Judges 16:30, 31 “And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead that he slew at his death were more than they that he slew in his life. Then his brethren and all the house of his father came down, and took him, and brought him up, and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the burying-place of Manoah his father. And he judged Israel twenty years.”
Disobedience toward God has prompted the captivity of Israel yet again. Their enemies, the Philistines, will enslave them for 40 years. It’s during this time a boy child of promise enters the world. The lips of an angel announce his arrival. The story begins in Judges 13.
Judges 13:1-3 “And the children of Israel again did that which was evil in the sight of Jehovah; and Jehovah delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. And the angel of Jehovah appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not; but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son.”
Samson’s parents were told of the uniqueness that would be required of their boy. That’s not unlike Christian parents today. We’re commanded to bring up a consecrated generation to the Lord. Our children have always, and must always, be different than the world.
Judges 13:4, 5 “Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink no wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: for, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come upon his head; for the child shall be a Nazirite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to save Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.”
He was to abstain from drinking wine or any strong drink. We was to abstain from eating anything unclean. And he was to let his hair grow by refraining from cutting it. God had appointed this child to begin to save Israel from the Philistines.
His father prayed that the messenger of God would return and give him instruction in raising this child. Seems like an excellent beginning, and it is.
Judges 13:8 “Then Manoah entreated Jehovah, and said, Oh, Lord, I pray thee, let the man of God whom thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born.”
As a young man, Samson took too lightly God’s requirements. He really didn’t want to comply with the behaviors necessary to be a Nazarite. And he began to violate the very laws that made him special.
Samson touched an unclean animal – a dead animal.
Judges 14:9 “And he took it into his hands, and went on, eating as he went; and he came to his father and mother, and gave unto them, and they did eat: but he told them not that he had taken the honey out of the body of the lion.”
In spite of his parent’s urgings against it, he was taken with heathen girls. He eventually married outside the family of Israel.
Judges 14:2, 3 “And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well.”
It’s likely that he gave into wine when he held a feast. After all, he’d violated so many other commandments – why should he hold to this one?
Judges 14:10 “And his father went down unto the woman: and Samson made there a feast; for so used the young men to do.”
He was a whoremonger. Women would lead him away from God all of his life.
Judges 16:1 “And Samson went to Gaza, and saw there a harlot, and went in unto her.”
Judges 16:4 “And it came to pass afterward, that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.”
Through his own stupidity and neglect his hair was cut.
Judges 16:19 “And she made him sleep upon her knees; and she called for a man, and shaved off the seven locks of his head; and she began to afflict him, and his strength went from him.”
Listen to the next verse and see how sad it is to see a person who is supposed to be consecrated to God surrender to his own desires.
Judges 16:20 “And she said, The Philistines are upon thee, Samson. And he awoke out of his sleep, and said, I will go out as at other times, and shake myself free. But he knew not that Jehovah was departed from him.”
Cocky and certain of himself, he gets up determined that today will be like every other day. These people will attempt to tie me up and trap me, but I’ll break free. You see, for Samson it was all about HIM. His strength. His fun. His pleasure. His entertainment. God had long been choked out of his life.
But he knew not that Jehovah was departed from him.
It gets worse in the very next verse.
Judges 16:21 “And the Philistines laid hold on him, and put out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza, and bound him with fetters of brass; and he did grind in the prison-house.”
Bound. Eyes gouged out. His strength gone. Jehovah no longer in his life. This is how low you can go!
The question is often asked, “How low can a person go?” Samson proves that a person who is supposed to be consecrated to God can go as low as sin will take them. When a mind is made up to fulfill every desire of the self and the flesh, there is no low that is low enough.
In our text reading, verse 30 reveals that he died with the Philistines – the people he befriended his entire life who were not God’s people, but heathen people. He’d made them his friends, companions, lovers and wife. The Philistines were always his enemies, but he never took them seriously. It’s not so surprising then at how the story ends.
Judges 16:28-30 “And Samson called unto Jehovah, and said, O Lord Jehovah, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house rested, and leaned upon them, the one with his right hand, and the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead that he slew at his death were more than they that he slew in his life.”
He seems penitent now – who wouldn’t be? I rather doubt mom and dad had this in mind years earlier when the angel of the Lord told them their child would begin to save Israel from the Philistines. Sure enough, he would – but something far more nobler must have been in their mind. Surely a life more devout was what they had hoped for in the life of their boy. But it wouldn’t be. He would set out to die with the Philistines his entire life. And that’s where our lesson is today.
Christians sometimes die spiritually among the Philistines today. Samson’s slide was slow and never apparent to him until his eyes were poked out – an irony that losing his sight physically may have given him his sight spiritually. Those eyes that had beguiled him with Philistine female beauty were gone now.
It’s sad that he never felt the Lord leave him. I suspect it’s because it had been too long since he had felt the presence of God in his life. God was there all along, but Samson seemed to feel his strength was of his own doing. He was focused on himself, not the Lord. Nothing seemed different to him on the day he was captured. So the world of his day, the Philistine world, took him and devoured him.
There is nothing new here.
Revelation 3:1, 17 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars: I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and thou art dead.
Revelation 3:17 “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art the wretched one and miserable and poor and blind and naked:”
That’s exactly how Samson had behaved. He woke up that day unaware of his own condition. He got up declaring, “I’ve got it all under control. I’ll do what I’ve always done.”
That’s much of the problem. He did what he had always done that morning. He woke up devoted to himself and not to God. No, he was unable to physically break free as he had always done, but the real consistency of his life was found in behaving badly against God.
We look at Samson and wonder, why? Why didn’t he listen to the warning of his parents? Why didn’t they deal with him more firmly? Why did he die with the Philistines?
There are no single answers. There are many reasons why Samson’s death occurred as it did. There are many reasons why spiritual death falls on too many Christians today, too.
First of all, Samson clearly failed to realize the value of his own soul. That contributes to the demise of people today.
Matthew 16:26 “For what shall a man be profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and forfeit his life? or what shall a man give in exchange for his life?”
Samson proved a soul can be sold. People sell out their soul for lots of things, but none of them are as valuable as the soul.
Samson exchanged his Nazarite vows and righteousness for pleasure with heathen girls, fun, being the strongest man around and whatever else he could find entertaining. What do we sometimes give in exchange for our soul?
Peter points out how we’re able to forget the worth of our soul because we forget the cost to wash away our old sins. Following the command to add the Christian graces to our life here is what he said:
2 Peter 1:9 “For he that lacketh these things is blind, seeing only what is near, having forgotten the cleansing from his old sins.”
The price for our salvation was high. Whenever we put something ahead of our salvation we insult God’s sacrifice for providing salvation.
1 Corinthians 6:20 “for ye were bought with a price: glorify God therefore in your body.”
Being desensitized to the world can also cause us to forget the value of the soul.
We’ve forgotten to blush. Sin doesn’t shock us. Shame is often rare. The world has caused us to lose sight of our most valuable possession – our soul.
Second, we often die among the Philistines, or the world, because we’re not grounded in the faith.
Samson knew what was right. He knew what God required of him, but he wasn’t devoted to it. He wasn’t rooted and grounded in it.
Luke 8:13 “And those on the rock are they who, when they have heard, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.”
Roots are the source of nutrition. Roots supply life. Spiritually, roots are where we live. They’re what we devote ourselves to – what we feed on. Samson didn’t feed on faith or spiritual food so it’s not surprising that he died among the Philistines. We shouldn’t be surprised if we find ourselves dying among the world when we feed on the world and fail to ground ourselves in the faith.
Growing in the faith is our job. It’s a responsibility we each bear in our own life. People are here to help us. Fellow Christians, gospel preachers, Christian parents – they’re all great sources of help. Ultimately, we must each take responsibility to grow and become more grounded in the Faith, the Gospel of Christ.
2 Peter 3:18 “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.”
2 Timothy 2:15 “Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth.”
“Give diligence” isn’t something terribly pleasing to some. It’s work. It means sacrifice. Not fun.
We go to the doctor and often ask if there isn’t a pill to take for whatever ails us. Don’t tell us to have restraint in our diet. Don’t tell us to exercise. Don’t tell us to change our behavior. Give us easy!
Faith and our spiritual growth don’t come easy. Like any worthwhile accomplishment, they demand a price, some sacrifice. Spiritually, hard work must become our habit.
Growth takes time, but time won’t ensure our growth. We have to commit ourselves to growth.
Diving into the Word of God is the prescription. Study the Gospel. Meditate on the Gospel. Hear the Gospel preached.
God puts a premium on knowledge. Ignorance isn’t highly prized. We’re obligated to know the Truth – and that includes living by it, not just having an understanding of it.
John 8:31, 32 “Jesus therefore said to those Jews that had believed him, If ye abide in my word, then are ye truly my disciples; and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
James chapter 1 teaches us to hear and do. Learning the Truth has to be coupled with doing the Truth. Being grounded and rooted happens in the doing.
It’s sad to see people who don’t know the Truth behave with such zeal in their religion. They’re active. They’re doing. But they’re not acting according to the Truth of the Gospel. Like Saul of Tarsus, they’re zealous but ignorant. Doing is worthless unless we’re doing what God demands.
The Faith is what separates God’s people from the rest of the world. Samson was supposed to be different from the world. He became like the Philistines when he gave up that difference – he became just like the world. You and I will become just like the world whenever we refuse to behave differently based on the Truth of the Gospel.
John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth: thy word is truth.”
You can’t be rooted and grounded in the faith if you’re unwilling to learn. All those passages that speak of teaching and instruction rely on finding people willing to learn.
Acts 5:42 “And every day, in the temple and at home, they ceased not to teach and to preach Jesus as the Christ.”
1 Timothy 4:11 “These things command and teach.”
Hebrews 5:12 “For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that someone teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food.”
Teaching requires learning or else it’s not effective. Learning requires teaching. And they can happen simultaneously. We have young men who teach publicly. Their learning hasn’t stopped. They’re able to teach some things while they learn other things. We’re all learning and we ought to all be teaching others what we know already. That constant exchanging of Truth builds us up. It makes us more grounded in the Truth. It helps the Faith become more of a focus in our lives.
Three, cares, riches and pleasures choke the Word of God. That causes us to die with the Philistines.
Samson refused to keep his attention on doing what was right. He disregarded the command of God delivered by an angel to his parents. He cared about the Philistine girls. He cared about feasting. He cared about being the strongest man in the country. He cared about having fun. He had served those things well and they eventually let him down because they had no lasting value. Rather, they had choked out his righteousness to the point that God was gone – and he never knew it happened.
Luke 8:14 “And that which fell among the thorns, these are they that have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection.”
Moral worldliness is rampant among us. So many Christians are devoted to things that aren’t so much sinful as distracting – and the devotion to these things IS sinful. Some are so busy with the things of this life they don’t sense the Word being choked out of their life.
Sports, hobbies, entertainment. Devotion to these things is killing too many Christians. Consumed by the pleasures of these things, God’s people sometimes let Him slip from their lives and before they know it – He’s gone from their life completely.
Matthew 6:33 “But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
John 6:27 “Work not for the food which perisheth, but for the food which abideth unto eternal life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him the Father, even God, hath sealed.”
Christ isn’t telling us to not work. In fact, we’re obligated by God’s command to work. Christ labored as a carpenter. Peter was a fisherman. Paul was a tent maker. Men are commanded to provide for their families. Work is honorable. Every Christian ought to know what it is to work – accomplish something, contribute something.
The command here is to put first things first. Don’t let your priorities get mixed up where you devote yourself too much to work, or worldly accomplishments, or worldly pleasures.
The social gospel worries itself with helping men improve their life here. The Gospel of Christ worries itself with helping men improve their eternal life. Christ is warning us against over-valuing the things of this life. But some Christian do just that. They put a high price on the things of the Philistines, the world.
Serving God has to come first – not just in word, but in deed. Our actions speak far louder than our words, but uttering words is just so much easier. As a result, some people tend to do more talking and less doing.
They talk about how they love God, but they don’t obey Him. They talk about how devoted they are, but at every turn we see them doing what pleases them, not Him. Talk isn’t just cheap, it’s often worthless!
Don’t read your Bible. Don’t pray. Don’t attend the services faithfully. Don’t put God in all your decisions. Follow your emotions. Do what pleases you.
Live among the Philistines. Die among the Philistines!
Samson viewed the way of righteousness as too restrictive. That’s why he violated the commandments of God. The way is narrow because it must be so.
Matthew 7:13, 14 “Enter ye in by the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many are they that enter in thereby. For narrow is the gate, and straitened the way, that leadeth unto life, and few are they that find it.”
God created our world with precision. Our homes are full of items that require precision, a narrowness if you will. Alter a chemical formula by the very slightest of margins and you get a completely different result. Alter the dial on your radio only slightly and you’ll wind up hearing only static. Precision. Narrowness. They’re part of God’s plan and our everyday lives.
The narrowness Christ speaks of consists of the restrictions, disciplines, and requirements of the Gospel. Self-denial, monogamy, the forgiveness of others, meekness, and countless other basic scriptural principles are opposed to the natural man whose baser instincts push him constantly in the direction of the wide gate and the broadway. Only those who are truly spiritual, who have set their minds upon the things in heaven, will enter and negotiate the straitened way that leads to life. Even so, Christ welcomes all who will enter.
Restrictive? Sure. Worth it? Absolutely.
Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”
Thought control wasn’t invented by Nazi Germany. God invented it and commanded men to use it. Temperance, or self-control, is the stock in trade of the Christian. It demands that we control our thoughts, and the things that influence our lives.
You speak of what you think about. You act on what you talk about. God knows how our behavior works. He made us. He’s got the prescription on how we can best operate this human body, including our mind.
“YOU: The Owner’s Manual : An Insider’s Guide to the Body that Will Make You Healthier and Younger” That’s the title of a New York Times best seller. I’ve not read it and I’m not suggesting you should. It may be a great book, I don’t know.
What I do know is that the authors are awfully late in writing an owner’s manual for YOU. God did it long ago. I’m sure God’s manual isn’t quite as stylish by today’s standards. I’m sure God’s manual isn’t quite what most people want to read or hear. But I’m equally sure that God’s manual works. I’m sure that His manual will help us live in a way that will gain us heaven.
One of God’s prescriptions is for us to control our thoughts and those things that influence us. True, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good report. These are the influences we need in our life.
We don’t need movie theaters. We don’t need pornography. We don’t need cursing. We don’t need alcohol. We don’t need drugs. We don’t need fornication. We don’t need adultery. We don’t need the constant pursuit of wealth.
Sin always leaves a mark.
Jeremiah 17:1, 2 “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the tablet of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars; whilst their children remember their altars and their Asherim by the green trees upon the high hills.”
The marks of sin aren’t always written, but there’s a mark nonetheless. Forgiveness can’t remove the marks of sin. Forgiveness can’t always remove the physical consequences of sin.
James 1:27 “Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”
This verse is not saying, “Just do good and live morally. Nothing else matters.”
This verse tells us to live by the commands of the Gospel and remain different from the world. Different. Separate. Sanctified. Things that Samson found stifling. Things Samson refused to make part of his life.
Samson should have repelled sin. He should have been distressed by sin. Instead, he ran to it.
2 Peter 2:7, 8 “and delivered righteous Lot, sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds):”
Lot was vexed by the sin that surrounded him. We should be, too.
Kids get involved with sins that don’t upset them. Everybody is doing it. Adults get involved with sins that don’t bother them. Everybody is doing it.
It is possible to live a righteous life in the midst of this sinful world. It was possible for Samson to remain righteous in the Philistine world. He just chose not to. He chose to join that world. As God’s people – Christians – we cannot join the world. We have to be unspotted from the world.
Too many Christians embrace the world. We expose ourselves to all the dangers and vices of the world while claiming it won’t rub off on us. Are we stronger than Samson? Are we stronger than Solomon? I don’t think so.
We go to all the movies produced by Hollywood, thinking the sins depicted on the screen won’t affect us. We’ve gotten lax in guarding our hearts. The Bible tells us to be different and unspotted from the world. At the very least we aren’t made stronger spiritually by getting closer to the world.
I worry for a generation that sees it all, hears it all, and experiences it all. I worry that God will leave their hearts and lives. I worry that they’ll wake up one day unaware that God is no longer in their life because they began the trek away from Him long ago. I worry that any of us could join them.
I worry for an older generation that lacks the wisdom and experience to restrain youth – and themselves. I worry for an older generation that neglects the responsibility to pass on Bible Truths. I worry for an older generation that has neglected their own duty to know and do the things ordained of God – and is therefore unprepared to pass it on.
I worry for all of us in rejecting reproofs and admonitions. I worry that too many of us are past feelings. I worry that instruction is not as prized as it should be. I worry that there may be too few spiritual mentors in the lives of people.
Ephesians 4:19 “who being past feeling gave themselves up to lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.”
1 Timothy 4:2 “through the hypocrisy of men that speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron;”
Past feeling. A conscience seared over.
2 Timothy 4:2 “preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.”
We don’t like to be reproved, rebuked or exhorted. We often shun these things. We’re not better for it. Correction is our friend. But sometimes standing on a “thus saith the Lord” makes us enemies of those we’re trying to help. We must love instruction.
Proverbs 4:13 “Take fast hold of instruction; Let her not go: Keep her; For she is thy life.”
Proverbs 6:23 “For the commandment is a lamp; And the law is light; And reproofs of instruction are the way of life:”
Proverbs 8:33 “Hear instruction, and be wise, And refuse it not.”
Proverbs 9:9 “Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: Teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning.”
What can we do to avoid dying with the world?
– Give yourself to true worship of God and Christian living in the Lord’s Church.
If you’re not a Christian you’re certain to die among the world. Don’t do that. Believe in Jesus Christ. Repent of your sins. Make the good confession, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” Be baptized for the remission of your sin and let the Lord add you to His Church.
You can’t be a Christian unless you are associated with a local congregation. That’s where your work as a Christian happens. That’s where you worship. That’s where your supportive brothers and sisters are.
Dedicate yourself to Bible study. Dedicate yourself to prayer. Devote yourself to behavior that will bring glory to God.
– Give yourself the opportunity to be with other Christians – strong Christians, not marginal Christians.
Join yourself to those who are behaving in the ways you know you should. If the sheer thought of making strong Christians your closest friends makes you shiver, then you’re dying already.
– Don’t focus so much on the world. Put God first. Put your spiritual welfare above all else.
Making money isn’t the most important thing in life. Neither is having fun. The Christian life is a happy life found in the simple, even mundane, behaviors that make us God’s people. Realize that life isn’t made up of one exhilarating moment after another.
– When you do sin, repent. Let the Word of God convict you of your sin. Let it stir your heart to feel sufficient shame that you decide to change.
Refuse to live in sin. Understand that when you do sin that doesn’t mean you’re a miserable failure in living for God. You’ll only be a failure if you continue in sin. Don’t serve sin. Don’t excuse it. Don’t condone it. Deal with it. Get rid of it by repenting of it, confessing it, and praying to God for forgiveness. Then lean on God’s Word, prayer and others faithful Christians to help you deal with the things that tempt you.
– Avoid the corruption of the world.
Say no to friends who invite you to worldly pursuits. Say no to your own desires to do things that would take you away from the Truth.
Unspotted from the world is a condition required by God. That’s going to take some effort. That’s going to mean you’ll have to spend time in things that are holy. It means you can’t let the world rub off on you.
The final judgment of Samson belongs to God. His regrettable life ended when he prayed that God would give him his strength for one final activity – so he might pull down the pillars that held the building. God granted him that desire.
Had he only prayed for strength to overcome the weaknesses that plagued him in his youth. Had he only prayed for strength to be the righteous young man God intended. Sadly, he had not.
God provided Him every opportunity to make wiser choices. God gave him parents capable of teaching him the Truth. God gave him a responsibility to do something great for the people of Israel.
Today, God has given us more blessings than any generation – we have a Savior, not just the promise of one. We have the Gospel of Christ, not just the forerunner of it. We have a Savior and forgiveness of sins.
There was no reason for Samson to die among the Philistines that day. Poor choices put him there. Failure to heed instruction put him there. It didn’t have to be that way.
Today, it doesn’t have to be that way with you. You don’t have to die among the Philistines – among this world. You want to die in the Lord and reach heaven.
Revelation 14:13 “And I heard the voice from heaven saying, Write, Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; for their works follow with them.”
adapted from a sermon delivered by the author in 2005