God’s Mystery Box

“His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time, the Philistines ruled over Israel.” – Judges 14:4

Yesterday, we discussed the Nazirite vow and, today, we will learn how, or if, Samson lived that vow out in his own life. As a young man, he looks a lot like many men in our own day. He’s the kind of meathead we would expect to see at the gym (instead of the library), drinking protein shakes, getting into fights, dating the worst women, and listening to sad country breakup songs because he was always alone on Valentine’s Day.

His parade of problems with worthless women begins when he sees a pagan Philistine gal who was very hot, much like Hell. He tells his parents, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah. Now get her for me as my wife.” But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your relatives, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.”

Like the people of the day who did what was right in their eyes, Samson here cares only about the physical, nothing about the spiritual, and bullies his parents, including his more passive dad, into setting up his marriage so he can sleep with the woman with whom he’s become physically infatuated.

A Bible journal says of Samson’s parents:

Apparently they knew that intermarriage was not permitted in Israel[.] … They sinned by following through with his demand. Deuteronomy 7:3–4 instructs parents not to give their children in marriage to the nations in the land, and Manoah and his wife failed by going ahead with the arrangements for the marriage. They were part of the problem in Israel (Judges 3:5-6), and it was a Nazirite judge, their own son, whom they were giving in marriage to a Philistine. This giving in to Samson’s wish was not just the condoning of an unwise move: it was participation in a moral error. How could a Nazirite judge create future godly homes in Israel by marrying a pagan Philistine? Such a marriage is a strike against the central component of the nation, the home.” (1)

The next line (Judges 14:4) revealing God’s sovereign hand over all of this sin and folly is quite stunning. A Bible journal says, “Samson was unaware of his role as God’s deliverer; he was simply expressing his indignation at being cheated. But his very human, selfish response to Philistine trickery became a weapon of war in Yahweh’s hand.” (2)

One thing I told our five children as they were growing up was that, as they learned the Bible, they needed to have a “mystery box.” I explained that there will be things in the Bible that are true but not easy to understand. Even Peter, who wrote two books of the Bible and was trained by Jesus, said in 2 Peter 3:15-16 of the letters Paul wrote, “our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand[.]”

Just because something in the Bible is hard to understand does not mean it is wrong. When we reach those points in our Bible study, we need to be humble enough to put those parts of the Bible in the “mystery box.” Practically, this means that, despite praying and studying, we don’t yet know how to interpret and understand what God has said. Later in life, as we grow and mature, there will be issues in the mystery box that we eventually come to understand. Other issues will remain in the mystery box until we get to Heaven and Jesus explains to us what we did not understand in this life.

One issue that most Christians have in their mystery box is the simultaneous truths that God is sovereign, and that human beings make choices for which we are morally responsible. This tension is on full display throughout the life of Samson, including when he sins and seeks to marry a demonic Philistine, but God uses it to help him war against them. He is repeatedly guilty of sexual sin, getting into fights, killing men, and violating every term of the Nazirite vow God placed on his life. God never told Samson to commit any of these sins, and the man is fully responsible for his wrongdoing.

However, despite Samson’s sin, God uses him for His divine purposes. God is bigger and stronger than Samson, and the man’s bad cannot outdo God’s good. God uses Samson – including his faults, flaws, and failures – to battle the Philistine enemies, kill some bad guys, and rule Israel as a judge.

Samson’s life is a case study example of two of the most legendary Scriptures on divine sovereignty and human responsibility:

●      Romans 8:28: “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

●      Genesis 50:20: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

The fact that God can save and use someone as flawed as Samson should encourage us. In the end, God is very gracious. In Samson’s life, and our own, God does not command or condone sin, but He does control the outcome because He is sovereign and good. This should encourage us; even when we have done wrong, God can and will do right and use even our bad for His good. Regarding Samson’s marriage to a Philistine woman, a Bible journal says:

His parents voiced their objection by reminding him that intermarriage with the uncircumcised Philistines was inappropriate. Their concern seems valid and their logic convincing, but then the narrator stated that Samson’s desire for the girl was ‘of the Lord [who] was seeking an occasion [to confront] the Philistines’ (14:4). Yahweh disapproved of intermarriage with foreigners (3:5), but on this occasion He had a higher purpose that entailed circumventing the norm. As the following story reveals, Samson’s emotional involvement with a Philistine girl set the stage for strife between Samson and the Philistines. This strife in turn had the potential to be the catalyst for a war of liberation, which was Yahweh’s goal all along (see 13:5). (3)

Stay tuned for tomorrow’s devo as we look at the dichotomy between anointing and character.

What are some things in the mystery box that you would like to ask Jesus when you get to heaven? 

1.    Michael J. Smith., “The Failure of the Family in Judges, Part 2: Samson,” op. cit., 429-430.

2.    Robert B. Chisholm Jr., “Identity Crisis: Assessing Samson’s Birth and Career,” op. cit., 154.

3.    Ibid., 152–153.

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