Their Problems And Ours
EasyEnglish Bible Studies that show that God is sufficient whatever the problem
Samson: The Problem Of Being *Worldly
by Raymond Brown, M.A., M.Th., Ph.D.
translated into EasyEnglish by Mary Read
A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.
(Being worldly means to have the world’s attitudes and behaviour.)
There was a time when judges ruled the *Jews. It was a time of confusion and trouble. It was the worst time in their history. Judges were army leaders then. They had authority and control. But it was probably only in their own small area. They were not leaders of the nation. They were not like the kings who came after the judges. They came in later centuries.
The Bible book of Judges tells the story of this period. It is a sad record. Judges and people are greedy for material things. They are proud and trust in themselves. Then their enemies defeat them. They are afraid and turn from their *sin to God. Then God saves them.
As we read the stories in Judges, we feel relief about one thing. It is this. The *Jews turn to God for help. This is because the cruelty of their enemies is great. God is kind and rescues them. But they soon change again. They refuse God’s authority in their lives. Their morals also become bad again.
There are a series of stories in Judges. They follow the same pattern nearly every time. There is *sin, then there is punishment. (Their enemies defeat them.) They cry to God to rescue them. God saves them. But they soon forget and *sin. So there is punishment. The same pattern repeats itself again and again.
In these hard times, even the leaders fail. They do not even try to discover God’s will for their lives. The writer of these events repeats something very sad. He says: ‘Each person did what he himself thought was right’ (17:6; 21:25). It was a time when beliefs were not important. It was also a time when most people’s lives were selfish.
But something else is much worse. It could be the worst thing of all. Sometimes a leader has great *spiritual possibilities. People are full of hope. ‘Here at last is someone who will be a model for us. He will be a *spiritual model. He will not just be a good army leader.’ But then he is a disappointment to them.
Gideon was a man like this. At first, he was a great leader and hero. He did many brave things. But the story of his leadership ends in a bad way. He wanted what other people had. He was greedy for money and things. (Read Judges 8:24-26.)
There is someone else. He is probably the saddest example of this principle. His name is Samson. He had the possibility of being a great leader. But he failed. The story of his life is in Judges 13-16. There is something important about the Bible. All these stories are there ‘to teach us’ (Romans 15:4).
The subject of this study is ‘being worldly’. The story of Samson clearly warns all *believers. It warns: ‘Avoid being worldly.’ We must be sure not to live as the people of the world live. Be very definite about the *spiritual things that should come first. It is easy to follow a certain false idea. It is the idea that it is simple to follow God. All you need to do is to say that you trust God. Then you are safe. This is all that God requires of you. You can do what you want.
Realise a plain fact. God gave everything for you. Now he invites you to give everything to him. You can be close to God. You could delight in the things of the world. But you cannot do them both at the same time.
We can state it in a simple way. It is ‘living as the unbeliever lives’. (This word means anybody who is not a *believer.) Our description of ‘being worldly’ can be limited. It often depends on our own traditions. We think that it means not doing certain things. Or we think that it is not going to certain places. Now, some things are completely against a holy life. But we should not explain the words by forbidding certain things. If we do this, its meaning will be limited very much.
Christians today often describe some things as ‘being worldly’. These things were not there in the world of the first century. But *believers at that time received letters like 1 John and James. These letters clearly warned of the danger of being worldly. Let us think about what these writers meant by their serious words. John appeals: ‘Do not love the world.’ Read 1 John 2:15-17. In this passage, John has a description that gets our attention.
In John’s mind, ‘being worldly’ is ‘living as the *unbeliever lives’. Let us think about what kind of life that is. Read 1 John 2:16. It is:
Notice that this is the opposite of being content. (Read 1 Timothy 6:6; Philippians 4:11 and Hebrews 13:5.)
John uses a Greek word. It is ‘alazoneia’. It would be familiar to most people who spoke Greek. Their moral teachers used it. It had been in use since the time of Aristotle. (He lived from 384 - 322 BC. (Note: BC means Before Christ was born.) A proud man is an ‘alazon’. There is a Greek writer called Theophrastus. He amuses his readers with his descriptions. An ‘alazon’ will praise himself, even to strangers. He tells of all the money that he does not really have!
John knew that attitudes like this could enter the church. It was a completely selfish, greedy and proud way of life. It was a danger to *believers as well as to *unbelievers. ‘Do not love the world’, is John’s appeal. (Read 1 John 2:16.)
Samson lived in this way. This was hundreds of years before John’s important letter. Samson’s desire to please himself controlled his life. He spent his time at parties, with people who did not know God. (Read Judges 14:10, 17.) Then came a sad day. He speaks to his father who loves God. ‘I have seen a woman. Get her for me. I want to marry her’ (14:2). He wanted what he saw.
The whole story of his life shows his proud attitudes. They control him. He thinks that nobody can overcome him. So, he uses hard questions for fun (Judges 14:12-18). He plays with the enemy. (Read Judges 16:4-16.)
Then there is something even worse. He has awful *spiritual pride. He thinks: ‘I will escape like I did before.’ How proud he was. The Bible adds some very sad words. ‘But Samson did not know that the *Lord had left him.’ (Read Judges 16:17-20.)
That is what ‘being worldly’ means. Samson became very ‘worldly’ in his attitudes and behaviour. But:
Think about them. Take notice of the clear warning.
His parents loved and obeyed God. They wanted to know God’s plan for their son’s life. Before he was born, they prayed about him. ‘Teach us what we should do for the boy that will soon be born’ (13:8). ‘How shall we train the child?’ ‘What must the boy do?’ (13:12). What wonderful parents he had. But this did not prevent him from being worldly later.
His name means ‘sunlight’. There are only a few words about his childhood. They are in Judges 13:24. ‘Samson grew and the *Lord blessed him.’ (This means that God did good things for him.) Then we read: ‘The Spirit of the *Lord began to work in Samson’ (13:25).
There was no doubt that Samson was attractive. He could have been of great use to God. But his nature became a danger to him. He loved to be popular. This ruined him in the end. He did not make the same choice as Moses had done. (Read Hebrews 11:25.)
Its rules should have been a help to him. Samson made some special promises to God. (Read Judges 13:3-5 and Numbers 6:2-8.) He should have remembered them. He was responsible to God.
There is a clear warning here. *Religious tradition is no good if we do not love and obey God. Samson made promises to God. It was easy not to keep them. This was because he was being worldly.
(Read Judges 14:6, 19 and 15:14.) But he still continued to be worldly.
They should have encouraged him to stay close to God. There was a time of weakness and danger in his life. (Read 15:18-19.) He cried to God for help. The *Lord provided for his immediate need.
These things encouraged him. There were clear signs that God was with him too. But he still lived in a selfish way. He was being worldly all the time.
These things should teach us something. There are serious dangers for us too. We might think that we would never be like Samson. But the Bible warns us to be careful. We could fail too. (Read 1 Corinthians 10:12.) ‘Do not be proud, but be afraid’ (Romans 11:20).
We come now to:
Let us think about how Samson become so proud and worldly. He caused so much pain and despair. It affected his family, his nation and himself. It made God very sad too. We must remember 3 things that affected Samson.
The special promises that he made meant that he was a Nazirite. (This name means ‘to separate from’.) There were 3 rules that he promised to obey.
He must not drink alcohol (Numbers 6:1-8). To make alcohol, someone must first grow the fruit. So, this person must stay in one place. But someone who follows God is on a journey. He is on his way to heaven. God rescued his people out of Egypt. Then they were in the desert. They were travelling to the Promised Land. Sometimes they were close to God. (Read Deuteronomy 6:10-12 and Jeremiah 2:2; 35:1-10.) So, this rule is a sign. God’s people are travellers.
Samson did not think that this promise was important. He went to parties where there would be alcohol. Most probably, he was drinking it too. (Read Judges 14:10, 11, 17, 18.)
The second rule was about dead bodies. A Nazirite must not touch them. But Samson was often in quarrels and fights. These fights ended in the murder of many people. Samson knew about the demands of being a Nazirite. He told Delilah about the third rule. He must not cut his hair (16:17). He knew the rules, but he refused their discipline.
There was another way in which he did not obey God. It could be even more serious. God clearly told his people not to marry people from other nations. Samson refused to obey God in this matter. (Read Judges 14:1-3; Exodus 34:16; Deuteronomy 7:3 and Joshua 23:12-13.)
This is where being worldly begins. We refuse to accept the control of God’s word. We will not follow its directions.
Samson insists that he will marry a woman from the enemy nation. This clearly shows his failure to love God’s own people. Their friendship was not important to him. He did not really care about them. If he did, he would not want to hurt them by his marriage. His father appealed to him. He wanted Samson to marry one of his own people. But Samson would not listen (14:3).
There is an important lesson for *believers here. Perhaps you feel comfortable with the people of this world. Perhaps you are more comfortable with them than with other *believers. Then you are in danger of being worldly.
God had a purpose for Samson. He wanted Samson to rescue his people (13:5). But Samson became a complete failure. He should have brought honour to a holy God. Instead, his evil life brought dishonour for his nation’s God. (Note: Dishonour is the opposite of honour.) The enemy declared: ‘Our god helped us to defeat Samson our enemy’ (16:23).
Hundreds of years later, Paul wrote about this same subject. Paul was very sad about the dishonour to God. This was because of the behaviour of first century *Jews. Their morals were bad. Their religion was just words. It had no meaning in their lives. Paul was writing to *Jews in Romans 2:24. He wrote: ‘The Gentiles say bad things about God because of you.’ (Note: A Gentile is anyone who is not a *Jew.)
The word *Jew’ had become a bad word. People thought of words like ‘wicked’, ‘selfish’, ‘greedy’ to describe a *Jew.
We should have one great ambition in life. It should be to please God. He loves us. He saved us. So, we should want our lives to show everybody how great he is. Then they will want to know him too.
There is one more thing here:
This only happened when he was a prisoner. He now had no eyes, so all was dark. All day, and every day, he had to work for his enemies. He made flour from grain (16:21). Samson spoiled his life. He brought dishonour (the opposite of honour) to God. He did this by being worldly in thought and in life. Something was true about Samson. The same thing is true about everyone like Samson. It is this. God’s desire is that each one should begin again.
Let us think about how Samson defeated his enemies in the end.
(This is goodness and kindness to one who does not deserve it.) Hear again those wonderful words of hope. Nobody has to feel despair. ‘But Samson’s hair began to grow again’ (16:22). God gives yet another opportunity. God’s grace is so great. He will not refuse to accept us either. Our part is to repent. (This means to turn away from evil and towards God. This choice will mean a complete change of life.)
‘Most powerful *Lord, remember me. God please give me strength one more time.’ When we realise our mistake, we should pray immediately. God has promised that he will help us.
Samson’s prayer ended with ‘Let me die’ (16:30). By his own death, he overcame his enemies. There is something similar for the Christian. It is probably the only way to escape from being worldly. Jesus spoke to anyone who wanted to go with him. He said: ‘That person must accept his cross, and he must follow me. Whoever gives his life for me and for the Gospel will save it.’ (Gospel means Good News. Read Mark 8:34-37.)
God heard Samson’s prayer. Samson gave his life. He helped to achieve God’s purposes. He brought honour to God.
1. Samson’s parents made a special promise for him (Numbers
6:1-21). It was usually for a particular purpose and for a certain time (Numbers 6:13). It was not usually for a person’s whole life. Why do you think that Samson wanted to continue to keep the promise? Yet it seemed that he just kept his hair long. And he ignored the other demands of the promise. Why was that?
2. Probably, Samson was sincere when he first made the special promise. So what turned him away from the standards that it demanded?
3. We all fail God. How do we know that this makes him sad (Judges 10:6-16)?
4. We read about some serious personal failures in the Book of Judges (Judges 8:22-27; 11:30-40; 16:16-21). Why do you think that such sad stories are in the Bible? 1 Corinthians 10:6-13 helps us to understand. And the passage gives illustrations too.
1. Why do people forget how good God was to them in earlier times (Judges 8:33-35)?
2. Samson’s victory by his death is like a parable. [This is something ordinary and familiar that teaches truths about God. Jesus often told stories like this.] Jesus said that we must die too. Then we can live.
What did Jesus mean? (Read Mark.8: 34-38 and John 12:24-26).
3 Look again at Judges16:22. Think about other people in the Bible whom God forgave after serious failure. How did they say that they were truly sorry? And how did they show that they were truly sorry?
believer ~ a person who knows and accepts the *Lord Jesus Christ; another name for a Christian.
Jew(s) ~ person or people of the Jewish nation; God chose them to be his special people (read Deuteronomy 7:6-8); our Old Testament (the first part of the Bible) gives their history; their language is Hebrew; Jesus was a Jew.
Lord ~ a name that we call God or Jesus; we call God or Jesus Lord when we do what they say.
religious ~ about religion; a person can be religious; but he may not really know God; (read Acts 17:22; 2 Timothy 3:5 and James 1:26, 27).
sin ~ not reaching God’s standards; not obeying God’s rules; it could refer to a state (read Genesis 3; Romans 3:23 and 5:12-17); it could also refer to an act; the word can be a noun or a verb.
spiritual ~ holy; it refers to things that start with God; so they fit with his nature; it also refers to people; when someone pleases God, he is spiritual; it refers to attitudes too; God’s attitudes should be ours.
unbeliever ~ a person who is not a *believer.
worldly ~ to be worldly means to have the world’s attitudes and behaviour.
EasyEnglishÓ TRANSLATION: Mary Read
LINGUISTIC CHECKER: Sue Hunter
© 1999-2014, Wycliffe Associates (UK)
This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).
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