Samson’s story (Judges 13 – 16) is one of tremendous physical strength, but also of tragic moral weakness. Yet the major tragedy that overtook this outstanding man was crowned by the tremendous mercy of God.
His physical feats, recorded in sacred history, were unique. His tremendous strength was dazzlingly displayed when he killed a lion with his bare hands and soon after killed 30 Philistines in a short space of time.
With the jawbone of an ass he piled 1000 Philistines in a heap; he assailed his assailants! With great ease he broke the ropes they used to bind him, breaking them from his arms like thread, and with equal ease lifted the great city gates of Gaza off their hinges and carried them up the mountain.
But, unfortunately, Samson’s is also a story of tragic weakness. While he could master lions and conquer Philistines, he could not control his own lusts. All of Samson’s problems centred on this weakness — he could not say ‘no’ to the lusts of the flesh.
He loved strange women. His three loves were his wife from Timnath, a harlot from Gaza and Delilah. They were all Philistines, the enemies of the Israelites. His physical strength was matched only by his moral weakness.
Unlike Moses, Samson chose a season of pleasure rather than of suffering affliction with the people of God. He demonstrated his physical strength usually in relation to a bout of sensual indulgence.
For instance, he demonstrated his bravery in killing the lion because he was taking his parents down to meet a woman he wanted to marry, simply because ‘she looked good to him’.
Again, after he could not keep a secret from his betrothed wife for even a few days, he demonstrated his tremendous strength by killing 30 men. He went to Gaza for a prostitute, but here he was trapped and in a show of great strength lifted up the gates!
He gave in to Delilah. She deceived and pressurised him into giving her the answer to his ‘riddle’. In her ultimate betrayal, she lulled him into sleep on her lap and got a man to shave off his hair, thereby draining him of his entire strength and resulting in a tragedy of huge proportions.
Such moral tragedy has also befallen many men of God. In a moment of folly, they have suffered a grievous loss of spiritual power and signed away a profitable ministry.
It is interesting to note that the wisest man in the Bible, Solomon, the strongest man in the Bible, Samson, and the ‘man after God’s own heart’, David, all succumbed to this same weakness. That should be a major warning for us men!
There is mercy with God. If we would only learn to cast ourselves upon the mercies of God in Christ, he can still use broken vessels.
‘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’ (16:28). God heard Samson’s distressed cries and came to his rescue.
He restored his strength. It was recorded in Judges16:27-30 that after Samson’s strength had returned to him, with every ounce of energy he could muster he pulled down the pillars of Dagon’s temple, killing 3000, including all the lords of the Philistines. It was his very last and ultimate display of prodigious strength.
Samson’s is an amazing story of how the triumphant grace of God prevails. In spite of his many weakness and failures, God used him anyway. He was appointed Israel’s judge for 20 years to deal with Israel’s enemies. He was empowered by the Spirit of God and is hailed as one of the heroes of faith in Hebrews 11.
His weaknesses were great and glaring, but God was willing to use him because of his grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ.
The God of Samson is also our God. He is also the God of today. As much as he was willing to use a flawed person like Samson, he can also use marred vessels like us.
It is precisely when we are at a point of helplessness and at the end of our tether that he intervenes. His strength is made perfect in our weakness. The narrative is all about God’s mercies and, if we want to be used by the Lord, we need to learn the grace of dependence upon him.
Finally, while appreciating the triumphant mercies of God, who uses us in spite of our flaws, we still need to discipline our thoughts, control our desires, check on our impulses, and submit ourselves altogether to his control — in a way that Samson did not. May the Lord help each one of us!
Lim Yew Cheng
Edited from an article by Dr Lim Yew Cheng,
Petaling Jaya, Malaysia