Teaching Sermons For Pastors and Laymen


Samson: Dealing with Fatal Flaws

Judges 13:1-16:31


Today, we’re going to focus on Samson and the fatal flaws in his character and perhaps what we learn will help us to deal with our own fatal flaws.

We won’t have the time this morning to hit all the highlights, or lowlights, of his life, but I do want to touch on some significant details in Judges Chapters13-16.


I won’t read all the verses to you because that would take too long, instead I’ll just tell you most of the story of Sampson.


Samson’s feats are legendary but it’s his flaws that prove to be fatal.


His two greatest weaknesses were revenge and romance.


In fact, his weakness for women often led him on the road to revenge.


He was extremely gifted, but certainly not godly.


He was strong on the outside, but had no control on the inside.

Sometimes we read the stories of Hannah or Gideon or Ruth and we think, “I could never be like them.”


Not so with Samson.


He’s a lot like us.


Most of us know what it means to be tempted.


All of us struggle at times with the desire for revenge.


We’ve been there, we understand, and when we see Samson struggling and falling, we have an idea of what he’s going through.


The truth of the matter is that there’s a little bit of Samson in all of us, and a whole lot of Samson in most of us.


One of the things we learn from Samson’s life is that sin will always take us further than we want to go.

I want to begin with some important information from chapter 13.


Listen to verse 1: “Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD, so the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.”


The Philistines were a very warlike people who traced their origin back to the land of Egypt, and had remained an enemy of Israel for years.

It’s interesting that this is the one place in the Book of Judges where we don’t read about the people crying out to God to deliver them from their oppression.


The game plan of the Philistines was simple.


They conquered their enemies by taking them into their nation through intermarriage, and then they watched with glee as the religion of God’s people began to disappear as it blended into the culture around them.


Does this sound familiar?


Today, the church is in danger of losing its impact because we’ve become so much a part of the society around us.

For this reason, God had to break through.


He appeared to a man and his wife and told them that they are going to have a son who will deliver Israel from the Philistines.


From the very beginning, even while he was in his mother’s womb, he was to be “set apart” for the Lord’s work.


Verse 5 tells us that he was to be a Nazarite.

If you go back to Numbers 6, it describes four commitments a Nazarite must keep during the period of his vow:

He was to avoid any contact with grapes and he couldn’t drink wine.


He was to never touch a dead body of any kind.

And he was to let his hair grow and never get it cut.


The forth, and most important is, he must be dedicated to the Lord throughout his life.

Before we leave chapter 13, I want you to hear a key phrase in verse 5.


It says, Samson “…will begin the deliverance of Israel…”


As we go through the story we’ll discover that in reality he never did any delivering, because he never delivered himself.


Since he never dealt with his fatal flaws, he only “began” to deliver Israel.


Also it says in verse 25 that “the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him…”


He was set apart and he was stirred by the Spirit of God.


Samson had everything he needed to accomplish his task.


He was both energized and equipped.


Compared to other Biblical heroes, he had more than anyone else.


And yet, he let it all slip away.  

Chapter 14 shows us seven stupid steps that Samson took.

1. He Went to The Wrong Place.


 Verse 1 says, “Samson went down to Timnah.”


The writer is telling us two things in that little phrase.


First, he is telling us something about geography.


Timnah was in Philistine territory, about four miles down a ridge from Samson’s village of Zorah.


But this also tells us about the decline in Samson’s spiritual life.


In his first public act, he leaves the land of Israel for the land of the Philistines.


To put it bluntly, Samson left God’s people and headed south spiritually.

2. He Was Looking For The Wrong Thing.


Listen to the rest of verse 1: “Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman.”


When he returned home, he told his parents in verse 2, “I have seen a Philistine woman.”


After his parents try to warn him about scoping out Philistine women, Samson boldly declares, “Go get her for me. She’s the right one for me.”


That phrase literally reads, “She is right in my eyes.”

The Bible is telling us something crucial about Samson.


He is a man motivated purely by physical appearance.


He saw this young woman, she looked good, and now he wants her for his wife.


Samson was looking in the wrong place for the wrong thing for the wrong reason.

3. He Rejected Godly Counsel.


The downward spiral continues, but now it takes a threatening turn.


So far, Samson has made some mistakes but they are not fatal.


That’s about to change.


By blowing off his parents, Samson is also rejecting what God said in Exodus 34:16 and Deuteronomy 7 about not marrying someone from the surrounding pagan nations.


The reason is clear—if you marry an unbeliever, he (or she) will turn you away from God.

4. He Continued A Wrong Relationship.


Listen to what it says in verse 7: “Then he went down to the woman, and he liked her.”


Evidently he had not met her before now.


But that doesn’t matter because Samson is hormone-driven, not Holy Spirit-driven.


This is the Old Testament version of “Hello, I love you, won’t you tell me your name?”

5. He Compromised His Commitment.


While Samson is traveling with his parents to make the wedding arrangements, he goes into a vineyard (which was forbidden by his vows) and there encounters a young lion.


The Spirit of the Lord comes upon him and he tears the lion apart with his bare hands.


Verse 6 notes that “he told neither his father or his mother what he had done.”

You would think a son would be glad to tell of a mighty deed like that.


He doesn’t tell them because killing the lion meant touching its corpse after it was dead.


That’s a violation of the spirit of the Nazarite vow.


Samson has now become ceremonially unclean and defiled before God.

Listen to verse 9: “He took some of it in his hands and went along, eating. When he came to his father and mother, he gave some to them, and they also ate. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey out of the carcass of the lion.”


This time Samson is traveling alone and stops by the vineyard to revisit the scene of his great exploit.


He finds that bees have built a honeycomb inside the dried-out carcass of the lion.


He scoops out some honey and eats it as he walks along.


Once again, he comes in contact with a dead body.


That’s not all.


According to verse 10 Samson made a feast “as was customary for bridegrooms.”


This was like a wild bachelor bash.


The Hebrew word used here means, “a drinking bash.”


A Nazarite is to avoid alcohol and here Samson is throwing a wild party.

Friends, Samson is a picture of a believer who is beginning to bail on his commitment.


If you simply look at his long hair he appears to be dedicated to God, but his lifestyle tells another story.


On the outside he looks like a man of God, but on the inside he’s a man controlled by his lusts.

6. He Ignored His Weaknesses.


Now the time has come for the wedding.


We pick up the story in verse 11 on day one of the seven-day wedding feast.


Samson begins by offering a riddle to the 30 Philistine groomsmen.


It was a kind of friendly battle of wits that was very common in those days.


The riddle involved the honey that Samson took from the carcass of the lion.


The riddle (which happens to be an excellent example of Hebrew poetry) went this way: “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.”


Samson walked with a swagger and offered a wager along with the riddle.


If they solved the riddle in 7 days, Samson would give them some new clothes.

By the fourth day the groomsmen were getting nervous so they approached Samson’s bride and made her an offer she couldn’t refuse in verse 15: “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death.”


These are not nice people.


You wouldn’t want these guys in your wedding party.

In this case, “Coax” means, “to seduce a simple-minded person.”


The Philistines would say the same thing to Delilah some 20 years later.


Samson could be seduced because he was all hormones and no brain.


Here’s the sad part: Samson’s weakness was apparent to everyone but him.


He never saw his weakness, refused to admit he had one and consequently never came to grips with it.


In the end it would prove his undoing.


He eventually reveals the riddle’s answer on the seventh night.

Remember this: It’s our refusal to deal with our weaknesses that most often gets us in trouble.


Many of us are just like Samson—we’ll do anything to avoid dealing with the real issues in our lives.


It’s easier and less painful (we think) to pretend that everything’s okay, even when deep inside we know it isn’t.

7. He’d rather take revenge than repent.


The groomsmen know the secret of the riddle and they come to Samson at the last moment with the answer.


Since Samson has lost the bet, he has to find some clothes for the groomsmen.


Verse 19 gives us his solution: In order to pay off his debt, Samson killed 30 Philistines.


He had to touch their dead bodies in order to get the clothes off, and that was another clear violation of the Nazarite vow.

But it doesn’t matter now.


Samson is angry because he has been publicly humiliated.


His feelings of romance are now replaced with rage and revenge.


Samson leaves his bride standing at the altar and chapter 14 ends with her father (who is understandably embarrassed) giving her in marriage to the best man.


This sounds like something you’d see on the Jerry Springer show!  

When we come to chapter 15, we see that Samson decides that he wants his wife back.


A few months have passed and Samson takes a young goat as a gift for his bride.


While we might bring chocolate or flowers, Samson gift-wraps a goat.


That’s sure to win her heart.


When he arrives, her father won’t let him see her because she’s now married to someone else.


Samson is fuming and says in verse 3: “This time I have a right to get even with the Philistines. I will really harm them.”

Samson then caught three hundred foxes and tied them tail-to-tail in pairs.


This is harder than it looks.


You probably shouldn’t try this yourself.


Once he had the tails tied together, he fastened a torch to them and let them loose in the fields of the Philistines.


This basically is on the level of a college fraternity prank.


The foxes are scared to death and go ballistic.

Verse 5 says they burned up the shocks (that’s the wheat that had already been cut); and they burned up the standing grain, the vineyards and the olive groves.


The Philistines only had three cash crops ­ wheat, olives, and grapes.


Samson single-handedly destroys the economic base of the entire nation with the flaming foxes.


But Samson is not finished yet.


After they torch his wife and her family, he said to them in verse 7, “Since you acted like this, I won’t stop until I get my revenge on you.”

Do you see the cycle of revenge?


The Philistines do something and then Samson does something.


And then they respond and Samson steps-up his response.


And they do something again and Samson goes crazy.


Each time it gets more serious, and bloodier.


When you try to seek revenge for wrongs done to you, you set in motion an unending cycle of violence.


The only way to get off the treadmill of terror is to not seek revenge but instead to offer forgiveness.

Verse 8 says, “He attacked them viciously and slaughtered many of them.”


Later, his own people turn him over to the Philistines and then verse 15 tells us that he found “a fresh jawbone of a donkey . . .” and with it he killed one thousand men.

Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord in verse 18, “You have given your servant this great victory.  Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?”


This is the greatest prayer Samson ever prayed.


He’s saying, “Lord I know that this victory did not come by my power.”


It’s the one time where he really acknowledged God’s presence in his life.

Samson’s great prayer comes after his greatest victory.


His prayer is immediately answered and it reveals to us that Samson’s spirituality was present, although it was often overshadowed by his emotions.


Chapter 15 concludes on a high note: “Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines.”


If Samson’s story ended here, it would be a tale of triumph.


He had learned that God was adequate to meet any need he had and so he ruled Israel and led them in prosperity and peace for two decades.


He thought his fatal flaws of romance and revenge were dealt with.


But his lust had not gone away; it had just been buried.
Chapter 16 opens with an ominous sign: “One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute.  He went in to spend the night with her.”


Twenty years of victory…and in one night he fell.

Samson’s mid-life crisis reminds us that the inclination to sin never dies of old age and our weaknesses never go away.


Samson never really dealt with the problems that plagued him at the beginning.

Taking up with a prostitute is really a stupid move.


There’s no chance that Samson can just arrive in this city and not be noticed.


The Philistines hate him.


They had a contract out on him.


And now, he’s in their capital city.


It’s almost as if he doesn’t care if he gets caught.


Like some men in mid-life, he’s doing something that makes no sense at all.


He’s where he shouldn’t be and he’s with someone he shouldn’t be with.


And he doesn’t seem to care.

The word got out that Samson was in the city.


The Philistines surround the house, thinking that he’ll come out in the morning and they can capture him.


But Samson got up in the middle of the night and left.


On his way out of town, verse 3 tells us that he ripped out the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and put them on his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron.


Scholars tell us that this door would have weighed about 700 pounds!

By carrying off the doors of the city gate, Samson was humiliating the Philistines once again.


Nearly all the ancient cities were surrounded by a thick wall, which meant the gate was the main entrance.


The gate symbolized the safety and security of the city.


And for Samson to take the city gate and to put it on his shoulders and to carry it away was his way of saying, “See, not only can you not catch me, I’m going to destroy the symbol of your security.”


He carried the doors and put them on top of the hill, which faces Hebron in the land of Judah.


That was where the people of God were.


He put them up there as if to say, “I can do anything I want.”

But, Samson was really starting to slide south now.


His problems of lust and revenge never really went away.


And now, he’s feeling arrogant and invincible.


This is a recipe for trouble.


He has enraged the Philistines by ripping off their city gate and he’s inflamed his old passion for illicit sex.

Let’s look briefly at four mistakes that came from Samson hanging around with Delilah.

1. He got involved with another wrong relationship.


In verse 4 we read that Samson fell in love with a woman named Delilah.


This is the third woman he got in trouble with.


He was infatuated with the woman of Timnah.


He was filled with lust for the harlot in Gaza.


And now, with Delilah, we read that he loves her.


But all three times, it was with Philistine women.

2. He toyed with temptation.


The Philistine rulers, who know all about Samson’s fatal flaw, come up with a plan.


Verse 5 tells us that 5 of these governors each offer Delilah eleven hundred shekels of silver if she is able to “lure him into showing the secret of his strength.”


In those days, the average person earned ten shekels of silver a year.


Delilah was about to become a multi-millionaire.


The choice between Samson and silver was already made in her heart.


In today’s currency, this was an offer of $15 million.

Samson’s final romance ends in disaster.


Delilah’s name means “weakness” or “brought low.”


She sure brought Samson down.


She was the first woman that Samson gave his heart to and he was like putty in her hands.


This combination of characters was lethal.


Samson’s fatal attraction was based on sex.


Delilah’s motivation was for money.


The Philistines were after power.


This trifecta of money, sex, and power has brought many good people to their destruction.

Delilah agrees to trick him into revealing the secret to his strength.


Samson toys with her three times, but each time he gets closer to telling her the truth.


First he told her that if they bound him with fresh bowstrings he would be helpless.


Then he said that if he were tied up with new ropes he would become weak.


Finally he said that if the seven locks of his hair were woven into a web he would be helpless.


Samson is feeling so self-confident and so cocky.


He thinks he’s invincible.


Now he’s letting her touch his hair.


She doesn’t know the secret yet, but he is letting her get closer and closer and closer.


He’s toying with temptation.

3. He reveals his secret in order to save face.


Finally she said to him in verse 15, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me?’”


After playing the “If you really loved me, you’d tell me” card, verse 16 tells us that she resorted to a war of words: “With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death.”

Samson then told her everything.


Samson, you fool.


You weren’t tricked.


You weren’t deceived.


Like Adam, you knew exactly what you were doing.


The rulers of the Philistines come with the silver shekels in their hands, and she puts him to sleep on her lap.


He doesn’t have a clue what is about to happen.

4. He didn’t realize what he had done until it was too late.


As soon as he’s sound asleep, she calls a man to hack off his hair.


Verse 19 says it plainly: “His strength left him.”


The last phrase of verse 20 is one of the saddest statements in the whole Old Testament: “But he did not know that the Lord had left him.”

He didn’t realize what had happened.


Too many Christians drift away from God through stupidity and foolishness, and they don’t realize what they’ve done until they’ve done it.


They don’t appreciate what they had until it’s gone.


Sin will always take you further than you want to go.

What happens next is ugly.


The Philistines have been waiting for 20 years to get their revenge.


Listen to verse 21: “Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding in the prison.”

Notice the four things that happened to Samson.


First there is mutilation.


They gouged out his eyes.


His wandering eyes had caused his heart to wander and now he’s blind.


Next, there is deportation.


They took him down to Gaza.


That had to hurt; that’s where he visited the prostitute.


Then there is incarceration.


He was bound with bronze shackles.


Finally, there is humiliation.


They set him to grinding in the prison, which was the work of slaves and animals.

I have to say this: If we don’t recognize and deal with our fatal flaws, we’ll end up just like Samson ­ blinding, binding, and grinding.


Blinding will take place as we lose our moral compass and vision.


Binding will result as we lose our freedom and liberty.


And we’ll spend the rest of our lives grinding out a purposeless existence.  

Let me wrap this up by concluding with 5 action steps that will help us get off the road to ruin and head down the road to recovery.

1. Acknowledge your fatal flaws.


What’s your spiritual soft spot?


What area of your life has the most potential to ruin you?


Is it lust?






An unforgiving spirit?






Psalm 38:18 says: “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”

2. Admit you need help.


Until you admit that you are vulnerable, you will never experience victory.


Psalm 34:17 says: “The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.”


That’s one of the reasons Alcoholics Anonymous is so effective.


The entire program is built on the principle of people admitting that they have a problem.


Some of you may think you no longer have a problem simply because you’ve swept it under the rug.


Unless you admit your need for help, your flaws will just come back to haunt you again and again.


Samson is Exhibit A of that truth.

3. Avoid temptation.


Don’t put yourself in situations where you know you’re vulnerable.


If you have a problem with drinking, don’t go to bars.


If you have a wandering eye, don’t flirt with anyone.


Get an Internet filter so that you can stay away from web-sites that bring you down.


Genesis 4:7 states: “…Sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it.”

4. Ask for help.


It’s not enough to just acknowledge your problem, to admit you need help, and to avoid temptation.


You also need to ask for help.


He who thinks he needs nothing or no one needs more than he can imagine.


First of all, ask for God’s assistance.


Samson did this in Judges 16:28 when he prayed and said, “O Sovereign Lord, remember me.  O God, please strengthen me once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.”


God honored this request by using Samson to wipe out thousands of Philistines in his death.

Second, ask for the help of others.


Sadly, when you look at Samson’s life, everything he did, he did by himself.


He never mustered the troops.


He never partnered with a buddy.


Don’t make the same mistake.


Find a trusted friend and open up.


Ask someone to hold you accountable.


If you need some specific help, find a Christian counselor.

5. Incorporate God’s truth into your life.


Be with God’s people.


Read God’s Word and put it into practice.


Psalm 119:11 says: “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.”


It’s absolutely imperative that we stay connected with God and with others.


Left to ourselves, it’s just a short walk to becoming a Samson.


Cultivate your relationship with Christ and commit yourself to do whatever it takes to grow.


Join a Sunday School class.


Maybe you need to be baptized, if you’re a believer and have never done so.


Set time aside every day for Bible Study and prayer.


Go to the WMU meetings and get involved.

Let me ask you a question, “How far can a person go before God will not deal with him any more?”


What if you get drunk?


Is that too far?


What if you steal money?


Is that too far?


What if you kill somebody?


Is that too far?


What if you cheat?


What if you commit adultery?


Is that too far?


What if you have an abortion?


Is that too far?


How far can you go before God will say, “That’s it. I’m done with you.”

Listen carefully.


Nobody knows the answer to that question because nobody has ever gone far enough to find out.


Corrie Ten Boom, after surviving Nazi prison camps, has been asked how she could keep on going when things were so tough.


I love her answer: “There is no pit so deep that the love of God is not deeper still.”


No matter how far you run away from God, you can never go so far that God can’t find you.

I’m sure during the drudgery of grinding Samson realized what he had done.


He knew that a death had to take place.


And this is true for us as well.


The only way out is to go back to that area of our life where we are resisting the Lordship of Jesus Christ and die, right there.


Romans 6:11 asserts: “In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.”


We need to look our fatal flaws squarely in the face and count ourselves as dead to them because of what Jesus did for us.

Notice how the story ends in verse 30: “Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived.”


You will find that to be true in your life, if you are willing to go back to the place of disobedience and face it.


Reckon yourself to be dead to sin and alive to God.


God will then crush the Philistines in your life.  

Do you want to know the moral to this story?


It really has nothing to do with Samson and everything to do with God.


This passage is a living lesson in the grace of God.


How a man who was beaten and blinded, humiliated by his own repeated stupidity, reached the bottom, turned around and discovered that God was waiting for him all the time.


There’s nothing heroic about Samson.


All he did was turn around and find God.


God is the hero.

Some of us really need to hear this.


Maybe you’ve gone pretty far down the road of romance or revenge and you’re grinding under a load of guilt.


Listen carefully.


Restoration of a relationship with God does not depend upon your performance.


How can I say that?


Because Samson didn’t perform.


He came back to God before he pushed those pillars down.


He came back to God while he was still shackled.


He came back to God while he was still blind.


He turned back to God and God took him.  


Are you ready to turn back to Him…before it’s too late?              

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