Then Samson called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me only this once, O God, that I may be avenged on the Philistines for my two eyes.” . . . Then he bowed with all his strength, and the house fell. . . . So the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life (Judges 16:28, 30, ESV).
Most people know only fragments about the Old Testament judge Samson—long hair, superhuman strength, seduced by Delilah—but there is so much more worth knowing.
Judges 13 introduces Samson through his parents, who were barren but were given a miracle child. An angel essentially announced to Samson’s parents, “You’re going to have a boy, and he’s going to be special. He’s going to belong to Me from the day he is born.” After years of infertility, Samson’s parents were fired up to worship God and do what He commanded. Samson was raised as a Nazarite, a person who took a strict vow to belong totally to God. Sadly—pathetically—Samson’s life did not belong to God; it belonged to Samson. He was a sensual person. Though he grew up under God’s blessing, his attention was drawn to pleasure like a moth to a sizzling bulb. It was only a matter of time before he wandered.
“Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines” (Judges 14:1). He was in the wrong place to scout for a wife. The Philistines were the archenemies of the nation of Israel, a deadly nuisance in the neighborhood. Samson was chosen by God and given supernatural strength to drive the Philistines out. Instead of using his abilities to do the job God assigned him, he used his unusual capacity to satisfy his sensual self.
Samson allowed himself to be controlled by his appetites. Like all sensual wanderers, Samson’s life was out of control. Judges 14–16 details the drama and violence of Samson’s life: his wedding, his fits of rage, his slaughters, his entrapment by the seductress Delilah.
Just as the father had to let go of the prodigal son (Luke 15)—not because he wanted to, but because he had to—so God has certain responses to our deliberate wandering. Some people ultimately have to eat pig food before they find out how bad it tastes. In His mercy, God the Father sometimes lets us wander so we discover the futility of life without Him. How sad that Samson, who was raised to live a life in and for God, lived so far from, yet so close to, the one thing that would have fully satisfied him. Eventually God released him to his desires, saying in effect, “Is your way better than Mine? You think you have to have that? Then go.”
Samson lost everything before he realized what really mattered. “And the Philistines seized him and gouged out his eyes and brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze shackles. And he ground at the mill in the prison” (Judges 16:21). At this point in the story, it looks like it’s over for Samson.
Perhaps it seems that way in your life right now. Has the boulder of reality fallen on you? If you’re still breathing, there’s hope. It wasn’t too late for Samson, and it isn’t too late for you. Though Samson’s life had been reduced to grinding in darkness, “the hair of his head began to grow again” (16:22). The symbol of his calling began to return.
Blindness may have been a severe mercy for Samson. As a sensual wanderer, controlled by his eyes and appetites, he could no longer see. Perhaps being shackled at the mill was the best thing that happened to Samson because his feet couldn’t wander after sensuality. In His mercy, God put Samson on lockdown!
Do you recall how Samson’s story ends? God strengthened him once more, and he toppled the pillars of the Philistine house, killing thousands (Judges 16:30). But that’s not all. There’s a jaw-dropping footnote about Samson’s life. Hebrews 11:32 lists him as a man of faith. Samson’s failures didn’t disqualify him from God’s family.
It wasn’t too late for Samson, and it’s not too late for you. You don’t have to resign yourself to the way you are, fearing you’ll never be changed. You can be different—not by your own power but by the power of the Holy Spirit released in you when you surrender to Him.
Lord, give me courage, strength, and purity—not legalism, but a surrendered life. Not just doing right things, but desiring right things and finding in Jesus Christ all my heart longs for. Never have I followed You and regretted that decision. Often I have wandered and felt the pain of living apart from You. Thank You for welcoming me home, Lord. Please write the final chapters of my life like Samson’s: a broken but redeemed, powerful life of faith. Thank You that it’s never too late. Your Son paid the full price for my sin, and it’s in His holy name I pray with humility and gratitude, amen.