“Joshua 24:15 says, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve….” Choosing to side with God’s Word is a continual challenge. It’s not something you do just once. It’s a process of choosing to believe and act upon the Word of God over and over in every circumstance”.
This is part of a message I received from a friend in India and it seemed very relevant to the story of Samson in Judges 14. Samson was given a huge task by God and an equally amazing gift in order to fulfil it! He was to take the lead in delivering the Israelites from the hands of the Philistines, their oppressors for forty years, and endowed with supernatural strength so as to complete his mission. However, Samson was not a great example of someone who was steadfast in the Lord. As a Nazirite “dedicated to God from the womb”, he was consecrated or set apart for service to God until the day of his death, but his choices in terms of following God’s commands were a mix of good and bad! He had authority but lacked integrity.
Samson started well, by obeying God’s prompting to take a Philistine wife, so he could confront her people. In verse 7, though, we learn that Samson ‘liked her’, possibly indicating that he had lost sight of his purpose in defeating the Philistines and had given himself over to more lust-based intentions. At their wedding feast, which lasted seven days, there would have been much drinking, in keeping with the custom of the day, and although it’s not stated whether Samson joined in and broke his Nazarite vow of never drinking alcohol or other grape based food and drink, there certainly would have been a temptation to do so. He was reckless, though, in setting the riddle, especially as he showed serious weakness in his capacity to resist the wiles of his wife, who set about trying to wheedle out the answer in order to reveal it to her compatriots. This scene where Samson is manipulated by his first wife foreshadows the better-known interaction between Samson and Delilah in tomorrow’s reading.
When Samson had to honour his debt of providing thirty outfits for his companions at Timnah, he used his tremendous power to kill thirty men from Ashkelon and strip them of their garments, for re-gifting. Whilst this act did result in some Philistines being killed, in accordance with God’s overarching plan for freedom for the Israelites, Samson’s motivation was not to honour God, but to satisfy his own anger and pride.
Earlier in the narrative, we read that Samson also ate honey from the lion’s carcass, yet it was strictly forbidden for Nazirites to touch a dead body as it would make them unclean (Num 6:6). Yet again, he gave in to fleshly desires over abiding by God’s laws.
Despite being blessed with a powerful gift, Samson appears to lose track of his purpose. Rather than choosing God over and over in every circumstance, he makes a series of selfish decisions which ultimately lead him into frustration, humiliation and rage. By the end of the chapter, he storms off in a temper and his wife, the former object of his desire and cause of his downfall, is, unbeknownst to him, given to his best man instead. What a tragedy! But what a great lesson for us to learn from! Thankfully, because of the redeeming work of Jesus on the cross, we don’t have to slay the opposition to be set free. We have no Philistines to defeat – we are already free in Christ! However, we do still need to make good daily choices to keep ourselves in the will of God, as we know that’s where our peace and joy are found. Like Samson, we, too, are immensely blessed by God, walking in the power of the Holy Spirit. And like him, it is up to us whether we choose to act upon the Word of God in every situation and circumstance!