Evening Service Sunday 9th November 2014 Kenneth Gray.
Samson, like the rest of us, continues to display so many different characteristics – bad and good. One minute he is godly and faithful; the next he is full of lust and neglectful of his calling. This chapter opens with Samson pursuing fleshly pleasures and leaving himself vulnerable to the machinations of his enemies.
The Philistines have been thwarted in their ambitions to rule over Israel during Samson’s 20 year reign. Samson should have been more aware of how important he was for Israel.
Kenneth commented that in making arrangements for the recent annual Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph in London the security services undertook to surround the Queen, her family and her ministers with a ‘cordon of steel’ to protect them all from terrorist attack. Such is the symbolic importance to the nation of the Royal Family and our political leaders. Every effort was expended not just to safeguard those individuals but also the offices they each held. Samson failed to grasp his own symbolic importance in the Israelites’ nationhood or his place in God’s plan.
We too can be guilty of putting ourselves in danger regardless of the potentially tragic consequences for our families. Sadly, we all know of high profile church leaders who have fallen from grace into public disgrace because they, like Samson, have succumbed to fleshly temptations.
Samson’s behaviour could have proved disastrous in Gaza but he evades capture with bravado and carries on, seemingly unscathed, until he succumbs to the charms of Delilah – an attraction that will cause his downfall.
Delilah is not a good woman. Samson is very immature, stupid and susceptible to sin.
We are all guilty of stupidity and we get ourselves into stupid situations largely because of our pride. We find ourselves continuing to do something stupid rather than admit our folly. Thus Samson allows Delilah to wear him down. T the start he deals with her in a tongue-in-cheek playful manner, pretending to give her the information she’s seeking. He knows no bonds can confine him because e the Lord has empowered him. Even before he was born Samson had been dedicated to God’s service and the Spirit was in him. His uncut hair was a mark of his calling and it symbolised his faithfulness and obedience to God.
For different people God’s plan and purpose will be different. There was nothing magical about Samson’s hair in itself. God had blessed Samson with the extraordinary physical strength needed to thwart Israel’s enemies and keep them at bay.
But Samson puts all his godliness aside in order to please Delilah and as a result the power God gave him now leaves him. “He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had left him.”
Is that how we feel when we have compromised our faith in order to keep in with non-Christian family or friends? Do we experience the sense that God has left us – or that we have distanced ourselves from him? There are many today who do not even recognise that the Lord has left them.
The Philistines succeed in binding Samson when he is weak and, to make sure he is no longer a force to be reckoned with, they also blind him.
Samson is humiliated and has to be led around by hand. “But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved.” No longer proud and arrogant he turns to God again in prayer finally aware that only God can redeem the situation.
The Philistines are so ecstatic about their conquest of Samson that their judgment is impaired and they fail to perceive him as still a potential threat. There has been little evidence of Samson’s prayer life until now but this experience has finally matured him. He prays “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”
How many of us have prayed the ‘just this once…’ prayer when we have been reduced to our knees in an agonising situation? Do we expect our prayer to be answered? Samson does not ask for or expect a miracle to spare him when he destroys the temple but he clearly expects God to restore his strength so that he can destroy the Philistines. God hears his prayer and grants his request. Samson destroys the élite of Philistine nation. So even in death Samson exercises a leadership role because, for some time to come, the Israelites will be protected from the Philistines.
On this Remembrance Sunday Kenneth reminded us of the genocide perpetrated on some 1.5 million Armenians, mostly Christians, in 1915 by the Ottoman empire – a systematic massacre that elicited scant reaction or intervention by the rest of the world, so much so that Hitler subsequently set about murdering 6 million Jews, seemingly without fear of censure.
Tonight in so many parts of the world the same kinds of atrocities are happening and our brothers and sisters in Christ are being murdered. We must never cease to ask God to preserve and protect his people.