Thursday, January 27, 2022

The Judges. Day 57, Samson's Death And His Final Strike Against The Philistines

In Wednesday's study we found Samson giving in to Delilah's repeated questions regarding how he could be subdued. There was still one rule of his Nazirite vow he had not broken: he had never cut his hair. When we were studying Numbers 6 we learned that a Nazirite vow was usually for a limited duration. During that time the person could not cut their hair but, once the time period had been accomplished and all the rules successfully kept, the hair was cut and burned along with the offering that was made upon the completion of the vow.

But Samson has not completed the time period of his vow. His dedication to the Lord as a Nazirite was to be lifelong and therefore as long as he lives his hair must not be cut. This is what the angel of the Lord said about Samson before he was born, that he was to be dedicated to the Lord as a Nazirite from the womb and that his "head is never to be touched by a razor". (Judges 13:5) "Never" means never. But Samson chose his relationship with Delilah over his relationship with the Lord. Samson has never been a man with much self-control when it comes to Philistine women, but he had previously been able to love them and leave them, as the saying goes. When he met Delilah he allowed himself to become obsessed with her and was willing to do anything or give up anything to have her---even if that meant giving up the calling the Lord placed upon his life. 

Maybe you've heard this quote: "If you don't feel as close to God today as you did yesterday, who moved?" The author of Judges told us in verse 20 that the Lord had left Samson. But Samson left the Lord first. Samson is the one who moved. When the author of Judges says the Lord "left" Samson, he does not mean that the Lord has utterly rejected him, just that the Lord didn't enable him to evade the Philistines after his hair was cut. The Lord's ears will still be open to Samson when he cries out for help later in today's passage. 

Samson's head was shaved by Delilah's servant while he slept. Upon realizing the Philistines had arrived to capture him, Samson thought he could escape their clutches. But his strength was gone. The consequences of his poor decisions are severe and shocking, for the Philistines are a violent and cruel people. "Then the Philistines seized him, gouged out his eyes and took him down to Gaza. Binding him with bronze shackles, they set him to grinding grain in the prison." (Judges 16:21) He's blind and in chains, consigned to the monotonous task of grinding the grain of his enemies day in and day out. While he's occupied in this manner, there's something the Philistines have forgotten to take into account. "But the hair on his head began to grow again after it had been shaved." (Judges 16:22)

Not only have they subdued the famous Samson and assigned him one of the most menial tasks, but the Philistines want to humiliate him and make sport of him too. "Now the rulers of the Philistines assembled to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god and to celebrate, saying, 'Our god has delivered Samson, our enemy, into our hands.' When the people saw him, they praised their god, saying, 'Our god has delivered our enemy into our hands, the one who laid waste our land and multiplied our slain.' While they were in high spirits, they shouted, 'Bring out Samson to entertain us.' So they called Samson out of the prison, and he performed for them." (Judges 16:23-25a) Dagon, of course, did nothing for the Philistines. Their non-existent god had no hand in their capture of Samson; Samson delivered himself into their hands through his disobedience to the Lord. 

The very thing these people are celebrating---the capture of Samson---will be their downfall. We don't know how long Samson has been in their custody but it's long enough that his hair has grown back out quite a bit. He's been in their custody long enough that he's repented of his sins and rededicated his heart to the Lord. He's renewed his Nazirite vow and the hair on his head is a part of that vow. In a humble spirit and in faith, Samson prays to the Lord and asks to be used of Him one more time in Israel's fight against the wicked Philistines. Samson realizes that, if he had lived a life fully committed to the Lord, he could have done so much more for the Lord and for Israel than he's actually done. But he also realizes that, if the Lord grants his request, he can finish strong for the Lord. He can also put the false Philistine god to shame and bring glory to the name of the God of Israel. "When they stood him among the pillars, Samson said to the servant who held his hand, 'Put me where I can feel the pillars that support the temple, so that I may lean against them.' Now the temple was crowded with men and women; all the rulers of the Philistines were there, and on the roof were about three thousand men and women watching Samson perform. Then Samson prayed to the Lord, 'Sovereign Lord, remember me. Please, God, strengthen me just once more, and let me with one blow get revenge on the Philistines for my two eyes.'" (Judges 16:25b-28)

Samson has not always lived a godly life but he's the Lord's appointed judge of Israel. When the Philistines captured Samson and gouged out his eyes, they were attacking the political leader of God's people. This was an insult to the Lord Himself, who placed a calling upon Samson's life even before he was born. The Lord takes it personally whenever someone does harm to any of His people; He takes it as personally as if the harm was actually done to Him. As it is said in Zechariah 2:8, "Whoever touches you touches the apple of His eye." When the Lord gives Samson the strength he asks for, He's not only avenging Samson but He's also avenging His people Israel and He's avenging His own reputation. 

"Then Samson reached toward the two central pillars on which the temple stood. Bracing himself against them, his right hand on the one and his left hand on the other, Samson said, 'Let me die with the Philistines!' Then he pushed with all his might, and down came the temple on the rulers and all the people in it. Thus he killed many more when he died than while he lived." (Judges 16:29-30) We know there were three thousand Philistines on the roof. There must have been at least that many inside the temple, possibly more. Samson must have killed, at minimum, six thousand enemies of Israel on the day he died.

"Then his brothers and his father's whole family went down to get him. They brought him back and buried him between Zorah and Eshtaol in the tomb of Manoah his father. He had led Israel twenty years." (Judges 16:31) In Judges 13 we learned that Samson's mother was unable to conceive children until the Lord miraculously enabled her to conceive and give birth to Samson. It appears that, after Samson's birth, his mother and father were able to have at least two more children since the Bible says his "brothers" retrieved his body and buried it in the tomb of their deceased father.

The Lord used Samson to do good for the Israelites in their fight against the Philistines. The Lord knew everything about Samson before he was ever born. He knew everything Samson would ever do but He intended to use him to do great things in spite of his moral shortcomings. The Lord was able to use even Samson's mistakes against the Philistines. This in no way excuses any of Samson's sins but simply proves to us that no human being is powerful enough to thwart the Lord's plans and that the Lord is able to use flawed human beings as a part of His plans. Samson would have been a better judge if he'd been fully committed to the Lord. He'd have been more of a blessing to his people Israel. He'd have achieved greater and more decisive victories over the Philistines. Instead of leading Israel for twenty years, he might have led Israel for many decades until he died peacefully in bed in his old age. After Samson became a prisoner of the Philistines, I think he came to the conclusion that he would have lived his life differently if he could have lived it over, but at least he finished strong. At least he finished in faith. And because he finished strong and in faith, we find his name in the list known as the "Hebrews Hall Of Faith". In Hebrews 11 his name is mentioned with those who set great examples of faith in the Bible, such as the patriarchs, King David, and the prophets. This is how we know Samson's heart was right with the Lord when he died. Samson got off track from time to time. He sometimes put other things or other people ahead of the Lord. But he died in faith and someday, when we have gone on to be with the Lord, Samson is one of the people who will be there too.

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