“And what more shall I say? For time will fail me if I tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets. Through faith they conquered kingdoms, administered justice, gained what was promised, shut the mouths of lions, quenched raging fire, escaped the edge of the sword, gained strength in weakness,became mighty in battle, put foreign armies to flight”
Hebrews 11:32-34 (NET)
Have you ever known anyone who wasted his or her life? Someone who began with great potential because of God’s gifts of intelligence or creativity or personality and yet he never lived up to the promise of those qualities?
This week we look at Samson, perhaps the most well-known of all of the judges. There have been times when he has been held up as a hero, but in reality he may be the worst of the judges recorded in this book. As we have traveled back to this time period, we have noted that the judges became less like God and more like the world around them. Yet, Samson is listed as a man of faith in Hebrews 11, our Light for Today. As you read about him, think about how and when he evidenced this faith.
Samson’s life can be divided into three sections: the birth announcement in Judges 13, his activities surrounding the town of Timnah in Judges 14-15, and the saga of his demise in Judges 16. Today we will consider the story of his birth.
Read Judges 13:1.
1. What parts of the cycle that we studied from Judges 2, our Week Three Study, are included in the story of Samson and what parts are missing? What does that suggest about the people of Israel?
Read Judges 13:2-24.
2. Who appeared to the woman, and what was his message and instructions?
What was a Nazirite? It is not related to the town of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. The noun nazir derives from a root meaning “to dedicate or consecrate oneself.”13
Read Numbers 6:1-8 to find the answer.
3. List the outward evidences that one was a Nazirite.
As believers, we are also dedicated unto God for the rest of our lives. Read 1 Peter 1:15-16. The words “holy” and “sanctified” mean separated or set apart unto God. There should be outward evidence of our separation as well.
4. Sharing question: In what ways are you living differently from those around you so that they may see that you are set apart unto God? How do you live differently without coming across as “holier than thou?”
If we see clearly through the darkness, we will not live like those who cannot see; thus, we will look distinct, but we must do that without pride. So often a believer becomes proud of what she doesn’t do and that builds a barrier with witnessing to the world. Only by the grace of God are we believers. We are not saved because we choose not to participate in certain activities or cease from specific sins in our lives but because God has had mercy upon us.
We also see the problem of pride in believers in the gray areas. As God works in our lives to sanctify us more and more, we often try to put the same restrictions on others. There are areas where God has not set out hard and fast rules for what is sin and what is not. For some of us, He convicts us that to participate would be sin for us. For others, there is not the problem. Because of our flesh, we tend to become proud of those areas and see ourselves as superior to those with whom God has dealt in a different way. Paul discusses this in the book of Romans as he deals with areas that are gray, such as dietary laws and observing holy days.
Read Romans 14:2-23.
5. Sharing question: Name one specific way that you can apply Paul’s words about the gray areas to your life.
More Light: Read in your resources on Rom 14:2-23. Write down your insights.
6. Responding to God: Ask God to show you areas of pride in your heart that arise from your lifestyle. Confess it as sin and ask God to give you the humility to realize that you live differently because of the grace and power he gives you, not because of your own greatness! Write your prayer below.
So far the story of Samson seems great with promise. God miraculously opened his mother’s womb and called him to be dedicated unto God for life. Today we begin to see how Samson used the gifts that God gave him.
Read Judges 13:24-14:20.
7. What repeated idea do you see concerning the woman whom Samson wants in 14:2, 3, 7? What is the problem with his marrying her? (See Deut. 7:3-4.)
We see that God’s Spirit is at work in Samson’s life, and this is also repeated through this passage. When you study the scriptures, it is helpful to watch for repetition, which highlights what the passage is stressing.
8. How did Samson use the strength given by the Lord?
Throughout the Scriptures, God is at work, accomplishing his purposes and his plans. We see this in this story of Samson. Yet, Samson seems to be a free agent, doing whatever pleases himself without regard to God. There is tension between God’s sovereignty, his rule over all, and man’s will that the Bible never really explains. God uses us to accomplish his purposes and within his plan, but he does not violate our will in doing so. How does it all fit together? We can only understand it by faith. When God does not choose to explain it to us, it is best to accept it and not try to make it logical; it is a paradox.
More Light: What other story in the Bible shows the paradox of God at work to accomplish his purposes through someone’s disobedience or sin?
9. Look at the following verses and write down your insights about God’s purposes:
a. Isaiah 14:24
b. Isaiah 46:8-11
c. Isaiah 55:8-9
10. Review God’s original purpose for Samson and his life in Judges 13:5. How does this story in Judges 14 contribute to the accomplishment of God’s purposes despite Samson’s poor attitude and judgment?
11. Sharing question: God can use you for his purposes even though you are not walking according to his will. Look back over your life and relate a situation where you can now see the hand of God at work although you were essentially ignoring his word or his will.
12. Responding to God: Read 1 John 2:15-17 and use it to evaluate your attitudes. Samson’s life prioritized a love of the world; we already see lust of the flesh in his life. Ask God to show you any area where you love the world. Write down what he reveals.
Read Judges 14:20-15:20.
13. Summarize the story as the top news of the day on the Philistine news channel or newspaper. Write a headline if you wish.
14. Again, the Spirit of God came upon Samson mightily (Jud. 15:14). What was he able to do when that occurred?
God gives New Testament believers the Holy Spirit to live within us at all times. His purpose in our lives is different from his purpose in Samson’s life, but we also have power.
15. Write down what you learn about the work of God’s Spirit within a believer today:
a. Acts 1:8
b. Romans 8:14
c. Romans 8:26-27
d. Galatians 5:16, 22-23
More Light: Find other New Testament verses in your concordance concerning the work of the Spirit in our lives today.
16. Responding to God: Ask God to show you an area of your life where you are wasting the gift of the Spirit by failing to depend on his strength and power. Write down what he shows you as you sit still in silence before him.
17. Sharing question: Share what God showed you with your group. What one thing can you do in a practical way to walk by the Spirit and tap into his strength instead of your own?
Review Judges 15:18-20, which occurred at the end of the story we read yesterday.
18. What was Samson’s prayer and God’s answer?
Although Samson was again focused on his own desires, the story reveals that God was concerned about his needs. God is interested in everything about us; he wants to take care of us and provide for the things that we truly need.
19. Read these verses and write down what you learn about God meeting your needs:
a. Matt. 6:31-33
b. James 4:3
More Light: Find other verses on prayer in your concordance or topical Bible.
20. Responding to God: Write a prayer asking God to provide for an area of personal need, which may be spiritual or physical. Review the kingdom prayers at the back of this study to help you as you consider a spiritual need.
Read Judges 16:1-3.
21. Relate the story in summary form—and feel free to write a headline!
“It is noteworthy that such a destruction of a city’s gate was particularly humiliating for a city, because gates were thought to be symbolic of a city’s strength.”14
22. How does this story show God’s purposes for Samson succeeding while at the same time it shows Samson motivated by his own lusts?
23. Sharing question: Relate the story of how you have seen God work even through someone’s sins? It will likely be your own storyJ
Read Judges 17:4-31, the sad ending of the saga of Samson.
24. Briefly summarize the story.
In the great Shakespearean tragedies, there is always a character defeat that causes the story to end in sadness. Samson is somewhat of a tragic hero as well Although he fulfilled God’s purpose for his life, he failed to do it God’s way. As a result, he wasted his potential and ended up a tragic figure.
25. What would you identify as Samson’s downfall? Explain.
More Light: Read about Samson death in your resources.
26. How can living out Heb. 12:1-2 help us avoid some of Samson’s failures?
27. Sharing question: What is the sin that is tripping you up? It may not seem like a sin but more like great attitudes: trying to please people, seeking to meet your own goals, seeking material things, or trying to get your family to see things your way. These and other attitudes may reveal that you have put other things over your love for God or that you are trusting yourself for results rather than trusting in God. What can you do to lay this aside so that it doesn’t trip you up?
28. How do you see the truth of Heb. 11:32-34, our memory verses, in Samson’s life?
29. Responding to God: Write a prayer or poem highlighting something you learned in the account of Samson about yourself or about God.
When I left for college, I decided to try out what the world had to offer. I had become disillusioned with my church and consequently decided to put God aside also. I could go out every night of the week if I desired. I went to church once during college, but found it boring and awfully early after getting in so late on Saturday night. I took advantage of every party, and had a lot of fun.
Several years later I began to feel the emptiness of this life. There was something missing, and I felt a strong desire to get back into church. As I plugged back into a church fellowship and began to get involved in Bible study, I had a deep regret for the years I had spent away from the Lord. I had missed out on years of growing in the Lord. I had a lot of knowledge about the Bible but had never spent time studying God’s word for myself. I began to realize what a waste those six years had been that I chose to go my own way. My behavior had led to some choices I made that would have been unthinkable just a few years before.
The hardest thing has been to watch my child go through this same rebellion against God. He puts on the Christian act when he’s at church, but his behavior with his friends shows that he’s making the same mistakes I made. He’s tasting what the world has to offer and nothing I can say about my experiences can make him anticipate the regret he’ll have in the future about the time he’s wasted in his relationship with God.
In the story of Samson we actually see his parents interact with him. You might want to reread Judges 14:1-3, 5. Although Manoah and his wife knew that Samson should not marry this Philistine woman, they went ahead with the arrangements because Samson insisted. Samson was motivated by his lusts and pleasures throughout his life. In this instance we see no indication that his parents set limits on him. Perhaps that is one reason that he set few limits on himself.
As parents our job is to train our children in the commands of the Lord. We are the first defense against their becoming selfish and self-centered. Our precious children are actually born sinners, whose tendency is to look at life in totally selfish ways, attempting to fulfill their personal desires. If we give in to all of their selfish wishes, we do not teach them to look out for the needs of others or to obey God, who knows what is best.
Desire is insatiable; no matter how much you give, it can never be satisfied. Your children do not need everything they see or everything they want. Begin early to teach them to wait and to work for the things they really need. Teach them to be generous with others rather than constantly looking for material things for themselves.
Do not use material goods to placate them. Don’t fall into the habit of buying them something every time they go with you to the store. My children learned that Christmas and birthdays were the times that they received gifts (I’m not talking about needed school clothes). They realized that they had to wait to satisfy their desires, and they never received everything that they asked for. They had to pick what they wanted most.
Keep in mind your long-term goals for your children. What kind of adults do you want them to be? Begin to teach them early to be giving, unselfish, and kind.
13 E. Ray Clendenen, 403.
14 Leon Wood, Distressing Days of the Judges (Grand Rapids, MI: Academie Books, 1975), 328.