Samson: strong AND weak

Judges 13-16

“Then the Philistines seized Samson and gouged out his eyes; and they brought him down to Gaza and bound him with bronze chains, and he was a grinder in the prison.” Judges 16:21

The Bible has a lot to say about Samson. Four whole chapters are devoted to a character study of this strong man. Everyone tends to remember what the Bible says about Samson’s strength, but the biblical record tells us a lot more about this leader of ancient Israel.

The story of Samson is a study in contrasts – Tremendous feats of physical strength vs. spiritual shortcomings.

Samson lived in Israel during the period of the Judges. In fact, Samson was the last judge of Israel before Samuel. Soon after Samson’s death, Saul was anointed by Samuel as the first king of Israel. The period of the judges was certainly not a time of spiritual growth in Israel’s history. The people of Israel had gone downhill since the days of Moses and Joshua. Disobedience to the Word of the Lord was the reason for this downhill spiral. A “do your own thing” attitude characterized the age of the judges. Judges 17:6 and 21:25 state that “everyone did that which was right in his own eyes.” God permitted the enemies of Israel to come in and oppress and defeat His people because of their sin.

Periodically during these dark days the people of Israel cried out to the Lord for help. God then graciously raised up a judge to deliver them. But soon after they were delivered, they turned their backs on the Lord again and plunged into renewed idolatry and immorality. Against such a background Samson came on the scene – during a time of Philistine oppression. Right from the start Samson had everything going for him.

In chapter 13 we learn that Samson came from a solid home. He had godly parents who believed and worshiped the Lord. Furthermore, Samson was designated by God to be a deliverer of Israel from the hands of the Philistines (13:5). Victory was guaranteed. What more could one ask for? And then, of course, there were Samson’s physical attributes. Not only did God bless him with great physical strength but it seems that God gave him good looks as well. (An ugly Samson just could not have had the “success” that Samson had with the Philistine women!) On top of all this, we read further that God blessed young Samson and the Spirit of the Lord was at work in his life (13:24-25). To sum it up, Samson had everything going for him and apparently unlimited potential for success.

Instead of delivering Israel from the Philistines, Samson had delivered himself to the enemy. Who would have believed that this could ever happen to Samson–the teenager who had everything going for him? What went wrong, anyway?It doesn’t take much insight to discover the key to Samson’s downfall. It is found over and over again in chapters 14-16. Samson had no self control. He could not govern his passions. He was weak-willed and self-willed. What he wanted, he wanted now. “Not Thy will but mine be done” was Samson’s standard operating procedure. Look, for example, at Samson’s uncontrolled selfish passion in chapter 14:1-4. He saw a beautiful pagan Philistine woman and wanted her. His selfish response to the godly counsel of his parents was, “Get her for me, for she looks good to me.” Decisions made only on the basis of looks and pleasure are usually a sign of little self-control.

Look also at Samson’s weakness with Delilah in chapter 16. Because of his selfish “love” for this ungodly woman, Samson not only gave her the secret of his strength but he sold her his soul as well–“he told her all that was in his heart” (16:17). The almost unbelievable magnitude of Samson’s weakness is seen only when it is realized that he had three clear warnings of what was coming (16:8-14). How blind could Samson be–especially when Delilah had told him openly why she wanted to know his secret. “Please tell me where your great strength is and how you may be bound to afflict you(16:6).

How important it is for a growing Christian not to fall in love with an unbeliever. Love can be so blind at times that you do things you never dreamed possible–against all logic and common sense. What a mess you can get yourself into if you fall in love with a “Delilah”. No wonder God’s Word says that marriage between believers and unbelievers is wrong. (See 2 Corinthians 6:14.) Step by step Samson let his lack of self-control take over. He had taken the Nazarite vow as a youth, but one by one he was breaking the rules because of his undisciplined and selfish life. Samson ended up breaking every one of the rules because of his uncontrolled selfish desires.

We too may have a lot of God-given potential, but we may also lose all of it due to having no self control. Like Samson, we may come from a solid Christian background where we have been taught the precepts and principles of the Word of God. But like Samson, we may turn our backs on the clear teaching of God’s Word because we want to do our own thing and go our own way. Like Samson, we may have it all together in the physical area–good looks, talent, etc. But like Samson, we may take our God-given looks and talents and use them to indulge in selfish pleasure and passion.

Even our spiritual gifts can be misused and abused because of selfish interests and ambitions. Without self-control, a growing Christian with great potential strength will be as weak as Samson. In spite of Samson’s lack of self-control, God was still working with him and through him (see 14:4, 19; 15:14). And Hebrews 11:32 assures us that Samson had faith. All of this should be an encouragement to us who are constantly being tempted to do our own selfish thing.

God can still accomplish His purposes through us, but how much greater to yield to His control and realize our full potential.