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. Judges 16:20
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18
It’s an awesome thing, being used by God to further His work in this world. I am sure you would agree that the empowerment by God to accomplish things bigger and greater than anything we could do on our own is a true blessing. That is true for individuals and it is true for churches as well. The problem, of course, with being gifted and blessed is that it can start to go to our heads and we can lose site of any sense of humility. We can grow so accustomed to the giftedness and blessing, we can forget where it comes from and whose bidding it is for. That, it seems to me, was Samson’s problem.
By pretty much anyone’s standards, Samson “had it going on”. Having taken the Nazarite vows and having committed himself to God’s service, he was empowered with almost super-hero-like abilities. He became a powerful leader among God’s people and actually served as one of Israel’s more famous leaders (one of the “judges”) for some twenty years. What was his “super power”? Uncommon strength. That giftedness propelled him to great acclaim among the people.
But Samson had a lifelong struggle with self-control and instant gratification. He had, it seems, a virtually unquenchable appetite for pleasing himself, even if it meant being disobedient to God or to his Nazarite vows. He worshiped God. He loved God. He had great faith in God. He was remembered by the writer of Hebrews as one of the heroes of the faith in God’s story (Hebrews 11). …
The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.Ezekiel 18:20
I have good news and bad news for your church and for mine. The good news: no matter how many wrong choices your church may have made in the past, God is still willing to work through you today, if you will humble yourselves and seek after Him. The bad news: you get little credit for the amazing things in your church’s past…it is your current testimony that matters. This generation of your church will stand alone in its effectiveness.
Ezekiel was dealing with the first group of Hebrews exiled to Babylon. They were the young, best and brightest of the Hebrew society. They were the intelligent, creative, young leaders. Before the exile, they had their whole productive lives in front of them. But now, it was all for naught. For all practical purposes, their productive lives were over. They would now spend the rest of those lives in exile. No surprise, then, they felt “robbed”…and they blamed their parents. They blamed the stiff-necked, rebellious nature of the generations before them for their current sad state.
The irony is that, for generations now, those very Hebrew people had been living off of the “favored” status of their own forefathers before the Lord. They had all the stories of a mighty God who had faught their forefather’s battles and who had miraculously saved them time and time again. They were living off the very spotty righteousness of their forefathers. “God promised our father, Abraham…we are his favored people.”