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John Bradshaw - Samson

John Bradshaw - Samson
John Bradshaw - Samson
TOPICS: Great Characters of the Bible, Samson

Hey, you've seen strong people before, lifting massive weights, doing insane feats of strength. I'm gonna tell you about someone stronger, and at the same time, someone weaker. Thanks for joining me for the weakest strong man. You're gonna find out how you can really be strong.

This is It Is Written. I'm John Bradshaw. Thanks for joining me. It was January the 28th, 1986, and the space shuttle Challenger was on the launchpad at Cape Canaveral in Florida. Seven astronauts were heading into space on what was to be the Challenger's tenth mission. Among them was Christa McAuliffe, a 37-year-old social studies teacher at Concord High School in New Hampshire. Her presence on the space shuttle meant that school children from all over the country were watching coverage of the launch. I'll never forget seeing the famous tragic photograph of the Challenger disintegrating. I'd been working overnight. I'd slept during the day, and as I arrived at the studio late in the day, the receptionist was reading the afternoon newspaper, and the front page was facing towards me.

And I noticed what I thought at first glance was a swan. Maybe it was a photo of a swan taken at the nearby lake. But, of course, I looked again. I asked to see the newspaper. And like millions of people all around the world, my heart sank. I was heartbroken to think of the tragedy that had unfolded. The seven astronauts, black and white, male and female, perished. President Ronald Reagan had been scheduled to deliver the State of the Union address that night. But it was postponed for the first time in this nation's history. Instead, President Reagan spoke to America about the tragedy. It was a four-minute speech. Many said it was one of his best ever. "The future doesn't belong to the fainthearted; it belongs to the brave," he said. "The Challenger crew was pulling us into the future, and we'll continue to follow them". And then he said, quoting from a poem:

We will never forget them, nor the last time we saw them, this morning, as they prepared for their journey and waved goodbye and "slipped the surly bonds of earth" to "touch the face of God".

It was later discovered that the Challenger broke up only 73 seconds after liftoff because of a faulty O-ring. It was an unusually cold day, and the O-rings weren't able to function correctly in the cold. They needed warmer temperatures. There'd been warnings about this, but the warnings were ignored. A vehicle weighing four and a half million pounds was undone by an O-ring. The Challenger had a fatal flaw, not unlike many people who have an Achilles' heel in their makeup.

And one such person is the focus of our program today, as we continue with our ongoing series "Great Characters of the Bible". He was born in a time of widespread apostasy in Israel. All God asked is that His people would be faithful, that is, lean on Him, trust Him, allow Him to do for them the things they couldn't do for themselves. But there's something about human nature that allows people to exercise terrible judgment, even when they know it's not in their best interests.

Like the person who will drink and then drive, that person said, "Okay, I'll only have one," knowing there was every chance things were not going to end well. Judges 13:1 says, "Again the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines for forty years". This was Israel's almost-Sisyphean saga: follow God, collapse into apostasy, and end up being dominated by an enemy, return to God, turn from God, national greatness, national ruin.

If you read through the book of Judges, you notice that Joshua dies. "They forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth". The Bible says, "And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and delivered them out of the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who oppressed them and harassed them. And it came to pass, when the judge was dead, that they reverted and behaved more corruptly than their fathers, by following other gods, to serve them and bow down to them. They did not cease from their own doings nor from their stubborn way".

In Judges 3, they served the king of Mesopotamia for eight years. They cry out to God, and Caleb's nephew Othniel was raised up by God to deliver them. Forty years of peace, Othniel dies, and they "did evil again in the sight of the Lord," and they served Eglon, king of Moab, for 18 years. Ehud delivered Israel from Moab, and they had 80 years of rest. Then 20 years under Jabin, king of Canaan, then they're delivered again in the time of Deborah. Then the Midianites conquer Israel, then 40 years of peace under Gideon. Then the Philistines rule Israel for 40 years, and God steps in again. Manoah and his wife are told they're going to be parents, which came as a big surprise because Mrs. Manoah hadn't been able to have children.

The couple are told not to drink wine, not to drink strong drink, and not to eat anything unclean. And they're told not to cut the boy's hair. He was to be a Nazarite. The Nazarite vow was a vow of complete commitment and consecration to God. It seems Samuel and John the Baptist might've taken the same vow. The couple were told to take special care of the child, even before he was born. Now, we know today how important the prenatal influences, even before children are born, you want to be careful about what you expose them to, and, of course, then after they're born. Sadly, some kids aren't given a chance by their parents. Fill a child's head with anger and violence and hate and foul language, expose them to media that they've got no business watching or hearing, and at the same time if you're not reading the Bible to them, laughing with them, praying with them, walking with them in the woods...

If you pour love and good health into a child, expose that child to good values, commit that child to God, the child has a chance. But in cases where that doesn't happen, well, all too often we see the results. But, thank God, it's never too late. God can still work, even if parents make mistakes. But going into childrearing, we all need to know how extremely important it is to mold children God's way. The angel of the Lord even reiterated this counsel: "Let the woman pay attention to all that I said". They named their child Samson, which means "like the sun". He was raised up by God to shine brightly. But you know how it works with the sun. It can warm you, or it can burn you. And Samson was going to do a lot of both. I'll be right back.

Thanks for joining me on It Is Written. Samson was from Zorah, a Canaanite town west of Jerusalem. His parents were faithful followers of God, but Samson was raised in an area where there was a strong pagan influence. His parents were instructed to raise him for God's honor, to keep harmful influences out of his life. Judges 13:24 says that "the child grew, and the Lord blessed him". So his life got off to a good start. But, you know, you can't let your guard down when you're a believer in God. Nor should you want to. Samson had a fatal flaw. Like the O-rings on the ill-fated Challenger space shuttle flight, Samson's one fatal flaw was gonna be his undoing. Chapter 14 of Judges opens with the words, "And Samson went down to Timnath". It wasn't a very long way, but it resulted in a very long fall. He went down all right, and he went down hard. He said to his parents, "I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife".

Samson's parents definitely knew about Deuteronomy 7, and Samson would have known, but he didn't care. That's where God listed a number of non-Jewish nations and said, "Nor shall you make marriages with them. You shall not give your daughter to their son, nor take their daughter for your son. For they will turn your sons away from following me, to serve other gods". And we've seen this. Solomon was a prime offender, marrying the daughter of Pharaoh in order to form a political alliance. It was a disaster. Samson's parents tried to reason with him. "Then his father and mother said to him, 'Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?' And Samson said to his father, 'Get her for me, for she pleases me well.'"

In the Bible you'll find strong warnings against marrying unbelievers. But Samson, he disregarded all the warnings. He ignored his parents' wishes, and he married the woman anyway. Now, the Bible says, "It was of the Lord," but that's not justifying Samson's mistake. That's the Bible saying God was able to use this in a way that would work out for His glory. Now, keep that in mind with God. He's able to take our mistakes and then use them in a positive way. That doesn't make the mistakes a good thing, but it tells us that God is able to turn things around. So if you've made mistakes, wrong choices, exercised poor judgment, God is able to bring good out of that. Things might not be perfect, and they weren't for Samson, but God is able. He works with us even when we make mistakes. He's a good God. On his way to see his bride-to-be, Samson is approached by a lion, and as a harbinger of things to come, he kills the animal with his bare hands.

Of course there's the temptation to question this entire story. Samson does some remarkable things, incredible feats of strength. Could it even be possible? But what he does, he does through the power of God. The Bible says, "The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he tore the lion apart as one would have torn apart a young goat, though he had nothing in his hand". His strength came from God. But you'll notice Samson is getting careless. When he saw a swarm of bees producing honey in the carcass of the lion, he took some of the honey and ate it. Now, nothing wrong with eating honey, but taking it from the carcass of a dead lion? That was a violation of his Nazarite vow. It went against the teachings of his parents, and, of course, it went against the teachings of Scripture; it was unclean. But it was apparent Samson wasn't worrying about the teachings of Scripture as he once used to. He was sliding, slipping, drifting. Once you intentionally depart from God on one point, you make it so much easier for yourself to slip from God on a whole lot more.

Samson went down to Timnath, and he was going further down than he might have hoped. And his fatal flaw was soon exposed. At a feast he put forward a riddle to some young men. They didn't have a hope of figuring it out. After three days of trying to solve it, they said to Samson's wife, "Entice your husband, that he may explain the riddle to us, or else we will burn you and your father's house with fire". Well, now she was highly motivated. "Then Samson's wife wept on him, and said, 'You only hate me! You do not love me! You have posed a riddle to the sons of my people, but you have not explained it to me.'" So finally, "He told her, because she pressed him so much". And she told the young men. Samson had been deceived, and he was so outraged that he went to Ashkelon and killed 30 men to pay his debt to the men of his wedding feast. Samson wasn't just drifting now. He was out of control. And that was his issue. He completely lacked self-control. He wasn't surrendered to God.

Well, the fact is, he didn't even need self-control; he needed God control. That's what people need: to be moderated, guided, influenced by God. But he didn't want that. He wanted a woman he shouldn't have had, but he wouldn't be told. And this is the same age-old problem we face today. Samson's problem is real, and it's prevalent. Self says, "I want it," whatever it might be. The Bible says God has what's best for you. It's the challenge we all face. You might be living in your comfortable home with your comfortable job and your happy family and think that all is well. But without Jesus in the heart, all is not well. Sometimes temptation will convince us that we want the forbidden thing. That's why John warned us: "...the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world". That's 1 John 2, verse 16.

Samson returned to Timnath to find that his wife was now with another man. Her father thought Samson had forsaken her, but now he's back, and instead of taking it on the chin, he set fire to Philistine wheat fields. The Philistines responded with brutality, and Samson took revenge. When the Philistines came to apprehend Samson, the men of Judah were so afraid they handed him over to the enemy. Samson took the jawbone of a donkey and killed 1,000 of them. So Samson's out of control. God's intent was to deliver Judah from the Philistines, and here was someone He could use to accomplish His plans.

So what should Samson have done? He's driven now by lust and revenge. Do we see that today? Oh, yes, we do. And society has a two-faced response to this. On the one hand, there's condemnation for sin driven by lust and a drive for power. But on the other hand, society fuels lust; it encourages and even celebrates immorality. We pay a price for that. The devil knows how to tempt and who to tempt with what. And people struggle to stay on the right path. Now, I'm gonna share with you the secret Samson never knew. If you know it, and if you put this into practice in your life, it'll save you and others from a lot of heartache, and it'll keep you from making the same mistakes Samson made. I'll be right back in just a moment.

The Bible says Samson loved a woman named Delilah. It's one of the most famous love stories of the Bible, although it's hard to find much love. The Philistines offered Delilah a large sum of money if she would find out the secret of Samson's strength and tell them. For some reason, Samson entertained her. He hadn't learned from past experience. He told her, to start with, that if he was bound with seven cords, his supernatural strength would be gone. So as he slept, Delilah bound him with the cords, and when she told him, "The Philistines are here," he broke the cords like they were nothing. Same sort of thing happened on two other occasions. Of course, you have to wonder. What Samson did was incredibly reckless. But Delilah wore him down. You'd think that Samson had to be able to see where this was going. He'd been deceived once before. But the thing was, Samson couldn't see. He had obscured his own vision. His undoing was lust. Samson had desires he couldn't control, or, or wouldn't control. His desire got the better of him.

People face the same issue today in a variety of ways. Some people can't control their desire for... chocolate cake or, or soda, or beer or tobacco or video games or coffee. But what Samson was wrestling with, that was in a class of its own. Solomon was a slave to lust. King David, same issue, at least when he took Bathsheba. We see it today. So many people have had their lives ruined because of lust, politicians and sports stars and...ministers of the gospel and people from every walk of life. It's one of the reasons so many marriages fail. And sometimes what starts as desire ends up in a very dark place. So what should Samson have done? The answer is important because it's the one way out for anyone who has an issue with self-control or is stuck in some sin.

If something really has hold of you, then look at Romans 6, starting in verse 5. It says, "For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin". Notice the language: The one "who has died has been freed from sin". We are to die. Now, clearly, this isn't literal. Verse 11 and on: "Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts. And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present [yourself] to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under [the] law but under grace".

You come to Jesus and let self die. That's referring to surrendering to Jesus and letting Him do His will in your life. Think about this. If you're being tempted and you call out to God and ask Him to deliver you, what do you think He'll do? He can't possibly fail to deliver you from that temptation. In the Lord's Prayer we pray, "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil". That's Matthew 6:13. This is one of the great themes of the New Testament: what Jesus can do in your life and how He delivers you from temptation and sin. Philippians 2, verse 13: "For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure". We make a big mistake when we don't surrender to God. Sin is bigger than anyone alive. The prophet Jeremiah put it this way: "Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard its spots? Then may you also do good who are accustomed to do evil".

Samson couldn't straighten himself out, but that was no reason for him to plunge into sin. His weakness was a call to Samson to cry out to God and tell God that he needed God's help. He needed God's power. He needed the Spirit of God to work in him, to strengthen him. And Samson, well, he hadn't completely given up on God. The Philistines callously blinded him. And at a big pagan festival they brought Samson out to mock him. But his hair had grown back, and his strength was again granted him by God. In one massive final effort, Samson collapsed the building, and hundreds and hundreds of Philistines died. And Samson died. He governed Israel for 20 years, during which time Israel was at peace. And, you know, it wasn't his hair that gave him his strength. His hair was a symbol of his consecration to God, and with God's hand upon him, he had strength like no other man has ever had.

Imagine how the story might have ended had Samson been faithful to God, if he'd married the right girl, surrendered to the will of God. Samson is the man who could have been so much more. In a time of national crisis, his countrymen needed him, but he never delivered what he could have. Physically, Samson was the strongest man in the world, but in self-control and integrity he was one of the weakest. You know, a lot of people think it's a sign of strength to exhibit strong feelings. But real strength is demonstrated in controlling those feelings. Curiously, Samson's name is written in Hebrews 11 as one of the heroes of faith, alongside Abraham and Jacob and Moses.

Now, think about that. They were all faulty people, and God used them. Samson was faulty, but God used him. And at the end of his life, he wanted to honor and glorify God. See, if you've been entangled in some regrettable things, God can still use you. It isn't too late. Can you think of things that you've done that you wish you hadn't? Of course you can. Have you made mistakes? Of course you have. But can God use you? Can, can your life honor God? Of course it can. Samson's story is all the evidence you need. In Yosemite National Park in January of 2021, a freak windstorm struck the Mariposa Grove, where 500 mature giant sequoias grow. At least 15 of the giants crashed to the ground. The strong winds came, and the big trees couldn't stand. Down they went. The strong winds of temptation are gonna come at you, but you don't have to fall like Samson did.

Life is challenging. Things happen. Your foundation can be shaken. And if you're dealing with moral or spiritual weakness, it leaves you very vulnerable. You wanna be connected to God, living a life of faith. That will strengthen you. The Bible and prayer, there's power there. You haven't gone too far. And if you've never surrendered to God, it isn't too late for you. You can imagine Samson chained in the temple of Dagon, looking back over his life, wishing he'd done things differently, wishing he'd made better decisions, wishing he'd had his priorities straight, wishing he hadn't wasted his time by not surrendering to God. It was too late for him then. But it isn't too late for you. God wants you to come to Him in faith right now.

Our Father in heaven, thank You for the story of Samson. He's truly one of the great characters of the Bible. And what a character. So much given him of heaven, so much squandered. So many opportunities, so many wasted. Dear Lord, I'm asking that You would not allow us to be like that.

My friend, God is speaking to you now. Would you welcome His Spirit into your heart to strengthen you, to deliver you from desire, to deliver you from sin, to strengthen you in temptation, to keep you from going down the road Samson went down? Would that be your prayer? If it is, tell God right now:

Lord, take my heart. Can you say those words? Lord, take my heart. Make it Yours. Make it Your stronghold and Your dwelling place. And we will go from this moment with the assurance that You are ours and we are Yours. We thank You, and we pray in Jesus' name, amen.

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