1 John 5:19
And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.
And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years.
(Part 1; Part 2) If you read through the book of Judges, you’ll find that in most of the stories that the people of Israel repented, and sought the Lord, and that God raised them up a savior (Judge) to deliver Israel from their oppressors. In the case of Samson, however, there is no record that the people of Israel repented before God sent them Samson. Judges 13:1, above, is the account of the condition of Israel at the offset of Samson’s life – God had delivered them to the Philistines, they don’t appear to have repented, but God was ready to send them a savior anyways (there is another parallel to Jesus (Rom 5:6)).
We like to nitpick Samson’s failure to follow certain meticulous aspects of the law, and his occasional moral indiscretions, but let us not fail to realize the condition of the world he came into: only in Shiloh, where the tabernacle stood was there any semblance of piety and devotion to God. In fact the testimony declared in Judges 17:6 & 21:25 that ‘…every man did that which was right in his own eyes’ was true in the time of Samson. In fact, it was around the same (just shortly after Samson’s life) that many in the tribe of Benjamin had literally descended into the degradation and violence of the Sodomites (read Judges 19).
Samson’s entire life was marked by opposition. He wasn’t only opposed in the spiritual, or alone by the enemies of God. Samson was opposed by the people of God whom he was sent to deliver. In Judges 15 we see that the Jews who had been made subservient to their Philistine oppressors opposed Samson as well. Rather than rallying to fight with the great warrior, Samson’s own people sought to deliver him into the hands of their enemies (as for relatability…). He had to convince his own people not to kill or injure him, but to bind him only before handing him over to the Philistines. I think the story of Samson is one of the most tragic stories in the bible – but its also a powerful story about redemption!
The situation in Israel had become so bad that God had to sovereignly raise up a savior – even against the will of the Israelites – in order to deliver them. Samson, alone, was in the will of God – and the whole world around him lay in complete, and utter wickedness.
1 John 5:19
And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness.
Now that we’ve laid a better understanding of Samson’s circumstances, let’s get back up, again to the topic: Samson’s Riddle.
Samson had determined to take a Philistine wife; he met his first violent opposition when a lion attacked him in the way to his engagement with her. The Spirit of God came on Samson so powerfully that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands. But he didn’t tell anyone – he kept it a secret. The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him… (Ps 25:14)
Judges 14:5-9 … 12-14
And after a time he returned to take her [his Philistine wife], and he turned aside to see the carcase of the lion: and, behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion.
And he took thereof in his hands, and went on eating, and came to his father and mother, and he gave them, and they did eat: but he told not them that he had taken the honey out of the carcase of the lion.
And Samson said unto them, I will now put forth a riddle unto you: if ye can certainly declare it me within the seven days of the feast, and find it out, then I will give you thirty sheets and thirty change of garments:
But if ye cannot declare it me, then shall ye give me thirty sheets and thirty change of garments. And they said unto him, Put forth thy riddle, that we may hear it.
And he said unto them, Out of the eater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness. And they could not in three days expound the riddle.
So here’s the situation: Samson is marrying a Philistine; everyone in the wedding party (save himself, and his family) are Philistines. He has 30 Philistine groomsmen, and he challenges them to a riddle… a riddle which, by the way, its impossible to know the answer to. The riddle was a story of an experience he had that no one else in the world (even his closest kin) were privy to. The challenge was a completely stacked deck.
The only way it would be possible to answer this riddle was if the contestants heard the answer from the Spirit of God(!!!). Another time in the bible was the same sort of question put forth – in the book of Daniel (where Daniel had to reveal to the king what he had dreamed nights before). The only way this riddle could ever be expounded is if there were a prophet among the Philistines – and guess what? THAT’S THE POINT!!!
How dare these uncircumcised fiends – who are unable to hear the voice of God – how dare them be calling the shots on God’s people! If the Philistines could hear the voice of God, then would they decidedly be worthy of honor – Samson would give each of them a suit of clothes. If they could not hear the voice of God, then let them pay tribute to the Hebrew for once!
Instead what did his groomsmen do? They cornered Samson’s fiancé, and threatened to burn her and her family alive so that they wouldn’t have to buy Samson some clothes. Wow. Talk about making a horsefly into an elephant… and talk about double standards! They certainly weren’t about to pay tribute to some JEW!
Here’s the first part of the story that I really begin to feel for Samson. Instead of going to Samson and telling him that the groomsmen had threatened her life and family, his wife joined those dirt-bags in their plot and tried to manipulate Samson!
I wish she would have just told him how they threatened her. Could you imagine what Samson would have done to those guys?! I think he’d have hung them from trees and burned the trees down; doesn’t matter, it would have been curtains for those bozos.
Instead she ruined the whole wedding party, and manipulated Samson until he relented and let her in on the secret.
When the Philistine groomsmen could answer the natural part of the riddle, Samson knew they had discovered it from his wife – he had told no one else… and furthermore they clearly had no prophetic revelation into the deeper meaning of the riddle.
Out of the eater came something to eat,
And out of the strong came something sweet.
Out of our opposition comes our sustenance. When Caleb and Joshua attempted to persuade the Israelites to enter the Canaan land, they declared that the mighty Canaanites (including the Philistines) and the giants of the land would be: ‘bread for us’ Numbers 14:9.
That which opposes us becomes our victory. Samson’s life was marked by opposition – opposition on every side, and from every quarter – but in the midst of it, even when he fell into disobedience, and allowed the sign of his consecration to be cut off – even his fall into sin set him in a place where he could attain a great victory. That’s not because God willed his disobedience (or the humiliation that followed it), but because: all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28)
We always assume that Samson was incredibly strong – and we picture him as immensely muscled. That may be accurate – but have you ever noticed that everywhere Samson performed an amazing feat was not due to his natural strength but because: ‘the Spirit of the Lord came upon him’? It is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of God.
Samson exemplifies this blessed Gospel principal: Every adverse situation you find yourself in can be redeemed; every opponent to your life and calling can be overcome by the Spirit of God.
Samson was born in a time when even God’s people opposed the anointing, and were unrepentant; Samson stumbled, and surely required grace – but the grief of his life was in being the only righteous man on the planet. The contrast between Israel’s wickedness, and the calling of God on Samson’s life made for a frankly miserable existence. But there is such a blessed hope, and promise in the Gospel. Surely, even though all the cards were stacked against him, Samson’s faith overcame the world.
1 John 5:4
For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.
Keep the faith, beloved.