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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:The LORD takes His Spirit from Israel's deliverer
Text:Judges 16:20b (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Self Control
 
Preached:2014-21-14
Added:2015-04-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

2010 Book of Praise

Bible Translation:  NKJV

 

Psalm 86:1,4

Psalm 51:4

Psalm 101:1,2,3,6

Psalm 141:1,2,3,4

Psalm 70:2

 

Read:  Judges 16:1-22.

Text:  Judges 16:20b

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

These must be among the saddest words of the whole Bible:

“But he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.”

As Samson slept, lying on Delilah’s lap, a barber had come in, snipped off his hair . . . and the LORD had departed from him.

And Samson did not know it.  Oh, he soon found out alright, but when Delilah woke him up by shouting that the Philistines were upon him, Samson had said,

“I will go out as before, at other times, and shake myself free!”

But he said that in ignorance, for he did not know that the LORD had departed from him.

Up until this time the LORD had been with Samson in a special way.  Before Samson was even conceived the LORD had marked him as a Nazarite, one set apart or consecrated to the LORD.  And from an early age the Spirit of the LORD was upon him so that he might be empowered to begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines.  Empowered by the Spirit of the LORD, he had torn apart a lion, had killed thirty Philistines, then many more and then a thousand with the jawbone of a donkey.  Empowered by the Spirit of the LORD, Samson had even pulled up the city gates of Gaza and carried them on his back all the way to a hill outside of Hebron.  But now the LORD had left him.  Now Samson the Bold, Samson the Strong, Samson the Terrible had woken up to discover that he had become weak, that he was like any other man.  Now Samson knew what it was like to be defeated, to be blinded, to be shackled and subdued, to be imprisoned in Gaza and grinding grain for the enemy. 

And that was sad.  But Samson losing his eyesight and losing his freedom was not what made it so sad:  what made it so sad was what it says in our text: 

“But Samson did not know that the LORD had departed from him.”

These words – that the LORD had left him – would be terrible words for any of us to hear.  It would be horrible to be forsaken by the LORD.  It would be terrible to experience not His kindness but His wrath.  And it will be unimaginable horror to hear those words on the Great Day of the Lord,

“Depart from Me, for I never knew you.”

But what makes it so sad in the case of Samson is that Samson had been chosen by God for a purpose!  Samson had been consecrated to begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.  But now the LORD had departed from him.  Now Israel had lost their judge.  Now Israel had lost their deliverer.

And that is why these are such sad words.  Sad words for Samson but even more, sad words for God’s people Israel. 

But perhaps not.  Perhaps these are not the saddest words in the Bible in every respect.  For what if the LORD had not departed from him?  What if the LORD had continued to give Samson super-human strength even when Samson had denied his status as a Nazarite, yes, denied his position as a covenant child of God to the very end?  What would that have meant for Samson eternally?  What would that have meant for Samson’s witness to the Philistines?  What would that have meant for Israel?  And what would that have meant for the justice and the truth of God?  Samson was punished and he suffered the consequences of the LORD departing from him, but the LORD was not yet done with him, the LORD was not yet done with the Philistines and the LORD was not yet done with His people Israel.  Even as He took His Holy Spirit from Israel’s deliverer, the LORD would remember His people in His mercy.

  This morning I wish to preach to you the following message from Judges 16:

The LORD takes His Spirit from Israel’s deliverer.

  1. Samson’s folly.
  2. Samson’s fall.

1. Samson’s folly.

Everyone, they say, has his Achilles heel.  Everyone has his weak spot, a place where he was most vulnerable.  Everyone.  Even, the Philistines, hoped, Samson.

The term “Achilles heel” comes to us from Greek mythology, from a story about a powerful warrior whose name was Achilles.  When Achilles was a baby, the story goes, his mother took him to the river Styx, a river that separates the land of the living from the land of the dead.  There she took her son by the heel and dipped him into the river.  And wherever the water of the River Styx touched Achilles, he became immortal, unable to die.  Achilles would be the greatest warrior that ever lived, for he could never die!

  But Achilles’ mother made one mistake:  when she plunged her son into the river, she held him by the left heel.  And that left heel never touched the magical waters of the River Styx.  And that would prove to be his undoing.  In the final battle of the Trojan war, as Troy was being sacked and burned, Achilles was shot in his left heel with a poisoned arrow, and so he died.

But did Samson have an Achilles heel?  Did Samson have a chink in his armor, a place of vulnerability?  The Philistines certainly hoped so – and they were prepared to pay Delilah handsomely if she could find it out.

The Philistines could not understand it.  Here was Samson:  he looked the same as everyone else, but he was not like other men.  Samson was strong – so strong that he was invincible.  Whether he was attacked by ten men, a hundred or even a thousand, Samson would kill them all.  This was not normal: it must be magic, they thought.  There must be a secret to his great strength – and if they had control over that secret, then they would have control over him.  And so the five rulers of the Philistines went to Delilah, Samson’s lover, and said to her

“Entice him, and find out where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to afflict him; and every one of us will give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.”  (Judges 16:5)

And so Delilah went to Samson and she said to him,

“Please tell me where your great strength lies, and with what you may be bound to afflict you.”  (Judges 16:6)

It is a crazy picture:  here is Samson, an Israelite, a man of God, a Nazarite, set apart unto God to begin to deliver Israel from the hand of the Philistines, lying in the embrace of a woman of the Philistines, staring into her eyes as she asks him with all the deceptive charm that she can muster,

“Tell me, Samson: what is it that makes you so strong?”

Samson knew the answer – and it was not his hair.  Samson knew – he had confessed it in Judges 15:18 – that of himself he was just like any other man.  But Samson had been set apart by the LORD, had been made strong to harass the Philistines.  What Samson should have said – or at least understood – was this:

“It is not I who makes me strong, but it is the One who dwells within me.  It is not I who has the power to defeat a thousand men but the God who made me.  It is not I who should be feared but the LORD God of Israel!”

And so Samson could have said,

“Separate me from my God and then I shall become weak, like any other man.”

But Samson did not say that.  He seemed to like this new game that his lover, Delilah, had made up.  He seemed to like the risky, daring nature of it, giving himself over to be subdued by the woman he loved, pretending to be vulnerable, weak in her arms, but then turning the tables and showing himself to be as strong and mighty as ever.  Samson was playing a game, but it was not with Delilah: it was with the devil himself.

For the devil knew the secret to Samson’s strength.  The devil knew that if he could separate Samson from his God, he could separate Samson from his strength.  And even more, by getting rid of Samson, he could once more focus on separating Israel from their God.  And the devil believed that Samson’s Achilles heel was women.  Foreign women.  Philistine women.

The devil thought he would have success in the past, when Samson had gone to Timnah to marry a girl.  That time he had failed, many Philistines were killed, their crops destroyed, and a wedge had been driven between the people of Israel and the heathen Philistines.  However where the devil had not failed was to zero in on Samson’s sinful weakness.  Samson, who was strong enough to resist all the men of the Philistines, attacking and even killing them at will, had a weakness for their women.  He lusted after various women of the Philistines, and what he saw he wanted to take. 

The Bible warns against this sin of lust over and over again.  It was not just that the LORD warned His people from marrying heathen women: he called His people, both men and women, to sexual purity.  Warning his sons against the adulterous woman, Proverbs 5:7-9 urges them, saying,

“Therefore hear me now, my children, and do not depart from the words of my mouth.  Remove your way far form her, and do not go near the door of her house.”

Stay away!  Beware!  For, as Proverbs 5:5 says,

“Her feet go down to death, her steps lay hold of hell.”

Despite the fact that the book of Proverbs had not yet been written, Samson should have known that.  Samson should have realized the danger he was placing himself in when he went over to the Philistine cities for his wandering eye to take in the sights, to look over their women.  For by turning to these women, Samson turned away from His own people and he turned away from his God.  And by doing so he turned away from his calling to be a Nazarite, one set apart unto God to begin to deliver God’s people from the Philistines.

But sin has a habit of blinding us, and sexual sin blinds many.  How many lives have been destroyed, how many marriages torn apart, yes even how many ministries and churches have been severely damaged because of sexual sin?  “Flee sexual immorality!” the Bible thunders in 1 Corinthians 6:18.  Be afraid of what it will do to you and run away from it.

Samson did not run away.  Samson thought he was the man.  Samson thought he could play this game, and Samson thought that he could win. 

And for a while it may have seemed that he  could win. And indeed, he seemed to win in Gaza!  In Judges 16:1 it says,

“Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her.”

Samson went to Gaza – perhaps for a good reason – and while he was there, he saw a woman, a harlot and he decided to spend the night at her house.  Samson had forgotten or denied who he was.  Samson had forgotten or chosen to deny that he was a child of God, in covenant with Him.  Samson had forgotten or chosen to deny that he was a Nazarite, set apart, holy to the LORD, to serve Him.

But the men of Gaza did not forget who Samson was, and so they took action.  Assuming that Samson would stay for the night, they closed the city gates, barred them, and quietly waited until morning when they would kill him.  But Samson did not wait.  In the middle of the night, he got up, went to the gates of the city, pulled them up, bar and all, put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.  He carried these gates, on his back, for sixty kilometers before depositing them on top of a hill for all Israel to see.  And while this was a message to both Israel and the Philistines that all the power and the might of the Philistines was as nothing before the LORD and His servants, for Samson himself this should have been a wake-up call.  Samson had not spent the night in Gaza in obedience to the LORD, nor was he there as judge and as Nazarite, but Samson was there for himself, to fulfill his own selfish and sinful desires. 

And there we see Samson’s folly.  Samson thought that what he did in his private life had nothing to do with his public office, with his calling to be a Nazarite unto God.  Samson thinks that he can hold on to the Holy Spirit’s power in his office, his official calling as a Nazarite, but grieve that same Spirit by deliberate disobedience and unholiness in his personal life.  Samson thinks that he can be Israel’s deliverer and live in sexual sin at the same time. 

But really, what Samson was doing was what Israel as a whole was doing.  The people of Israel knew that they were God’s children, the people of His covenant.  They knew that they were to serve Him, to love Him with all their heart, with all their soul and with all their mind.  But Israel did not do that:  Israel turned away from their God to play the harlot with the gods of the nations around them.  Israel thought that they could play with sin and win.

And sometimes we do too.  Sometimes we also forget the warning of Scripture: “If anyone thinks he stands, let him take heed lest he fall.”  Sometimes it is as though God’s people also think that we play with sin, walk along its edge, dabble in it here or there and get away with it.  But when you walk along the edge, you will fall off.  And when you fall, you will often fall hard.

Samson’s folly was his pride.  Samson thought that he was the man and Samson thought that nothing could touch him, that he could live and do as he pleased and never face the consequences.  And in that sense we can be warned by what happened to Samson.  For if you are on that road, treading down that dangerous path, then watch out, repent and turn around! 

2. Samson’s Fall.

But Samson did not repent, nor did he turn around just yet.  From Gaza he went to the Valley of Sorek.  And there he met and loved a woman, Delilah.  Perhaps Samson still knew that what he was doing was sin.  Perhaps the words of his parents when they warned him from seeing the girl in Timnah were still ringing in his ears.  But if they were, Samson blocked them out.  He thought he loved Delilah and although he was not married to her, he went back and saw her again and again.  And every time he saw her, Samson fell a little more.  Until Delilah – and Satan himself – had Samson just where she wanted him: asleep on her lap with a barber and his scissors close at hand. 

“Samson,” she had coaxed him, “Please tell me where your great strength lies.”  Samson did not tell her right away, but she got it out of him, bit by bit.  First, by getting Samson to play her game.   Verse 7 –

“If they bind me with seven fresh bow strings, not yet dried, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”

Verse 11 –

“If they bind me securely with new ropes that have never been used, then I shall become weak, and be like any other man.”

Verse 13 –

“If you weave the seven locks of my head into the web of the loom” –

Be careful, Samson!  This game is getting dangerous!

And then verse 17.  Vexed to death and worn down by Delilah’s constant demands to have him tell her the secret of his strength, Samson 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.”

And then Delilah knew that she had won.  She had discovered, she believed, his Achilles heel.  And lulling him to sleep on her knees, she called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his head.  And then she began to torment him . . . and his strength left him.  His strength left him – not because the secret to his strength lay in his hair – but because his long hair was the sign that he was a Nazarite, set apart unto the LORD!  When Samson told Delilah who he was and why he had such strength, he had, by that act, given himself over not just to Delilah but to the Philistine enemy.  Samson had forsaken his calling to harass Israel’s enemy, he had abused his great strength to fulfill the sinful lusts of his own heart, he had scorned his Nazarite calling, and therefore the LORD left Him.  The LORD removed His Holy Spirit from him, just as He would later do to King Saul, and so Samson lost his great strength.

Samson had to learn that you can not play with God, nor can you play with His calling on you.  Samson’s strength had not been given to him unconditionally for him to use and abuse for his own sinful pleasure.  Samson had abandoned his Nazarite calling.  Samson had departed from the LORD.  And now the LORD had departed from him.

Samson fell, and Samson fell hard.  And with his eyes gouged out and his feet bound in bronze fetters, he was taken to Gaza a prisoner to grind their grain.  And with Samson’s fall came not just the fall of a man, but the fall of Israel’s deliverer!  The very person whom God had set apart and equipped to begin to deliver Israel from the Philistines, gave himself over to those whom he was called to destroy.  As a judge, Samson had failed.  Samson would not be and could not be the one to fully deliver Israel from the enemy.  And so Samson points away from himself, away from all the Old Testament judges, and calls for Another, for a true Deliverer to come to God’s people.  Samson’s fall cries out for the Christ, for the One who was faithful in both His private life and in His official calling as the great Deliverer for God’s people.  Samson’s fall cries out for the Christ who perfectly gave His whole life – even unto death – for the salvation of His people.

But God is not finished with Samson.  Although Samson was blinded and in prison, verse 22 gives us a glimmer of hope.

“However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven.”

When all seemed lost and when Samson had come to the end of himself, the Bible provides us with this ray of hope:  “However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven.”  It was not the hair that was so important, for it was not his hair that had given Samson his strength.  But with his hair coming back, Samson becomes conscious once more of who he was:  An Israelite, a child of God, set apart from birth to be a Nazarite unto God. 

  And since his name is listed in Hebrews chapter 11 as a man of faith, we can be confident that now that Samson was blind, he was beginning to see!  Samson could not see his hand in front of his face, but he could see that he had made a mess of his life, that he had fallen and he had failed in the calling to deliver Israel from their enemies.  And so Samson would have humbled himself before the LORD, and convicted of his sin he would have begged for mercy.  “Oh LORD, forgive me!  God have mercy on me, a sinner!”

And the LORD did forgive Samson.  And the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaven.

And there we see God’s grace and His mercy for those who repent and turn back to Him.  Samson had fallen, his hair was shaved and the LORD departed from him.  But when Samson repented, the LORD would forgive, He would heal and He would restore.

And that is God’s promise to you and to me too.  For God who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, will take those who turn to Him in sorrow and repentance and He will forgive.  He will do so because after Samson, He sent another Deliverer, the True Deliverer of His people, Jesus Christ.  And Jesus Christ was faithful in all things.  He was perfect in all things.  He came to take our sin and our wrongdoing upon Himself so that He might take His perfect work and place it on us. 

And so when we have given in to the folly of sin and when we have fallen, even fallen heavily, what are we to do?  Let us repent!  Let us humble ourselves before God.  Turn to Him and cry out to Him who alone can save.  And let us pray, “Lord have mercy on me, a sinner!”  And as we earnestly and truly cry out to God in this way, let us look not just at ourselves and the mess that our lives are in, but look to Jesus, the One who came to saves us from our sin.  For He will save.  He will heal.  He will forgive.  And He will never leave you.  He will never forsake you.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2014, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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