strong man April 9 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Judges 14, 15, 16

Strong-Willed - the advantages and disadvantages

If we have been blessed with children or work with children we know that every child is different. Some are studious and quiet; others are very social; some are very athletic; and some are strong-willed. We must instruct all of our children in the ways of the LORD and in the disciplines that will lead them to successful living (Proverbs 22:6), but we must also recognize that how we do this will be different for every child. Some may go astray, but often the values we carefully instill into them will bring them back. Yesterday, we looked at Samuel, a very obedient child. Today we observe Samson, a strong-willed man, who of course was once a strong-willed child. He lived about the same time as Samuel in the period of the judges (for a chronology of the judges, go to more…). Being strong willed has its advantages and disadvantages.

In the latter times of the judges, the Philistines ruled Israel forty years because the Israelites failed to drive them out of the Promised Land. Now, in God's mercy and grace, he was again going to deliver his people. (Aside note: In today's Bible reading it is interesting that the text says nothing about Israel crying out to the LORD in the normal cycle of sin, slavery, supplication, and salvation that we find in Judges. Perhaps this is assumed or Israel had not gotten to the point of crying out to him for deliverance).

As Samson grew into a young man, the Spirit of God stirred him up when he visited the army camp of Dan. Unlike other judges, however, Samson did not lead Israel into battles against their invading foes; he was a lone conquering hero. Samson, however, had his weaknesses - a rebellious spirit and women.

Like many young adults Samson began to disregard his upbringing. He became rebellious. This is every parent's fear and grief. Samson was physically very strong. His dad must have been proud. He was handsome. His mother must have adored him. But, Samson had a weakness for beautiful women and did not care where they came from. His mother and father desired that he marry within their own tribe, or at least marry an Israelite from one of the other Israelite tribes as required by God (Deuteronomy 7:3-4), but Samson was determined to marry a Philistine woman. It is sometimes difficult to understand the ways of the LORD - why he might give us a strong-willed child who is so determined to do things his own way. A person with an untempered strong will usually makes his life difficult. However, a Christian with a strong-will, tempered and channeled into good endeavors, can make a courageous godly leader. Even though Samson was rebellious, God used his zeal to take vengeance on the Philistines. Unfortunately, the despising of his Nazarite vows and his disobedience concerning marriage outside the families of Israel eventually led to his downfall. What happened to Samson?

On his way to make the arrangements for his marriage, Samson was attacked by a lion. He killed the lion with his bare hands, pulling him apart like someone might sever a young goat. Later, after he and his parents made the arrangements, he (unknown by his parents) took honey made from bees in the carcass of the lion and shared some with his parents. This was a violation of his Nazirite vow because he touched something dead.

When the marriage ceremony was to take place, he was given thirty attendants (most likely Philistines). He made a bargain with them that if they could discover his riddle he would give them thirty garments (probably fine ornamented garments), but if they could not they were to give him thirty garments. After a few days they threatened his bride with her life if she could not get the secret from him. With her constant crying and nagging, he finally told her. Then she told the Philistine attendants and Samson lost the bet. Samson got mad and killed thirty Philistines (another breaking of his Nazirite vow) and gave their garments to the attendants. Afterwards, he went back to his father's house, leaving his bride stranded at the altar. Her father thought Samson hated her so he gave her to Samson's best man. When Samson's anger cooled off, he went back to Gaza to claim his wife, just to find out she was given to another man. In his anger he caught 300 foxes (or jackals), tied them two by two, attached torches to their tails, and turned them loose to burn the Philistine crops. When the Philistines found out why he did this, they burned the home of his wife and her father. When Samson discovered it, he attacked the Philistines viciously, slaughtering many of them.

After this the Philistines hunted down Samson. They came to Judah. The men of Judah were alarmed and asked them why the Philistines were coming to fight them. The Philistines told them they only wanted to take Samson as prisoner. Samson let the men of Judah bind him and bring them to the Philistines.

As [Samson] approached Lehi, the Philistines came toward him shouting. The Spirit of the LORD came upon him in power. The ropes on his arms became like charred flax, and the bindings dropped from his hands. Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men. (Judges 15:14-15, NIV)

Samson was exhausted from the fight so the LORD supplied water for him to drink in order to revive his strength.

Once more Samson's weakness for women displayed itself. At Gaza in the Philistine territory, Samson spent the night with a prostitute. The men of the city surrounded the house and laid wait for him at the city gate. They were sure they had him securely trapped in the city. But for the grace of God Samson would have been killed. However, in the middle of the night Samson got up and went to the city gate and tore it off its posts and carried it to the top of the hill! Hah! Once again God gave Samson strength.

Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah.

The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, "See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver."

So Delilah said to Samson, "Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued." (Judges16:4-6, NIV)

Three times Samson lied to her, and she did not find the source of his strength, but the fourth time he finally told her after her constant nagging. Samson said,

"No razor has ever been used on my head," he said, "because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man." (Judges 16:17, NIV)

And so when he slept on Delilah's lap, she had a man shave the hair off his head and his strength left him as he said. Was there anything magical about his hair? No, Samson had violated his Nazirite vow for the final time. The presence of the LORD, typified in his strength, left him. The Philistines captured him, gouged out his eyes, let him grind meal like an animal, and made sport of him.

But in God's mercy and grace, Samson's strength returned as his hair grew. The Philistines did not know this. Samson was led into a temple of Dagon, where after praising their god Dagon for victory over him, they decided to make Samson entertain them (probably through cruel methods).

Then Samson prayed to the LORD, "O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more [true strength comes from God], and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes."

Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, "Let me die with the Philistines!" Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived. (Judges 16:28-30, NIV).

Why did God listen to Samson? He was merciful and gracious, yes, but God was proving to the Philistines that Samson's God was more powerful than their god, Dagon. Samson also looked to God for his strength, not himself. Do we?

Lessons to live by:

•  A strong- willed person is often a rebellious person.

•  Being a strong-willed person can be bad if not tempered, because what he does can lead to harmful or destructive behaviors. Pray for him that his strong will be broken so that he might listen to wise counsel.

•  Being a strong-willed person can be good if he is tempered by God and channeled into beneficial activities. Again, pray for him.

•  A strong-willed Christian can become a godly courageous leader, even if he doesn't always do things by the book.

•  Be careful of being trapped by sexual sin; though you may be forgiven for it, it will likely lead to your downfall.

•  God is our strength. Do you know him? (more...)

Today's Bible memory verse:

Psalm 105:4 “Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always.” (NIV)

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