Samson: A Tragedy in Four Acts: A Case Of Spiritual Suicide
Judges 14:1-3, 16:1-3
The name Samson means literally “child of the shining sun.” That was an appropriate name for the beginning of Samson’s life. For his life had dawned so bright and so beautiful. But it is not an appropriate name for Samson’s adult life. His life as an adult was shadowed and cloudy and it ended in darkness. Today we come to the second act in Samson’s story and we begin to see the clouds moving in to block the sun. For here in the second act of Samson’s story we begin to discover that Samson is a case of spiritual suicide. The case is clear in Judges 14, 15 and 16, Act Two of Samson’s story—a story which contains three scenes and a brief epilogue. But let’s raise the curtain and see what happens.
Act Two: Scene One
In the 14th chapter of the Book of Judges, we are told that Samson went down to Timnath, which was a pagan Philistine city. And there he met a woman of Timnath, a woman, the Scriptures tell us, was an unbeliever. And Samson said to his mother and father: “Get her for me as my wife.” His mother and father, remaining always true to their devotion to God, refused to assist him in the project. His father said to him: “Samson, is there not someone who shares your faith, someone in your own realm of belief with whom you could share your life?” Samson said: “No, I want her. Get her for me as my wife.” His mother and father, who could not lead him in right thinking, would not help him in wrong thinking. And so the Bible says, they turned away.
But Samson moved on, on his own, to establish marriage between faith and unfaith, and that so seldom works. For you see, when one who has faith marries one who has no faith, one of three things happens. The one who has faith, simply gives up the faith. That’s a terrible tragedy. Or, the one who has faith proceeds to practice that faith only outside the home. That’s an equal tragedy. It undercuts all sense of family unity. Or, the one who has faith seeks to convert the one who has no faith. And that creates a terrible problem and is terribly difficult to do. Because you see, within a marriage the very moment that one person says to the other partner in that marriage that “I wish to win you over to my faith,” that person is saying to the partner, “You are not acceptable as you are.” That immediately creates a terrible tension within the home.
Understand me, please. I am not saying that all marriages between faith and unfaith end in explosion—they don’t. But what I am saying is that the deck is stacked against you, if you choose to play the game of marriage with those cards. But that’s what Samson did. He forsook his faith in God and placed his faith in this woman from Timnath. It was a terrible mistake because, you see, God has to be the center of a marriage. A man and a woman who engage in marriage, if that marriage is to grow and to flourish and become everything God wants it to be, they must place God at the center of that marriage. God in a marriage is like the sun in the solar system. The sun pours out warmth and light and life to the solar system, and God pours out warmth and light and life to a marriage. It is the sun whose magnetic power holds the whole solar system together. It is God whose magnetic power holds the whole marital relationship together. When a man and a woman do not have God at the center of their marriage, or when they are not engaged at least in walking toward Him in a faith which they share together, well, so many times the results are sad to behold.
I remember with pain a young couple who walked into my office. They said their marriage was on the rocks and they proceeded to tell me that the husband had confessed to having an adulterous relationship. There was no alternative at that point but to have the whole seamy story spelled out. And that’s what he did. He proceeded to tell the whole story and when he finished I said: “Is there anything else? Do you have anything else hidden away? Are there any other secrets that are going to come up later to haunt you—anything? It must be told now—all of it.” He said: “No, that’s all.” And I said to her: “Do you have any questions for him—any questions at all? Because, you see, all your questions have got to be asked and answered now. Once you leave this office, they can never be raised again. It all has to stop right here. Any questions?” “Yes,” she said, “I have some questions.” She asked those questions. He answered all of them. And then I said to him: “Do you still love her?” He said: “Yes, I do.” I said to her: “Do you still love him?” Silence—long silence. Finally she said: “It hurts, really hurts, but I love him.” And I said to him: “Then you have to pray, right now, out loud. Open yourself up to God and ask his forgiveness—out loud, in her presence and in mine.” And that is what he did. I didn’t ask him to kneel, but he slipped out of the chair, right on to the carpet in my office and knelt there. And he proceeded to pray, out loud, to open himself up to God and to seek God’s forgiveness. And then when he had finished praying, she began to pray. And through her prayer I could hear the pain and I could sense the love and the trust down inside of her, trying so desperately to somehow overcome the distrust and the anger and the hostility and the sense of vengeance. When she finished praying, they simply stood up and they faced one another—no smiles, no touch, not even an embrace. They just stood there and looked at one another, and then she said: “If we have faith in God, then maybe we can discover again faith in one another.” And they walked out. But what I want you to understand is that that is precisely what has happened. They found their faith in God was something they could share together and out of their faith in God, in time they have restored their faith in one another. And I would submit to you that their marriage is even stronger today than it was before. But do you see what it took? It took loving God no matter what the cost. It took putting God at the very center of their life and their relationship. Samson didn’t do that. He forsook his faith in God. He put his faith in this woman of Timnath. That’s no foundation upon which to build a marriage. Because, you see, ultimately she betrayed him and when she did, he lost his faith in her and when he lost his faith in her, there was nothing left…nothing…
Act Two—Scene Two
In Judges 15 we are told that when Samson learned of this woman’s betrayal, he was filled with anger, and very soon the anger turned to violence. He proceeded to kill thirty Philistines. And not only that, but the Bible tells us that he proceeded to catch 300 foxes, to tie their tails together. He fastened to their tails flaming torches, and those foxes, so crazed by their circumstances, tore out across the Philistine fields igniting acre after acre after acre of grain. Needless to say, the Philistines were enraged and, in return, they attacked the people of Judah. They resolved to continue that attack until Samson surrendered, which ultimately happened. They bound him up and carried him away as a prisoner. But as they were leading him away, Samson noticed beside the road the skeleton of a long-dead donkey and he used this great, tremendous strength which God had given him to burst his bonds. He seized the jawbone of that skeleton and used it as a weapon, destroying a whole legion of soldiers. And he stood there in the midst of all this carnage and he began to sing a boastful song—a song which ends with the words “I have slain a thousand men.”
How pathetic! Do you see what’s happened to him? He has taken this tremendous gift which God has given him and he has used it, not for God, but for himself. Boasting in his murders! It’s a terrible thing, my friends, to take the gift which God has given and use it for your own ends rather than for the glory of God. I see it all the time. I even see it in you sometimes. God has given you gifts, every single one of you. God has given you at least one gift, some more than that, but everybody has at least one—one gift which He has given to you as a pure gift. It’s yours and He wants you to use it, but you misuse that gift if you use it for your own glory rather than for the glory of Almighty God. It happens and it’s always tragic when it happens.
And what it pains me to say to you is that it happens even in the ministry.
I have a good friend named Lindy Cannon who is a pastoral counselor in North Carolina. He spent years doing extensive psychological research among ministers. After all of that extensive study, he concludes: “Sad to say, more often than not, the new breed of minister in the Church of Jesus Christ today is a self-centered, money-grabber who has forgotten that the call is to serve and not to be served.” It’s true. And if there is anything God’s spirit must cry about in terms of the Church of Jesus Christ in our time, it is that those of us who carry the office of ordination have failed to use the gift which He has given us—not for our own glory, but for the glory of God. Samson was supposed to remain pure in his faith and he disobeyed the Scriptures of that faith. He was supposed to stay away from strong drink and unclean food and he gave himself to one orgiastic feast after another. He was supposed to never touch the dead and here he stands right in the midst of the very ones he has murdered. All of that is so sad to see, but I tell you what’s even worse is to realize that here was one who took the incredible gift which God had given him and used it for his own glory—not for the glory of God. Beware, Samson, you sow the wind, you reap the whirlwind. Beware, any man or woman, boy or girl, who feels, even for a moment, that he or she can get away with robbing God. It can’t be done. God has given you a gift. Find it, discover it, and then use it to His glory in your life.
Act Two—Scene Three
In the 16th chapter of the Book of Judges we see how far Samson has fallen. The Bible tells us that he went in to a woman of the streets in Gaza. Do you see the downward progression? First, he disobeyed his beliefs and then he covered it over with Philistine blood, and now he adds to it all the stench of lust. There must have been people then who wondered who would ever defeat Samson. He was the strongest man who ever lived. He could kill a whole army single-handedly. He could rip the gates of the cities off their hinges. He could knock down walls. He could do anything. Who would ever defeat Samson? Right here on the pages of Scripture we begin to discover that only Samson could defeat Samson. Oh, that’s a desperately important lesson for us to learn in our lives. To begin to realize that ultimately in life we can be defeated only by ourselves. The Bible says that no one is ever tempted beyond the ability to endure. That means that when we yield to temptation, we yield to it. That means that nothing from outside of us can ever kill us spiritually. If we are going to die spiritually, it will be by our own hand. That means that we can never point anywhere else and say that person or that circumstance is responsible for murdering our character. It means we have to pick up our own tab in life. You know the Internal Revenue Service actually received this letter. It read: “Dear Sir: In filing my income tax report last year I deliberately misrepresented my income. Now I cannot sleep. Enclosed is a check for $150.00 for taxes owed. If I still can’t sleep, I’ll send the rest.” Well, he was on the way. He just wasn’t quite there yet. We’ve got to pick up the tab for ourselves in life. We can’t go around placing the responsibility somewhere else. We can’t say it’s my parents’ fault, or my environment’s fault, or that circumstance is the reason, or the devil made me do it. It’s not easy to talk about that in times like this. We are living in the midst of times where we seek to trade in the word “sin” for the word “maladjusted”. We try to rationalize our sin away by saying, “Well, preacher, I’m better than most and not as bad as some. And besides that, everybody’s doing it. And besides that, nobody’s perfect.” We live in a time when we try to assuage our sin by taking a few pills or going out to help clean up a slum or going to a psychiatrist and asking the psychiatrist to untwist what we have twisted. The fact of the matter is Shakespeare was right in Julius Caesar. He said: “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, it is in ourselves.” We must pick up the tab for our own lives. We must assume responsibility for our own lives under God. Only Samson can defeat Samson. Only Howard Edington can defeat Howard Edington. Only you can defeat you. The fault, dear friends, is not in our stars, or in our parents, or in our environment, or in our circumstances, the fault is in ourselves.
It all comes down to this. The Bible says that Jesus Christ came to seek and to save the lost. The Bible says in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us and for our salvation. There it is. If we can only be destroyed in life by ourselves, then our only hope is to turn to someone who will save us from ourselves. And that someone is Jesus Christ. Am I getting through to you? Understand me, it’s not enough just to communicate that. Communication is not enough.
Not very long ago there were 70 ear, nose and throat specialists in a convention in Palm Springs, California. They were eating together and in the midst of the meal, suddenly one of the doctors got a fishbone caught in his throat. He began to choke. Instantly it was communicated to everyone in that room what the problem was. They all knew about the problem, but while they were scrambling around trying to find an instrument to keep this man from suffocating, he died. Isn’t that incredible? Everyone in that room knew what needed to be known. The problem was they couldn’t do what they knew needed to be done. Communication is not enough. With communication there must also be action. It is not enough for you to sit there and say: “Oh, I know, Lord, what I’m doing to myself.” The real question is, knowing that, what are you going to do about it? Are you going to commit spiritual suicide or are you going to come to Jesus Christ? This Jesus, who comes to this place, right here, right now—this Jesus, who says to you: “I love you”—this Jesus who is ready to move into your life and to bring cleansing and wholeness—this Jesus who is ready to flood you with peace and pardon and power and joy—this Jesus who is ready to take your life and turn it around—this Jesus who is ready to fill you with a sense of meaning and purpose in life—this Jesus who wants to make your life worth living—this Jesus who wants to teach you how to love yourself and then love others and love the world around you—this Jesus who wants to change you so that you can change His world. This Jesus is right here, right now, for you. I plead with you, my beloved in Christ, do not give yourselves to the ways of Samson. Instead, give yourselves to the ways of the Saviour, so that you might say with Paul: “It is I who lives, no, rather it is Jesus who is living in me.”