Judges 16.1-21 Unfaithful Heart

October 28, 2012 Series: Judges | Still{Un}Faithful (Part 2 of 2)

Topic: Old Testament Passage: Judges 16:1–16:21

Intro: The downfall of Samson
The story of Samson extends over four chapters, including two acts with several scenes each. In the first act, we had Samson’s birth, marriage, and revenge-fueled victory—chapters 13-15. The first act pictures Samson as heroically saving God’s people from the bad guys. In the second act, chapter 16, we have Samson’s downfall and eventually death—Samson tragically becomes a bad guy. Samson is not a simple character—but a complex person who represents both faithfulness and unfaithfulness at the same time. The person of Samson depicts what Israel was supposed to be as a NATION set apart by God within a broken world AND what they actually were, a NATION that wanted to be like the WORLD around them. Israel had failed to obey God’s command to expunge God’s enemies from the land; they had lost the will to fight; they had grown accustomed to slavery; and they had come to fear the unholy world around them more than a Holy God.

In chapters 13-15, we see God’s chosen deliverer standing alone to fight God’s enemies. Driven by his own brokenness, but empowered by God’s Spirit, Samson begins to irritate the Philistines. And when the God’s devoted fights, the world is revealed as weak, yet, God’s people become scared; instead of standing with God’s chosen savior, Israel stands with the world—apologizing for their offense and giving their savior over to their enemies. They are supposed to fight with and like Samson, but they believe more in the power of the world to save, and not in the proven power of God’s savior. Chapter 15 ends with Samson victorious over God’s enemies as he is empowered and sustained by the Spirit of God. But chapter 16 reveals that Samson is, apart from the Spirit of God, just like Israel—that even God’s “best” Israelites are faithless and in need of a savior.

v. 1-3 Samson & Gaza
Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. 2 The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, “Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him.” 3 But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.

Unlike the rest of Samson’s story, the Spirit of God is completely absent in this chapter. Chapter 16 begins the same way that chapter 14 begins, HE SAW a WOMAN. The FIRST time, it can be argued that Samson had a plan to infiltrate the Philistines—in order to fulfill his calling in service to the LORD. The SECOND time, Samson is undoubtedly serving himself. The story begins and ends at a city called Gaza. Gaza is one of the five great cities of the Philistines (Josh 13.2-6). The entire incident in Gaza is strangely placed. It is either an indication of what Samson was doing as he “judged” for 20 years, OR, it serves to reveal the motivation for why the Philistines want to subdue him so badly.

Either way, we see that the one set apart by God is not acting like it—he’s proving to be more immoral, reckless, and self-motivated every minute. And for all the strength that Samson has, he has one powerful weakness—women (we all have one). By weakness, I mean, Samson cannot control his sexual appetite. Lust has come to govern his decision making and is the greatest threat to his devotion. Samson wrongly believes he can be devoted to God and the world at the same time (the Spirit and the flesh). He will identify with God when he needs to, and identify with the world when he wants to. He practices something we are all guilty of—SELECTIVE LORDSHIP. He will submit to God those things in his life that are convenient, and comfortable. BUT he will befriend the world and its ways when it suits his desires—he will commit spiritual adultery, he will cheat on God when he gets frisky. James 4.4 4 You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Samson is living two lives. Samson is part-time devoted. Samson does spirit-filled momentary acts for God, but then has an everyday lifestyle full of sinful compromise. As he spends a night with a girl from Gaza, the Philistine men are setting an ambush. They decide to wait until morning, but Samson gets up at midnight and thwarts their plans. He rips the front gates off, which could have been as big as 12’x6’, and carries them to hills in front of Hebron (40 miles away uphill). Hebron is chief city of Judah—statement by Samson for their treatment of him.

v. 4-6 Delilah and The Lords of Philistines
4 After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.”

Samson then moves onto to the Valley of Sorek, a location 13 miles West of Jerusalem in the land of Judah. There he falls for the only named woman in this story, Delilah. Her name means night (setting sun) and she serves to darken Samson, whose name means sun. There is some question as to whether Delilah is a Philistine or an Israelite. I believe she is an Israelite, with her own responsibility to honor God and her own weakness that threatens that. Regardless, Samson loved her and, as we will see, he trusted her. Knowing this, the five lords of the Philistines offer her 1,100 shekels each, if she will seduce him and find out where his strength lies. They exploit Delilah’s greatest weakness—greed. She is offered 5,500 shekels = 550 times average annual wage. Today, assuming a small average of 25,000 per year, the offer would be somewhere around 15 million. Delilah begins to her “subtle” attack against God, and Samson sees it as a game. But attacks of the enemy are always obvious, and they are never games.

v. 6- 14 Samson and Delilah
6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you.”

7 Samson said to her, “If they bind me with seven fresh bowstrings that have not been dried, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh bowstrings that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now she had men lying in ambush in an inner chamber. And she said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he snapped the bowstrings, as a thread of flax snaps when it touches the fire. So the secret of his strength was not known.

10 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Behold, you have mocked me and told me lies. Please tell me how you might be bound.” 11 And he said to her, “If they bind me with new ropes that have not been used, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 12 So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And the men lying in ambush were in an inner chamber. But he snapped the ropes off his arms like a thread.

13 Then Delilah said to Samson, “Until now you have mocked me and told me lies. Tell me how you might be bound.” And he said to her, “If you weave the seven locks of my head with the web and fasten it tight with the pin, then I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 14 So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his head and wove them into the web. And she made them tight with the pin and said to him, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” But he awoke from his sleep and pulled away the pin, the loom, and the web.

Delilah pictures the enemy as one devoted to the Philistine lords and their promised riches. Delilah asks Samson three times, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you.” And three times he offers “magical” ways to subdue him. It is important to understand how the Israelites might read this. The culture of the day was full of ideas of magic. The Philistines assumed that Samson’s strength had some mystical or magical source. He was a normal looking guy with incredible hulk like strength. Therefore, Samson’s suggestions are not that strange in that they would make sense to a people that believe in magic. Three different times, Samson tells Delilah that he can be subdued if he is bound with 1) Seven Fresh Bowstrings 2) New Unused Ropes, or 3) Seven of his hairs woven into a weavers web. Three different times, Delilah has men waiting in ambush. And three different times, Samson breaks his bindings as Delilah yells, “The Philistines are here!

Essentially, what Israel would see in this is that their oppression has little to do with their own weakness or the strength of the Philistines. Samson proves that their men are weak, that their gods are weak, and their magic is powerless. Israel is not enslaved because the world is too powerful. They are oppressed, weak, and enslaved because they are faithless. The problem is not coming from outside—it is a problem that rises up from within. And tragically, God uses Samson to demonstrate exactly HOW Israel became faithless, and in their present condition.

v. 15-20 Samson & the Heart
Delilah turns on the charm. You can just hear her this manipulative vixen talking about intimacy, and real relationship, and wanting Samson to be vulnerable…blah blah blah. But he falls for it. 15 And she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies.” 16 And when she pressed him hard with her words day after day, and urged him, his soul was vexed to death. 17 And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.” 18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, “Come up again, for he has told me all his heart.” Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands. 19 She made him sleep on her knees. And she called a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head. Then she began to torment him, and his strength left him. 20 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 left him

The Bible says that Samson doesn’t give Delilah the secret, it says that he gave her his heart. Samson gives into temptation. But he is not tempted toward bad behavior, he is tempted to devote himself to someone who is not God. His words are more than a slip of the tongue, he willfully entrusts his identity to this woman who had proven she could not be trusted. And sadly, in confessing what he believes is the source of his strength, we see that Samson has always known he was a Nazarite. He has always known he was supposed to live as one who is DEVOTED to God. Exactly WHY Samson does what he does, we can never be sure. What we are sure is that he gave up that which distinguished him from the world—the thing that God said set him apart. And that is exactly what Israel had done. God had saved a people for himself. He had loved a people by grace. He had redeemed a people from slavery to be worshippers, to proclaim the name of God and bless the world in doing so. They had been told to fight the Canaanites. They had been told not to live like the Canaanites. They had been told not to make friends with the Canaanites. But they decided to be friends with the Canaanites which led to them being RULED by the Canaanites, which led to them being like the Canaanites. God’s people had been entrusted with the responsibility and mission to represent God in a world that HATED THEM, but they ended up cutting off THAT which distinguished them—the marks of their devotion.

To be sure, the strength of Samson was not his hair—it was God. The Nazarite vow did not promise strength. It was a vow of devotion, a commitment to be set apart and used by God in his way for his purposes. Cutting of the hair was to occur when the vow was complete, which also included some other ceremonial requirements. There is no magical tie between Samsons’s strength and his hair, but there is spiritual connection in that God gives strength to those who are dedicated to Him. Samson’s hair was a sign of that devotion—and now it is done. By giving up his heart, he cut off his mark of devotion—the very thing that gave him strength. The church has also become weak because they have cut off their devotion. The church, God’s people, is supposed to be God’s visible representative in the world—we are supposed to be different. According to Scripture, the church, the people of God, together: 1) manifestation of God’s wisdom 2) Pillar of truth 3) City on a hill 4) Beautiful Bride

Sometimes it seems that the things that “set us apart” as a devoted people, are the very things that the church works hard to show the world that we aren’t about. It is as if we want to convince the world that we’re just like them, and in doing so, we often give up those things that mark our devotion—we give them our heart—the very things that give God’s people their strength. We want to be liked, not disliked, loved not hated, popular not marginalized. And, as a result, we fail to identify with Jesus shamelessly or publicly. We fail for the temptation to cut off anything that might be offensive—we only speak soft words gospel and love, and avoid bad words like law and obey. We give up the authority of God’s Word. We blur the lines that Scripture draws. We apologize for difficult doctrines. We abandon traditions that might be misunderstood. We devote ourselves more to the LORDS of the WORLD, than the LORD of the UNIVERSE. And, in the end, we cut off the very things that God says give us strength—not because they are magical, but because they prove we love Jesus above anything else the world might have to offer.

Conclusion: v. 21-22 The Philistines and Samson
What happens when you turn from your devotion to the Creator to creation21 And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison. 22 But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. …you are bound, blind, and in bond. Believing he could see, Samson did what was right in his own eyes—just like Israel. And the result was that Samson became physically what he already was spiritually, a blind slave to false gods (Dagon god of grain). Love of the world leads, to be devotion to the world, which leads to slavery by the world.

And I do not believe for a minute that we are called to abandon the world, hide away in our Christian compound, and pray for Jesus return. We are called to go into the world devoted to the truth. John 17.13-18 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. We are called to shamelessly identity with Jesus, the WORD of GOD, in the world. In order to do this, you must see clearly. By grace, you must recognize yourself as utterly lost without Him—stumbling through life like a blind man in a dark room full of things that can hurt you. Jesus is the one and only light to reveal where you are and where you should be going. Without him, what you think is right, isn’t, even if it feels good.

Once you have believed the promises of Jesus, you must identify, proclaim, and represent him in the middle of a world that HATES you BUT pretends it LOVES you. Pure devotion is more than identifying with Jesus when it is convenient or comfortable, or just upholding the parts of the Word that people like to hear. It is unashamedly identifying with Jesus, and the truth of his Word, when it is inconvenient and unpopular. The mark of our devotion to Jesus is not measured by how long our hair is, or how little we drink wine. It is measured by how deep the gospel goes into our hearts. Our devotion is marked by, and our strength is generated by, how deeply we trust that Jesus is my savior AND my Lord.

So don’t give up on, or give the world, the very things that have set you apart for God—they are not what you make you weak—they there are the very things that give you strength.


More in Judges | Still{Un}Faithful (Part 2 of 2)

November 25, 2012

Judges 20-21 Faithful Substitute

November 18, 2012

Judges 19.1-30 Unfaithful Acts

November 11, 2012

Judges 17-18 Unfaithful Worship