May 12, 2023
"The temple was full of men and women; all the leaders of the Philistines were there, and about 3,000 men and women were on the roof..."
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“The temple was full of men and women; all the leaders of the Philistines were there, and about 3,000 men and women were on the roof watching Samson entertain them. He called out to the Lord: ‘Lord God, please remember me. Strengthen me, God, just once more. With one act of vengeance, let me pay back the Philistines for my two eyes.’ Samson took hold of the two middle pillars supporting the temple and leaned against them, one on his right and the other on his left. Samson said, ‘Let me die with the Philistines.’ He pushed with all his might, and the temple fell on the leaders and all the people in it. And the dead he killed at his death were more than those he had killed in his life.” Judges 16:27-30 (HCSB)
The Lord is the God who hears the cry of his servant in desperate circumstances. In today’s passage, the Lord’s answer comes not only in the midst of desperate need but also in the wake of miserable failure. This is the Samson who would rather play around with Delilah than protect the Lord’s gift. This is the Samson who faithlessly bartered away the Lord’s strength in order to court a treacherous lover. It is this Samson – this faithless, foolish, fallen…humbled Samson – who the Lord hears.
Samson is sort of an “Israel in concentrated form.” The Israelites who heard Samson’s story were supposed to see the pattern of their own unfaithfulness. That being so, how was Israel to receive this latter part of the Samson story? Were they not meant to hope? Were they not to understand that though the Lord’s hand may justly cast down His unfaithful servants, His ears are nevertheless open to their cries? Through it all, His arm is still ready to act on their behalf. Should Israel not see that even in her sinfulness, God was still encouraging her to call upon Him in her day of trouble?
Of course, there will be objections. Someone will argue that Israel (like Samson) does not deserve the Lord’s help. So what else is new? Those who champion such objections are frequently those who have little sense of their own sinfulness!
And what of the followers of Jesus who have stupidly and miserably failed the Lord? Shouldn’t they find hope in seeing that being cast down does not mean being cast off? Should we not rejoice that we may also call on the Lord, even from “Dagon’s temple”?
Finally, as we look back over the whole tragic story, we must mention the strangeness of the Lord’s choice. Why would He use a character like Samson as His servant? Here is a guy who shatters all our molds, conventions, and expectations about what a servant of God is to be. Worse yet, Samson is not only unconventional but also unfaithful. He seems to think his God-given strength was his plaything; he didn’t seem to realize that spiritual gifts are not given so we can toy with them as we please but to serve and care for the good of God’s people. But here is this Samson, a sort of “wild ass” of a man, entertaining yet unpredictable, so promising, and so tragic. He seems so unlike our image of an evangelical believer. God will not be confined by our respectabilities. He chose Samson, and He chooses us as well.
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©Steve Wiggins 2021