Did God plan for Samson to sin?
If everything that happens is the will of God, and I sin, did God will me to sin?
This is an interesting question because, like many questions, it contains some built-in assumptions or ambiguities. The word “plan” is itself ambiguous. I can plan something as intending and directing it. For example, I could draw up a plan for a house. Or, I could plan for something as in taking into account that it might happen and mitigating the consequences. For example, I could dig a ditch around my house to prevent rain from flooding the basement. So, this question prompts us to think about the more general idea of how God interacts with our activities. God is certainly sovereign. But, how does that sovereignty manifest itself in the world?
First, God is righteous. It seems like it should be unnecessary to even state this, but with accusations from skeptics that God is a “moral monster” it is necessary to state this and to think a little about what it means. What is righteous is necessarily defined by God Himself since He is the Sovereign Creator. So, righteousness is the total collection of the moral attributes that He possesses. Some are explicitly stated in Scripture. It is impossible for God to lie. (Num. 23:19; Tit. 1:2; Heb. 6:18.) The Psalmist even says, “The heavens declare his righteousness, for God himself is judge! Selah.” (Ps. 50:6.) This verse is interesting because it connects faithfulness with the immutability of natural law as Jeremiah tells us “Thus says the Lord: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.” (Jer. 33:25–26.) So, the impossibility of deception either in declaration or action is characteristic of God. More than that, the impossibility of deception is a consequence of His nature.
Sin is “missing the mark” or acting in a way that is incompatible with God’s character. Although the question does not mention any particular sin that Samson committed, all sin can be considered as general incompatibility with the character of God. Sins we normally connect with immoral behavior constitute unfaithfulness to the conditions of creation. For example, adultery is a breach of the marriage agreement and is unfaithfulness with respect to that relationship which God has instituted.
So, for God to “plan” for Samson to sin in the first sense which we described above (“intending and directing”) would be impossible since then God would be unfaithful to His own character. The other meaning for “plan” must be considered. Again, the Psalmist is helpful. Psalm 76:10 reads, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise you; the remnant of wrath you will put on like a belt.” The phrase “put on like a belt” is unfamiliar to us, but it seems to mean “restrain.” (KJV)1 Examples of this restraint might be Genesis 31:24 where Laban is restrained from harming Jacob and in Daniel chapter 8 where the lions are restrained from harming Daniel.
Thus, the sovereignty of God permits only that evil from the hand of man that serves the divine, and necessarily gracious, purpose. In this sense, God can “plan” for evil. In fact, this must be the case. The Psalm encourages us by reminding us that God has authority over all things that happen in this world and that only that which ultimately glorifies Him are allowed. Looking at the world around us, how that can be is certainly a mystery. We accept God’s sovereign goodness by faith. The One who cannot lie has told us that this is so.
The second part of the question (“did God will me to sin”) brings Romans 6:1 and 15 to mind. In this section of Romans from chapter 5:12 to the end of chapter 8, the apostle deals with the consequence of our being children of Adam. So long as we are in this life we have to deal with the consequences of the Fall. Our nature has been corrupted.2 The apostle calls this “the flesh.” In verses 1 and 15 of the sixth chapter, he poses similar questions that might be asked by a reader.
We cannot use God’s sovereignty as license to sin or a cop-out. God has a purpose for every evil in this world that He allows, even if it is to justify His judgment (Rom. 3:4). For believers it might be that we need to learn how destructive sin is so that we might turn from it. It might be that we need to learn experientially the meaning of “deliverance” as given in Romans chapters 7 and 8. Whatever the purposes of God might be in allowing sin to occur, we can rely on Him to use it, whether in us or against us, to work out His salvation in us.
1. “So complete is His government of it [the earth], that the wrath of man, which has just been at its wildest, nevertheless praises Him. Whatever could not be made to do this He could not permit to be. Men are bidden therefore to vow and pay their vows to Him who is the Eternal and their God and to bring presents in sign of their subjection to Him who is truly to be feared.” F. W. Grant, The Numerical Bible: Psalms, (Neptune: Loizeaux Brothers 1897) 291.