LifeWay Explore the Bible Series for August 5: Trivial pursuit

LifeWay Explore the Bible Series for August 5: Trivial pursuit focuses on Judges 13:1-16:31.

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One of the first verses I memorized after I was saved is Philippians 1:6. Paul writes the wonderful promise to the Philippians believers: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.”

Paul reminds Timothy of the same marvelous truth: “If we are faithless, he remains faithful—for he cannot deny himself” (2 Timothy 2:13). The grace of God is amazing because it so much greater than all our sin. God has promised to never leave or forsake his own, and he always keeps his promises.

The story of Samson is a graphic illustration of this truth. As far as scoundrels go, Samson lands toward the top of the list. Every time I read about his encounters with Delilah, I’m stunned by what appears to be his sheer stupidity.

Think about how the events of Judges 16 play out. This seductress asks Samson, “Please tell me where your great strength lies, and how you might be bound, that one could subdue you” (v. 6). This woman doesn’t even try to disguise her question. Delilah clearly asks Samson how he could be defeated.

On the one hand, Samson had the insight not to tell her the truth. On the other hand, he did not have the good sense to get away from her. One would think he would catch on to her intentions when, after falsely telling her that he’d lose his strength if bound by seven fresh bowstrings, he woke up bound by seven fresh bowstrings (v. 7, 8).

Samson further is indicted by the fact that he allowed this behavior to become a cycle. Twice more she asks him what would allow him to be defeated. Twice more he lies. Twice more he wakes up with her having acted upon those lies, putting him in a position to be defeated.

Stupid behavior, right? And yet there is message here for me, and probably for you. How often do we knowingly continue on a path of destruction? Samson should have given up Delilah. But instead he thought he could manage her with his lies.

We often think we can manage our sin. Samson thought he could have Delilah and not give up his God-given strength. He thought he could keep her close in the ways he enjoyed and keep her away from that which he wanted to protect.

Sometimes our sin-management appears to be working. It seemed it was working for Samson. Sure, the woman he was involved with kept asking him what would allow him to be defeated and acting on the false answer he gave. But so far Samson had not been defeated and had been able to continue enjoying Delilah.

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But in the end, we cannot manage sin. In the end, sin always brings about misery. I once heard a preacher say that sin takes you further than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay, and costs you more than you want to pay. That’s what happened to Samson with Delilah.

Samson was overcome by Delilah and finally gave in to her begging. He told her the truth about his superhuman strength. She gave the information to the Philistines, and Samson was captured.

Samson’s words in verse 20 are telling. When Delilah for the fourth time wakes him up by shouting, “The Philistines are upon you!” Samson responds, “I will go out as at other times and shake myself free.” He had gotten used to being in control of the situation. He had grown accustomed to managing Delilah.

That’s what happens to us, as well. We think we are in control of the sins we attempt to manage. But sin is powerful, cunning and baffling. It can subtly start controlling us. This is what the Lord meant when he said to Cain: “And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:7).

Sin’s desire is to own us. We must rule over it, not by tolerating it, but by running from sin and toward God. “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

Samson had not been faithful to God’s calling in his life, but God remained faithful to Samson. The life that was largely squandered in pursuit of fleeting fleshly satisfaction ended in a heroic display of strong faith. We know how his story ended. He destroyed the wicked Philistines by pushing over the columns of a building, giving up his own life in the process.

God had begun a good work in Samson (Judges 13:24-25), and he brought it to completion. By God’s grace, Samson died in the faith. The writer of Hebrews includes Samson in the Great Hall of Faith in Hebrews 11:32. Though Samson for so long had been faithless, God was faithful in the end.

While we rejoice in God’s ability and promise to “keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (Jude 24), we should grieve the lost opportunity of when we squander our energies managing sin.

Samson went out with a bang. Can you imagine what an impact he could have made if he’d lived his life with the faith he exercised at his death? Let’s not waste our lives trying to manage sin and presume upon the faithfulness of God. Instead, let’s consider God’s faithfulness to us in Christ and let it stir us up to live faithfully for him.

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