Then Samson called to the LORD and said, "O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes."Judges 16:28(NASB)
Samson was the last in a long line of judges the Lord chose to rule over an increasingly apostate Israel. His was a life that began with great promise when the Angel of the Lord announced his birth to the barren wife of a man named Manoah. As he grew, the Lord blessed Samson with great strength and the Holy Spirit started to guide him. But Samson was a proud, headstrong youth who became infatuated with various Philistine women and foolishly fraternised and frequently sparred with this longstanding enemy of Israel, often taunting them with haughty disdain.
God's people had been under the yoke of the Philistines for 40 years when Samson was born, but instead of living a life that honoured the Lord, he acted in many foolish and ungodly ways. On one occasion, in an outburst of rage, Samson slaughtered 30 young Philistine men with the jawbone of an ox. Another time, he vindictively set fire to their harvest of grain, grapes, and olives. However, despite his flawed character, God used this man greatly to forward His redemptive plans and purposes.
Samson had been endowed with great strength from childhood. His mother had been instructed by the Angel of the Lord to raise her son as a Nazarite whose life, from birth, would be dedicated to the Lord. She was also told that her child would begin to save Israel from the power of the Philistines. One characteristic of those who took the vow of a Nazarite was that no razor would touch the hair of their head, and Samson believed that his great strength came from his long curled locks rather than from the Lord.
In spite of his sinful behaviour, God used this man to defeat Israel's long-standing enemy and following the defeat of the Philistines, Samson ruled over Israel for 20 years. However, his lustful fascination with Philistine women continued throughout his life, and finally, God used the deceitful manipulation of a Philistine prostitute, named Delilah, to engineer the downfall of his chosen servant and to bring him to the point of desperation so that the Lord would be glorified through his life - and death.
Delilah lived in Gaza, and she was a woman who could be bought. She was urged by the men of Gath to discover the secret of Samson's strength so that he could be overpowered, taken prisoner, and disposed of. Delilah agreed to do their bidding and set out to discover the reason that Samson was so much stronger than all the other men. Three times she used her feminine wiles to persuade him to tell her the secret of his strength and three times he lied. But finally, he gave in to her constant nagging, and told her that his strength was because of his long hair. Taking advantage of him while he slept, Samson was quickly overpowered by his Philistine adversaries and flung into jail. His eyes were gouged out and he was forced to grind grain like an ox.
It was God who gave him his strength and not his flowing locks, as Samson supposed. And although God had blessed this man with great strength and set him as judge over His people, the time came when the Lord withdrew His blessing. Samson had compromised his Nazarite vow and sinned against the Lord long before his head was shaved, and as he languished in a Philistine prison, he had to accept that God had, justifiably, withdrawn from His servant and finally we read: "Then Samson called to the LORD and said, 'O Lord GOD, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.'"
Samson prayed his meaningful prayer of repentance and brokenness on the day that the Philistines were enjoying a feast and offering up sacrifices to their god, Dagon. In their drunken festivities, they fetched Samson from prison to provide them with sadistic entertainment. It was during this idolatrous revelry that Samson rested on two of the main pillars of the pagan temple and prayed that the Lord would strengthen him. Now, the building was full of men, women, and all the Philistine officials. Indeed, there were about 3,000 men and women on the roof watching Samson while he was entertaining them and God, in His grace, answered the prayer of his servant and he was filled with godly strength and brought the great building down, killing the whole company. The Bible tells us that as a result "the dead whom Samson killed at his death were more than those whom he killed during his lifetime."
The story of Samson is a very sad tale that clearly shows the long-suffering grace and mercy of God towards his servants, as well as a warning that there may come a time when God's hand of blessing and protection is lifted for a season when sin crouches at the door. While the story of Samson is a stark example of unfulfilled potential in the life of a servant of God, it also gives us great hope... for despite his deeply flawed life, Samson is a man who is named in the great chapter of faith in Hebrews 11. It was not Samson's faults that are remembered by the Lord, but Samson's faith - which was reckoned to him as righteousness.
Praise God that, like Samson, our faith in Christ is reckoned to us as righteousness, but may we be men and women who seek to honour the Lord in all we say and do, for His greater glory and for our eternal benefit.
Heavenly Father, as I study the tragic story of Samson, I am reminded that it is not by might, nor by power, but by Your Spirit that I should live, and work, and have my being. Thank You that these words of faith at the end of Samson’s life are recorded for us and that in his humility, brokenness, and blindness, he called to You in faith and that You heard and answered his prayer. May I call to You in faith in every aspect of my life, and thank You, Lord, that when I am faithless, You remain faithful. In Jesus' name, AMEN.