“A HE-MAN WITH A SHE-WEAKNESS”

JUDGES 14:1-9; JUDGES 16:1-4

 

JUNE 3, 2012

 

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            A number of years ago Charles Rossier wrote a book with the provocative title: The Problem Clergyman Don’t Talk About.  He wrote it prior to our world of political correctness, and the subject matter of the book shocked the Christian community.  Of course, after church scandal after church scandal it does not shock us as much today as the book’s subject matter shocked the Christian world back in 1976, but it still causes one to raise his or her eyebrows.  Listen to what he wrote,

 

            Research interviews with pastors clearly show that they respond to beauty and charm the same way as any other person.  They are not insulated because they are pastors.  Moreover, this response does not necessarily reflect some failure with their own marital relationship.  Therefore, it should no longer be regarded as noteworthy that ministers might be attracted to someone of the opposite sex.

 

            Rossier then proceeded to offer practical, sound counsel as to how to deal with such natural attractions so as not to compromise one’s self, one’s relationships and one’s faith.  Oh, in case you are wondering, over the years this pastor, of course, has been the angelic exception to this problem!

            We hoped that Samson would have been an angelic exception as well.  After all, he is a super hero of biblical proportions.  He killed a lion with his bare hands.  He singlehandedly killed one thousand Philistines with the jaw bone of a donkey.  This was one strong dude, but he had one great weakness.  His personal kryptonite wore dresses.  If anyone had a problem with attraction to the opposite sex, it was Samson.  Oscar Wilde said, “I can resist anything, except temptation,” and that was true of Samson, at least as it pertained to women.  Read all of chapters fourteen, fifteen and sixteen and you will see what I mean.  So, this morning let’s take a closer look at our he-man with a she-weakness.

            The author of Judges links three women to Samson in the passages we read earlier.  God only knows how many more he desired because the author of Judges only mentions the three women that directly affected Samson’s battles with the Philistines.  Clearly Samson was the Warren Beatty or the Bill Clinton of his era. 

            The first woman lived in Timnah.  She’s mentioned in chapter fourteen, and for Samson it was lust at first sight.  Now, back in those days, you didn’t just go up to a gal and ask for a date.  No.  Instead you turned the entire project over to mom and dad to arrange.  So, Samson headed home and broke the news to his parents.  It went something like this ...

 

            Mom and Dad, I have just seen the girl of my dreams.  She looks simply marvelous.  That is the girl I want to marry, so make all the arrangements.

            Oh, Son, we are so glad you found the girl the Lord has for you.  Who is she?

            Oh, she’s a Philistine girl from Timnah.

 

            And with those words, mom and dad’s world fell apart.  Their son, whom the Lord had called to deliver Israel, whom God called to live in separation as a nazirite, wanted to marry the enemy. 

            Mom and dad tried to talk him out of it.  They asked him, “Couldn’t you find anyone local?”  After all, she wasn’t one of them, she was one of them, but Samson replied to their objection in a single sentence that speaks volumes about Samson’s character.  Verse three ...

 

            Get her for me because she pleases me.

 

            Me, me, me and more me.  It’s all about Samson and it’s an insight into his character, and before we move on to the other two women, I want to say something about verse four.  Let’s read it again.

 

            His father and mother did not know that this was from the Lord; for he was seeking a pretext to act against the Philistines.  At that time the Philistines had domination over Israel.

 

            At first blush it appears as if God was leading Samson into sin.  Some of you are old enough to remember Flip Wilson’s character, Geraldine, and her famous line, “The Devil made me do it!”  Well, here it sounds as if God made Samson do it, but that is not the case at all and here’s where our translation of Hebrew to English suffers.  See the word “pretext” in our translation?  Well, the NIV translates the Hebrew word as “occasion,” which gives verse four a very different meaning.  In other words, God used this occasion as an opportunity to oppose Philistine oppression and injustice.  God works incarnationally.  That is to say, God works with the human resources at hand, flawed as they may be, to bring about God’s purposes.  God did not lead Samson into sin, rather God used Samson’s sin to fulfill God’s purposes.

            We meet the other two women in chapter sixteen.  One was a prostitute in the city of Gaza and Samson’s involvement with her almost cost him his life.  Gaza, where she operated, was one of five major Philistine cities.  Gaza at the time was a Philistine stronghold, today it is a Palestinian stronghold, the largest city in Palestine, but back then it was a Philistine stronghold and when word spread through town that Samson was at Phyllis Philistine’s House of Pleasure, the Philistines made plans to capture Samson when he left in the morning.  Unfortunately for them, however, Samson left at midnight, surprising the Philistines, taking the city gates with him, leaving the city vulnerable to attack.

            His third woman we know all too well ... Delilah.  Their steamy affair is well known by most everyone, and his attraction to her is what ultimately did Samson in, and we will look at that in detail next Sunday, but in anticipation of that, listen to what the fourth century Christian writer, Ambrose, said of his relationship with Delilah.  He said,

 

            Samson, when brave, strangled a lion, but he could not strangle his own love.  He burst fetters of his foes, but not the cords of his own lust.  He burned the crops of others, but lost the fruit of his own virtue when burning the flame kindled by a single woman.

 

            Of course, Samson is not the only one who has succumbed to sexual attraction.  Ask citizens of Gretna and Bellevue about that.  A recent survey reported that half of the married men interviewed admitted to having an extra-marital affair and one-third of married women did so as well.  Samson is not alone in what he did, and even the best of us struggle with sexual attraction.  As a new Christian, St. Augustine prayed, “Give me chastity, Lord, but not yet.”  Sexual temptation, however, is not the problem.  It’s what we do with those feelings that may cause a problem, so let’s address that now.  In so doing, I want us to keep four things in mind.

            Number one: know what we believe.   One biblical definition of sin is “missing the mark.”  The biblical target, when it comes to sexual expression, is sex within the context of marriage.  That’s the target, that’s what God desires of God’s people.  Anything outside the bullseye is less than God’s best.  So following that analogy, having sex with one’s fiancé would be just outside the bullseye.  A little further out, may be living with someone we love.  Further out may be having sex with someone we are dating.  Further out is casual sex and so it goes.  Know what we believe.  Know the target.

            Number two: regulate our thought life.   Years ago computer people taught us the saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.”  What applies to computers, applies to our minds as well.  If we continue to fill our minds with garbage, be it from novels or television or movies or magazines, we then run a higher risk of acting that garbage out. 

            Number three: remember the little decisions are the important ones.  Loy McGinnis performed our wedding ceremony.  He was the pastor of Grandview Presbyterian Church, Trudy’s home church.  Loy left that church to go into private practice as a counselor and to give himself more time to write.  Two of classic books are The Romance Factor and The Friendship Factor.  In one of those books, he tells a story of Richard DeVos, one of the founders of Amway.  In speaking of his road to success DeVos said, “It’s amazing how much of our success was determined not by big decisions, but by little ones.”  He said at the beginning, when they were just getting started in the business, and after working all day, and it was getting late they had a decision to make.  Were they to going to quit and go home or work another half an hour.  He said those little half hour decisions were crucial to their success. 

            When it comes to staying out of the wrong bed, the crucial questions are “Should I pick up the phone and call him?”  “Should I send her flowers?”  “Should we have lunch together?”  One wins the battle of sexual temptation by winning the little skirmishes.

            Number four:  find and use an accountability partner.  I think of two people.  Two guys.  Both married.  Best friends.  Each month, at the beginning of the month over lunch, they would ask each other, “Who are you attracted to?”  The purpose of that was to stay faithful to their spouses and to keep an eye on each other.   They would sometimes answer by saying, “I began noticing so and so recently, so keep an eye on me.”  You see, they loved their spouses, and they weren’t dead.  They continued, after marriage, appreciating beauty, and sometimes being attracted to it, so they held each other accountable so as not to act on those feelings.  Because those feelings will, in time, pass, and they did not want to do anything that would jeopardize their marriage.

            In closing let me say this.  Sexual attraction may not be a problem for you.  You have never been in over your head as Samson was.  But, let me tell you something else is giving you fits.  Something else in your life is causing you to miss the mark, and this communion table offers you spiritual nourishment and strength to fight your battle.  Let us come to this table, all of us sinners.  Let us receive God’s grace anew.  Let’s stand and sing.