“Then Samson called to the LORD and said, ‘O Lord, GOD, please remember me and strengthen me only this once, O God….” (Judges 16:28)
Samson is undoubtedly one of the more unsavory characters of the Old Testament, with little to recommend him in the way of discretion and sound judgment. It seems every glimpse of him reveals a portrait in selfishness and foolishness mixed in with a great deal of the ridiculous.
Perhaps the Lord throws in Samson’s story to teach us what not to do, how not to waste his God-‐given gifts, handed out for his grand purpose and honor.
Endowed with superhuman strength, Samson was reared to deliver the Israelites from the jaws of their fierce enemies, the Philistines. With colossal courage and his bare hands, he tore lions apart, uprooted the gates of cities as if they were mere toothpicks, and annihilated 1,000 men with only a donkey’s jawbone as weaponry.
He held limitless potential for good in the middle of his powerful hands, but he was powerless when it came to his own appetite and desires. In the end, intoxicated by the ways of women, Samson’s very eyes were gouged out and his long curls shaved in his pursuit of all manner of evil. He squandered his golden opportunities, misguided by poor choices and plain, old‐fashioned folly.
Remarkably, his name is listed in the chapter of faith in the very same sentence that extols heroes like Gideon, David, and Samuel (Hebrews 11:32) How could someone who consistently strayed from God’s commandments, who blundered through life knocking over everyone in his path and ignoring God’s directions, be placed in the paragraph that praises the faithfulness of Abraham and Moses?
Samson’s shortcomings did not hamper God’s will. In spite of those deficiencies, God’s plan prevailed, and the enemies of the Israelites were confounded. Samson’s mediocre life teaches us the ultimate consequences of unwise choices and simultaneously points to our Sovereign God, who uses donkeys to speak his Word and frail humans to accomplish his divine purposes.
This might give us hope as we maneuver through life and make our way, mistakes in hand, regrets in mind, and fault lines scattered around us.
Elizabeth A. Mitchell