Samson Forfeits his Office (1): A Wicked Plot
Reformed Free Publishing Association
by Martyn McGeown
In Judges 16 the Philistines have a problem.
They had oppressed Israel for many years, but God had raised up Samson against them. In verse 24 they call Samson “Our enemy and the destroyer of many of us.” Samson was unlike anyone whom they had encountered before. He worked alone without an army; yet, he had the strength of many men. He was too strong for them, and he had humiliated them time and time again.
But Samson had a weakness, not a physical but a moral weakness. His weakness was women, Philistine women. He had married a Philistine against the protests of his parents (14:2-3). He had been with a harlot in Gaza (16:1). And now he was involved with Delilah (v. 4).
The Philistines discovered Samson’s relationship with Delilah and they decided to exploit it. In verse 5 the five lords of the Philistines approached Delilah, each of them offering her eleven hundred pieces of silver, a total reward of 5,500 pieces of silver, the largest recorded reward in the Bible. That is a huge sum of money.
We read the Philistines’ commission to Delilah in verse 5: “Entice him and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him to afflict him.”
Notice two words in that sentence: 1) Entice—seduce, deceive, and persuade him; use your feminine charm, use your devilish cunning; do what you must to persuade him; and 2) afflict—we want to oppress him, to hurt him, to make him low, to humiliate him; help us to destroy him.
Delilah is only too willing to comply.
At issue is Samson’s office, his position of authority as Israel’s judge and deliverer. Samson destroyed the Philistines because God put him into a position to do so. Samson’s strength served his office. By means of Samson’s strength he performed the duties of his office. By means of Samson’s strength he protected and delivered Israel. Without that strength, which was a gift from God, Samson would be as weak as any other man. Samson himself confesses this multiple times to Delilah (16:7, 11, 17).
Samson had, however, already despised the gifts of his office. He viewed the gifts as something to be used for his own enjoyment. He enjoyed being the strongman; he enjoyed humiliating the Philistines in battle. In this, Samson did what a faithful officebearer must never do: he separated his office and the gifts of his office from his personal life. He thought that he could be a good officebearer (the judge and deliverer of Israel) without being personally holy.
Samson was a Nazarite but only outwardly. A Nazarite is really a symbol of holiness, of devotion to God. Samson was concerned about the symbol: he carefully guarded his hair: he never cut it; and he carefully kept himself from wine. But Samson was not concerned about the reality: he did not carefully keep himself from sin; he did not carefully mortify the flesh or crucify his lusts.
The same temptation presents itself to the believer today.
A pastor has gifts, the ability to teach God’s Word, to bring God’s Word at every occasion of life; an elder has gifts, the ability to rule wisely and to admonish the members; a deacon has gifts, to show compassion to the needy and wisely to distribute the mercies of Jesus Christ. The members of the church have the office of believer: the gift of knowing God’s Word and confessing Christ’s name; the gift of devoting themselves to God and offering themselves as living sacrifices; and the gift of fighting against sin and the devil (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 32).
God gave those gifts to officebearers to serve the salvation of his church: they speak, they preach, they write to help God’s people. God has not given these gifts to officebearers to promote themselves, to use them selfishly, or to squander them in the service of sin.
The enemy is alarmed to see faithful officebearers in the church. The enemy is alarmed to see godly believers, young and old. Therefore, the enemy (the world, the flesh, and the devil) seeks to destroy the church.
Take heed, believing reader!
The enemy wants to see our officebearers deposed from office by luring them into sin.
The enemy wants to see us fall under church discipline, and even excommunication.
The enemy wants to afflict us and make us miserable; and to make us ineffective as officebearers and believers. Even now the enemy is conspiring with Delilah to destroy us. Delilah is our bosom sin: she could be our pride, our selfishness, our lust, or some other sin. “Entice him, and see wherein his great strength lieth, and by what means we may prevail against him, that we may bind him to afflict him” (v. 5).
Samson’s problem was that he was already compromised. He was infatuated, bewitched, with Delilah; he was blindly in love with her, and he was blind to her treachery. That is a very dangerous position in which to be.
Pray, reader, that you might recognize Delilah, and then flee from her.
Delilah gets to work. She chooses an appropriate moment when Samson is in a good mood and when Samson is receptive to her charms. One day she drops a question: “Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee?” (v. 6). The question seems innocent: it is asked out of curiosity; Delilah makes it sound like a hypothetical question. Surely, Delilah would not use the information against Samson!
Samson is not alarmed by the question. Instead, the question amuses him. Samson views the question as an invitation to play a game with Delilah. “How nice,” Samson thinks, “that she is taking such an interest in me and in my strength.” Samson should have been put on high alert by the question, offended by it: “How dare you ask such a question! It is clear that your intentions with that question are not good.” Samson should have detected the threat to his office in that question—“My strength is for the glory of my God: keep your filthy hands away.” But Samson could not say that because he was already compromised. You cannot resist sin if your head is already in Delilah’s bosom!
The enemy comes with the same question today, and that question has the same purpose.
To the officebearer the question comes: “Tell me by what great power you are able to preach and teach God’s Word, and to bring God’s Word in every occasion of life; tell me by what great power you are able to rule in the church, to admonish the wayward and to settle disputes from the Word of God; tell me by what great power you are able wisely to distribute the alms to the comfort of God’s people; tell me!”
Then the enemy asks, “Tell me in what way you might be deposed from office so that you will bring disgrace to yourself, to the church, and to the name of God.” “Tell me in what way you might be rendered utterly ineffective so that you might no longer be used as an instrument for the good of God’s church and to the glory of God’s name.”
The officebearer must not say, “Well, you could lure me into committing some gross, public sin which is a disgrace to the church or worthy of punishment by the authorities” (Church Order, Art. 79). Or “You could so play on my pride, or on my selfishness, or on my lust that I suffer a lamentable fall. That would do it.”
That would be a foolish response!
The officebearer must flee from such a question, he must flee from the Delilah who asks such a question, and he must flee to Jesus Christ. “Lord, I beseech thee, strengthen me by the power of thy Holy Spirit, given to me in the cross of thy beloved Son, that I might not be overcome in this spiritual warfare, but that I might constantly and strenuously resist my foes until at last I obtain a complete victory” (see Heidelberg Catechism, A 127).
Samson did not do that. How could he? He was in Delilah’s arms, in her bosom. He did not have the strength to pray: “Lead me not into temptation.” How could he? He had already embraced temptation. You cannot flee temptation if you are embracing it!
To the believer, young and old, who has the office of believer, the question comes: “Tell me by what great power you are able to know and confess Jesus Christ in the world, to live a new and holy life in consecration to him, and to fight against sin and the devil in this life, so that afterwards you will reign with him forever over all creatures. Tell me!”
Then the enemy asks, “Tell me how your witness as a Christian might be utterly ruined, so that you make yourself utterly ineffective as a Christian, and even come under church discipline. Tell me how Canons 5:5 might become true of you. How might you very highly offend God, incur a deadly guilt, grieve the Holy Spirit, very grievously wound your conscience, and sometimes lose the sense of God’s favor for a time?” “Tell me how hypothetically such a thing might happen.”
The Christian must not say, “Well, you could tempt me to commit a terrible sin, and you could drive me on in my impenitence until I am hardened in my sin, so that I refuse to listen to the admonitions of my fellow church members, my family and friends, and the elders. That would accomplish your goal.”
The Christian must flee from such a question, he must flee from the Delilah who would ask such a question, and he must flee to Jesus Christ. “Lord, help me; sin tempts me; I feel its allure, its attraction. Strengthen me by the power of thy Holy Spirit given in the cross.”
Samson did not do that. Samson was deeply enmeshed in sin. Samson was like the fly who had flown too close to the spider’s web. He was like a fly buzzing closer and closer to the web, boasting that he would never be caught. That is why he fell. In a very real sense, Samson was led into temptation. To use the words of Canons 5:4, “Samson was seduced by and complied with the lusts of the flesh” and “by the righteous permission of God Samson fell into evil.”
But we must wait until next time to see Samson’s miserable—yet inevitable—fall.
To be continued