for they said, ‘Our god has given our enemy into our hands, Even the destroyer of our country, Who has slain many of us.’”
Dagon = their grain deity – remember how Samson had earlier destroyed their crops with fire from the foxes
2. (:25) Demeaning Degradation
“It so happened when they were in high spirits, that they said, ‘Call for Samson, that he may amuse us.’ So they called for Samson from the prison, and he entertained them. And they made him stand between the pillars.”
3. (:26-27) Getting a Grip
“Then Samson said to the boy who was holding his hand, ‘Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.’ Now the house was full of men and women, and all the lords of the Philistines were there. And about 3,000 men and women were on the roof looking on while Samson was amusing them.”
James Jordan: In the Temple of Dagon, the central pillars were like the arms of Dagon, holding up the Philistine world. The Philistines had confidence in the might of Dagon. They were congregated on the roof, certain that Dagon could uphold their garden-civilization. . . When he pulled them down, he symbolically pulled down the entire civilization built upon Dagon.
B. (:28-31) Avenging of Samson – Crushing Dagon Along with the Philistines
1. (:28) Samson Turns to the Lord for Strength
“Then Samson called to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.’”
“remember” is not the opposite of “to forget” but has the significance of taking note of and acting on behalf of; showing favor to
S. Lewis Johnson: Incidentally, you’ll watch carefully the terms that are used for God here, and Samson uses three of them, he says, “O Lord” and the word is the word that speaks of God as the covenant keeping God. And then he uses the expression, “O Yahweh Adonay” and that’s the word that speaks of him as the sovereign God, master. And then in a moment he will use the term, “God” which speaks of him as the strong God.
2. (:29-30) Samson Has the Last Laugh
“And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. And Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines!’ And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life.”
3. (:31) Samson Finishes Strong
“Then his brothers and all his father’s household came down, took him, brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. Thus he had judged Israel twenty years.”
– What can I trust God for?
– How does God use my weakness to demonstrate His strength?
– What will fulfill my calling?
– What will advance God’s kingdom and glorify Him?
How could God have used such a strange figure to be the Champion of Israel?
Dale Ralph Davis: Here is this Samson, a sort of wild ass of a man, entertaining yet unpredictable, so promising and so tragic. . . During the War between the States, the story spread that General Grant had been drunk at the Battle of Shiloh. A friend of Abraham Lincoln came late one night to press his argument that General Grant should be relieved of his duties – popular opinion was turning against him. Lincoln responded: “I can’t spare this man; he fights.” He may look seedy; he may have trouble with booze; popular opinion may stand against him – but he fights. At least he wasn’t comfortable just co-existing with the enemy – he waged war against them.
God’s Providence accomplished His purposes in ways that surprise us. He uses events to Prepare and then Position his servants for victorious Performance so that He receives the glory!
James Jordan: The story of the fall of Samson should have taught Israel three basic things. First, that even the strongest man will fall if he goes a whoring after pagan culture. Second, that involvement with pagan culture would destroy their lives and calling, blinding them and rendering them impotent in life. And third, that a more perfect Messiah would be needed if Israel was ever fully and finally to be delivered form sin and bondage. What was needed was a Deliverer who would be both morally pure and also omnipotent.