Samson could bring his enemies to their knees. Taunt them with his riddles, if not his pranks. In fact, he was the nemesis of every Philistine. But, not any longer! Samson was no longer a superhero he once was. He was just a poor shadow of his former self.

The few months of forced labour – grinding the millstone – at the prison camp had made him weak, frail and vulnerable (16v21). You couldn’t but feel pity to see the champion mercilessly dragged and paraded across the central hall where the Philistines had gathered in large numbers to celebrate their victory before Dagon (16v23f).They laughed at him. Ridiculed him.

He was reduced to a play-thing and his helplessness provided the much-needed entertainment for the crowd. It must have hurt him to hear their crass comments. Worse, to play a comic after being a superhero. We must understand Samson’s story against the larger scheme of the Book of Judges that tells the story of the rise and fall of both people and their leaders.

Downward Spiral of Sin

The book tells the tale of how people went on a downward spiral of sin that affected their personal lives, community and worship. The rot within the Israelite community is expressed in the oft repeated phrase, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes”. Samson’s story also tells the tale of the drift away from God. The real tragedy was “But he did not know that the Lord had left him” (16v20). We can learn precious lessons from Samson’s life.

Inconsistent Choices

Firstly, Samson made bad choices. His choices led him away from God. Samson was to be a Nazarite. He had to live a unique lifestyle. A life separated for God. His choices were to reflect his lifestyle. His choices were to be consistent with his commitment. And yet he makes bad choices – choices that are not aligned with his life’s purpose. The cutting of his hair was an expression of the near abandonment of the Nazarite vow (16v19). When we make bad choices we drift away from God.

Treasure Your Unique Gift

Secondly, Samson did not treasure his unique gift. Samson’s uniqueness was his strength but was too casual about his unique gift (16v15f). Sometimes, it is our strength that becomes our greatest weakness. We must value the gifts and talents that God has blessed us with.

Understand God’s Plans and Purposes

Thirdly, Samson did not fully understand God’s plans and purposes for his life.. Samson’s purpose was to “save Israel from the hand of the Philistines” (13v5) but he did not help save the people of Israel from the Philistine threat. He did not understand his true calling and therefore drifted away from God’s plans and purposes

Experience God’s Abundant Grace

Samson’s life was a failure. But, that was not the end of the story. He did experience God’s grace. We read Samson’s hair began to grow (16v22). Surely, this was an evidence of God’s grace in the midst of hopelessness but Samson did not recognize this. However, God heard his desperate prayers (16v28f) and he was able to defeat the Philistines. In fact, the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he had killed during his life (16v31).

We need to stay close to God and not drift from God’s plans and purposes. We will do well if we refrain from bad choices, treasure our unique gifts and begin to understand our calling. Amen!

Photo by Lucas Swennen on Unsplash

Samuel Thambusamy is a PhD candidate with the Oxford Center for Religion and Public Life.