So He Says
“Once there was a boy who never
Tore his clothes –or hardly ever,
Never made his sister mad,
Was not whipped for being bad,
Was not scolded by his ma,
Was not frowned at by his pa,
Always fit for folks to see,
Always good as good could be.
This good little boy from Heaven,
So I’m told, was only seven,
Yet he never shed real tears
When his mother scrubbed his ears.
And at times when he was dressed
For a party, in his best,
He was careful of his shirt,
Not to get it smeared with dirt.
Used to study late at night,
Learning how to read and write.
When he played a baseball game,
Right away he always came
When his mother called him in,
And he never made a din,
But as quiet as a mouse
When they had guests in the house.
Like to wash his hands and face,
Like to work around the place,
Never, when he’d tire of play,
Left his wagon in the way
Or his bat and ball around—
Put’em where they could be found.
And that good boy married ma
And today he is my pa!”
It would be nice if all fathers were as good as they long for their children to believe. Because we as fathers have made mistakes in life, there is a natural desire to want our children to be different and to be better if at all possible. Still, we must confess that we have not always been what we should be. No one is.
There may be at least one exception. I have heard of a minister who was preaching on the depravity of man one Sunday morning. He was trying to make a universal application and so he said rather forcefully, “No one is perfect. If anyone is perfect, I want to meet that person right now.”
Suddenly, in the middle of the large audience a hand went up. The pastor stopped speaking. He saw the hand and was startled by it. In the moment of silence, a timid little man arose. The pastor recovered his composure.
“Sir,” said the minister. “Do you mean to tell me, in the presence of all these people, that you are perfect and have never done anything wrong?” “No,” replied the man in a halting voice. “But I do believe my wife’s first husband may have been perfect, and I thought you should know about him.”
In the book of Judges we are told about a man who was less than perfect. Because of his imperfections we might be able to identify with him. Because of the life he lived, we can learn something that will help us to be better.
The Story of Samson
“I AM NOT THE MAN I USED TO BE”
THE STORY OF AN EXTRODINARY DELIVER
The story of Samson takes place in the midst of continuing conflict between the Philistines and Israel. At this period in Jewish history, the armies of the Philistines were victorious. They had come up from the Mediterranean Sea to the mountains of Israel and overran all the land. They took away from the Israelites all their swords and spears, so that the people could not fight; and they robbed the land of all the crops, so that the people suffered for want of food. This was not the first time that Israel had suffered at the hands of their mortal enemies. As before, the Israelites in their trouble cried to the Lord, and the Lord heard their prayer.
In the tribe of Dan, which was next to the country of the Philistines, there lived a man named Manoah. One day an angel came to his wife and said, “You shall have a son; and when he is grown up, he will begin to save Israel from the land of the Philistines. But your son must never drink any wine or strong drink as long as he lives. And his hair must be allowed to grow long and must never be cut, for he shall be a Nazarite under a vow of the Lord.” (Judges 13:5)
The child was born, and was named Samson (Heb. little sun). He grew up to become the strongest man of whom the Bible tells. Samson was no military general, like Gideon or Jephthah, to call out his people and lead them in war. However, he did much to set his people free; but all that he did was by his own strength, without any help from other men.
When Samson became a young man, he went down to Timnath, in the land of the Philistines. There he saw a young Philistine woman whom he thought he loved, and wished to have her as his wife. His father and mother were not pleased that he should marry among the enemies of his own people. Clearly it was a violation of the will of the Lord. Manoah and his wife did not know that God would make this illegitimate marriage the means of bringing harm upon the Philistines, and of helping the Israelites. God works in mysterious ways, and His providence overrules all.
As Samson was going down to Timnath to see this young woman, a hungry young lion came out of the mountain, growling and roaring. But Samson was not afraid. Samson seized the lion and tore him in pieces as easily as another man could have killed a little lamb; and then went on his way. Samson made his visit and came home, but said nothing to anyone about the lion.
After a time, Samson went again to Timnath for his marriage with the Philistine woman. On his way he stopped to look at the dead lion, and found that all the flesh of the lion had been eaten by the wild beasts. However, among the bones he saw that a swarm of bees had made their home, and had left some of their honey. Samson took some of the honey, and ate it as he walked; but told no one of it.
At the wedding feast, which lasted a whole week, there were many Philistine young men. As was the custom, they amused each other with questions and riddles. “I will give you a riddle,” said Samson. “If you answer it during the feast, I will give you thirty suits of clothing. If you cannot answer it, then you must give me thirty suits of clothing.” “Let us hear your riddle,”
they said. This was Samson’s riddle for the young men of the Philistines to answer:
“Out of the eater came forth meat.
And out of the strong came forth sweetness.”
The Philistines could not find the answer, though they tried to find it all that day, and the two days that followed. At last the young men went to Samson’s wife and said to her, “Coax your husband to tell you the answer. If you do not find it out, we will set your house on fire and burn you, and all your people.”
Samson’s wife urged him to tell her the answer. She cried and pleaded with him and said, “If you really love me, you would not keep this a secret from me.” At last Samson yielded, and told his wife how he had killed the lion, and afterward found the honey in its body. She in turn told her people, and just before the end of the feast, they came to Samson with the answer. They said,
“What is sweeter than honey?
And what is stronger than a lion?”
Immediately Samson knew what had happened, and said unto the men, “If you had not plowed with my heifer, you had not found out my riddle.” By his “heifer”, which is a young cow, Samson meant his wife. According to promise, Samson was required to give the young men thirty suits of clothing. Not having thirty garments of clothing, Samson went out among the Philistines, killed the first thirty men he found, took off their clothes, and gave them to the guests at the feast. Still angry, Samson left his new wife and went home to his father’s house. Then the parents of his new wife gave her to another man.
After a time Samson’s anger passed away and he went again to Timnath to see his wife, only to be surprised when her father said to him, “You went away angry, and I supposed that you cared nothing for her. I gave her to another man, and now she is his wife. But here is her younger sister; you can take her for your wife instead.” But Samson would not take his wife’s sister. He went out very angry, determined to do harm to the Philistines, because they had cheated him.
His revenge came in an unusual way. Samson caught all the wild foxes that he could find, until he had three hundred of them. Then he tied them together in pairs, by their tails; and between each pair of foxes he tied to their tails a piece of dry wood which he set on fire. These foxes with firebrands on their tails, were turned loose among the fields of the Philistines when the grain was ripe. They ran wildly over the fields, set the grain on fire and burned it; and with the grain, the olive trees in the fields. When the Philistines saw their harvest destroyed, they said, “Who has done this?” The answer came back, “Samson did this, because his wife was given by her father to another man.”
The Philistines looked on Samson’s father-in-law as the cause of their loss; and they came and set his house on fire, and burned the man and his daughter, whom Samson had married. That was a foolish thing to do because Samson found a company of Philistines and killed them all, as a punishment for the murder of his wife. After this Samson went to live in a hollow place in a split rock, called the rock of Elam.
Determined to avenge the destruction caused by Samson, the Philistines gathered a great army, and overran the fields in the tribe land of Judah. “Why do you come against us?” asked the men of Judah. “What do you want from us?” “We have come, they said, “To bind Samson and to deal with him as he has dealt with our people.”
Three thousand of the men of Judah found Samson, and said, “Do you not know that the Philistines are ruling over us? Why do you make them angry by killing their people? You see that we suffer through your actions. Now we must bind you and give you to the Philistines; or they will ruin us all.”
Samson said, “I will let you bind me, if you will promise not to kill me yourselves; but only to give me safely into the hands of the Philistines.” The men of Judah made the promise; and Samson gave himself up to them and allowed them to tie him up fast with new ropes. The Philistines shouted for joy as they saw their enemy brought to them, led in bonds by his own people. Little did they know what was to happen.
As soon as Samson came among them, he burst the bonds as though they had been light strings; and he picked up from the ground the jawbone of an ass and struck right and left with it as with a sword. Samson killed almost a thousand of the Philistines with this strange weapon. After the slaughter, Samson sang a little song about it, singing,
“With the jawbone of an ass,
heaps upon heaps;
With the jawbone of an ass,
have I slain a thousand men.”
After this Samson went down to the chief city of the Philistines, which was named Gaza. What brought him to Gaza? Sadly enough, a prostitute. Samson would not stay long in Gaza. It was a large city; and like all large cities was surrounded with a high wall. When the men of Gaza found Samson in their city, they shut the gates, thinking that they could now hold him as a prisoner. But in the night, Samson rose up, went to the gates, pulled their posts out of the ground, and put the gates with their posts upon his shoulder. He carried them twenty miles away, and left them on the top of a hill not far from the city of Hebron.
After this Samson saw another woman among the Philistines and he loved her. The name of this woman was Delilah. She would prove to be his ruin. The rulers of the Philistines came to Delilah, and said to her, “Find out, if you can, what it is that makes Samson so strong; and tell us. If you will help us to get control of him so that we can have him in our power, we will give you a great sum of money.”
That was all Delilah needed to hear. She coaxed and pleaded with Samson to tell her what it was that made him so strong. Samson said to her, “If they will tie me with seven green twigs from a tree, then I shall not be strong anymore.” They brought her seven green twigs, like those of a willow tree; and she bound Samson with them while he was asleep. Then she called out to him, “Wake up, Samson, the Philistines are coming against you! Samson rose up and broke the twigs as easily as if they had been charred in the fire, and went away with ease.
Delilah tried again to find his secret. She said, “You are only making fun of me. Now tell me really how you can be bound.” Samson said, “Let them bind me with new ropes that have never been used before; and then I cannot get away.” While Samson was asleep again, Delilah bound him with new ropes. Then she called out as before, “Get up, Samson, for the Philistines are coming!” When Samson rose up, the ropes broke as if they were thread.
Delilah again urged him to tell her; and he said: “You notice that my long hair is braided in seven locks. Weave it together in the loom, just as if it were the threads in a piece of cloth.” Delilah did exactly that. While he was asleep, she unbounded the braids, wove his hair in the loom and fastened it with a large pin to the weaving frame. But when he awoke, he rose up and carried away the pin and the beam of the weaving frame, for he was as strong as before.
That made Delilah furious and she said, “Why do you tell me that you love me, as long as you deceive me and keep me from your secret!” She pleaded with him day after day, until at last he yielded to her, and told her the real secret of his strength saying, “I am a Nazarite, under a vow to the Lord not to drink wine and not to allow my hair to be cut. If I should let my hair be cut short, then the Lord would forsake me, and my strength would go from me and I would be like other men.”
Delilah knew that she had found the truth at last. She sent for the rulers of the Philistines saying, “Come up this once and you shall have your enemy; for I am sure now that he has told me all that is in his heart.” Then, while the Philistines were watching outside, Delilah let Samson go to sleep, with his head upon her knees. While he was sound asleep, they took a razor and shaved off all his hair. Then she called out as at other times, “Rise up, Samson; the Philistines are upon you.”
Samson awoke and rose up, expecting to find himself as strong as before; but he did not know that his long hair had been cut off. He had broken his vow to the Lord, and the Lord had left him. He was now as weak as other men, and helpless in the hands of his enemies. The Philistines easily made Samson their prisoner that day; and that he might never see to do them more harm, they punched out his eyes. Then they chained him with bronze fetters, and put him in a prison at Gaza. And in the prison they made Samson turn a heavy millstone to grind grain, just as though he were a beast of burden.
While Samson was in prison, his hair grew long again; and with his hair his strength came back to him, for Samson renewed his vow to the Lord. One day a great feast was held by the Philistines in the temple of their fish god Dagon. For they said, “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands. Let us be glad together and praise Dagon.” The temple was filled with people that day. The roof over the building was also crowded with more than three thousand men and women. As many as possible wanted to be present to see the strong man. They sent for Samson to rejoice over him; and Samson was led into the court of the temple, before all the people, to amuse them. After a time Samson said to the boy who was leading him: “Take me up to the front of the temple, so that I may stand by one of the pillars and lean against it.”
While Samson stood between two of the pillars, he prayed to the Lord God of Israel and said, “O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and give me strength only this once, O God; and help me, that I may obtain vengeance upon the Philistines for my two eyes!” Then Samson placed one arm around the pillar on one side, and the other arm around the pillar on the other side, and he said, “Let me die with the Philistines.”
Samson bowed forward with all his might, and pulled on the massive pillars, bringing down the roof, which fell upon those that were under it. Samson himself was among the dead, but in his death, Samson killed more of the men of the Philistines than he had killed during his life.
There are many facts about the life of Samson which are very disturbing, as they relate to the life of a child of God. That Samson was a saved man is without question, for we find his name in Faith’s Hall Of Fame (Hebrews 11:32).
While his name is in Faith’s Hall Of Fame, much of his existence took place in the Life’s Hall Of Shame. It was really only in the end that Samson became the man he should have been all along. He was different in many ways. He was not the man he used to be.
Consider the eyes of Samson. For most of his life, the eyes of this strong man burned with lust for immoral women. Not once do we find Samson being attracted to a virtuous woman. Three times Samson went to immoral women. No matter how well he rationalized his bad behavior in his own heart, Samson was wrong to desire and look for what Almighty God had forbidden. In the end, the Lord had to literally take away his eyesight to help his servant stop looking and lusting. His eyes were gouged out by the Philistines. However, in the darkness Samson began to see more clearly, for spiritually he saw the Lord high and lifted up, and His glory filled his soul. Samson came to the place where he desired the Lord above all others. He was not the man he used to be.
Consider the manners of Samson. When we read the biblical narrative we find that Samson was extremely insensitive. He was not kind to his parents. He was rude to those who loved him most. His parents had prayed for his birth. They had pleaded for wisdom in how to rear him for the Lord.
But when Samson came of age he proved to be very strong willed, insensitive and demanding as he told his parents to do what he wanted, despite their rational objections. However, in the filthy dungeon at Gaza, Samson is a kinder, more gentle man. No longer is he strutting about and insisting upon his own way. He is subdued. He is not the man he used to be.
Consider the carelessness Samson had toward his spiritual gift. Instead of guarding his secret, instead of treasuring it above rubies, Samson gave away his spiritual strength for a few fleeting moments in the arms of one of the devil’s own daughters. Surely Samson had enough proof of the treachery of Delilah! Not once or twice but three times she demonstrated she could not be trusted and still Samson told her the secret of his spiritual strength. And what was his reward? Delilah sold him for eleven hundred pieces of silver. He put his head into her lap, and she put his body into prison. While in prison, Samson became more careful. Day after day he noticed that his hair was growing back. But this time he told no one. Samson no longer loosely shared his spiritual secrets with the children of Dagon. He is not the man he used to be.
Consider the prayer life of Samson. We do not read of Samson praying when he was sinning in life. The two are incompatible. One reason why some people stop coming to prayer meeting and church services is because they get caught up in some sin. They know that in prayer, and in the place of worship, their heart will condemn them. They must either repent or remain in sin. The choice is made, and church, and Christ, is forsaken.
Samson did not pray when he went to marry the Philistine woman.
Samson did not pray when he went into the house of prostitution at Gaza.
Samson did not pray when he was in the arms of Delilah. But when he went to prison, when he was finally shut up alone with his God, then Samson prayed. He was not the man he used to be.
There are important lessons from the life of Samson for men of God today. The lessons are not hard to discern. In fact, they are already well known. God wants men to marry and love their wives. God wants men to be kind and considerate. God wants men to be careful with spiritual gifts. God wants men of prayer.
But if these things are to be, then perhaps some changes need to be made in some lives. When the changes are made, men can say, “I am not the man I used to be”. Wives will say, “He is not the man he used to be”. Children will say, “Daddy is not the man he used to be. He is better now.” Someday, such a man, will be found in Faith’s Hall Of Fame.