In the book of Judges, a young Samson sees and falls in love with a beautiful Philistine woman. As he tells his parents his intentions to marry her, they argue with him; he should marry a good Jewish girl! After all, wasn’t that God’s command in Exodus 34:15-16?
Then the author makes this strange parenthetical explanation: “(His parents did not know that this [Samson marrying a Philistine] was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel (Judges 14:4).)”
If you read the story of Samson, you’ll see that he was a man of many character flaws. He was egotistical, headstrong, and unwilling to learn. Still, God used him. The author of Judges tells us why right here, God wanted to confront the Philistines.
Israel had been overrun by foreign nations before. Typically, they would eventually cry out to God for help and the Lord would send a rescuer – called a “judge.”
The problem in Israel this time: Israel never “cried out to God.” They never asked God for help. They never asked God to remove the ungodly Philistines from their land. On the contrary, Israel had adopted Philistine values, ideals, mores, idols, and even gods.
In fact, Israel wanted to be like the Philistines…to be accepted by them. They wanted peace and open trade. Samson even hoped to marry into the ruling class. Israel and Philistia had essentially become indistinguishable. They did the same things and worshiped the same gods. There was no conflict between them. So, God used Samson to create some conflict.
It isn’t long in the Samson narrative before he becomes a one-man Philistine wrecking crew—and Israel and Philistia become enemies.
Herein lies the problem of the American church. When we forget that we’re in the world but not of the world (1 Pet. 2:11), when we become “friends with the world” (James 4:4), when there is no longer any conflict between the world’s values and the church’s values, we find that the church is in the same danger as Israel. Michael Wilcock says: “There is no such thing as harmonious coexistence between the church and the world, for where there is no conflict it is because the world has taken over.”
Jesus told his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men (Matthew 5:13).” God loved Israel too much for them to be thrown out and trampled on the ash-heap of history. So, he sent Samson, whom he used as a crowbar, to pry Israel and Philistia apart.
May the church continue to pursue holiness and be set apart from “the world.” And let’s pray God doesn’t have to use a crowbar on us!
Jim Mann, Ph.D. pastors New Life Church at Robson Ranch. This interdenominational church meets at the Robson Clubhouse on Sunday mornings at 8:30 a.m. Visit www.newlifedenton.org for more information or www.drjimmann.com.