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Everyone Did What Was Right in Their Own Eyes
Key Text: Judges 13 – 16
In the book of Judges chapter 13, we are introduced to a Jewish couple who were living during the time of one of Israel’s rebellious cycles and under the oppressing rule of the Philistines. It is here where the angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah and his barren wife (name unknown) announcing the conception and birth of Israel’s next deliverer (Judges 13:1-24). His mother would later name him Samson and he is one of the few men in Scripture whose birth was divinely pre-announced to his parents (Judges 13:3).
Called to be Set Apart
The parents were carefully instructed by the angel to raise him as a Nazarite, meaning “consecrated” or “separated” for the work of the Lord. This meant that neither the mother nor Samson was to drink wine or anything fermented, or eat any food that would be considered unclean. He couldn’t go near or touch a dead body, human or animal, nor have a razor touch his head.
Unfortunately, even though Samson was set apart for special service to God (Judges 13:5), he knowingly ignored his special Nazirite vow of devotion to God. God had uniquely empowered him with supernatural strength to start the process of delivering the people of Israel from the oppressive rule of the Philistines (Judges 13:5). However, his pride, fleshly desires and weakness for the Philistine women drew him away from God (Judges 14:1-3,16:1-22; James 1:14). His obsession for women, his violent temper and lack of self-control brought him much pain and ultimately his untimely-death.
With all of Samson’s flaws and disobedience, he remained the last judge. He led Israel for about 20 years before he was betrayed by delilah who found his source of strength, his hair. However, as we take a closer look, we see that ultimately the source of his strength was of course God Himself (Judges 16:20). Samson’s hair was a visible symbol of his covenant or devotion to the Lord. His lust for Delilah and their sexual relationship led to him finally revealing the source of his strength that then led to his capture, the gouging of his eyes and enslavement to the Philistines.
God is Forever Faithful
There are a few things we can point out from his life. We see that God, through Samson, continues to be faithful to the promises he made to Abraham, Isaas and Jacob. To Abraham, in Genesis 22:17, God promises, “…your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies…” God shows his faithfulness to his unfaithful covenant people through Samson, which was to possess the land and His good promises. This is something they failed to do repeatedly. For example, when Samson escaped during the night from Gaza in Judges 16 and took with him the city gates, this was not just Samson showing off his strength and anger towards the Philistines. Through this act, God was announcing that destruction was coming to His enemies and that He was keeping His covenant with His people to hand them the promised land. You see, the gates of a city were crucial to its defenses and security. The destruction (in this case its complete removal) symbolized the destruction of the city (Judg. 16:3). Again, through Samson’s story, we see God being faithful and patient with His people and sovereignly accomplishing His perfect will.
Seems Right in My Eyes
Something else I feel this story points out is that doing things that seem right in our own eyes is not pleasing in God’s eyes. In Samson’s story, we see in Judges 14:13 that he had made up his sinful mind and told his parents who were protesting his decision to go get him a Philistine woman as his wife, “for she is right in my eyes.” Both the parents and Samson knew that it was a wrong decision for him to take a wife from amidst the unbelieving Philistines. The nation of Israel was to remain set apart from other nations and their false gods and immoral practices (Deut. 7:3; 32:35; Joshua 23:7). But still, in all of this, God has not lost control. The very next verse in Judges 14:4 we read about God’s sovereignty over sin and rebellion -“…[Samson’s] father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD, for he was seeking an opportunity against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines ruled over Israel…” God was moving and doing things in the upper story even through Samson’s disobedience.
Like in the days of the Judges, there are many things that seem right in the eyes of our culture today that go against God’s will and instructions. Some examples for us today in our culture are the detrimental and unbiblical views of sex, gender, marriage, parenting, and the Bible. Our country is immersed in unhealthy sexual desires and fantasies that are destroying the fabric of our society and revealing our condition of slavery to sin, spiritual blindness and captivity. Our culture has redefined the meaning and boundaries of marriage between a man and a woman. It is tearing up the beauty and sanctity of marriage. Surveys show that Canadians are less interested in entering into a lifelong covenant and they view marriage as unnecessary. Therefore, more than ever, large number of Christian couples are living together and having sex before marriage. And many Christians are settling for non-Christian spouses, which is a direct disobedience of God’s call to His people to marry a person who loves the Lord (1 Cor. 7:39). This shows that the unbiblical teachings and practices of our culture have inched themselves into local churches.
The beautiful and God-given distinctions between male and female are being ignored and denied. Gender has become disconnected from biological sex. The false and unscientific idea that we have a ‘gender identity’ that may be different from our biological sex is spreading like wildfire. Our culture is trying to erode and remove the authority and rightful role of godly parents in the upbringing of their children in the ways of the Lord. Many Christian parents are not aware of the significance of their role in the spiritual education of their children. This can lead to the next generation not knowing the Lord or the work that he has done for His people (Judges 2:10).
God’s Word is viewed by our culture as myth, ancient and expired. The Bible is not seen as God-breathed, powerful and active, discerning the intentions and thoughts of our hearts and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. And unfortunately, the culture always has a slow and crafty way of contaminating and capturing the minds and hearts of God’s people. That is why it’s so important that we know and practice God’s Word so that we can “…demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ…” (2 Cor. 10:5). As followers of Christ we have the responsibility to be the gatekeepers of what is entering and taking root in our minds and hearts, our families, our marriages and our churches. Otherwise, the Church also starts to do what seems right in its own eyes.
Our sight problem is an ancient inherited sin disorder. This issue of the eyes started way back with Eve in the garden of Eden. She listened to the serpent, and then saw that the tree of the knowledge of good and evil “was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desired to make one wise” (Genesis 3:6). From the time of Eve and continuing until today and into the future, the temptation to not only know, but also define good and evil according to our own human standards and wisdom, will always be there. We often think we know better than God and that we can decide and decree what is good and what is evil, without involving God. However, our problem is that we think we can see clearly, when we are actually spiritually blind, and this affects how we perceive reality. God alone can distinguish and determine between good and evil. As our Creator and moral lawgiver, He alone has the right to determine right and wrong. He also is the one who has the power to open our spiritually blind eyes so that we may see what is right in His eyes (Acts 26:18; Eph. 1:18).[Text Wrapping Break]
In fact, the last line of the book of Judges sums up the whole mess that Samson and the people of Israel were in: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25). This is also the problem of the world today, refusing to see Jesus Christ as king, and everyone does what is right in their own eyes.
What we need to ask ourselves is, “what will the last chapter of our lives say about us?” Will it say that we did what was right in our own eyes or that we did what was pleasing in God’s sight? What kind of legacy are we leaving behind? As followers of Christ, we can choose to walk by the Spirit and not gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:16). When we are saved by the grace of God and through faith in Christ we are born again, we receive a new heart and mind, and the Spirit Himself empowers us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2).
Strength Without Love
At the end of Samson’s life, we read how he stood chained, humbled and physically blind praying to God for a final supernatural physical empowerment to avenge His enemies. Samson’s last prayer did not include any confession of his sins in failing to obey God, but for power to take revenge because of the loss of his eyes (Judges 16:28). He was held captive by his enemies in chains, but it was his own inner captivating evil desires to do what was right in his own eyes that brought him to the place of being captured and mutilated. Interestingly, Samson is mentioned in the hall of faith by the writer of Hebrews as one who exercised faith (Heb. 11:32). He exercised faith knowing his strength came from God. He believed the angel’s prophecy that had been announced to his parents and every awesome act he did was by faith. But Samson was unfaithful in loving God, as he kept disobeying God’s commands (John 14:15). If you and I have faith and spiritual giftings, but do not love God by keeping His commands, we are deceiving ourselves (James 1:22). He trusted God to empower Him, but not to fulfill his deepest desires.
Even though Samson had disobeyed repeatedly, God was patient and faithful, answering his prayer to restore his supernatural strength to tear down the temple by pushing the pillars that he was chained to and killing himself and 3000 of God’s enemies. This highlights God’s faithfulness to keep what he had promised he would do through Samson to deliver Israel from the Philistines (Judges 13:5).
Do What is Right and Good in the Lord’s Sight
How do we avoid doing what is right in our own eyes? For starters, we need to avoid relying on our own understanding, but instead trust in the Lord with all our heart. We must set our eyes on Jesus and follow His teachings that are spirit and life (John 6:63). We repent of the things that have been filling our hearts and minds that diminish our love for God. It could be any unhealthy and destructive desire for sex, relationships, fame, food, money or power. Or perhaps it’s preferring to be autonomous and seeking your own glory, free from God’s rule and reign. Ask God to reveal to you what it is you need to confess and submit to Him. Don’t hesitate or fear to approach God, because “…if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness…” (1 John 1:9). Take time to consider where in your life you have been making decisions that seem right in your own eyes. As Christians, we must pray for God to empower us to obey what Jesus commanded us, which is “…do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.…” (1 John 2:15-17).
Let us determine to do the will of God by faith, according to the Word of God, and refrain from doing what seems right in our own eyes. We have King Jesus ruling over the nations as the King of kings and the Lord of lords (1 Tim. 6:15). Christ is the head of the Church, therefore we choose not to conform to this world and its empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world. But let us choose to be transformed by the renewal of our mind, that by testing we may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2; Col. 2:8). This is how we will do what is right in God’s eyes.