Love Stories Told by God: Judges 16
Samson & Delilah: Love is a Secret Strength

Two American academics — Dr David Buss of Bradley University, Illinois, and Dr David Schmitt, of the University of Texas at Austin — have been studying the sexual habits of men and women in the Western world. Their research has shown that a latter-day Casanova is more likely to be found haunting the streets and amusement arcades of Margate than the waterways and squares of Venice. I shared some of their findings about the UK scene this morning. This evening let me compare attitudes in France and Italy with the USA.... This is the moral context into which the Bible speaks - where for every two marriages, one ends in divorce; where in a recent survey 33% of born again evangelical 18-35 year olds saw nothing wrong with living together (82% of non-Christians). Tonight we are continuing our series on love stories told by God and tonight with the story of Samson and Delilah we learn that love is a secret strength. It wasn't until he lost his eyes that Samson began to see.

I'd like to draw out seven lessons in love from this story.

1. Build your life on God's Word (Judges 16:20)
"Then she called, "Samson, the Philistines are upon you!" He awoke from his sleep and thought, "I'll go out as before and shake myself free." But he did not know that the LORD had left him." (Judges 16:20)

Samson's downfall was in part due to his arrogance and complacency. God will not bless you or protect you unless you obey him. Unless you build your life on the foundation of His Word. Samson thought God would look after him just one more time. He presumed too much. He relied in his own strength. The other noticeable observation is the number of times Samson's actions are fueled by revenge and the desire to get even. (Judges 15:3, 7, 16:28) "This time I have a right to get even" (15:3) "I merely did to them what they did to me" (15:11). Jesus did not say, "Do unto others before they do unto you." Revenge is no way to build a life. The spiral of revenge will bring bitterness and blindness. The wise person will build their lives, their relationships, their marriages on God's Word.

2. Marry within the Family (Judges 14:2-3)
"When he returned, he said to his father and mother, "I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife. "His father and mother replied, "Isn't there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?" (Judges 14:2-3)

There is a biblical principle at work here. Its called "Grace, presumption and the Biblical norm." The norm is 'marry in the family' Samson's parents were right. Israelites were forbidden to marry outside their own people. (see Ezra 9:11-12)

The apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 7:39 "she is free to marry anyone she wishes, but he must belong to the Lord" and in 2 Corinthians 6:14, "Do not be yoked to unbelievers". That is the norm. Grace is when God chooses for some other reason to do something unique. In this case, Samson's parents did not know that God had prompted Samson to want to marry the Philistine (Judges 14:4). That's grace. If God's word has laid down a general rule a general norm, its presumptuous to reject it and presume that his grace will also make an exception for you too. Its more likely you are led by your hormones. Grace, presumption and the biblical norm. Here the biblical norm is marry within the family.

3. True Love Waits (Judges 14:2, 16:1, 16:4)
"When he returned, he said to his father and mother, "I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife." (Judges 14:2)

"One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her." (Judges 16:1)

"Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah." (Judges 16:4)

If you are to prepare wisely for life long relationships you must guard your affections and use self control. Do not allow lust or infatuation to lead you into foolish actions. How do we know Samson was unwise? He wanted to make life long decisions based on people he met causally. In between he was using prostitutes. All three were Philistines, the traditional enemies of God's people. Sleeping with the enemy is a very foolish, dangerous lifestyle. "Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." (Proverbs 4:23)

"For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; but in the end she is bitter as gall,
sharp as a double-edged sword. Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not. Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel." (Proverbs 5:3-9)

for the prostitute reduces you to a loaf of bread, and the adulteress preys upon your very life." (Proverbs 6:23)

"for a prostitute
is a deep pit and a wayward wife is a narrow well." (Proverbs 23:27)

For twenty years Samson led the people. No one told him who he could or couldn't marry. Samson discovered, as Bill Clinton and Geoffrey Archer are finding that leaders are not above the law. And the life we lead in private will one day be made public. Samson slept around. True love waits. Fidelity before marriage is the best preparation for fidelity after marriage.

When you hear that expression, "he fell in love" it should set the alarm bells ringing. In every other dimension in life falling is associated with pain. "Falling in love" is no different. Samson's eyes deceived him. Infatuation had made him blind to their flattery and lies. Because their physical relationship didn't involve commitment, it was easy for them to mistake strong attraction and pleasure for the real thing. But as their story demonstrates, each was using, rather than loving, the other.

True love requires knowledge and trust and that takes time to grow and deepen. True love waits.

4. True Love is Unconditional (Judges 16:15)
"Then she said to him, "How can you say, `I love you,' when you won't confide in me?

Love that says "If you loved me..." is conditional love. Its love with strings, and its not God's kind of love. I heard of one elderly man who was asked whether he had any secrets from his wife. "Oh yes," he replied, "I have £500 in the building society that she doesn't know anything about and she has £200 tucked away that I don't know anything about either." Share yourself with your partner. Hold nothing back. True love waits, true love is unconditional.

5. True Love is Protective (Judges 16:15)
"This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven't told me the secret of your great strength." 16 (Judges 16:15)

Clearly there was very little love between them. Both was using the other. Criticising your partner in public is like pouring drops of sulphuric acid on your own arm. One day it will drop off. True love waits. True love is unconditional. True love is protective.

6. True Love Disagrees Constructively (Judges 16:16)
"With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death." (Judges 16:16)

And when conflict does come - how should we handle it?
In Letters to Karen, a book written to his daughter by Charlie W. Shedd, he shares "Our Seven Official Rules for a Good, Clean Fight."

1. Before we begin we must both agree that the time is right.
2. We will remember that our only aim is deeper understanding.
3. We will check our weapons often to be sure they're not deadly.
4. We will lower our voices one notch instead of raising them two.
5. We will never quarrel or reveal private matters in public.
6. We will discuss an armistice whenever either of us calls "halt."
7. When we have come to terms, we will put it away till we both agree it needs more discussing.

True love waits. True love is unconditional. True love is protective. True love disagrees constructively.

7. It is never too late to ask God for strength (Judges 16:28)
"Then Samson prayed to the LORD, "O Sovereign LORD, remember me. O God, please strengthen me just once more." (Judges 16:28)

Remember, it wasn't until he lost his eyes that Samson began to see. To see he was only strong because God made him strong. When he relied on himself he failed. Don't make the same mistake. The apostle Paul put it like this:

"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my
weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

Samson found that to be true in his last few dying moments. He died in an act of revenge. Christ died in an act of grace. The story of Samson & Delilah is in the Bible so we don't have to learn the hard way. We have discovered a lot about what love is not. Imagine how differently Samson and Delilah's story would have turned out if they had followed Paul's straightforward answer about what love really is.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. (1 Corinthians 13:4-12)

Inspiration for this sermon series is drawn with grateful thanks from David & Heather Kopp's book, "Love Stories told by God" (Eugene: Harvest House: 1998)