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strong man April 9 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Judges 14, 15, 16

Strong-Willed - the advantages and disadvantages

If we have been blessed with children or work with children we know every child is different. Some children are studious and quiet, while others are very social. Some children are very athletic, while others are not. Some are very compliant, while others are strong-willed. We must instruct all of our children in the ways of the LORD and in the disciplines that lead to successful living (Proverbs 22:6), but we must also recognize how we do this is 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 is 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 has not gotten to the point of crying out to Him for deliverance).

As Samson grows into a young man, the Spirit of God stirs him up when he visits the army camp of Dan. Unlike other judges, however, Samson does not lead Israel into battles against their invading foes; he is a lone conquering hero. Samson, however, has his weaknesses - a rebellious spirit and women.

Like many young adults, Samson begins to disregard his upbringing and becomes rebellious. This is every parent's fear and grief. Samson is physically very strong; his dad must have been proud. He is handsome; his mother must have adored him. But, Samson has a weakness for beautiful women and does not care where they came from. His mother and father desire him to 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 is 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 own life difficult. However, a Christian with a strong-will, tempered and channeled into good endeavors, can make a courageous godly leader. Even though Samson is rebellious, God uses his zeal to take vengeance on the Philistines. Unfortunately, the despising of his Nazirite vows and his disobedience concerning marriage outside the tribes of Israel eventually leads to his downfall.

On his way to make the arrangements for his marriage, Samson is attacked by a lion. He kills the lion with his bare hands, pulling him apart like someone might sever a young goat. Later, after he and his parents make the arrangements, he takes honey, made from bees in the carcass of the lion, and shares some with his parents, who are unaware of its source. This is a violation of his Nazirite vow because Samson touched something dead.

When the marriage ceremony is near, Samson is given thirty attendants (most likely Philistines). He makes a bargain with them that if they can discover the meaning of a riddle he shares with them, he will give them thirty garments (probably fine ornamented garments), but if they cannot, they are to give him thirty garments. After a few days of frustration with the riddle, they threaten his bride with her life if she cannot get the secret from him. With her constant crying and nagging, he finally tells her. Then she relays the solution of the riddle to the Philistine attendants, and Samson loses the bet. Samson gets angry, kills thirty Philistines (another breaking of his Nazirite vow), and gives their garments to the attendants. Afterwards, he goes back to his father's house, leaving his bride stranded at the altar. Her father thinks Samson hates her so he gives her to Samson's best man.

When Samson's anger cools, he goes back to Gaza to claim his wife, just to find out she is given to another man. In his anger he catches 300 foxes (or jackals), ties them two by two, attaches torches to their tails, and turns them loose to burn the Philistine crops. When the Philistines found out why he did this, they burn the home of his wife and her father. When Samson discovers it, he attacks the Philistines viciously, slaughtering many of them.

The Philistines hunt down Samson and come to Judah. Alarmed, the men of Judah inquire why the Philistines are coming to fight them. They answer they only want to take Samson prisoner. The men of Judah take 3,000 men to capture Samson in order to appease the Philistines and save their nation. When they find him, he allows the men of Judah to bind him and bring him 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 is exhausted from the fight and appeals to the LORD for water. The LORD opens up a spring for him to drink in order to revive his strength.

Once more Samson's weakness for women displays itself. At Gaza in the Philistine territory, Samson spends the night with a prostitute. The men of the city surround the house and lay wait for him at the city gate. They are sure they have him securely trapped in the city. But for the grace of God Samson would have been killed. In the middle of the night, however, Samson gets up, goes to the city gate, tears it off its posts, and carries it to the top of the hill! Hah! Once again God gives Samson strength so that he escapes.

Some time later, Samson falls in love with Delilah, a woman in the Valley of Sorek.

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 lies to her, and she does not find the source of his strength, but the fourth time he finally tells her after her constant nagging.

“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)

Later, when he sleeps on Delilah's lap, she has a man shave the hair off his head, and his strength leaves him. Was there anything magical about his hair? No, Samson violated his Nazirite vow for the final time. The presence of the LORD, typified in his strength, left him. The Philistines capture him, gouge out his eyes, let him grind meal like an animal, and make sport of him.

But in God's mercy and grace, Samson's strength returns as his hair grows. The Philistines do not know this. Samson is led into a temple of Dagon, where, after praising their god for victory over him, they decide 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 is merciful and gracious, yes, but God is proving to the Philistines that He is more powerful than their god, Dagon. Samson looked to God for his strength. 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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