Judges: Learning From Samson — Roy Knight

The story of Samson from his pre-birth to his death encompasses Judges 13-16. As with Jesus, Samson’s early life is rather obscure.  Though Samson judged Israel twenty years, three of the four chapters seem to focus upon the conclusion of his life. As one reads through the few reported instances of his life there are important lessons one can learn.

First, we see that godly parents do not necessarily make a godly son. It seems from chapter 13 that Samson’s parents were faithful to the Lord. Why would God have chosen this couple if He did not believe they would be faithful in carrying out His request. Manoah prayed to the Lord (v. 8). The Lord listened to the voice of Manoah (v. 9). Manoah asked for specific instructions on how to raise his son (vs. 12-14). He and his wife offered a burnt offering to the Lord (vs. 16-19). He also sought to direct his son in who he should marry, saying, “Is there no woman among the daughters of your brethren, or among all my people, that you must go and get a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” (14:3). Obviously, there is much we do not know about Samson’s upbringing; yet it seems as if Manoah and his wife were godly parents. Samson, though he knew God, did not bring forth that learning in his life.

Second, Samson’s life portrays the results of pride and a half-hearted love for God. Instead of using the blessings from the Lord as well as his spectacular strength (3:24-25) to please God, it caused him to rely upon himself and follow his own desires. For example, Samson desired to marry a woman of the Philistines whom the children of Israel were forbidden to marry (Judg. 14:1-2). Samson did not seem to care about God and His law at this time. That disrespect is shown towards his father when Manoah tried to direct him back to the daughters of Israel by saying to his father, “Get her for me,” not once but twice (Judg. 14:2-3). Samson’s focus upon his own pleasure is evident when he says, “She pleases me well” (v. 3).

Samson’s disregard for the law of God is seen in him taking honey from the carcass of a lion that he had killed. Such would have made the children of Israel unclean. This was known by Samson because even though he shared the honey with his parents, he did not tell them from where it came. He did not care that this made he and his parents unclean.

Samson’s pride is seen in his posing a riddle and making a wager to the young men of the Philistines (Judg. 14:12-13). Such pride led to the death of thirty of the Philistines as well as his wife and her father (Judg. 14:19; 15:6).

It seems to this writer that Samson lacked the respect not only for God’s word but also for God Himself. Following the slaughter of the Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey, Samson became very thirsty. Samson addressed God by saying, “You have given this great deliverance by the hand of Your servant; and now shall I die of thirst and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised” (Judg. 15:18). Though Samson attributes the deliverance to God and calls himself “Your servant,” he seems to command God to do something about his thirst as he commanded his father to provide for him the Philistine woman as a wife in the previous chapter. Though God does provide water for him, it does not mean that He was any more pleased with Him as He was with Moses when he struck the rock and water came forth.

Third, Samson’s lack of moral integrity as well as his disregard for God’s law is found in Judges 16:1. This verse simply states, “Now Samson went to Gaza and saw a harlot there, and went in to her.” Though Samson acknowledges God as Lord, his character as a child of God is no better than the infidels in whose land he frequented.

His disregard for the chosen vessel he was supposed to be as a Nazarite is seen in his “loving” yet another woman named Delilah (Judg. 16:4). She motivated by material gain spun a web for Samson in hopes to uncover the secret to his incredible strength. As the nights went by, he subjected himself to her prodding and day by day and little by little, Samson inched towards the truth until eventually he had told her all. As his hair fell to the ground so his strength left him. In a matter of hours, Samson’s eyes were gouged out and he sat imprisoned in pain and misery.  Perhaps no pain was greater than the realization of how he let his pride and irreverence cause him to play the fool.

We would be remiss if we did not point out the misery that came from his associations with foreign women and the danger they hold for Christian men today. If Paul’s warning of, “Do not be deceived: ‘Evil company corrupts good habits’” (1 Cor. 15:33) is not observed, then surely his admonition to Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Cor. 6:14) ought to be considered. Sadly, such warnings are kicked to the side of the road and only remembered when we, like Samson, sit alone in our miserable state.

Fourth, Samson’s redemption seems to have come through his humiliation.  Time in prison and his weakened state allowed Samson to reflect upon who he was, a Nazarite, and upon the One who had blessed him in the beginning. Samson’s mission to overthrow the Philistines was realized when he received the “opportunity” to perform before the Philistines. As Samson cried out to the Lord to restore his strength, the Lord answered him and he cast down the pillars which supported the temple. In so doing, Samson showed the multitude that day the power of the one true God. His life shows us that we too serve a God who possesses strength that far exceeds anything we can imagine.

Samson is not heard of again until we read his name in “Faith’s Hall of Fame.”  The Hebrew writer writes:  And what more shall I say? For the time would fail me to tell of Gideon and Barak and Samson and Jephthah, also of David and Samuel and the prophets…” (Heb. 11:32).

The same God that redeemed Samson and placed him in the “Hall of Fame” can take us, no matter our current situation, and use us for His glory. The question stands for us as to whether we are willing to be used by Him or not.

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