Heroes of the FaithFebruary 14-18
And the angel of the Lord appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Therefore be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean, for behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. No razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hand of the Philistines.” – Judges 13:3-5 (ESV)
The late great German-born American Jewish rationalist intellectual, popular lecturer and writer, religious leader, and social reformer, Felix Adler, starts things off well when he said, “The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men [and, women] to see by! The saint is the [person] who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself [or, herself] a light!” (George Dillahunty)
Samson finds his name recorded in the great hall of faith in Hebrews 11. Samson was a hero of great strength and great weakness. He was born at a time when Israel needed a deliverer. God was going to use Him to save Israel from 40 years of Philistinian control. An angel told his mother that He will be set apart as a Nazirite to God. A Nazirite could not eat or drink anything from the grapevine, cut their hair, or be in the presence of a dead body. Because of these unusual restrictions, Nazirites stuck out. It was a way to consecrate someone fully to God.
What can we learn from the Nazirite? By taking the Nazirite vow, you were saying, “I’m stepping away from the normal routines of life to give myself to God.” Today we might do something similar by giving up food or technology to devote ourselves more fully to prayer.
Ask Jesus to show you anything in your life that you haven’t surrendered to Him. Ask God to set you apart for His purposes.
He scraped it out into his hands and went on, eating as he went. And he came to his father and mother and gave some to them, and they ate. But he did not tell them that he had scraped the honey from the carcass of the lion. – Judges 14:9 (ESV)
There was a little fellow who was returning home from a store with a pail of honey in his hand. A gentleman who walked beside him saw him slip one finger down into the pail. Then, because his mother had told him never to wipe his sticky fingers on his blouse or trousers, it found its only logical destination, his mouth. It really tasted good. After he had done this several times, the gentleman approached him and said, “See here, Sonny, what have you in that pail?” “Some honey, sir.” “Honey-is it sweet?” “Yes, sir.” “How sweet is your honey?” “It is very sweet, sir.” “Well, I do not understand you. I asked you how sweet your honey was, and you have not yet told me. How sweet is it?” “Why, it is very, very sweet, sir.” “Well, you are a funny little fellow; I asked you how sweet your honey is, and you just tell me it is very, very sweet. Now, can’t you tell me really how sweet your honey is?” The little fellow was impatient by this time, so he stuck his finger down into the honey, and holding it up said, “Taste and see for yourself.”
In Judges 14, Samson gave his parents honey to taste but didn’t tell them it was from a carcass. Because at that time in Israel’s history, touching the carcass of a dead animal was considered unclean (Leviticus 11). But Samson ate the honey anyway, gave some to his parents, and so defiled himself and his parents. This was the beginning of a pattern in his life of defiling himself.
Many years later, Jesus, the true Savior, explained that what really defiles people is what’s in their heart, not what they eat (Mark 7:1-23). Samson defiled himself by turning away from God to pursue his own desires, doing what was right in his own eyes. In what ways may you be pursuing your own desires over God’s desires?
Praise God for providing you with what can truly satisfy your soul. Ask God to help you resist any fleshy desires resting in your heart.
Samson After Victory
Samson went to Gaza, and there he saw a prostitute, and he went in to her. The Gazites were told, “Samson has come here.” And they surrounded the place and set an ambush for him all night at the gate of the city. They kept quiet all night, saying, “Let us wait till the light of the morning; then we will kill him.” But Samson lay till midnight, and at midnight he arose and took hold of the doors of the gate of the city and the two posts, and pulled them up, bar and all, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that is in front of Hebron. – Judges 16:1-3 (ESV)
There is an insect that has a very close resemblance to the bumblebee, but which is a terrible enemy to it. Because of its likeness, it sometimes finds its way in a fraudulent manner into the bee’s nest, and there deposits its eggs. But when these eggs are hatched the larvae devour those of the bee. It comes in as a friend and helper, but turns out to be a devouring enemy. Such is the secret sin harbored in the heart. It eats away the vitals of the spiritual life, and effectively destroys the power of growth and usefulness. It is all the more dangerous when it comes in the likeness of a friend and helper in the work of the Lord. Beware of the deceitfulness of sin! (AMG Bible Illustrations)
One bad turn led to another in Samson’s life and eventually to his destruction. After a great victory, Samson went to Gaza in Judges 16:1. Topographically speaking, the physical direction of Gaza was down, but more important was the fact that Samson’s spiritual direction was down! When Samson arrives in Gaza, he finds a prostitute, named Delilah, and sleeps with her. This is a pattern for Samson that we’ve seen before (Judges 14:1, 15:1), and by now, we’ve already seen how this is a man who consistently gives in to his own desires and does what he pleases. So after victory, he is tempted in this area and he immediately succumbs, because he is unwilling to turn to the Lord in his time of need and to draw upon Him. Now again the Lord delivers him miraculously.
How have you experienced a spiritual let down after a spiritual victory? How can you guard against let downs like this?
Ask God to help you recognize anyone or anything that may deceive you away from God.
And 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 left him. – Judges 16:20 (ESV)
Mike Yaconelli wrote the following illustration … “I live in a small, rural community. There are lots of cattle ranches around here, and, every once in a while, a cow wanders off and gets lost. Ask a rancher how a cow gets lost, and chances are he will reply, ‘Well, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of grass right next to a hole in the fence. It then sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next tuft. The next thing you know, the cow has nibbled itself into being lost.’” Most people don’t deliberately set out to backslide, but following their appetites or desires from one tuft to the next, they nibble themselves through the fence and off the straight and narrow path.
Judges 16:20 is one of the most tragic of all verses, it was said that Samson “did not know that the LORD had left him.” Samson had drifted. He loses his hair in Judges 16:19, the symbol of his Nazirite dedication; for that dedication had long since been abandoned. Then he loses his strength, but he is ignorant of it until he is overpowered. His power was from the Lord, not from his hair; but the hair was the sign of his Nazirite vow. The Spirit who had come upon him with such power had now departed from him.
Too many Christians drift away from God, and they don’t realize what they have lost until they’ve lost it. They don’t appreciate what they had until it’s gone.The life of Samson cautions us that hearts left unchecked and uncontrolled, given into pride and lust can lead us to disaster. Is God saying anything to you today, about the way you are living your life?
Thank God for helping you recognize the times when you begin to drift. Ask God to keep your heart sensitive to times you are moving away from Him.
But the hair of his head began to grow again after it had been shaved…Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” – Judges 16:22, 28 (ESV)
An older couple had trouble remembering common, day-to-day things. They both decided that they would write down requests the other had, and so try to avoid forgetting. One evening the wife asked if the husband would like anything. He replied, “Yes. I’d like a large ice-cream sundae with chocolate ice cream, whipped cream and a cherry on top.” The wife started off for the kitchen and the husband shouted after her, “Aren’t you going to write it down?” “Don’t be silly,” she hollered back, “I’m going to fix it right now. I won’t forget.” She was gone for quite some time. When she finally returned, she set down in front of him a large plate of hash browns, eggs, bacon, and a glass of orange juice. He took a look and said, “I knew you should have written it down! You forgot the toast!” (www.bible.org)
Although there were times Samson forgot God, God never forgot Samson. How can Samson be listed among the “Heroes of Faith” in Hebrews 11? It’s understandable that his superhuman strength would make him look like a hero under human standards, but his weak inner strength in remaining faithful to God’s instructions certainly would not make him a “Hero of Faith.” His story doesn’t end with his hair being cut and his being taken prisoner. He was chained between pillars in a large temple where over 3000 of his enemies were gathered. He discovered how truly weak he was, and he sought God’s forgiveness and strength and asked God to remember him. God answered his pleas. Samson’s strength reappeared, and he pushed out the pillars killing himself and the enemies of God. Samson is a “Hero of Faith.” He learned the hard way that he was weak, but God is strong.
What are some ways you can forget about or take God for granted in your life? What are some things that reassure you God never forgets about you?
Praise God for His faithfulness to never abandon you. Thank God for second chances.