Saturday, February 21, 2009

To see ... or not to see ...

To see ... or not to see? That is the question ...

The story of Samson is an interesting one. There are many views of the weaknesses of Samson, and two of the common ones are that he was a womaniser and had a problem with self control. When I did my church internship, there was a saying that the three things that will take a leader out, are the gold, the glory or the girls. In other words: money, pride and sex. As I listened to the story of Samson at church last week, I could see all these things in play and yet, I believe that none of those were the REAL problem. Lets look at them:

1. The Gold (Money and possessions) ... Judges 14:13
Samson set up a riddle and the price of the riddle for those who lost it was thirty linen garments and thirty sets of clothes. To appreciate this, you need to appreciate the value of linen. In Genesis 45:22 Benjamin was favoured by the Pharoah and given 5 sets of clothes. In Zechariah 14:14, clothing is listed among the treasures of war. Samson was asking for excessive wealth. Not 5 sets or even 10, but 30. Spoils from each of his companions. He was a man who loved the fine things in life.

2. The Glory (Pride)
Judges 14:34 tells us that Samson was blessed. This means that God's favour was upon him. Samson grew up with this. How easy would it have been to take the favour of God for granted. Perhaps he just assumed it without knowing too much about the source and how to stay under the blessing. Probably until God's blessing was removed, he didn't really value it. There was pride in Samson when he posed his riddle. He was not expecting anyone to be able to answer it. He probably felt for sure it was a safe bet as he would not have had the money for the the thirty sets of clothing. Indeed, when he lost his bet, he was angry (often a response when our pride is wounded) and stripped the clothes he owed off 30 Philistines.

When Samson found out his wife was given away, he became embroiled in a tit for tat, get revenge type situation that resulted in:
- destroyed grain
- destroyed vineyards
- destroyed olive trees
- his ex wife and her father's loss of life
- big trouble in Judah with the Philistines

Often when our pride is wounded and we react out of that, it robs us of fruitfulness and results in conflict. You can see Samson is still operating in pride and a stubborn attitude when the Judeans came to see him. They ask, "what have you done to us" (Judges 15:11) and Samson's response is, "I merely did to them what they did to me". AND SOME! That's kind of the understatement of the century right there. Ah Nope! He did a lot more. The thing that pushes my button in this response is that word "merely". Not merely at all. Not by a long shot. Samson's response is a little like some of my kids at school when I intervene in conflict and ask what happened. More often than not, the response starts with, "I just ...". I hate that word just. And Samson using "merely" is the same attitude. It seeks to minimise the damage and feels no compassion for the wounded. It seeks to minimise the wrong committed. That's pride - the direct opposite of humility. And there is not a lot of humility felt in Samson's responses.

There is also pride at work in the way Samson plays with Delilah when she seeks to find the source of his power. Instead of just saying I won't tell you. He plays with her - enjoys it. Playing with fire ... we can play with it but one day, we will be burnt.

3. The Girls (Sex)
This is an obvious flaw in Samson. It started early ... he spies a Philistine woman and wants her (Judges 14:2). His attitude is, I want her. Get her for me. Samson is consecrated to God. He does not seems to care that he is defiling himself. God had specific prohibitions on marriage with the people of Canaan. His parents try to sway him, but he would not listen. The whole story of his life really starts to go downhill from here. He loses his first wife, which sets in motion many of the events listed above. He then leads Israel for twenty years. Not much is mentioned about this time, so we can assume nothing particularly noteworthy went on. Sometime around the twenty year mark, Samson heads to Gaza and sees a prostitute. He spends the night with her. He is in the wrong place (a Philistine strong hold) with the wrong person defiling himself. Not long after that he falls in love with Delilah - a woman whose allegiance was certainly not to Samson. She went for the money - eleven hundred shekels - the price of 275 slaves. A LOT of money. This was the price for betrayal.

It's good to examine yourself in the light of these top three points. What is it that will take you out? These are all valid points, but really, I do not believe these are the main problem, they are problems but they are not the core issue. I believe the core issue in Samson's story was vision. It is interesting that he allowed different things to fill his vision and distract him ... and it is interesting that ultimately he paid for this with blindness.

Pause and think on this.

What fills your vision. What is it that you are looking at and focusing on. Is it God in your picture or is it the picture itself?
- Are you focusing on offenses?
- Are you focusing on disappointments?
- Are you focusing on hurt?
- Is your vision skewed because of envy?
- Is your vision skewed because of pride?

What fills your vision? God or circumstances? If it is circumstances, you must make God the focus. See him in the picture. Know that nothing you walk through is without him. Know that he will bring good out of all things if you focus on him and walk according to his ways. There is a key there. If we focus on God, it is much easier to walk according to his ways. If we focus on the circumstances, we tend to get caught up in reacting out of self ... and that is never pretty. The bottom line is ... like Samson, if you allow anything but God to fill your vision, you WILL lose it. Sure God came through in the end. The tragedy is that Samson lost his eyes before he looked to God. Isaiah spoke to the people of his time ... and Jesus also spoke of this when he said:
"though seeing, they do not see;
though hearing, they do not hear or understand.
In them is fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah:
"You will be ever hearing but never understanding;
you will be ever seeing but never perceiving,
For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
unerstand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them."

Don't let that be you. Keep your focus on him. He and he alone, should fill your vision.