Take 10 Steps Back

Judges 14:1, “Then Samson went down to Timnah and saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines.

Timnah. I imagine that unless you happen to be either a Biblical scholar or a professor of archaeology you have probably never heard of the place. No problem. I’m about to share with you what little I know. Timnah is first mentioned in Genesis 38. Sadly, it’s not a very noble introduction for the city. It’s the place where Judah had an illicit encounter with his own daughter-in-law. In later years the city was originally given to the tribe of Judah before being passed on to the Danites. The truth though was that the city spent many, many years subject to Philistine rule. So much so that many scholars actually refer to it as a Philistine city. In other words, it was under the control and influence of the enemies of God’s people. Needless to say, it wasn’t the place for a Jewish man to be spending his free time. And it certainly wasn’t the place to find a wife.

But that is where the story of Samson begins. Our first real introduction to him shows us something important about his character. Samson was a man who liked to play around on the edge. He loved to see how close he could get without actually falling over the side. From the time of his conception his life had been set apart unto God. His parents had raised him with an awareness of his Nazarite obligations. But as soon as he was allowed to make his own choices he did his best to push the envelope, to skate on thin ice, to take it to the very limits. Samson was that guy who went all the way to the cliff’s edge and then stood there with one foot on the very precipice and the other foot dangling over the canyon. Sin was a game to him. See how long you can play and see how much you can get away with before you get caught. That was his philosophy. That was his approach to life.

If you are familiar with his story, then you know how the “game” turned out for Samson. Sure, God allowed him one last hurrah at the end of chapter 16 but by that time Samson had long-since fallen off the cliff and hit rock bottom. The game finally caught up with him. By the time the story is drawing to a close Samson is enslaved, blind, and a shell of his once mighty potential. God had called him to be a deliverer. His sin had turned him into the Philistines’ court jester. He played as close to the edge as possible. The grace of God enabled him years of mercy. God granted him multiple chances to turn around and get it right. But in the end Samson lost the game of sin. And in the end it cost him everything.

Years of experience have taught me that churches are full of people just like Samson. Far too many treat sin as a game. They ignore God’s Word regarding sin’s destructive capacity. They choose to neglect the spiritual disciplines that serve as a protective fence to help keep them from falling over the edge. They explain away the warnings signs and disregard the counsel of friends and family. For whatever reason they are convinced that they can play around with sin, that they will somehow be the one person to win. But in time, they always come to discover the truth. No one wins in the game of sin. No one. Samson lost and so will everyone else one who decides that the edge is the place where they want to live.

In closing, let me share with you the same advice that I have given to countless people over the years. First of all, recognize and admit your areas of weakness and temptation. Secondly, define the things that are the primary “triggers,” i.e. the bait that always gets you to bite on the hook. Finally, once you have done all that… take 10 steps back. Stop living so close to the edge. Put some space between you and your sin. Samson should have never been in Timnah in the first place. Wrong place at the wrong time. Too often our own failures are the fruit of the same seed. Just like Samson we get to close too the source of our temptation and, at that point, it’s only a matter of time before we fall over the edge. Sin is no game. In the end it cost Samson all that he valued. In the end it cost him his very life. Don’t make the same mistake. Stop playing it so close to the edge of sin. Instead, be safe. Be smart. And take 10 steps back.