- Jeff Hay
What Are You Living For? (Sermon)
Updated: Apr 21, 2020
Who was the funniest man in the bible? Samson, he brought the whole house down!! Apologies for that, but we’re onto the more familiar part of Samson that involves him bringing the house down. But, is Samson a wonderful hero or not? Let’s take a look, and remember the context of these events - that Israel is still under Philistine rule. Well, how does he begin?
Judges 16:1-3 (NIV): Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, “Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him.” But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron.
Well, what do we make of Samson? He went to Gaza, which is Philistine territory and he SAW a prostitute, remember this repeated emphasis, in chapter 14v1-3 he saw this girl, he seen her, she was right in his eyes. Once again we’re told He SAW a prostitute! He went in to her – so he had sex with her. The last time he saw a lady, he wanted her to be his wife but here in chapter 16 he just goes to a Prostitute! He just wants the pleasure of a woman!
Now the Philistines thought they could capture this great leader and would get him in the morning, but Samson has no problem leaving a woman in the middle of the night to save his own skin. So, since Samson’s got what he went in for, he then -looking out for himself- ups and leaves, using his great strength to escape in the middle of the night. He lifts the city gate and carries it approximately some 40 miles. Once again, this is supernatural strength! What we notice about Samson is that he may be strong enough to lift city gates a considerable distance, but he’s not strong enough to withstand women! He’s strong but he’s actually weak! His weakness is with his eyes – lusting with his eyes – which eventually leads to him acting out upon it!
But who is Samson acting like? What we see is that Samson is acting like the Israelites in the whole of the book of Judges! The corporate sins of Israel are seen in this one individual Judge Samson! Because even in Judges chapter 2 where a summary of the book is given, Israel is said to have prostituted themselves to other gods. In worshipping and bowing down and giving themselves to other gods, they were prostituting themselves – just like Samson the individual here! Michael Wilcock helpfully puts it, regarding Samson, ‘When he is not saving Israel – he is being Israel.’ And Samson is representing Israel at this moment and time. And the New Testament makes clear that we are to learn the lessons from Israel. We’re like them in how we fall and therefore we’re also like Samson. And Samson had a weakness – a weakness for women, a sexual desire that he gave in to and it all started with his eyes
Living for Lust
Sexual purity was not a concern for Samson, nor was it for Israel, nor is it for us in our society. Society around us celebrates just hooking up! Ed Sheeran’s song ‘Shape of you’ has lyrics that all express – I’m in love with your body. This is not love this is lust! You see God has a standard for sex as something wonderful, good and glorious when it’s in the beautiful context of marriage and this is God’s good design, for very, very good reasons. When that is abused and exploited, ruin happens! Nowadays, in our culture, the boundaries are gone. The Bible clearly teaches that we shouldn’t engage in sex before marriage and it sounds outrageous to those who aren’t Christians –crazy – we’re weird, lunatics. And yet to hold to that is to be very different!
But the Bible says even more than that, it teaches us in Ephesians, ‘let there not be even a hint of sexual immorality’ - that means no sexual activity outside of marriage. Any sexual activity that is not in the context of marriage is a sin and should be avoided. Arousal is getting the engines going in a flying jaguar but only having the breaks of a bicycle! You can’t stop it!
I’ve heard Christians say, ‘listen you can’t expect teenagers to not experiment nowadays.’ I’m afraid, I disagree – if he or she is a Christian who wants to follow Jesus, he or she can strive for purity. I’ve also never met a committed Christian who says I regret resisting, waiting. I wished I’d experimented more, and yet there are numerous people who say ‘I regret doing what I did,’ or ‘I wish I hadn’t done it,’ ‘I didn’t realise it was so wrong,’ or ‘I thought it would just be a bit of fun but I didn’t realise the consequences.’ God’s commands are for our good! Let’s be clear God created sex, God designed it to be a good and God commanded it but it’s for marriage.
Beware of the lies we find easy to believe regarding sex. If you’re not married don’t start engaging in sexual activity – don’t even start the trajectory towards it. When you’re single the devil tempts you to go on, “sure it’s ok, it’s not that wrong” and tempts you. When you’re married, it’s the opposite. The temptation could be to say it’s not important, and neglecting sex in marriage leads to trouble also.
But Samson was living for lust! And it started with his eyes – we easily do the same. Lust is so easy now with the easy access of pornography. Due to statistics out there, due to understanding our sinful nature, I know there are people struggling in this room with pornography – that will be girls and guys by the way – there’s a growing number of girls, not as high a number, but there are plenty of girls and guys who struggle in this area.
And people will be at different levels. Some of you may dabble in it now and then and some who are controlled by it and are trapped! And we think it’s doing no one any harm. Yet it’s a serious thing, you’re feeding that industry, feeding things like human trafficking, and you are harming yourself too. It’s not just you and a screen!
People don’t realise how it affects people, affects real intimacy, marriages nowadays. You are sinning against God by giving in to your eyes, but you’re also sinning against your partner if you’re married. If you’re single, you’re sinning against your possible future partner also and causing damage that could have long term affects! Unrealistic expectations etc. Don’t believe the lies. It’s like getting on an express train that you get on, gain speed and before you know it, it’s too late and you’re on collision course for tragedy – in your own life now, or in the future!
And the real problem is, you like it, there’s some excitement to the sin, but then the misery kicks in afterwards. If you’re a Christian you say to yourself probably, I’ll not do that again, but then you want to give in, because you need that fix again, and that’s sounds very like an addiction – that’s worshipping something other than Jesus.
What’s the remedy? Ultimately, only the gospel of Christ – his love – his redeeming love that can change you; and yet there are things we can do to starve those sinful desires and feed godly desires. We must safeguard ourselves, for our own good!
Firstly, if you’re in that rut, in a problem...
(a) Cry out to God for help – We’re weak people!
(b) Cry out to others - Be accountable!
That is a humbling thing to do but it’s necessary, and I’d encourage you to speak with someone you trust. Also, you need to tell your spouse and be specific. It’s one thing to admit to a group – yes, I struggle with lust – but name it to someone and ask them to be accountable! You Can’t be a lone ranger Christian – share the struggle! If someone is battling and not willing to share, that’s a worry! It won’t bring about change, whatever that is – pornography, anger, throwing a temper, if you’re not willing to share your struggle. It might be that deep down you aren’t humble enough to want to change and that’s a worry!
(c) Also, you need to starve the desires that might cause temptation
Don’t watch tv late at night, don’t be on the internet on your own – very difficult – it’s at fingertip! But we have got to see the danger of this sin, and talk about it because it’s here, it’s a problem, it’s in the Church, and it is causing havoc to marriages.
Can I ask you to ask for help if you’re in that struggle? And you’ll be surprised that more struggle with this than you realise. And we need to realise that we’re all sexual sinners and that we should be allowed to safely say what we struggle with without being condemned, and yet that doesn’t mean it’s condoned either! Even though Samson was strong, he was weak! Living for Lust.
His weakness is also seen in the next episode with Delilah! What happens? Look at verse 4.
Judges 16:4 (NIV): After this he loved a woman in the Valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.
Again, we assume she was a Philistine as he’s in Philistine territory and this time we see he falls in love. It doesn’t say he marries her, he just falls in love with Delilah.
What sort of women is she? Well, the Philistines rulers think they know her a bit for verse 5 says:
Judges 16:5 (NIV): And the lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, “Seduce him, and see where his great strength lies, and by what means we may overpower him, that we may bind him to humble him. And we will each give you 1,100 pieces of silver.”
So what was she like? Well as the story unfolds, we realise she is someone who wants money, but also with the leaders involved, she could get fame and status perhaps also. And so, Delilah sets out to get to the secret of Samson’s great strength. By the way, we may have image of Samson as this muscle bound guy, Arnold Schwarzenegger esque figure, built a bit like me. But perhaps he isn’t that picture or image we have at all. The people realise there’s a secret to his strength – they think magical powers, so maybe he didn’t look big at all because they knew it wasn’t natural! So, they ask Delilah for the secret and she enters into this episode of asking Samson for the secret – what’s the secret of your strength?
And we read those few episodes where he suggests tie me up with fresh thongs and I’ll lose strength, but when she says he’s being attacked he snaps them. Delilah says – you’ve made a fool of me! Same thing happens again with ropes, and he just snaps the ropes and then in verse 13-14 – we read he suggests tying his hair in braids – and he pulls himself out of that also! I’m sort of thinking by this stage Samson aren’t you seeing a bit of a flaw in Delilah. She’s trying to catch you out and you’re still with her, don’t you see what she’s doing – but maybe Samson knows what she is doing – perhaps he loves the adrenaline high!! So, then Delilah pulls the trump card in verse 15.
Judges 16:15 (NIV): And she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you’, when your heart is not with me? You have mocked me these three times, and you have not told me where your great strength lies.”
You can imagine the scene, she’s there stroking him – his tiny little biceps, or perhaps big biceps, and going – Samson, now Samson– if you really love me? If you really love me, you’ll tell me. She’ll be going – I can’t be completely open and intimate with you, if you don’t even trust me, and with continued smooth talking until eventually nagging day after day it says in verse 17,
Judges 16:17 (NIV): And he told her all his heart, and said to her, “A razor has never come upon my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother's womb. If my head is shaved, then my strength will leave me, and I shall become weak and be like any other man.”
And we knew it, we knew he’d give in. We’ve seen his weakness for women before when his wife had pulled out the ‘if you love me card.’ And Eventually he gave in!! And what happened? Well Delilah then probably expressed her love to Samson and he falls asleep on her lap and she manages to get a man to shave of his head whilst he was sleeping. He was well out for the count and then verse 20 happens – and it’s a tragic verse
Judges 16:20-21 (NIV): And she said, “The Philistines are upon you, Samson!” And he awoke from his sleep and said, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison.
Why was the secret of his strength in his hair? Well, he’d said it was because he was a Nazirite from birth but he’d already broken a Nazirite vow – the three rules were – no wine, no touching dead bodies and no cutting hair. Samson had broken two of these vows before and he actually thought in verse 20 he’d still be strong. Perhaps presuming, ‘oh God will strengthen me anyway’ but not this time, for God had a plan. Or perhaps his strength left this time because he had already broken the other two vows and this was the last one of the laws, the final straw as it where – we can’t really be sure! But In any case, his strength left him. Why? Because as verse 20 says the Lord had left him. How had Samson failed this time? This time instead of pure raw lust being the problem and living for lust, the text is emphasising living for love here!
Verse 4 – he loved this woman, And verse 15 – how can you say I love you. Samson’s weakness was living for the love of Delilah!
Living for Love
He was living for her approval! And as we have seen Samson is like Israel – and we’re like Israel – and we are just as guilty as living for love, for other people’s approval more than God’s. I’ve found the number one reason why people fall away from following the Lord is due to relationships. They fall in love with someone they shouldn’t have. I’ve seen it time and time again, unfortunately. They were living for love, instead of living for the Lord. We’re again bombarded by our culture that ‘all you need is love, all you need is love’. Or another old song - I can’t live if living is without you!
Yes humans are made for relationships – that’s a good thing – but it can become too important, if you say all you need is love – or you can’t live if living is without you. Living for love might mean you constantly crave after a relationship and are never happy unless you are in one - so you leave one relationship and are not happy until you enter another one. Or living for love means entering into a relationship with someone you shouldn’t, who isn’t a Christian!
Living for love might mean you will do things in that relationship that you know are wrong and let that person take advantage of you physically –but you let it go on, because you don’t want to lose the approval of who you are with – you’re living for love, not the Lord! It’s in slavery to love. Even in marriage we can live for the love of the spouse, and you crush them with your demands and expectations that they can’t meet – only Christ can satisfy! How can we get past this? We need to realise that what matters is not what that man or woman thinks of me but of what God thinks and realise what Christ has done and his love.
When we hold on to that, we’re are free to make wise choices, set good boundaries, to not commit to early. And as you seek to serve Christ first, you’ll then be enabled to love someone not just for your own benefits. The result will be that you’ll be a more beautiful person as you reflect Christ more!
But finally, we come to the final scene and I have to admit, I do love the line of verse 22:
Judges 16:22 (NIV): But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.
Why is that included? We should know – yes - hair grows back – well that normally does is in most cases! But seriously, the Philistines realised the secret but they just let it grow again. Why? They were blind. Samson wasn’t the only one who was blind. Interestingly his eyes that had caused him so much trouble had been gouged out. He was blind, but so were the Philistines. Blind to what was happening, maybe they thought, knowing the Nazirite vow was broken because of verse 17 perhaps they thought, that’s it, his strength is gone BUT they don’t know that God had said he would be a Nazirite from birth to death!
And God has other plans! So crazily, they bring Samson in – in for a bit of entertainment and their god, Dagon is there and they exclaim in verse 23 and 24.
Judges 16:23-24 (NIV): “Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hand.” 24 And when the people saw him, they praised their god. For they said, “Our god has given our enemy into our hand, the ravager of our country, who has killed many of us.”
Wow – what we are seeing now – is not so much a battle of the Philistines against Samson – but a battle of their god, verses Israel’s God. There will be no contest!! For God has a plan behind all this and we find that the room is full of people – full of the leaders of the Philistines and Samson is mocked and he’s placed between two pillars. Whilst he’s there – with all the Philistines, all the leaders in verse 28 Samson has faith and he prays:
Judges 16:28-30 (NIV): Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” And Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and he leaned his weight against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines.” Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell upon the lords and upon all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life.
Wow – Samson brings about defeating the Philistines in his death!! Samson did show faith here – and probably why he is included in Hebrews 11 but he’s not the real hero! He defeats the enemy – their god dagon who is in the building will be destroyed to and what we see is that the true Lord wins! He triumphs!! You see – Samson’s not the hero – God is!! And Instead of living for lust, or living for love – we’re to live for the Lord – how?
Living for the Lord
We need to see God as more amazing, more awesome and more worthy of love – For the Lord is the hero here! God is behind this all directing the scenes! He is triumphing over the enemy! Amazingly even in deserting Samson so he could be captured, God is bringing about his victory!! He’s Amazing!! Imagine that – God answers this sinful man’s prayer. Samson prays and God answers – God’s a God of Grace!! And yet Israel like Samson don’t deserve God’s help, but we certainly don’t – we have all failed the Lord – we’ve ran after other gods, of lust and love, we don’t deserve God’s help! But he’s a God who has loved us, even when we don’t deserve it!
And that’s why this is about Jesus not Samson because God was to begin the deliverance of Israel from the Philistines – that’s what was mentioned in chapter 13:5 when Samson was to be born. But You see Samson could only begin the deliverance from the Philistines – he did not deliver Israel fully from their oppression – he never led the Israelites into battle! But There was a King to come, who would fully defeat the Philistines and bring rest to the Land and that King was none other than King David himself. When David defeated Goliath the Philistine and he then led his people the Israelites into battle against them. And in David’s time they did obtain rest!
But even David wasn’t the perfect King and didn’t bring lasting rest. You see, Samson and David are all pointing to King Jesus – who in his death brought about the full deliverance of his people. It is said of Samson in verse 30 "So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life." The most important moment and triumphal part in Samson’s life, is His death!
There are so many ways that Samson is not like Christ – he’s seriously flawed whereas Jesus was pure and righteous but like Samson the most triumphal part of Christ was his death and resurrection. Christ sacrifice was a once and for all! He died so we can have his righteous credited to us!! Christ came to redeem us and he took upon himself our sexual sins, our lusts, our immorality and took that and died in our place.
We need to know that in Christ we’re washed, cleansed even though we’ve sinned sexually God can completely forgive us and wash us clean because he lived the perfect pure life and he died on the cross for my sin!! And complete forgiveness is available in Christ! And just as Samson was on public display and mocked and died with outstretched arms - Jesus was betrayed, tortured, mocked publicly and also died with outstretched arms. Taking the blow for you and for me! And Christ through his death and outstretched arms brought down the enemy Satan and crushed him, and took away the power of sin over our lives. Yes, we’ll still fail but Christ has won and triumphed over the enemy. And his arms are outstretched for us – showing us the extent of his love. There is only one set of arms we should fall into and give our heart’s desire to and that is Christ. Jesus who is the true bridegroom – who says, come to me, know that I love you so so much! And that I gave my life for you!! And we pray that his love will capture our hearts, so we’ll love the Lord more than anything else!