Tomorrow we’ll be studying Judges 14:1-11, Samson’s marriage to the Philistine woman. This is an excerpt from my manuscript, dealing specifically with the difficult task of interpreting verse 4.
Judges 14:4 However, his father and mother did not know that it was of the LORD, for He was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. Now at that time the Philistines were ruling over Israel.
This is a particularly difficult verse, but one that I’m quite glad is here, because it saves us from looking at this story as a simple morality tale. It would be very easy, and indeed it’s tempting while preaching it, to make this entire sermon about the good choices Samson made (there weren’t many) and the bad choices Samson made, and then dismiss us all by saying, “Make sure you make good choices, and avoid the bad ones.” That would be easy, but it would not be the Gospel. This verse is great because it reminds us that something bigger is going on than Samson’s personal character development. Something bigger is going on than whether or not we ought to view Samson as a hero or villain. This verse reminds us that God is always, constantly, utterly in control, even when we don’t see His evident, clear work.
But of course, this verse isn’t all that easy to interpret. If we’re not careful we’ll end up with some really bad theology here. If we’re not careful we might say, “Well, then it doesn’t really matter what I do. God doesn’t really are about my holiness or my relationship with Him, or the decisions I make. He’s already got a plan. He’s already got this figured out. So who cares whether I walk with Him or not.” And it’s true that God has a plan. And it’s true that we can’t thwart that plan or nullify that plan by our behavior. But rather than see this verse as licence for unholy living, we ought to see it as evidence of God’s great grace.
In other words, Samson is so distracted from his ultimate purpose, so off-course from God’s plan for his life, and STILL God remained faithful and uses EVEN Samson’s screw-ups and sin for His ultimate purpose. So rather than excuse us from doing good, it should drive us closer to God by revealing His goodness and grace. It should remind us that God does not require perfection; He simply asks for a willing heart. The purpose of this story is not to tell us that God requires perfection, and will not continue to use us if we become distracted. Neither is the purpose to tell us that our behavior and the choices we make don’t matter to God. The purpose of this story is to tell us that even when we make terrible choices, even when we’re so distracted from doing what God would have us to do, God is still willing and able to use us, He’s still willing and able to change us, and to ultimately bring Him glory. Our God is a saving God, and a redeeming God and He can save and redeem EVEN our terrible, sinful, unwise choices.