SOAP Journal – 04 August 2017 (Judges 13-16)

Then the angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her, “Behold now, you are barren and have borne no [children], but you shall conceive and give birth to a son.”

Judges 13:3

Samson may be the single best-known judge in the book of Judges.

The first recorded thing he did is that he saw a woman in Timnah, one of the daughters of the Philistines and said to his father, “Get her for me, for she looks good to me.” (Judges 14:1, 3). After that, he makes a bet over a riddle and ends up killing 30 people to keep up his side of the wager and walks out on his wife because she gave away his secret. He later goes back and finds that she married someone else and Samson ties together 300 foxes with torches between their tails and sets the poor animals loose in the Philistines’ grain fields. When the Philistines come to capture him for his arson, he takes a donkey’s jawbone and kills 1,000 men. Later in life, he visits a prostitute and carries away the city gates when people lie in ambush for him. At the tail end of his life, he loves Delilah and is betrayed by her. He loses his God-given strength and his eyes are gouged out. He grinds grain for the Philistines and is brought into their temple to amuse them before he pulls down the pillars and crushes 3,000+ Philistine lords and their wives to death, killing himself in the process. With a biography like that, does he have anything in common with Christ? Yes, actually.

Samson’s birth is announced by the angel of the LORD (Judges 13:3) to both his mother and father (Judges 13:11-14) and Jesus’ birth was announced to Mary and to Joseph.

Samson comes to his own (his wife) and his own does not receive him (Judges 15:1-2). In a similar way, Jesus came to His own (the Israelites) and His own did not receive him (John 1:11).

Samson was betrayed by one close to him … on more than one occasion. His riddle was betrayed by his first wife (Judges 14:16-17). The best man at his wedding is the person his first wife married when Samson walked out (Judges 14:20). And Delilah betrays Samson in ways for which I cannot find adequate description (Judges 16). Jesus was also betrayed by one close to Him (Matthew 26:14-16).

And my last observation is that Samson’s death brought deliverance (Judges 16:30). In his death, Samson killed more of the oppressors than he did in the entire rest of his life. It is by Jesus’ death and resurrection that I am saved.

There is more that could be discussed: the meaning of the names and how Delilah feels a bit like a parallel to believers, but the focus this morning is on Samson and the parallels between his life and that of Christ.

I do not want to apply this in the wrong way. It would be a simple thing to look at this and think that God can use any life, no matter how mangled and marred it might be and to use that reality as a license to go about twisting my life and my self into all the wrong shapes. It is true that God can use any life and that Samson is an excellent example of that. It is also true that this cannot be used for license to mess my life up and expect God to make good of it. As Paul wrote, What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it? (Romans 6:1-2) The entirety of Romans 6 is an excellent read on the subject of license.

So, yes, God can use any life. It is also true that some lives are more effective than others. Samson delivered by killing. Jesus delivered by dying. Samson did what his desires told him and was constantly caught by his circumstances. Jesus did what His Father told Him and was Master over every circumstance. Samson ended his life maimed, miserable, and crushed. Jesus triumphed over death and ascended into glory. Which life would I rather live?

Thank You, Father, that You give us the judges for our instruction. Thank You for sending Your Son, the ultimate Judge, to show us what the other judges only hinted at. Please make my life like that of Your Son: a life submitted to You and lived for Your glory.

Not Forgotten (Judges 16:22)

However, the hair of his head began to grow again after it was shaved off.

Judges 16:22

The story of Samson is a familiar one. Heroic feats of strength that outstrip what a normal man could do. He eventually loves a woman named Delilah who pesters him until he tells her where his strength comes from. The psalmist will later say that his strength (the psalmist’s) comes from the LORD, the Maker of Heaven and Earth. But Samson was under the misapprehension that his strength came from his hair.

Samson’s parents had been told that he would be a Nazirite. Nothing that comes from grapes, no unclean foods, and no haircuts. The uncut hair was a symbol of dedication to God; a reminder to others and to the one under the Nazirite vow that the person was different. Samson’s strength came from God, Samson just hadn’t figured that out. He thinks his strength comes from his hair, so that’s what he tells Delilah.

And his hair is shaved off.

But the hair started to grow back.

No matter how badly we’ve messed up, no matter how much we seem to have given God’s enemies opportunity to mock Him, The Bible gives encouragement that we can be restored. Samson’s hair started to grow back. What he thought had been the source of his strength was returning. But, more important than the supposed source of his strength, his hair was a symbol of being different, set apart for God’s particular use. In the end, Samson prays to God for his strength back one last time, demonstrating that he had learned where his strength came from. The hair was a reminder that God had not given up on Samson. God was still ready and willing to restore him and use him again.

There are times when I mess up; times when I feel that I have given God’s enemies occasion to malign Him because of me. But God has not given up on me. If I recognize my wrong-doing, God is ready to restore. I may have gotten myself into a pickle—Samson was shaved, blinded, and chained to a grain-grinding wheel in the middle of his enemies—but God is able to make my deliverance more glorious than anything that has gone before in my life. While my mistakes will remove me from God’s work for a time, it does not need to be permanent. If I recognize my wrong, admit it, and return to God then I will find that God has never been further from me than a whisper would call to. I may have been gone, but I was not forgotten.