And Samson cried out to God:
Oh, please, look on me again,
Oh, please, give strength yet once more.
Judges 16: 28 The Message
The story of Samson is one many of us know from Sunday School. We know that Samson was incredibly strong, and the apparent key to his strength was found in the fact that as long has his hair was not cut, the Lord would keep him strong. Many of us can even picture Samson in our mind’s eye, rippling with muscles and sporting a full head of hair flowing down over his shoulders.
However, a full reading of Samson’s story leaves me with some serious questions about why God chose Sampson to serve as judge for Israel. While it was true that Sampson began by serving God, and was incredibly strong, other aspects of his story frustrate me, especially from the vantage of Christ’s teachings on love and peace.
I am disturbed that Sampson totally dismisses the input from his parents when it comes to choosing a wife. Against their strong wishes, he chooses a Philistine woman. The Philistines were sworn enemies of the Israelites, and had gone to battle many times against them.
Not listening to his parents was only the beginning of some of Samson’s character flaws. He had a temper. He was violent. (In his defense, he lived in a violent time, when violence was the order of the day). He was constantly falling in love with different women. Not only that, but the women were manipulative and destructive, and one was even a prostitute. Not exactly what one would expect out of a man God to choose to serve as a judge!
At one point, even God has had enough. We are told that God abandons him at one point. In and of itself, that comment tells us the depths to which Samson has fallen. Eventually, he gives up the true secret to this strength to Delilah, a Philistine woman bribed by the Philistine warlords. Suddenly shorn of his locks, he is now vulnerable and weak. The Philistines capture him, blind him, imprison him and put him to work grinding grain. They even publicly display and humiliate Sampson at a huge banquet, held in honor of their false god Dagon.
Then Samson remembers the Lord. Although the Lord had abandoned Samson, he had not forgotten him. This cry from Samson represents his prayer to God, in the midst of that humiliating situation. Once proud, and strong, and arrogant, but now humbled, Samson asks God to make him strong once again.
God hears Sampson’s prayer, makes him strong, and Samson then pushes against the pillars of the great hall, and literally, “brings the house down,” sacrificing his own life as well. The many powerful and important Philistines are killed. It is said that with this final act, Samson killed as many Philistines as he had during his entire lifetime to that point. Samson’s story is the episode in the Bible most like a “Rambo” movie!
We are told that all scripture is inspired by God, and so I must ask myself what redeeming lesson I might learn from Samson’s story. While Samson’s arrogance and penchant for bad relationships are a cautionary tale, the story also speaks of redemption. After God supposedly “abandons” Samson, leaving him to his own devices, the Lord answered Samson’s last prayer. God made Samson strong again, one last time.
God hears our prayers, in spite of our many flaws. And even when we feel abandoned by God, and have turned our back on Him, the Lord will hear us. When we call on Him, God will answer us, no matter what is going on in our life.
There is a lesson here. God can use and even redeem our bad choices, for His larger good. Through the crazy story of Sampson, we see that God essentially had Sampson on “mute”. When Sampson realized he needed God and he called upon the Lord, God had His hand on the mute button. He was ready to “unmute” Samson, and to answer Samson’s final prayer.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
Great and mighty God,
we thank You, that even when we turn away from You, we are not forgotten by You. You wait for us to realize our need for You in our life. You are ready and waiting for us to seek You. Please help us when we need to turn our lives from destruction into being dynamic people of faith for You. Help us to keep our eyes on heavenly goals, rather than our own earthly desires which can consume us. Thank You for the strength You give us to persevere through the storms of life. We pray this prayer in Your most Holy Name. Amen