The varied events in the life of Samson make for a fascinating read. At times I pore over them in astonishment that Samson could be so obtuse and reckless, yet God used him repeatedly for his purposes and his glory.
Set apart as a Nazarite from birth,1 Samson did little to live up to and honor that Nazarite vow. Samson was supposed to be God’s agent for dealing with the nations offending against Israel but it seems, as often as not, the storyline is more about Samson getting his own nose out of joint and lashing out at those who had made him angry, doing so in a way reminiscent of Dr. David Banner getting angry and turning into The Incredible Hulk.2
“Don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”
The deeds of Samson, often characterized as “heroic,” are impressive, to be sure. In Judges 16, having driven the Philistines away, and putting such fear in them that they wanted nothing to do with him, Samson fuels enough bravado and swagger that he decides to go to their major city, ‘Azzah, a fortified, capital city of the Philistines. His first order of business in ‘Azzah is to hook up with a prostitute.3 A short three verses later, Samson is hot after Delilah.
Though the Philistines were mortal enemies of the Israelites, and Samson was God’s representative, Samson seemed obsessed with Philistine women, beginning with his marriage to one in Judges 14 and culminating in his wild affair with Delilah in Judges 16. Samson’s blinding obsession with Delilah is the only way I can reconcile the fact that he would stay with her when her scheming against him was so blatantly obvious that an elementary-school child can recognize it.
After much pestering and manipulation, Delilah learned the secret of Samson’s great strength, how to subdue him, and then revealed these findings to her fellow Philistines. Samson’s constant flirting with sin did not end well for him.
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, ESV
The foolish disobedience of Samson serves as a grave warning to every Christ-follower. Satan knows how to tempt humanity. Never forget that Satan won the first battle with humanity he ever fought. Each of us has our own Delilah, whether that be our pride, envy of others, covetousness, physical or emotional lust … that place where our armor is thin or missing.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
– James 1:14–15, ESV
Just as Samson’s foolishness led to him being blinded, our sin blinds us. The apostle Peter tells us what our growth in Christ is to look like.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love.
– 2 Peter 1:5-7, ESV
That’s the look of a healthy, growing Christ-follower. But what if that’s not what we look like?
For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.
– 2 Peter 1:8-9, ESV
We are blinded.
Having blinded us, sin binds us. Samson was blinded by having his eyes gouged out. Then he was bound with bronze shackles. Peter speaks of false teachers who work to lure us away from the freedom of truth into the bondage of sin.
For, speaking loud boasts of folly, they entice by sensual passions of the flesh those who are barely escaping from those who live in error. They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.
– 2 Peter 2:18-19, ESV
We are blinded and bound.
Samson was blinded, bound, and sentenced to a life of endless grinding at the prison mill, endlessly, tediously pushing the millstone in a circle, in a circle, in a circle, endlessly walking, yet getting nowhere. That’s what sin does to us.
Promising deep insight, sin delivers blindness. Promising freedom, sin delivers bondage. And promising the greatest of pleasures, sin delivers a sentence of endless, tedious grinding in the very thing that is killing us.
For if, after they have escaped the defilements of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. What the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire.”
– 2 Peter 2:20-22, ESV
We are blinded and bound and grinding in a circle.
Samson’s story is sad, and Samson’s story becomes our story when we reject God’s leading and calling on our lives. It is important to realize that though Samson ultimately returned to God prior to his death, having done so, he was still blind, bound, and grinding at the prison mill.
Sin has consequences, always, and consequences, once in place, are difficult if not impossible to remove. No one sins in a vacuum. God’s forgiveness of sin does not equate with the removal of sin’s consequences. There are deep physical and emotional scars, not only for us, but also for those around us.
Better to avoid our Delilahs than to embrace them and repent afterward.
Hear, my son, and accept my words,
that the years of your life may be many.
I have taught you the way of wisdom;
I have led you in the paths of uprightness.
When you walk, your step will not be hampered,
and if you run, you will not stumble.
Keep hold of instruction; do not let go;
guard her, for she is your life.
Do not enter the path of the wicked,
and do not walk in the way of the evil.
Avoid it; do not go on it;
turn away from it and pass on.
For they cannot sleep unless they have done wrong;
they are robbed of sleep unless they have made someone stumble.
For they eat the bread of wickedness
and drink the wine of violence.
But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.
The way of the wicked is like deep darkness;
they do not know over what they stumble.
– Proverbs 4:10-19, ESV
1. Judges 13:1-5
3. Judges 16:1