BOOK BY BOOK BIBLE STUDY
BIBLE STUDY LESSON
For the week beginning Sunday October 21, 2012
(Investing your life and treasure into what is most important)
Of the 340-year period of Israel’s history that is recorded in the Book of Judges, the 40-year stint of oppression that the Israelites suffered at the hands of the Philistines in Judges Chapters 13-16, is the longest stint that GOD’s chosen people had to endure at one time. Here, in these chapters, the author of GOD relates the, now familiar, story of Samson, who judged over Israel for 20 of those years.
Samson, whose name means “distinguished”, was a man whose great physical strength, and equally great moral weaknesses, made him famous throughout the land in his day. He is the last judge mentioned in the Book of Judges, and even though his parents (Manoah and his unnamed wife) showed evidence of their great faith in GOD, Samson seems, quite clearly, to be a product of his era. The LORD had instructed Samson’s parents, prior to his birth, that he should be raised as a “Nazirite”. This meant that Samson would be dedicated to GOD from birth, and would serve as an example to Israel, and personify a commitment to GOD forever (Judges 13:3-5).
Samson however, fell far short of this mark throughout most of his life, as his passion for, and trivial pursuit of pagan women led to, first, his physical blindness and enslavement (the Philistines gorged out his eyes-Judges 16:21), and then, ultimately, his dramatic demise during the festive atmosphere of the celebration of his capture, which took place in the pagan worship temple of Dagon, which he himself, ultimately destroyed (Judges 16:23-31).
In the dramatic conclusion to Samson’s colorful life (Judges 16:28), he utters an orison to GOD asking for physical strength. GOD answers his prayer favorably, by empowering him with the physical strength necessary, to push down the pillars that supported the Philistine’s pagan temple. That one great act of faith (his prayer) may have cost Samson his life, but it ultimately won him a place among the “heroes of faith”, that are mentioned by the author, of the New Testament Book of Hebrews (Hebrews 11:32).
Out of Samson’s weaknesses, he was ultimately made strong by the power of GOD. He was a person with great potential, who fell short, because of his sin and disobedience to GOD. And despite being mighty in physical strength, he remained spiritually weak, and was never able to resist the temptations of certain forbidden females.
His life is a clear warning against the dangers of self-indulgence, trivial pursuit of the flesh, and lack of self-discipline. Fortunately for him, he was able to come to his senses, in the end, and realize, from WHOM his strength came, and, that that strength was given to him, to serve GOD THE GIVER, and also, to serve his fellowman.
Samson’s captivity, and GOD’s taking away of his strength, caused him to reflect on his dependence on the LORD to survive. Nevertheless, GOD used Samson’s weakened state to lure the Philistines into a state of complacency, and thus, set the stage for their ultimate demise.
Sadly, Samson’s final concern was for revenge, and I guess, this bloody personal request for satisfaction, is what separates him from the ethics of CHRIST, and all of the other New Testament heroes, such as Stephen. They (JESUS and Stephen) requested the FATHER’s forgiveness, for those who inflicted a much less deserved harm on them, just prior to their deaths.
We may never possess the superior strength of a Samson, nor, may we ever know the superior wisdom of a Solomon. But, certainly GOD blesses each of us, with talent and potential, that may be uniquely our own. When we begin to seek GOD, and ultimately, establish a lasting, personal, experiential relationship with HIM, HE then begins to show us, just how HE wishes to use us, and, exactly what unique gifts and talents HE has embodied within us.
Samson had not himself asked for the gift of great strength, but rather, it was granted to him from birth. The “Nazirite Vow” was not his own, but rather, had been laid upon him by his mother. Nevertheless, it is just that way with every human being, as we are all born with gifts from GOD, to be used in service of HIM, and our fellowman.
Remember, Samson never quite lived up to his full potential, because of his self-indulgent sins and disobedience to GOD. He never seemed to realize the true source of his superior strength, until the end. When we come to rest in the thought, that our strength is in GOD, and not in ourselves, we will, at one and the same time, have come to realize the full purpose for which we came into the world. Perhaps William Barclay said it best, when he wrote, “The great paradox of Christianity is that, the only way to victory is through surrender, and the only way to power is by admitting one’s own weaknesses”.
A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander
LARRY D. ALEXANDER- Official Website