Even though there are 12 “judges” or leaders for the nation of Israel in the book of Judges, there are only two that get the major headlines. We’ve already looked at Gideon so that only leaves one. The next one on the list is probably the one that people are most familiar with, but what he is well known for isn’t necessarily about being a great leader for God. Those who aren’t familiar with the Bible might know of him because of a few older movies or by reputation. He’s known for his great strength, his hair, and primarily a relationship with a woman named Delilah. His story is very entertaining, so it’s no surprise that it has garnered attention from the film industry. There have been at least 11 films made over the years which ranks him up there with David and Solomon as biblical box office stars.
Of course, I’m talking about Samson. Samson is quite the character. His story in Judges 13-16 is part action hero and a heavy dose romantic drama. He’s like a superhero whose feats of strength are legendary. However, he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. But what he lacks in brains he makes up for with brawn and courage. He’s yet another unlikely and surprising choice to lead God’s people, but not in the same way as Gideon. There are no major red flags with regards to Gideon’s character, morally or ethically, but Samson is loaded with issues. He’s a bit of a mess, whimsical, impulsive, lustful, and mischievous. He’s larger than life and burns the candle at both ends. His carnal appetites are insatiable and will ultimately lead to his downfall. He’s constantly in and out of favor with God. However, in the end, he gets the job done and delivers the Israelites from the Philistines, one of Israel’s main rivals at the time.
Samsons story begins in Judges 13. Once again Israel has done what is evil in the eyes of the Lord and are reaping the consequences of their disobedience. In response, the Lord sends an oppressing enemy, the Philistines, to subdue and enslave them. So, God’s on the lookout for a new “judge” or leader to get them back on track. We discover in Judges 13:2 that He already has someone in mind, but he hasn’t even been born yet. In fact, Samsons mother is actually “childless and unable to give birth”, but of course that’s not a problem for the Lord. Judges 13:3 says, “The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son.”
On a side note, the Hebrew word for “angel” in this verse is מַלְאָך (malak), just like the one who appeared to Gideon in Judges 6:11. As we discovered this was no ordinary angel. It was actually God himself because another Hebrew word, יְהֹוָה (Yhvh or Yahweh), is used throughout the rest of Judges 6. So, it’s possible that the angel in Judges 13:3 is another “theophany” or physical manifestation of God himself. It’s also possible that this is Jesus who is believed to have made several appearances as “the” angel of the Lord throughout the Old Testament.
Anyway, this “angel” has specific instructions for Samsons mother concerning the child that are repeated in Judges 13. In Judges 13:4-5 the angel says, “Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.”
A “Nazirite” is an Israelite consecrated to the service of God under vows to abstain from alcohol, let the hair grow, and avoid defilement by contact with corpses. So, Samson is special. He has been preordained before his birth by God to deliver Israel. In Judges 13, we learn that the mother wants to make sure that she raises Samson the right way even asking for the “angel” to return just so she’s clear on what she needs to do. She’s doing her homework and wants to make sure Samson turns out exactly as the Lord has commanded. She doesn’t want to mess this up. Unfortunately, Samson doesn’t “turnout” to be the “angel” or holy instrument of God that she hoped for. Does that mean God made a mistake or a bad choice? Of course not, God knew who Samson would become. God wasn’t surprised or had to say, “Sorry. My bad. I missed that one”. Samson is just another example of God using imperfect people to achieve His purposes.
So, what does Samson have to do with the “Worldly Way”?
If you’ll notice earlier, I mentioned Samsons “carnal appetites”. In Romans 8:5 it says, “Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.” The Greek word for “flesh” in this verse is σαρκὸς (sarkos). It’s not always a negative term, but in this case it is. It is referring to desires that are not of God or not “what the Spirit desires”. The reason “Spirit” is capitalized is because it is referring to God’s spirit. It is just another way of saying “what the Lord desires”.
These desires of the flesh are “carnal” which can be sexual in nature and would definitely apply to Samson, but they also include any desire that is in direct opposition to God’s will. Instead of a mind “set on what the Spirit (God)desires”, it is set on what the body or flesh desires specifically as it relates to self-gratification, lust, and pleasure. This does not mean that all of our desires are bad, but if our desires are in conflict with the will of God then they are considered sinful or unpleasing to God.
When Paul refers to “those who live according to the flesh”, he means those who have chosen another “way” of living that again is in direct violation of God’s will. This IS the “worldly way”. As I stated earlier in this series, the “world” can be used in the Bible to convey a place, but it is also used to describe a state of mind or as Paul puts it in Romans 8:5, a “mind set”.
Paul also refers to the “world” in Romans 12:2 when he says, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing, and perfect will.” This mind set, way of thinking, or pattern of behavior did not come from God. James 1:13-14 says, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.” This mindset or “pattern” of behavior originated, comes from, or was developed by the “world” or humanity. It comes from us, our own desires, and thanks to the Bible we know where, when, who, and how it all started. In Romans 5:12 Paul says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way, death came to all people, because all sinned.” That “one man” was Adam, the first man.
So why can’t we fix it? Why can’t we kick the “worldly way” to the curb and get back to living according to God’s perfect and pleasing will? Well, it’s complicated, but we can’t lose hope. God always has a plan for fixing what’s broken, so we’ll look at that next week.
Have a great weekend! Love y’all!
Director of Family Ministry and Facility Coordinator – Andrews UMC