JUDGES 14: HOW CAN EVIL BE USED FOR GOOD?
DOES GOD USE EVIL PEOPLE FOR GOOD PURPOSES?
Samson went down to Timnah and saw there a young Philistine woman. When he returned, he said to his father and mother, “I have seen a Philistine woman in Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.”
His father and mother replied, “Isn’t there an acceptable woman among your relatives or among all our people? Must you go to the uncircumcised Philistines to get a wife?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me. She’s the right one for me.” (His parents did not know that this was from the Lord, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines; for at that time they were ruling over Israel.)
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. Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her. (Judges 14:1-7 NIV).
How do you begin to describe Samson? Because of his extraordinary physical strength and fits of temper, he’s like Rambo and the Incredible Hulk rolled into one. Despite his outward strength, Samson’s many internal weaknesses eventually destroyed him.
As the curtain rises on Judges 14, Samson has become a young adult. This virile young man whose hormones boil like pent-up steam in a pressure cooker, seems unable or unwilling to control the passions that raged inside him.
From the start, the picture of Samson is not a flattering one. He goes to a Philistine city and sees a young Philistine woman who catches his eye (v. 1). The emphasis of the verse is on the word saw. No indication that he talked to her before this—only that he was physically attracted to her. It isn’t until verse 7 that we read, “Then he went down and talked with the woman, and he liked her.” It was lust at first sight. Samson is driven not by self-discipline, faith and logic, but by sensual desire. Unwilling to listen to his parents’ objections, Samson insisted that his parents get her for him now (v.2).
Verse 4 provides extremely helpful insight, for it tells us that Samson’s “parents did not know that this was from the LORD, who was seeking an occasion to confront the Philistines . . .” Don’t overlook the words, “this was from the LORD.”
- What are we to make of those words?
- Did God put Samson up to this, or was this Samson’s foolish choice that God chose to use to achieve his purposes?
- Did Samson act of his own free will, or did God use him like a puppet?
- Does God put people up to doing things that appear to violate his overall will?
These are tough, but honest questions that create problems for many Bible believing people. My answer is yes. Just three Old Testament examples: God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 4:21); he sent an evil spirit to trouble King Saul (1 Samuel 16:14); he put a lying spirit in the mouths of the false prophets (1 Kings 22:23).
God frequently used individuals as instruments to accomplish his will; some of those individuals were righteous, but some of them were ungodly. Examples: Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar who is described as God’s servant in Jeremiah 26:5-7. Cyrus, the Persian king, who God calls “my shepherd” and says that Cyrus “will accomplish all that I please” (Isaiah 44:28), although the Bible points out just a few verses later that Cyrus did not know God (Isaiah 45:4).
As much as these questions puzzle me, I accept the fact that I cannot always explain or understand how God works. At issue is God’s sovereignty, which means that God is in control and rules the universe as he sees fit. As much as I wish God explained all the mysteries, he is under no obligation to do so. His thoughts and his ways are beyond our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9. If we could unravel every one of God’s mysteries, God wouldn’t be God.
We wonder how God could use a such a self-centered, undisciplined womanizer like Samson. But, the fact is, he did. While Samson’s life may embarrass us, or confuse us, there is no question that God used Samson to accomplish his will. Despite Samson’s runaway life, God was still in control. When evil individuals remain in power and we wonder why God doesn’t take them out, it’s good to remember that God is still in control, working in ways unknown to us. Fear not; God is still in charge!
Lord of the universe, I acknowledge you as the sovereign God of everything. But sometimes I wonder why you work as you do. I confess that I do not understand all your ways. Remind me that despite the confusing questions that sometimes swirl in my mind, you are in control, and because you are, I need not be anxious. In Jesus' name, Amen!
Dr. Dan Dozier
Dan Dozier preaches for the Rural Hill Church of Christ in Antioch, TN. Dr. Dozier holds degrees from Lipscomb University, Harding School of Theology, Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and a Doctorate from Abilene Christian University. He has been married to his high school sweetheart, JaneLee, since 1972. They have three married children and eight grandchildren.