But even worse, his rage comes from a place of unrighteousness, out of selfish motives he is waging war against the enemy. Samson is fighting the right war for the wrong reasons. God certainly set him apart to be a man of war, but instead of rallying together the armies of Israel to drive out the enemy, he is too busy avenging his own personal vendettas. Like Samson, our problem may not be avoiding the fight, but we may be waging the right war for the wrong reasons. Vengeance against the Philistines was never because Samson had been wronged, it was always because God had been wronged. The sin of the enemy was against Samson; it was against God.
After stirring up the anger of the Philistines Samson is about to find himself faced with a decision to make, and the ultimatum will not be coming from the enemy, but from his own people…
9 Then the Philistines came up and encamped in Judah and made a raid on Lehi. 10 And the men of Judah said, “Why have you come up against us?” They said, “We have come up to bind Samson, to do to him as he did to us.” 11 Then 3,000 men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, “Do you not know that the Philistines are rulers over us? What then is this that you have done to us?” And he said to them, “As they did to me, so have I done to them.” 12 And they said to him, “We have come down to bind you, that we may give you into the hands of the Philistines.” And Samson said to them, “Swear to me that you will not attack me yourselves.” 13 They said to him, “No; we will only bind you and give you into their hands. We will surely not kill you.” So they bound him with two new ropes and brought him up from the rock.
You know you are one bad dude when an army sends 3,000 soldiers just to arrest you. Samson must have had quite the reputation to intimidate even his own people this way. Here we see that Samson is not alone in his negligence, the Israelites too have forgotten that the Lord wanted to deliver them from their captivity but they seem to want to arrest Samson to appease their rulers, the Philistines. Their primary goal became survival, and they thought that their best chance lay in extraditing Samson, rather than rallying around him to fight their enemy.
Has no one remembered their calling? Has the nation of Israel forgotten their corporate calling as a nation to be set apart, to submit themselves only to the kingship of God? Has Samson forgotten his calling to be the one to deliver Israel from the oppressive hand of the Philistines?
Let’s see how this confrontation with the Philistines goes with Samson being bound and handed over by his own people.
14 When he came to Lehi, the Philistines came shouting to meet him. Then the Spirit of the Lord rushed upon him, and the ropes that were on his arms became as flax that has caught fire, and his bonds melted off his hands. 15 And he found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, and put out his hand and took it, and with it he struck 1,000 men. 16 And Samson said,
“With the jawbone of a donkey,
heaps upon heaps,
with the jawbone of a donkey
have I struck down a thousand men.”
17 As soon as he had finished speaking, he threw away the jawbone out of his hand. And that place was called Ramath-lehi.
Part 1 of Samson’s life concludes with his most bloody feat yet, killing 1,000 men in one episode. And Samson even writes a hit chorus that praises his own abilities. but in verse 18 we see a slight shift in the heart of Samson, is there hope for his leadership?
18 And he was very thirsty, and he called upon the Lord and said, “You have granted this great salvation by the hand of your servant, and shall I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?” 19 And God split open the hollow place that is at Lehi, and water came out from it. And when he drank, his spirit returned, and he revived. Therefore the name of it was called En-hakkore; it is at Lehi to this day. 20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.
Is Samson’s days of being a solo vigilante over? Is he finally becoming the leader he was set apart to be? Part 2 will determine the answers to those questions. In many ways the life of Samson serves as a warning to us; he is everything a servant of God should not be. And perhaps Samson’s most severe problem was his lack of conviction to live out his identity as a set apart Nazirite-warrior-leader. Samson was living like he didn’t know his calling.
To recap of part 1 of Samson’s life here are a few vital things we can learn and walk away with today:
God was using Samson in spite of his failings, not because of his faithfulness. Today we may fall short of walking in complete obedience to God but that should not mean that we throw in the towel and give up, God is not surprised by our mistakes just as He was not surprised by Samson’s. So take heart, God will use you despite your failures, because He is faithful. However, don’t let this be an excuse to disobey, we known that disobedience can definitely altar how effective you will be. God will accomplish His will despite you but wouldn’t you rather be able to participate as much as possible in the most epic mission of all time? Obedience is vital to live out the calling God has on your life.
Obedience done on your own terms is still disobedience. As we saw in Part 1, Samson entered the right war for the wrong reasons. When our reasons (aka our motives) are wrong, then our method will be wrong. Yes, Samson was set apart to be a warrior who leads the Israelites to freedom from their evil oppressors but Samson only seems to engage this mission on his own terms and only when he has been offended by the Philistines. This is where unity is so important. We were never meant to be a lone wolf solider, we were meant to work as a team (as a Church) towards a common mission. And how we do something is just as important as why we do it.
Our calling is a gift from God that will grant us direction, fulfillment, and a partnership with God. Let’s get something clear, God is not about making His glory known! He is worthy. He is awesome. He alone is God. If anything takes even an ounce of glory from God that thing is an idol and should be torn down and destroyed (physically or metaphorically). Our calling is God’s gift to us. It is a gift that should be solely used to reflect, give, and spread glory- God’s glory. Our calling should also give us direction, it should help us answer what we say yes to and what we say no to. Samson demonstrated a lack of self-control by not being able to say no to the honey in the dead lion carcass. Our calling should be like a compass that guides us and helps us determine how we invest our time for maximum impact. Our calling also gives us fulfillment, it should be what makes us come alive, after all- God is the author of life and their is no true, vibrant life outside of relationship with Him. And our calling gives us partnership with God. God doesn’t need us to accomplish His plan and His will but He chooses to let us participate with Him! What an awesome dad! Let’s go to work with Dad on a daily basis!
Discussion questions for small groups:
- The theme throughout Judges has been, “Obedience done on your terms is actually disobedience.” How do you see this in the life of Samson?
- Before Samson was born God had put a calling on his life. Samson was set apart for God’s purpose, but the way Samson lived made it seem like he was not aware of his calling. Do you think Samson was aware of his calling? What was his struggle in walking out His calling?
- Samson waged the right war for the wrong reasons. As Christians today have you found yourself in a similar situation? How can we make sure we wage the right war for the right reasons?
- At the beginning of the lesson you wrote down what you think your calling is. Read Romans 11:29, Romans 12:4, and 1 Corinthians 1:26-31. These are just a few verses of the many on the topic of “calling.” In light of the life of Samson, these scriptures, and all other understanding- how important is it to know our unique calling within our unified purpose as Christians? Do you know your calling? How are you pursuing your calling, or if you don’t know your calling how are you pursuing discovering your calling?
- (Side note:) If you feel don’t know your calling be encouraged, God may be working on your character before He reveals to you your calling. Our character needs to be ready if we want to walk out our calling. A God-sized calling without the character to fulfill it is a disaster waiting to happen.