He took some of it in his hands and went along, eating. – Judges 14:9a
Where do you find your pleasure in life? The Bible states we find the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 16:11). Is that where you find your pleasure? Or do you look elsewhere for your pleasure? The way we spend our time, invest our resources, and what preoccupies our thoughts points to the reality and most accurate answer to that question. If we truly take pleasure in something, have a passion and zeal for something, it will be reflected in how we live.
Samson is the last of thirteen judges mentioned in the book of Judges. The Spirit of the Lord is said to have come upon Othniel and Gideon one time each. But on Samson, three times the Spirit is said to have come upon him (Judges 13:25; 14:6, 19; 15:14). Sadly, later in his life it is stated that the LORD departed from him. Even more tragically when the LORD departed from Samson he was unaware of it (Judges 16:20).
What led to this tragic waste of holy potential in Samson? Keep in mind that God did indeed work through Samson to deliver His people from the dreaded Philistines. But God had to work in spite Samson. Samson was a strong man. He had otherworldly strength. But he was also a very carnal and fleshly man. He was lured by the lusts of his flesh. This ultimately led to his downfall. He was strong as steel on the outside but weak as warm butter on the inside.
It should be sobering to us that someone could repeatedly have the Spirit come upon them to perform mightily, and yet, that same person could be so carnal and lust driven. The Bible says the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked and only God can truly know it (Jer. 17:9-10). It is only in the power of the Spirit that we can know truth; any truth; including truth about ourselves (1 Cor. 2:9-14). God has given His word to us, the scalpel of the Spirit, to help us discern the thoughts and intents of our heart (Eph. 6:17; Heb. 4:12-13). The Spirit came mightily upon Samson. But Samson showed very little substantive spiritual relationship with the Lord. And yet, Samson is mentioned in the Hall of Faith of Hebrews 11 (Heb. 11:32). What a paradox! What a tragedy! What was Samson’s weakness? What brought him down?
Samson was a man of sight but no spiritual vision. Samson began his descent when he “went down” to the Philistine town of Timnah. Once there he, “saw a woman” (Judges 14:1). Samson did not control what he looked at. Job said he made a covenant with his eyes not to look on a young woman (Job 31:1). Jesus said lustful thoughts are sinful (Mat. 5:32). When Samson went to his parents and requested they go get this woman to be his wife, they rebuffed him. They wanted him to choose a woman from God’s people. They were concerned that he was entering into an unequally yoked relationship (e.g. 2 Cor. 6:14f.). Samson refused their correction. He insisted on this unbeliever for his wife. “Get her for me, for she pleases me well” (Judges 14:2-3). He was governed by a lust for what he saw. He wasn’t interested in the spiritual dimension. He disregarded his parents counsel. The consequence was pain from his unbelieving bride’s betrayal (Judges 14:15-20).
It’s never a good thing to disregard godly advice. When we allow ourselves to be carried away by what we see it inevitably leads to hardship. Samson was a man who liked what he saw and saw what he liked. He never went any deeper than surface considerations. This shows a weakness in character. And when, as with Samson, one is habitually guided only by what is surface-seen, it leads to a deep fatal character flaw (Judges 14:1; 16:1). Samson lacked spiritual depth. He had no spiritual vision. He had no intimacy with God.
Samson sought sweetness in the dead. Samson was conceived miraculously. He was called to a Nazirite vow from birth. Usually a Nazirite vow was entered into for a period of time. Samson was called to such a vow for life. This was part of his commissioning by the Lord to deliver Israel (Judges 13).
There were three aspects of the Nazirite vow. Each symbolized a holy truth (cf. Num. 6). The Nazirite was to refrain from wine or anything related to the fruit of the vine. This symbolized that they would not get any pleasure from the earth or the world. The Nazirite was not to cut their hair. This symbolized they would be humble and not governed by worldly appearance. Lastly, the Nazirite was not to touch a dead body of any kind. They were to be holy, separate from the deadness of this world. All of this was aimed at sanctification; being separated to God for His use.
In Judges 14:5 Samson did not only go “down to Timnah,” he went, “to the vineyards of Timnah.” There was no caution or hesitancy to go to a place, a vineyard, that he was called by God to stay away from. He had no spiritual sensitivity. He had little reverence for his holy vow.
While going through this vineyard a lion came roaring out at him. Danger accompanies the disregard of God’s instruction. There is peril outside the parameters of God’s word and calling. But the Lord is gracious. “And the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him.” Samson ripped apart the lion (Judges 14:6). Maybe such a feat surprised Samson himself. Maybe he misinterpreted God’s enablement as his ability. He failed to give God the glory.
Later Samson returned to find bees had made a hive in the lion’s carcass. Honey is sweet. It tastes good. But it was in a dead carcass. A Nazirite was not to touch anything dead. What would Samson do? Did he care? No. With no indication of any thought to his calling or vow he reached into the carcass, scooped up some honey and went along his way slurping and licking his fingers. He even generously shared his sweet find with his parents. He didn’t tell them where he had got the honey though (Judges 14:9). Perhaps he wanted to avoid another rebuff by his godly parents.
What’s wrong with this picture? Samson sought sweetness, pleasure, from that which was dead. Don’t miss this point. The world is “passing away” (1 John 2:15-17). The world is dead and that which it produces is deadening. Those who live in the world, apart from God, are dead (e.g. Eph. 2:1-3; Col. 2:13). Why then do people reach into the dead carcass of the world to find sweet pleasures? There are, “passing pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25). But they are passing. They are temporary; short lived. They have no eternal worth. They will be burned in the fire. And like eating too much ice cream or sugar, they lead to a headache.
Because we are governed by our shallow sensory perceptions, not spiritual substance of the Spirit, we are susceptible to the same fate of Samson. Samson had no patience to endure with his wife (Judges 14:15-17), or with Delilah (16:15-17). He had no control over his temper (Judges 15). He had no discernment about Delilah’s true intentions. He was a prostitute’s John. And like most John’s he was robbed. He was overconfident, proud, and presumptuous (Judges 16). Pride goes before destruction (Prov. 16:18).
Samson learned a severe lesson about toying with temptation and sin. When you compromise convictions and the calling of God it spiritually desensitizes you. The Lord left Samson and he didn’t even realize it (Judges 16:20). He learned the hard way that indulging in sin will bind you, blind you, and grind you down (Judges 16:21). That is the sad truth depicted in sad Samson’s life.
Samson had to die. Samson’s hair began to grow back (Judges 16:22). As slow as hair grows Samson began to regain his strength. He let his hair grow back. It was a sign that he was returning to the Lord. Maybe faith was taking root. There had been permanent damage inflicted. He was blind. And he was the object of mocking by his enemies. He brought shame to the name of the LORD (Judges 16:23-25). But God in His mercy would grant one final victory to this man of physical strength.
At a feast of the Philistines Samson was ridiculed as he was made to perform like a dancing bear at a circus. Relying on a young boy, Samson maneuvered himself between two pillars. Then he called on the name of the LORD. “O LORD God, remember me, I pray! Strengthen me, I pray, just this once, O God, that I may with one blow take vengeance on the Philistines for my two eyes!” (Judges 16:28). With those words Samson pushed against the columns of the pagan temple and brought it down on himself and the pagan crowd.
God did not grant this prayer so that Samson could merely take revenge. It was a self-centered prayer. God granted it to deliver His people. God worked in spite of Samson. In the end we learn the greatest truth from the words, “So the dead that he killed at his death were more than he had killed in his life” (Judges 16:30b). That is always the case. Victory comes when we die to self. Jesus said we have to lose our life to find it (Mat. 10:39). We discover the will of God for our lives only when we present ourselves as living sacrifices, dead to self, alive to God (Rom. 12:1-2). God can work in spite of us. He can accomplish His will even when we stray or care little about His calling or purpose. But wouldn’t it be better, more rewarding to find our sweetness, our pleasure in His presence? Wouldn’t it be better to find our honey in Him?