Strength under Fire

Judges 14:1-2 “Now Samson went down to Timnah, and saw a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines. So he went up and told his father and mother, saying, “I have seen a woman in Timnah of the daughters of the Philistines; now therefore, get her for me as a wife.”

When I think of strength, Samson immediately comes to mind, the brute power he possessed was one of legend. Now strength can take many forms, being muscular and strong isn’t the only type of strength we see exhibited among people, there are those who have strength of mind or exhibit strength of character, while others show strength in their resolve.

Whatever strength we are referencing, they all come under attack at one point or another. Walk around flexing your muscles and you will invariably find someone who wants to test your strength. Uphold your values and there are those who might disagree with the values you subscribe to, they too may bring them under attack, questioning the validity of your position.

How do we maintain under such scrutiny?

By recognizing the ways that we are drawn into weakness, we might just stand a better chance of upholding our position when the attacks do come….and they will come, there is no doubt about that.

Samson’s interest in Philistine women was of particular concern to his parents. Judges 14:3 “Then his father and mother said to him, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?”

This rule of not intermarrying with foreign wives had a very specific reason. The nations that surrounded Israel were idolatrous in practice, if a man married a woman from a household that practiced worship of any other god than Jehovah, it would bring judgement upon their people. The Philistines worshipped Dagon, the fertility god in whom they hoped would bring much increase to their crops. Likewise, the judgement of God upon the Philistines, through Samson, caused them to look for weaknesses in him that they might exploit.

The deception of the woman from Timnah should have made Samson wary of the women of that land, but he didn’t learn his lesson and eventually Delilah found his weakness and exploited it for her own benefit, leading to his demise.

Samson appeared so full of himself, he didn’t take into consideration that others sought his life. Even when Delilah kept attempting to find that one thing that brought weakness, he still allowed her to play her game. It was pride that brought blindness to Samson, the Lord God had made him strong and yet his reliance was on himself. He was not only blind to truth, ironically the Philistines put out his eyes and relegated him to a life of shame after his fall.

Elijah the prophet

1 Kings 19:1-3 “And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, also how he had executed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by tomorrow about this time.” And when he saw that, he arose and ran for his life, and went to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.”

There was a time when God performed one of the greatest demonstrations of power through the prophet Elijah. Elijah had thought that all of the people had turned to Baal worship and that he alone had stood firm, challenging the powers that be and declaring to the people how the Lord alone is God, the Lord honored his faith and rained down fire from heaven upon the altar. It was a moment of profound strength of faith that Elijah exhibited when confronting the 400 prophets of Baal. Once the people executed all of the false prophets who had been leading them astray, you would have thought this would be a great victory for this man of God.

Immediately after this momentous occasion, Elijah let down his guard. Jezebel, the evil ruler who continually manipulated Ahab into a puppet type role had proclaimed an edict meant to destroy Elijah. Fear overcame Elijah and the prophet who had just recently demonstrated such strength suddenly became weak.

1 Kings 19:4 “But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he prayed that he might die, and said, “It is enough! Now, Lord, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers!”

How could Elijah move from such incredible victory into a position of defeat so quickly?

He took his eyes off the source of his strength.

There have been many times in my life when I came through what seemed like an incredible victory and God taught me to trust Him through a fiery trial while proving Himself faithful. After the trial, I remember thinking how nice it was to finally have peace and I began to compromise my position by allowing fear to slowly creep in and eventually dominate me once again. I thought that if I only compromised a little, I wouldn’t have to go through that intense trial once again. Even through the Lord proved Himself faithful, I made myself vulnerable by acting like it was up to me to maintain the peace that was gained.

I had taken my eyes off the source of my deliverance and placed them on myself. My victory was nothing like Elijah’s, but in a small way I understood the reason for his quick descent into weakness.

After major spiritual battles, it is easy to let down your guard. Thinking the battle is over, we celebrate our victory, not realizing the enemy is still at hand. Satan doesn’t slink into a hole after he loses, he simply looks for another opportunity to exploit our human vulnerabilities.

Hebrews 3:12-14 “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end”

Dilemma of Unbelief

How can God’s people be accused of unbelief, especially after they just destroyed a thousand Philistines or had 400 prophets of Baal executed?

True belief in God’s all sustaining power is one that moves from one test to the next, one victory to the next victory. God’s people can’t rest on past laurels or hope that they won’t be attacked soon after a particular battle. With each victory through trial, the Lord leads on to the next one, as if to say “I’m still working on you, you haven’t reached the end yet”.

The enemy knows where your strength lies and recognizes that a full frontal attack is not an option so he often attempts to outflank you, coming from the side and catching you by surprise.

1 Peter 5:6-8 “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.”

The Lord has a purpose for these trials. The Lord made visible the woman in Timnah, that He might draw Samson out and bring judgement upon the people. The Lord met Elijah at the cave, reminding him that He had everything under control, that he wasn’t alone and that His purposes would be fulfilled. When Peter stepped out of the boat, the Lord was there to give him strength, even when he took his eyes off the Messiah the Lord lifted him up.

When God leads His people through the trials, He is teaching them and preparing them for the journey ahead. The minor trial now is preparing you for a much greater trial later.

1 Peter 5:10 “But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.

As the Lord leads you in perfection, learn to practice holiness.

As the Lord establishes your way, remember that He will continue with you until the end.

As the Lord strengthens you, use that strength for His glory.

As the Lord establishes you, remember that you cannot be moved, no matter how much the enemy tries to do so.

The Lord has given many reasons why we can trust Him. Keep your eyes fixed above, encourage others who are going through the same things and remember you’re not alone.

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