“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.” 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.”
They couldn’t imagine their son being married to a Philistine. ‘Samson, can’t you find a wife in the tribe of Dan? Can’t you even find a wife in the whole of Israel?’ The scriptures however reveal that, ‘it was from the Lord.’
This is one of the most debated areas in the story of Samson. What exactly was from God? In all the events, like in in our own lives, how and when do we see God’s intervention? Who was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines? Was it God, Samson or both?
Was Samson in some way privy to all that would befall him? Was he making strategic decisions throughout, to overcome the Philistines by the most unusual actions? It is hard to see this view in unison with the account. Samson’s emotions and reaction to each event that befalls him would betray such a perspective.
If he is determined to wage war, why did he attack the Philistines in such extremely obscure ways? Surely he could have attacked them in a more conventional manner, as some of the other judges had overcome their enemies.
What are the alternatives? Did God override Samson in some way and make him fall for this woman? Does God want Samson to marry the Philistine? There’s no reason to doubt that Samson’s desire is genuinely his own and we should also note that God had commanded the Israelites not to marry people from the surrounding nations:
“Be very careful, therefore, to love the Lord your God. For if you turn back and cling to the remnant of these nations remaining among you and make marriages with them, so that you associate with them and they with you, know for certain that the Lord your God will no longer drive out these nations before you.” Joshua 23:11-13 (see also Exodus 34:16)
No – God didn’t ask, coerce or want Samson to marry the woman of Timnah. Yet it was from the Lord. This reinforces the fact that God works with weakness. And we must be thankful for that! If it was any other way we would be hopeless. We have seen that God works with weakness; this is a major theme in Samson’s life.
Consider this – God was using a sinful, selfish situation to accomplish something much greater. God is using the events in Samson’s life to begin to deliver the nation of Israel from the Philistines.
The crucifixion of Jesus shows us, more than anything else, that God can save whilst using the sin of humanity.
How God uses Samson’s situation is a sad reflection of the state of the nation. Where was the mighty man of valour like Gideon? Where was the wise one, like Deborah, sitting under the palm tree to judge? God was seeking an occasion against the Philistines and this was the only one through whom He could work. —————————————————————————————————-
God works with weakness, but we mustn’t condone or ignore it. The Apostle Paul, who himself learned how God works with weakness, was falsely reported as suggesting we should continue in sin that grace might abound.
“And why not do evil that good may come? — as some people slanderously charge us with saying.” Romans 3:8
We want to understand how God uses our sinful situations for good. To develop this idea we will briefly consider two other such occasions in the Bible.
1) David, King of Israel, saw Bathsheba bathing and wanted her. He did everything in his power to be with her – even at the cost of her husband’s life. It is a story awash with sin, weakness and destruction. Yet, from this event God gives us the most encouraging words about forgiveness through the pen of David. In his life David wrote songs about his journey from the depths of guilt to the elation of his sin forgiven (see Psalms 51, 32, 103). We can read them. I would dare say that these songs, with their messages of hope in God’s grace, have saved the lives of many in despair. Yet they were born out of sin.
2) Onesimus was a slave who in some way wronged his master Philemon. He ran away and then came to know God through meeting the Apostle Paul. After his wrongdoing and runaway, he was converted and became a comforter that Paul described as ‘my very heart’. Paul wrote a letter to his master Philemon, to receive the servant Onesimus back into his home. Explaining the purpose of these events, Paul wrote:
“…this perhaps is why he was parted from you for a while, that you might have him back forever.” Philemon 15
Has God been at work like this in your life? Sometimes we are parted from God for a while. That He might have us back forever.