John 15:13, ESV
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.
JUDGES 13:1-7, NIrV
1 Once again the Israelites did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. So the Lord handed them over to the Philistines for 40 years.
2 A certain man from Zorah was named Manoah. He was from the tribe of Dan. Manoah had a wife who wasn’t able to have children. 3 The angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife. He said, “You are not able to have children. But you are going to become pregnant. You will have a baby boy. 4 Make sure you do not drink any kind of wine. Also make sure you do not eat anything that is ‘unclean.’ 5 You will become pregnant. You will have a son. The hair on his head must never be cut. That is because the boy will be a Nazirite. He will be set apart to God from the day he is born. He will take the lead in saving Israel from the power of the Philistines.”
6 Then the woman went to her husband. She told him, “A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God. His appearance was so amazing that it filled me with great wonder. I didn’t ask him where he came from. And he didn’t tell me his name. 7 But he said to me, ‘You will become pregnant. You will have a son. So do not drink any kind of wine. Do not eat anything that is “unclean.” That is because the boy will be a Nazirite. He will belong to God in a special way from the day he is born until the day he dies.’ ”
By now you should be familiar with the repeating story of the book of Judges: God’s people disobey him. God lets Israel’s enemies conquer them in battle. His people cry out for help and God sends a judge to rescue them. At this point in the Bible, that same sad story had happened eleven times! The story of the twelfth judge begins a bit like the story of Jesus. God sent an angel to let a child-less woman know she was about to be a mother for the very first time. And her special little guy would grow up to rescue his people from the Philistines, who’d ruled over God’s people for 40 years.
+ What rules did the angel give the woman for her child to follow? (vs. 4-5)
+ Look at vs. 24-25. What did Manoah and his wife name their special son?
JUDGES 14:5-6, NIrV
5 Samson went down to Timnah. His father and mother went with him. They approached the vineyards of Timnah. Suddenly a young lion came roaring toward Samson. 6 Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully on Samson. So he tore the lion apart with his bare hands. He did it as easily as he might have torn a young goat apart. But he didn’t tell his father or mother what he had done.
As a judge, Samson’s job was to rescue his people from the hands of their enemies, the Philistines. But this wouldn’t be a battle that he would have to fight alone. The book of Judges tells us that God’s Holy Spirit was with Samson. And very early on in Samson’s story, we see the power of the Spirit of God made Samson an incredible hulk of a man! One day, out of nowhere, a young lion rushed towards him, ready to make God’s long-haired muscle man into his meal. But instead of running away like any normal person would do, Samson ripped the beast into pieces with his bare hands!
+ When the young lion rushed at him, what did Samson have in his hands? (vs. 6)
+ Why was Samson able to defeat a lion without a weapon? (vs. 6)
JUDGES 15:9-15, NIrV
9 The Philistines went up and camped in Judah. They spread out near Lehi. 10 The people of Judah asked, “Why have you come to fight against us?”
“We’ve come to take Samson as our prisoner,” they answered. “We want to do to him what he did to us.”
11 Then 3,000 men from Judah went to get Samson. They went down to the cave in the rock of Etam. They said to Samson, “Don’t you realize the Philistines are ruling over us? What have you done to us?”
Samson answered, “I only did to them what they did to me.”
12 The men of Judah said to him, “We’ve come to tie you up. We’re going to hand you over to the Philistines.”
Samson said, “Promise me you won’t kill me yourselves.”
13 “We agree,” they answered. “We’ll only tie you up and hand you over to them. We won’t kill you.” So they tied him up with two new ropes. They led him up from the rock. 14 Samson approached Lehi. The Philistines came toward him shouting. Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully on Samson. The ropes on his arms became like burned thread. They dropped off his hands. 15 He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey. He grabbed it and struck down 1,000 men.
Let me fill you in on what happened before these verses: Samson tried to marry a Philistine woman, but her father gave her to wed one of Samson’s best buddies instead. What did angry Samson do? Trapped 300 foxes, tied their tails together with torches, and released them to burn down the Philistines’ fields of food! That’s why a group of Philistine soldiers traveled to tie up Samson – they wanted payback! But the Spirit-powered Samson snapped their strongest ropes like pieces of burnt string, then wiped them all out using a dead donkey’s jawbone as his only weapon!
+ Look at verse 14. Why was Samson able to snap their strong ropes?
+ How many Philistine men did Samson defeat with a donkey’s jawbone? (vs. 15)
JUDGES 16:4-14, NIRV
4 Some time later, Samson fell in love again. The woman lived in the Valley of Sorek. Her name was Delilah. 5 The rulers of the Philistines went to her. They said, “See if you can get him to tell you the secret of why he’s so strong. Find out how we can overpower him. Then we can tie him up. We can bring him under our control. Each of us will give you 28 pounds of silver.”
6 So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of why you are so strong. Tell me how you can be tied up and controlled.”
7 Samson answered her, “Let someone tie me up with seven new bowstrings. They must be strings that aren’t completely dry. Then I’ll become as weak as any other man.”
8 So the Philistine rulers brought seven new bowstrings to her. They weren’t completely dry. Delilah tied Samson up with them. 9 Men were hiding in the room. She called out to him, “Samson! The Philistines are attacking you!” But he snapped the bowstrings easily. They were like pieces of string that had come too close to a flame. So the secret of why he was so strong wasn’t discovered.
10 Delilah spoke to Samson again. “You have made me look foolish,” she said. “You told me a lie. Come on. Tell me how you can be tied up.”
11 Samson said, “Let someone tie me tightly with new ropes. They must be ropes that have never been used. Then I’ll become as weak as any other man.”
12 So Delilah got some new ropes. She tied him up with them. Men were hiding in the room. She called out to him, “Samson! The Philistines are attacking you!” But he snapped the ropes off his arms. They fell off just as if they were threads.
13 Delilah spoke to Samson again. “All this time you have been making me look foolish,” she said. “You have been telling me lies. This time really tell me how you can be tied up.”
He replied, “Weave the seven braids of my hair into the cloth on a loom. Then tighten the cloth with a pin. If you do, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while Samson was sleeping, Delilah took hold of the seven braids of his hair. She wove them into the cloth on a loom. 14 Then she tightened the cloth with a pin.
Again she called out to him, “Samson! The Philistines are attacking you!” He woke up from his sleep. He pulled up the pin and the loom, together with the cloth.
Samson was a mighty man of muscle. But he had one huge weakness – women! Samson fell madly in love with a wicked girl named Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines thought they could finally stop Samson’s strong muscles by using his foolish heart against him. They promised Delilah a fortune in silver if she would use her best romantic skills to trick God’s strongman into spilling the secret of his strength. But Samson treated this more like a game. Three times he tricked his girlfriend into sending swarms of soldiers. And all three times, he sent them crying home to their mamas!
+ Three times, Delilah asked Samson, “What is the secret of your strength?” What three lies did Samson tell her? (vs. 7, 11, and 13)
JUDGES 16:15-21, NIRV
15 Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you’? You won’t even share your secret with me. This is the third time you have made me look foolish. And you still haven’t told me the secret of why you are so strong.” 16 She continued to pester him day after day. She nagged him until he was sick and tired of it.
17 So he told her everything. He said, “My hair has never been cut. That’s because I’ve been a Nazirite since the day I was born. A Nazirite is set apart to God. If you shave my head, I won’t be strong anymore. I’ll become as weak as any other man.”
18 Delilah realized he had told her everything. So she sent a message to the Philistine rulers. She said, “Come back one more time. He has told me everything.” So the rulers returned. They brought the silver with them. 19 Delilah got Samson to go to sleep on her lap. Then she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair. That’s how she began to bring Samson under her control. And he wasn’t strong anymore.
20 She called out, “Samson! The Philistines are attacking you!”
He woke up from his sleep. He thought, “I’ll go out just as I did before. I’ll shake myself free.” But he didn’t know that the Lord had left him.
21 Then the Philistines grabbed him. They poked his eyes out. They took him down to Gaza. They put bronze chains around him. Then they made him grind grain in the prison.
Three times, Delilah tried to trick Samson into spilling the secret of his super strength. Samson responded with three tricky lies of his own. When her first plan failed, Delilah came up with a new strategy: nagging Samson to death! Day after day, she said, “If you really loved me, you’d tell me all your secrets.” And you know what? Her plan worked! Delilah’s never-ending nagging wore the strongman down and Samson foolishly spilled his guts. And what thanks did he get for sharing his super-strength secret? His hair shaved off in his sleep, his eyes poked out, and his arms and feet locked in chains!
+ What does vs. 20 tell us about the Lord when Samson’s head was shaved?
+ When Samson woke up and the soldiers came in, what did he wrongly think? (vs. 20)
JUDGES 16:22-30, NIRV
22 His head had been shaved. But the hair on it began to grow again.
23 The rulers of the Philistines gathered together. They were going to offer a great sacrifice to their god Dagon. They were going to celebrate. They said, “Our god has handed our enemy Samson over to us.”
24 When the people saw Samson, they praised their god. They said,
“Our god has handed our enemy over to us.
Our enemy has destroyed our land.
He has killed large numbers of our people.”
25 After they had drunk a lot of wine, they shouted, “Bring Samson out. Let him put on a show for us.” So they called Samson out of the prison. He put on a show for them.
They had him stand near the temple pillars. 26 Then he spoke to the servant who was holding his hand. He said, “Put me where I can feel the pillars. I’m talking about the ones that hold up the temple. I want to lean against them.” 27 The temple was crowded with men and women. All the Philistine rulers were there. About 3,000 men and women were on the roof. They were watching Samson put on a show. 28 Then he prayed to the Lord. Samson said, “Lord and King, show me that you still have concern for me. Please, God, make me strong just one more time. Let me pay the Philistines back for what they did to my two eyes. Let me do it with only one blow.” 29 Then Samson reached toward the two pillars that were in the middle of the temple. They were the ones that held up the temple. He put his right hand on one of them. He put his left hand on the other. He leaned hard against them. 30 Samson said, “Let me die together with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might. The temple came down on the rulers. It fell on all the people in it. So Samson killed many more Philistines when he died than he did while he lived.
Samson’s God-given job as a judge was to rescue his people from the Philistines. Shackled in an enemy prison and missing his eyes, it looked like Samson had failed his people. But even though things looked grim, God had a plan to help Samson finish his mission with a bang! And that plan started with Samson’s hair slowly regrowing.
The Philistines threw a feast to celebrate their god Dagon inside a large building. During the party, they dragged out blind Samson from prison. He stood there as a sort of trophy, to show that their god Dagon had defeated the hero sent by Israel’s God.
Though he no longer had eyes, Samson could clearly see that this was the perfect opportunity to finish the mission God created him to do. Samson cried out to God for his strength to return and God answered his prayer. And with the might of the all-powerful Spirit of God inside him, Samson pushed against the pillars and brought down the building. Though it cost him his life, Samson’s final mighty blow wiped out the Philistines and gave God’s people peace from their enemies.
Samson certainly wasn’t a perfect man. Far from it! As part of his job as judge, God had given Samson special rules to follow. He wasn’t allowed to drink wine. He was forbidden from cutting his hair. And he was told to never touch dead things. But during the time of Samson’s sinful life, he ended up breaking every single one of these rules. But despite Samson’s disobedience, God still used him to defeat the Philistines.
In many ways, Samson and Jesus are a lot alike. Before Samson was born, an angel told his parents that Samson would save his people. And before Jesus was born, God told his mother Mary and her husband, Joseph, that Jesus would save his people.
To save his people from the Philistines, Samson spread out his arms and pushed down the pillars that held up the building, crushing his enemies and himself. Samson sacrificed his life so his people could have peace. To save his people from their sins, Jesus spread out his arms to be nailed to a cross. Jesus sacrificed his life so his people could have forever peace with God.
Like all the judges, Jesus was sent by God on a rescue mission. His job wasn’t to save good people; it was to save sinners, people who disobeyed God’s commands. While Samson took his eyes off his God-given goal and foolishly disobeyed God’s commands, Jesus followed the laws of the Lord without breaking a single one.
Like Samson, Jesus was willing to die. On the cross, Jesus paid the punishment for all that we’ve done wrong. Like the falling building flattened the Philistines, Jesus’ death crushed our greatest enemy: sin. And while Samson stayed flat as a pancake after his death, Jesus did something way better – he rose from the dead!
+ How many people were there in the building with Samson? (vs. 27)
+ What does vs. 30 say about the number of people Samson defeated in his death?