· This week I was blessed to visit our state museum in Columbia on a field trip with Roslyn.
o It has been a long time since I have been to the museum, perhaps even since I would have been in elementary or middle school.
o I quickly realized as I began to explore with my little group from Roslyn’s class that their goals and my goals for the day were very different.
o They did not want to read and consider the information like I did, but they were very ready to watch any movie that was playing and ready to touch and play with anything they could touch.
o While I admit that I am a history nerd, I couldn’t help but think that in this group the difference in generations was evident.
· Let me explain. In 1968 the first message over an internet was sent and developers were experimenting very the first personal computers. From that point the world began to change as the Digital Revolution ushered in a new Information Age. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Information_Age#/media/File:Rings_of_time_Information_Age_(Digital_Revolution).jpg)
o By 1985 the foundations of the World wide Web was complete and more and more information was accessible to the masses. So for a child of the eighties like me, I can remember a time before computers and the internet.
o In 2005 the first smart phones were launched where all the power and information of computers was placed in our hands. For those of us who grew up experiencing the digital revolution, owning a smartphone was like realizing a dream.
o Today 47% of the global population has access to the internet. That means that for the majority of those younger than my generation, they cannot remember a world without screens, and easy access to multiple computing devices.
· The information that was originally measured in bytes now is measured in zettabytes. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zettabyte_Era#Definitions)
o One zettabyte is one sextillion bytes or a trillion gigabytes.
o IF a zettabyte were to be measured in distance where each terabyte was a kilometer, a zettabyte is equivalent to 1300 round trips to the moon.
o At current pace the world creates 5% of a zettabyte. Largely due to the increase in streaming and video services that means that by the end of a year, the world adds 18.25 zettabytes of information to that which is stored.
· With all the available information, most of it now on video, no wonder the children in my group did not take time to read any of the information in front of them in the museum.
· With the sheer volume of information, we dare not assume that all the information available is positive or able to be utilized for good.
· Friends our need for discernment grows just as quickly as the amount of information being stored at our fingertips grows.
· Especially for those who are graduating from the relative safety of life in your parents’ home, the world will begin to bombard you with information if it has not already begun.
· I hope today to show you three areas in which we all need to grow in discernment.
· If Samson’s life and story had ended in verse 15:20, we all would understand that though he was a flawed person, He was used greatly by God to deliver His people and to follow his calling.
o But God does not want to leave us with half of the story. God wants us to have all the information so that we can learn from Samson’s example – positive and negative.
o For that reason we are confronted with all the gritty details of Samson’s life.
· Samson lived in a revolutionary age in Israel as well. The Philistines, a sea people had occupied a coastal region in the Promised Land and established five major cities there.
· From Gaza in the south to Gath and Ekron in the north, these cities were centers for trade, culture, and spiritual innovation.
o The Philistines had beautiful painted pottery and planned their cities to make them more pleasant to residents. They were expert brewers and had skills in bronze work.
o The Philistines were pantheist, worshipping their own gods like Dagon alongside of traditional Canaanite gods like Baal and Astarte.
o The recent discover in 2016 of a Philistine graveyard consisted of oval-shaped graves, similar to those in Crete and Greece. So an Aegaean influence on the Philistines seems certain.
o These more advanced sea faring people posed a threat but also an enticement to the people around them, including Israel and especially Samson.
· Samson, as we have seen and will see again in our text was prone to be distracted by one aspect of Philistine culture above all others. He was distracted by their women.
o That is how we find him in verse one of chapter 16.
o These verses happen quickly, but do not mistake what they are telling us.
· Samson chooses to see a Philistine prostitute in Gaza.
· No longer concerned with marriage, he was willing to travel to the Philistine city farthest south to indulge himself.
· Gaza lights up with the news that Samson has come to the city and many Philistine troops surround and wait to kill Samson.
· Then at midnight, Samson gets up and decides to leave.
§ Somehow walks past the troops in the three sets of guardhouses before the gate, tears the gate away from the masonry and carries it uphill all the way to Hebron.
§ This would be a distance from Spartanburg to around Hendersonville, but notice he does this without the Spirit of the Lord rushing upon him.
· This time Samson escapes, but these first verses begin to set the stage for us readers to think, surely he realizes the dangers he allows into his life.
· This is our first point. We grow in discernment as we become aware of our common distractions (16:1-5)
o For us to become distracted we need three things: access, opportunity, and desire.
· Access describes the availability of a distraction. For Samson, he had to travel to Gaza; but for most anything we desire we have to do nothing more than pick up our cellphone.
· Opportunity describes the amount of time we can devote to a distraction. For people in Samson’s day only kings had the kind of leisure time that almost every American now enjoys. Back-breaking, time-consuming labor used to eliminate opportunity to become distracted. But in the information age, automation and computer driven processes give us more free time than ever.
· Finally desire describes that inner push or motivation that we feel inside of us. From the Fall forward, we have all struggled to control our negative desires and replace them with positive desires.
o Graduates and believers, as you begin your journey into independence, know that you will have plenty of opportunities to become distracted.
· You will likely find that one avenue of distraction has a great deal of sway over you.
· Once you realize this, know that in Christ you do not have to be a slave to your distractions.
· Discernment means that you recognize those things that distract you and work to eliminate access, opportunity, and desire for these distractions.
§ To eliminate access, you may have to choose to have a less smart phone.
§ To eliminate opportunity you may need to do something like taking a part-time job.
§ To eliminate desire you certainly need to fill your life with reminders of who you are in Christ like, fellow Christians in Bible study, church services, and daily quiet times.
· Discernment is consciously making choices to become more devoted to Christ and less devoted to other distractions.
· Choosing to turn to Christ and follow him is the first discerning choice we will ever make, but it will certainly not be the last.
· If Samson had recognized his distractions, the middle portion of this passage would not be so troubling.
o From verse 4-14 we read of Samson’s next and most devastating distraction.
o Rather than travelling far from home, he chooses to stay in the valley of Sorek, that wadi that travels from the Mediterranean, through Philistine territory, all the way near to Bethlehem. The indication in verse 4 that this was the “valley” makes it clear that we are closer to the Mediterranean, in Philistine territory.
o He falls in love with the first woman to have a name in this book, Delilah.
· “Laylah” is the Hebrew word for night or darkness and the name likely means of the night or of the darkness.
· As soon as Samson falls in love, not marrying her, but pursuing her, the Philistines convince her with gold to spy on and betray him.
· They agree to pay her 1100 shekels. If ten shekels is a day’s wage this is 110 days’ worth of pay or around third of the year’s wage.
o The three attempts would be comical if it were not that Samson seems blind to Delilah’s deception.
· 6-9 relates Delilah’s question of how Samson can be subdued, and his false answer of being tied up with seven fresh bowstrings or sinews.
· 10-12 relates the same question and Samson’s false answer of being tied with new ropes.
· 13-14 relates how she again asks the question and Samson again gives a false answer, but closer to the truth. This time he says if his hair is woven into seven braids on the loom and tightened with a weavers pin.
· Friends that is the danger of deception and it is our second point. We grow in discernment as we become aware of deception (16:6-14).
o Three times Delilah tries to deceive Samson into revealing his secret. Three times he deceives her.
o But Samson is not deceiving God. God knows that Samson believes that nothing can really hurt him.
o Friends do not fall prey to that lie. As humans we are not invincible. Life’s cruelties can come upon us all at once, in an instant, and everything can change.
o We may be smart enough, or strong enough, or lucky enough to evade consequences for a while. The more confident that we become in our own abilities, the more deceived we have become.
o Samson had toyed with his Nazarite vow throughout his life. He chased foreign women, touched dead bodies including the sinews or bowstrings in this chapter, and now even begins to get close to allowing his hair to be shorn. Up to this point, nothing has stopped him from being able to escape or have victory.
o Jeremiah 17:8 tells us that “the heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”
o That is Samson’s biggest deception, not Delilah or the Philistines, but the pride and confidence in his own strength. His own heart is deceiving him.
· Notice that not once in any of these three encounters does the Spirit of the Lord show up.
· The Spirit of the Lord is not mentioned in the first five verses of this chapter.
· Samson has been escaping, evading, and making fools of the Philistines all by himself – and he knows it.
o Friends, discernment is realizing how quickly and how devastating pride in our hearts can be.
· Proverbs 16:18 tells us that “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
· Obadiah says, “the pride of your heart has deceived you, you who live in the clefts of the rock, in your lofty dwelling, who say in your heart, ‘Who will bring me down to the ground?'”
· The rich young ruler in the New Testament was too proud to sell everything and follow Jesus.
· Graduates, you should be thankful for all of your accomplishments and awards at this season of your life, but beware of pride.
· Pride in any of our hearts is the belief that we would be okay, and even successful without the hand of God upon our lives.
· Graduates and fellow believers do not be like Samson and choose little by little to forsake your profession in favor of your own growing pride.
· Pride deceives us and helps us to forget the realities of this world.
· Finally we come to the saddest portion of this passage. In these verses we begin to see everything unravel.
o Delilah begins to press him, asking whether he really loves her if he will not confide in her in verse 15.
o Samson did not confide in his parents. He did not confide in his companions. In chapter 15 we finally began to see him confiding in the Lord.
o Verse 16 tells us that Delilah prods him so mercilessly that “he was sick to death” of it.
· This phrase is one that can easily be understood as discouragement, but it seems like more.
· “Sick to death” is the kind of depression that makes anything even death seem preferable to living in that situation.
o Then Samson tells everything.
· In verse 17 we read that he knows he is called of God as a Nazarite.
· He presumably knows if his hair is shaved he will become weak.
· And the scariest part is that he simply does not care about any of it anymore.
· Friends of all the areas we need to grow in discernment, perhaps this is the greatest one. Our third point is that we grow in discernment as we become aware of our discouragements (16:15-22)
o For far too many of us we allow ourselves to begin to believe two destructive things.
· First that we have no reason to live.
· And second that we cannot make a difference for God.
o In Samson’s life his discouragement leads to the saddest verse to this point. Verse 19 tells us his strength left him.
· Verse 20 tells us that he thought he would go out as before, but he did not know the Lord had left him.
· This passage begins by Samson seeing a woman in Gaza and it ends in Gaza after the Philistines take his eyes and put him to treading grain.
o Discouragement of this nature can rob us of our joy and blind us to how God can work in and through us.
o But notice with me verse 22. It tells us there that the hair on Samson’s head began to grow again.
· Even in the midst of discouragement God can work great miracles.
· So today if you are distracted, deceived or discouraged; discern a new and better way forward. Turn to Christ.