Friday, January 22, 2016

Commentary: Samson versus Joseph

This Commentary was previously published to deal with the issue of temperance.  I believe it is very appropriate for this weeks lesson.  

Samson versus Joseph

This week's lesson is about "self-control."  The term used in the Greek for this aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is Egkrateia (ἐγκράτεια), which means:  Continence, temperance, the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions especially his sensual appetites.  Our lesson uses the term used by many Bible translations which call it, self-control.  But, self-control in this context is a misnomer.  "Self" control cannot be produced by "self" as long as the law of our nature (bent to self) is at war with the law written in our minds. Only the indwelling of the Holy Spirit from Christ can accomplish the resolution of that war.  So, instead of Self-control, it should be called: Spirit–control.  It is God who does the mastering of our carnal desires, passions, and sensual appetites.  We have two examples from our lesson: one which allowed God to control his carnal desires, passions, and sensual appetites and the other which did not. 

The first one is Joseph.  Betrayed by his family and sold into slavery, Joseph had reasons to doubt the love and care (even the existence) of the God that he learned about since childhood. That's not, however, what he did.  Let's read how he handled a temptation in Genesis 39: 7 – 9,

Genesis 39: 7 And it came to pass after these things, that his master's wife cast her eyes upon Joseph; and she said, Lie with me.
Genesis 39:  8 But he refused, and said unto his master's wife, Behold, my master wotteth not what is with me in the house, and he hath committed all that he hath to my hand;
Genesis 39:  9 There is none greater in this house than I; neither hath he kept back any thing from me but thee, because thou art his wife: how then can I do this great wickedness, and sin against God?

Joseph revealed that he had allowed the Holy Spirit to control his carnal passions and desires.  We know the rest of the story.  Joseph remained faithful to God and went to prison for it.  He chose humiliation and imprisonment rather than give in to temptation.  Now, let us look at a contrast. 

In Judges 13-16, the Bible gives us the story of Samson.  If we read the texts, keeping in mind the idea of temperance, we would discover there, plenty of powerful lessons that we can learn from Samson's example. How tragic that someone with so many gifts and so much promise could get so easily sidetracked.  God had great plans for Samson.  We read about them in Judges 13,

Judges 13:24-25 (King James Version)
24And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him.
25And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

The lesson asks, "Considering what we know about Samson, what important message, and warning, do we find in those two texts?"  The following Ellen White quote sheds light on this subject,

"The divine promise to Manoah was in due time fulfilled in the birth of a son, to whom the name of Samson was given. As the boy grew up, it became evident that he possessed extraordinary physical strength. This strength was not, however, as Samson and his parents well knew, dependent upon his well-knit sinews, but upon his condition as a Nazarite, of which his unshorn hair was a symbol. Had Samson obeyed the divine commands as faithfully as his parents had done, his would have been a nobler and happier destiny. But the association with idolaters corrupted him. The town of Zorah being near the country of the Philistines, Samson came to mingle with them on friendly terms. Thus, in his youth intimacies sprang up, the influence of which darkened his whole life. A young woman dwelling in the Philistine town of Timnath engaged Samson's affections, and he determined to make her his wife. To his God-fearing parents, who endeavored to dissuade him from his purpose, his only answer was, "She pleaseth me well." The parents, at last, yielded to his wishes, and the marriage took place."—Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 562.

Despite his great promise, Samson allowed his passions and lusts to overcome everything good. Who hasn't struggled with the reality of this conflict? The great controversy isn't just a symbol; it depicts the battle between Christ and Satan that is waged, not simply as some cosmic conflict in the heavens but in every human being, as well. Though Christ paved the way for all people to share in His victory, the battle for our hearts and flesh is being fought, indeed, in our hearts and our flesh. Christ won it all for us, and because of His victory we can choose to claim His victory as ours all the time.  By the choices we make, we are deciding for one side or another in the great controversy.  The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in our hearts and renews our mind if we let Him.  Samson and Joseph display how both sides – accepting and not accepting – works. 

"Samson in his peril had the same source of strength as had Joseph. He could choose the right or the wrong as he pleased. But instead of taking hold of the strength of God, he permitted the wild passions of his nature to have full sway. The reasoning powers were perverted; the morals corrupted. God had called Samson to a position of great responsibility, honor, and usefulness; but he must first learn to govern by first learning to obey the laws of God. Joseph was a free moral agent. Good and evil were before him. He could choose the path of purity, holiness, and honor, or the path of immorality and degradation. He chose the right way, and God approved.  Under similar temptations which he had brought upon himself, Samson gave loose rein to passion. The path which he entered upon he found to end in shame, disaster, and death. What a contrast to the history of Joseph!"--Ellen G. White, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, p. 1007.

Whether we end up like Samson or Joseph is our choice.  There is a warning to heed.  Following Samson lead does not mean you can repent in the end as Samson did.  Many will not have that opportunity.  Let us not harden our hearts.  Let us respond to God's loving call, now and continually.