READ: Judges 13-14
BACKGROUND: These chapters kick off the incredible story of Samson who was one of the most fascinating but deeply flawed of all the judges in Israel’s history. He was miraculously given as a gift to his childless parents, marked out for great things before the day he was born, and yet hopeless distracted and tempted by the things of the world throughout his lifetime.
13:1 – The pattern of the book of Judges repeats itself…again.
3 – In this case, “The angel of the LORD” is specifically referring to God himself.
5 – The Nazirite Vow (Numbers 6:1-8) wasn’t always for an entire lifetime, but in Samson’s case it was.
14:4 – The undesirable marriage to a Philistine would ultimately be used by God for his purposes.
8-9 – In the heat of the arid summer, the carcass would have dried quickly. But approaching it was a violation of Samson’s Nazirite vow.
10 – A feast like this included drinking, which was a violation of Samson’s Nazirite vow.
20 – Basically, Samson’s best man took his wife on the wedding night. Pretty messed up.
THINK: Every year I play in a softball tournament in Bloomington, MN with a bunch of friends from college. We always play at the same softball complex and inevitably we have a few games on this really tiny field – it’s only about 210 feet to the fences. And because the field is so small every team is allowed to hit only 2 home runs per game – and any more than that are outs. So, everyone goes into the game knowing full well what they should do. And that is: hit the ball low and avoid wasting one of the 2 home runs unless there are at least 2 or 3 runners on base. This is clearly the best strategy. Here is the reality: I couldn’t even count for you the number of solo home runs I’ve seen guys hit when nobody else is on base during games on that field. Why? Because even though what should be done is evident it comes into conflict with what we want to do, namely hit home runs in order to feel powerful and awesome at softball. See, there are a number of guys who could never hit a home run on a regulation field so they really want to hit one on the tiny field just to say that they did it. And that want, that powerful desire, overpowers what they know they should do.
This scenario was the story of Samson’s life. God had very clearly called Samson to do great things. And he gave Samson – and his parents – specific instructions about what that calling meant. What Samson should have done could not have been more clear. But what he should have done sometimes conflicted with what he wanted to do. For instance, he should have married an Israelite since God forbid his people from marrying pagans. He wanted to marry a Philistine. He chose option 2 – though I have some grace for him in this because Judges clearly says that God wanted to use the situation to have Sampson confront the Philistines. But he made some worse choices from there. He killed a lion and didn’t tell his parents. It may seem sweet of him, as though he didn’t want to frighten his mom or something, but that’s not the reason Sampson kept silent. Killing an unclean animal – like a lion – meant that Sampson was unclean for the rest of the day. He should have refrained from contact with others. He wanted to go hang out with his girlfriend and make sure his parents got the wedding worked out. So he didn’t tell them and he chose option 2. Then, on his way back again, he saw that bees made a hive full of honey in the lion’s carcass. But, as a Nazirite he was never supposed to go near a corpse and as an Israelite he was never supposed to eat anything that had touched a dead body and he was unclean if he came into contact with one. He should have avoided it. He wanted to eat some honey. He chose option 2. Then he should have at least told his parents and not fed them the unclean honey. He wanted to impress them and he wanted to hang with his girl again. He chose option 2.
I think most of us choose option 2 more often than we care to admit. Be honest with yourself for a minute and think back over all the decisions you’ve made in the last week – the places you’ve gone, the things you’ve watched or listened to, the people you’ve spent time with, the words you’ve spoken, etc. How often are you choosing to do the thing that you know God says you should do, and how often, when it conflicts with God, are you choosing to ignore him and do what you want instead? Our desires are powerful and the world is tempting, but if there is one lesson we can learn from the life of Sampson it is this: following God’s call and doing what we should even when it’s hard is a far better way to live than chasing the empty pleasures of a broken world.
PRAY: Confess all of the times that you have ignored God’s call and chased the call of the world. Admit to God that you often let your desires overrule your conscience. Ask him to give you the wisdom to know what is right and the strength to choose it.