POWER STRANGER SERMON SERIES
TIES THAT BLIND
JUNE 15, 1997
Ever since I can remember, I have always loved reptiles. I think that my interest was tweaked when I was about nine years of age and our neighbors, Arnold and Bonnie Arrowood, found a snake inside their house. I can still hear their screams echoing off those Carolina pines. “Snake in the house. Snake in the house.” We jumped up from our dinner table, ran over to the Arrowood’s home, peered in their den and, sure enough, there he was coiled up in their sterile, shag carpet right by their lazyboy. Now the Arrowoods were peculiar people. They were the most meticulous and neatest folks I have ever known.
The adults began to question whether the snake was poisonous. I jumped in and said that the snake definitely was not poisonous. I said that I knew a lot about snakes, that I had studied them in the third grade. The adults gave me a condescending look, which I took to mean, “Please shut up, Ed.”
We had a problem. On the one hand, we couldn’t kill the snake due to the fact that the Arrowoods would go ballistic if we stained their carpet. One the other hand, we were not sure what kind of snake it was and whether we could safely move it. My father had a brilliant idea. He went to our garage, got a big jar and a hoe. He returned and guided the snake into the jar. He put the lid on the jar. The first words out of my mouth were, “Dad, can we take the snake home?” He thought, then said we could take him home and put him on the driveway in the jar. But he hastened to add that I was not to touch the snake because we did not know what kind it was. Of course I replied, “Dad, you can count on me.” So we took the snake in the jar and placed it on our driveway.
By that time a group of neighborhood kids had gathered. I was with my beautiful girlfriend, Tina Arrowood and my younger brother, Ben. We were just looking at the snake. The snake became enticing to me, tempting to me. When I couldn’t stand it any longer I told Ben to bring me the yard gloves. My father had long since gone inside. Ben said, “Ed, you are not going to pick the snake up!” I told him again to get the gloves. “Dad is going to kill you, man.” But he brings the yard gloves as commanded. I put them on and told everyone to back up. I unscrewed the lid, reached my hand in and picked up the creature. I began to hold the snake, letting it crawl through my gloved fingers. I impressed all the neighborhood kids. My girl friend said, “Wow, he is a snake handler.” I told them I knew a lot about snakes. I assured them that he was not poisonous, that he would not hurt anyone. I held the snake for awhile but that became kind of boring. So I took the snake in my right hand, extended my left hand to Ben and told him to remove the glove. He protested but I prevailed. I slowly put my bare hand forward to hold the snake when, like lightening, that snake turned its wicked head and bit my hand. I was panic-stricken. I began to scream and to try to shake the snake off my hand. But he was biting down hard and wouldn’t let go. Finally, I threw him down. Blood was streaming down my hand. I began to cry. I thought my life was over. What happened? I will tell you what happened. I made a pet out of that snake and it bit me. I still have the scar to prove it.
Today we are going to be talking about making a pet out of something far more dangerous than a snake. Today, we are going to talk about making a pet out of sin. There is a man in the Bible by the name of Samson who knew about making a pet out of sin far too well. As we look at the final chapter of his existence, we are going to see the consequences of relating, flirting and dealing with temptation.
Let me quickly give you the cliff notes of this man’s life. Samson was the Biblical body builder. He was the man tapped on the shoulder by God to be the quarterback of the children of Israel. He came from a great home. Samson lived by something called the Nazarite vow. The Nazarite vow was simply the outward symbol of an inward commitment. If you took the Nazarite vow you could not touch anything that was dead, could not touch any wine or grape product and could not cut your hair. By the time the Biblical bodybuilder had his 40th birthday, he had already broken two of the three Nazarite vows. So that brings us to where we are today. That brings us to the danger of temptation. I am going to share with you some dangerous principles of temptation from the life of Samson.
The first dangerous principle is that temptation always begins by looking in the jar. And that was the thorn in Samson’s flesh. The Bible says in Judges 16:4 “After this it came about that he loved a woman in the valley of Sorek, whose name was Delilah.” Sorek was an area in the region of the ungodly Philistines. Every time that Samson went down to this area, he not only went down geographically, he also went down spiritually. Circle the word Delilah. In Hebrew, this name is rendered Baywatch. Samson was a he-man with a she-weakness and the Philistines knew this. He had become a national problem for these people. Five power players from five Philistine cities got together with Delilah and offered her $5,000 if she would discover the secret of Samson’s strength. Well we know it was not some kind of magical thing, that it was due, instead, to the commitment that he had made before God. We know that God empowered him.
Delilah represents temptation in your life and in my life. The Bible says that temptation is a reality. In the book of James it says, when we are tempted, not if we are tempted. Temptation always starts when you look in the jar. Delilah was in the jar, so to speak and Samson looked at her and lusted after her. Samson had a problem with Philistine women, the girl from Timnah, the prostitute from Gaza and now Delilah. What do you do when you get into those situations of temptation? Do you toy with temptation? Do you play with it? Do you linger? No. The Bible says that we are to flee. We are to run. Do you remember Joseph when Potipher’s wife tempted him? The Bible says that Joseph was a single man, being handsome in form and appearance, which means he was buff. He was a thousand miles away from his parents. He turned and he ran. He ran and ran and ran. He got out of there. The Bible says that we are to flee immorality. So when temptation comes, run.
There is the second dangerous principle of temptation. Handling sin is fun for a season. Now we go to Judges 16:6. Let me say first that you can’t say the name Delilah without saying lie. And lie she did. Notice also that Samson and Delilah were not married. They were having sex outside the marriage bed and any time you have premarital sex or sex outside the marriage bed, it always, always, always destroys your discernment. When you read this verse you will wonder what was wrong with Samson. You think that any first grader could figure out what was happening. Sex outside the marriage bed can blind you. Sex is multifaceted and multidimensional. It is not just a physical thing. It is a spiritual thing, a psychological thing, an emotional thing. “So Delilah said to Samson, ‘Please tell me where your great strength is and how you may be bound to afflict you.” When Samson heard this, he should have thanked God because God was giving him a warning light. “Samson, she is already talking about the secret of your strength. Samson, you are in the Philistine country. Samson, what are you doing here?” What was Delilah doing? She was preparing Samson for the tie that blinds.
The Bible says that Samson went to see her three times. The first time he saw her he gave her an incorrect answer. He said that seven bow strings, if used to bind him, would make him weak. She did just that and then shouted for him to wake up. He jumped up and broke all the bow strings. He was just joking; he was having fun handling sin. He was having fun frolicking with the Philistine filly. Sin is fun. If sin were not fun, we wouldn’t do it. Sin does not come to us in some ugly package. It is always very attractive. Yes, sin has its kicks, but it also has its kickbacks.
Samson went down to see Delilah a second time. He said if he were tied up with new ropes, he would become like any other man. He went to sleep. You know the story. She tied him with ropes but they did not hold him. On the third visit he began to get really close to the secret. He told her that if his hair was woven into a hair loom, he would become weak. He went to sleep. He was always sleeping, wasn’t he? She wove his hair into the loom and believed that she had him. When she shouted, he woke up and pulled the entire hair loom out of the floor and walked around looking for the Philistines with this hair loom hanging down his back. Now if this is not God giving him three signals, three warning lights, three danger zones, I don’t know who is. Yet he didn’t listen or respond.
We know the third dangerous principle of temptation. If you make a pet out of sin, it will bite you. Look at verse 15. Delilah turned up the volume. She put the throttle to the firewall here. “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when your heart is not with me?” Can’t you just see big Samson taking off those yard gloves to hold this tempting creature? Underline the word heart. It will be important in just a second. “You have deceived me these three times…..” Can’t you just taste the salt of her tears? Her tears were kind of rusting away his resistance, corroding his character, what little was left. “…and have not told me where your great strength is’…” Verse 16 says that “…when she pressed him daily with her words and urged him, that his soul was annoyed to death…” Verse17, “…He told her all that was in his heart…” Why does the Bible emphasize heart? I will tell you why. Samson’s commitment to God was in the heart. Yes, it was shown by the Nazarite vow, but it was in the heart.
She causes Samson to fall asleep in her lap. Then she called the Toni and Guy shop at the Philistine Galleria and had several hair stylists shave his head. I am going to read to you one of the top three most depressing verses in the Bible. Verse 20. “But he did not know that the Lord had departed from him.” The story continues with the Philistines capturing him, gouging out his eyes, putting him in chains and making him work in a mill grinding corn. That is a picture of sin, isn’t it? Sin is blinding, binding and grinding. Don’t ever blame God for the consequences of being bitten by sin. Look how specific the consequences are in the life of Samson. Samson had a problem with his eyes. He lusted after women. He was now blind. Samson always flirted around in enemy territory. Now he was living as a prisoner in enemy territory. Samson was the quintessential free spirit. Now he was in chains. The consequences of sin.
Well, you wonder if it is lights out for this man. Samson should have looked past the temptation to the consequences of sin. He should have looked past the reptile to what would happen once the reptile stuck his fangs into him and once the venom began to paralyze him. But he didn’t do it.
Now here is the good news. Here is the hope. Here is the fourth dangerous principle of temptation found in the life of Samson. Even though you have been bitten by sin, God can still use you. Isn’t that great? It is just like God. Look at verse 22. “…the hair on his head began to grow again…” Now it is not talking about Rogain, a toupee or a hair weave. It is not a cure for male pattern baldness. Yes, his hair began to grow and this meant that his relationship with the Lord also began to flourish and grow. He was getting right with God. He was praying as he was grinding, doing the work of a female slave.
The Philistines were a sadistic people. One day they had a huge celebration in one of their arenas. It was probably about the size of Reunion Arena. It had various levels. If you thought that Jerry Jones was the one who pioneered luxury boxes, not so. They had them back then. The luxury boxes were in the shade. But thousands of people were on the roof, in the cheap seats in the upper deck. A little slave boy led Samson out with the collar around his neck and the Philistines made sport of him. I am sure that they were cursing at him, cursing the name of God, spitting upon him. When Samson had had enough, he turned to the little boy and asked to be taken over into the shade by the columns. Samson had been to the city of Gaza time and time again. He knew about this arena and how it was set up.
The slave led him where he requested. Then the Biblical bodybuilder dropped his head and the Philistines shouted for everyone to look at tired, weak Samson. Samson wasn’t tired. Samson was praying and this is the first prayer that he ever prayed before he used his strength. Don’t miss it here. Verse 28, “Oh Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time…” And he pushed those columns and everyone in the building was crushed and killed. Thousands and thousands of ungodly Philistines died along with Samson.
God can still use you; He can still use me even though we have been bitten by sin. I think that prayer kind of symbolized the life of Samson, don’t you? Just this time, just this once. Samson said early on in his life after he killed the lion which he was then not to touch, just this once. The Nazarite vow also said he should not touch any grape product yet he walked through the vineyard and got drunk at the rowdy reception and said, just this once. Then the Bible said that Samson got revenge on the Philistines, just this one time. He saw the prostitute from Gaza and said, just this once. He told Delilah the secret of his strength, just once. That is what Satan says to you. Just this once. No one will know about it. Everything will be A-OK. It won’t damage you. Go ahead and sew your wild oats. No one will ever discover your sin. Just this once.
Don’t buy into that. But don’t miss the beauty here either. God still used Samson and God still wants to use you. I know that many of you out there have been bitten by sin. “I can feel the venom paralyzing and terrorizing my life. What can I do about it? Can God still use me? You don’t know what I have done. You don’t know what I have been through. You don’t know my past.” God does and He is waiting for you to say, “God, remember me.” We serve a God of grace, a God of forgiveness, a God of love. Yes, we will feel the burning consequences of sins. God will not remove the consequences but He will still use us. And He still does. I am amazed at how God always hits straight hits with crooked sticks.
I kind of left you hanging regarding the snake story. You are probably wondering if it was poisonous or not. You know what I did? I turned and I ran crying into our house directly to my Father and told him what had happened. Thankfully, we found out the snake was not poisonous.
Now I believe that is what our transcendent God wants many of us to do right now, run to Him and confess what we have been and done. Trust Him to accept you, forgive you and use you.