“God uses flawed people to accomplish his work!” How many times have you heard that or seen examples of it in scripture? Samson is the poster-child of a flawed hero, an impulsive man who famously loved the ladies a little too much—which ultimately cost him his life. But the Bible’s explanation of flawed character is not an excuse for it—neither for Samson nor for you. Thank God that he uses cracked pots, but that does not mean we shouldn’t give diligent effort in partnering with him to transform the vessel.
Going Deep // Focus: Judges 14:1-2
One day when Samson was in Timnah, one of the Philistine women caught his eye. When he returned home, he told his father and mother, “A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye. I want to marry her. Get her for me.”
All of us have made really bad choices in life at one time or another. If you haven’t, just wait a few hours; you will. And usually, the core culprit to bad decisions is impulsiveness. Who of us hasn’t surrendered to an impulse purchase? That is usually what is behind buyer’s remorse. What person has never spoken out in anger or foolishness before we thought about the consequences of our words? That is why most good parents teach their children to think twice before they speak. Is there any person on the planet who has never acted on a whim? I doubt it.
Samson is arguably the poster boy for impulsive choices—he liked the ladies and exercised neither a whole lot of good judgment or self-control in the woman he chose to be with. In this case, it was a girl who became his wife. In chapter 16 it is a prostitute. Later in that same chapter, it is a woman named Delilah who became his second wife. In the case of Delilah, it was a marriage that looked good on the outside, but down the road it caused great pain for Samson and his family, and ultimately caused this famous judge of Israel his life. In Judges 14, this unnamed girl captured his affections—a Philistine beauty whose character went no deeper than her flawless skin.
Samson’s choice of women has been the plot for several Hollywood movies over the years, but in the real story of this marriage, however, the romance part of it ends quickly, and the marriage not too long after that when the girl’s father marries her off to the best man at Samson’s wedding. Mr. and Mrs. Samson—bad choice, bad marriage, bad outcome.
Now obviously, as you look at the whole of Samson’s story, God accomplished a great work through this impulsive man’s life. God redeemed his bad choices for a good outcome (at least for Israel; Samson died in the process). We are told in Judges 14:4 that when his parents questioned his choice of a wife, “His father and mother didn’t realize the Lord was at work in this, creating an opportunity to work against the Philistines, who ruled over Israel at that time.” It is true, as John Newton said, “We serve a gracious Master who knows how to overrule even our mistakes to His glory and our own advantage.”
That is the big picture of the story of Samson’s life—God uses flawed people to accomplish his purposes. And the micro story here in Judges 14 is equally instructive. So let’s dissect Samson’s decision so that we might see how easily we fall into the same kind of impulsive living—and most importantly, learn from Samson that it is best to avoid impulsive choices. Here are three aspects of the Samson’s poor decision making:
First, visual took precedence over values. The opening words of the text tell us that when Samson gazed upon this lovely woman, it was love (or lust) at first sight: “A young Philistine woman in Timnah caught my eye.” What we see can be deceptive; perhaps it is always deceptive. A good rule of thumb is “don’t believe everything you see.” Of course, I am not just speaking of what you can verify factually, but you must learn to see what is congruent with the values of your faith and avoid what is incongruent with your most deeply held values.
Second, desire outweighed wisdom. Samson’s “wanter” took the baton from his “see-er”, while any kind of thought process took a backseat to both. After he “saw” Timnah, he said to his dad, “I want to marry her.” I see; I want. There is no indication that Samson gave any consideration to what the consequences of marrying a Philistine girl might be. Delayed gratification was not in the picture here; self-control was not exercised. He saw her, he wanted her, so therefore, he had to have her.
Third, action dominated reason. I saw her, I want her, now go get her for me: “But Samson told his father, ‘Get her for me! She looks good to me.’” (Judges 14:4) Unfortunately, Samson’s father Manoah didn’t put the brakes on his son’s wishes in the way a father should; we see no fatherly insistence that a reasonable process be followed. So Samson got what he wanted—he got Timnah and with her, he got a boatload of trouble. The outcome of his flawed decision reminds me of what James talked about,
Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. (James 1:14-15)
Again, God used Samson’s mistakes for his own glory. And he will use yours and mine, too. But wouldn’t you rather God use your good decisions for his glory and your good. I sure would. And maybe one of the reasons we have this compelling story of Samson and Timnah is to alert us to slow it down when we are in the middle of a strong desire to get what we think we want.
Think early; think often—that is why God gave us a brain and then commands us to think: “‘Come, let us reason together, says the Lord.’” (Isaiah 1:18) And if that weren’t enough, he placed the Holy Spirit within us to give us in the moment counsel!
Think, listen, then do—or not!