Samson Forfeits his Office (2): A Foolish Game
Reformed Free Publishing Association
By Martyn McGeown. Previous article in the series: Samson Forfeits his Office (1): A Wicked Plot.
Last time Samson was in Delilah’s boudoir facing a question: “Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth, and wherewith thou mightest be bound to afflict thee” (v. 6). We applied that question to ourselves, seeing it as a threat to our office, whether the special office of pastor, elder, or deacon; or the office of believer. We explained how Samson should have fled, but he did not, and could not, because he was already compromised.
Samson viewed Delilah’s question as an invitation to play a game. He played that game with Delilah, a game he thought he could win. By playing this game, Samson acted like a fool. Proverbs 14:9 says, “Fools make a mock at sin, but among the righteous there is favor.”
The game that Samson played has this purpose: to get as close to sin as possible without falling into it, which is a very dangerous, foolish game indeed! The version that Samson played with Delilah was to get as close to the secret of his strength as possible without actually telling Delilah the real answer.
Samson’s game has a fatal flaw built into it: it does not take into account the enslaving power of sin or the holiness of God. If we sin once, we sin again; sin becomes a habit, a pattern. The sinner tells himself that he can stop whenever he wants, that he will not go too far in sin, and that sin has no effect upon him. He tells himself that he can stop sinning when he feels that the time is right to retreat. But sin is deceitful: it draws us into its web until we are hopelessly trapped. That was Samson’s experience: first, he married a Philistine; then he slept with a harlot; and now, he is in the bedroom of Delilah playing a dangerous game. With every question he gets closer to losing.
We must flee from Samson’s game. We do not ask, “How many sins can I get away with?” but “How can I best glorify God?” We want to be as far away from sin as possible, not as close to sin as we dare.
Samson’s game had four rounds.
In “round #1” Samson suggested that Delilah bind him with seven green “withs” (v. 7). A “with” is a cord or a piece of string. Samson does not say, “Bind me with three, or five, or six withs,” but seven. Samson is already beginning to betray himself. Seven is the number of the covenant, the number of God’s friendship with Israel. Delilah fetches the seven green withs, binds him, and calls out, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson” (v. 9). Lo, and behold, the Philistines are already lying in wait in Delilah’s bedroom ready to capture him. This added to the danger and the fun for Samson. Not only can Samson fool around with Delilah (which gives him pleasure), but he also humiliates the Philistines at the same time (which gives him even more pleasure).
Samson ought to have learned some things from “round #1.” Delilah’s intentions were not innocent. She really did want to know the secret of his strength, and she really did intend to betray him. Delilah is not on Samson’s side: she has Philistines lying in wait in the chamber! But Samson enjoys impressing Delilah. Samson should be using his gift of strength to deliver Israel and to glorify God, not to impress Delilah. Our gifts are too precious to squander on the pleasures of sin.
“Round #2” is similar to Round 1. Samson suggests ropes, which are stronger than withs (v. 11). The same thing happens: Delilah binds Samson; Delilah cries out, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson;” and Samson escapes. Samson is still enjoying himself, but he is becoming more presumptuous.
“Round #3” is even more serious because this time Samson mentions “the seven locks of his head” (v. 13) and gets dangerously close to the truth about his hair. Samson suggests that Delilah take the seven (7!) locks of his hair and weave them into a loom. Delilah does so. Now, surely, Samson is helpless. Delilah calls out again, “The Philistines be upon thee, Samson.” Samson awakes and pulls up Delilah’s loom, removing the whole thing (the pin, the beam and the web) (v. 14). Again, Delilah and the Philistines look like fools.
But who is the real fool? Samson is the fool, for three times Delilah has asked Samson to reveal his secret, and Samson has told her three lies. Three times Delilah has revealed her treachery. Three times the Philistines have been lying in wait. But Samson cannot see the danger. And to top it all, Samson has now defiled his hair.
After three rounds of Samson’s game, Delilah becomes frustrated and angry, and starts to apply pressure: “How canst thou say, I love thee, when thine heart is not with me?” (v. 15). Delilah is right, of course: one who truly loves shares his heart with the one he loves. But Delilah does not love Samson. Samson is blind to that obvious fact.
One who asks you to sin to show your love is a person from whom you flee. If a person offers to commit sin with you, the answer must be, “I love God, and if I must choose between obeying God and pleasing you, I will choose to obey God, regardless of the consequences.”
Delilah is persistent, “She pressed him daily with her words …” Three words are used in verse 16: she pressed him daily with her words; she urged him; she vexed him. The meaning is that she squeezed him, so that every day the same question came, “Samson, tell me wherein thy great strength lieth.” She promised not to tell, she assured him that he could trust her. And, if he should refuse, well, then Delilah would not give Samson the things that he wanted. Delilah became a misery to live with. The effect was to make Samson feel very small, to make Samson’s way narrow and cramped, and to make him so miserable that he wished he were dead.
But for all that, Samson could not leave. Delilah was so bewitching, so seductive that he could not see that she intended to destroy him. If he had considered the facts objectively, he might have said, “Why should I trust Delilah—she has tried three times to deliver me to the Philistines!” But Samson convinced himself, although all the evidence was against it, that Delilah really did love him, and that she would never betray him. And even if she did betray him, Samson told himself: “God will never take his strength from me. God will allow me to remain an officebearer in Israel. There will be no evil consequences for me or for my office.”
Samson was not a victim. Samson knowingly sinned. Samson planned his sin and Samson thought that he could sin with impunity. But Samson was wrong.
We must not be surprised at how Samson’s game with Delilah ends. Proverbs 6:27, “Can a man take fire in his bosom and his clothes not be burned?” Samson opens his heart to Delilah, and she promptly betrays him.
The result is deeply tragic. After days of pressure, Samson told Delilah everything. He explained that as a Nazarite his hair was a sign of holiness to God. He explained that, if his hair was shaved, his Nazarite vow would be broken and his strength would leave him. When Delilah heard this, she immediately sent for the Philistine lords; and they brought the 5,500 pieces of silver. Then Delilah became friendly again toward Samson. Samson entered Delilah’s bedroom one last time: she made him sleep on her knees, and she shaved off his hair.
One last time, she cried out, “The Philistines be upon thee!” Round #4. Game over!
This time Samson woke up: he did not know the Lord had departed from him. Samson was helpless, and the Philistines afflicted him: they bound him, they put out his eyes, they imprisoned him, and they enslaved him, making him grind like an ox (v. 21). Samson’s eyes were full of adultery—God put out Samson’s eyes, using the Philistines as his instruments. Samson misused his strength—God took Samson’s strength away. Samson stopped destroying the enemy, and even befriended her in the person of Delilah—God delivered Samson into the hands of his enemy.
Why did Samson fall? Why was his fall necessary?
Samson fell because of presumption. He convinced himself that all would be well, that God would continue to allow him to sin without any consequences. Samson fell because he exposed himself to deliberate temptation. Samson did not value his office: he was not thankful for the position God gave him. He knew what was at stake: if Samson loses his strength, he brings ruin upon himself; and there is no more deliverance for Israel. God’s gifts are squandered. Samson’s ministry is shortened.
God is sovereign here too. God departed from Samson and God brought Samson into temptation so that Samson would fall. God arranged the circumstances of Samson’s life so that he was in a position where he would be tempted to sin, and God did not give him the grace to stand. In fact, Samson did not ask for grace. Samson grieved the Spirit and the Spirit withdrew from him. God gave Samson over to the power of his sin.
God led Samson into temptation. Do not misunderstand: God does not tempt, God does not approve of sin, but God uses sin, is sovereign over it. This is why sin is so dangerous: the only reason we do not fall into sin is the power of God’s grace. If God removes that power, we fall; and when we play with sin we provoke God to remove the power of his grace (see Canons 5:4).
Samson fell in God’s providence that he might be saved from his sins. Humanly speaking, if Samson had not fallen in this way, he would have perished. Rather than allow sin to destroy Samson, God delivered Samson into the hands of the Philistines, in order to bring Samson to repentance by the bitter experience of chastisement. Samson could not be allowed to continue on this self-destructive path. It required a severe chastisement from God to break Samson’s rebellious heart. Samson’s heart was broken, and he died a contrite, and forgiven, child of God.
Samson fell too, because he is not Christ. He is only a weak picture of Christ. Every picture of Christ must fail. Christ was not like Samson. Christ valued his office and the gifts of his office. Christ used his gifts only to serve God and save his church, and rather than sin, he died for our sins on the cross.
When we are tempted to sin, let Samson be a warning to us, and let us flee to Christ, seeking the grace that comes from him.
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