The story of Samson (Judges 13-16) is painful. It ranks as one of the saddest tales in Biblical history, and reading it through again only frustrates me. Have you ever seen a piece of fraying cloth. Threads have worked loose and the edges no longer hold together. The mid section maybe fine, but hem is coming apart. The issue is one of integrity.
That is what I think the judge Samson was like. Incredibly gifted, but irrevocably flawed, he was ordained to be a deliverer. Think of him as a “freedom fighter,” called and equipped to set his people free. He was a man of intense contrasts:
- uncommonly gifted, yet unconsecrated,
- incredibly strong, yet spiritually weak,
- called to deliver, but died as a captive
You might say he could never conquer himself. Forbidden things became permissible. He never could really say the most important word– No! Lust drove him instead the Spirit of God. Samson was a tragic figure in the history of Israel, known more for his failures than his victories.
“Then she called, “Samson, the Philistines are upon you!” He awoke from his sleep and thought, “I’ll go out as before and shake myself free.” But he did not know that the Lord had left him” (Judges 16:20, NIV).
This is perhaps the most tragic verse in Scripture. Samson had compromised to the point of being released from his gift. His attitude was that it would always be there for him, but that wasn’t the case anymore. They would gouge out his eyes, and chain him to a millstone to grind out grain.
Interestingly, in Hebrews 11:32 Samson is mentioned as an example of faith. But how much pain was afflicted on him, and how more brightly would’ve been if he could’ve learned to resist his appetites.
I have a tendency to fray at the edges myself, leaving me with an unsettled feeling. The hems don’t always hold. They come apart. The story of Samson reminds me of my need to watch myself closely. The lesson is there.