She sat across from me with fingers pressed into her forehead. “How did I get here?” she groaned.
Jackie had been a faithful wife for many years. Yet she found herself ensnared in a sinful pit with no way out. Her web of lies had become a suffocating trap. She never imagined she would go this far, and now she saw no way back.
Sadly Jackie’s situation is not uncommon. Whether we are a pastor, president, or housewife, we are all in danger of being wooed, outwitted, and overpowered by sin. Yet we often do not feel the danger until it is too late. Sin is like a seductress who lures her unsuspecting prey with flattering assurances (Proverbs 5–7; Hebrews 3:13). Like a spider, she sets her trap and waits to pounce on those who play in her web.
But God does not desire us to be consumed. He warns us of sin’s schemes by recording the fall of others who were tempted as we are. Few examples are more sobering than those of Samson, Solomon, and David. They are tragic tales of strong, wise, and devoted men who were overcome by the power, trickery, and allure of sin.
Sin Is Stronger Than You
The life of Samson was marked by triumph and tragedy. Born to godly parents and empowered by God, he was set up to be a deliverer Israel desperately needed. Prior to Samson’s downfall, his supernatural strength was unmatched. No army or enemy was able to defeat him.
But sin could. Seduction weakened him to willingly surrender his secret source of strength (Judges 16:17). When his locks were clipped, he rose to fight, but “he did not know that the Lord had left him” (Judges 16:20). The spider had spun him up, and he was too weak to defend himself. His physical state mirrored his spiritual one. He was blind, broken, and crushed under the consequences of compromise.
Samson’s strength blinded him to his own weakness. The unseen enemy in his heart plotted mutiny — and Samson never saw it coming. As he fed his lust, he strengthened it. As he stoked his pride, he invigorated it. As he submitted to his flesh, it fortified against him. Apart from God’s strength, Samson didn’t have a chance.
What can we learn from Samson’s fall?
1. Sin feeds on power.
We are tempted to think that the more powerful we become, the better we will battle sin. But the exact opposite is true. The more power, influence, or prestige we possess, the more temptable we are. The strength of sin feeds on our sense of strength. This is why we are warned that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). In weakness, we feel our need for God, but when we are strong, we lack that saving sobriety.
2. Sin flourishes in isolation.
Samson was almost always alone. He had no need for others. He had things under control. But his isolating pride set him up to be ambushed by the prowling lion. Isolation is the enemy of spiritual strength because it separates you from those God has provided to help you. We are not all strong at the same time. We need others to press us into the light of humility and honesty. Samson didn’t see a need for that kind of help — he was too strong.
Sin overpowered the strongest man, and it can take you out, too.
Sin Is Smarter Than You
Solomon’s reign began with love for God and his gift of unparalleled understanding. He wrote thousands of proverbs and authored inspired words of Scripture. But his heart had turned away to forbidden alliances, lovers, and idols (1 Kings 11:1–8).
Solomon had matchless wisdom, yet was outsmarted by sin’s schemes. The tempter sowed seeds of compromise that eventually sprouted and choked his discernment. He counseled others to lean not on their own understanding, yet he did not take his own counsel.
His collection of forbidden horse chariots may have been well-intentioned, but they revealed a distrust in God’s care (Deuteronomy 17:16; 1 Kings 10:26). He made alliances with foreign kings that were sealed with wives who brought idols into his home (Deuteronomy 17:17; 1 Kings 3:1; 11:3). He thought he could keep the compromise under control (2 Chronicles 8:11), but eventually they outnumbered him a thousand to one. It seems Solomon thought he could work the system, but in the end he was eaten by it.
What can we learn from Solomon’s fall?
1. Sin wants you to trust your own wisdom.
Solomon knew what God said about multiplying wives and horses and riches. Yet he thought he was wise enough to handle it. This is part of sin’s scheme. The tempter assures you that you are wise enough to see when you are in trouble. He wants you to think you’re safe, even while indulging in sinful exploration (Ecclesiastes 1–2). You’ll be assured that you can keep things under control — after all, God is with you.
2. Sin wants you to underestimate small compromises.
The tempter has a crafty plan to patiently have you grow content with small compromises. “It’s just one look.” “A little won’t hurt.” “It’s not as bad as what they are doing.” If Satan cannot tempt you into a great sin, he will settle for a small one, because he knows that small sins pave the way to greater ones. Callousness grows in small degrees. Fear of God does not disappear all at once. You slowly become disillusioned with sin’s severity, and then you wind up with a thousand idol-worshiping housemates. Don’t assume something similar can’t happen to you.
Sin outwitted the wisest man, and it can outsmart you, too.
Sin Can Woo You
Few people have known the sweet fellowship David had with God. His delight in God marked the lines of his songs and the steps of his life. Whether in trial, trouble, or celebration, David’s heart was always oriented toward enjoying God.
Yet even those who love God can be wooed away from him. We do not know why David stayed back from battle that spring afternoon. Yet as he strolled aimlessly on his palace roof, his unattended heart fell prey to forbidden beauty. Rather than flee, he lingered. A look, a longing, an inquiry, adultery, lies, conspiracy, murder, and attempted cover-up. David would repent and find forgiveness from God, but the consequences of his sin sent incalculable ripples throughout the kingdom (Psalm 51).
The hot coals of David’s heart for God had grown cold with complacency. He had been strong for so long, yet he hit cruise control. His affections for God diminished and the tempting beauty of sin ignited his flesh. He played roulette with sin, and the thrill quickly turned to devastating destruction.
What can we learn from David’s fall?
1. Sin has a deceptive beauty.
We must remember that Satan wears the disguise of an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). He is a master at twisting good things God made and using their beauty to luring our hearts into forbidden waters. The power of sin is found in its presented beauty. The affirmation of adultery. The safety of a lie. The enjoyment of stolen treasure. Remember that the tempter lays before our eyes the beauty of the bait, but hides the hook that ensnares us.
2. Seek sin and you shall find it.
Temptation most often enters through a door intentionally left open. If you aimlessly wander in the wilderness near the tempter’s house, you can be certain you will get a visit from him. This is why we are warned to “make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires” (Romans 13:14).
Sin wooed the worshipful king, and it can woo you as well.
Jesus Is Stronger, Wiser, More Beautiful
God has given these examples to us that we might be instructed and warned to not fall into the same temptations (1 Corinthians 10:11–13). Yet we must not only avoid their example, but find help from the man who is greater than them.
Our sinful weaknesses need not lead us to despair. Instead, they can lead us to hope in the one who is greater than our sin. Jesus bound the strong man to set us free (Matthew 12:29). Jesus outsmarted the tempter by clinging to the wisdom of the Scriptures (Matthew 4:1–11). Jesus rejected sinful exaltation by drinking the cup of humiliation (Matthew 26:39).
Jesus was tempted as we are, yet he endured without sin. His life was righteous and his death satisfied his Father’s just requirements. His resurrection gives us liberation, and his intercession grants us help in our weakness. Jesus is stronger than Samson, wiser than Solomon, and more devoted than David — and in him we find help to resist the tempter’s snares.