Every year, various counselors give devotionals at camp. Two years ago, Coach Aaron Yoder gave this one on the life of Samson and we loved it so much we wanted to post it here!

The Life of Samson

Who here considers themselves fast? Why?  Who here considers themselves strong?  Why?Who here would consider themselves smart? Why?  It’s the idea of superiority through talent, but let me tell you all you are all talented but there is a good chance there will always be someone faster, stronger and smarter than you.

As Ryan Hall said in the video we watched: Only one man can be the greatest in the world and they can only brag of that crown for a short time. But does mean the other 99.99 % of the world is failures?

Just because someone is faster than that doesn’t mean you are slow. Just because someone is stronger that you doesn’t mean you are weak.  Just because someone is smarter than you doesn’t mean you are fool. 

How are we measuring speed, strength and smarts?  Take running for example if you have someone who runs 4:00 minutes for a mile and another who runs 5:00 minutes for a mile, who is faster? Most would say the one running 4:00 minutes. But what if I told you that the 4:00 min. miler was a 27 year old professor runner with 20 years of running experience under his belt and the one running 5:00 was 6 year old girl who had only been running for 6 months?

What would you say then?  Absolutely 4:00 is faster but relatively the girl's time is more impressive.  Lifting is no different. Take Drew and myself-he benches 340 and I can bench about 250 on a good day.  But if you factor in our body weight who has a higher percentage compared to body weight? Well, probably still Drew but if I weighed 100 lbs and could bench nearly 2.5 times more than my body weight that would undeniably be better.

Do you see what I’m saying?  Even Olympic champions have someone who is faster and stronger and can jump higher and guess what? The smartest of man is no match……for God!  God gives these gifts!  He is a great and powerful God. See 1 Corinthians 1:25 “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”

We are going to talk this morning about an Old Testament character that was most notably remembered for his strength but in the course of his life abused his talents that the Lord gave but lets take a look for ourselves and as we do, I want to focus on two points.

The first is that God has given each of us extraordinary gifts!  It's our job to discover and develop them. 

The second is that God desires that your gifts be used to edify and honor Him. If not, consequences occur.

Our devotion begins in the Book of Judges, chapters 13-16. This chapter contains the story of an extremely strong individual. He is like a superhero, commissioned by God to do great things.    

His name was Samson and he was a judge.  Not like someone who sits in a courtroom but a different kind of judge.  In Hebrew the word "judge" translates to “a deliverer.”  In the Old Testament the Book of Judges is filled with stories of different individuals who served as deliverers of Israel.  There were 14 judges of Israel that came to deliver and protect the nation.  There were no kings so these judges were the ones that people looked to for protection and direction.  Samson was the 12th judge.  His "reign" lasted for approximately 20 years. 

Samson's story begins as the Israelites are once again under the power of the Philistines.  This is a form of judgment upon the people of Israel for their rebellious behavior. The angel of the Lord comes back though to deliver His people because they are crying out. So the angel of the Lord shows up at a home of a particular husband and wife.  The husband is a follower of God and his name is Manoah and his wife is barren-they have no children.  The angel tells this couple that they will have a son.  He gives certain instructions on the pregnancy- she is not to drink any wine or eat anything unclean.  After he is born he is supposed to be treated and raised a certain way since he is special. He can 1)never cut his hair 2)never drink alcohol 3) never touch a dead body. 

Samson is referred to as a “Nazarite” which means in Hebrew “to separate.” This is symbolize his life of separation and total commitment to holiness.  A Nazarite could make a vow for a period of time or a whole lifetime. For Samson it was for his entire lifetime.

However during Samson's life he violated all 3 of the vows which ultimately led to his own demise.  He was a man driven by fleshly desires-illicit unrestrained passion,a fiery temper and a blatent disregard for God's commandments.  But he was still used by God in great ways.  It's unfortunate that he abused his gifts and turned his back on God in certain situations. 

One certain story of his abandonment of God's will was his desire for pagan women, particularly a Philistine female.  He was expressly forbidden to marry a Philistine.  He was attracted to the way she looked, a very superficial way to base a serious decision like this on.  His parents tried to dissuade him, but he got his way. He insisted on marrying her, but when he's on his way to the town she lived something really crazy happens……He is ambushed by a lion! Judges 14:6 says that the Lord's strength came upon him and he tore the lion apart like it was a young goat!  Several months later he passed the body of the lion's carcass and found a colony of bees taking residence inside the body.  He reached into the body and pulled the honey out- disobeying the vow to not touch dead bodies.  He even fed the honey to his parents!

Then during the wedding celebration he proposes a riddle to everyone and told the guests, "If you solve this within 7 days of the celebration I will give 30 new sets of clothes to the one who answers it correctly."  The riddle stumped everyone and if infuriated the wedding party.  So they corned the bride and threatened her life unless she spilled the beans.  She spilled the beans. They answered Samson’s riddle which enraged him! So he walks 23 miles to a village and kills 30 men and strips them of their clothes and walks 23 miles back (46 mile round trip).  to deliver the goods on his promise.  He is livid so he heads home and leaves his new bride.

After months of sulking he returns for his wife but discovers that she has been remarried, to one of his groomsmen of all people! Samson also had a mischievious side too so in retribution he captures 300 foxes and ties their tails together in pairs of two with a torch on each pair then let them loose on the Philistines grain fields….destroying everything!

The Philistines are fed up so they go after men of Israel and they ask what is all about and they say they want Samson.  So the men of Israel (3,000 men) go to arrest him.  Samson agrees and is handed over to Philistines.  As he is brought up to the Philistines, tied up, the spirit of the Lord filled him and he broke the ropes and found the nearest object, which was the jawbone of a donkey and he used it to kill 1,000 Philistines.  With a nine inch bone!  After this intense scene, Samson acknowledges God in this great effort and says, “God you did this.”

After this incident there was 20 years of reprieve from the Philistines as Samson being the judge. 

But that’s not the end of Samson's story. 

Unfortunately, Samson's promiscuity continues. In one situation his capture is attempted when the men of Gaza devise a plan to take him after Samson has been with a prostitute in their city. 

But not to worry. Samson takes the gates of Gaza and carries them on his shoulders for 38 miles!  The gates of a city! For 38 miles. You see in this story his super human strength and his super sinful weakness. Fatal attraction was his life story.

Samson's  final fixation was on another Philistine women by the name of Delilah.  The Philistines put her in his path to discover his weakness and she did just that.  The deal was that Delilah was given 5,500 shekels of silver, which amounts to 550 years of wages equaling millions of dollars to bring Samson to his knees and discover the source of his power.

She then proceeds to manipulate and seduce Samson.  It came to pass that she pestered him to no end until his soul was vexed and he had to disclose his secret to his strength.  Initially he tells her lies so she wouldn’t know his weakness. The first was, "Tie me up with 7 new bow strings." She did and it didn't work/ The next was, "Tie me up with new ropes securely!" Well, that didn't work either. The next was, "Braid my hair into 7 braids and tie it to a loom!" All were lies and Delilah cranks up her manipulation so that Samson spills his secret and says the source is his hair. "Cut it and I will be normal."  She knew this was the truth and as he sleeps she cuts his hair and Philistines capture Samson. He is helpless, shorn of hair and the text says this, “He didn’t know that the Lord had departed from him.”

How sad that the sin of his life reached the turning point with God, blinded by his stubborn will and lust.  His capturors then gouge his eyes out and Samson was now blind.

During a pagan celebration shortly after this the Philistines bring out the blinded and broken Samson to mock and make fun of him in chains.  He asks as a favor-to be put between the two primary pillars of the structure.  As he felt the two pillars he cries out to the Lord for strength one last time. 

In one final heroic act according to Judges 16: 27-28 he takes the two pillars down killing 3,000 Philistines and himself.  He did far more in death than he did while alive.  

Samson died broken and humble, he died for the cause his nation and for God! He was an instrument to God to eliminate the enemy force and theres a lot to be learned from Samson as to how it relates to our lives.  Let's look over some positive and negatives traits of Samson and then we see how some his qualities are present in our lives.

Quality Traits of Samson

3 negatives character Qualities:

                  1) Stubborn Will- Wanted to pursue his own agenda against his own knowlegde to honor God. i.e. marrying a Philistine woman- it was forbidden but he did anyways.

                  2) Driven by fleshly desires- Lust, Anger and Envy. Desiring women who were forbidden, unleashing irrational anger and jealousy towards anyone standing against or above him.

                  3) Disregarded God's Commandments- Samson was not supposed to drink, touch the body of the dead or cut his hair because he was regarded as a “Nazarite” Hebrew meaning “a separation” which represented a commitment to holiness. Samson willfully turned his back on his Nazarite vows.

3 Positive Character Qualities:

1) (Responsible) Protective of the talents from God- Initially keeps the secret of his strength from Delilah.

2) (Boldness) Acknowledges the Lord strength in great victory- After slaying 1,000 Philistines with a jawbone of donkey he acknowledges God's supernatural strength had been given to him.

3) (Weakness) Had faith in God during his weakest moment- The final moments of his life he acknowledges God and admits to his selfishness and sin. He then gives his life to protect his country and kills more Philistines in his death then he ever did alive.

My experiences:

1)     For Negative qualities: I relate to with Samson: stubborn will.

1)     For Positive qualities: I relate to Samson with: Responsibility and wanting to protect what God has given.  Developing talent- i.e. Nutrition to enhance coaching, teaching and training.

I believe the story of Samson is here to show us that we are part of God's plan and purpose. You aren’t so different from Samson as you see with this activity on how you identify with him.  He was just a man, with exceptional strength compared to other men. You have an exceptional talent of equal or greater value than Samson's strength but you must discover and develop it.  He was a person just like you.  But he made mistakes ( and you might make mistakes too) and abused his power but God, who is faithful and just, forgave him and.  And God still used him!

But the reality is even after the forgiveness there were still consequences to his behavior. God will always love you the same but the consequences are the discipline that God uses to keep us from our own demise. You are children of God that have been given exceptional talents too, so decide what you will do with them.  Honor yourself or honor God are the options.

The truth is in these stories…the Bible relates to you!

May the peace that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds on Jesus! AMEN.