I to say to Samson: “Paddle, Samson, Paddle.” The problem with Samson in this scripture is that he is lazy// complacent, Samson drifts back to his old ways and drifts away from God. The old Samson is creeping back. Judges 15:20 ends, “Samson led Israel for 20 years in the days of the Philistines.” 20 years of peace. 20 years of relative calm. He was likely about 20 when he burst onto the scene, when he first went down to the land of the Philistines… maybe Samson hits that mid-life crisis, where the guy middle age guy just has to buy the Harley Davidson, the red sports car, Samson decides to sleep with a prostitute! Paddle, Samson, Paddle, get out of there, this will lead to no good, stay out of those places, don’t compromise your convictions. Don’t you hate it when your hero’s fall? Even sports heros…When leaders are caught in scandals, especially when it is purely selfish indulgence on their part? Paddle, Samson, Paddle.
Bowren Lakes. Only by the grace of God did my sister and I come out alive. One lake emptied into a river, started out swift but steady, we knew exactly what was coming. The most dangerous part of the trip. The river immediately took a left, and we managed to steer left, the current picked up, then the river took a sharp right, and as the river went right, the current is furious, it is called the roller coaster. We could not make the turn, so we went straight towards the bank, relative calm waters, but we had little control, and the current took us and drifted us going backwards into the roller coaster. Only by the grace of God did we make it safely for the half mile or mile going backwards over the rapids.
Samson became complacent to the ways of God, in Judges 16:1-3, maybe he’s tired of the pressure of being a leader, maybe he hits middle age restlessness, for whatever reason he wanted to be edgy, drift to his old ways, he goes to a Philistine prostitute, and he makes it through the threat of the Philistines. Once again he retreats to his old ways, relying on his own strength, carrying the city gate to the top of the hill. Samson’s strength is his weakness.// Samson relies on his own physical strength as the back up plan to get him out of the mess he was in… drifting away from God. The gate, it is estimated, weighed 700 pounds. The gate represents the security of the town. When Samson unhinged the gate and took it to the top of the hill facing Hebron, an Israel city, he was taunting the Philistines, flexing his muscles, playing a dangerous game. Paddle, Samson, Paddle, God may get you through this, by the grace of God you may make it over the rapids backwards, but why put yourself in this position? You will fall. / fail.
Samson is at the top, 20 years of peace, and he takes God for granted, relying on his own strength, instead of God. Paddle, Samson, Paddle. Samson is a man that never dealt with the deep issues in his life …and he got away with it. For the moment.
Most of the time, when we flirt with disaster, when we compromise our convictions, we get away with it. For the moment. The Bible is full of people that lament to God, asking why the wicked prosper. Samson compromises his commitment to God, he let’s his own people down – he is the leader of Israel and he sleeps with the enemy and taunts them. And he gets away with it by his own strength. This is why to much of the world the voice of the church may seem hollow, because the Christian community declares it is better to live with high standards, high principles, high morals, but when people dabble in questionable behavior, nothing happens, what does it hurt? Samson gets away with his bad behavior. At least for the moment. Samson has no intention of paddling away from danger. He is lazy. Letting his guard down. Drifting into danger. Later there is a haunting verse “But [Samson] did not know that the Lord had left him.” We’ll get to it. Samson is spiritually lazy.
Samson and Delilah, a legendary story taught in Sunday School, immortalized in movies, a fascinating and intriguing story that has it all… Samson made it through one scrape by his own incredible strength… so why not another. You made it home driving drunk once, nothing happened, what’s it hurt to do it again? I recently read a story of a woman that embezzled something like $150k from the small business she worked for… she was the accountant…investigators said it started out as small checks to herself, she could hide them, it was easy, so she did it again, and again…. Just as average woman with a family…. Samson falls in love with Delilah (Judges 16:4). It’s his doing. It’s his downfall. It’s Samson’s weakness. He could still feel the adrenaline rush of carrying a 700 pound gate to the top of the Hill. “I am invincible” he convinced himself! Somehow the words “Paddle, Samson, Paddle” seem to fall on deaf ears. Samson is in love and he has a strength that can get him out of any jam.
This is a story about a lazy man that has drifted away. Samson’s strength is his weakness… I know pastor’s that are naturally gifted speakers, and they can be the laziest pastors ever, because they don’t have to work hard, they can entertain with ease, turn a phrase…but end up saying nothing. Samson is lazy. Our strength may become a weakness if we rely on that giftedness, instead of God. People with a lot of money can be lazy because they think they don’t need God for anything – they are self-sufficient. Intelligent people think they can think their way out of any problems… well connected people… whatever your natural strength, can be your greatest weakness. Samson is strong, and he flexes his muscles -- his strength is his weakness… Samson gets tired of God, the stability of peace, and he drifts away, never having completely shed the old ways, the old thoughts, the old self-independence. Heb. 2:1 “We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”
Samson’s strength is about to unravel, exposing his weakness, his ego… God does not abandon Samson, Samson abandon’s God// and God lets him suffer the consequences of his own decisions/sin. Next week we’ll see Samson come back to God, and God uses him to his own glory once again, but the consequences are not removed. He is blinded because of his own foolishness and his earthly sight is never restored. Our sins can always be forgiven when we turn to God, but that does not mean there are not ongoing consequences.
Same song, second verse. The story of Samson and Delilah is eerily like the first story of Samson’s fall. Samson falls in love with a Philistine woman he doesn’t even know. Samson does not seem that bright. Maybe that’s a man problem. The men of Philistia go to the woman in Judges 16:5 bribing her to lure Samson into revealing the secret of his strength. We’ve heard it before. Reading this story is like the parent watching helplessly as their own children make the same mistakes, stupid decisions, tempations, they once made – and they feel helpless. “Paddle, Samson, Paddle,” don’t do it, and the words fall on deaf ears. Samson and Delilah is like watching the train wreck, the train cannot stop. Once upon a time I used to clean the bathrooms in the old Lion’s Club Park, and I watched from across the park a young child come out of the camper and spot what he obviously thought was a cat, but it was a skunk, and I watched in horror as the drama unfolded in slow motion, the skunk try to get away, the child reached down, the skunk turned and sprayed the child directly in the face…
Samson toys with Delilah, we already read the story, you can see it coming a mile away. No good will come of it. Do you know how often I feel that way, I was a long way from that skunk, it happened so fast in slow motion, and I was figuring out what was happening as I saw the child… I see decisions being made and I feel so helpless. I don’t understand why Samson even put himself in this position, I don’t get the crazy ideas people get in their head, young people smoking cigarettes is nuts for so many reasons, it may bring a momentary high, but it will lead to no good… Samson has a false confidence, thinking that his great strength will always keep him safe... Living on the edge of disaster, thinking you are immune. Every few years a carload of teenagers is killed or badly hurt in the county, speeding, thinking they are invincible and can get away with anything. The problem is that so often we do… at least in the short run…but like Samson, our own strength will fail us… we will, in time, run into our limits. Like Samson, we don’t even realize when the line has been crossed.
Delilah begs Samson to tell her the secret. At last she found the ace card, his ego, Judges 16:15. This is virtually the same thing said to Samson 20 years earlier, the first Philistine woman… his ego, he had to save face.
The saddest verse is found in Judges 16:20. Samson gave in to the woman, he told her the secret and what it all meant, she called in the Philistine men while Samson slept, and they shaved his head, Delilah calls out to awake him, and then in Judges 16:20 this incredibly sad note: “But he did not know that the Lord had left him.”
To drift away, to take God for granted… going through the motions of faith. ½ hearted. Samson pays a heavy price… mutilation of his eyes, deport him to Gaza (the place of the prostitute), imprisonment, humiliated grinding grain like an animal. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
Paddle, Samson, Paddle. But Samson did not hear. And now it’s like he’s going backwards through the rollercoaster, helpless, out of control.
Samson never dealt with the real issues in his life… and the issue keeps coming up again and again… Unless we deal with the real issues in our lives, unless we really get down to ground level with our problems, unless we get down to the level of “this is what I’m really like,” until we do that, those problems will come back again and again and again. Some of you have never dealt with the real problems in your life—like anger and bitterness, like an unforgiving spirit, like an undisciplined life, and like lust and uncontrolled passion.
Samson has never let himself be fully controlled by the Holy Spirit. He believed in God, was gifted by God, but he had his own strength as the back-up plan. Trusting in God 90% is not fully yielding to God. I know what that is like, trusting in my own ability to talk, to write, to think. Samson relied on his own physical strength. The Lord does give us incredible gifts and abilities. The key to living a godly life is to not rely on our strengths to get us out of a mess or to make us look good, the key is to constantly ask the Lord how our gifts can make him look good. Glorify God with our lives.
Watch where your canoe is heading. Paddle, Carl, paddle. Do not become spiritually lazy, neither drifting to the right or left, but focus on the goal of Christ Jesus, using the gift he has given you to bring glory and honor to Jesus Christ.