“If you had not plowed with my heifer,
you would not have found out my riddle.”
I love this verse. It’s in the story of Samson (Judges 14:18), which I’m studying in depth right now, and it makes me giggle every time I come to it. Ripped from its context, it doesn’t make much sense (most Bible verses don’t), so go read Judges 14 really quickly. It’s only twenty verses. It shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes to read. I’ll just wait right here.
Done? Ok. Now you know the context, and you know Samson wasn’t talking about farming. He was talking about his wife. Now, ladies, before you get your bloomers in a ruffle, Samson wasn’t calling his wife a heifer, he was using a metaphor. He could just as easily have said, “If you hadn’t eaten sweet and sour shrimp with my chopsticks…” Well, if he were Chinese and if sweet and sour shrimp had been invented.
But anyway... it still wasn’t the most flattering metaphor a man could choose when referencing his wife, which got me thinking about Samson’s wife and their marriage. They messed some things up, big time. Things that they could have avoided messing up by being obedient to God’s commands about marriage. Maybe we could learn a thing or two for our own marriages from Mr. and Mrs. Samson:
1. Don’t be an unequally yoked heifer (1-3)
Although the Philistines were not one of the nations God specifically forbade Israel to intermarry with, God’s principle of not marrying foreigners would have been a good one for Samson to follow. Why? Because only Israel worshiped the one true God. All of the other nations were pagan. They will “turn away your sons from following me, to serve other gods,” (Deuteronomy 7:4) God told them. “But Samson said to his father, ‘Get her for me, for she is right in my eyes.'” (3) in my eyes. Not in God’s eyes. In Samson’s eyes. Samson wasn’t interested in what God wanted for his marriage. Samson was only interested in what Samson wanted.
As Believers, our hearts should long to obey Christ and to want what He wants for our lives. In 2 Corinthians 6:14-15, God tells us we are not to seek to bind ourselves together in any close relationship with unbelievers. That includes (but is not limited to) marriage. As God told the Israelites, an unbeliever will lead you away from the Lord. Husbands and wives should push each other towards Christ. A lost husband can’t lead you to greater godliness. If you are not yet married, do not marry someone who isn’t saved, whose life does not display the spiritual fruit of someone who has been genuinely born again.
2. Leave and cleave: plow with the bull you’re yoked to (16-20)
Genesis 2:24 tells us:
Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast [cleave] to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
This doesn’t mean that we cut all ties with our parents when we get married. It means that we are now committed, first and foremost, to our spouses. We stand with them before, and sometimes against, everyone else.
Samson and his wife both had problems with this, as many newlyweds do. Samson’s wife, instead of standing with her husband by being honest with him about what his companions were up to and trusting him to protect her, ended up siding with “her people” (17) out of fear, by nagging Samson into telling her the answer to the riddle.Samson showed that he was loyal to his parents over his wife when he said in verse 16, “Behold, I have not told my father nor my mother [the answer to the riddle], and shall I tell you?” And when the whole fiasco was over, instead of going back and working things out with his wife, he abandoned her and went back home to live with his parents. (19-20)
Ladies, our husbands come first when it comes to loyalty, unity, bonding, and family decisions. Not our moms, our sisters, our best girlfriends, or even our children. And our husbands are to exhibit that same loyalty to us. Don’t hook yourself up to another plow.
3. Don’t moonipulate; commoonicate (16-17)
Pack your bags, we’re going on a guilt trip. And Samson’s wife had a saddlebag full of every vixenish wile she could squeeze in: emotional manipulation, shame, blame, nagging, and relentless pressure. Samson’s wife provides us with the perfect example of how not to communicate with our husbands.
We can all be tempted to use underhanded methods of getting what we want, but the God who tells us not to lie, to speak the truth, and not to act in selfish ambition but to put others first, is not a God who is pleased by such behavior. God is honored when we treat our husbands with kindness, respect, and honesty, and trust God enough to leave the outcome to Him.
4. Do the no-bull thing: forgive. (14:19-15:1)
While Samson may have had understandable reasons for being angry at both his companions and his wife, and while God may have used a bad situation to take out some of the enemies of His people, God calls husbands and wives to forgive one another.
Again, Samson shows us what not to do. Consumed by his anger, he abandoned his wife and seems to have held a grudge against her for a good while. When he finally went back with a peace offering, it wasn’t a pretty scene.
Ephesians 4:26-27 tells us:
Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil.
When we’re angry, self control can go out the window, making it easier to give in to Satan’s temptations to sin. Instead, it is God’s will for us to “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32) Forgive. It’s the noble thing to do.
Samson and his wife have given us some examples of things we shouldn’t do in our marriages. Can you think of a Bible story or character that gives us a good example of marriage?
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