Four weeks ago Pastor Doug began a series on the Book of Judges. The period called “the time of the Judges” lasted about 350 years, and it was the darkest period in Israel’s history. It was a time of incredible religious and moral decay. The Jews claimed to love God, but they didn’t love him with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. God, who had been so compassionate, kind and loyal to them, was just “one god among many” to them. Because “we become like what we worship”, this became the most grotesque period in Israel’s history. If you want to see just how dark the days of the judges were, read chapter 19. You wouldn’t believe it if I told you! From time to time God raised up leaders called “Judges”, and today we’ll look at one—Samson—who God used in spite of himself.
When people think of Samson, they get an image of a very strong man. In fact, Samson was a weak man; a weak man with very strong sinful cravings. His story starts with a childless couple. God appeared to his mother and promised her a son. And then he gave some special instructions (Judges 13:3-5). What’s this “Nazirite” thing? Numbers 6:1-6 explains the “Nazirite” vow. Jews who wanted to dedicate themselves to the Lord in a special way took the Nazirite vow. It was a voluntary act, a love-response to God for his goodness. It had three conditions: (1) touch nothing associated with grapes, (2) don’t cut your hair, and (3) don’t touch dead bodies. The Nazirite vow was voluntary and temporary. But Samson was no ordinary Nazirite: God (not Samson himself) decided that he would be a Nazirite. Not only was it life- long, it even began before he was born; Samson’s mother abstained from the vine during her pregnancy. God’s purpose for him was exceptional: he would begin to deliver Israel from the cruel Philistines (Judges 3:5). Samson’s parents carefully obeyed all that the Lord said—but Samson broke every single stipulation of the Nazirite vow! Samson cared more about himself than he did about God and the well-being of his own people. And it ended tragically. But Samson was no “super sinner”. He had all the cravings we find so “normal”—the craving to call the shots in his life, a craving for sex and alcohol, a craving for peace at any cost. Samson serves as a sobering, and very helpful, warning to each of us.
We first encounter Samson as a young man (Judges 14:1-3), marrying a Philistine. This was wrong in so many ways: the Philistines were pagan enemies of Israel. God strictly forbade any Israelite from marrying those who did not believe in Yahweh. How much more should a Nazirite flee this horrible sin?! Samson shouldn’t be talking to his dad that way (“Honor your father and your mother”). Samson was utterly enslaved to sexual passion. He was a weakling in the face of lust. One day while he was going to visit his fiancee, Samson walked through some vineyards (Nazirites were to avoid grapes at all cost). Nazirites weren’t supposed to touch dead bodies or eat any unclean food, but Samson did both of those. He even gave some to his parents. Samson was a self-absorbed prima donna who had total disdain for the Lord and disregard for the stipulations of the Nazirite vow. The book of Proverbs speaks of such people (Proverbs 16:32b and 25:28).
Samson did indeed begin to rescue Israel from the Philistines, but oh, how much more he could have done for his God and his people. But Samson craved to “call the shots” in his life, rather than letting God be Lord. He craved sex simply as a tool for self-fulfillment. He craved the escape of alcohol, even though as a Nazirite, this was strictly forbidden. Finally, Samson valued “peace at any cost”. In the end, it cost him his freedom, his eyes, and ultimately his life. But Samson isn’t the only one with a calling (1 Peter 2:9-11). We are God’s chosen people. We are royal priests. We are a “holy nation” and God’s very own possession! But just as Samson failed miserably in his calling, so will we if we follow his example. He gave himself fully to his lustful cravings. Fleshly cravings waged war against his soul. Samson appeared to be oblivious to the strength of his fleshly cravings and the weakness of his character. As a result, he failed to honor God as he could have. Do you know what your fleshly cravings are? Do you have a plan for attacking them?
Application / Challenge
- Know your cravings. Read a mini-book for insight. Click here for the list of choices, stop by Connect on Sunday or during the week and pick one up, and let us know if we need to order the one you need.
- Know that you can’t just stop sinful cravings—they must be displaced by a stronger craving.
- Develop a stronger craving for God by getting to know him better through his Word each day.
- Get help for stubborn cravings by opening up to your Community Group for help and/or taking advantage of TCC’s free biblical counseling (firstname.lastname@example.org).