The ancient Greek aphorism “know yourself” or “know thyself” was about the pursuit of self-awareness. I am not talking about how well you know facts about yourself like how tall you are and your weight, how old you are and how high your IQ is. Knowing ourselves is about who we really are from the inside out. To grow as a follower of Jesus Christ (it is not enough just to do theology, to know God) we must know ourselves. In knowing ourselves we begin to recognize those areas of our inner life that must be adjusted to the ways of God. Knowing ourselves and applying God’s reality to what we discover is the crucial truth we can see from the life of the last Judge of Israel, Samson.
As one author writes, “Each of us has inner urges, compulsions, and dysfunctions of our personality that often go unexamined or remain unknown to us until we experience an emotional explosion…or some other significant problem that causes us to search for a reason why…because it is part of us that we are unaware of to some degree, lurking in the shadows of our personality.” This process of knowing yourself can be very painful and challenging. Like a pig that I dissected in college biology we need to dissect ourselves, but that pig was clearly dead and did not feel the process. Taking the time to look deep inside who we are is painful and that is why some of us simply just don’t go there. It is way too painful and troubling. We are like a small child that closes their eyes in hope that the scary animal will just go away. If we deny our personal issues long enough, we won’t have to deal with them. The other challenge is that we cannot often just stop life to understand more of how we tick. It is not like we are a baseball player who has just broken their leg and can take the time to focus exclusively on rehabbing it. We need to work, parent, pay the bills, serve, mow the lawn, do the laundry, make the sale, and be part of an extended family while getting a better understand of who we are and how we tick. It’s like trying to fix your car windshield wiper blades while driving on the highway in a rainstorm. Tough stuff.
I want to summarize the story of Samson and highlight a few key learnings from his pitiful life that can be of great help to us in our self discovery journey. Basically, he was this strong guy that got wrapped up with the wrong girl, Delilah. While he was sleeping, she cut his hair and, in doing so, Samson’s super strength was sapped from him so that the enemy could take him captive. That is all true but there is so much more. In Judges 14:1 Samson makes the first of his great mistakes taking a Philistine woman as his wife (this was against the law of God). From this point on Samson kills a lion, takes out 30 Philistines and steals their clothing. He catches 300 foxes, ties them together with torches, burns the Philistine field, and kills a thousand men with a fresh donkey jawbone. He sleeps with a prostitute and carried the gates of the city to the top of mount Hebron. Finally, we get to the Delilah part where we get a series of questions. She wants to know where his strength comes from. Eventually he tells her the truth, she has a man shave Samson’s hair, and the Philistines capture him. They gouge out his eyes and put him into slave labor. While he was a slave in prison, his hair grew back. I guess they forgot about the hair power thing. They decided to have some fun with him. He was the blind fool at a sacrificial party to their god, Dagon. Dagon was said to be the father of the god Baal and the Dagon temple was exceptionally large. Samson prays one more time and his strength comes back. He ultimately kills more of the enemy in his death than in his life.
Samson, though one greatly misguided Judge, was still used by God. Not only was he a picture of Israel and picture of God’s faithfulness, but his life served as a warning to Israel and as a warning to us today. As one author writes, “Samson’s downfall did not occur in a linear fashion but was a slow process with ups and downs, strength and weakness, decisions to sin and demonstrations of the Spirit’s power.” Samson had “critical control points” that he ignored causing him to spiral downward.
Each of us need to know ourselves, we need to know those Critical Control Points where, if we are going to mess up and walk down a destructive path (sin), it will be in those areas. By identifying those points, we can begin to put some Critical Controls in place so that we don’t go down the destructive road of a Samson. Let’s look at six areas in Samson’s story. As we identify these areas, reflect on whether or not this is an area of your life that requires some Critical Controls.
Samson’s eyes got him in a heap of trouble. In Judges 14:2 it says, “I have seen” and in 16:1 “he saw.” Based on his past it would be logical to assume that Delilah was also an attractive woman. Samson clearly had a problem with his eyes in the area of desiring women and following through on those desires even though he was forbidden as a Jew and as a Nazirite to be with these women. If he would have guarded his eyes, what kind of Godly judge would he have become? And what deep pain would he have avoided?
Jesus said in Matthew 6:22
“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.”
For some of us, the critical control point needs to be the guarding of our eyes.
It’s About Me
Even after all that occurs, when he prays to God he doesn’t pray that the Lord would get a great victory or that he could avenge his people. No, he prays that he would personally get revenge on the Philistines for his two eyes. It is as if he never gets it. Samson was a narcissistic man. His image was everything. The world revolved around him and his personal desires. Samson had an inflated sense of importance. At the heart of narcissistic people are self absorption and uncertainty because of a deep feeling of inferiority. These are often the people that can never enjoy life and success. As important as any individual is, they are never the star of the story. They are never the center of the universe. Only God is. It is not about you.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
It’s about God, it’s about Jesus Christ. He is the creator and sustainer of everything. It all hinges on God. It’s not about me being happy or fulfilling my wildest dreams. It’s not about my preferences and my own level of personal comfort. The critical control point is to recognize your bent to want your name on the marquee of life instead of Jesus Christ.
Didn’t Learn From His Past
As the famous quote goes, “those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it.”
Samson is a classic example of a man who did not take the time to learn from his past mistakes. In Judges 14:16 his wife begs him to tell her the answer to a riddle he gave as a bet with a group of guys. He finally gives in only to realize when the 30 men whom he made a bet with come back that she told them and now he needs to find 30 linen garments and 30 sets of clothes. Samson was strong, but he was not very intelligent because Delilah did the same thing. She nagged him until he told her the secret of his great strength. The lack of capacity that Samson had to learn from his past is absolutely befuddling.
Some of us are people of action and this quality, though good, can get you into a lot of trouble. It is important and necessary to take the time to reflect on past decisions and the impact, both negative and positive, of those decisions. One of the best ways to reflect on our negative past choices, identify them and make sure we don’t repeat them, is to get wise counsel.
Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.
Each of us needs to reflect on our past with a wise brother or sister in Christ. I know that when it comes to decisions I make I have several different counselors to process with to avoid a repetition of mistakes. The critical control point is to slow down, reflect on the consequences of past decisions, and get wise counsel as you move forward into another life choice.
Out of Control Anger
In Judges 14:19 Samson is expressing out of control anger and it was all because he decided to do a riddle and tell it to his wife. He makes some poor choices, but others suffered the deadly consequences of his anger. We live in an angry culture. We are angry at the person who is driving too slow in front of us, we are angry at our boss for not giving us the raise we believe we deserve, we are angry at a system that has perhaps treated us unfairly, we are angry at a parent who was never around, we are angry at a government that taxes us, we are angry at a spouse that doesn’t meet our expectations and at God that we don’t believe is as engaged in the difficulties of life as much as we believe he should be. Anger is all around us and it is a destructive wrecking ball in many of our lives. Paul writes:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
If the Spirit is bearing fruit in our life, then we must reign in out-of-control anger and become a person of self control. Anger is the place for a critical control point.
We could continue to dissect Samson looking at his other areas of struggle from his
un-controlled mouth, to his disrespect for the very vow that he and his parents took, but let’s look at two more: one in Delilah’s life and one that permeated the people of Israel.
In Judges 16:5 the rulers of the Philistines offer Delilah a lot of money. In fact, this is what we call a King’s Ransom and today it would be about 15 million dollars. They are going to make her a multi millionaire if she simply finds out the secret of his power. The love of money, the accumulation of money, is truly a critical place to identify in our lives. Delilah loved money more than she loved Samson.
1 Timothy 6:10
For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
Money is one of the big three. Money, Sex, and Power. From Delilah betraying Samson, to Judas betraying Jesus, to the modern-day scandals, money is a powerful tool that can be manipulated for destructive purposes in our life. The truth is that many of us need to put a critical control point on money.
The Status Quo
In Judges 15:11 3,000 men from Judah, (3,000 of Samson’s own people) want to turn him over to the Philistines. Why? Because they don’t want to upset the very people that are oppressing them. This kind of oppression has been a complete melding of the Philistine and Jewish culture. They like life just the way it is, and Samson is going to mess it all up. This is another dangerous area for many of us. We like our life, we like how we express our Christianity, we like our friends, we just like things the way they are and no one better mess that up. The problem is Jesus always messes up the status quo. He is always challenging us to reflect on our life and how we understand followership of Jesus. He is always challenging us to evaluate our own spiritual journey and how we are expanding his kingdom in this generation. If you don’t want anything to change in your life you won’t like Jesus very much because he is in the change business. Desire to not rock the boat and step out into deeper spiritual waters for the purpose of God’s Kingdom is a lonely and discouraging place to be and for many it is their critical control point.
So, what is that area of your life that requires some critical controls?