Love Gone Wrong

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Judges 16:1-22 (Samson and Delilah)

INTRODUCTION: Our sermon series is called “Samson: Strong Man Gone Wrong,” and we are learning some very important lessons from Samson on how not to live our lives. Samson made all the mistakes, so we don’t have to! So far we’ve looked at marriage gone wrong and vengeance gone wrong. Today we are looking at love gone wrong. We will be looking at all of verses 1-22 in the course of the message, but we will just read verse 4 now to get started. (Read Judges 16:4 and pray.)

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There are a number of Biblical stories that are instantly recognizable simply by the names involved. Adam and Eve. Noah and the Ark. David and Goliath. And of course, Samson and Delilah. We’ve looked at a number of stories from Samson’s life so far in this series, some with which you may not have been familiar before, but most people, when they think about Samson, they think about Samson and Delilah.

Today we’re talking about love gone wrong. If you’ve ever been in a bad relationship or if you just listen to country music, then you know all about love gone wrong. Love is a beautiful part of this world, and falling in love can be a wonderful thing, but love can go wrong fast when we don’t follow God’s ways. We’ve seen Samson didn’t really care much about God’s ways, and so we shouldn’t be surprised to find that love went wrong for Samson. Everything else seemed to go wrong for him, so why not love as well?

Love gone wrong means life gone wrong. These verses in Judges 16 and especially the story of Samson and Delilah show us five ways that love can go wrong – five things you will want to avoid if you don’t want love to go wrong in your own life. So let’s get started.

1) Choosing lust over love (1-3)
   – 1 Corinthians 6:15-17; 1 Thessalonians 4:4-6

The first way love can go wrong is when we choose lust over love. Look at Judges 16:1-3 with me:

One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute. He went in to spend the night with her. The people of Gaza were told, “Samson is here!” So they surrounded the place and lay in wait for him all night at the city gate. They made no move during the night, saying, “At dawn we’ll kill him.” But Samson lay there only until the middle of the night. Then he got up and took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron. (Judges 16:1-3)

Now this is another one of Samson’s amazing feats of strength. These city gates would have been about ten feet high and ten feet wide. They would be made of thick, solid wood and either covered with metal or reinforced with metal. Either way they were built to withstand the attack of a full enemy force. Samson tears the whole thing down along with the bar and the two posts on the side and carries it uphill to Hebron which was 36 miles away and 3200 feet higher in altitude. The raw physical strength required to do this is astounding, and this may be the most amazing demonstration of Samson’s strength.

But it’s important that we don’t get so enamored by Samson’s strength here that we miss how wrong Samson was to get into this situation to begin with. This is an example of Samson choosing lust over love. He saw the prostitute, he desired her, so he went in to spend the night with her. This was a one-night stand, a business arrangement, a cash transaction – there was no love involved here at all.

And then what is Samson doing in Gaza anyway? Gaza is the Philistines’ capital city! Even after killing 1,000 men back at the battle of Jawbone Hill, Samson is still flirting with the Philistines. But now he is public enemy number one. Samson was not only disobedient to God in this incident; he was foolish for allowing himself to get surrounded by the enemy. But that’s what lust does to you. Lust will make you take risks. Lust will make you take bad risks. Lust will lead you to do things that are not wise.

One of the most common ways love goes wrong is when we choose lust over love. 1 Corinthians 6 says: “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! 16 Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body?… 17 But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 6:15-17)

But it doesn’t have to be a prostitute to choose lust over love. Anytime we enter into a sexual relationship outside of marriage, we are choosing lust over love. We are choosing what we want over what God says is best for us and the other person. 1 Thessalonians 4 tells us: “Each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, 5 not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; 6 and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him.” (1 Thessalonians 4:4-6)

As followers of Christ we need to make an absolute prior commitment to sexual purity in our lives. Don’t give in to lust; don’t choose lust over love; and don’t mistake lust for love. There’s a big difference between lust and love. Lust can’t wait to take, while love can’t wait to give. That’s the first way love can go wrong – when we choose lust over love.

2) Falling in love with the wrong person (4-6)
   – Proverbs 31:10-12; 2 Timothy 2:22

A second way love can go wrong is when you fall in love with the wrong person. Look at Judges 16:4-6 with me:

Some time later, he fell in love with a woman in the Valley of Sorek whose name was Delilah. The rulers of the Philistines went to her and said, “See if you can lure him into showing you the secret of his great strength and how we can overpower him so we may tie him up and subdue him. Each one of us will give you eleven hundred shekels of silver.” So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.” (Judges 16:4-6)

So now we finally come to the story of Samson and Delilah. We’re told right up front that Samson fell in love with Delilah. Why was Delilah the wrong person for Samson to fall in love with?

First of all, she was not a believer. We talked about that in our earlier message in this series on marriage gone wrong. There we saw that it is wrong for a believer to date or marry an unbeliever. So, Delilah was the wrong person first of all because she was not a fellow believer.

Secondly, this part of the story takes part in the Valley of Sorek, which means we are back in Philistine territory. This is now the third Philistine woman Samson gets involved with. Every major conflict Samson had with the Philistines was a result of Samson pursing Philistine women. They probably didn’t play baseball in those days, but you know in baseball it’s three strikes and you’re out! Now these are the only three women that we’re told of. There could have been others as well. There’s a twenty-year gap between chapters 15 and 16, which gave Samson plenty of time to pursue other Philistine women. But the problem here is that Delilah is not on Samson’s side. Samson’s in bed with Delilah, but Delilah’s in bed with the Philistines. Samson falls in love with the wrong woman.

And then thirdly, Delilah is a woman of bad character. She is deceitful. She sleeps with Samson before marriage. She is willing to betray Samson for a bribe. Now granted it’s a pretty good bribe – 1100 shekels of silver from each of the Philistine rulers. That’s a lot more than the 30 pieces of silver Judas got for betraying Christ. But it’s not the amount that matters. The right person would never betray you for any amount of money. Delilah was a woman of bad character.

Proverbs 31 says: “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. 11 Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. 12 She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.” (Proverbs 31:10-12) It’s almost an opposite description of Delilah here in Judges. Instead of a woman of noble character, she is a woman of bad character. Instead of being worth more than rubies, she is willing to betray Samson for silver. Full confidence? Samson should have no confidence in her whatsoever. She brings Samson harm, not good all the days of his life.

What type of person should you fall in love with? The Bible gives you good instruction in this area. Proverbs 31 is a good start. 2 Timothy 2:22 is good too: “Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.” (2 Timothy 2:22) Find someone who will encourage you in your walk with the Lord, someone who will help you to pursue the right things together, someone who calls on the Lord out of a pure heart.

The bottom line here is be careful who you fall in love with. We’re not always smart when it comes to falling in love. You can fall in love with anyone, and so you need to figure out early on whether you’re falling in love with the wrong person. That’s the second way love can go wrong – when you fall in love with the wrong person.

3) Not learning from your mistakes (6-14)
   – Proverbs 22:3, 26:11

A third way love can go wrong is when we don’t learn from our mistakes. Look at Judges 16:6-9 with me:

So Delilah said to Samson, “Tell me the secret of your great strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.” Samson answered her, “If anyone ties me with seven fresh thongs that have not been dried, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” Then the rulers of the Philistines brought her seven fresh thongs that had not been dried, and she tied him with them. With men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the thongs as easily as a piece of string snaps when it comes close to a flame. So the secret of his strength was not discovered. (Judges 16:6-9)

Delilah is not very subtle, but I guess with Samson you don’t need to be. Instead of being sneaky, she just comes right out and says it: “Tell me the secret of your strength and how you can be tied up and subdued.” (Judges 16:6) Samson makes something up about seven fresh thongs that have not been dried, and she actually does it. She ties him up. She hides some Philistines in the room, and she calls out, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” Samson snaps the thongs like they were nothing. The Philistines stay hidden, so no one gets hurt.

And that should be the end of it, right? There’s no way Delilah is going to try that again, and there’s no way Samson is going to trust her if she does. But guess what? She does try it again! And he does trust her again! Look at verses 10-12:

Then Delilah said to Samson, “You have made a fool of me; you lied to me. Come now, tell me how you can be tied.” He said, “If anyone ties me securely with new ropes that have never been used, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So Delilah took new ropes and tied him with them. Then, with men hidden in the room, she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” But he snapped the ropes off his arms as if they were threads. (Judges 16:10-12)

Samson lies again. It’s pretty similar to what he said before. This time instead of seven fresh thongs that have not been dried, it’s new ropes that have never been used. Delilah hides the men in the room, calls out to Samson, Samson snaps the ropes again, the Philistines stay hidden, and no one gets hurt.

But now Delilah has tried this twice. There’s no way Samson is going to fall for this a third time. It’s like what my wife, Rosi, said to me the other day when I did something annoying for the second time. She said, “Once is cute, two times is the devil.” Well, Samson could say the same thing to Delilah at this point. “Once is cute, Delilah, but two times is the devil. No more!” But guess what? She goes for it a third time! Look at verses 13-14:

Delilah then said to Samson, “Until now, you have been making a fool of me and lying to me. Tell me how you can be tied.” He replied, “If you weave the seven braids of my head into the fabric on the loom and tighten it with the pin, I’ll become as weak as any other man.” So while he was sleeping, Delilah took the seven braids of his head, wove them into the fabric and tightened it with the pin. Again she called to him, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and pulled up the pin and the loom, with the fabric. (Judges 16:13-14)

Samson is getting worn down, and he is straying closer to the truth here. This time he lets her know it has something to do with his hair. But it’s still the same scenario. Delilah braids his hair into the fabric on the loom, she calls out his name, and Samson wakes up and pulls it apart like it is nothing.

What we have here, folks, is a man who does not learn from his mistakes. Samson should have learned this lesson all the way back in chapter 14 when he told the riddle to his new bride and she got him into trouble with the Philistines. He should have learned it with Delilah the very first time she tried to trick him. Hey, everyone makes mistakes. But here’s the difference. Wise people learn from their mistakes, while foolish people keep on making the same mistakes over and over again.

You might wonder, how could Samson be so stupid? But then we look at our own lives. They say love is blind, and we can make all sorts of mistakes when we’re in love, especially when we’re in love with the wrong person. We’re talking about love gone wrong, and we see this in relationships all the time. People get into bad relationships, and they don’t get out. They’re in denial. They keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again, thinking things will change, but they never do. Or if they do get out, they make the same mistake by jumping right into another bad relationship.

Proverbs 22:3 says: “A prudent man sees danger and takes refuge, but the simple keep going and suffer for it.” (Proverbs 22:3) Proverbs 26:11 says: “As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11) The right action to take after making a mistake is confessing it to God, asking him for forgiveness, repenting of your sin, and then making the appropriate changes in your life going forward. That’s the third way love can go wrong, when we don’t learn from our mistakes.

4) Putting other people before God (15-19)
   – Exodus 20:3; Matthew 10:37-39

A fourth way love can go wrong is when we put other people before God. Look at Judges 16:15-19 with me now:

Then she said to him, “How can you say, ‘I love you,’ when you won’t confide in me? This is the third time you have made a fool of me and haven’t told me the secret of your great strength.” With such nagging she prodded him day after day until he was tired to death. So he told her everything. “No razor has ever been used on my head,” he said, “because I have been a Nazirite set apart to God since birth. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.”

When Delilah saw that he had told her everything, she sent word to the rulers of the Philistines, “Come back once more; he has told me everything.” So the rulers of the Philistines returned with the silver in their hands. Having put him to sleep on her lap, she called a man to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him. (Judges 16:15-19)

And here, quite simply, Samson puts Delilah before God. Instead of guarding his sacred vow before the Lord, he foolishly tells her about his hair. Notice he doesn’t mention the other two parts of his vow – the parts about not touching dead bodies or not drinking any wine. He knows he’s already broken those two. His hair is all he’s got left, and he puts Delilah before God when he foolishly tells her the secret about his hair. Delilah takes advantage of the situation. She puts him to sleep, shaves off his hair, and Samson’s great strength finally left him as he lay sleeping on the lap of the woman he loved.

The very first commandment of the Ten Commandments is found in Exodus 20:3: “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) God deserves first place in your life at all times and in all ways. He is your Creator. You wouldn’t be here without him. He is your Savior. You wouldn’t have salvation without him. He is your Judge. You are accountable to him for the way you live your life. He is your Friend. God is for you, not against you, and you can trust him to take good care of you when you put him first in your life.

Jesus said in Matthew 10:37-39: “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” (Matthew 10:37-39)

When you love someone, there is always a danger that you might love them more than Jesus, that you might start putting them before God. But when you do, your life goes off track, and you will experience another aspect of love gone wrong. That’s a fourth way love can go wrong, when you put other people before God.

5) Thinking God will ignore your sin (20-22)
   – Proverbs 29:1; Galatians 6:7-8

Finally, a fifth way love can go wrong is when you think that God will ignore your sin. Look at Judges 16:20-21:

Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him. 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. (Judges 16:20-21)

Samson gets up, thinking he will defeat the Philistines just like he always has. He’s gotten so used to God bailing him out, that he didn’t know the Lord had left him. You see, it wasn’t really his hair that gave Samson strength. It was the Lord. The hair was just a sign of his vow to the Lord. Samson didn’t lose his strength because he lost his hair. He lost his strength because he lost God. And without God, Samson had no strength to defend himself against the enemy.

Look at all that Samson did wrong. Samson chose lust over love, he fell in love with the wrong person, he didn’t repent of his sin or learn from his mistakes, he put Delilah before God – and somehow he thought God would ignore all this?

Samson took God’s deliverance for granted, just like the nation of Israel would do later in the Old Testament. Just as Samson assumed he would always beat the Philistines, Israel assumed they would never be defeated. Why? Because they had the temple! God would never let the temple be destroyed, would he? And yet God did. If God didn’t spare Samson when he sinned, and God didn’t spare the temple when Israel sinned, do you think God will ignore your sin forever?

Proverbs 29:1 says: “A man who remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed – without remedy.” (Proverbs 29:1) That’s what happened to Samson. God gave him many chances to repent, but Samson continued in his rebellious ways. As Chip Henderson writes in his book Samson, A Life Well-Wasted: “What Samson sowed [with the prostitute] in Gaza he reaped in Sorek with Delilah. His life choices were about to catch up with him.”

Galatians 6 says: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8 The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8)

There are two mistakes you need to avoid when it comes to sin in your life. One mistake is thinking God will not forgive your sin. But the other mistake is thinking that God will ignore your sin. God will forgive your sin when you put your faith in Jesus. But God will never ignore your sin. The Bible tells us God disciplines those he loves.

Samson paid dearly for his sin. The Philistines gouged out his eyes and took him back to Gaza, back to where he slept with the prostitute, back to where he carried the city gates away. They put him in prison and forced him to do slave labor. Before the Lord left him, Samson used his great strength to burn the Philistines’ grain fields. Now he is reduced to grinding the Philistines’ grain as a blind, weak, pitiful slave.

You can serve God, or you can serve sin. But let me warn you up front, sin is a hard taskmaster. Samson’s strength left him because the Lord left him. Don’t make the mistake of thinking God will ignore your sin.

Samson is at the lowest point in his life, but this whole section ends on a note of hope. Look at Judges 16:22 with me in closing:

But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved. (Judges 16:22)

Will Samson’s hair growing back make a difference? Not on its own; only if God so chooses. But it is still a sign of hope and a foreshadowing of Samson’s final confrontation with the Philistines that we will look at next week.

CONCLUSION: We all want love in life, but please understand that love can go wrong when we don’t follow God’s ways. When we choose lust over love, when we fall in love with the wrong person, when we don’t learn from our mistakes, when we put other people before God, when we think God will ignore our sin – then we are in great danger of love going wrong.

God shows us the right way to live in his word. When we follow God’s ways, love and life go so much better. There are few things better in life than love gone right, and few things more painful than love gone wrong.

Of course the greatest example of love gone right is God’s love for you in Jesus Christ. Remember, love is giving, and lust is taking. God loves you so much he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. “This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)

Love gone wrong means life gone wrong. I pray that after hearing this message today that you will seek to avoid the mistakes Samson made in pursuing love, that you will put God first and you will choose to do things God’s way instead.

© Ray Fowler

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