Introduction: God appointed Samson to deliver the Jews from the Philistines (Jdgs. 13:5). Samson knew of his special calling and he had even seen God confirm his calling through the power of the Holy Spirit. Yet, like many believers empowered with the Spirit, Samson was uninterested in using his gifts to serve God. Instead, like many believers, he was only interested in the things of the flesh. He remained driven only by his desire for foreign women. He walked by sight and not by faith. His failure to control the lusts of his flesh and his failure to follow God made him spiritually blind. Eventually, this caused him to become captured, blinded, and humiliated. Only after Samson lost his sight did he regain his strength by crying out to God. From his failures in Judges 16, God reveals seven lessons about the dangers of walking by sight.
First, from Samson’s decision to sleep with a Philistine prostitute after God had just delivered him from 1,000 enemy troops, He reveals that a person who walks by sight is governed by the desires of the flesh. Second, from Samson’s misuse of God’s gifts to show off before the Jews by carrying the Philistine gates 40 miles to the Jewish city of Hebron, He reveals a person who walks by sight seeks after only personal glory. Third, from Delilah’s entrapment and manipulation of Samson, He reveals that a person who walks by sight will be deceived by Satan and the things of the world. Fourth, from Samson’s participation in Delilah’s first three attempts to entrap him, He reveals that a person who walks by sight risks being placed into the bondage of the things of the world and Satan. Fifth, from Samson’s capitulation to Delilah’s ongoing deceit by revealing the last unbroken vow that made him a Nazarite (his uncut hair), He reveals that those who walk by sight will lose what makes them distinctive and holy in God’s eyes. This in turn will cause them to become spiritually unclean and without the full power of the Holy Spirit. Sixth, from Samson’s capture, his imprisonment, and his being blinded, He reveals that when you walk by sight you will become spiritually blinded. You will also stand outside His Covenant where He can protect you. Finally, from Samson’s cry to God after losing his power and sight, He reveals that a person must lose that which he or she depends upon to find God’s strength.
Samson sleeps with a Philistine prostitute in Gaza. God had just empowered Samson at a place called Lehi to kill 1,000 Philistines. He had also just miraculously provided water to quench his thirst (Jdgs. 15:14-19). How did Samson thank God? He traveled to the Philistine enclave of Gaza in south western Israel and celebrated by sleeping with a Philistine prostitute: “1 Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her.” (Jdgs. 16:1). Samson had previously tried to marry a Philistine woman from the city of Timnah after he lusted after her: “But Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me, for she looks good to me.’” (Jdgs. 14:1-3). Like many people today, Samson was driven solely based upon the lusts of the flesh. Yet, Samson realized that marrying a Philistine was not a practical solution. The Philistines had deceived him and tried to kill him. His own people also would not support his endeavor because he was expressly prohibited under God’s law from having a foreign wife (Ex. 34:16; Dt. 7:3-4). Joshua also warned against this just before his death (Josh. 23:12-13). This same problem was also one of the central reasons for the Jews’ cycle of idolatry, punishment, and their need for deliverance (Jdgs. 3:6; Ezra 9:2; Neh. 13:25). In addition to prohibiting marriage with the Canaanites, God commanded the Jews to destroy the nations of Canaan. As their deliverer, Samson’s calling was to lead the Jews to destroy the Philistines, not intermarry with them (Ex. 23:33; Dt. 7:16; 12:30; Ps. 106:34-36). Rather than repenting of his unholy desires and leading the Jews, Samson rationalized that he could sleep with a Philistine prostitute and satisfy his lusts without having to worry about complicated relationships between the Philistines and the Jews. The Jews had come to do what was right in their own eyes (Jdgs. 17:6; 21:25). They now had a deliverer with their same moral ambivalence. Like the Jews of that day and Samson, society today has largely rejected God’s law. Instead, society has come to do what is right in its own eyes.
A man who sleeps with a prostitute becomes one with her in God’s eyes. If a person sleeps with a prostitute, they become “one flesh” in God’s eyes: “Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, ‘The two shall become one flesh’” (1 Cor. 6:16; Gen. 2:24). Prostitution will drag a believer off his or her walk with God: “For a harlot is a deep pit and an adulterous woman is a narrow well.” (Prov. 23:27). It will also damage your soul: “Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.” (1 Cor. 6:18). “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). Prostitution begins by allowing your eyes to become filled with darkness (Matt. 6:22-23; Lk. 11:34). This lust of the flesh comes from the devil (1 Jo. 2:16). Are you watching things that put your mind on the wrong path?
Sleeping with a prostitute also dishonors Christ. The Holy Spirit dwells within you when you accept Christ (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). Sleeping with a prostitute therefore dishonors Christ by making evil part of the Body of Christ: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be!” (1 Cor. 6:15). “Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,” (Gal. 5:19). Are you dishonoring Christ through carnal thoughts or actions?
Unrepentant prostitution leads to judgment. Samson could not escape judgment by sleeping with a Philistine woman outside of marriage. Those who are unsaved will be judged for all forms of sexual immorality, including prostitution: “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,” (1 Cor. 6:9). Part of the punishment for a person who seeks out prostitution is an addiction that can never be satisfied by giving into it (Prov. 27:20). Giving into these lusts can lead to addictions and pain. Thus, you must resist the unholy desires of your flesh: “But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.” (Ro. 13:14). If something in your life is causing you to stumble and give into the flesh, you must cut it out (Matt. 18:9; 5:29; Mk. 9:47). If you have suffered temptation with desires of your flesh, have you repented and prayed for God to deliver you from it?
Samson’s miraculous escape and his carrying a Philistine gate to the Jews. Samson’s act of prostitution should have resulted in his punishment or capture. Yet, out of mercy and grace, God gave him the power to miraculously escape from the consequences of his own sins. Samson then sought to boast of his escape by carrying the Philistine gates to the Jews: “2 When it was told to the Gazites, saying, ‘Samson has come here,’ they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the gate of the city. And they kept silent all night, saying, ‘Let us wait until the morning light, then we will kill him.’ 3 Now Samson lay until midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the city gate and the two posts and pulled them up along with the bars; then he put them on his shoulders and carried them up to the top of the mountain which is opposite Hebron.” (Jdgs. 16:2-3). Samson’s strength could only have come from God. He carried the city gate 40 miles away to the mountain top next to Hebron. God would have had to sedate the sleeping Philistine soldiers. There is no other way they could have slept through the noise Samson would have created. Yet, Samson again was not using his God-given power for a holy purpose. Instead, he misused God’s talents to show off his power in an act of vanity. There are lessons here for every believer to avoid.
Give the glory to God for your gifts and victories. Believers are at times no better than Samson. Believers frequently seek to draw praise for themselves after they use their God-given gifts in the jobs, in sports, or in other areas of their lives. Every good and perfect thing in your life is from God (Jam. 1:17). In everything, give thanks: “in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18; Ro. 1:8). “A Psalm of David when he feigned madness before Abimelech, who drove him away and he departed. I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” (Ps. 34:1). Are you boasting or showing off when God blesses you? When others praise you, are you giving the credit back to God to glorify His holy name?
Delilah’s first attempt to deceive Samson. Samson had become known throughout the Philistine nation as a menace. They knew that their only chance for capturing him was through his weakness for women. Thus, they convinced Delilah to seduce him to learn the secret behind his power: “4 After this it came about that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah. 5 The lords of the Philistines came up to her and said to her, ‘Entice him, and see where his great strength lies and how we may overpower him that we may bind him to afflict him. Then we will each give you eleven hundred pieces of silver.’ 6 So Delilah said to Samson, ‘Please tell me where your great strength is and how you may be bound to afflict you.’ 7 Samson said to her, ‘If they bind me with seven fresh cords that have not been dried, then I will become weak and be like any other man.’ 8 Then the lords of the Philistines brought up to her seven fresh cords that had not been dried, and she bound him with them. 9 Now she had men lying in wait in an inner room. And she said to him, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ But he snapped the cords as a string of tow snaps when it touches fire. So his strength was not discovered.” (Jdgs. 16:4-9). The Philistines previously used extortion with the threat of harm to turn Samson’s prior fiancé on him (Jdgs. 14:15). This time, they used silver to bribe Samson’s love interest. Samson was no longer concerned about the need to marry the woman he wanted to sleep with. He also no longer wanted to pay for his sex. Thus, like many people today, Samson did what was right in his own eyes by seeking to sleep with women outside of marriage on a casual basis. Delilah was also motivated to enter into this relationship. Yet, her motive was greed, not lust. The Philistines offered 1,100 shekels of silver from each governor, which totaled 5,500 shekels. 1,100 shekels equaled more than 140 pounds or 63 kilograms of silver. Thus, this totaled 700 pounds or 315 kilograms of silver. This offer would have made her the richest women in Philistine or Israel. By contrast, Gideon only collected a third of this amount when he sought tribute following his victory over the Midianites (Jdgs. 8:26). Delilah’s questions suggested that Samson was not muscular. Thus, the Philistines were perplexed as to the source of his strength. They knew that his only weakness was in women. At the same time, Samson had become so numb to his sin that he showed no concern at all about Delilah’s motives in trying to learn his secrets and trap him for the Philistines.
Samson’s offer to defile his Nazarite vows as a taunt to the Philistines. Samson could have broken off his interest in Delilah after she showed interest in learning the source of his power. Or, he could have ignored or rebuked her inquires. Instead, he gave her a fake test that involved being tied up with animal intestines. His test, however, mocked God by inviting the Philistines to cause him to violate his Nazarite vows. As a Nazarite and as a Jew, Samson was prohibited from going near a “dead body,” which included an animal carcass (Nu. 6:6, 19:11; Lev. 11:8). Merely touching the corpse would normally require a sin offering (Lev. 5:2). He violated this vow when he ate the honey that had miraculously appeared inside a lion that he had killed (Jdgs. 14:5-9). He again violated the vow when he grabbed a dead donkey’s jawbone (Jdgs. 15:14-17). Here, he again violated this vow by inviting the Philistines to tie him up with the intestines of an animal carcass (Jdgs. 16:7). He had also most likely violated his vow not to drink alcohol by participating in a Philistine bachelor party for seven days (Jdgs. 14:10). One by one, Samson would compromise each thing that made him distinct in God’s eyes. When he finally lost all the symbols that made him unique (the last one being his hair), he lost his power. He would eventually become salt that had lost its saltiness (Matt. 5:13). Christ has made you clean through His suffering on the cross. Like Delilah, Satan is constantly seeking to entice you to give up the things that make you clean and distinctive through Christ. Are you dirtying yourself with the sinful things of the world?
Delilah’s second attempt to deceive Samson. The promise of becoming the richest woman amongst the Philistines was something that Delilah would not give up. Thus, she persisted in her efforts to trick Samson. Again, Samson played with her with a second fake test: “10 Then Delilah said to Samson, ‘Behold, you have deceived me and told me lies; now please tell me how you may be bound.’ 11 He said to her, ‘If they bind me tightly with new ropes which have not been used, then I will become weak and be like any other man.’ 12 So Delilah took new ropes and bound him with them and said to him, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ For the men were lying in wait in the inner room. But he snapped the ropes from his arms like a thread.” (Jdgs. 16:10-12). Samson was commanded to “flee immorality.” (1 Cor. 6:18). As a Nazarite, the uncut hair, the prohibition on touching the dead, and drinking alcohol were all to remind him to be holy. By inviting Delilah to tie him with ropes, he was playing with spiritual bondage.
Delilah’s third attempt to deceive Samson. After being tied up twice, Delilah’s deceit had to be obvious to Samson. Yet, he had become spiritually blind to the risk that she posed. He almost gave away his last distinctive part of his Nazarite vow by inviting her to bind up his hair: “13 Then Delilah said to Samson, ‘Up to now you have deceived me and told me lies; tell me how you may be bound.’ And he said to her, ‘If you weave the seven locks of my hair with the web and fasten it with a pin, then I will become weak and be like any other man.’ 14 So while he slept, Delilah took the seven locks of his hair and wove them into the web. And she fastened it with the pin and said to him, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ But he awoke from his sleep and pulled out the pin of the loom and the web.” (Jdgs. 16:13-14). Each failed attempt to deceive Samson was a warning. After three strikes, he was now outside of God’s protection’s from Delilah’s deceit. Like Samson, believers frequently ignore God’s warnings about the dangerous bondage of sin.
If you abandon Christ’s holiness, God will hand you over to the bondage of the flesh. Like the Nazarites, believers are called upon to be separated from the world and holy for God’s use (1 Pet. 1:15-16). You maintain your holiness by denying yourself when you have unholy desires. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.’” (Matt. 16:24). If you reject the holiness of Christ and give into your unholy desires of the flesh, God will eventually hand you over to your addictions: “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,” (Ro. 1:28). Are you denying yourself and staying holy for Him?
Samson capitulates to Delilah’s ongoing deceit. Even after witnessing Delilah’s deceit on three separate occasion, Samson finally gave into to her seductive pleading. He gave up the last thing that made him distinct in God’s eyes: “15 Then she said to him, ‘How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me? You have deceived me these three times and have not told me where your great strength is.’ 16 It came about when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death. 17 So he told her all that was in his heart and said to her, ‘A razor has never come on my head, for I have been a Nazirite to God from my mother’s womb. If I am shaved, then my strength will leave me and I will become weak and be like any other man.’ 18 When Delilah saw that he had told her all that was in his heart, she sent and called the lords of the Philistines, saying, ‘Come up once more, for he has told me all that is in his heart.’ Then the lords of the Philistines came up to her and brought the money in their hands.” (Jdgs. 16:15-18). Here, Delilah manipulated Samson with the same trap about his love for her that his Philistine finance had once employed against him (Jdgs. 14:16-17). She also fulfilled Samson’s riddle by revealing that her sweetness was more powerful than his strength (Jdgs. 14:18). By revealing the last part of his Nazarite vow that he had not yet violated, Samson revealed for the first time that he knew of his special calling. Why then would he give it up so casually for sex? Because he had become spiritually blind. God had rescued him and forgiven him so many times that he believed that God would not cause him to lose his powers. Or, he assumed that God would rescue him again. Thus, instead of testing Delilah, Samson was now testing God to rescue and forgive him of his sins. Like many believers, he no longer took God seriously. Like many today, he no longer believed that there were consequences to sin. Yet, God’s warnings should never be mocked (Gal. 6:7). Are you testing God by engaging in open sin against Him?
Don’t cast your pearls at swine. Jesus warned: “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, or they will trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” (Matt. 7:6). Samson threw away the last thing that made him distinctive in God’s eyes. Samson’s personal failure symbolized the failure of the nation of Israel. It was meant to be a light to the nations (Is. 42:6). Yet, it had also squandered its special spiritual inheritance. Jesus therefore warns believers not to make the same mistake: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matt. 5:13). Without the blood of Christ, saltiness cannot be restored once it is given up: “Salt is good; but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” (Matt. 9:50; Lk. 14:34). Believers are called upon to be holy because Jesus is holy (1 Pet. 1:15-16; Lev. 11:44-45; 19:2). “A highway will be there, a roadway, and it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, but it will be for him who walks that way, and fools will not wander on it.” (Is. 35:8). Are you keeping yourself holy by giving yourself only to God and abstaining from all forms of evil?
Samson loses his hair, his strength, and his sight. Because God cannot be in the presence of sin, God left Samson once he surrendered the last thing that made him distinctive in God’s eyes. This caused Samson’s strength to leave him, which in turn allowed the Philistines to blind him and take him captive: “19 She made him sleep on her knees, and called for a man and had him shave off the seven locks of his hair. Then she began to afflict him, and his strength left him. 20 She said, ‘The Philistines are upon you, Samson!’ And he awoke from his sleep and said, ‘I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.’ But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him. 21 Then the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison. 22 However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off. 23 Now the lords of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice, for they said, ‘Our god has given Samson our enemy into our hands.’ 24 When the people saw him, they praised their god, for they said, ‘Our god has given our enemy into our hands, even the destroyer of our country, who has slain many of us.’” (Jdgs. 16:19-24). Samson thought his power came from his hair. Yet, that would have made it just an idol. It instead came from God. Without anything left to make him distinctive for God, God could no longer be in his sinful presence. Because Samson was blinded by his lusts, he still tried to initially break free when was hair gone. He was completely unaware of the fact that God had left him. He had squandered God’s gifts on his own desires of the flesh. His loss of his physical sight merely reflected what had already happened to his spiritual sight.
Don’t be spiritually blinded like Samson. All who walk by sight are spiritually blinded: “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4:3-4; Matt. 13:22; Is. 42:16). “Sin has its wages, and this was Samson’s payday. His sin left him blind, in bondage, and a slave. Before Samson’s blindness, bondage, and slavery were only inward, but they eventually became evident outwardly.” (David Guzik on Judges 16). Are you allowing yourself to be trapped in bondage to sin?
A believer who sins also dishonors God. Samson’s defeat was not only a personal defeat, it allowed the Philistines to boast that their idol “Dagon” was greater than God. Dagon was in fact Satan, who is also known to believers as the “Dragon.” (Rev. 12:9). Every believer is Christ’s ambassador on earth (2 Cor. 5:20). Are you representing the true love and truth of Christ through your lifestyle? Or, are you repelling others from Christ?
There are consequences to sin for believers. God warns all believers He will lift His hedge of protection when you decide to live outside the protections of His covenant: (Dt. 28:15). Your salvation is not tied to your obedience. Yet, a lifestyle outside the protections of the Ten Commandments can lead to progressively severe curses (Dt. 28:16-68; Lev. 26:14-39). This includes, but is not limited to captivity and oppression: “Because you did not serve the LORD your God with joy and a glad heart, for the abundance of all things; therefore you shall serve your enemies whom the LORD will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in the lack of all things; and He will put an iron yoke on your neck until He has destroyed you.” (Dt. 28:47-48; Lev. 26:17). Like Samson, when Israel turned away from God, it was taken captive, placed into exile, and suffered tremendously: “And you will, even of yourself, let go of your inheritance that I gave you; and I will make you serve your enemies In the land which you do not know; for you have kindled a fire in My anger which will burn forever.” (Jer. 17:4; Lam. 5:2; 1 Chron. 9:1; 2 Chron. 36:20; Dan. 1:1-7). Should you expect God’s continued blessings and protections from the devil if you openly rebel against Him?
God heard the prayers of Samson when he called out in humility. It was only after Samson had been humbled and humiliated that he finally cried out to God. At that point, God gave him his strength one last time to destroy a pagan temple with 3,000 enemy leaders and soldiers: “25 It so happened when they were in high spirits, that they said, ‘Call for Samson, that he may amuse us.’ So they called for Samson from the prison, and he entertained them. And they made him stand between the pillars. 26 Then Samson said to the boy who was holding his hand, ‘Let me feel the pillars on which the house rests, that I may lean against them.’ 27 Now the house was full of men and women, and all the lords of the Philistines were there. And about 3,000 men and women were on the roof looking on while Samson was amusing them. 28 Then Samson called to the Lord and said, ‘O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.’ 29 Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. 30 And Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines!’ And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life. 31 Then his brothers and all his father’s household came down, took him, brought him up and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. Thus he had judged Israel twenty years.” (Jdgs. 16:28-31). Samson not only lost his sight, he was also humiliated by his captors. He was also forced to use what was left of his strength to grind flour for the others in prison. His strength was so emasculated that his captors felt comfortable having a boy guide him around. Samson was most likely transferred to Gaza because the national leaders of the Philistines were located there. They wanted to personally witness Samson’s fall and participate in his ridicule. Samson did not cry out to God until he was completely humbled. Yet, even when he called out, his request for God’s strength was purely for personal vengeance and not for some higher purpose. In the end, God’s used this misguided deliver one last time to kill 3,000 enemy leaders and soldiers who had come to mock him. Samson wound up killing far more Philistines than he had ever done previously. This in turn served God’s purpose by starting a conflict between the Jews and the Philistines. Yet, the Jews would have to wait for the arrival of David hundreds of years later to finally defeat their enemy.
Find strength in meekness and humility. A believer’s true power in God is magnified through meekness and humility: “Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Cor. 12:10). “For we rejoice when we ourselves are weak but you are strong; this we also pray for, that you be made complete.” (2 Cor. 13:9; 1 Cor. 4:10). Meekness is strength under control. Are you in control of your flesh?
Deny yourself when using your God-given talents. Every believer has gifts of the Holy Spirit. When you use those gifts for your own self-interests, you are no better than Samson or the flawed deliverers who preceded him. This includes but is not limited to those in leadership: “those called to the highest positions of leadership may be most tempted to operate on the basis of their senses rather than on the basis of principle. Samson was able to kill his enemies by the hundreds and thousands, but he was impotent in the face of women’s charms. Whereas Barak was motivated by jealousy, Gideon by logic, Jephthah by ambition and pagan values, Samson was driven by lust. . . . [T]hose who are called into divine service must focus their energies on the divine agenda rather than getting sidetracked into personal adventures. Samson offers the reader of Scripture the clearest example of ‘Thy kingdom come’ being supplanted and displaced by ‘My kingdom come.’ He also reminds us that the temptation may be the greatest to those who are most gifted.” (Daniel Block, The New American Commentary: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, Judges, Ruth, Vol. 6, B & H Publishing Group 1999 p. 471). This same lesson explains why God did create people with superpowers, like comic book heroes. If believers had these powers, they would most likely misuse them like Samson. Do you rejoice in your weakness and your dependence on God?
Only Jesus can restore your spiritual sight. Like Samson, Paul’s physical blindness reflected his spiritual blindness (Acts 9:7-8). Jesus later removed the scales from his eyes (Acts. 9:18). Jesus has come to give sight to the spiritually blind (Is. 61:6; Lk. 4:18; Matt. 11:5). “And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.’” (Jo. 9:39). Are you praying for Jesus to give sight to those who are in spiritual blindness around you?