And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
Well, Samson is certainly an interesting story, isn’t he? If one reads the thoughts of writers and commentators on Samson, you can actually find quite a bit of controversy. In fact, folks are pretty harsh on Samson, and many question his status as a man of faith at all. So, let’s dispel that thought right away; Samson is found in Hebrews 11 among those listed as men and women of faith. God inspired the writer of that book to put him there. God knows the heart of man, and God put Samson on that list. That really settles it, don’t you think?
It’s odd, but we don’t see Samson actually communicating with God directly until the end of his story; that certainly seems to cast doubts as to his faith. His call seems not to have come directly to him, but to his mother. As was typical, the Israelites had turned away from God and were being chastised once again. In this case, it was the Philistines. God, knowing they would need a rescuer, called Samson before he was even born to be the one to deliver them from the hand of their oppressors. The Angel of the Lord appeared to the wife of Samson’s father, Manoah the Danite, with the following:
Judges 13:1-5 And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the Lord; and the Lord delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren, and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines.
God called Samson, and God had a plan for him. I can’t help but think Samson knew all of this; that seems pretty self-evident, as his mother certainly would have shared with him what had happened to her. Samson would have been raised in a household of faith, understood what his God was about and understood the role God had called him for.
That didn’t seem to help much, did it? We don’t need to recount all of the sordid details here, but sordid they are. Samson’s list of transgressions is long, for sure. He disrespected his parents, he broke his Nazarite vows over and over, he chased women including prostitutes, he reacted out of anger, he killed, he was prideful of his strength and prowess and the list goes on and on.
There’s only a couple of brief thoughts I would offer here in regards to the life of Samson, as to really explore him would take an entire series.
First, God was not clueless about the nature of the man He himself had created. While this is no excuse for behavior that is offensive to God, God uses all things for His good and His sovereign plan. That includes even our flaws and mistakes. We see this in chapter 14 when Samson went to his parents regarding marrying the Philistine woman he had become smitten with. First, the Jews just weren’t supposed to marry gentiles, much less a woman of the enemy. Second, he disregarded the good advice of his parents. Under the absolute domination of his hormones and fleshly desires, Samson did what he always did: what he wanted, when he wanted, and how he wanted. It did not end well. Pride was hurt, violence ensued and folks died. Specifically, Philistines died. When God allowed this to happen, he was laying the groundwork for Samson to exercise God’s judgment on the Philistines.
Judges 14:2-4 King And he came up, and told his father and his mother, and said, I have seen a woman in Timnath of the daughters of the Philistines: now therefore get her for me to wife. Then his father and his mother said unto him, Is there never a woman among the daughters of thy brethren, or among all my people, that thou goest to take a wife of the uncircumcised Philistines? And Samson said unto his father, Get her for me; for she pleaseth me well. But his father and his mother knew not that it was of the Lord, that he sought an occasion against the Philistines: for at that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.
Samson certainly did his job well. Philistines continued to die at an alarming rate, he was betrayed multiple times by both a woman and his own people. Ultimately he ended up in the hands of the Philistines with his eyes gouged out grinding grain. What a sad ending right? No, we know the story didn’t end there. Samson finished well. Despite his failures as a man, despite his failures to adhere to the law he had been given, despite his failure in all the works he wrought with his own hand, in the end, Samson finished well. They brought him out before the Philistine elites in the Temple of their god, Dagon, to mock and humiliate him before all the people…some 3000 of the who’s who of the Philistines.
Judges 16:27-30 Now the house was full of men and women; and all the lords of the Philistines were there; and there were upon the roof about three thousand men and women, that beheld while Samson made sport. And Samson called unto the Lord, and said, O Lord God, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, I pray thee, only this once, O God, that I may be at once avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes. And Samson took hold of the two middle pillars upon which the house stood, and on which it was borne up, of the one with his right hand, and of the other with his left. And Samson said, Let me die with the Philistines. And he bowed himself with all his might; and the house fell upon the lords, and upon all the people that were therein. So the dead which he slew at his death were more than they which he slew in his life.
Friends, Samson believed God, and his inclusion in Hebrews 11 tells us that this was credited to him for righteousness. This in no way teaches us that we can just do as we wish for our lives, as that would be a serious presumption on God’s grace. But it does teach that we can’t earn that grace and that no one is outside the reach of that grace. In the end, Samson did what really matters. He believed God. Have you?