2.3.1 How to Be an Overcomer: Overviewing from Samson's Perspective

2.3.1 從參孫的角度來看如何成為一個得勝者

Speaker: Ming

The topic I'd like to share today is called "the power of Overcomers". The Book of Judges records the Israelites' subjugations for five times. The first one was at the hands of the king of Aram Naharaim in Northwest Mesopotamia, named Cushan-Rishathaim.  At that time, the Israelites were enslaved for 8 years. The spiritual meaning of Mesopotamia represents the world, since at that time Abraham also crossed the Euphrates River to Canaan and he also came from Mesopotamia. The second kingdom was overthrown by the king of Moab. The king of Moab was fat and his name was Eglon.  His fat body spiritually refers to the domination of the flesh.  At that time, the Israelites were under the reign of the king of Moab for 18 years.  Israel's third subjugation was when it was enslaved by Jabin the king of Canaan (in Hazor), which symbolizes the immorality of the flesh. The Israelites were subjugated for the fourth time at the hands of the Midianites. The spiritual meaning represents the deceitfulness of the flesh, and the nation was subjugated for 7 years. The fifth time was at the hands of the Philistines, and the country was subjugated for 40 years. It symbolizes spiritual deception and false appearances, that were devouring the Israelites.

God uses the stories of Israelites salvation to demonstrate our current situation. The five experiences of the Israelites being subjugated spiritually represent that we have all been dominated by the flesh, misled by the world, deceived by the world and the flesh, and misguided by spiritual counterfeiting. These are the areas we need to overcome.  What is most likely to devours us is not necessarily the flesh and the world, as the flesh only dominated the Israelites for 18 years, the world dominated the Israelites for 8 years only, while the Israelites were captive by the Philistines for 40 years. God raised up judges each time in that generation, who were saviors, and Samson was one of those who were raised up. The Israelites were in the hands of the Gentiles for a total of 93 years. These several times of national subjugation are of great spiritual significance, and they all foreshadow how our personal lives will be dealt with. We will look at how Samson became an overcomer from a spiritual perspective.

Samson is a very classical character throughout the Old Testament. Samson's power comes from the Holy Spirit, so he can tear lions to pieces, twist ropes, and bring down a theater.  Apparently, whoever has the Holy Spirit poured out onto him or her, that person became powerful; however, the Holy Spirit is also a sanctifying Spirit, who can make people sanctified when falling on them. The Holy Spirit is not just power, like clothes, which is to put on our body, but the power of the Holy Spirit lies also in the transformation of our whole person. Unfortunately, in the age of the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit came and left a person very soon.  Samson was a man who got the Holy Spirit poured out on him.  Being poured out was like a cup being filled with water.  However, it is different from the Holy Spirit dwelling in people. In the age of the New Testament, the Holy Spirit dwells in people. Paul said that the Holy Spirit indwelling in people, become the hope of glory. Samson was powerful because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, however his life was no better than others in that generation.

Judges 14:5-6 Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done.

In Samson's life, there were some experiences with God that is only known by God and himself, even his parents may not know. Though Samson was born because God showed mercy to his parents and gave them the child to be dedicated to God as a Nazirite, Samson did not share this story with his parents. This tells us that as Christians, people who live before God, we often have some experiences that only God and we know, whereas people around us do not know. It should be known that this is a very important part of our Christian life. Just like Paul said that he had an experience of the third heaven, and he hid it for 14 years and only shared it at the time permitted by God. It is very remarkable that Samson could tear apart a lion without weapons. Many others would happily tell their friends and family after doing such a big and amazing thing, but he did not, because he knew that it was due to the Spirit of Jehovah. He was greatly moved by Holy Spirit, so he knew very well that it was done by God. This allows us to understand a principle in Christian life: to have an intimate relationship with God such that only know between us and God, even the world does not know it.

In the year around 1999, I had the experience of being visited by God and being taken to see hell and the future. I didn’t tell people randomly. Five years later, a brother in Christ asked me why I had such a deep understanding of certain parts of the Bible.  As one or two pastors already knew about my experience, and he said he had heard the pastor talk about it, so he asked if they could arrange for me to go to the church to share it. I replied no. If God doesn’t speak, I can’t just share this experience somewhere else. Until one night, I dreamed of a wealthy family with several hunting dogs and three people in the house. One of them was hiding in the kitchen and would not come out no matter how we called the person out. I also saw a brother I knew in my dream. A few days later, this brother really came to me and invited me to someone’s home to share my testimony of encountering God in life. So, I replied that I would go home and pray first, and if I got permission from God, I would let him know, otherwise I wouldn’t go. Later, the Holy Spirit said that I could go, and this was specially arranged. When I went there, something very strange happened: the situation I saw was the same as in the dream. God arranged for some people to come and listen to this testimony. When I was telling the testimony, I saw gold dust coming out of people’s skin for the first time. It turns out to me that we need to have an experience of communion with God in the depths of our lives. Only us and God know it. All people of this physical world cannot know it, not even his parents, wives, and children.

Samson was raised up by God to be a judge in the background of Chapter 14, where the Philistines took away all the iron tools in Israel, which meant that there was not a single iron rod for Israel, thus the Israelites were under the Philistines control. Though the Israelites wanted to rise to resist or to have a revolution, they didn’t have weapons. Therefore, Samson had no weapons, he then used fish gill bones as his weapon.  We can be unarmed, but we need victory.  As long as the Holy Spirit was working in Samson's life, he could still win without a weapon. The absence of weapons in our hands represents the work of the cross in human life. When people have no tools, they will be brought to an end without any rescue except by the Spirit of God. The work of the cross was done on the Israelites and Samson, leaving them with nothing, nonetheless God used this environment to save the Israelites.  When the work of the Cross was done on people, we were deprived of all tools that could be used to deal with or appease the enemy, only at this critical moment, God’s power can be fully demonstrated in such a negative environment that only by relying solely on the Spirit of God can we bring out the strength. Samson tearing the lion apart may have been a surprise to him, he might not even think about it. The Philistines took away all the iron weapons from Israel, which was a discouraging environment. Samson had to fight the enemy bare-handedly. In this dangerous environment, they wanted to devour the Israelites, but God allowed the Holy Spirit to do it in them, and finally make Israel victorious.

Judges 14:8-9: Some time later, when he went back to marry her, he turned aside to look at the lion’s carcass, and in it he saw a swarm of bees and some honey. He scooped out the honey with his hands and ate as he went along. When he rejoined his parents, he gave them some, and they too ate it. But he did not tell them that he had taken the honey from the lion’s carcass.

Judges 14:14-17 14 He replied, “Out of the eater, something to eat; out of the strong, something sweet.” For three days they could not give the answer.15 On the fourth day, they said to Samson’s wife, “Coax your husband into explaining the riddle for us, or we will burn you and your father’s household to death. Did you invite us here to steal our property?”16 Then Samson’s wife threw herself on him, sobbing, “You hate me! You don’t really love me. You’ve given my people a riddle, but you haven’t told me the answer.” “I haven’t even explained it to my father or mother,” he replied, “so why should I explain it to you?” 17 She cried the whole seven days of the feast. So on the seventh day he finally told her, because she continued to press him. She in turn explained the riddle to her people.

If Samson's friends couldn't guess the riddle, they would give him thirty linen garments and thirty sets of outfits. As a result, his friends failed to guess within three days, so they threatened his wife. In the end, Samson lost.

5 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.” (Judges 16:5)

Eleven hundred shekels of silver were 110 times the annual salary of a Levite at that time. For Delilah, the temptation of money far outweighed her love for Samson. Moreover, Samson's friends threatened his wife through intimidation. In the second story, the Philistines were even more vicious. We need to know why Samson had so much strength, because they wanted to defeat him and bind and restrain him in order to gain his keepsake. Putting these two things together, we can see that they were both used to deceive Samson. Sometimes the situation in our lives is the same as his: when we did not overcome, we thought we wouldn’t come across with the same thing again, but the fact is we will still fall into the same trap repeatedly. The people involved may be different, but the environment is still the same, and it will be like this. As we didn’t win for the first time, we went through the same trouble again.  The second time was even more dangerous than the first. Not only would he lose his property, but he was also bound and may lose his entire life.

Have we ever experienced the similar situation in our lives, especially in marriage and family? In families with problems, the wife or husband often cannot get along with their better half as they cannot be united because of this or that reason. Many people want to divorce and then get married with another one, thinking this new one will definitely be better than the ex-, but often they will still return to the same point with the problem they have not conquered previously. God loves us, when we don’t seek to make a break-through and overcome it, there will always be another cycle for us to restart: After the divorced people remarried, they will soon find that their new spouse has the same problem as their ex-s. In fact, it is not the ex-'s problem, it is us. The problems of our own lives that should be dealt with have not been touched yet, so our lives soon fall into the same situation, so that the environment will appear in an endless cycle. If we stayed there without knowing God's expectation for us to break through and overcome it, this cycle will manifest itself throughout a person's life till we are willing to surrender and obey God in this special environment.

Philistine not only represents hypocrisy but also the world. The Philistines want to know: where does Samson’s power come from? What is the secret to his power? How can one defeat him? Samson represents Christians.  Although he can be weak, he may fail, and he could be morally corrupt, God remembers the covenant he made with him.  If Samson can keep the source of his power and prevent the Holy Spirit from leaving him, no one can defeat him. The mystery of God’s power in Samson resembles Christ in the church, and the church is also a mystery to the world. When the world knows the secret of the church, it will know how to defeat the church, how to make the church compromise, and how to bind the church. From the example of Samson, we understand that God wants us to keep the power of Christ and the Holy Spirit in our lives, so that the profound work of the Holy Spirit dwelling in us can glorify God.

Samson's strength came from his hair. The enemy later cut off his hair through a trick. Why wasn't his power in other parts, such as his hands or feet? Because it is part of the vow of Nazarite, Samson was born a Nazarite.

The angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” (Judges 13:3-5)

“Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite, they must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or other fermented drink. They must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins.  As long as they remain under their Nazirite vow, they must not eat anything that comes from the grapevine, not even the seeds or skins.  “‘During the entire period of their Nazirite vow, no razor may be used on their head. They must be holy until the period of their dedication to the Lord is over; they must let their hair grow long. (Numbers 6:2-5)

There is no time limit for being a Nazarite. You can do it for half a year or a year. You just need to set apart a period of time to serve God wholeheartedly. During this time, you must meet some requirements and cannot do certain things. Being a Nazarite is voluntary, which is different from the Levi who were born to serve God. If you want to serve God in the era of Old Testament, you must first examine which tribe you belong to. For those who are not from the tribe of Levi but are willing to serve God, God has special grace. For the sake of loving God, people voluntarily offer their time of service to God.  No matter whether you are a man or a woman, you can serve God as long as you follow the Nazarite rules. It does not depend on your origin or status. It only depends on whether your heart is close to God. This is the characteristic of a Nazarite. One of the rules is that his head cannot be shaved with a razor. This is the most special thing about Samson as a Nazarite. He has not shaved his head since he was born. Other Nazirites might have returned to the secular world when their time was up, but Samson had no chance to do so, because he had been dedicated to God as a Nazarite from the moment he was born (as a life-time Nazarite), so he had no term end to return to the secular world. He became a Nazarite with God by an everlasting appointment.

Samson's mark is in his hair. Once it is lost, the enemy will defeat him.

But Samuel was ministering before the Lord—a boy wearing a linen ephod.  (1 Samuel 2:18)

And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”  (1 Samuel 1:11)

The root of the word Nazarite in Hebrew is the same as the root of the word crown on the head of the high priest. There is no official recognition or formal title. However, those who are consecrated to God as Nazarites received great honor from God, like the honor of a high priest. Samson's long hair was like the high priest's crown in the eyes of God. The Nazirites were not allowed to approach dead bodies, not even those of their brothers and sisters. This was the same as the high priest, so the rules that the high priest had to abide by were the same the Nazarites observe.

Nazarites refer to overcomers in the New Testament. In the Book of Revelation written by the Apostle John to the seven churches, overcomers refer to those who can still keep God’s command in a harsh environment. No matter how bad the environment is, they can still follow God’s words. Repentance is also a sign of an overcomer. The requirements for a Nazarite are, first of all, not to drink wine or strong alcohol; second, not to shave his head with a razor; and third, not to come near a dead body.

Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, 15 but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For long hair is given to her as a covering. (1 Corinthians 11:14-15)

As a Nazirite, they don’t have time to take care of their hair nor let the razor shave their head. The spiritual meaning in not to take care of your hair, is to neglect yourself and deny yourself.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24)

Samson's power lies in his hair. Cutting off his hair means breaking one of the three rules God gave to the Nazirites. Delilah deceived Samson for money, so that Samson could not win in that situation.

After putting him to sleep on her lap, she called for someone to shave off the seven braids of his hair, and so began to subdue him. And his strength left him.  (Judges 16:19)

When the Spirit of God left him, Samson was bound and restrained by the Philistines, who gouged out his eyes and bound him with brass chains. When the Spirit of God leaves a person, other things of his will also get lost. Eyes represent spiritual vision, so that nothing can be seen. Grinding means going around in circles, not being able to break through and keeping going back and forth. Although Samson failed many times, God never forgot that he was a Nazarite, and God still remembered the covenant he made with him. Finally, Samson's hair grew back, which meant that his power returned.

Then Samson prayed to the Lord, “Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.” Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived. (Judges 16:28-30)

What's important is the source of Samson's strength, while the hair is just a sign of it. The source of real power is the presence of God, and the inner relationship is the most important. The reason for Samson's failure was that his relationship with God was no longer there. The mystery of the church is Christ. As long as we maintain a close, intimate, and walking relationship with Christ, we will not be infiltrated by the enemy in various ways: compromising with the world, tripping over in it, or having no discernment. As long as our lives are connected with Christ, the enemy will have no way to infiltrate us. But when we are not clear, for example, when the church loses its direction, when our eyes are blindfolded or our ears are covered, or our hands and feet are tied, then the enemy can enter the church.

To recap, the first point of our today's message is that we need to have an intimate relationship with God, to the point where only we and God know the secret,  while our brothers, sisters, relatives, friends, and even wives and husbands don’t know about it. We need to have the experience of being hidden in God, inside God.

The second important point is that our environment can make us defenseless and even persecute us, to the point when we have nothing left, just like the Philistines persecuting the Israelites to the point where there is no iron weapon left in the territory.  Because we are deprived of everything, we can only rely on the work of the Holy Spirit within us in that particular area in order to overcome.  Taking the lesson of Samson’s and avoiding falling into the same trap, we must overcome the environment.

The third important point is that we serve God voluntarily and our love for God is based on our own choice. When we dedicate our lives to God, God will definitely remember His covenant with us. Because of this covenant, God will neither abandon nor forsake us, thus allowing us to be overcomers.