All Saints
Christ The King

Books of the Bible
Lenten Series
Christmas Dramas


Series A - Matthew
Series B - Mark
Series C - Luke
Series D - Other

To contact
Edward F. Markquart

Books of the Bible - Old Testament

Testament Sermon Series     Judges 16:1-31

Two memories. A long time ago, in the late sixties, I vividly remember the Hell’s Angels, that motorcycle group from southern California. There is nothing wrong with riding bikes and nothing wrong with being a biker, but the members of that first group of Hell’s Angels were something else. They were big and burly, muscular and mean looking. They often appeared crude and coarse, rough and rowdy, with scraggly beards and foul language. In other words, in my stereotype, they reminded me of the Biblical character, Samson. The Biblical personality, Samson, too, was rough and rowdy, crude and coarse, an on occasion, downright obscene.

A second memory. I don’t recall many of my funeral sermons but I do one. That is, there was this very rough man who many people didn’t like, including his wife, children and grandchildren. He was the kind of man who when you got close to him, he could stick you. That is, some people are like fine wood, polished, smooth, well sanded and groomed. Other people are like rough wood, coarse and prickly, and from those people you can often get slivers if you get too close to them. A question is: does God only use people who are like fine wood, smooth, refined and polished or does God also use people who are like rough wood, prickly and rough. The answer is: God uses both kinds of people. I know that personally because my father, according to people closest to him, was made out of rough wood and there was a crudeness and coarseness to my dad’s personality. As I preached the funeral sermon that particular day, I said that the deceased person was a man who was made out of rough wood and that people who got close to him often got slivers. But God used him. So it was with the Biblical personality of Samson. Samson, too, was made out of rough, coarse wood. If you got close to Samson, you could get hurt.

This summer, we are preaching on Biblical stories about famous Old Testament personalities. We are focusing on these personalities so that we can be strengthened in our walk with Jesus Christ, so that our faith in Christ will grow deeper and wiser.

The first Biblical personality that we examined was Abraham. In today’s world, recently after the military war with Iraq, many people in America are becoming biased against people of the Muslim religion. And so I (and others) ask the question: If Abraham is the spiritual father of the Jewish faith, and if Abraham is also the spiritual father of the Christian faith, and if Abraham is also the spiritual father of the Muslim faith; if the Jews, Christians and Muslims all trace their roots to Father Abraham; why is it that the children of Moses, Jesus and Mohammed so often hate each other and fight with each other? If the Jews, Christians and Muslims are spiritual cousins and share similar roots and backgrounds, why is there so much animosity between these three religions at various times in history?

The second Biblical personality that we examined was Moses. Moses was the recorder of the Ten Commandments, the Ten Commandments which is God’s basic law for human society throughout all cultures, religions, and generations. There is a fundamental moral law, called the Toa, in all cultures, and the Ten Commandments are part of that fundamental moral law. But Jesus ignores the Ten Commandments. That is, Jesus by-passed these fundamental moral laws and taught two commandments. From Deuteronomy 6: 4, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and the second commandment is like it, from Leviticus l9:18, “and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus paused and said, “Do these two commandments and you will live; you will find life.” We all know that there is a fundamental truth to the wisdom of Jesus. That is, in loving God and people around us, we find life and begin to really live.

The third Biblical personality we examined was Joshua, who was the first great general of the Hebrew nation. Joshua was like our first great general of our nation, General George Washington, who molded the thirteen colonies into one nation. So it was with Joshua. One of his statements has been immortalized. “Do not be afraid or discouraged. Be determined and confident. For I will be with you wherever you go.” Were those words spoken by Joshua? By Jesus? Or are the beauty and the wisdom of those words simply a Word from the Lord.

The fourth Old Testament personality that we are going to examine is Samson who was one of the judges in the book of Judges. The sequence of books in the Old Testament goes Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and Samson was one of the several judges in the book of Judges. In the sermon for today, we could have focused on Deborah, the first great woman leader of the Old Testament. We could have focused on the story of Gideon, and how he reduced his army from 10,000 men to a small core of 300 “who lapped water like a dog near a creek,” looking out for the enemy even as they drank water. Or we could have focused on Jepththah who seemed to be a wild and wooly teenager. But I have chosen to focus on one judge, Samson, because the story of Samson and Delilah is so well known to many of us. The story of Samson and Delilah is famous in the church, especially from childhood if you attended Sunday School years ago.

The story of Samson is not history, nor is it poetry, nor is it parable, nor it is miracle story. Rather, the stories about Samson feel like folk stories that were often told around a campfire. Biblical scholars tell us that the story of Samson and Delilah is one of the great classic folk stories from centuries ago, that this folk story is well preserved, and needs to be heard in its entirety. That is why we heard the whole story Samson and Delilah story for today from Joshua 16:1-31. That may have been the longest Sunday morning reading you have ever heard, but the whole folk story needed to be told. It is a classic.

There are many stories about Samson and some of those stories we take pleasure in but some of the stories about Samson are offensive. In fact, some of the Samson stories are quite offensive.

The pleasant or good Samson stories are these:  Samson experienced a miraculous birth. That is, his mother could not get pregnant. She was visited by an angel who predicted the birth of Samson, and his birth was a sign of God’s grand intervention at conception e.g. in the birth of Samuel, John the Baptist and Jesus. All of these people had grand and glorious entrances into this life on this earth. So it was with Samson. We like the story about Samson’s usual birth.

A second story. Samson was a Nazarite. That is, no razor was to touch his face or head. He was not to drink any fermented grapes or alcoholic beverages. He was not to eat unclean food. In other words, his life was to be completely dedicated to the service of God e.g. the life of John the Baptist in the New Testament. Both Samson and John the Baptist were Nazarites, men whose lives were dedicated to moral purity. We like that story about Samson being a Nazirite, a person dedicated to purity before God.

A third story. We hear that Samson was blessed by God and that God’s Spirit was stirring inside of him. In other words, God was going to be living within Samson. This is one of the first times in the Bible where it is recorded that a person would have Spirit spring inside that person. The Spirit of the Lord had come on Moses, Joshua, Deborah, Gideon, and now that same Spirit was stirring in Samson. Samson was going to be usually powerful with God’s powerful presence in him and near him. We like that story about the Spirit stirring inside of Samson.

We hear the story that Samson killed a lion with his bare hands, indicating his great courage and physical strength. And we like that story.

So there are many stories that are part of the Samson folk stories that we like and appreciate. But there are other stories about Samson that offend us, that offend the values of our Christian upbringing, and that offend our modern middle class American sensitivities. A key verse is Judges 14:4ff, that Samson married a Philistine woman because of the “Lord for the Lord was seeking an occasion against the Philistines.” That is, it seems that God wanted conflict with the Philistines in order to defeat them.

Listen to the following Bible stories that don’t sit well with us. Joshua 14:19ff, “The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon Samson and he went down to Askelon and killed thirty men of the town and took their spoil and gave their festive garments to those who had told the riddle. In hot anger, he went back to his father’s house.” Do you like that story? Does it offend you that Samson was mightily filled with the Spirit of the Lord and went and killed thirty Philistines in order to get their festive clothing so he could pay off a wager? Does that story sit right with you?

How about another story? In retaliation for Samson killing thirty men in order to obtain their festive garments, the Philistines retaliated and killed Samson’s wife and her father. So Samson, in retaliation for the death of his wife, kills a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. Judges 16:14ff says, “The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon Samson and the ropes which were on his arms became as flax that had caught fire and the bonds melted off his hands. Samson then found a fresh jawbone of an ass, put out his hand, seized it, and with it, killed one thousand Philistines.” Do you like that story? That a man is filled mightily with the Spirit of the Lord and with renewed power and goes and kills a thousand men in retaliation for the murder of his wife which Samson caused when he killed the thirty Philistines for their festival garments? Do you like these stories of the cycle of revenge and Samson’s initiation of this cycle of violence?

How about the beginning story for today? Judges 16:1, “Samson went to Gaza and there he saw a harlot and he went into her.” Do you like that story for today, that Samson went to visit a prostitute? To spend the night with her? Do you like that story?

Then the story for today about Samson and Delilah. Judges 16:4, “Samson loved a woman in the valley of Sorek whose name of Delilah.” Delilah was not Samson’s wife. Delilah had enormous, provocative, and seductive charms over Samson, so much so that Samson appears downright stupid as Delilah seduces him for information as to the source of his strength. Samson first tells Delilah the source of his strength will be contained if he is tied up with bow strings, then with ropes, then his hair curled in knots. Finally, Delilah seduces Samson so that he tells her the truth: his strength is in his hair that has not been shaved due to his promises to God. Samson fell asleep, with his head in her lap. A man quietly comes into the room and shaves off Samson’s hair and his superhuman strength is gone. The Philistines attack, blind his two eyes and cart Samson off to prison and a life of ridicule. Time passes. Three thousand Philistines are gathered on the flat roof of a large building. The blinded Samson, his hair grown back, is placed between two pillars that hold up the roof of the building. We can see this scene in our mind due to the memory of childhood Sunday School so many decades ago. Samson flexes his muscles and cracks the pillars and the whole building comes crashing down, with three thousand Philistines dying in one horrendous moment. Does this story please you? That Samson was so in love with the provocative woman, Delilah, that he appears stupid as she so brazenly seduces him? Does it please you that he finds revenge for his two eyes being blinded by killed three thousand people? Do these stories sit well with you and your values?

What I am suggesting to you is that many of the stories of Samson offend us as modern human beings and offend us because of our Christian values. So, how can we use the story of Samson? What role can the stories of Samson be for our walk with Christ? How can the Samson stories strengthen our daily faith?

As Christians, we notice that the New Testament writers often use a simple phrase from the Old Testament. The New Testament writers often attach themselves to a singular word or phrase from the Old Testament that makes sense for them. For example, of the more than six hundred rules and commandments from the Old Testament Law, Jesus selected only two of them: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul, and your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus didn’t take all the laws but two of them. So also with us today, we take a few phrases from the Old Testament. These simple phrases become like nuggets of gold, slices of silver, ribbons of fine pearl. A twist of a phrase in the Old Testament may become like gold or silver to us.

What do I personally take from the stories of Samson? 

First, the phrase, “the Spirit of the Lord stirred in Samson.” And, “the Spirit of the Lord came mightily on Samson.” That is what we want. That is, we want God’s Spirit to stir in us and to stir in us mightily, so that our religious faith does not become stale and worn out. We want God’s Spirit to be alive and powerful within us, stirring within us, becoming mighty and powerful within. Let me explain. Yesterday, I performed a wedding for Dave and Peggy Bille. It was great. Dave is thirty-six years old, and his parents were so pleased that he was finally getting married. Peggy is a young divorced person, with two young children, and she is deeply devout and active in her church. And they know and we know that this young marriage and this young family needs the Spirit of Christ stirring in their hearts, stirring mightily in their hearts, so that they can have a great marriage. All great marriages need the Spirit of Christ’s loving growing in them, so that this marriage becomes truly loving and the love in this family does not grow stale. We could quote from the book of Judges, “The Spirit of the Lord stirred in Dave and Peggy.” That’s good. We like it.

In the New Testament, when the Spirit of the Lord stirred in the people, the people of faith spoke courageously and boldly about Jesus Christ. Old men had visions and young women dreamed dreams. We need that same Spirit to stir in the church today. Such as during Youth Sunday, when we see and hear these high school seniors giving their testimonies about how Christ has transformed their lives. We need the Spirit to be stirring in the lives of our young people and old people.

Today, Grace Lutheran Church needs this Spirit of the Lord stirring in our midst. We read in the newspaper this past week that our growth rate of our county is the lowest in twenty years. We read the situation of our congregation every Sunday and we all know that our worship attendance is down, partially because of this terrible economy and people moving away from our city rather than into our city. Today, our congregation needs the Spirit of the Lord stirring in us and stirring in us mightily. We don’t need one more evangelism program or some supped up sermon or praise song. We need the Spirit of the Lord stirring in people’s hearts.

As a New Testament Christian, as I carefully examine the story of Samson, my heart and mind stops and listens when I came to that phrase, “The Spirit of the Lord stirred in Samson; the Spirit of the Lord came mightily on Samson.” We need the same to stir in us or our faith will become stale and listless and dead, although it appears to be alive.

As a New Testament Christian, a second phrase that I like in the story of Samson is “Samson did not know that the Lord had left him.” (Judges 16:20)  That is, it seems that the Lord does leave us and we do not even realize it. Let me explain. In the New Testament, the Pharisees were those people who attended church regularly, gave their ten per cent, and lived moral but self righteous lives. But even though the Pharisees attended church faithfully, gave their alms to the poor, and talked the religious talk, they did not realize that the Lord had left them.

The same thing can be said of parish pastors like myself. There has often been that fear within myself that the Lord has left me, that the power of God’s inner presence has disappeared, that I mouth the proper spiritual phrases but the power of the Spirit has evaporated. As a parish pastor, you worry that you retain the form of religion but have lost its power.

The same thing can be said for you. That is, at one time you may have been close to God and lived with the power of God inside of you, but that may have become merely a memory. The power of God in you has dried up and almost evaporated. And you barely realize it. With Samson, you could say, “I did not know that the Lord had left me.”

I would like to suggest to you that the Lord had not left Samson but that Samson had left the Lord and the ways of the Lord. Samson felt that God had deserted him; but in reality, it was Samson who had deserted God. Samson was not longer faithful to the covenant his parents had made for him. He cut his hair. I would suspect that he may have drunk alcoholic wine, that he ate unclean food. I know that Samson was no longer living a life of sexual purity as is evidenced by his sleeping with a prostitute and Delilah’s seduction of him. In other words, Samson was living a morally messed up life, and as a consequence, the power of God did leave him. Not because God left him but because Samson left God and the ways of God.

That happens in our lives. Slowly but surely, we desert and abandon God and God’s ways and we experience the consequence of a loss of spiritual and moral power in our lives, just as Samson did.

As I read the story of Samson, my eyes riveted on that phrase, “Samson did not know that the Lord had left him.” Yes, that is often true of us.

The last quality that I like in the Samson story is that at the close of his life, Samson came to his senses and asked God and his power to come into his life “one more time.”  I like that. Often, we are in a period in our lives where we have abandoned God and his ways and finally come to our senses and cry out, “God, won’t you come and help me at this moment in my life, when I critically need your power and presence.” God answered that prayer of Samson and came into his life when Samson needed him the most. The same is often true for you and me. We cry out, “Please Lord, Come into my life one more time and help me to face this mess I am in.” God answers those prayers and comes again to your life and mine.

Samson. To be honest, I really dreaded writing this sermon about Samson. I had a problem in finding anything of redeeming value in the life of Samson. I was so perplexed that I went to the great sermons of Charles Spurgeon from 1875 and London, England. These sermons are available on the Internet. I found Spurgeon’s sermon on Samson, and I was tempted to drop it on you as if it were my own. But to be honest, I didn’t like Spurgeon’s sermon. It was the Word for the Lord, but for another day, another situation.

So, one more time, I read the stories about Samson and my eyes glued on those words, “The Spirit of the Lord stirred in Samson and came upon him mightily.” Yes, that is true for me…and you. We all need that Spirit stirring inside of us.  I found the line, “Samson did not know the Lord had left me.” Yes, true of me, true of you. Samson had deserted God and his way, and he legitimately felt that God had left him. And at the close of his life, Samson begged, “Lord, come to me one more time that I can do your will” and that is our prayer as well.  


Back to Top