A long time ago in the land of the Philistines, there was a feast. Many people from all the regions of the Philistines had come to this feast to honor their god Dagon in his temple because he had protected them from and defeated their enemy, Samson (Judges 16:23). The temple was filled with men and women, all the “lords of the Philistines.”
Chosen by God for the purpose of delivering His people, Samson was meant to be raised as a Nazarite, consecrated and set apart. He had been born into the right family, raised in the right way, given the right diet and the right background – everything he needed to fulfill God’s purpose for his life, the same as we as Seventh-day Adventists have been called to be and do. And yet, he chose to please himself. We can see the purpose, the mission, the cause and calling of God for this deliverer of Israel. And we can see how he chose instead to do his own will. We also see that even in his attempts to please himself, God’s purpose through him would still be carried out, but it cost Samson everything.
Defeated by his insistence to do his own will rather than God’s, Samson finds himself blind, with his hair shorn and absolutely powerless, bound, ridiculed and abused by the very people he was meant to conquer, but had been determined to be a part of through marriage. He was overwhelmed by the humiliation and horror of his current situation brought about by his own choices and actions. His heart cried out in sorrow because his eyes could not, and in that cry he asked the very question that many of us may have asked or are asking, “Lord, how did I get here?”
Twenty years had passed since Samson married the young woman of Timnah and he had killed 1,000 Philistines. He had judged Israel during that time in relative peace. He was now a grown man, but the choices of his youth had left a telling mark on his life as he continued to seek to please himself.
In Judges 16:1 the Bible says, “Now Samson went to Gaza … .” Did he go to investigate and determine the Philistines’ weaknesses and how they could be brought down so that Israel could finally be free from their enemy? No, he went to Gaza “and saw a harlot and went in to her.”
We read in Patriarchs and Prophets, 564: “After his victory the Israelites made Samson judge, and he ruled Israel for twenty years. But one wrong step prepares the way for another. Samson had transgressed the command of God by taking a wife from the Philistines, and again he ventured among them – now his deadly enemies – in the indulgence of unlawful passion. Trusting to his great strength, which had inspired the Philistines with such terror, he went boldly to Gaza, to visit a harlot of that place.” We also read in The Desire of Ages, 126: “Only he who has true faith is secure against presumption. For presumption is Satan’s counterfeit of faith. Faith claims God’s promises, and brings forth fruit in obedience. Presumption also claims those promises, but uses them as Satan did, to excuse transgression. Faith would have led our first parents to trust the love of God, and to obey His commands. Presumption led them to transgress His law, believing that His great love would save them from the consequence of their sin. It is not faith that claims the favor of heaven without complying with the conditions on which mercy is to be granted. Genuine faith has its foundation in the promises and provisions of Scriptures.”
Presumption is living your life the way you choose to, assuming that you will be okay until you decide when to change. Samson was presumptuous, like many young people are today. Many Adventists believe they will make changes in their lives when they see the Sunday law being passed, delaying their commitment to their own loss.
Samson went to Gaza to commit fornication with a harlot. Fornication is the act of being physically intimate with someone who is not your husband or wife. Paul said, “Now the body is not for sexual immorality [fornication] but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. And God hath both raised up the Lord and will also raise us up by His power. Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a harlot? Certainly not! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a harlot is one body with her? For ‘the two,’ He says, ‘shall become one flesh.’ But he who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. … Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality [fornication] sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:13–20).
Fornication cheapens and objectifies the body, degrades you in the mind of the other person and sends a message that you have little self-value and are not worth committing to. Remember, however, that you have been bought with an extremely high price and your body belongs to God.
“When the Gazites were told, ‘Samson has come here!’ they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. They were quiet all night, saying, ‘In the morning, when it is daylight, we will kill him’ ” (Judges 16:2). The Philistines had been exposed to the Israelite culture and they knew that, as an Israelite, what Samson was doing was wrong. This gave them an opportunity to lay a trap for him by means of which he could have perished that day. However, “At midnight Samson was aroused. The accusing voice of conscience filled him with remorse, as he remembered that he had broken his vow as a Nazarite. But notwithstanding his sin, God’s mercy had not forsaken him. His prodigious strength again served to deliver him. Going to the city gate, he wrenched it from its place and carried it, with its posts and bars, to the top of a hill on the way to Hebron.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 565.
Samson’s narrow escape did not cause him to surrender his ungodly, pleasure-seeking ways. “Afterward it happened that he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah” (Judges 16:4). We are reminded in Ecclesiastes 8:11, “Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.”
“But even this narrow escape did not stay his evil course. He did not again venture among the Philistines, but he continued to seek those sensuous pleasures that were luring him to ruin. ‘He loved a woman in the valley of Sorek,’ not far from his own birthplace. Her name was Delilah, ‘the consumer.’ The vale of Sorek was celebrated for its vineyards; these also had a temptation for the wavering Nazarite, who had already indulged in the use of wine, thus breaking another tie that bound him to purity and to God. The Philistines kept a vigilant watch over the movements of their enemy, and when he degraded himself by this new attachment, they determined, through Delilah, to accomplish his ruin.” Ibid., 565.
How could Samson keep breaking the ties that bound him to God over and over again? But maybe an equally important question to ask is, how does this keep happening to us, over and over again?
The Philistines offered Delilah a great deal of wealth to find out how they might overcome Samson. With flattery and feigned caring, Delilah sought to ingratiate herself with Samson until finally she says in Judges 16:6, “ ‘Please tell me where your great strength lies, and with what you may be bound to afflict you.’ ” Though his actions may cause us to think that Samson must have been dull, he did in fact see through Delilah’s attempt to discover the secret of his strength. He determined to have some fun with her and the Philistines.
Beginning in Judges 16:7–16, we read of Delilah’s efforts to learn the secret of Samson’s strength. First he suggested that she bind him with “seven fresh bowstrings, not yet dried,” then that she bind him with “new ropes that had never been used.” Neither of these revealed his secret.
Interestingly, while Delilah was attempting to learn the secret of his strength, Samson was aware of her motive. He knew the Philistines were there. He wasn’t being duped, but he still determined to remain with her in spite of her treachery. He was so confident in his own abilities and in what God had done for him in the past that he had no fear. Although he had repeatedly violated his Nazarite vows, God had always come through for him, and he was not afraid of what these men could do to him.
Again, Delilah pleaded with Samson to tell her his secret. He suggested that she should “weave the seven locks of my head into the web of the loom.” Now he was getting closer to the truth regarding how his strength could be taken from him. Can this happen to us? We can live too close to the boundaries of right with the risk of going over.
Of course, we know that this did not reveal Samson’s secret. Delilah accused him, “ ‘How can you say, “I love you,” when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and have not told me where your great strength lies’ ” (verse 15). Then she pestered him day after day, begging him to tell her the secret of his strength “so that his soul was vexed to death” (verse 16).
After many days of enduring Delilah’s pleading and begging, the unthinkable happened. He told her the truth. “… he told her all his heart, and said to her, ‘No razor has ever come upon my head, for I have been a Nazarite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaven, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak, and be like any other man’ ” (verse 17). Looking at his life, Samson must have realized that he was not the person he was supposed to be and that he had violated almost every part of the vow he had taken. His tone and expression both must have shown the great disappointment he felt in himself and he finally revealed the truth.
“When Delilah saw that he had told her all his heart, she sent and called for the lords of the Philistines, saying, ‘Come up once more, for he has told me all his heart.’ So the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hand” (verse 18). They were so sure it would work this time that they brought Delilah’s payment with them.
The Bible contains some scary Scriptures: “The hour of His judgment has come” (Revelation 14:7–11), “I never knew you, depart from me …” (Matthew 7:21–23). I believe that Judges 16:20 should be included in that group of texts, “But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.” Though Delilah had cut his hair, Samson intended to escape as he had previously. Samson’s confidence was in himself, his own ability and strength, but he had stepped over the edge and God had left him.
Samson’s hair was a sign of his consecration to God and the seven locks represented completeness, the perfection of that commitment. They also represent the seventh-day Sabbath which is the sign of our commitment to God, as Seventh-day Adventists, in the last crisis. If you violate that belief, God will depart from you and you will be lost. There is a parallel in this story for us today.
Samson’s strength was gone. He was captured and bound. His eyes were burned out with hot metal rods. He was a prisoner of the Philistines.
Chained in the temple, listening as the Philistines sang the praises of their god Dagon, pelted with food, laughed at and mocked, Samson felt shame and humiliation. I want to suggest to you that he began to remember his faithful parents who did the best they could to direct him in the right path, his Nazarite vow, his consecration to God, his mission, his purpose, and how good God had been to him and that He would save to the uttermost. But he also remembered how he had completely disregarded all of it. His heart ached, but he could shed no tears. So he cried out to the Lord, “O Adonai Yahweh [Lord God], remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O Elohim [God], that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes” (Judges 16:28)!
God understands the cry of a penitent heart. Samson used the most personal name of God that he knew, he confessed that he had dishonored and rejected God, and he knew that God deserved better than what he had given Him, but he pleaded for help one more time.
Bracing himself against the pillars of the temple, Samson cried out, “Let me die with the Philistines” (verse 30, first part)! At that moment, Samson realized that the destroyer of the Philistines was exactly what God had called him to be from the beginning, and he finally accepted that call. God answered Samson’s prayer and when he pushed with all his might, the temple fell on all the lords and all the people.
All his life Samson had served himself. He now recognized that he did not deserve the favor of God, but he determined to obey the purpose that God had for his life. With the destruction of the temple, he brought down the pride, the lust, the oppression, the presumption of the Philistines, to honor God. The Bible says, “So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life.” This was such a devastating event that when Samson’s brothers came to take his body home for burial, not one Philistine tried to stop them.
“God’s promise that through Samson He would ‘begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines’ was fulfilled; but how dark and terrible the record of that life which might have been a praise to God and glory to the nation! Had Samson been true to his divine calling, the purpose of God could have been accomplished in his honor and exaltation. But he yielded to temptation and proved untrue to his trust, and his mission was fulfilled in defeat, bondage, and death.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 567.
So here is the question: After Samson delivered the crushing blow to the Philistines and became the very thing he first neglected, had he now been faithful to his calling? Do you believe that God forgave Samson? Do you believe He will forgive you?
Friends, it is not until we as Christians die to self that Christ can cause us to really live in Him. It is only when pride, selfishness, lust, and presumption have been removed from our lives that we can truly be used by God for His purpose. Maybe you haven’t lived the way you know the Lord wanted you to live. Or maybe you feel you’ve gone too far. Maybe you are a parent with a child who has left the faith for some reason. Maybe you are that child. You must remember that “He who began a good work in you” can and will perform it. The Bible says, “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13). This is the decision you have to make. God is merciful and loving and willing to forgive, but He will never force you to love Him or give your heart to Him. That is something you must be willing to do.
What a wonderful thought that God does not forget, nor does He easily give up on us. The essential point that we must consider is that there is a line that we can cross and it could be too late. We do not want to tempt God and be presumptuous regarding His love for us.
It may be that the experience of Samson is not your experience at all. Maybe you have been true to what you believe has been the purpose God has for your life and you want to remain committed to God. It is not necessary to abandon your faith or God’s calling and then come back to have a testimony. The person who follows God’s leading and stays the course has a powerful testimony to the strength and care of Jesus.
But, if you can identify with the experience of Samson and want to have a change in your life, if you want to follow the purpose and will of God, then you must commit your life to Him and ask Him to lead you. I believe that Samson said in his heart the words of Micah 7:8, 9: “Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise; when I sit in darkness, the Lord will be a light to me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him, until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me forth to the light; I will see His righteousness.”
God does not forsake a single one of His children. He has chosen each of us for a purpose and even if it is our choice to enjoy the pleasures of this world for a time, He is still able to fulfill His purposes, and may yet do so, through us. But don’t wait until it is too late.
Why have you chosen me,
Out of millions Your child to be.
You know all the wrong I have done.
O how could You pardon me,
Forgive my iniquity,
To save me gave Jesus Your Son.
But Lord help me be,
What You want me to be.
Your word I will strive to obey,
My life I now give for You I will live,
And walk by Your side all the way.
I am amazed to know,
That a God so great could love me so.
He’s willing and wanting to bless.
His grace is so wonderful,
His mercy so bountiful,
I can’t understand it I confess.
O Lord, help me to be
What You want me to be,
Your word I will strive to obey.
My heart and life I now give
For You, I will live
And walk by Your side all the way.
(Unless appearing in quoted references or otherwise identified, Bible texts are from the New King James Version.)
Pastor Damien Jenkins was raised in a non-religious home, but at the age of 18 was introduced to the Gospel and his life was forever changed. Today he is pastor of the Water of Life Free Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hohenwald, Tennessee. He enjoys apologetics, Bible history, expounding on the topic of righteousness by faith and making the Bible simple and easy to understand.