As Seventh-day Adventists, we could identify with Samson, in particular regarding young Seventh-day Adventists who have been raised in the Adventist faith and teachings, but who like Samson, have come to a point in their life where they have said, “That’s it. I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to live my life, I just want,” as Samson said, “to please myself well.” There are several reasons why this is happening:
- Turned off or hurt by the church
- They just decide to leave
- Trials, heartache, loss or trauma
None of these are a good reason to leave Jesus because He is true and faithful to us whether we are faithful to Him or not, but some people leave for one or a combination of these reasons.
“Had Samson obeyed the divine commands as faithfully as his parents had done, his would have been a nobler and happier destiny. But association with idolaters corrupted him. The town of Zorah being near the country of the Philistines, Samson came to mingle with them on friendly terms. Thus in his youth intimacies sprang up, the influence of which darkened his whole life. A young woman dwelling in the Philistine town of Timnath engaged Samson’s affections, and he determined to make her his wife. To his God-fearing parents, who endeavored to dissuade him from his purpose, his only answer was ‘She pleaseth me well’ (Judges 14:3, last part). The parents at last yielded to his wishes, and the marriage took place.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 562.
Some people say this is where Samson’s parents went wrong; they compromised. Telling his parents to arrange the marriage was merely a formality. Samson was a grown man. Had they said no, he would most probably still have done it. Samson’s parents simply recognized that they weren’t going to change his mind. This left the door open so that he could return if things didn’t turn out as planned. It is an example to us as well for our children, to return rather than being too embarrassed or afraid to seek us out at a time they need us most. We should tell them if we do not agree with their decision, but we need to recognize that it is their choice to make and yet be available should they need us. One thing we can be sure of, Samson’s parents did not stop praying for their son, and we also should continue to pray for our children, interceding with God on their behalf.
Ultimately our children have a mind and a conscience of their own. They have the liberty as free moral agents when they become adults to make their own decisions. As parents, we are not responsible for those decisions. When children begin to make their own decisions, to do their “own thing,” they are responsible for their own choices and their own lives. We are only responsible to confess and repent of our own shortcomings.
If a young person has left the church for any one or all of the five reasons listed above, we all need to know something about God: He does not give up. You can’t just simply ignore Him and His calling for your life, because He will leave no stone unturned until He has given you every opportunity to return. You can leave, you can please yourself, you can watch what you want, go where you want, wear what you want, marry who you want, but ultimately God will say to you, “Let’s try this one more time.” That is the God that we serve.
Samson’s parents were unable to change his mind. Then is stated one of the most interesting verses in the Bible. It says, “His father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel” (Judges 14:4 KJV).
As we look at this story in Judges 14 and 15, we find God’s people are in apostasy. As a result, God allows the enemy to overcome them. The children of Israel cry out to Him to save them, and God raises up a deliverer. Samson was a judge among the Israelites and was meant to be an example for the people. God had a mission laid out for him, a purpose to deliver the Israelites from the dominion of the Philistines, the enemies of God.
Every chapter in the book of Judges tells about a judge who had a mission, except for chapter 9 which tells us about Abimelech who was not a judge, but a usurper. Ehud, Othniel, Gideon, Deborah, and Jephthah each had a mission that they fulfilled. But in Judges 14 and 15 we find a judge who is called from birth with miraculous powers, in the spirit of God, a Nazarite consecrated to be the deliverer of God’s people. And what was his mission? To get married.
So looking at these two chapters, we will be looking at Samson’s life as it relates to Judges 14:4. Was Samson fulfilling God’s mission for him at this time? No. Does God want us to marry people who are not of our faith? No. So how could this be of the Lord?
The Bible tells us that God’s ways are not our ways. “ ‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. … So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it’ ” (Isaiah 55:8, 9, 11). So even if we blunder, God’s purposes will still be fulfilled.
Looking at Isaiah 55:11 from The Bible in Basic English (BBE) translation, it says, “So will My word be which goes out of My mouth: it will not come back to Me with nothing done, but it will give effect to My purpose, and do that for which I have sent it.” God’s purposes are not limited by you and me. He wants us to cooperate with Him and co-labor with Him, but even if we refuse, things will still work out according to His will.
We see clearly from Samson’s experience that we can be in line with God’s will and fulfill His purpose in cooperation with Him or we can indirectly be used by Him to fulfill His purpose. And this is where we find Samson. If you are a young person trying to live your own life and leave out the things that you learned as a young Adventist, this is the experience you will have.
“Then went Samson down, and his father and his mother, to Timnath, and came to the vineyards of Timnath: and, behold, a young lion roared against him. And the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him, and he rent him as he would have rent a kid, and he had nothing in his hand: but he told not his father or his mother what he had done” (Judges 14:5, 6 KJV).
There are some things that we need to stress here. First of all, Samson was walking alone through the vineyards having separated from his parents somewhere along the journey. According to the Nazarite vows he was not to have anything to do with wine, but here he is walking through the vineyard. Then he is attacked by a lion. The Bible says, “… your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8, last part). So we see Samson walking in a place where he should not be walking and then the lion appears, but notice how he overcomes the lion. The Spirit of the Lord came upon him and that is when he had the power. “ ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). In order to overcome temptation, even if on temptation’s ground, you need the Spirit of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us, “… but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Claim that promise when you fall into hard times. God is powerful and if you trust in Him, even in the worst circumstances, He can show you what He can do in your life, just as we see here.
Returning to the story, several months later Samson is on his way to Timnath to be married. He decides to stop at the vineyard to see what has happened to the lion he killed. The lion is now nothing but bones, but bees have made a hive in the bones and Samson scoops out some honey to eat and he took some to give to his parents. This lion is an unclean, dead thing and to touch it was a violation of his Nazarite vow. You will also recall that Samson had not told his parents that he had killed the lion. Samson repeatedly shows himself to be an intemperate man; though strong physically, he was morally weak.
Samson’s decision to marry the woman from Timnath was not a wise one. Remember, God’s instructions to Israel when they went into the promised land, “When the Lord your God brings you into the land which you go to possess, and has cast out many nations before you, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites … and when the Lord your God delivers them over to you, you shall conquer them and utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them nor show mercy to them. 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; so the anger of the Lord will be aroused against you and destroy you suddenly” (Deuteronomy 7:1–4).
There is a valid reason why the Bible tells us not to have close association with friends or family who are not interested in or who despise spiritual things. It says, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’ ” (1 Corinthians 15:33). How often do we surround ourselves with people who have no desire to know God, no desire for the Word believing that we will witness to them, but instead we are influenced by them, and our standard of holiness is lowered just like Samson? Booker T. Washington said, “Associate yourself with people of good quality, for it is better to be alone than to be in bad company.”
“At his marriage feast Samson was brought into familiar association with those who hated the God of Israel. Whoever voluntarily enters into such relations will feel it necessary to conform, to some degree, to the habits and customs of his companions. The time thus spent is worse than wasted. Thoughts are entertained and words are spoken that tend to break down the strongholds of principle and to weaken the citadel of the soul.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 563. This will happen to all of us. We are drawn to and influenced by the things arounds us. We are not strong enough to resist and very subtly, we become demoralized by those with whom we associate.
Associating with these Philistine fellows, Samson bragged showing them what an intelligent guy he was by giving them a riddle. If they were not able to answer the riddle, then they would have to give him some clothing, but if they were able to find the answer to the riddle, then he would give them the clothing. Here was the riddle:
“Out of the eater came something to eat, And out of the strong came something sweet” (Judges 14:14).
Of course, this riddle was about the lion Samson had killed and the honey in the lion’s bones, but the Philistines were unable to figure it out. Not wanting to lose, they demanded Samson’s new wife to find out the answer to the riddle or they would kill her and her family. She begged Samson to tell her the answer, but he refused. Becoming very insistent because she had been threatened, she 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’ ” (Judges 14:16). Samson told her that he had not even told his parents, so why would he tell her? But, “Now she had wept on him for seven days while the feast lasted. And it happened on the seventh day [because he had no peace] that he told her, because she pressed him so much. Then she explained the riddle to the sons of her people” (Judges 14:17). Then the Philistines came to him with the answer to the riddle. “And he said to them: ‘If you had not plowed with my heifer, you would have not solved my riddle’ ” (Judges 14:18, last part)!
So what is all this really about? Let’s think about it: Samson was a Nazarite, a judge, from birth given a special mission or purpose by God to deliver the Israelites out of the hands of His enemies, the Philistines, but what was Samson doing? He was associating with the enemy, taking a wife from among them. At that moment he had no interest at all in God’s plan. He associated with the enemy, he gave them a riddle, made a bet with them and then felt betrayed when they did wrong to him. Then, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon him, and he went down to Ashkelon, and slew thirty men of them, and took their spoil, and gave change of garments unto them which expounded the riddle. And his anger was kindled, and he went up to his father’s house” (Judges 14:19 KJV). This is the first mention of Samson doing anything against the Philistines and what was his reason? He had to pay a debt. He felt betrayed, he was angry, so he killed 30 men from Ashkelon to give their clothes as payment for the debt and went home.
Time passed and Samson determined to see his wife again. But her father, believing that Samson had completely forsaken her, gave her as wife to Samson’s friend and offered him her younger sister. His response is found in Judges 15:3–5 KJV: “Samson said concerning them, Now shall I be more blameless than the Philistines, though I do them a displeasure [or hurt]. And Samson went and caught three hundred foxes, and took firebrands, and turned tail to tail, and put a firebrand in the midst between the two tails. And when he had set the brands on fire, he let them go into the standing corn of the Philistines, and burnt up both the shocks, and also the standing corn, with the vineyards and olives.”
This was an agricultural society and losing the corn in the fields, the vineyards and olives might not mean a lot to us today, but that is how people then survived. By Samson’s actions, their livelihood is ruined. We do not know how many people may have died from famine because of what Samson had done.
So, let’s take a closer look at why Samson did this. The father of Samson’s wife had given her to another man because Samson had left and the father thought he would not be coming back. Samson left because he felt betrayed when his wife had pressured him to give her the answer to the riddle when her life and the lives of her family were being threatened. But ultimately, if Samson had not chosen to befriend the Philistines and marry a Philistine woman, none of this would have happened in the first place. So who was really to blame for this and all the terrible consequences?
The Philistines, realizing that Samson was responsible for the destruction because his wife had been given to another man, went where the woman and her father were and burned the whole house down killing them inside. “And Samson said unto them, ‘Though ye have done this, yet will I be avenged of you, and after that I will cease.’ And he smote them hip and thigh with a great slaughter: and he went down and dwelt in the top of the rock Etam” (Judges 15:7, 8 KJV).
Do we see Samson consulting with God before he does any of these things? Has he asked as David did when he said, “Lord, shall I go up, shall I not go up. Shall I forebear?” No. He killed 30 men in Ashkelon, then he destroyed the crops and the economy of one of the Philistine cities which would result in many deaths and killed a great number of people. As a result, his wife and her family are horrifically killed by her own people. So what are we seeing here? Samson was not thinking of God at all. His sole desire was to please himself and seek revenge for the slights and betrayals that he had suffered. Yet, he was indirectly fulfilling God’s mission for him as the deliverer of Israel.
By this time the Philistines were really upset and they went down to Judah to find him. They told the people of Judah, “ ‘We have come up to arrest Samson, to do to him as he has done to us’ ” (Judges 15:9, 10, last part). How did the people of Israel respond? Three thousand of Samson’s own people came to him at Etam and said, “ ‘Do you not know that the Philistines rule over us? What is this you have done to us?’ … ‘We have come down to arrest you, that we may deliver you into the hand of the Philistines’ ” (Judges 15:11, 12). Not wanting to harm his own people, he allowed them to take him as long as they swore not to kill him themselves. They bound him with two new ropes and took him to the Philistines.
We need to understand from Samson’s story that if God has a purpose for your life, you cannot escape it. Samson’s whole issue at this point was “ ‘As they did to me, so I have done to them’ ” (verse 11). Is there anything about the Lord here on his mind? No. That’s the reason he was in this situation. He wasn’t interested in doing God’s will, he just wanted to please himself. Even still, God’s will was fulfilled.
The Bible then says in Judges 15:14, “The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him; and the ropes that were on his arms became like flax that is burned with fire, and his bonds broke loose from his hands.” Samson took the jawbone of a donkey and again takes revenge on the Philistines killing a thousand men. “Then Samson said: ‘With the jawbone of a donkey, heaps upon heaps, with the jawbone of a donkey I have slain a thousand men!’ And so it was, when he had finished speaking, that he threw the jawbone from his hand, and called that place Ramath Lehi” (Judges 15:16, 17). Samson gave himself the glory for what he had done.
So what happened to finally make Samson see that he was not in control of his life? Verse 18, first part, says, “Then he became very thirsty, so he cried out to the Lord.” For the first time in this entire story that you see Samson call on the Lord. Continuing in verse 18, “ ‘You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant; and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?’ ” Samson still sounded a bit arrogant, but God knew his heart and answered his prayer, cleaving a hollow place so that water would come gushing out (verse 19). Without water, Samson would have died. He thought he was so mighty and strong, but he realized he had a need. When he called on God, God filled that need. After he drank his fill, he renamed the place where he had killed all the Philistines from Ramath Lehi (the lifting up of the jawbone) to En Hakkore (fountain of one calling).
As the dust settled, the screaming stopped, the clanking of armor died down and the survivors had all run away, Samson looked around and realized that the very thing he had been running from had found him anyway and everything he had wanted, he had lost. He had been running for so long and finally he realized the very thing he had wanted nothing to do with was the one thing he couldn’t get away from – the purpose God had for his life.
Friends, if you have fallen off the path, given up, or felt like you have no purpose anymore because of compromise, legalism, apostasy in your church, or because you wanted to see what the world was like, or because of trial or trauma, you will finally realize that the Lord’s way is always better. His purpose for you is for you to love Him with all your heart, soul and mind, to love your neighbor as yourself and to go home with Him. That is His purpose for all of us.
Jesus, I love You and I want to be Your child,
but for now I’m busy, will You come back in a while.
I’m sorry, Lord, but for now I have other things to do.
It’s just in the plans I’ve made, I’ve made no time for You.
How many times have you pushed the Lord aside
to make room for your foolish, earthly pride?
Time and time, God waits for you to open up to Him,
but instead of giving Him our hearts, we cast Him out again.
Jesus, I’m sorry, Lord, for the way that I have been.
Pushing you aside for things that always seem to win.
Now my eyes are open, Lord, and I can see Your light
shining on my pathway to eternal life.
His desire is to save us, and He will not leave one stone unturned until He has given us every opportunity to make that decision.
(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.